When learning how to mountain bike, you are bound to encounter some steep hills. While biking uphill can be a serious challenge, your cycling technique can make a huge difference in the difficulty you endure. These cycling tips should help when you’re biking uphill.
It might seem as if you’re making a smart decision to stand and use your body weight to pedal up a hill. In fact, you’re burning more energy without adding as much power as you think. Instead, stay seated for most of the hill. Use your momentum and speed of the approach to navigate most of the way up the hill. Once you get towards the top, you can stand and use your weight to power through the last few feet.
When you vary your seated position from sitting tall to leaning down into the handlebars, you’re also sharing the effort of the climb. It’s easy to forget to change positions when climbing uphill. When you’re seated and upright, you’re using your thighs while leaning into the handlebars uses more of your buttock muscles. Make sure you’re not relying on one muscle group more than the others since it’ll make you sore.
Lean into the Handlebar
When you stay seated, you’re able to lean forward into the handlebars to deliver more power to the pedals. While some riders like to lean forward in their seat, it’s better to lean down and keep yourself seated properly. In extremely steep hill cycling, you’ll need to lean lower to deliver more power.
One of the best mountain biking tips for an uphill climb is to prepare yourself mentally for the hill. It’s easy to get tense when you’re seeing the climb you’ll have to make. Keep your upper body relaxed as well as your mind. Your grip on the handlebars should be firm, but there should be no clenching. Your jaw shouldn’t be clenched either. Focus on relaxing your jaw as well as your hands. That’s where the tension will cause problems and keep you from being relaxed. When you ride more relaxed, you’re able to save energy and have more control.
When you’re exerting yourself, it’s natural to start to pant. You should be developing a natural breathing rhythm that allows you to keep your heart at a steady pace. Gasping and panting will not deliver the oxygen you need, and it could make you feel out of control too. Take slow, steady breaths during the ride and especially when hitting a steep hill. Actively force huge breaths of air while riding, which will flush more carbon dioxide from the body.
Dos and Don’ts
- On uphill curves, stay on the outside as that’s where it’s the shallowest.
- Avoid zig-zag on the climb. Professionals will tell you that weaving takes more energy than you’d expect.
- Climb mentally. Use objects in the terrain to mentally pull yourself up to the top. You don’t want to focus on the top of the hill since it can look miles away from your current location. Instead, focus on a rock or a tree. Once you’re past it, focus on the next object.
- Try floating off the saddle. When leaning forward, remove as much of your buttocks from the saddle as possible. This will help keep the front wheel from breaking away from the ground.
- Use the bar extensions if you have them. When you’re leaning forward and using the extension, you’re opening your chest and allowing yourself more room to breathe.
Perfect through Practice
When you are learning to ride uphill, it’s important that you practice at least once or twice a week. Pick an area where the hill will take 10 to 15 minutes to climb. You want to challenge yourself to complete these climbs in the way described with the tips above. You may also find a gradual hill to practice your form. Stay seated for most of the hill before standing and powering through the top of the climb. You’ll never get better at the climb if you don’t attack at least one each week.
The best way to learn how to ride steep hills on your mountain bike is to practice. With these cycling tips, you’ll be practicing in a way that will expend less energy and keep you from pulling a muscle or overtaxing your body.