5 Sep 2017
MTB: Master Climbing
Road climbing is hardly easy, but try it off-road and things get killer – varying traction, sudden super-steep pitches and wheel-stopping obstacles all conspire against you. How best to tackle it all? Follow these top tips and you’ll soon be powering up the worst the hills can offer!
Even the best mountain bike drivetrains, don’t shift at their best under power, so the steepest part of the hill is no place for a change of ratios. Keep your head up, look well ahead and shift to a sustainable gear as you enter the climb.
While standing gives more leverage, it takes your weight off the rear wheel – reducing grip – and makes smooth pedaling harder. It’s also more tiring.
Instead, slide forward to the saddle nose, drop your chest and keep your elbows down. It’s easy from here to shift weight between wheels as necessary. For roots and rock steps it helps to hover just above the saddle – but again, don’t stand.
Use a high cadence
A slow, hard grind might feel worthy, but you risk muscle or joint injury – and it will tire you rapidly.
Spinning faster (against less resistance) works your heart and lungs more and your muscles less, and that’s more sustainable.
Spin, don’t ‘pulse’
It’s easy to stomp at the pedals – especially when obstacles interfere with ground clearance and cadence – but it only increases the risk of you spinning out or stalling between pulses. Actively think about making smooth circles and constant, even power all the way around. It really helps grip and stability, as well as reducing fatigue.
Experiment with tire pressure
High pressures give faster rolling on very smooth surfaces (roads and hardpack), but hold you back on rough climbs. When the tire can deform around stones and roots the wheel can keep moving forwards instead of upwards – and as you’re powering (and damping out) all unwanted bucking, you’re losing energy to inefficiency.
Lower pressures mean more grip too, further boosting your chances of rolling smoothly on up. Check out tubeless options for running lower pressures yet remaining puncture-resistant. http://shop.fullspeedahead.com/en/type/wheelsets-spares/afterburner-wider-wheelset-3988
You’ve probably already discovered you’re significantly quicker up a new climb second time around. This is because, now you know even vaguely what’s coming and how long it will last, you’re naturally pacing yourself to rest and attack most efficiently. Keep that in mind before charging at unknown hills, especially on a long ride! The high cadence and smooth pedaling will both help you conserve energy for when you most need it, too.