If you’re thinking about taking on some of our small group cycle challenges such as the Stelvio and Classic Italian Climbs, Pyrenees Coast to Coast and Classic Cols of the Tour de France but concerned about the potential for steep climbs then you might find the following climbing tips helpful.
Here are five simple ways in which you can improve your performance on the mountain and work towards achieving feats you never thought were possible.
1. Learn to Use Gears Properly
Gear selection is crucial for getting up a steep climb. Make sure you’re not grinding up the mountain in a big gear using up precious muscle power. Instead switch to the front small ring and drop down the gears as needed to maintain a steady cadence.
You may also consider swapping your rear cassette for a climbing specific one. For instance if you are currently running a 11-28T cassette you may think about swapping to a 11-32T cassette.
This will provide you with a higher range of ‘easier’ gears that will allow you to turn your legs faster with less resistance and make climbing less of a struggle. However, by running a larger cassette you do increase the jump between gears which can make gear shifting less smooth. Another factor to consider when swapping out your cassette is if your derailleur can accommodate the bigger sprocket - you may need to look at a long cage derailleur if you’re going to a very large rear sprocket.
It’s also important to time your gear changes correctly. Avoid shifting gear under tension, this can cause inefficient cycling and potential damage to your chain and cogs.
2. Pace Yourself
It's easy to start off too quickly when you're feeling enthusiastic and fresh, but this is a sure-fire way to tire yourself out and struggle later on. The use of heart rate or power monitors can better help you judge your effort and stop you from going into the ‘red’ by going too hard. However, you may find some climbs are just too steep to be able to pace, these you will simply have to get up anyway possible. Often cycling out of the saddle can help make it easier to put down more power, although this effort isn’t easily sustained.
3. Fuel Up
It’s important to maintain glycogen stores when taking part in long cycle rides. By having a good breakfast before you leave, and taking protein balls, energy bars and other snacks with you for the journey. Make sure you consume these at regular intervals (roughly every hour) to prevent you from ‘hitting the wall’ (bonking) and having to stop cycling.
It goes without saying you'll need an adequate supply of water, too. Dehydration, even mild dehydration, can have a huge impact on your energy levels and endurance, so take more water than you think you'll need, especially in warm weather. You may consider carrying two water bottles on your bike and a hydration backpack can also be helpful for carrying enough fluid for a long ride. In order to ensure the success and safety of our challenges we include scheduled water stops to make sure everyone is keeping hydrated.
4. Invest in a Lightweight Bike
If you are in the market for a new bike, opting for a lighter model can really help you out. As you ascend a mountain you start battling gravity instead of wind resistance. A lighter bike can make a bigger difference than you think. When comparing bikes, you might be more swayed by other features than weight, but once you've tried a few different bikes on an incline, you'll soon appreciate how much of a helping hand a lightweight model can lend.
5. Shed Excess Pounds
You don't need to be super-thin to perform well on the climbs, but you will find it harder than you need to if you're carrying a lot of excess weight. If this is you, try to shift a few pounds before embarking on your challenge. You'll feel better for it, and you will find it helps you on those uphill stretches.
So, what are you waiting for? Grab your bike and get cycling! We have some amazing trips on offer which will be sure to push you to your limits; be prepared!
Find out more about small group cycles!