How to prepare for hilly bike sections

Mark Kleanthous discusses how much you should incorporate cycling up hills in preparation for racing hilly courses.


Pedalling constantly will smooth out your effort, and it’s more efficient by working at a similar effort level for your entire ride. Hold back on climbs and spin, and keep the pedalling up rather than freewheel on the descent. This not only improves cycling performance, but you’ll also find the run easier. The benefit of pedalling downhill is that you’ll be more stable when applying power to the rear wheel, however on a windy day you may have to increase power to improve stability.


Is a road bike or triathlon bike best for a hilly Ironman?

 Choose a route that’ll replicate the climbing in your event every 10 miles, making sure the gradient is similar. No two events, even with the same total amount of climbing, will be the same. One route may have short and sharp climbs, while another may have the same ascent but longer, gradual climbs.

 Aim to complete 20-25% of your training on a similar course to your target event. Then with eight weeks to go, make the effort the same as your predicted effort level for your race, and refine your pace judgement afterwards.

 Your fitness will evolve and develop, and the conditions will vary each time you ride the same course. Although it’s not as interesting, riding in controlled conditions will enable you to identify strengths and weaknesses. If you simply want to complete your target race, it’s better to save energy on the downhill rather than going up, but ideally you should be looking to maintain an even power output when you get fitter.


One of the most difficult skills in cycling is consistently maintaining a high cadence throughout your ride over long distances. You can develop this using your easiest gears cycling up hills, and making sure you spin fast under control down the hills.

A triathlete’s guide to bike cadence

How to improve your bike climbing

Get better at hill climbing on the bike