Peaks and slopes don’t have to be an uphill battle. Here are tips to help you dominate any challenging bike course

By Francis Diano | Photo by Tom Mussak/Unsplash
Straighten Up

In an effort to keep stable, you may feel the need to weave from side to side when riding uphill. Avoid expending more energy and unnecessarily covering more ground by traveling in a straight line. Keeping balanced while ascending is simply dependent on maintaining an equal amount of power on each leg.

Get in Gear

Shifting is subjective; each rider has his own comfort zone. Climbing a hill is not the time to experiment or push beyond what you trained for. General rules to follow: Use your small ring for larger efforts (like during a steep slope) and the big ring for speed during the descent. Avoid cross chaining—it may be tempting to use the small gear on the smallest cassette but this results in a power loss and increases the strain on the bike chain, disrupting the rhythm of your pedal stroke.

Refuel

When anticipating a strenuous leg, triathletes often forget their nutrition and hydration. Whether gel packs or energy cubes, consume your fuel of choice five to 15 minutes before approaching a climb. Not only will they replenish your muscles, but the glycogen will give you an extra boost to power through. Follow with water instead of a sports drink—while a dose of sugar is strategic, an excessive amount will dull your energy level.

Keep a Beat

Practice a consistent cadence. Jerking, stopping, or slowing down mid-revolution results in a loss of intensity and momentum. A smooth pushing and pulling of your legs will maximize efficiency. While it may be difficult to keep a steady rhythm once you are on the incline, synchronizing your breathing with your pedal strokes will help you maintain tempo.

Sit Down

Learn how to hammer down while seated. Getting off the saddle to gain leverage on a steep portion may be warranted sometimes, but getting used to doing so results in an increased burnout rate on your muscles. Staying on your seat is aerodynamic, limiting the drag of oncoming wind.

Take it Easy

Go at your own pace. One of the worst things you can do is to speed up to keep up. Again, breathing is your best friend. Most riders only utilize the top portion of their lungs with shallow, panting breaths. Instead, use the primary muscle for inspiration—the diaphragm—by taking deep, controlled breaths. Exhale as you go through your pedal stroke, releasing the pressure buildup to relax you during the climb. Don’t forget that the strength of your run is dependent on the performance on your bike. Preserving energy and power is essential to finishing the race strong.