A challenge that all cyclists face at some point is a steep climb. This could be a hill, a rising road in a city or a winding trail leading to higher elevations. If you do not know what to do, then you might not be able to successfully reach the top. A few tips will make tackling a steep climb on your bicycle much easier and safer.
Build Momentum before the Climb
The first step is to build momentum before you start the climb. You want to do this while on level ground or while heading downhill. Pick up as much speed as you can safely. Do not stay in a high gear this entire time. Start to switch downwards just a little. You optimally want to be pedalling quickly but you still want to feel good resistance from the gears. This momentum will help immensely when first hitting the incline.
Start Switching Gears
You want to start switching gears once you are on the hill or incline. This generally means lowering the gears so that you have less resistance but are still moving the chain. This is easiest when using a good road bike that has 12 or more gears as opposed to a simpler bike with just a handful. Your goal is to find the gear that is right for you. Change quickly while you still have momentum since switching gears too often will slow down the bike. Work down until you are pedalling at a comfortable rate while still maintaining your speed uphill. The right gear for uphill cycling is different for everyone.
Do Not Stand Up
You have probably seen people standing up on a bike and stomping down on the pedals in an effort to make it up a steep hill. You should not do this especially if the climb is very long. Pedalling uphill while standing up uses significantly more energy than normal cycling positions. It can also lead to cramping in your legs. The better option is to stay seated, find the correct gear and push onward. Although it might not seem intuitive, you will use less energy pedalling faster in a lower gear than standing up and mashing the pedals.
Use Your Whole Body
A mistake many cyclists make when trying to get up a difficult incline is relying solely on the legs and thighs for power. This can make the climb very tough and painful. You need to use your whole body when going up a hill or steep roadway. Lean forward, bend your arms and tuck your head down. Move your body so that you engage your core muscles and abdominal muscles. The added power from your core muscles will relieve stress on your legs and allow you to endure even on the steepest roadways.
The combination of your gears, smart cycling positions and momentum is often enough to conquer any climb while on a bike. The key is to stay positive, resist the urge to use brute force on the pedals and keep your eyes on the top of the hill. These tips will make it much easier for you to overcome any steep climbs while cycling.