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Climbing for beginners

Hills.  Love them or hate them, they are an unavoidable part of cycling.

Defined as “A Naturally raised area of land, not as high or rugged as a mountain” but feeling more like “An altitude defying, heart racing, leg torture device”

The good news is there are some simple things you can do to improve your hill climbs.

  • Look up / Look ahead

Keep your eye on the road ahead.  Spot the hill with plenty of time.  Keep your airways open and ready to suck in oxygen to keep your legs turning.

  • The approach

Drop down a couple of gears.  You want to increase your cadence, but ensure your still putting power down.  A couple of gears now, means you will have less to drop as you start the climb.

  • The climb

Carry your momentum into the start of your climb and make your final gear choice.

You will want to drop to your final gear quickly.  Do you drop to the small chainring on the front to drop more gears at once, or make smaller adjustments on the rear.  Your decision here will be based on the type of hill your about to climb.  Long or steep may require a larger drop in gears (front chainring) than a short or shallow climb (rear adjustment).

  • To sit or stand, that is the question

For beginners, sit is the way to go (unless you’re after an extra workout as part of your climb).  Its easier to drop to the right gear and stay seated than to carry a higher gear and stand.

You also want to avoid standing in a low gear which can create too high a cadence, affecting your balance and control and not improving your climbing efficiency.

So take a seat and steadily turn your legs over.

  • Is there a right gear

The simple answer, No.  Experience, in time will give you a feel for the right gear.  It is very much specific to your strength / experience and the climb your making / bike your on etc. 

Don’t compare or make a competition out of it.  Keep hill climbs in the early days a personal challenge and not a competition with your mates.  Keep it fun.

  • Climb it in your head as you climb it with your legs

Climbing is as much a mental challenge as it is a physical challenge.  Your self-talk can change the outcome of a hill climb, whether you smash it out or jump off and walk your bike up the last 50m.  Mentally place yourself on the hill, gradually climbing to the top, experiencing the ease at which your pedal / the feeling of being in the perfect gear / the thought as you ride over the peak.

Win in your head and your legs will follow

Grab the hill by the chainring and give these tips a go.  Practise makes perfect when it comes to hill climbs, so keep at it. 

Enjoy the climb and the challenge