Hill Climbing Tips
There will be hills on the Ride so don't avoid training routes with hills. Instead, challenge yourself to get stronger and more confident. Proper pre-ride and during-ride nutrition is essential to climbing hills.
Late in summer is the time for riding on hills. It is true that riding big hills is not as easy as riding smaller, rolling hills. However, the physical and mental benefits of riding larger hills is a proven fact. Riding hills builds muscle strength in the large muscles of the legs and those same hills can also provide a new self confidence when you get to the top. If you are a newer rider, the thought of riding bigger hills may be scary. That is where the ACT community comes to your aid! Ask other experienced riders about how they climb the hills, how to shift your gears at the right time and how breathing can impact your hill climbing. Talk to other riders about the "sitting" with the hill and just letting it take as long as necessary to get to the top. Remember you don't have to get to the top right away, so don't stare at the top of the hill. Just keep your focus six to eight feet ahead of your bike and soon you will be going over the crest.
An important part of climbing hills is your hydration and nutrition before and during a hilly ride. Your body is going to be working harder, so you will be perspiring more. You need to drink before you start a hill and most likely as soon as you get to the top, especially when the weather is hotter. Be sure you are replacing lost electrolytes, either with electrolyte pills or sports drink or gels. Your muscles are working harder and burning more calories, so it is important to eat more than usual. Be sure to eat before you ride, take a snack along and then enjoy eating a good source of protein and carbohydrates within thirty minutes of finishing your ride. This will help your muscles rebuild and recover more quickly. Remember you need to keep drinking fluids consistently after your rides.
Here are some helpful reminders about riding up hills:
- Smile! A more positive attitude will relax you and help you get up that hill. Don't think about surviving the hill, your pain or fatigue, because you will inevitably slow down. Instead, take control of the hill and think about how much stronger you are getting by doing the hill. Don't anticipate the top, but focus closer and expect another bend, then another.
- Ease into hills so you don't use all your energy early. To maintain momentum, downshift to a lower gear before you have to. Loosen up and change positions, such as middle of saddle, back of saddle (more hamstrings and glutes), front of saddle (more quads), and standing.
- Over time, you will notice that the hills get easier as you develop more power. If a hill is just too much, then use your granny (easiest) gear or alternate sitting with standing.
- Stand (get out of the saddle) when you start losing power. Stand so your weight is over the pedals. When standing, slightly rock back and forth, establishing a gentle, rhythmic, swaying motion, like a metronome. When standing, you can shift into a higher gear as you have your body weight to help you pedal. If you are standing as you reach the top of the hill, continue to stand until you are over the crest, increase momentum, and then sit down. If you sit down before reaching the crest you will slow down and the person in back of you may not expect it and run into you. The same applies if you are standing to pass someone on a hill.
- Don't tightly grip the handle bar. Relax your hands and focus your thoughts on your legs.
- Keep your head up and look forward. It's harder to breathe when you drop your head. Remember to breathe, and breathe deep.
- Relax the shoulders and keep them down and back, so your chest is open for strong, deep breathing, and keep your elbows bent and down.
- Keep knees tucked in – this maximizes your quads' power.
- Keep your back flat to help lower back muscles, quads and flexors work together.
- A shorter ride (20 miles) over hills is better for training than a 30-mile flat ride.