How I Climb
Climbing to me is an art-form, an expert mountain climber is poetry in motion.
In my limited experience, a lot of recreational riders will read about climbing techniques and strategies, then totally forget them when they reach a climb.
When I used to ride competitively, I disliked climbing, but I soon realised that climbing was the difference between a good time or a disappointing one.
You will never make up the time lost ascending no matter how fast you descend, but you can limit the loss.
So, this is my philosophy for long climbs (disregard, ignore or disagree as you wish).
Don’t dread the upcoming climb
If you are on a ride knowing a climb is near, then a negative mindset puts disadvantages you straight away.
The climb is winning
Relax and be comfortable.
Relax your jaw and shoulders.
Let your core supports your upper body, not the arms and handlebars.
No handlebar death grips or lead guitarist faces.
Think of driving a car
If a driver is approaching a steep hill, they will increase the revs.
If the car cannot meet the revs required, then the driver will change down a gear and pick the revs back up.
Obvious and we all know this, but some cyclists prefer to drop to a sub 50 cadence and fight the climb. (I will stick my neck out here and say this is usually male cyclists).
A real danger of using a very low cadenced is stalling the pedals at either the 12 or 6 o clock positions. If you stall and you clipped in, then it’s road kissing time.
Use the gearing that allows a cadence of 70rpm. The climb is being ridden by the heart and lungs, which recover quicker than the legs.
Once you settle into a suitable gear with a cadence, you can comfortably maintain, then keep it going.
For the slight dips and rises, try to change your cadence before the gears. If the gradient changes significantly for a reasonable distance, then, of course, change the gears to suit.
Standing or sitting
If you sit, you can establish a rhythm, its more relaxing and less wasteful of energy.
When the gradient is in the 20% + range, then sitting is a must unless you are very versatile in distributing your weight and force.
If you stand and your weight is over the handlebars, the back tyre will lose grip.
If you stand and your weight is over the back wheel, then you will pull the front wheel up and off the road.
It is still difficult to keep the bike on the road even when you are sitting. You must press your weight onto the saddle and the handlebars at the same time you are trying to pedal. It can be exhausting.
I fell off a few times learning this on Hardknott and Wrynose Passes in the Lake District with their 30% sections before it sank in.
I will only stand to stretch, look up the road, or if I need that extra push over the brow of a hill.
I ride them as wide as I can even if means coming across the centre of the road (your call if you do. ?)
The gradient often stays constant or slightly drops on them, which allows you to maintain your rhythm.
I have ridden some climbs where the inside of a bend is impossible to because of its steepness. I may look shorter on the inside when you are struggling, but it is slower and more painful.