6 top hill climbing tips for cyclists

Learn how to climb and master steep hills on a bike by following these top hill climbing cycling tips from duathlon expert Diane Stibbard

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Hill climbing on a bike is about technique as well as strength and stamina

Mastering hill climbing on a bike involves a series of gear changes, shifts in weight and changes in body position. These techniques will help you to break down those steep hills and get the best out of your body and the bike.

1. Momentum at the start

When approaching a hill you want to try and carry as much momentum you have into the approach of the hill. As you being the climb, and start to see your cadence falling more than 5-8 RPMs you should then start moving into one or two easier gears at the back.

2. Change the back gears first

As you climb, continue to move slowly into easier gears at the back, until you are approximately mid-way at the back, and then at this point, switch to the small chain ring.
From this point onwards, as the hill gets steeper, and your cadence continues to drop, move into a smaller gear at the back, until you get into the smallest gear possible.

3. Move out of the saddle to reduce leg burn

Depending on how you feel, during this process you will probably be alternating the position on the bike, by getting in and out of the saddle to help you ascend the hill, to help keep the legs fresh and not create too much leg burn.

4. Shift weight to the back of the seat and move hands to the top of the handlebars

When climbing in the saddle, shift all your weight to the back of the seat, move your hands to away from the hoods of the handlebars, and place them on top of the handle bars.

5. Adjust your pedal stroke and rock your body

The pedal stroke while seated mimics scraping mud off your shoe. So you push down with the heel and pull up with foot, this action will help generate the power you need to propel you up and over the hill. When standing during the climb, shift the weight a little more over the handlebars, and gently rock your body side to side as you work on pushing down and pulling up on the pedals.

6. At the summit, increase cadence to flush lactic acid

At the top of the hill, sit down, and keep the bike in the small chain ring and an easy gear at the back, then spin at a higher cadence for a while to flush the lactic acid (the burning feeling you get from climbing the hill) out of the legs, then begin to start gaining speed and shifting back into harder gears to continue on your ride.

Practice hill climbing on your bike using these top cycling tips and by the end of the season, you will not fear hills, but instead look forward to conquering them with strength and confidence.