How to climb like a pro during the bike leg
When the road kicks uphill, the power you produce on your bike determines how fast you reach the top, but without good cycling technique you will struggle to climb efficiently. Here’s what you should do
Before you hit the climb, try to anticipate which chainring you’ll need to be in. On rolling roads or short ramps, it can be more efficient to carry your momentum and attack the climb in your big ring. Be wary though of expending too much energy, especially if racing long course, and avoid chainring shifts under load as a dropped chain will cost you significant time.
On these ‘power climbs’, you’ll stand out of your saddle, but don’t waste energy by excessively throwing your bike from side to side and remember to keep you head up.
On longer climbs, where the gradient allows, seated climbing is most efficient, although standing out of the saddle every 5 minutes or so can give your back and backside a bit of a break. You don’t need to be spinning crazy Chris Froome cadences but 80rpm-plus is a good target for the majority of riders.
A smooth and even pedal stroke is also desirable for efficient climbing, spreading the load across a number of muscle groups rather than quad-dominant pedal mashing. The best way to develop ‘souplesse’ pedalling (a phrase used to describe a fluid pedalling style, that appears almost effortless – think Bradley Wiggins) is to use rollers in
training and focus on producing an even whir from them. Changes in pitch or volume of the noise they’re producing equates to an uneven stroke.
You might be able to ride very gentle climbs on your aerobars but, as a rule of thumb, once your speed drops below 20kmph, you’re better off sitting up and sacrificing the aero benefits for power production and comfort.
Your hands should be on your bullhorns or, if there’s room, either side of your stem. On a road bike, they should be on the hoods or the bar-tops. Whatever position, alway have in mind that an efficient climbing technique starts with a relaxed grip.
A relaxed grip means relaxed arms, relaxed shoulders and a relaxed upper body. A relaxed upper body is a still upper body and that equates to minimal wasted energy.
We’re all different and studies have shown that optimal cadence is hugely individual. Follow guidelines but don’t stress if spinning doesn’t feel right to you, some people are just grinders. Experiment in training, ride hills and find what works for you.
Cycling up hills: when you should sit and when you should stand
How to prepare for hilly bike sections
How to improve your bike climbing
Is a road bike or triathlon bike best for a hilly Ironman?