What is your uphill cycling strategy?

chalk farm heading wrong way uphill It happened to me a couple of days ago. I was on my way back from Camden on my bike and I took a wrong turn at Chalk Farm heading up to Haverstock Hill. It wasn’t the worst hill in the world but I was definitely not expecting it. This got me thinking about my uphill cycling strategy and I wanted to share it and see what you guys do. Hitting a hill is rare in most parts of London but it’s useful to know a few tricks for making it easier when you do come across one.

Know your enemy

When I took the wrong turn I had no idea how big the hill was. My initial thinking was:

Andreas to brain: Oh no! A hill, I swear this isn’t the right way, what shall I do?

Brain: Pedal hard and it will soon be over and you can get home and put your feet up and watch TV

Andreas to brain: Thanks brain!

This was an error because the hill went on for a while so putting in hard pedalling at the start meant that I would be out of juice by the time I reached the top. It definitely helps when you know how long the hill goes on for so you can pace yourself.

Steady your approach

If you are going flat out before you get to a big hill then you’re going to struggle unless you are some kind of cycling superhero. It’s best to pace yourself so you are conserving energy for the challenging hill. Note: This doesn’t mean stop, have a cup of coffee at Starbucks and then tackle the hill. That would be pacing yourself way too slow!

Seating 90% standing 10%

When cycling uphill I tend to stand only when I need that bit of an extra boost. The cycling experts will tell you that standing on a bike uses more energy as you are carrying your body weight.

Use gears to your advantage

When I feel the resistance building I know it’s time to switch down a gear. I always switch down gears incrementally, not 5 at a time! I also try to time my gear changes so that I’m not doing them when I’ve pretty much grounded to a halt because we all know how tough that can be.

Head down and pray

Well, it isn’t quite that bad! During the uphill climb consistency is king. I try to keep my pace steady and not too slow or too fast. It’s tough to know what the perfect pace is and what gear you should be in. This is something you only get good at with practise (I rarely practise so it is definitely something I would like to be better at).

Relax

I also try not to tense my upper body too much as this wastes energy. This includes keeping a fairly loose grip on the handlebars.

I think that sums up my strategy, the main thing I need to do is to practise more uphill cycling to get better at it. What do you guys tend to do? Get your head down and power it or avoid hills like the plague?

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61 Responses to What is your uphill cycling strategy?

  1. Jon 08/01/2010 at 10:45 am #

    I think your advice is very sensible. I generally try and keep on the saddle when climbing. It’s important, as you say, to use your gears correctly so that you are in the right gear when you need it. The most important thing is to start the hill climb at a steady pace and not to blow all your energy at the beginning. As with all things it’s a learning curve and different people will have different techniques. One thing I’ve noticed is that big hills never really get easier :-(.

  2. Karl Roche 08/01/2010 at 10:47 am #

    I think I have about four or five inclines on the way from South Bank to Sutton, most are near the end and coming through Sutton is the worst, quite steep indeed (for me) especially as I’m usually laden with stuff.

    Some good advice and pacing is indeed the way to go. Also try not to “nod” too much, it usually means you are in the wrong gear.

    Having said all that hills are a great way to get fit.

  3. Rob 08/01/2010 at 10:47 am #

    Totally agree with staying seated on a long drag – standing is draining.

    Other than that just find your rhythm and plug away at it!

  4. shannon 08/01/2010 at 10:48 am #

    I do the exact opposite of most of those things, haha!

    I live at the top of a hill, so I go up it every day on my way home. First off I choose the least steep route (as there are a few ways to get up this hill) which means going a bit out of my way. Then I try to use the momentum of the downhill that precedes it, but sometimes this is impossible due to traffic lights. I attack immediately, standing up and pedalling in the highest gear I can manage, for as long as I can take it. This usually gets me a half to 2/3rds of the way up. Then I can down shift, sit down, and leisurely cruise the last third of the hill. Mind you I have a very inefficient bike, it’s a very old, rusty, situp type – but I usually pass some people going up this way…

    On hills I am not familiar with, I pretty much do what is recommended, take it easy and push my way through slowly. But when I know my nice warm flat is at the top of the hill, I just have little patience. I see it as a good way to raise my VO2 Max with some anaerobic training.

  5. Andreas 08/01/2010 at 10:50 am #

    Glad you liked the tips, hope some people make improvements to their technique based on them. I agree with Karl in that it doesn’t seem to get much easier but its an interesting test of endurance. @Rob “Finding your rhythm” is a good way of putting it.

  6. heather 08/01/2010 at 10:50 am #

    I used to work in Highgate Village, which meant that cycling up Highgate Hill everyday (from Islington) became the norm for about 2 years. What I can add to your list of pointers is that it is vitally important to get your ‘head around’ the fact that you’re cycling up a 10 degree incline for nearly a mile. To do that, it helps to break the journey into little milestones – I’d drop my gears right down and focus on just getting to the first set of traffic lights, and then the next bus stop and then…etc. After a while, – 2-3 weeks, I’d lost the fear, the ride seemed quite manageable and I was cycling straight up, without the need to stop and regain my composure even once! It amazing just how quickly the body adjusts – it wants to be fit.

  7. Andreas 08/01/2010 at 10:51 am #

    @Shannon – good to hear from an alternative technique! If there is a downhill before hand that is absolutely perfect! I like your attitude of just going full throttle and trying to get through as much of the hill as possible!

  8. Andreas 08/01/2010 at 10:54 am #

    @heather – setting mini-milestones is a fantastic tip. Thanks for suggesting it.

  9. Mike 08/01/2010 at 11:04 am #

    Some good pointers, and Heather I completely agree with your approach of breaking the climb down into milestones. Andreas, you should take a trip up to Highgate and Muswell Hill if you want to see some slopes!

    I used to mountain bike a fair bit, and there were a couple of semi-pro riders who turned up from time to time. They always said that they looked for a point 50 metres ahead, climbed to that then repeated it all the way to the top.

    Couple of other things I’d like to suggest. When you’re about to change to an easier gear accelerate for a couple of pedal rotations, then ease off and shift gears. If you do that the chain isn’t fully loaded during the gear change and it tends to shift a lot more sweetly.

    If you feel like you’re “pumping” each pedal in turn, change down. You want to be spinning the cranks with little resistance, as they you’re using your red, endurance, muscle fibres. It’s your heart and lungs that should do the work on anything other than a climb you can just sprint up.

    Finally, taking it steady is not a crime when you’re climbing.

    Standing can help use other muscle groups, so on a long climb it can help.

  10. Su Yin 08/01/2010 at 11:26 am #

    It’s definitely a mental game!

    I have one unavoidable largish climb on my commute where I use Heather’s approach—but more as a guide as to when to change gears. After I tackled that hill, it is the hill that all other unfamiliar climbs became compared to.

    A friend who cycled the length of New Zealand last year named his hills.

    I’ve read somewhere that you can try moving your body akin to rowing a boat so that you’re pulling yourself (and bike) upwards. I found that this kinda sorta works with bar ends.

    The best thing about cycling is, there is no rule to say that you have to RIDE uphill. ;-)

  11. Mike 08/01/2010 at 11:50 am #

    Milestones are definitely a good idea – last time I went up Highgate hill with my son in a trailer I had to keep saying to myself “if I can get to that building, I can have a rest” – and then of course kept going as I could then tell myself that if I stopped it’d only be harder to start again.

    I finally snapped and thought, right I’ll stop in that turn off there, pulled in and discovered it was where I was going anyway. I was really surprised how soon I’d got there.

    Having my son shout “Come on Daddy” repeatedly helped too, of course.

  12. Andreas 08/01/2010 at 12:27 pm #

    @Mike – I may just do that to improve my technique! Like your gear changing suggestion. Same goes for when you are about to stand up on the pedals. Give a few quick rotations first to prevent loosing forward momentum as you stand.
    @Su Yin – I like the naming your hills suggestion. If there was more of them I’d probably do that! I see what you mean with the “like a rowing boat” suggestion.
    @Mike – Sounds like your son in the trailer had it easy! At least he gave you encouragement rather than asking when you were going to get there!

  13. phil bentley 08/01/2010 at 1:17 pm #

    yeha totally agree about sitting, when i go mountain biking i try to stay seated when climbing as much as possible. i always find no matter how long the hill is for some reason i always just seem to reach the point of when i’m most tired just as i am cresting the hill and my legs will take this point to start to burn, its bizzare, 100m or a 10m hill its always jsut at the very end, like my body is in lockdown.

    as for hills, i got cuaht byt he hill after i came over putney bridge down to wimbledon, first time i cycled that way and it just on and on and on, this big long line of commutors heading over the hill.

  14. Nigel 08/01/2010 at 1:31 pm #

    Hi,
    I took on the challenge of the C2C (Whitehaven to Tynemouth) in A DAY last year to ‘celebrate’ my 50th birthday. This route has some huge (steep and very, very long) hills on it. Anyway my tactic was steady away in a low gear, getting out the saddle when I needed to. Completed it in 13 hrs but the hills at towards the end seemed to be much worse than the first time I’d completed it.
    Trying this winter to spin faster like Lance so we’ll see how this goes.

  15. Martin 08/01/2010 at 2:25 pm #

    That’s on my way home — there’s no easy route from that junction, Adelaide Road can be a bit of a pig too!

    More to the point, “a couple of days ago”? Respect is definitely due. Brrr.

  16. Kenny 08/01/2010 at 5:28 pm #

    Hills are all there is where I live. In the Western US hills are just par for the course, it’s not a matter of choice. Most hills I don’t even notice any more and I just pop right over them knowing that I’ll coast down the back side. there are a few hills though that I have to rise up out of the sadlle and pump. In these cases I will move my body weight leaning to the front of the bike so that my legs and butt are pushing into the crank. I find I am a stronger ‘pusher’ on the peddles than I am a puller. If the hill is really steep and long I’ll rock the bike side to side in beat with the leg pumping using my arms to pull and push in tune with my legs; doing this provides just a little extra human power at the end of the stroke. I know racers frown on this tech. but some of the people who’ve told me this still trail behind me on the really heavy hills.

  17. Ed 08/01/2010 at 10:47 pm #

    I come from Bristol, a cycling city, and we have plenty of hills here.
    My tips are:
    get the right gear
    relax in the saddle, drop your shoulders and think of it more as a walking stance and motion
    take it as it comes, if the hill gets less steep go up a gear, even if you have to go down again a bit further on, but it makes you fell better somehow
    there’s no shame in walking for a bit, especially if it is downhill the other side
    lastly try to arrange the city like Bristol so that all routes to city centre are downhill so you only get a bit sweaty on the way home

  18. welshcyclist 08/01/2010 at 11:04 pm #

    I’ve been commuting for the last 4 years now, and there is one hill that I’ve called my nemesis, for too long. There is no alternative route for me, so I have to overcome it every day, and it depends alot how I’m feeling, as to how “difficult” it is. Also my mood has a great bearing on the course of things, it’s fair to say that some days I absolutely dread arriving at the bottom, to slog my way up. Do we cyclists have a streak of masochism in our characters? Because, we all just keep coming back for more. As far as the technicalities of ascending hills is concerned, generally I seem to make a complete hash of, when and where to change down through the gears. But occasionally, and this is probably the reason, I keep coming back for more, everything is just right. That is my stamina, mood, frame of mind, my body feels strong and capable, I get the gear changes right and on key, and it’s simply wonderful. Makes all the past, (and sadly future struggles) seem worth it.

  19. Ham 09/01/2010 at 9:16 am #

    It also helps to ensure you are in the right crank pedal gear first, something you don’t know for sure, and isn’t normally an issue in London, but if you suspect you are going to have a hard time, drop a big cog. It gives you better “bail out” and you won’t miss the top gear, for sure.

    The other thing I have learned the hard way is to change that big cog down and up once a day even if you don’t need to – my front derailleur seized solid on the big cog through lack of use.

    (Oh, and hi Karl!)

  20. Judd 09/01/2010 at 2:38 pm #

    I have a tough hill close to where I live (not any mile long like some of you though). I think much of the problem with hills is “mental>” My attitude is that this is a great workout and I’ve found that relaxing is important. I’ve tried standing as I’ve seen others do it and agree that it takes a lot of energy. My attitude is to not let the hill “win.” A game I play with myself I know but it seems to work.

  21. Andreas 09/01/2010 at 3:25 pm #

    @Martin – thank you
    @Kenny – just like the pros!
    @Ed – good to see someone from Bristol following this blog, thanks for sharing your tips
    @welshcyclist – I definitely feel we do. Maybe if your heading up a quiet hill putting some good music on would help pickup the pace. Not tried it here in London as too dangerous.
    @Ham – good call on the alternating between big and middle cog. Haven’t yet found a hill bad enough for the small cog.
    @Judd – You seem to have the mindset correct

  22. Griff 09/01/2010 at 8:20 pm #

    Some great tips and even having been a cyclist for years, It’s nice to know I can still learn. Naming the hills is great idea! I lived the Yorkshire Dales for a while where the shallowest climb out of the village was 10%. I found (after frequent walking) that sitting slightly further back on the saddle helped quite a bit, pushing over the top of the pedal stroke. Main aid to climbing though, is definitely getting your head around it!

  23. Cozy Beehive 09/01/2010 at 8:22 pm #

    For performance riding, they say the real strategy would be to increase your gearing as you climb. For the rest of us, shift down and start panting like a dog. :)

  24. Andreas 10/01/2010 at 10:18 am #

    @Griff – that is a good tip in itself, to try different things and see what works for you
    @Cozy – well put!

  25. Amey 10/01/2010 at 11:32 am #

    I live in East Dulwich and cycle to my office in Great Portland street. What I have observed about london is that, the slopes increase as you go close to the river. I have to cross the river to go to work so for me (when I start from East DUlwich) there is a mad Dog Kennel Hill uphill slope in 1st one and half minute then after westminster and whitehall till the end of regent street. My uphill strategy is if you know when you are gonna face it conserve energy for it a bit and ofcourse it s a mental game :)
    (PS: Should I or should I not ride in snow? I am a bit paranoid about it + I hate the fact the last time I cycled was Boxing Day, seems years have gone by)

  26. Andreas 11/01/2010 at 8:57 am #

    @Amey, if most of the roads you are going to be cycling down are likely to be gritted then you should be fine. Just take it a little slower, perhaps let a little bit of air out of your tyres if they are fully pumped. This gives a bit of extra grip. Also break early and in a straight line where possible. I’m off cycling today towards Tower Bridge and can’t for-see any problems

  27. jamesmallon 11/01/2010 at 1:34 pm #

    Hmmm… I think my hill strategy comes down to, “Suck it up, James!”

    On any of my three bikes (geared, fixed, singlespeed) I tend to just hammer through it… until I can’t: then I grind it out. I’m off the saddle for the most part. My instinct is that pain is inevitable, and best shoved through as hard as you can, to get it over with sooner.

  28. Andreas 11/01/2010 at 5:09 pm #

    I tried out a few hills today as I happened to be cycling around Herne Hill area and I gotta admit the tip to set mini goals along the way was actually very helpful! Occupationally I do what you do James and just try and power it, doesn’t always work!

  29. George 11/01/2010 at 5:45 pm #

    I like and do the mini-milestone technique.
    I also very rarely/never stand on my pedals, laziness I guess.
    I have to go up Archway Hill each day, the top of it is pretty much halfway home (City to Barnet) so that generally cheers me up.
    Number one technique though, and I am sure lots do it is to attempt (but frequently fail) not to be overtaken on the way up, and to catch the next person up the hill?

  30. Andreas 12/01/2010 at 2:22 pm #

    I can’t say I’ve tried that George, though I like the sound of it. Definitely good motivation for improving your technique.

  31. George 12/01/2010 at 2:59 pm #

    Andreas, it only really works if you are fat and slow like me.

  32. Cycling Training 18/01/2010 at 7:11 am #

    I know that hill so well. In 2007 I was training to ride the entire route of the Tour de France and one Saturday afternoon I went Up and down from Chalk farm tube to the duck pond at the top 13 times !!!!!! The lovely things we do

  33. George 18/01/2010 at 7:26 am #

    CT, goodness me, that sounds hellish. I found myself having to go up Dartmouth Park Hill. I thought I was going to have to stop and set up some sort of belay device,

  34. Stephen 13/03/2010 at 1:06 am #

    What I like about the hills in London is they are long and drawn out. and the climbs can be quite draining if your not careful.
    I ride a Brompton and love to see those “full sized” cyclists slowly run out of steam with all that out of the saddle stuff they saw on the telly but dont really know how to do or when to do.
    I also run so that helps in knowing that its all about small steps and keeping that cadence steady.

  35. Knit Nurse 13/03/2010 at 1:38 pm #

    My strategy? Pedal till it gets too tough then get off and push!

  36. william 25/03/2010 at 10:30 pm #

    I plug away slowly sitting down on 20% gradient trails on the mountain bike, but I lean forward out of the saddle and tear my legs off on the road, some fairly steep little climbs where I live in Crystal palace.

    I love hills. on a hill you can go 100% effort without being too dangerous, you’re not about to run into some lights or traffic. If I went 100% on the flat on my commute-Walworth road especially- I’d probably be dead by now. Two pedestrians nearly got me killed in the last year as it is.

    Hills are an excuse to really go nuts on power and throw the bike around. Love em. Of course you need to pace yourself, when you know a hill well it is very satisfying to time the sprint perfectly.

    It was pouring with rain this evening, last thing I needed, got a cold coming on, had taken my best bike out as a treat and it was getting all sooty, bang in the middle of rush hour that I usually avoid. I was thinking london cycling doesnt get much more annoying than this.
    I climbed Brockwell park for fun on the way home and saw the sunset burst through the clouds, lighting up the buildings against the dark sky.Most beautiful thing I have seen all year.

    Climb more Hills!

    • Andreas 26/03/2010 at 7:28 am #

      Thanks William for this excellent comment! You are right about the being able to put your full power in it. Though to be honest I find the late evening is another good time to put full power. Generally after 9pm the roads are fairly empty so you can really put some pace into the cycling. Keep up the hill climbing!

  37. Higgs 30/03/2010 at 11:21 pm #

    Normally use the highest gear I can and ease down the gears to maintain momentum , only standing if I’m starting off from a dead stop (traffic lights)

    Thankfully most of the hills I encounter are fairly gentle around Notting Hill so when I tried going to Richmond Park via Nightingale Lane ( http://tinyurl.com/yhtm24s ) the climb got too much and had to concede defeat and walk the rest.

  38. Frank 01/04/2010 at 12:34 pm #

    I cycle up Putney hill to Tibbets Corner as part or my route home.

    Just this week I’ve been setting my target as standing all way to the top, and whilst in 6th gear / top ratio (or whatever the proper term is), dropping down to 5th as needs dictate.

    For me I see it as a good workout, however reading here am I right in thinking that sitting is harder on a climb than standing?

    Either way, it’s a fair old climb and the satisfaction on getting further each day is great.

    Be good to hear from others though on which method is considered more of a work out.

  39. Stephen 25/05/2010 at 12:02 am #

    Cross train.
    I cycle to and fro work each aday and run as well.
    While one on the whole does not really improve the other. They do in one respect and that is in increasing your aerobic capacity and thats what you need to get up hills. If I ran all the time i would run myself into the ground but by cycling i get an aerobic workout out with no stress on the old legs and if I tried to cycle and get the same aerobic effects of running I would have to do more miles than I have time for.So I do a bit of each.

  40. g 18/07/2010 at 1:33 pm #

    I cycle up a really, really steep hill daily, not to get to anywhere; its my training cycle. Anyway, I met a mid-aged man on the cycle route who claimed he hadn’t sat on a cycle for many yr. I was amazed at how fit he was actually: he shot over rough ground quicker than I felt confident, and he climbed the hill at a very respectful pace indeed; I beat him up the hill, but only because I train on it every day, and have rather large legs to power the bike up the insanely steep climb. However, if I hadn’t been used to the hill, that mid-aged man would have probably thrashed me up the hill! He did mention he did other stuff, which I would guess involved serious running. In all honestly, I was pushing harder because I was scared I would be overtaken by him, and what that might mean for my progress so far – lol!

    He probably had better aerobic than me, although mine isn’t bad obviously, but he didn’t have the legs to get the bike up the hill as fast. I also always have a reserve for the last steep stretch of the hill at the top where I sprint the last bit. Then I looked behind me, and he dropped back a bit more, but he’s still a very respectful distance behind on the hill I train on every day. This shows you can improve at a task without specifically doing the task itself, and if you are something like 47+, you can still become amazingly fit like he was.

  41. Calan 02/08/2010 at 11:22 am #

    Pop over to France. Ride up Ventoux on the first day, then Tourmalet on the second and finish yourself off with Madeleine on the third. Any subsequent London hill you ever ride up will seem like a freewheeling downhill.

    • joe smith 08/02/2012 at 7:46 am #

      that might be tricky as ventoux is in the alps and la tourlmalet is in the pyranees and madeleine is back in the alps…

      geography FAIL!

      • Huey 03/11/2013 at 8:17 pm #

        Pyrenees – spelling FAIL!

        ;o)

  42. pgbee66 23/08/2010 at 7:08 pm #

    After trying what was labelled as an “average difficulty” ride in the Austrian Alps the other day and being overtaken by an 81 year old man with a walking stick I decided that my best strategy was to get the cable car to the top :) Hey, at least I tried and the views and downhill run were fantastic!

  43. SarfLahndahnCycle-abuser 05/01/2011 at 7:02 am #

    My strategy is to cycle reasonably hard into the hill to build up momentum, then keep a medium-low gear (low as in large cog) but as high as I can manage to maintain cadence. If you get tired like that, you can always drop a gear or two as a last resort when the hill gets steep. Try between Tufnell Park and Highgate, this is fairly aerobic:

    http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?q=highgate&oe=utf-8&client=firefox-a&ie=UTF8&hl=en&sll=51.567167,-0.14147&sspn=0.003114,0.010568&rq=1&ev=zi&split=1&radius=0.27&hq=highgate&hnear=&ll=51.5658,-0.141256&spn=0.003115,0.010568&t=h&z=17

  44. Ruth Roadnight 24/01/2011 at 12:52 pm #

    Hey, my cousin had “liked” this on facebook so i thought i’d check it out. Some good advice on these pages and some fairly funny posts!!
    You should come to Edinburgh (where i live and cycle). More than enough hills to practice on! In fact i think the only properly flat road is Princess street!
    Not sure if i have a strategy..? I guess start where i’m at and start changing down the gears. Gears definately help. Should probably try not to hold onto the handle bars so tightly cos that probably doesn’t help! Oh and you just have to think “i will not roll backwards, i will not roll backwards!” when your cycling up hills like Dundas street (steep hill near Princess street), the first time you do it you don’t think you’ll make it but it gets easier, all hills get easier with practice.

    :) happy cycling!

  45. Yossarian 07/02/2011 at 3:01 pm #

    Only been cycling 6 months or so and where I live (Southgate / Oakwood, North London) there are hills everywhere. When I began I was always (shamefully) walking up them, but after only a few months I’ve come to love the challenge and never walk up anymore. The key for me is, steady as you go, each time I go up a hill, I try for a tougher gear, building stamina and muscle. The real riders (the ones in all-over-lycra) always whizz past me, but I don’t care because I know I keep on getting better. I never realised cycling was so addictive.

    My hill strategy, keep doing more and more, then they get easier and easier. Which completely agrees with Ruth Roadnight.

    • David 12/10/2012 at 7:31 pm #

      No shame in getting off and pushing when you need to. The more cycling you do, the fitter you’ll get and the less it will be an issue. I’m more of a leisurely tourer rather than racing about. On my commute home there’s one bit on Highgate Hill which is a bit ridiculous. If I’m feeling super fit I’ll go for it. Most of the time though I have no hesitation in getting off and pushing. Not getting trashed on one slope makes it easier to do the other 75 miles or commuting each week.

  46. Phil Russell 11/02/2011 at 3:26 pm #

    On hills, I alternate between “honking”, (old racing term for getting up off the saddle), and “twiddling”, (old racing term for fast low-gear pedalling), but it’s important to remember to slide yourself towards the back of the seat a bit, which takes a little weight off your front wheel (the non-drive wheel), and puts more traction onto the wheel that’s powering you along…..of course the technique doesn’t work while you’re honking, and it’s not much use on flat roads, but it does seem to have helped me over the years—–and over the hills!
    P.R.

  47. Snaggy 17/03/2011 at 8:06 pm #

    I live and cycle – about four times a week – on the north Cornish coast, there’s no shortage of cliff-contoured hills here.

    Only been doing this since last May or June and, like others, initially I’d either jump off (caught between vomiting, fainting and coronary) or choose flatter routes. I ride an old, heavy, second hand Dawes tourer and, perverse as it sounds, I ride for pleasure, mental health and fitness, so I’ve made my peace with being passed at light-speed by ninjaboys on feather-bikes.

    I’m also in the habit, mostly, of standing when I climb. I’m not bothered it’s less efficient than otherwise because I’m keener to burn energy than be streamlined or efficient. (I’ve lost two and a half stone in the last nine or so months.) Now I find that when I’ve not enough time for a decent ride round a looping route, I purposely go to a local T junction, whose left and right turns both lead up (to me) killer hills. I go left in 2/5, standing, then back down it and up the right one, sitting, in lower (easier) gear. This way the hills hurt in subtly different ways. I do both hills twice.

    I realise cycling’s probably more fun because I work at home and most days I go out – when I choose – there are few cars and sea-views, but regardless of all that, I’ve definitely been bitten by the endorphin bug and by the change to my body and fitness (I’m 48 and had high blood pressure and an ‘Obese’ BMI when I began …)

    All I need to do now is keep resisting the bike shops and those sleek machines promising more speed over greater distances. Luckily, I can’t even afford a new saddle at the moment.

    • D. Joshi 17/06/2011 at 3:55 pm #

      One day sir, that new saddle will be yours, your time is coming Brother.

  48. Oneten 02/01/2012 at 7:38 pm #

    I have only just found the Londoncyclist site and think it’s great. I’ve also enjoyed these useful comments about hill – climbing techniques.

    Whereas my son will sprint up most hills to ‘get them over with’, I must admit this tires me out too early and so I remain seated and spin in a low gear. If I can see the hill is relatively short I will stand up and try to keep up momentum in a higher gear but more often than not take it at a slower pace rather than become exhausted too soon.

    Living in Kent about 15 miles the North Downs, there are some challenging long climbs nearby. My pet technique is to avoid looking too far ahead instead focusing on little signs of progress. On the hill near Wye I try to ride over one of the small pieces of chalk landfall from the roadside banks which then produces a nice white spot on the front tyre and provides something to concentrate upon – I don’t know why; maybe there’s some deep psychological purpose to this but I suppose I just find it reassuring to see that the wheels are actually going round and forward progress is still being made!

  49. MontyzL1V 27/01/2012 at 11:34 am #

    Having revived my old Record Sprint and now six months into regular rides [again] a came across Goldings Hill in Loughton Essex. Wow. I got about 50m along and ground to a halt. Tried again another day and same result. urns out that my old faithful doesn’t have enough gears which was good to hear [i’m not a wimp after all :-)]. Have now upgraded from 6-gear cog to 7-gear [MEGA] as this is the maximum my poor old frame can handle. gonna put a good weeks training in and then try it again next week – Wish me luck!

  50. goonz 12/07/2012 at 4:36 pm #

    Ah the dreaded hills!

    I used to hate them when I used to commute and struggled up with my mountain bike.

    Then I upgraded to a road bike and found them so much easier. I then completed a London2Paris 24hr ride which had some serious hills and gradients scattered along the route.

    At the beginning I hated them, by the end I loved them!

    Back on my usual commute and most of the regular hills I face are extremely simple. It really is all about practice and effort. Churn away in a gear you are comfortable with and always keep an extra gear is possible.

    Only stand when you reall have to get some change in body position or shake up the muscles. Sitting is much easier but as someone also suggested shift weight to the back of the saddle which will help whilst seated.

    Want to get back to France to try some serious mountains!

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