Conquering mythical climbs, like Alpe d’Huez and Mount Ventoux, isn’t just reserved for Tour de France contenders and seasoned professionals. With a little bit of training and some essential climbing advice, any cycling newbie can summit these beasts.
Whether you’re preparing for an Alpine adventure or simply trying to scramble up the steep hill around the back of your house, this guide is going to help you channel your inner pro and conquer any climb you throw yourself at…
Focussing your training
Climbing requires a totally different kind of effort to sprinting so you’ll want to adapt your training accordingly. The main aspect you’ll want to focus on is your endurance, rather than pure power outputs.
Long and low-intensity rides are ideal for honing your endurance. They also help to increase your overall fitness and knock off extra weight too – ideal for when you’re fighting the forces of gravity going uphill.
You’ll also want to include a number of climbs on these long road rides, perhaps even multiple reps of the same climb. Have a go at riding up some of these climbs at low, medium and high efforts. This will help you find an ideal pacing strategy that you can then tweak and apply to the monstrous mountain you’re planning on climbing.
Essential climbing tips
Once you arrive at the foot of the climb, your training and pacing strategy can only take you so far – you’re going to need some of these essential climbing tips for when the going gets particularly tough.
Stay seated: Standing out of the saddle burns a lot more energy than sitting down, so in the long run consider staying seated – studies show that it’s the most aerobically efficient way to ride.
Take the outside line: The outside line of a hairpin or switchback is often a lot shallower than the inside line, so be sure to take it wide if you’re struggling or just need a few seconds to relax your breathing and prepare for the next steep section of the climb.
Don’t be afraid to change gear: A lot of us like to try and grind up local climbs in the big ring in an attempt to show off to our friends. Don’t do this. A high cadence in an easier gear is both faster and more efficient.
Pace not race: Riding alongside friends provides great motivation, but it can sometimes derail our attempts at a climb if we try to match their pace. If they sprint off up the road, leave them be; stick to your own pacing strategy and prepare your victory celebration for when you inevitably pass them later on up the climb.
Optimising your bike
It’s possible to ride almost any kind of road bike up a mountain, but there are a few things that you’ll want to look out for when buying a new bike, things that are going to make climbing epic mountains that little bit easier.
Three of the big things you’ll want to look for in a climbing bike are lightweight components (including the frame and fork), comfortable geometry and a super-stiff overall build.
At the Bike Factory we stock a number of bikes that have all three in perfect balance, as well as a host of other fantastic features. Specialized’s lightweight Tarmac is one of the most recognisable climbing bikes there is, ridden by pro riders like Julian Alaphilippe, Bob Jungels and Rafal Majka in the mountains of the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia.
Trek’s Emonda is similar to the Tarmac, both incredibly lightweight and super-stiff – perfect for flying up steep mountain passes at speed. Keep your eyes out for the Emonda at the ongoing Giro d’Italia where riders like Guilio Ciccone, Gianluca Brambilla and Bauke Mollema will be trying to ride it to a potential stage win.
It would be hard to discuss climbing bikes without a mention of Pinarello’s Dogma – the lightweight and incredibly stiff, mountain-toppling machine that has taken no less than six Tour de France victories over the past seven years.
Eager to try out one of these nippy climbing bikes? Then why not head down to our store, our friendly team will be more than happy to help you out.