15 Tips to Better Climbing
There is nothing quite as rewarding as crushing a tough climb to rip down some sweet singletrack. Riders are always asking us how to climb faster in hopes that there is some magical cure for the hard work that has to be done. We are here to tell you that there is no magical solution, but there are things you can do to make the climbs a little more enjoyable—and, of course, quicker.
1 TRY DIFFERENT TYPES OF CLIMBING
Instead of choosing the fire road every time, climb some of the less-traveled singletrack. Climbing singletrack will force you to get out of the saddle more and pay close attention to the trail. It will also give your ride some much-needed variety and break up the monotony of boring fire-road grinds.
2 BREATHE PROPERLY
Your muscles need oxygen to keep working properly, and good breathing is important on the climbs. Focus on inhaling and exhaling consistently. It’s okay to exaggerate the sound and motion. You don’t have to just breathe in and out of your nose. Using your mouth at the same time is fine, as long as you have a steady rhythm. If you don’t have a heart-rate monitor, invest in one.
3 FIND THE RIGHT PRESSURE
The right tire pressure will make all the difference on steep climbs. There is nothing like pushing up a steep punch
only to have your rear tire spin out and cause you to lose all momentum. Dial in your rear tire pressure. Don’t be afraid to run a little lower pressure if you are riding steeper trails.
4 GET COMFORTABLE ON THE BIKE
Climbing causes plenty of physical discomfort as it is, so spend some time dialing in your fit. Make sure your saddle is set up properly, and try different hand positions. Road bike bars are curved to allow for more hand positions for more comfort. Moving your hands around on your bars can give you a fresh feeling on long grinds.
5 GET OUT OF THE SADDLE
The best way to conquer most climbs is to stay seated and spin it out, but getting out of the saddle can give your butt a break and use different muscles. Standing will cause your heart rate to increase some, but it will give you an extra jolt of momentum.
6 USE YOUR SUSPENSION
Suspension designers know that climbing hurts and have built-in settings to help riders get to the top of the mountain. Use the settings on your suspension to stiffen up the platform to allow for better power transfer. If you’re on a fire road, use the stiffest setting on the front and rear. If it’s more technical singletrack, use the middle settings to make sure your tires stay on the trail when crawling over rocks and roots.
7 DISTRIBUTE YOUR WEIGHT PROPERLY
It’s usually best to keep your weight distributed evenly over the bottom bracket to weight both tires properly. On steep sections of trail, lean forward to the nose of the saddle to keep the front end from wandering. This will also allow you to leverage your pedals more to grind up the steepest sections of trail.
8 FIND A GOOD CADENCE
There are moments when you need to grind or muscle your way up a steep pitch, but generally it’s best to find a smooth, consistent cadence. Some of the best riders in the world will spin between 90–100 revolutions per minute, keeping their leg speed high and momentum moving forward. This high rate of rpm might make you feel worn out at first, but it will pay off in the end if you nail it down.
9 USE YOUR ARMS
Mountain biking is a full-body workout that sometimes requires you to use your upper body as much as your legs. It’s okay to push the bike side to side when grinding up steep climbs. This will use different muscles and get more power down to the pedals.
10 IT’S A MENTAL GAME
The best climbers in the world are also the toughest riders mentally. They have an uncanny ability to focus on getting the work done instead of focusing on the pain. It might sound silly, but when you’re climbing, find a happy place mentally that will take your mind off the lactic acid burning in your legs. Everyone hurts on climbs, but not everyone shows it.
11 KEEP YOUR LEGS MOVING
This relates to cadence but is key to conquering technical sections on a climb. As long as your legs are moving, so are your wheels. Momentum is critical when crawling over roots and rocks on steep sections of trail.
12 SET GOALS
It’s easy for most riders to sit in their comfort zone when climbing. If you push yourself outside that range a little bit at a time, the results can be a total game-changer. Set small goals, focusing on going a little faster each time.
When you’re working hard, it’s easy to tense up. Relaxyour upper body when you’re not standing out of the saddle, and keep your neck and shoulders loose. Tensing up will use up bits of energy that may come in handy later on.
14 TRY SOME INTERVALS
It’s no secret that intervals hurt, but they are one of the most effective ways to get stronger on the climbs. Every couple of minutes, sprint out of the saddle to get your heart rate up. Intervals aren’t just for racers.
15 CLIMB MORE OFTEN
It sounds painfully obvious, but the most effective way to get better on climbs is to do them as often as you can. Just as with descending or riding in general, the more time you spend climbing, the more your body will adapt and get stronger. It’s an acquired taste. At first you will hate it and won’t understand how anybody could possibly enjoy it. Then, it will become tolerable, and eventually you’ll reach the point where you can’t live without it.
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