How to ride a bike uphill

Cycling up hills is a way of life for the road rider, and a considerable part of the fun if you enjoy mountain biking!

There’s actually a skill to riding up hills properly. We’re not going to pretend you’ll be able to climb like a pro straight away, but with our uphill cycling tips, you’ll be climbing faster than before.

Tackle weight first

When you’re climbing, gravity is your enemy. The heavier you and your bike are, the more effort you will need to put in, which can quickly wear you out.

Cycling is one of the best exercises for improving fitness and losing weight, so by simply spending time on the bike, over time you’ll get faster.

If you want a headstart, you may be able to lose weight from your bike too by removing bags, racks and other accessories such as mudguards.

Modern road bikes, mountain bikes and hybrids are lightweight and efficient, so if you’re serious about cycling fast uphill then consider upgrading to a newer model.

Pedalling efficiency

Cycling is one of the most efficient exercises, with each turn of the pedal translating into power at the rear wheel. But a poorly set-up bike can undo your hard work very quickly.

Under-inflated tyres, brakes that rub and gears that don’t index properly can all sap your power and reduce your climbing speed.

If you’re serious about uphill speed, then get your bike regularly serviced to keep it in tip-top condition. At Halfords, we offer a free bike check and a range of services that will have your bike in perfect running order.

Get the right gear

When you’re climbing, you’ll want to go into lower gears, which will make cycling uphill easier.

Whether you ride a mountain bike, road bike or hybrid, having access to the right gears is essential. The best combination for riding up hills is the smallest cog at the front and the largest at the back.

The critical gear here is the largest cog at the back. The bigger it is, the easier it will be to climb up hills.

If you’re happy you’ve got the right gears but concerned they’re not indexing correctly, check out our guide to how to adjust gears on a road bike.

Build up some speed

If you know a hill is coming up, then build up some speed. This creates momentum which can help you, at least until gravity gets to work.

Don’t go too fast, however, or you could tire yourself out before you reach the peak.

Concentrate on your cadence

Your cadence is a measurement of the number of times you turn the pedals per minute.

If you watch professionals cycling, they will spin the pedals quickly, maintaining this speed – or cadence - as they climb.

To climb uphill like a pro, try and establish a cadence of between 80 – 100 revolutions per minute. It may seem strange, but this intense effort in a low gear is more efficient than grinding away in a higher speed and will see you climb faster up hills.

If you’re serious about cycling or training for an event, then a cadence sensor or cycle computer is a wise investment that can help improve your climbing performance.

Stay static

When you’re riding a bike, all of the effort should be focused on the pedalling. Any movement of your upper body is taking energy from your legs and slowing you down.

Grip the handlebars gently and try and keep your body in one position as you climb. Combine this with a high cadence, and you’ll start to feel like a pro.

Out of the saddle

When hills become too steep, you can climb out of the saddle. This allows you to use your entire body weight to drive the pedals.

It’s inefficient and impractical to maintain for long periods but will provide a short boost of power when you need it.

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