Hill climbing. Of all the elements of bike racing, this is perhaps the one feared by most. While you may think that much of your ability to climb is down to genetics alone, there is a lot you can do to increase the speed at which you climb. This means that you can use climbs to your advantage rather than having them dictate to you. This article discusses some of the tips we use in our coaching programs to to help you climb faster.
The first thing I like to address when training people for hill climbing is their technique. If you are riding hills flat out all the time you’ll be riding far too hard to focus on your form and technique. You’ll be riding far too hard to notice whether you’re pedalling correctly or not.
As with swimming, cycling is as much about technique as it is your physical fitness. Smashing yourself up hills with poor form trains an inferior neurological recruitment of muscle fibres. Training these bad habits will result in robbing you of valuable climbing power. By training your hill climbing properly you can uncover your hidden cycling power and start to climb hills far better than you thought possible. In races, you’ll be in control rather than reacting.
First thing is to climb up a hill slowly on your bike. This gives you an excellent opportunity to review your technique. The beginning of your season is an excellent time to check your technique. This is when you are doing your base training.
During base training you’ll be riding in REC and E1 heart rate zones. However, you may be required to exert more cycling power to overcome the resistance of gravity against your body weight when climbing hills. Especially as the gradient increases.
In this case work out your E3 Zone and in your base building phase and climb hills with a heart rate no greater than E3. Doing so will force you to cycle up hills slower to ensure you stay within your E3 Zone.
While it takes a little time to get use to climbing this slow you will be able to observe your position on the bike and what you do physically while you are climbing.
Focus on being relaxed but keeping powerful well rounded pedal strokes. Efficient power climbing is developed from a smooth powerful relaxed pedal strokes. For longer hills, stay seated and keep your cadence above 75 rpm. Keep your hands on the tops or the hoods, or alternate between both positions. For shorter climbs practice standing and keeping good balance and form.
Again, concentrate on spinning, even when out of the saddle and rock the bike gently beneath you as you turn the gear over.
Once you have your climbing technique mastered at lower intensities you can then start to ride at a higher intensity. As you move into higher intensity hill climbing training, continue to keep good form so that you develop powerful hill climbing speed.