Settle in for the long haul. This week’s week's post boasts some of the best tips for conquering climbs on your next ride.
Have you been struggling on longer climbs? Need some advice on how to approach and manage them for optimum efficiency?
Use these seven strategies for improving your climbing competence:
*Make sure to read all the way to the end to get an exciting discount!
1. Settle In
When you have a long climb on tap, it’s critical to start at a reasonable and manageable pace. It may seem too slow or not “what you are capable of”, but it’s important to remember the duration of the climb will wear on you. If you start at a reasonable pace, then you have the opportunity to speed up towards the top and will likely clock a faster time overall. Additionally, it’s key to remember where you are in your route/ride: do you have three more climbs like this one?
2. Use RPE (rate of perceived exertion)
It’s not all about the numbers: power meters can be a helpful tool and allow us to gauge our efforts. However, power numbers can vary in how they “feel” on any given day; temperature, wind, fatigue, etc. can all play a role. On long climbs, I’ll use RPE (rate of perceived exertion) almost as much as anything. If you rely on numbers alone, you can get yourself into a pickle by basing your effort off of “what you should be able to do”.
Sit or Stand? Both. Regardless of what natural tendencies you have, long climbs can be monotonous and you can get “position fatigued”. So make sure and stretch your legs, grab a couple gears, and stand for a bit.
Cadence is totally at the discretion of the athlete and studies have shown it’s more beneficial for an athlete to ride at their freely-chosen cadence rather than force one. However, you may want to check in on what you are doing on climbs; it’s easy to unknowingly slow your cadence down, which can be a bit harder on the muscles.
5. Riding the Bends
If you live in a mountainous area, one marginal aspect of climbing can be how you ride sharp curves and switchbacks. The far side of the curve can be significantly lower in grade and allow for a steady, easier turn. To the contrary, the inside can be steeper and come with a cost but provide a chance to put some distance in…especially in a group ride or race scenario.
Long climbs can be like a yoga session where patience and breathwork are key. Utilize the rhythm of your breath to create a bit of a metronome to the climb. Don’t neglect your breath, just leverage it to find some pacing.
7. Short Climbs
Be aware of your effort on short, punchy climbs. If you’re out for a workout, then it’s fine to punch up them. If you are out for a long, endurance ride, glance at your power (if you can) and you may catch yourself riding way over your ranges. This is fine for awhile, but after a dozen or so of these you have accumulated a lot of time above FTP.
Which brings me to group rides…
During your next group ride, make it a group effort! Implementing the following two tactics--even with a small number of riders--can help everyone involved develop their climbing abilities.
Let's take a look at sagging, leading, and flow:
Sagging - when in a group, the peloton will pull you in towards the base of a climb so you can utilize this by backing off a bit and naturally floating into the group. This eliminates the need to slam on the breaks, shift, and then waste energy getting back up to speed. Race note:this can be huge in road races where a hundred re-accelerations add up over the course of an event.
Leading into climbs - if you are leading a group ride (note: not a race) you’ll help your buddies out a lot (and probably get some kudos) by accelerating and putting more effort into the downhill/flats going into a climb. Then, you can decelerate and ease up as the climb begins. This keeps your group from becoming a slinky and keeps the flow going.
P.S. You are probably going harder than necessary up those short climbs…your crew just won’t tell you.
Ready to take your climbing ability to an entirely new level? Take advantage of Coach Beckett's new coaching program: 8 weeks to greater endurance, higher power, and stronger climbing capability. Don't miss on everything it has to offer at the exclusive, discounted price of just $50.00* (normally $99)!
Carson Beckett is a professional cyclist and certified coach who holds a degree in Exercise Science from Brevard College. With the scientific background to match his competitive experience, Carson maintains a focus on the holistic and dynamic aspects of both training and racing. You can contact Carson at www.carsonjbeckett.com