- PEDAL SMOOTH--IN CIRCLES (if you don't have clipless pedals, this won't apply so much). This means using your leg muscles all the way round the pedal stroke. The best way to get a feel for this is to find a flat area with no traffic and practice pedaling with one foot off the pedal, so that you have to move the other foot the full circumference of the stroke to keep yourself moving. Practice making this smooth with no jerks. Smooth pedaling will help you build speed & proper form in all aspects of riding, but is especially important in climbing. NOTE: Clip one foot out only after building some speed, do not try this from a standstill.
- KEEP THE PROPER CADENCE BY SELECTING THE RIGHT GEAR. When riding hills, you should be in a gear that is neither too easy (which will have you spinning too fast) nor too slow, which wastes energy and slows you down. Instead, let the proper gear keep your pedal speed (cadence) approximately the same as it would be on the flats. Of course on steeper hills you may be in the lowest gear and still not able to pedal in anything but a very slow cadence, but when at all possible keep up your momentum.
- KEEP MOMENTUM: SHIFT BEFORE YOU SLOW DOWN. Don't wait until you feel yourself barely able to spin to shift gears; it will be too late, you will put too much stress on your chain & chainring, and run the risk of slowing to a standstill, breaking the chain or the chain slipping on the ring, all of which can easily cause a crash. Instead, downshift just as you feel yourself slowing, or even just before a hill appears or gets steeper, so that you keep your momentum going.
- CLIMBING IN THE SADDLE IS MORE EFFICIENT. When you stand to climb, you are only pushing down on the pedals, so you don't have the opportunity to use other muscles to pull up on the upstroke. This will fatigue your muscles faster, resulting in you slowing down and losing momentum.
- YES, THERE ARE PROPER TIMES TO STAND UP. And they are:
- when you are on a very steep hill, you are in your lowest gear, and the only way to keep from coming to a standstill is to get out of the saddle and really pump your pedals.
- when you feel yourself slowing too much and need/want to gain extra speed, get out of the saddle for a short burst, and when you get back down keep up with the momentum you gained while standing.
- every once in a while on a ride (on the flats or climbing) to release numbness and pressure and to regain proper seating position.
For those interested in practicing more hills, here's the route we did today:
And here's the other tough hill on Grant Road, with directions up Broad Branch from where we started out today: