How to Approach a Long Climb on a Road Bike
Body Position and Tips for Better Road Bike Climbing
When it comes to road bike riding, climbing better and faster is at the top of every cyclist’s list. But how do you do it? There are several factors that come into play: having the right bike setup, proper body position, consistent and efficient cadence, and the right mindset are just a few tips that will help you become a better climber on your road bike.
Best Road Bikes for Climbing
Bikes like the Liv Langma are made for climbing efficiency and power. It’s the pro team’s top choice for all-around road racing because the frame is made specifically for women for a comfortable fit that maximizes your power, gearing that keeps you spinning even on the steep ups, and light weight that makes moving uphill a breeze.
Climbing Body Position
For climbing, being in the right body position ensures you don’t waste any unnecessary energy. For long, steady climbs, staying seated and placing your hands on top of the bars instead of on the hoods enables a more relaxed posture and open lungs. Here is the best body position for seated climbing:
- Light Hands: Don’t death grip your handlebars! Holding on too tightly when climbing is a good sign that you have too much weight in your hands, which could cause twitchy handling, numb fingers, and sore shoulders.
- Strong Core: Engage those abs! A strong core allows your hands to be light on the bars and enables you to breathe easier.
- Relaxed Shoulders: Your upper body should be as relaxed as possible, with all the work being done by your lower body. If you find your shoulders getting stiff and creeping up by your ears, take a deep breath and relax your shoulders.
- Straight Back: If your back is curved and you are slumped over your bars, it will make breathing and relaxed posture impossible.
- Conserve Energy. Pace yourself appropriately for the length of the climb so you don’t go into the red!
- Keep Cadence Consistent: 70-90 rpm is a good range to shoot for, but it also comes down to personal preference. Shift frequently as your cadence slows down or speeds up. Riding above this range will likely mean a lower power output (slower speed) and riding below 70 rpm might mean you are pushing too hard of a gear – which may put you in the red.
- Keep Power Consistent: Using a power meter is a good way to keep an eye on the amount of Watts you’re putting out to ensure you can keep that level of effort consistent throughout the climb. You can also play around with exerting more power than you can reasonably maintain and recovering several times on a long climb, an interval drill that may help you become faster in the long run!
- Focus on Your Breath: Climbing on a road bike can be a form a meditation. If you find your heart rate climbing and your mind moving into a negative space, keep those pedals spinning and focus on your breath in and out. You can even repeat a mantra as you focus on your breath to get you into the zone – Breathe in: “I’m as light as a feather.” Breathe out: “I will float up this hill.” Breathe in: “I’m as light as a feather”…
- Standing Up: On long uphill efforts, most of the climb should be spent in the saddle. However, there is a time and a place for standing up. You can ride out of the saddle on steeper grades, to match another rider’s acceleration, or to loosen up on long efforts. Just remember to shift into a harder gear before you rise out of the saddle. While climbing out of the saddle, place your hands on the hoods and rock the bike gently from side to side.
- Mental Prep: Before the ride, review the route and each climb so you know what lies ahead. One way to make a long climb less daunting is to break it up into smaller sections. Using mile markers or landmarks can be good cues to celebrate small victories on the way up the mountain.