TeamCBC Cycling Tips for Climbing Long Hills

I think most of us have learned from fellow cyclists.  Sometimes it is thoughtful and constructive advice and sometimes you just get yelled at.  Some of it is good information, some of it seems worthless to you and some of it is just plain wrong.  Starting this week, I will share what I have learned over the years.  I am not an expert, so hopefully it will start a discussion and we’ll all learn something new about the sport we love. One thing to remember – these are tips from people who have “been there…done that”.  Part of the joy of cycling is figuring out what works best for you!

Tips for climbing long hills

Hills are a challenge for many of us and this is where most groups get blown up, so I thought I would focus on climbing them for the first few weeks.

#1 – Which gear?
I was fortunate to get this tip from a former professional, Frank Schleck, whom I got to ride with for a day in the Pyrenees.  As we were going up our first big climb (Col d’Aspin) he asked me why I was staying in the lowest gear.  My response (in my own mind)…”Well duh, I can barely keep this bike moving in the one I’m in, why would I make it any harder???”  He told me to go up a gear or two and “you will feel the power”.  I’m thinking that maybe a pro can do that, but not me. So I tried it and I did feel the power.  Just that slight change felt like I was accessing a whole different set of muscles.  Schleck made the point that staying in the lowest gear the entire climb usually results in a cyclist burning themselves out.

#2 – Sit or stand?
Although it is technically more efficient to stay seated, Schleck also said he makes a point to stand up every few minutes to flush out his legs.
Note: If you’re in a group, yell “Standing!” beforehand because you do slow up and the cyclist behind will appreciate the heads up.

Although these tips helped me climb Col du Tourmalet later that day, you don’t need to be on an epic climb try them.  I’ve used them to get up Lystra, Gum Springs and every other long hill.

“Quote of the week: It never gets easier, you just get faster.” Greg LeMond

Rick Bunnell
President, Team CBC