I have dedicated the last 15 years of my life to help people improve their cycling, and climbing is almost always at the top of their lists of challenges. Every rider I work with needs to improve their Climbing, from Century rides, Gravel Grinders, Cyclocross to RAMROD to STP, it is the focus for most riders. I was lucky to learn to climb early when I moved to Colorado and began racing road in the mountains, everyone who races there is a great climber. My 2nd race was the Mt. Evans hillclimb (highest paved road in US over 14,000ft) and when I was a pro mountain biker I won a WorldCup medal for 3rd place with the best in the world racing up Mammoth Mountain, so climbing has been my cycling “thesis” and major area of study since 1987.
Climbing requires more than just fitness, I have coached some of the fittest riders around and often is is more subtle techniques like mental “fueling”, pedal stroke or fueling correctly that makes the biggest difference. Climbing will test you and *can* bring out the best in you, it can also allow you to find ways to give up early.
If you are trying to unlock your best climber, start with where you are with your fitness now and accept your ability and limitations as starting points. You have a pattern of how you climb, and if you want to improve there are a number of things you can look at BESIDES your training/fitness level to be sure you are climbing as well as you can:
1. Pedal stroke optimization
2. Breathing techniques for steady and hard climbing
3. Posture and hand position
4. Bike fit to allow full power
5. Pacing tools to fit terrain
6. Shifting smooth transitions and cadence
7. Standing skills, recovery and full-gas
8. Fueling precision
School of fish. Pack of wolves. Flock of birds. Surfer on a wave. When you decide to race your bike, you are assigning yourself to this kind of obedience and lack of control. Group think, primitive reflexive response to the flow and changes of the herd and conditions. You know what I am talking about? Then maybe you haven’t raced, cause when you decide to ride with a group of riders without the formality of pacelines or ride leaders, chaos ensues and the rules of how you thought you should ride your bike are out the window, and you need to become “subject to the herd”.
The good news is that once you learn the subtle art of riding with the pack, you will enjoy it and find much satisfaction from being able to fly along at twice your normal speed for hours on end, rocketing over the hills and dales of the country until the next climb starts. You will be able to take advantage of the turbo speeds, and launch yourself to the stratosphere of bike speed and performance, there is no other way to fly. The bad news is that not everyone makes the jump to good pack riding, and some of you will give up long before you ever accumulate enough skills and experience to truly enjoy the experience. There is always racing Time Trials, Triathlon, Mountain bike and Cyclocross, so don’t worry.
One of the joys of riding a bicycle is using this machine to get exactly the most amount of speed from the energy you put into it. When we teach our hill climbing bootcamps or private lessons, one of the biggest things we teach people is how to shift correctly to maintain momentum, utilize all your cycling muscles at the right cadences and to be smooth so you don’t strain yourself with sudden changes. This is the art of cycling. Using the bicycle as a machine to propel you smoothly to go faster with less effort.
Here is an example of what I am talking about. As I was riding to work, going down a steep hill which led into an uphill, I had to keep it in my big ring and my cadence slowly dropped as I was going through the bottom of the hill, and starting to go upward. I then started shifting with my right shifter 2 gears at a time to make it easier, pedaling as I went, with the goal of keeping my cadence around 80 rpm and applying pressure to the pedals to carry speed
When talking bike fitting, the place where the rubber really meets the road is where your foot pressures the pedals. Before you put pressure on the pedals and make the crank go around, your foot must transfer it’s force into the shoe, and that interface is perhaps the most important in making the bike go and not wasting any energy.
Another innovation that Specialized pioneered is the Arch-o-meter. Anyone can quickly be measured for the correct arch height and improve comfort dramatically with a footbed that the correct level of cushion and support…and the best part? = The cost is only $30 a pair. If you ride in wet weather, are a heavier rider or are a hard pedaling hammer head, plan to replace your footbeds every year as they do compress giving you less cushion. If your arch is collapsing every pedal stroke, you are wasting precious watts.
Arch-o-meter to find correct footbed quickly
At Cycle U we do fittings daily from both stores with either Craig Undem or Colin Gibson, both Specialized trained elite fitters with years of experience. Even if you only want help in picking out the right saddle or to troubleshoot some pain you are having you can walk into either store or call/email us to set something up. All of our fittings are good for 1 year, and if you buy a saddle or stem from us as part of one of our fittings, you get 30days to try it and if it isn’t the right one you can return it and try another choice. Get fitted, get comfortable and Get Ready to Ride! More info on our fitting CLICK HERE
The thing that most new cyclists don’t know, is that they won’t die. They can push harder than they can imagine, and when I started racing I remember it was my biggest hurtle, learning how to suffer more, because that is where all the big gains are. The more I pushed myself, the more I was able to push myself, the stronger I got, the more I enjoyed riding. It helps if you get a little angry or remember when someone was mean to you, fuel for the effort. Your not going to fall off the bike even if you are near exhaustion, your already sitting down!
The focus and willingness to work hard…