How To Improve at Cycling up Steep Hills

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“I’d be running up that road, be running up that hill, with no problems,” once sang Kate Bush in her best-known song. Pedaling up that hill, however, is a level of frustration Kate knew better than to take on—the kind of frustration that will have a novice cyclist wanting to swap places with just about anyone else. Fighting against physics from the seat of your bike can be tough. That doesn’t make it impossible. With a few of our tips on how to improve at cycling up steep hills, you may be able to pedal up that hill with no problems after all.

Devise an Endurance Plan

As it turns out, getting better at tackling steep inclines on your bike takes one tried-and-true technique: practice. It’s not just any routine, however, that will do the trick—you need to push your endurance with a balance of long rides and short sprints. Over the course of each week, plan out intervals of different types of riding. Tackling hills takes concentrated bursts of power, and one way to do it is to strengthen your legs so that you can expend the energy it takes to get up the hill without depleting your stamina. With the right intervals of sprints and sustained riding, you’ll be in a position to take on hills you couldn’t take on before.

Electrify Your Experience

There’s another way to take those hills on. Don’t call it cheating. Call it being smart. With the advent of electric motors that attach to traditional bicycles, enjoying the benefits of electrification on your bicycle no longer requires buying a brand-new e-bike. Attach a motor to the front hub or bottom bracket of your bike and enjoy pedal assistance when you need it most—conquering the steepest terrain you can encounter. Depending on how you upgrade your bike to an e-bike, you may not even have to pedal nonstop to take on some steep hills.

Adjust How You Sit

Part of how to improve at cycling up steep hills starts in the saddle. Many riders arbitrarily stand, sit, or crouch as they try to make their way uphill, only to find that they’re struggling. Of course they are—there’s a science to this. Begin your ascent sitting straight up. As the climb gets tougher, move into a crouch to make yourself more compressed and aerodynamic. As you near the top and are fighting your hardest to make your way up, it’s time to stand up to place maximum force upon the pedals. That rotation of positions should have you pedaling up that hill with ease.

Written by Kevin O'Neill

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