What’s wrong? uphill advice please…

Forums Mountain Bike Forum What’s wrong? uphill advice please…

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This topic contains 40 replies, has 23 voices, and was last updated by  brianW 10 years, 1 month ago.

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  • #69826

    Ok, so I am new to this whole MTN bike thing, but I definately got the fever. I really enjoy the ride until I get to a big@$$ uphill that I cant seem to climb.

    I keep telling myself "I sure will be able to enjoy these rides much more when I am in shape and able to blow right up the hill." To compound the issues I just started riding with clipless, and I will find myself comming around a hairpin turn and suddenly confronted with an uphill climb, and not being in the right gear to tackle the hill, I find myself stalling out and panicing as I cant unclip and then I bail. 😈

    Sooo, I dont know if I just am not up to the climb yet or if I am technically not proficient yet, or a combination of both.

    I just purchached a C’dale F600, 😛 so the bike is not the problem. Actually it is much easier to ride than my old junker, handles like a Lexus and I feel like I can definately get more power out of the clipless. Maybe I was just thinking that once I got the new bike and clipless that my problems would be solved.

    I guess the weakest link is me. 💡

    Ready for any advice…

    I know ride more, right? :?:

    thanks in advance

  • #69827

    RobTrailblazer

    I hope you get some good answers. I’m looking for them also.

    I can say is that after 280 MTB miles and 250 road miles, I’m the second to last one up the hills in our group, not the last one like at the beginning of the year 😀 But, I can go longer, recover faster and just plain do more. I do ride with a couple of guys that are insanely fit (one rides 100+ road miles a week 😮).

    I keep thinking if I only had a smaller gear…

    Personally, I’m thinking the weight room holds part of the answer for me. It’s snowing right now, so less time riding.

    Skiing won’t hurt – need strong legs for that.

  • #69828

    It never seems fast enough for me. A buddy and I were just talking about that last weekend on a ride. When I was new I would have given anything to ride the whole ride in middle ring.

    Now that we ride single speed it has changed to if I was only legs and lungs like the dude on the fixed gear cross bike then I would be strong.

    It all comes with time in the saddle. But for me, it is what I like about bikes in the mountains it will never be easy. If it was I would not do it

    Riding is life all else is waiting

  • #69829

    Thanks guys.

    Yeah, I’m not even trying to fly up the hill, I’d be happy just to consistantly make it up the hills. Sometimes I hit it ok and other times its like I hit a wall, and then it is too late to downshift.

    I try to stay in the saddle as not to spin the rear tire. I dont know, maybe I just need some general advice on the best way to ride uphill, and how to find the right gear at the right time.

    Rob, no snow MTB rides?

    I was thinking of trying it this winter. If we dont get too much snow.

  • #69830
    It all comes with time in the saddle. But for me, it is what I like about bikes in the mountains it will never be easy. If it was I would not do it

    I’ll second that sentiment. Don’t get down on yourself because you are struggling. If it was easy then you wouldn’t have that great feeling of accomplishment when you finally got thru that section of trail without bailing out. It is a matter of time in the saddle and getting to where you recognize "Oh, I need to shift down before I get into that turn."

    Try and find some people that are better riders who are willing to have you tag along on their rides. You will learn quickly when you can mimic what others are doing, and if they are willing to give you tips you will soon find you are doing much better. If there are no experienced riders around then just keep working it — stay alert and pay attention to what works and what doesn’t.

    People who have ridden thousands of miles still have some challenge that they haven’t mastered, so don’t expect there will be an end to the learning. Above all, just relax and enjoy it. It’s a great sport, and even if you are getting your a$$ kicked it still beats sitting in front of the TV. 😃

  • #69831

    [quote="tgcarch"]Thanks guys.

    Yeah, I’m not even trying to fly up the hill, I’d be happy just to consistantly make it up the hills. Sometimes I hit it ok and other times its like I hit a wall, and then it is too late to downshift.

    A single speed will solve the shifting problem. And bonkedagain is right 12,000 miles offroad and still learning

  • #69832

    Yeah, I have been riding with two friends: one who does alot of road biking, and the other who has superhuman cardio capacity, kinda like Lance.
    The road guy advised me to downshift anytime I cant see what is ahead of me, that way I will be in a low enough gear to tackle an uphill, and if it ends up being a downhill or straight away, I can always shift up.

    Seems to make sense… I think

  • #69833

    RobTrailblazer
    Rob, no snow MTB rides?

    I love riding in the cold. I just have to make it a priority. It’s easy to cop out when you cannot even find the trail head, let alone the trail, and it’s 20 degrees… But, I’m thinking of doing some real trail work this winter, and see how it goes. Might even pick up a pair of studded tires if we keep enough snow on the ground.

    Depends on just how much fun I really have, and how much work it really is to stay on the trail.

    ‘Mo saddle time is the ultimate solution. I plan on pushing some iron this winter also, and see where that takes me.

  • #69834

    I hit the gym several times a week, which is good for muscle building but doesn’t seem to help with the cardio. I still seem to run out of stamina before I want to and have to stop and let the lungs/heart catch up. SO, have started my warm up routine on the stationary bike at the gym to help with cardio. As for climbing a hill, I’ve found it easier if I stand on the pedals and lean forward slightly; course the right gear still has to be engaged 😉 And then I might still have to stop and push my bike up the rest of the way if it’s too steep or too long for my lungs. As has been stated, I need more saddle time too.
    z

  • #69835

    Alright gentlemen, after some extensive research, heres what I have found. See if this helps anyone else… check out this link http://www.bicycling.com/article/1,6610 … -1,00.html
    there is a ton of great info and instructional videos as well. The link above takes you to an article about flying uphills.

    Rob, you are definately hard-core! I like that!

  • #69836

    Zack,

    I totally agree with you on the standing thing. I know that I have read you expend more energy standing, and that you should stay in the saddle, but every time I try that I end up pulling up on the handlebars and pull the front wheel right off the ground, fall over and crash. At least when I stand, I seem to keep the weight evenly distributed between the front and rear wheels. Occationally the rear will spin out on really steep hills.

    I know it is probably not the best way to do it but it is the only way I can get up sometimes.

  • #69837

    A lot of standing on a single speed, trick is to keep the heart rate low. I stand on the front pedal and pull the rear.

    When you can not pedal another stroke, pedal mten more about six or seven you will forget to count and keep going

    SS thing

    Riding is life all else is waiting

  • #69838

    Just stay in the seat, use a lower gear, lean forward a bit, and concentrate on keeping a smooth cadence going, pulling up with one leg while pushing down with the other. Typically you will be sitting on the nose of the seat (ouch!). If your front wheel comes up, ease up on the power, lean forward, and increase the power till you find the right balance point. If you spin out shift your weight back till the front wheel feels like it is about to lift off the ground, but doesn’t. Try to keep a smooth pedal stroke all the way around so that you are delivering the same amount of power to the rear wheel no matter where you are in the pedal stroke. If you just thrust your legs down on the pedals it will be hard not to lift the front wheel or spin out.

    Spend some time trying different things and before you know it you won’t even think about, you will just go right up the hill.

  • #69839

    How upright are you when your sitting on your bike and not climbing? If your body position is to upright it’s going to make climbing the steeps hard. It puts more weight on the rear of the bike and your going to want to pull up on the bars way to much when your climbing. You might try a shorter rised stem or a stem with a little more length to get your weight a little more forward or if you have a hi-rise bar you might try a low-rise bar or a flat bar. One other thing, keep your elbows in towards your body, this will help you keep your weight low and forward and will help keep your front wheel down when your climbing steeps. I would try that first before spending any money on parts. Also as much as you want to stand try as hard as you can to stay seated, you’ll be a better technical and smoother rider in the long run. Standing helps in cetain cercumstances like when you need to get up and over something standing will allow you to shift your weight forward to help you pull yourself up and over an obstical but if your standing and mashing the pedals trying to get over something or in a technical section your going to put to much strain on your drivetrain and there’s a good chance your going to bend your cogs in the back or break your chain. Oh and as for single speeds, ya they’re fun and sure you don’t need to shift but they are not that practical for most trail riding. Sure Travis Brown rides one but he doesn’t race on one all the time, why? because not all trails are the same and sometimes you do need lower gears and sure you can gear your single speed to climb but when you get to a flat your going to spin your but off and not go anywhere and vise versa you can gear it to go well on the flats but when you get to a steep or technical section your going to have to get off and walk up. What’s the point? That doesn’t make you a better rider. The more you ride a trail the better you’ll get. If you get to a section and you can’t make it try it again but try and looking at it a different way and try a different line thru the same section you’ll eventually get it. Your friend also gave you a great pointer, if your on a trail you’ve never riddin before and you come up to a section with a blind spot or corner and you don’t know what’s on the other side slow down a little down shift into the middle ring up front and 1st (granny gear) in back, this will allow you to climb most hills and obsticals and if it doesn’t then you’ll know better the second time you ride the trail 😃. Well I hope this helps you a little and I also hope I didn’t make the single speed guys mad but I do live in Colorado and a lot of the trails I ride on are impractical for a single speed. Have fun and keep on biking!!!

  • #69840

    Oh what I meant to say there at the end was that a single speed wasn’t practical for me. It might be for some people but not me. I use my single speed as a in-town commuter. I do have one and I tried it mtn. biking and didn’t care for it all that much. 😃 Oh and I don’t think a single speed is practical for a beginner mtn. biker either. 😃

  • #69841

    SS may not be for new riders but the tech can be used. I have found SSing easier all around for most riding.
    Bouncy bike with a few gears when it’s super rough but tend to use the same skill. Had to learn the low rpm stand/climb style, once it is mastered a rider has more muscle groups to work from, spreading fatigue. I do remember the days of draging the bike to the top of some climbs

    Uh like last Sunday

    Riding is life all else is waiting 😏

  • #69842

    Not upright at all, the top of my saddle is about 1in above the handlebars. Bars are lowrise. Actually, since it was only my second ride on the C’dale F600 this weekend, I am still making adjusments in my riding position. I felt very stretched out in my riding position and the front of the saddle was angled up, which if anything; was really shifting my weight over the rear wheel, and causing lower back pain. That could be part of the reason for lifting the front wheel. I have made adjustments which have flattened out the saddle and moved it forward. So, I will see how that works out.

  • #69843

    Thought I would chime in here to the post because everything in this thread is very interesting to read. One advantage that you have is that you have a hardtail and don’t have to worry about the rear shock or anything like that. Even though I ride both FS and HT, I like the HT on climbs anyday!

    I had a heck of a time at the beginning of the riding seasoon this year with hills – probably because of the long winter break, but I hated being the one in the back getting passed by other riders. I would catch them on the downhills and more technical sections, but the uphills were grindingly painful! I started doing more cardio exercises and put more miles on the road bike to get my aerobic up to speed. MTBing is a combo of aerobic and anaerobic so to find the balance between the two is key. I started hitting the gym more and working on some weight training to help those sections where you have to dig deep to get over rocks, stumps, etc. One of the main things that has helped me has been loading up my camel back with some weight plates and running hills or running stairs. It helps to have that extra added weight for your legs to really work getting up the side of a hill. I also take a nasty hill climb and just continue going up it as hard as I can. When I reach the top I come back down and do it again. If I have the time, I will tackle a hill about 3 times to make myself work. There is no shame in granny gearing up a hill just to make it. While flying up that hill would be nice, I realize that I am not a pro MTBer and just a guy that likes to have fun. My goal is to just make sure I am not the last one in the pack on group rides! I do the same thing on my road bike in finding a nasty hill and just trying to attack it as much as possible.

    Anyway, riding should be fun and ever since I got into XC racing I often times lose sight of the whole fun aspect of it all. Most of my rides turn into training rides and I really need to step back and remember why I started riding the trails in the first place.

    Hope this helps. Enjoy riding and you will be climbing like a pro in no time!!

  • #69844

    RobTrailblazer
    I know that I have read you expend more energy standing, and that you should stay in the saddle, but every time I try that I end up pulling up on the handlebars and pull the front wheel right off the ground, fall over and crash.

    I read some good advise somewhere on climbing. Rotate your wrists down. You’ll be leaning over a lot more. That forces you forward and keeps your weight centered more.

    I’ve got to break my recently acquired habit of getting off and walking 😮 I’ve been riding too many trails that are not ridable (up) for me.

  • #69845

    Good one! I also like to keep my hands placed in the middle of the handlebar on long, grinding climbs that don’t require a lot of technical work. Just straight up for a few miles!

  • #69846

    I am new to MTB’ing (going on about 6 months now) and I was having the same problem, expecially when I went clipless (would never go back now though). Let me say thank you for the advice even though I did not post the original thread, but I will benefit from this also. I do have to say that part of it too will be time in the saddle with familiar trails. Anyone, however long they have ridden, will run into problems on a brand new trail (to them at least), especially if they don’t have a buddy who knows the trail or a guide of some sort. Continue riding your "home trail(s)" and as you get to know them, you will know when to shift. And with that, you gain more skill AND confidence, which both can carry over to the "new" trails in the future. I would get frustrated when I tried a new trail but I had to realize I had no clue what was coming. Cardio work and weight training will certainly help, but not always. Some hills are just going to creep up on you.

  • #69847

    I just moved to Denver 5 weeks ago and have rode 20 trails with my new 😃 mountainbike. I keep waiting for "the day" when hills don’t kill me. I’m glad I’m not alone. How long before my lungs catch up with my wants (work started and I now ride 3-4 times a week)?
    thnx.
    mark

  • #69848

    …and keep in mind, there is no shame in getting off to walk your bike up a hard climb. I’m sure we’ve all been at that point at one time or another.

    The thing about hills is that for as much pain as you might have grinding your way up, the pay-off is almost always very rewarding. I’ve never had a hill that I’ve climbed where afterwards I’ve thought, "well, that was a waste."

    Either it’s a nice downhill adrenaline rush, or a fantastic view atop a ridge, or simply the knowledge that every time your muscles ache you’re only getting stronger.

    I used to hate hills, and while I still struggle with them at times, I will now actively seek them out. As everyone else has said, saddle time is really all you need. There used to be a few trails I completely avoided because the first time I tried them I ended up walking half of it. Now they’re some of my favorites.

    Keep at it, the strength, stamina and climbing skill will all come with time.

  • #69849

    As a new clipless, and relatively new off road, rider, this thread caught my attention. If my road experience makes any translation to off road, some people are climbers and some of us are not. I’m not a climber.

    What I use as a gauge of how well I’m doing, from a fitness standpoint, is recovery time after a hard climb. While it is purely subjective, I seem to be recovering quicker as I ride more. This is a good thing. I also notice, I’m taking fewer breaks going up those steep hills as compared to March of this year, my reintroduction to ‘cycling.

    Off road is still another story for me, but the more I do it, the better I seem to get. I’ll be trying my new clipless pedals off road for the first time tis weekend. I can relate to the person who posted about worrying about unclipping in time and stalling an tight turns. Yeah, I’m going to be nervous about that for a while myself . . . 😕

    Oh yeah, one more thing . . . weight training . . . it is not a substitute for riding. I do weight train, and it does help, but nothing trains you better than doing what you want to do better. If you need to get better at climbing, do more hills. Everybody, and every body, is different, but I found alternating rides with short steep climbs and longer less steep climbs helps with the hill climbs overall. Each stresses the body differently and each adds something to the overall benefit. As I said, we’re all different, so try different things and if you find something that seems to work for you, incorporate it into your regimen.

  • #69850
    "Mongoose" wrote

    For my training, I go out every other day and climb our causeway (bridge over our river) which is a steep 15 to 20 stories high.

    I don’t know what I’d do if the main source of climbing was bridges over waterways. I know I about went crazy when I went to the coast the last time. I took my road bike with me and the only climbing I managed to get in was when I went out of my way looking for bridges.

    I don’t mind riding on relatively flat road for long periods, but I felt I needed a change of pace…hills usually provide that. In the case of my ride along the coast, bridges provided that. 😃

  • #69851

    I also have some trouble when it is the first time riding in awhile, but the more I ride, the better I can climb hills. Also I believe that flying up hills isn’t the best thing for me. I would rather climb hills at a moderate pace and be able to ride longer, than go all out and have my rides really short.

  • #69852
    "Mongoose" wrote

    Most MTBR’s will ride uphill in 2/2 to 2/4 gear speed anyway

    OK, I think the terminology has changed a little bit since I was last into biking. I gather the ratio you are showing is the chainring position and the freewheel position.

    What I’m not sure of is what the numbers represent. For the chainring, is 1 the largest or smallest diameter and the same question for the freewheel?

    As far as the freewheel goes, I think it is a safe assumption that 1 would always be the smallest diameter (highest gear) since that is the only constant (assuming multiple cogs); some freewheels have 5, some a lot more, so it would make sense to start with the smallest number of teeth as 1. Does this hold for the chainring as well: smallest number of teeth is 1?

    Yes, I have numbers on my index shifters, but I rarely look at them and they mean nothing to me. The only thing they tell me for sure is if I’m in middle / middle. Other than that, I rely on feel while pedaling: if it’s too tough going uphill, I move the chain towards the frame with the rear derailleur until I run out of gears, then I shift to the chainring closer to the frame. If I’m already in my lowest gear, it’s either Spin ‘n’ Grin or Get Off ‘n’ Walk 😃

  • #69853

    The way my friends and I speak gearing terms would be as follows: The chainrings would be 1-3 with 1 being the smallest and working up and the gears would be 1-9 with 1 being the lowest gear in the gear range but the largest diameter gear in size. 1st will always be your lowest gearing gear on the chainring and the gears and the sizes of the gear are opposite one another from front to rear, meaning the lowest gear on the front will be the smallest and the lowest on the back will be the largest.

    Say you are in 1-2 and your chain ring has 22 teeth and your gear has 44. Then your ratio is 2 to 1 which means that when you turn your crank 2 turns then your back wheel will turn one revolution. Whereas when you are in 1-9 and you have the same teeth on your chain ring (22) and 11 teeth on your gear then you have a 1 to 2 ratio which will allow your wheel to turn 2 revolutions for one revolution of the crank. [u:1ojacume]The number of teeth used is not exact and has been used as a close representation.[/u:1ojacume]

    I hope this helps explain the gearing a little.

  • #69854

    [quote="PghDragonMan]

    Off road is still another story for me, but the more I do it, the better I seem to get. I’ll be trying my new clipless pedals off road for the first time tis weekend. I can relate to the person who posted about worrying about unclipping in time and stalling an tight turns. Yeah, I’m going to be nervous about that for a while myself . . . 😕
    [/quote]

    There is a technique that involves track standing and holding your front brake that allows you to keep your front wheel in place and pivot the rear around to make VERY tight turns. Not sure the exact name of it but basically you come to a stop at the apex of the turn while doing a track stand and hop the rear tire of the bike around in a circle underneath you until you have the bike pointed in the direction you now want to go. Kindof like a bunny hop without the front wheel. You don’t have to come to a complete stop but LEARN THE TRACK STAND FIRST, then this will be an easy next step to figure out. It helps immensly in tight turns. Check out this video on the downhill decent around 1:55 or so. They start using the technique to get through nasty stuff.

    http://video.mpora.com/watch/0rnfkoASt/

  • #69855
    There is a technique that involves track standing and holding your front brake that allows you to keep your front wheel in place and pivot the rear around to make VERY tight turns. Not sure the exact name of it but basically you come to a stop at the apex of the turn while doing a track stand and hop the rear tire of the bike around in a circle underneath you until you have the bike pointed in the direction you now want to go. Kindof like a bunny hop without the front wheel. You don’t have to come to a complete stop but LEARN THE TRACK STAND FIRST, then this will be an easy next step to figure out. It helps immensly in tight turns. Check out this video on the downhill decent around 1:55 or so. They start using the technique to get through nasty stuff.

    Way back in my day in bmx,this was called a "pitch".That was from the 70’s,hahahaha,they might have a whole nother name for it these day’s.The thing that was different about the pitch we used to do was the fact that we didnt use a front brake to do a pitch,so without a front brake the farther you could get your rear wheel around(like 360 degree’s)the better a rider was at pitching.

  • #69856

    Thanks, Mongoose, for clearing up the gearing numbering. I just get confused if I try and think numbers . . . I’m more used to generic "middle chainring, slightly smaller than middle frewheel" type descriptions.

    I’ve tried the move Jeremy Green was talking about and need <b>A LOT</b> of practice to stand on the front wheel. I can do a track stand on command and hold it for quite a while, but doing that on one wheel is still beyond me. So far, I haven’t tackled a trail where I <i>needed</i> to do something like that anyway. Maybe next season I’ll be moving my skills up to that level. I’m hoping to get a few more rides in during the Fall, but I’ve got some personal commitments happening that will be bringing my season to a close in about another two months or so.

  • #69857

    It’s not really done [i:6945qqfx]from[/i:6945qqfx] a track stand. If you can do a proper track stand, though, you’ve already got great balance and the move should be a LOT easier for you versus someone without that kind of balance. It’s basically just doing a rear wheel lift but leaning with your hips toward the direction you want the rear wheel to move. Your natural body weight will pull the rear end of the bike around.

    1. crouch and lean back
    2. lunge upward and forward ending with most of your weight over the front wheel. try to really explode forward until you get the feel for it.
    3. unweight your feet from the pedals and the bike will follow.

    to turn the rear of the bike at the same time you just add a couple steps with your hips into the equation…

    If you have clipless pedals they let you cheat a bit because your feet are attached. Done with proper form, no clipless pedals are required to pull this off. Try it out a coupld of times on a flat surface and then try doing it down a small slope. It can really pay off in tight coners on heavy slopes. When it’s just a tight turn with very little to no slope I usually try to bunny hop in place to turn the bike but that’s BAD news on a steep grade.

    Good luck. I bet with about 5-10 minutes of playing around you’ll have this one figured out.

    1B. keep your hips on the opposite side of the saddle that you want the bike to move towards in preparation of shifting your weight. (moving the tail of the bike to your left when you are riding requires you to start with your weight on the right side of the saddle.)
    2B. swing your hips to the other side of the bike WHILE lunging forward and upward. the bike will follow.

  • #69858

    thats some awesome info 😃

  • #69859

    I too am getting back in the saddle after quite a few years. One thing I quickly learned after only about 30 miles on my new Giant Trance X0 (yeah, I love it!) is that downshifting WHILE you are climbing puts A TON of strain on your chain and can stretch the thing to its limits in no time. I brought my ride into the shop for my 30 day tune up and I was told that my chain was 95% worn!!!!! Now I’m a big dude, but 95%? Well I put a new (and better) Sram PC991 chain on and worked on a more efficient shifting process. Low and behold I managed to actually get my fat butt up hills that I had a tougher time with before. Looking up at the upcoming terrain and planning accordingly really helped!!!!! Terrain management is the key

  • #69860

    I would be wary about claims like "95% worn" after 30 days of riding. That just sounds suspicous to me, like maybe they want to sell you parts or they are just blowing smoke up your butt.

    Spend a few bucks on a chain wear gauge (I think I paid around $10) and end the guess work. That way you will know for sure when your chain needs replacing. It will pay for itself in no time.

  • #69861

    Just go downhill, works for me

  • #69862

    You really want to have a good "Base" to climb better. By this I mean you want to go train on flat land "spinning" around 70% capacity. If you stay off the trails and do this consistantly you will notice with in a couple weeks the difference on your climbs. I like to get up early in the mornings during the week and spin for 30 – 45 minutes, 3 to 4 times a week, and still go ride on the weekends.

    Obviously technique on the saddle, your ability to stay relaxed and centered on your bike will help things, but having a strong base will help your feel for the bike as well.

  • #69863

    I wonder if almost 3 yrs later the OP is still reading this topic? Or can finally get up that hill?

  • #69864

    It really does just come with time and experience. I have recently learned that there are many different variables in a hill that causes me to choose between the 1st or 2nd cog on the front and 1st or 2nd cog on the rear. Its all about the challenge for me. The first time I made it all the way to the top of Brutality trail at Munny Sokol Park in Tuscaloosa, AL I let out a big "WOOOOO!"

  • #69865
    "Beaker" wrote

    I wonder if almost 3 yrs later the OP is still reading this topic? Or can finally get up that hill?

    Good Question

  • #69866

    OP hasn’t posted because he is only half way up and taking a breather. I didn’t have heart to tell him the trail he was climbing was "lift’ accessible. 😉

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