Advice for Climbing Technical Hills on a Trail Bike

Forums Mountain Bike Forum Advice for Climbing Technical Hills on a Trail Bike

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    • #245367

      Dear all, I would like some advice when climbing technical trails such as those in the Daniels Road State Forest.

      I notice that if I hit a root or rock that stops me dead, I am unable to get back going on a steep hill without fighting the steering or occasionally popping a wheelie.


      I also have a dropper, I tend to set it high when riding flat or gradual inclines, however, I notice if I have it high on steeper hills, the bike feels like it wants to tip back. I generally try to lean forward but notice if I have the seat low to midway it helps with getting up some hills, but tends to feel harder on the knees and calves.


      I ride 2019 stumpjumper comp alloy medium 27.5. I am between 5’10 and 6.0 feet tall. I got measured and it was determined that I fall between a medium and large, but my leg length leans more towards medium.


      Any thoughts or helpful tips would be appreciated. I feel that my likely problem is that I don’t have enough leg and upper body strength and am not building enough momentum before tackling the steeper climbs.

    • #245376

      Having strong core and legs will help but ultimately it comes down to bike handling skills. Having the seat high will maximize the amount of power and torque you can generate from your legs and is therefore important for climbing in general. You can compensate for the tipping feeling by standing up out of the saddle and moving your body weight forward and back as necessary. Just pedaling over stuff in the saddle probably won’t cut it, especially if it’s steep.

      When you approach rocks or roots stand up and shift your weight back behind the saddle. As you lean back try to pull our front tire up just enough drop it down on the rock/root. When your tire lands throw your weight forward to drive the rest of the bike over the feature. Depending on the trail conditions and the kind of tire your run, you may have to get back on the saddle as your rear tire clears to avoid spinning out. All the while try to maintain a steady pedaling cadence as your bike rolls over the feature. By shifting your weight forward and back you soften the blow on your front tire, and avoid the sudden stop, and can use your body weight to force your bike forward to maintain your momentum up the hill.

      I ride a 130 mm trail bike and this works well for me. It will take practice but proper body positioning/movement will improve your riding skills.

    • #245395

      I’m a big fan of technical climbs (probably because you’re supposed to take them slow and I suck at going uphill fast!)

      The biggest improvement I saw when attempting technical climbs happened when I was practicing track stands. Like Nick said, it usually comes down to bike handling skills. I had the front and rear wheel lifts down already, but once I was more comfortable with the bike at slow speeds, or no speed, the longer I was able to stay on my bike and make it farther up the hill.

      Another option is to try flat pedals, but only if you’re worried about not getting unclipped before you fall over. Some people like the ability to “cheat” and pull up and over rocks to help them get up the techy climbs.

    • #245397

      Bike more and get strong enough so you can keep a steady circular pedaling cadence while out of the saddle.  Your legs need to be able to pedal while supporting almost your entire body weight because technical climbs usually involve un-weighting the front wheel to get over the obstacle so it doesn’t stop you in your tracks like you are describing.  So while pedaling, it’s as if your body needs to be able to absorb the bike in the front and back as you roll over obstacles.  The danger here is spinning out in the back and losing your momentum.   So while pedaling and un-weighting the front wheel over obstacles as necessary, try to keep a steady pull on the handlebars towards your body which will use your body as a lever to apply downward pressure on your pedals (while pedaling) to keep the rear wheel planted.

      Keep in mind, your air pressure in your tires and suspension can also have a big impact on your bikes ability to climb.   If you are spinning out a lot in the back try lowering the air pressure in the tire.  If your bike has a very soft rear suspension it may help with traction but can require a lot more strength and work to pedal a steep climb.   For training, try starting your ride standing up for as long as you can to really work those muscles.

      Also, I agree flat pedals will be better to help you develop good technique.  Trying to get back up to Daniels Rd. this year….good stuff

    • #245404

      You guys all have some really good advice and I’d like to add to it. I always slide forward in my saddle as much as possible to keep my weight balanced. If you stand up, don’t stand all the way up as if you’re sprinting; I only ever move a few inches above the saddle, and it’s typically to move my weight farther forward on really steep stuff. Lifting your front wheel, even a little bit, is extremely helpful. For smaller obstacles you should be able to just lift your front wheel over and keep pedaling to let the back wheel roll over. Larger obstacles are a little more complicated; start by lifting your front wheel over, do this by a quick surge of power through the pedals, not just pulling up on the bars. Next, you should keep pedaling, and surge just before your back wheel hits the obstacle. As your back wheel makes contact, shift your weight forward to unweight the rear wheel, letting it roll up and over the rock or root. Do not stop pedaling through the whole process, but pedal lightly while your back wheel is on the obstacle; this will keep you from spinning out.

      The most important thing is practice. I’ve been riding for five years and it feels like I’ve only just ‘got it’ recently.

      Another thing you could try is watching trials riders on mountain bikes to see how they move to get up obstacles, and then mimicking them, just on smaller stuff. Two I recommend for this are Ali Clarkson and Jeff Lenosky.

    • #245470

      Try lowering your handlebars by one spacer and see how it feels. It should help the front wheel to have a better traction on the climbs

    • #245471

      I’d say your bike is too small. I’m 5’10” and tried riding medium size bikes because that’s what is recommended and it felt like I was riding a BMX bike and not in a good bike park kinda way. Does your bike feel too small for you?

      • #245657

        Feels fine, I rode originally, a Rockhopper 29er large and to me that was a tad too big. I am not sure what too small would necessarily feel with as I have only experienced too big.

    • #245659

      Head Over Handlebars is on the right track.

      It’s all about timing the wheelie and the subsequent weight shift.

      But the key to being able to execute that is looking beyond the obstacle.  If you get target fixation on the obstacle, that’s just how far you’re likely to go, not beyond.

    • #245660

      An often overlooked part of technical climbing is core strength. You have to manage to separate your leg movement from your upper body, when you don’t things go off-the rails. The wandering and wheelies you mentioned are likely a result of you pulling on the bars to counter your leg motion. A thing I’m still trying to get used to with wider bars is how unforgiving they are when my climbing form gets sloppy.

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