Image courtesy of Alex Simmons and Ric Stern Coaching.
Okay, today's stage of the Tour de France is a big one. There are six climbs, each several miles long, and they are steep, like 60-90 minutes at 6-10% steep. The Tour is at its' midpoint, and now it's a real game of attrition, and spending some of the energy that may have been saved somewhere in the first week.
Climbing long and steep hills requires patience, knowing your gears, knowing your abilities, and knowing how to pace yourself. As the gradient increases, your natural pedaling speed will slow down, and there won't be as much inertia to carry you for more than a second or two. Riders literally begin to decelerate between pedal strokes.
The trick is to keep your chin up, keep your chest out, ride relaxed on the hoods, and set a tempo of intensity that you know you can hold. When you get to a hairpin turn or a corner, move away from the edge of the road. That position has a slightly lesser gradient, it puts you out in traffic where you'll be MORE visible, and it allows you, the cyclist, to see further up the road.
If it's especially long, you'll need to stand up out of the saddle now and then, and when you do, go ahead and shift in to a HARDER gear to start off, just so you can get a little extra torque. Continue to look UP. I see far too many cyclists ride their bikes with their heads down, and the effect is both physiological and psychological. Besides - there's still so much to see, even on climbs and at slow speeds!
Just keep turning the legs over, stay seated and upright (aero doesn't matter much below 12mph), and let your body pull you, like a front-wheel drive car, toward the top.
If it's TOO steep, you may have to 'criss-cross' the road, but this is a much more advanced maneuver, and it is NOT recommended for beginner or recreational cyclists.
Likewise, depending on your fitness, you may have to dismount, take a break, and even walk. There's NO shame in doing that. I see it in rallies all the time. When you remount, make sure you're in a gear that you can turn over easily, be in a position on the road where you're visible, and angle your bike out just a bit, and not just straight up the road, so you can get your balance and begin pedaling without getting too wobbly.
Whatever your method is for conquering hard, long hills, just remember - the view from the top is epic, and the trip back down is SO worth it! We'll cover descents soon.
Climbing on a bike is all about stamina and strength. Cycling Center Dallas and Online Bike Coach are here to help you improve both!