Gearing up for the climb

Ben Cameron | Bendigo Weekly | 09-Dec-2011 4.49pm

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TECHNIQUE: Hill climbs can be made easier.
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Up hill and down dale, the lofty heights and deep valleys are where the bike rider’s character and mettle is shaped and strengthened.
Hills, once you get your mind around them, can be better than a long flat ride where you are more likely to encounter a head or cross wind that can be far more of a challenge.
For every uphill there is bound to be a downhill that allows a degree of recovery and a reward for every rise conquered.
What seems to be one of the biggest challenges for newcomers on the bike with hills, is getting the gearing right to match the power to weight and level of fitness.
Hills, most of the time, are best ridden at your own pace and by keeping control of your breathing and pedal rhythm until you have established the strength and endurance to work the legs.
Often gears are changed too soon, new riders see the hill, start to feel overwhelmed and go for the softer gears.
Each gear change slows their pace down considerably.
Finding what is your optimum cadence for the power outputs requires the mind to be at rest and the diaphragm to be in good working order to work the lungs and feed the oxygenated blood to the muscles.
Keeping soft hands on the handle bars, feet flat on the pedals and looking ahead not down also helps in a hill climb.
Getting over the fear of standing is often related to poor gear selection.
When the full body weight rises over the pedals they drop to the bottom of the stroke quickly and the foot is not used to rotate across the top and bottom of the stroke.
Selecting a harder gear, then standing is the better way to learn to stand and pedal.
Keeping the body still and upright over the pedals minimises the temptation to sway from side to side which reduces the power created through the pedals.
With the right gears the rotation of the pedals becomes more of a fluent action with equal pressure through both legs and feet across the top and bottom of the stroke as well as pushing down and pulling up.
When standing, make sure you take your bike forward, do not pull back on the handle bars to bring your body up out of the saddle, this will send the bike shooting backwards.
When you have begun to master the art of hills, you are better placed to ride in a bunch, but there are some finer points to take into consideration for both riding up hill and coming down.
Concentration levels need to be sharp as well as being alert in watching the road and line being taken by other riders by staying off the wheel a little.
Try not to ride the brakes, tap your brakes more often or try to get out of the direct draft and allow the wind to take speed off.
When on the front keep pedalling consistently.
When in the bunch don’t just roll with legs idle, keep your legs moving slowly just enough to stay in touch with the gear.
Keeping the blood flowing is important to be ready for the next uphill. Remaining relaxed but alert of the group movement and speed will allow a safe response for you and members of your bunch.
Looking forward to seeing you on the road soon, God willing.

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