On Climbing Hills

I am not someone who posts a lot of “how to” guides. The internet, and blogworld, is filled with “Top 5 Reasons” or “Top 5 Ways” for me to add to the fray. I am going to attempt one this time, however, because it is about a topic I have struggled with and have learned to deal with, with up and down success, over the last couple of years.

Climbing hills on a bike.

I can hear the pundits now in my ear … “John,” they say. “You live in Florida. what do you know about climbing hills.”

The answer is simple. I know what I know.

Much like when people state that a football team didn’t really earn a playoff spot because they had an easy schedule, the same can be said of what I ride on. I live in Florida, and I take what the state gives me. Regardless of what people think, Florida is not flat. we do not have mountains of course, but we do have hills, so we train as best we can with the hills that we have available to us. And let me say this, I have trained on these Florida roads for 5 years and have handled the climbs in every other state I have gone to, so the argument bares no weight.

No pun intended.

Currently my Team in Training group is training for America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride in Lake Tahoe on June 5th. To accomplish this we train in the Clermont, Florida area, which offers the most climbing in the state. Our coach recently gave us a talk on the best way to handle hills, and the information was very good, so I am going to share some of the tips here with you (taking some out that I find did not help me personally as much). Coach culled them from other resources as well, so read through them and if you need further help please feel free to reach out.

  1. If you are new to hills, or are slower, try to start at the front of the group. This way you will drift past them as they come by and hopefully the string doesn’t accordion too much on you.
  2. Change into climbing gears well before you start the climb and before you need to do it. The quickest way to drop a chain, or even worse snap one, is to try to change gears while hammering a hill. The chain can only take so much torque. It may seem too easy at fist, but the hill will come to you.
  3. Something that helps me quite a bit is to move on the saddle. You can revive seemingly dead legs in the middle of a longer climb by adjusting where you are sitting. The further back you sit the more power you will have, almost like you are pushing the peddles instead of circling them. To rest the glutes after that move up on the bike. Little movements can be a ride saver.
  4. There will be a point where you think you will not make it. It happens to everyone at some time. Concentrate on your cadence, and keeping your feet turning. Try not to focus on the top of the hill, but on the three feet in front of you. With that being said, don’t slow to the point where you cannot keep forward movement. My rule is 3 mph. If I cannot stay at least at that speed I get off and start walking.
  5. Breathe! This is a hard part for me and something coach constantly is reminding me to do. I tend to get shallow and start huffing and puffing. Concentrate on getting more oxygen into your lungs will keep you stronger and fresher. It will be hard, almost to the point you will think you cannot do it, but you can.
  6. Keep your body relaxed. Being aero doesn’t matter when climbing (for the most part).
  7. I am not one to stand on climbs, though I know some like to. I find it fatigues you faster. On short quick rollers I will do it just to get out of the saddle, but if it is a longer climb I keep my butt in the saddle.



One thought on “On Climbing Hills

  • March 9, 2016 at 10:53 pm

    Well written as always. I agree that you have to work with what you have though you writing about hills makes me think of Sheldon learning to swim.

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