How to ride steep climbs on a road bike

Conquering climbs can be one of the hardest parts of cycling. Here are some tips to make those really steep climbs that little bit easier

Clock16:00, Wednesday 2nd August 2023

When the road ahead looks suspiciously similar to a wall, you know things are about to get tough. And while the right technique isn't going to make climbing steep roads a breeze, our tips will make getting to the top slightly less painful.

Choose the right gear

Choose a gear that allows your legs to spin easily. Grinding up climbs at a really low cadence will waste energy, as you’ll often end up bobbing around on the bike, using energy that would otherwise go to the pedals.

Consider adapting your bike

It’s inevitable that every now and again, you’re going to end up grinding on the pedals and wishing you had easier gears. Having said that, if you’re finding that the gears on your bike are too hard for the local climbs you ride week in, week out, consider changing to a larger cassette or smaller chainrings.

Balance your weight

When the road is really steep, you need to pay attention to your body position if you want to keep your front wheel on the ground and keep the traction on your rear tyre. Balance your weight forward or backwards by moving your weight between the pedals and handlebars.

Keep your core stable

When you’re struggling to keep on top of the gears, it’s easy to start wrenching at the bars and flopping around on the bike. Ultimately, this is wasted energy, so focus on engaging your core, keep your upper body stable, and put all that power through your legs, not your handlebars.

Scan the road

On a steep climb, if the road surface is loose, bumpy or wet, it’s going to make it even harder to keep traction with the road. Even if you’re giving everything to get up a steep climb, remember to keep your eyes up and keep scanning the road. Avoid anything that could slow you down or reduce the amount of grip you’ve got on the road.

Learn to restart

If you stop on a steep climb, it can be tricky to get moving again. Here’s how to get moving in the middle of a steep climb.

Angle your bike across the slope

If it’s safe to do so, point your front wheel diagonally across the road. This will reduce the gradient a little, making it easier to get going.

Clip in with your dominant leg

Clip your dominant foot into your pedal, so you can get a really strong first pedal stroke.

Start pedalling, then clip in with the other leg

Give a really confident first push with your dominant leg, then put your other leg on the pedal and get up to speed. Only when you’re moving should you clip in your other leg.

Have a can-do attitude

Finally, always start a climb with a can-do attitude. A dizzyingly steep stretch of tarmac can be a grim sight, but climbing it is only going to be harder if you tell yourself you can’t do it. Switch your mindset; climbs are challenges, and you can get to the top. Trust us.

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