It doesn’t matter whether you cycle for fun, work, or competitively, you’re undoubtedly going to encounter many steep inclines in your cycling career. All of which shouldn’t be avoided, but instead conquered with the proper technique, preparation, sheer grit, and determination. Learning how to bike uphill without getting tired will help you master those hills without feeling spent, and conserving your energy for the rest of the ride.
Below are 8 tips to help you bike uphill without getting tired, and faster. Let’s begin!
How to Bike Uphill – 8 Tips
1) Endurance & Strength Training
As the saying goes… No pain, no gain. One of the best ways to improve your endurance, and speed on steep inclines is to train for it. A mixture of endurance and strength training will give you the cardiovascular build-up and power to tackle any hill.
Don’t worry if you don’t have a gym membership. There are many great bodyweight exercises for cycling. All of which can fire up the main muscle movers including your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves.
With consistent training, the more aerobically stronger your muscles and core will become, and you’ll encounter less fatigue especially late on in a ride.
2) Body Position & Technique
If you are a beginner we have covered how to ride a road bike [internal link] in a previous post, however using the correct body position is especially important when learning how to bike uphill without getting tired.
Staying seated for as long as possible
When you are riding in the saddle, you are using your large muscle groups (quads, hamstrings, and glutes). But, when you stand up, you engage pretty much your entire body. Whilst standing up is a common reaction to a steep incline, it’s often unnecessary and can lead to quick burnout.
It’s best to stay in the saddle for as long as possible, and only when you feel as though you are going to fail, stand up, and use the extra power to get you the rest of the way.
Keep your body forward
You want to lean your body forward whilst heading uphill. You don’t need to be fully extended over your handlebars, but keeping your hips and chest angled forward will give you some extra momentum uphill.
3) Cadence & Pacing Yourself
Starting out fast, and expecting that momentum to carry you the rest of the way is a sure way to burn out quickly. It’s best to set a steady pace and maintain it for the rest of the hill. Think ‘slow and steady wins the race’.
4) Correct Gear Management
As a general rule of thumb, lower gears are used to help you cycle uphill much easier. However, this does largely depend on your skill level, and power.
Experienced riders with strong leg muscles and a personal best ride time to beat won’t be using the lowest gear possible. They will select the gears based on a balance between ease of going uphill, and speed.
If you are just starting out, then choose the lowest gear possible, and work your way up as you encounter more hills. It won’t be long till you find the sweet spot.
5) Fuel Your Body
Properly hydrating and fuelling your body is important, especially when you’ll be burning through hundreds, and thousands of calories whilst road cycling.
Ensure you always have water on hand, and regularly hydrate throughout your ride. Some experts recommend that you should eat a high-carb snack around 90 minutes into your ride, then continue to fuel with an extra 125 calories every hour after that.
If you are just out on a short ride, then you might not need to refuel with food mid-ride. But ensuring you eat properly the night and morning before a bike ride will help improve your performance.
6) Avoid Heavy Frame Bikes
We know how expensive road bikes can be, especially when you start to gaze at the Carbon options available. But, they are Carbon for a reason… they’re wicked light. And, that weight reduction improves your performance and ability on rides, especially to increase your speed whilst riding uphill.
If you are a beginner, it’s likely you won’t be starting out on a Carbon bike, and that’s fine. Aluminium frames are also fairly lightweight and get the job done.
If you are using a steel frame, it will be tough. But at least you’ll be improving your strength and endurance rapidly when you trade it in for a lighter upgrade.
7) Ride With a Group
If you have ever competed before, whether it be cycling or running, you probably have witnessed what happens to your times when competing with a group. PB’s are shattered. Why? Cycling in a group is a great way to feed off each other’s positivity and momentum. You are much more likely to conquer that hill with 2 riders setting the pace in front and 5 more behind you.
They act as a kind of accountability partner, and riding with friends is a great way to take your mind off the lactic acid burn in your quads and instead on the mission ahead of you.
8) Your Weight
So we have already touched on how your bike frame weight can impact your performance going uphill, and without offending anyone, your own weight can play a huge role in your uphill performance.
Of course, the lighter and more streamlined you are, the better your performance will be. But, don’t dishearten yourself if you are on the larger side, cycling is awesome exercise, and the more you get out on your bike, the faster you’ll get into shape.
How to road bike uphill – Final Words
Cycling uphill is always going to be one of the tougher sections of your bike ride. But, with proper preparation, training, fueling of your body, and technique it can be made much easier, and (almost) enjoyable.
Thankfully what goes up must come down! So usually, a long ascent is partnered with a nice descent which allows you to re-catch your breath and let those leg muscles rest.
There is no substitute for hard work and hill training. Remember, the more you do it, the easier it gets.