This article is part of a series on how-to skills for mountain biking:
So you've read about the two things beginners need to know about mountain biking, now it's time to get a little bit more specific: going uphill. Everybody has their favorite parts of mountain biking, and I happen to be a climber. I love standing up on the pedals and charging up a hill. I go all Serena Williams on that hill. I've also been known to stick out my tongue as I near the top.
But it's not as simple as just peddling forward, or standing up to get more power — going uphill can be made a lot easier by employing a few strategies that will keep you on the bike and feeling like a bad ass mountain biking goddess.
First things first
You should be in a low gear when you head up a hill, but before you shift, slow down your pedaling to reduce chain pressure. Experiment which gear works best for you, given the terrain and incline. If in doubt, choose an easier gear over a hard one.
Relax! Unlock your elbows and don’t clench your grip. To absorb shock and bend with the bumps, your elbows need to be relaxed while your hands have a firm but controlled grip to keep the bars steady.
You may find your front end tries to pop up on those steep inclines. Lean over your handlebars and slide forward in your seat, which increases the weight over your front wheel, helping keep you grounded.
Stay in your seat as long as possible
While standing helps you climb steep hills on your road bike, it often causes your rear tire to spin out on the trail. Going uphill in loose dirt requires traction, so stay in the saddle as long as possible.
This seems obvious, but don’t take the pressure off when heading up rocky climbs. Those are the times you want to tap into your inner bitch and power through. The slower you pedal, the harder you'll work (and the more time your tires will have to get stuck in any grooves AND the more opportunity rocks will have to toss you to the ground).
Anticipate instead of react
Scan the upcoming terrain, don’t just wait to respond to a feeling. It’s the “look ahead” rule, similar to the aforementioned “put your eyes where you want to go” tip. (And a good rule for life, now that I think about it.)
Ready to attack that hill now? Also see How to Navigate Obstacles On Your Mountain Bike.
Jill Hinton Wolfe