Tips on climbing steep hills

Fundraising Product Manager James Wright manages cycling events at Marie Curie. Here he shares his top tips for climbing tough hills on the bike. 

First up, shifting forwards and backwards on the saddle brings different leg muscles in to play. You’ll notice most pro riders remain seated to regulate their power output then jump up to attack, but as someone with a regular power output of ‘laughably low’, standing allows me to use body weight from time to time and mix things up. Holding the top of your handlebars will open your chest and help your breathing, it’s also worth focusing on trying to increase the force of your breaths rather than the frequency.


It may seem counter-intuitive but attack the steeper sections and use the shallower gradients to recover. And there are no prizes for doing the whole race in your highest gear, so ensure you use all your gears and maintain a steady cadence between 80-90 rpm. When shifting ease the pressure on the pedals for a revolution to allow a smooth transition.


Ensure you ride at your own tempo and don’t get dragged into a race. If your mate Steve ups the pace and you don’t feel comfortable then let him go. Start slow and finish fast, it will feel sweet when you pass him near the summit. And if things get really tough, zig zagging helps to reduce the gradient, but keep an eye over your shoulder for any other riders, cars or power-regulating pros coming up the outside.


If you’re pushed for time when training, try a hill-repeat session. Find a five minute climb and ride it five times. You’ll gain more from this half an hour than double that on the flat. You also get to tell Steve you did a hill-repeat session which just sounds impressive. 


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