How to go faster uphill

| Monday, December 7th, 2009 | No Comments »

Whether you are Tour de France winner Alberto Contador, or a beginner cyclist, you may take comfort in knowing that everyone suffers when cycling uphill. The only difference is that the top professionals climb at a much higher speed!

A pure climber is a cyclist who can produce a lot of power in relation to his/her body weight. Pure climbers are normally slight in build and carry very little body fat. On shorter climbs like here in Florida, it is more about pure strength versus power in relation to body weight (watts/kg). For this type of climbing a big, powerful cyclist can compete with a pure climber which is not the case in the big mountains.

Here are a few tips that can help you go faster uphill –

• Increase your cycling fitness and strength (power) by improving your training. An experienced coach can help you design a customized training plan based on your cycling goals, experience, ability, and schedule.
• Reduce excess body fat. Elite male endurance athletes carry between 4-10% body fat, and elite women between 10-18% body fat. If you are way over these numbers then you can improve your performance by losing some body fat through a sensible calorie reduction that is focused on slow and long term weight loss.
• Lighten up your bike with a high-end carbon frame from a reputable manufacturer. Purchase a set of wheels with light weight rims made from carbon fiber. Studies have shown that having light weight rims are a big advantage when the road turns up.
• Ride in the hills or mountains as much as possible.
• For group rides or races, position yourself in the front of the pack as you start the base of the climb. Then drift back slowly through the pack if needed. This strategy will help you to avoid getting dropped on the climb.
• Coming in to a short steep climb after a fast descent, change in to an easier gear (small chain ring), before you have to apply real pressure on the pedals. This will avoid a sloppy gear change. Change to a bigger gear as you approach the summit and get out-the-saddle to accelerate.
• Don’t psyche yourself out before a climb in a race or group ride. If you believe you are a non-climber, make a conscious effort to be strong mentally by having the attitude “there is no way I am getting dropped today!”
• Be ready to suffer! Everyone hurts going uphill. Accept the pain and realize that it is only short lived. Stay focused in the present moment by observing your breathing, pedaling technique, or the cyclists around you.
• For short steep climbs (1-3 minutes) it is often better to climb mostly out-the-saddle using a bigger gear (slower cadence). For long climbs (5 minutes +) it is better to climb mostly seated using an easier gear (higher cadence).

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