Uphill Climbing Skills/Techniques/Positions

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This topic contains 23 replies, has 19 voices, and was last updated by  Fitch 5 years, 3 months ago.

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  • #100613

    Uphill Climbing skills, techniques, and body positions tutorial…

    You probably judge you’re climbing prowess on how fast you
    ascend…..which of your riding friends you can keep up with or which ones
    you leave behind. That’s a fair way to rate yourself, but you won’t
    improve much if you only think about climbing faster. The quality you
    need to develop is not speed; it is power, which will translate to
    speed. Power means many things…..having the oomph to overcome obstacles
    when you are already expending energy to climb, sustaining a burst
    needed to scale a steep section, or maintaining your pace throughout a
    long ascent.

    STAY IN YOUR SEAT:

    Standing on hills burns more energy because your body must support
    itself as well as propel the bike. Standing is great for juking over
    obstacles, using different muscles, stretching on long climbs, or
    hammering short sections, but most of your climbing should be done from
    the saddle. There is no rule dictating how much standing is too much,
    but in general, the heavier you are, the more you should be sitting on
    climbs.

    DROP YOUR NOSE:

    As the ground tilts up, you should lean down toward the handlebar. This
    helps you maintain traction while still delivering peak power to the
    pedals. Many riders try to retain traction by scooting forward on the
    seat. It is better to lean your chest toward the stem. The steeper the
    rise, the lower the lean.

    RIDE RELAXED AND STEADY:

    Stay loose to save energy, absorb jolts easier, and have more control in
    technical sections. The upper body is the key, but concentrate on your
    hands and jaw. If these are loose, your back, shoulders, and neck will
    be too. Even in technical terrain, your grip should be relaxed but firm.
    Don’t clench the bar…..no white knuckles. On a smooth climb, try
    drumming your fingers as a reminder. Also try to minimize your upper
    body’s side-to-side movement. Swaying or bobbing helps establish a
    rhythm, but it has to be natural. Do not force it or overdo it.

    BREATHE LIKE A MACHINE:

    Instead of mindless panting, develop a solid, rhythmic breathing pattern
    that you can synchronize with your pedal strokes. This helps you
    maintain a steady pace and keeps you from feeling out of control (and
    psyching yourself out) during extreme efforts. Steady breathes deliver
    oxygen better than even the fastest gasps, especially if you actively
    force air from your lungs instead of just passively exhaling. This
    flushes more carbon dioxide (the main cause of shortness of breath) out
    of your bloodstream.

    SPIN INSTEAD OF MASH:

    One of the most common mistakes is climbing with slow pedal strokes in
    hard gears. Not only does this style waste energy and blast your heart
    rate over the top, but it also makes you more likely to blow out a knee.
    Your most efficient cadence is probably between 70 to 90 rpm. Whenever
    possible, climb in a gear that lets you maintain this rate. Pay
    attention to how you pedal. Apply even pressure all the way around your
    strokes, pulling back through the bottom and pushing across the top to
    make them as smooth & round as possible.

    RIDE WITH YOUR HEAD:

    1) On uphill curves, take the outside line. It’s longer, but it’s almost
    always shallower and easier
    2) Do not zig-zag. It might feel easier to cut back and forth while
    climbing, but computers and professional riders have proven that weaving
    takes more energy than riding straight
    3) Bungee up! Pick a tree, big rock, or any other object way up the
    climb. Throw a “mental bungee cord” around that object, and then pull
    yourself up to it. When you get there, toss your bungee around another
    anchor farther up the hill. It is a great mind game to get you up an
    intolerable climb. This is one of my favorites and really helps me
    mentally.

    USE DIFFERENT MUSCLES:

    The more upright you sit on a climb, the more you use your thighs. As
    you bend toward the handlebar, your buttocks muscles begin to deliver
    more power. It is easier to become so zoned out on long climbs that you
    forget to vary your riding position and completely wipe out one group of
    muscles instead of sharing the effort.

    USE BAR ENDS MORE:

    Not all bikes have these handlebar extensions, and not recommended for
    some bikes. If yours does, train yourself to use them more often. Many
    riders grip their bar ends only when they stand to climb and want to
    rock the bike from side to side. But you can benefit from them even when
    sit. Slide your hands onto the joint of the bar ends and handlebar, or
    just slightly higher up on the bar ends. This wider position opens your
    chest and helps you breathe easier, stretches your hands slightly to
    relieve cramps and aches, and subtly changes your riding position…..all
    of which makes you more comfortable when you climb. The better you feel,
    the stronger you ride.

    “CLIMBING THE WALLS”

    As mentioned in the “Uphill Climbing Skills” above, simply by leaning
    forward (dropping your nose toward the stem) or sitting more upright,
    you can shift your weight fore or aft. The alternative is to actually
    move forward or backward by sliding on the saddle, which is less
    efficient and unwieldy. But as cool as subtle weight shift is, it will
    not work for really steep climbs. On ascents that are almost too steep
    to walk, your rear tire will spin out no matter how low and forward you
    learn. In order to climb these freaky angles, you must drive the rear
    wheel into the ground rather than merely maintain traction with weight.
    Here is the deal:

    1) Get in your lowest gear and approach the ascent at a walking pace. Do
    not think that speed is the answer. Traction is. This is why full
    suspension bikes are often faster on climbs than hardtails, despite
    weighing more and sacrificing some pedal energy to suspension movement.
    2) As you begin to angle upward, lean toward the stem as usual. But this
    time float your butt off the saddle. It should still touch, but not
    with any weight on it. Hover.
    3) As the pitch increases, move your body forward until the nose of the
    saddle is the only part touching your butt. This extreme position
    guarantees that the front wheel will bite the ground instead of breaking
    loose and causing squirrelly steering. But it also means that the rear
    wheel has no weight pinning it to the turf. What do you do??
    4) With every down stroke of the pedals, pull the handlebar back (not
    up) into your chest…..almost as if you are rowing the bike like a boat,
    with the handlebar as an oar. This drives the rear wheel into the ground
    just as you apply power.

    Synchronizing the handlebar pull with the pedal down stroke is the
    hardest part of the maneuver. It may seem impossible for awhile, but
    once you get it down pat, you will feel the added power as you climb.
    Once everything clicks, you’ll stick to ascents like glue…..in fact, the
    limit to what you can climb will be fitness rather than technique.
    Riding like this takes upper-body strength and the ability to either
    generate lots of power aerobically or to withstand many bursts of
    anaerobic effort (every time you pull the bar).

    “GETTING BACK ON TRACK”

    You’re climbing great! Maybe you’re finally going to clean this climb.
    Then you wobble into a rock, and suddenly you’re dead in the middle of a
    steep pitch with one foot on the ground. Now what??

    To get going again, you must first be in a low enough gear. If
    necessary, shift to a bigger cog (remember: In the back, a bigger/larger
    cog is an easier gear) by clicking the shifter, lifting the rear of the
    bike with one hand on the saddle, and twirling the crank-set with on
    foot (be careful not to let the free pedal smack your calf). It might
    help to lessen the slope by angling the bike across the trail.

    On most trails, the side cut into the mountain is highest. Put the
    uphill foot on the ground so you won’t fall down the slope if you loose
    balance. This position also means that you can sit on the saddle to get
    going, because the uphill leg has less distance to reach the ground.
    Place the downslope foot on the pedal, which should be rotated just past
    top dead center so you can apply a full power stroke to get going.
    Next, look where you want to go. Pick something to aim at…..maybe a rock
    or a trail side tree that’s some distance ahead. Do not drop your head
    and stare 2 feet in front of your tire. Trust your peripheral vision to
    pick out the little details closer in.

    Bend your elbows, relax your upper body, look ahead as you release the
    brakes and initiate the power stroke, and give the handlebar a little
    push to help the bike move forward. Immediately place your uphill foot
    on the pedal. Do not look down, and do not worry about clicking in (if
    you have clipless pedals). Just get some foot on the pedal and start
    pumping, applying power equally on both sides. If you fumble around
    trying to engage the clip (clipless pedals), you then will loose
    momentum and stall. You need some speed and stability so you can ease
    off pedal pressure momentarily. When you are pressing down hard, you
    can’t slide your shoe into position.

  • #100614

    Great read. Some of those things, I learned the hard way, while beeing totally exhausted on a long acsent 😐

  • #100615
    "ollysj" wrote

    Great read. Some of those things, I learned the hard way, while beeing totally exhausted on a long acsent 😐

    Yes sir, been there as well. Of course the descent is where it is all at…LOL. Fun that is…. 😄

  • #100616

    This will be a lifesaver on out next ride. Thanks for the tips, we ride with a fitness guru and he kills these climbs . Last thing I want to do is wear down in the middle of a climb through a rock garden, however, if I do stall now I know what to do , thanks for the info….

  • #100617
    "Smathews" wrote

    This will be a lifesaver on out next ride. Thanks for the tips, we ride with a fitness guru and he kills these climbs . Last thing I want to do is wear down in the middle of a climb through a rock garden, however, if I do stall now I know what to do , thanks for the info….

    Any day bro! I am just glad that it has helped quite a few people. Used to be on here earlier this year, but got deleted when I closed my account for about 4 months due to I almost went blind, but i got 3/4 of my vision back.

    Anyways, ride on….On-On!

  • #100618

    Thanks for the heads up, or head down in this case. I was wondering why I often lost rear wheel traction when climbing in the loose stuff. 😀

  • #100619

    i paid close attention to my breathing today and it made a difference.

    Thanks for these tips.

  • #100620
    "Bonsai-CP" wrote

    You probably judge you’re climbing prowess on how fast you
    ascend…..which of your riding friends you can keep up with or which ones
    you leave behind. That’s a fair way to rate yourself, but you won’t
    improve much if you only think about climbing faster. The quality you
    need to develop is not speed; it is power, which will translate to
    speed. Power means many things…..having the oomph to overcome obstacles
    when you are already expending energy to climb, sustaining a burst
    needed to scale a steep section, or maintaining your pace throughout a
    long ascent.

    I’d like to add some geek speak to say that’s exactly true.
    Power being a time rate of Energy, and climbing a hill defines transforming Energy from one form(chemical blood sugar) to another (potential energy of being farther from the center of the planet.) Therefore climbing faster uses more Power. It’s an Identity.

  • #100621

    I read this a few days ago, and I can not believe the difference it made. Thank you so much for the info!

  • #100622

    Anytime!! I am stoked that this has helped so many.

    Congrats to all who have pushed themselves to better their riding skills….KUDOS to you!!! 😄

  • #100623

    I know this post is old, but just got on the site and read this. Thanks a ton for all the info…great tips. I will be out at Lair O’ The Bear tomorrow and will try these techniques.

  • #100624

    Even though this post is old, the Info is not, This has helped out alot and I will take what I’ve learned reading this out on the trails from now on. "Knowledge is Power"

  • #100625

    MTITrailblazer

    This question is for you guys/gals doing the long endurance rides. I just put on wider handlebars several weeks ago and my control and balance (balance is my enemy) has increased 10 fold. At first I had pain in my upper back but that is all but gone after getting used to the change. On my longer rides 30+ I do feel some tension in my upper body but it is getting better as my hours in the saddle increase and as I stretch and become more flexible. I stay fairly loose while riding and I don’t choke the grips. However when I feel some pain coming on I have been shifting my hand position on the bars and feel some relief.

    I have never used bar ends. I don’t need them for climbing as I have no problem doing that it is the one thing I do very good. However, does anyone use these things just to get a different grip position to relax the muscles in the hands and wrists? I would think it may help kind of like getting off of the bike after 30 miles and just stretching and takng a very short break for relief. I have read all the comments just seeing if anyone else has experimented since the last post here.

  • #100626

    MTITrailblazer

    By the way I know this thread not Bar End specific but did not want to start another topic for something that has probably been already beaten into the ground.

  • #100627

    I still have bar ends on my HT. I use them mainly while climbing. They seem especially helpful in steep sections, where they let you pull back on them, seating your rear wheel, and giving you more traction while you are leaning forward on the bike.

    For the question of long rides, I think you bring up a good point of giving extra positions for your hands. This reminds me of road riding. When I’m on my road bike, I move my hands around on the bars, hoods and drops to keep my hands and arms from getting numb/tired. I could see how this could be a benefit in endurance riding. One of the downfalls on the MTB, I would think, is that if I’m not climbing, I like to have my hands close to the brakes, so really only use the bar ends while climbing.

  • #100628

    JF_Granny Gear

    Had the hardest time climbing hills last time out(I’m new to MTB’n), and now i see why. I will put this techniques to work this week end. THANK YOU!

  • #100629

    JF – We had a grate ride this past weekend, went to Sullivan Canyon. It was pretty hot, but we got an early start so we beat most of the heat.

    I found a couple of guys that have an excellent youtube with some very helpfull techniques. Check them out; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PiQGFX_RlW4

    B

  • #100630

    I know this is an old post but I wanted to say thank you to Bonsai-CP because: 1) These tips are super helpful and 2) "I refuse to tip toe through life to only arrive safely at death!" is the most satisfying and brilliant quote I’ve ever heard.

    Hopefully, this message finds you, Bonsai-CP, and finds you doing well.

  • #100631

    Here’s a great recent blogpost on the same topic: http://www.singletracks.com/blog/mtb-tr … tain-bike/

  • #100632

    Definitely some good stuff in here I dident know that I feel can realy help improve my ride.

  • #100633

    These tips really work, thanks. Took me a couple weeks to get used to all of them, but I really feel the difference now.

  • #100634

    A few symptoms and their cause…with possible fixes
    1) rear wheel sliding out: Too little weight on the back wheel.
    First sit down.
    Second slide back on your seat
    Third sit up just a tiny tiny bit (climbs often require a constant adjustment of this shifting up mad down to march terrain.
    Fourth use bar ends or grip further out on the bar. I personally don’t use bar ends but you can get the same effect by twisting the grips like a motorcycle.

    2) front wheel,lifting up. Or front wheel feels squirrelly and wants to weave side to side: too little weight on front.
    First lean down with your chest closer to the stem.
    Second make sure you have proper bar grip. Your hands should be wrapped lose lye around bar not tightly gripping unless doing the twist as noted above.
    Thirds ensure proper arm position. Elbows in and pointed back not out
    Fourth don’t make,it worse. Never pull up on the bar. Pull back as noted above.

    3) can’t clear that one section at the middle of the climb :
    First practice. Go back there and be rested don’t do it from the bottom but rather from right in front of it. This allows you to learn the technique while fresh. Or try it earlier in your ride.
    Second it’s about power. What you need is a short anaerobic burst in the middle of you aerobic activity. Runners call it farthlek. Practice making a short all out sprint in the middle of a hard push then recovering not by going slow but while still going at the same as your hard push pace. At first it feels impossible, but once you get this skill in your legs you’ll be shocked at the climbs you can ride that you couldn’t before.

    4) you’re always the last to the top: improve efficiency.
    First practice all the skills at the top of this.
    Second often the best way to beat your buds to the top is to be the only one still riding. Learn to clean your local clims.
    Third good climbing is all about efficiency. You don’t have to be in the best shape if you are using less energy. Spin that easier gear at 70-90 rpm. Sit down. Eliminate extra movements.
    Fourth focus your vision up. Look for the top of the climb not three feet in font of you. Or use the bungee trick above.
    Fifth often the fittest rider does reach the top first so improve your fitness. Run. Especially up hills which uses more similar muscles to riding. Mix some long workouts and some interval training. And add a little bit to the end of your ride. Rather than just grabbing a bear and calling it a day go do a few one minute intervals on the road at the end of your ride. Being able to do these hard sprints when already tired will really improve your climbing.

    5) you are readin all this but can’t do it: need to ride more
    Go ride dammit!

  • #100635

    Very informative, thank author 😀

  • #100636

    I’m still quite thankful for this post!

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