The Endure EQ

How to climb hills faster on the bike [Endure Eq 043]

Published 9 months ago • 2 min read

Hello Reader,

Welcome to Vol. 043 of The Endure Eq.

Every week you'll get a deep dive into a topic related to endurance training, maximizing your potential or reaching peak performance. Read past editions.

Let’s jump in.

How to climb hills faster on the bike

One of the biggest struggles for new triathletes is learning how to climb hills on the bike.

It’s a skill to be able to do it well without burning up your legs or wasting too much energy.

It takes practice to be able to climb well.

Getting better as a cyclist on the hills.

There are 2 big things that you can work-on when it comes to hill training.

  1. Down shifting to keep your feet light. You never want to feel like you’re smashing the pedals on the hills.
  2. Getting comfortable out of the saddle. To give you legs a break you should practice getting out of the saddle to climb.

Let’s look at each one in more detail.

Shifting gears

Shifting is both an art and a skill.

The key with climbing is to shift just before you need the easier gear. This will avoid mashing the gears on the way up the hill, wasting valuable energy. You can learn the art by following great climbers in training.

Listen for the moment they shift and how there is light effort when climbing.

Learn to “dance on the pedals”

The best advice I ever got was from my Canada Games cycling coach. Dancing on the pedals means that you should feel light on the pedals not smashing the crap out of them as you are climbing the hill.

If you are mashing you are too heavy a gear.

Note: Sometimes you may need to adjust your gear ratio, especially for races with a lot of climbing. This can make it easier to be light on the pedals and not feel like you’re smashing.

Getting out of the saddle

You should be comfortable switching how you are riding.

Watch some pro-cyclists and triathletes power up the hills during a race. They effortlessly move between the saddle and standing.

You can to do the same.

Practice getting in and out of the saddle on the flat with a heavy gear before starting to do it on a hill. You will get more comfortable with time.

On a related note learn the transition points between your riding positions. Understand when you should switch from TT to TOPS to STAND. Each transition point comes when your speed slows enough that it’s faster to be out of the bars or standing.

It takes time to learn but will help you climb and race better.

Deliberate practice makes perfect

It’s not just about going out and riding hills.

It’s about going out and specifically working on hill climbing.

You get better by putting in the reps.

One way I will do this is mark a hill near the end of a ride and climb up in 3-4 times in a row. Each time pay attention to the 2 points we discussed above:

When do you need to shift and when do you need to get out of the saddle/stand?

Repeating the same hill let’s you notice how you change rep-rep.

Happy Climbing!


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The Endure EQ

By Excel Endurance

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