Most cyclists engage in some sort of hill training. The hilly training day might be hill repeats on a short hill, a long hill or mixed hills. Regardless, the style and result is typically very similar: start at the bottom of the hill (often too hard) ride as hard as possible (slowing on the way up as fatigue sets in) until you finally reach the top of the hill – totally spent.
At that point you stop pedaling and collapse in a heap on the bike as you strain to catch their breath.
Next time you ride hills, make a couple simple changes and watch your climbing ability and fitness soar.
First of all, PACE YOURSELF! Whether it’s a long hill or a short hill, climb at a consistent pace. The #1 mistake riders make is to start out too hard, then crash and burn somewhere along the way up.
You’ve lost your power output, you’re breathing much too hard and other riders blow past you.
So you’ve not only lost your power and speed, you’ve also been dealt a blow to your confidence. Riding with a power meter helps your pacing trememdously. If you’re riding with a heart rate montitor, be aware that it will take a few minutes for your heart rate to catch up to your effort, so pace yourself accordingly.
The second change to make to your hill training is to ACCELERATE as your reach the summit. If you’ve pace yourself properly, you should have some fuel in the tank. Rather than collapsing as you reach the top, either stand and power over the last 10% of the hill or remain seated but make a determined effort to accelerate.
And rather than simply stopping at the top, this acceleration should continue for a few seconds BEYOND the top of the hill.
This acceleration will give you confidence and will demorilize your training partners and competitors.
Riding hills like this will be tough at first, but your body will adapt. It always does. And learning to finish stong will help hone your fitness level and will also provide you with a mental edge.
GIve it a try next time you ride a hill and let me know how it goes. Add your own hill riding strategy in the Comments section below, then GET OUT AND RIDE!