Colorado has some of the best road bike and mountain bike hill climbs. Additionally, there are countless rides and events like Ride the Rockies, Leadville100, and the Colorado Summit Cycling Series that challenge riders to either push on or blow up. No doubt the suffering imposed by climbing may cause us cyclist to fret, but the the post, Why You Should Love Climbing, suggests otherwise.
“Hills also make you happier. Longer, sustained efforts trigger the release of mood-lifting chemicals like endorphins and cannabinoids, which, as the name suggests, are in the same family of chemicals that give pot smokers their high, kick in. Research also shows that regular efforts in the lactate threshold range, which incidentally is where you climb, may help ward off mood disorders like depression. Additionally, research also shows all that the fresh air, sunshine, solitude, and sweeping vistas that you soak in as you make your way up and over hills and mountains provide their own unique benefits.”
With that motivation, how can we learn to love climbing?
Ride Hill Repeats
Hill repeats are a foundation of any good training plan. Basically, the plan is to riding up the hill as hard as you can, recovering on the way back down and then doing it again. A good heart rate monitor and power meter can aid in bio feedback and motivation and help you to judge your effort better. However – remember that whilst power numbers respond immediately to increased effort, heart rate takes time to accumulate – so expect it to take a few minutes for your heart rate to reach your target zone.
Decide to Sit or Stand
To sit or stand while climbing – that is the question. Actually, it depends on rider preference; however, we’ve found lighter riders prefer to stand while heavier riders prefer to sit. Regardless, you may want to train doing both. Opt to sit on one climb or hill repeat, then stand on the next. Testing the limits of your ability to climb in both positions will make you a stronger all-around climber.
Focus on Your Breath
Obviously while climbing, you are excepting more effort. That requires more oxygen. So, a simple way to to maximizing your oxygen uptake is learning to take deep breaths. Avoid shallow ones and breathe to your belly. This may require you to straighten up to allow your belly and ribs to actually expand. Given your bike fit, you may or may not need to adjust bike parts so be mindful of your body position when climbing so that you can inhale for optimum oxygen intake.
Gears can be a complicated thing. In fact, many people buy a road bike or mountain bike and never modify their gears. Yet, depending on the climbs you are doing and your aspirations, you may consider swapping the cassette or chainset. If you’re struggling to turn the pedals on the climbs, changing your gear set up – going for a smaller chainset and wider ratio cassette – will help as you’ll be able to spin more quickly.
A deathtrap on the handlebars, swinging your body around, and tense muscles make climbing much more difficult. Also, it’s a waste of precious energy! Just relax! Find your rhythm and get into a groove that you can sustain.
Pick one or all of these tips and try them out. Give yourself some time to evaluate your progress. At Peak Cycles Bicycle Shop, our bet is after a few weeks of one or all of using these tips, you’re climbing performance will increase. Whether or not you actually fall in love with climbing is another matter – but at least you will be better at it!