Gearing up to climb

Two cyclists climbing a steep hill with support vehicles following

Flat ground on an incline: the right attitude is just as important as strength when climbing hills.

Uphill and down dale the lofty heights and deep valleys where the bike riders character and metal is shaped and strengthened.

Hills once you get your mind around them can be better than a long flat ride where you are more likely to encounter a head or cross wind that can be far more of a challenge and draining. For every uphill there is bound to be a downhill that allows a degree of recovery and a reward for every rise conquered.

What seems to be one of the biggest challenges for new comers on the bike with hills is getting the gearing right to match the power to weight and level of fitness.  Hills most of the time are best ridden at your own pace and keeping control of your breathing and pedal rhythm until you have established strength and endurance of the mind to work the legs.

Changing gears comes often too soon, they see the hill and are already starting to feel overwhelmed and go for the softer gears each gear change slows their pace down considerably. Finding what is your optimum cadence for the power outputs requires the mind to be at rest and the diaphragm to be in good working order to work the lungs and feed the oxygenated blood to the muscles keeping soft hands on the handle bars feet flat on the pedals and looking ahead not down.

Getting over the fear of standing is often related to poor gear selection. When the full body weight rises over the pedals they drop to the bottom of the stroke quickly and the foot is not used to a rotation and the top and bottom stroke.

Selecting a harder gear, then standing is the better way to learn to stand and pedal. Keeping the body still and upright over the pedals minimise the temptation of swaying side to side that reduces the power we create through the pedals.

With the right gears the rotation of the pedals becomes more of a fluent action with equal pressure through both legs and feet across the top and bottom of the stroke as well as pushing down and pulling up.  When standing making sure you take your bike forward, not pull back on the handle bars to bring your body up out of the saddle sending the bike shooting backward.

Now when we have begun to master the art of hills, gears, with standing and maintaining power to cruise up hills we are better placed to ride in a bunch. There are now some finer points to take into consideration that need close attention for both riding up hill and coming down them for bunch riding.

Our concentration levels need to be sharp as well as being alert in watching the road and line being taken by other riders by staying off the wheel a little. Try not to ride the brakes, tap your brakes more often or try to get out of the direct draft and allow the wind to take speed off. When on the front keep pedalling consistently.

When in the bunch just don’t roll with legs idle keep your legs moving slowly just enough to stay in touch with the gear. Keeping the blood flowing is important to be ready for the next uphill. Remaining relaxed but alert of the group movement and speed will allow a safe response for you and members of your bunch.

Looking forward to seeing you on the road soon God willing.


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