How to tackle the toughest cycling climbs


HOW TO TACKLE THE TOUGHEST CYCLING CLIMBS

With the Tour de France just around the corner, showcasing some of the toughest road climbs in the world  you might be looking to the hills of the UK in an effort to recreate your own Tour right here in Britain.

We take you through our top tips for tackling the toughest cycling climbs.


Riding Position

The correct riding position, and knowing when to change position throughout a tough climb, will help you to get to the top with less fatigue.

 

On long stretches of the climb with gradual gradient, a seated position will enable you to get into a better rhythm and keep your cycling cadence relatively high – around 90rpm. Keeping a seated riding position for long stretches of climb allows you  be more resourceful of your leg strength and use your aerobic capacity more effectively. Ensuring you don’t wholly rely on leg strength on the climb itself, gives you more left over for the rest of the ride.

Keeping a steady cadence and seated position on a straight climb is ideal,  but when you come to a hairpin or a sudden increase in gradient get out the saddle and give it a little gas! By standing on the pedals you’ll be able to put down more power to get you through the steep section and will help to spread the load across your body. By changing position at these incline increase points, muscle fatigue from pedalling in the same position will be combatted. Remember, when negotiating hairpins, stick to the outside of the corner if possible, where there is usually less gradient.

 

Pace Yourself

As with all types of cycling  pace is a vital part of your training, and proper pacing technique is essential to  learning to climb effectively. Don’t  put too much energy into the lower sections of the climb, to ensure you still have  reserves for the top.

 

This is where a steady cadence comes into play; monitoring your cadence will help you keep an optimum pace to get you to the summit. When you get to that perfect place of riding sustainably, you’ll be able to conquer any climb in the world! When climbing, keep your cadence high for as long as possible, dropping it too quickly will kill your speed. Don’t forget to change down if you’re going to stand up and attack the climb – rhythm is key!

 

Nutrition

When doing endurance sports, 60g of carbs should be consumed per hour to keep up with the burning of calories. When climbing, your body is working harder  so you will need to nourish yourself routinely and effectively to get the maximum performance out of your legs.

 

Eat and drink little and often throughout the climb and try to aim for that optimal figure of 60g of carbs per hour. Consuming the same type of energy product over a long ride can start to play havoc with your taste buds – so a good tip is to make sure you have an assortment of energy bars, energy gels and carb based drinks to mix it up during the ride. Don’t forget, if you’re feeling hungry, it’s too late! 

 

To be able to throw everything you’ve got at the climb, have a gel or an energy bar about 15 – 20 minutes before you set out  so you’re topped up on energy.

 

Bike Setup

If you’re looking to tackle some of the toughest and most technical climbs in the UK like Bealach-Na-Ba in Scotland or Hardknott Pass in the Lake District, then you might want to think about bike set-up.

 

To keep your legs spinning at a faster cadence,  go for a compact chainset (50/34 tooth) and a wide range cassette (11-34 tooth).  A higher cadence can be achieved from this gear ratio,  keeping your legs supple, and enable you to remain seated for the long, gradual gradient sections and attack when it comes to the steeper parts of the climb.

 

Preparation

Being prepared for a tough climb is essential for getting to the top, in the fastest possible time.  Knowing how long the ascent is, where the steep sections are, and when you can conserve energy on the shallow gradient will not only make you a more informed climber it will help you both physically and psychologically.

 

If you’re planning a route, look at maps and profiles of the climbs so you’re in the best possible position knowledge wise to conquer the climbs.

And finally, find out what works for you; Simon Warrens, author of 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs, notes “climbing, more than any other cycling discipline is a very personal affair, we are all different and we must all find our own preferred style.

 

Do we dance out of the saddle like Alberto Contador, or stay in the saddle like Chris Froome, do we grind a big gear or spin a tiny one? What you must do is find out what suits you best, then stick with it, perfect it, and how? By riding lots and lots of hills, that’s how.”