There is a certain magic to climbing. When you reach the peak of a hard climb you don’t remember your legs screaming in pain. Your lungs bursting and the struggle of what you went through to get to the top. All that is remembered is the jubilation of making it to the top. We’re not going to sugar coat what climbing is about. Let’s face it, its hard. There is no such thing as an easy climb.
There are things you can do to make climbing easier. Here are some tips that we’ve discovered along the way to help make you a better climber.
Each hill is different, and different gradients uses a different set of muscles. A truly good climber is one who develops the strength to be fast up all types of gradients. Whether it be a false flat, an undulating climb or something only a mountain goat could get up.
The more hills you climb, the better climber you will become. If you know of a good hill you haven’t climbed then add it to your wish list and go out & climb it. If you know a hill which is incredibly daunting. Don’t shy away from it, at least go & give it a go. If you can get up something ridiculously steep, nothing else will compare. It’s important to be able to believe in yourself. To have the strength to face any challenge that comes in your way.
There’s nothing quite like the feeling of the lungs burning on a climb. You want to slow down to catch your breath. But the slower you go, the longer it takes to get up the climb. Its amazing how easy it is to get drunk on oxygen once you get to the top. Of course instead of torturing yourself. The sensible thing would be to get off the bike and catch your breath, but then that would be too easy…….
One of the most important aspects of being a good climber is having good cardio. There is no secret to improving your cardio. Hard work and consistency is the key.
If you want to become a good climber you’ve got to be able to climb when tired. For those that have completed the Three Peaks challenge can appreciate how hard it is to climb a climb like Back of Falls on dead legs after having ridden 200 km. If you want to condition yourself. Then any chance you get at the end of a ride when you’re nice and tired throw an extra climb in or three just to work those legs over a bit more.
Becoming a climber doesn’t happen overnight. It may take years to develop the core muscles required to be a good climber. Over time you will find that you will be naturally getting up hills quicker, more efficiently. It’s no secret that to become a better climber you just need to climb. The more you climb, the better you get.
Be the Big Dog
When you’re riding in the big chain ring you can generate more power. When you are in the small chain ring you tend to rely more on cardio to get you up the hill. If you want to be a truly good climber you need the ability to climb in the big chain ring for as long as possible. Really good climbers should be able to use their big chain ring for gradients up to 5 – 6% average for an extended period of time. This allows the rider to rely more on their strength than their cardio. This saves energy as you won’t need to pedal as much to cover the same distance. Developing the strength to ride like this takes time. It can be a mental, as much as a physical battle to keep a high cadence over a long period.
Get out of the saddle
Having the strength & ability to get out of the saddle to climb for extended periods is vital to becoming a good climber. If you’re only getting out of the seat when you’re forced to. You will probably only be able to do so for short periods. Which doe not help to develop the core strength needed.
Getting out of the saddle is probably the biggest weakness of most climbers. It requires more strength & energy than remaining seated, but is such a great skill to possess. When you’re standing you’re using your whole body to help move you up the climb. This effectively gives some of the muscles that you’re using whilst sitting a chance to rest. This will help you get up the climb a lot more efficiently, and give you a chance to get that second wind.
If you want to become a stronger climber then you need to force yourself to get out of the seat more regularly. To do it as a matter of habit. You won’t develop the core strength required unless you are practicing getting out of the seat in a variety of different conditions and gradients.
Start small to aim big. If you want to develop speed and strength then find a short backstreet climb and give it 110%. You may not get the KOM, but over time you’ll find that you become a much stronger and a faster climber. Putting yourself in the red zone will help you to learn to push yourself well outside of your comfort zone. This is imperative to becoming a strong climber.
All climbers are familiar with the pain cave. Some may call it their “happy place”. Others just curse and want to get off their bikes and walk. One big difference between professional riders and recreation riders is the pro’s will never give up until they reach the finish line. If you want to be a good climber you’ve got to remain strong and positive throughout, and don’t give up!
Suck it up princess
Climbing is not meant to be easy. When you’re in a group climbing it’s not necessarily the strongest climber who will get up the quickest. It’s the one most willing to enter the pain cave who will be the King of the Mountain. Climbing is as much a mental battle as it is a physical. You’ve got to try and enjoy it as much as possible. Just remember that your mind won’t remember the pain. It will just remember that there was pain.
Hopefully these tips will help you get up a hill easier the next time you climb.