Bikes can take you to a lot of places, including to the top of a mountain or steep hill, but you will need to be able to cycle uphill if you want to get there on your bike.
Climbing while cycling can be arduous for a lot of riders, especially those who live in flat areas where the elevation tends to stay the same. Your first hill on a bike can easily leave you out of breath if you’re not used to the ascent.
So, what can you do to improve your uphill biking skills? From using a Bluetooth bike helmet to communicate to eating a healthy diet, consider these tips to maintain an edge when climbing on a bike:
1. Use the Correct Gear
Using the right kind of bike is usually the only way to get uphill when tackling steep inclines. The size of the gear determines how hard you have to pedal to move the bike.
The higher the gear, the harder it will be to get where you’re going. Experts recommend using a bike with a bottom gear of at least 20 inches to make it easier to get uphill.
Most mountain bikes and hybrid models come with gears near this size, but a single-speed or road bike will likely leave you panting for air. This will also come in handy if you’re not in the best of shape.
Adjust the gear setting based on the intensity of the climb and drop down to the lowest gear when the going gets tough.
2. Build Your Lower Body Strength
Your legs will do most of the work, so spend some time getting them in shape before you ride. Biking is a great way to work your legs, but you will quickly reach your peak without additional weight training.
Practice working your legs by doing squats with or without weight. Try doing deadlifts, lunges and leg extensions to work your quadriceps and hamstrings. You will also need a lot of endurance to bike uphill for more than a few minutes at a time.
Try other cardiovascular exercises like running, swimming or doing the elliptical to increase your lung capacity.
3. Adjust Your Riding Position
There’s a lot of debate in terms of whether it’s best to sit or stand when cycling uphill. You’ve probably seen some riders get up on their bike pedals while riding to maintain an edge, but standing isn’t always the best choice when pedaling uphill.
The decision depends on the steepness of the ascent. If you are dealing with a shallow, consistent increase in elevation, experts say it’s best to stay seated because it’s more aerodynamic. Using the pedals to support yourself can also put additional strain on your muscles.
However, standing might give you a small advantage when used in short stints on steep climbs.
4. Use a Wireless Headset to Keep in Touch
If you feel like you’re about to reach your peak but you still have a ways to go, you might need a little help from a friend. Pain exists in the mind, and many athletes will often find ways to distract themselves when straining their muscles so they aren’t focused on the pain.
You can try counting to a hundred in your head, but nothing will distract you like talking to another rider. Use a bike helmet with a Bluetooth headset to connect wirelessly to your peers so they can give you the motivational speech you need to reach your destination without stopping. If you need to take a break, just give the group a heads-up so you can stay together on the trail.
5. Maintain a Healthy Diet
What you eat can greatly impact your performance on the road. You will need a lot of protein and lean carbohydrates to keep your strength up, but you don’t want to weigh yourself down with a heavy meal right before you ride.
Experts recommend eating a low-fiber meal, such as eggs, white rice and bread, to speed up digestion. Your body will retain the fuel until you kick things into high gear.
6. Pace Yourself
Having endurance often means knowing when to push yourself and when to hold back. If you attack every hill with 100 percent intensity, you will wear yourself out after 30 minutes or less.
You don’t need to be the first one to the top unless you’re running a race. Maintain a steady pace when going uphill so your body doesn’t use more energy than necessary. If you speed up and then slow down repeatedly, your body will go into overdrive when you increase your speed.
Biking uphill is all about consistency and using the proper equipment. You can master any hill if you have a low-gear bike, the right mindset and some good companions to keep you company.
Ready for more uphill biking? Nothing will challenge your skills like biking up the side of a mountain. Use these mountain bike tips to master any terrain that comes your way.