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On one of my bicycles (a 2012 Trek Madone 4.7), when climbing very steep hills, I have had problems with the front wheel coming off the ground. This creates an extremely dangerous situation because when this happens one loses all steering control.

Do I have any recourse beyond choosing a less steep route, getting less fat (catch 22), or using a different bicycle?

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Are you already in the drops when climbing? If not, moving to the drops will bring your center of gravity further forward and down. –  Kibber Feb 14 at 3:59
    
@Kibber: I'm hardly ever in the drops. Will have to see if that'll work. –  Billy ONeal Feb 14 at 6:07
    
How steep is 'very steep'? –  Glenn Stevens Feb 16 at 5:18
    
@Glenn: I'm not sure. I don't have any equipment for measuring this. Suffice to say this is the steepest hill I've ever been on :) (Specifically, climbing Denny Way up into Capitol Hill in Seattle) –  Billy ONeal Feb 18 at 22:10

4 Answers 4

up vote 9 down vote accepted

Move your weight further forward to keep the front wheel weighted. Shuffle forwards on your seat and bring your chest closer to the bars. Standing can help for the steepest parts, but can cause your rear wheel to slip on loose surfaces.

The front wheel is lifting as when your bike is on a slope the wheelbase is effectively shortened, bringing your weight closer to the rear axle, and the most vertical part of the wheelie is already done.

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Indeed, lean extremely forward, while still keeping weight on the seat. Very carefully choose the gear, in which you can pedal smoothly - neither too high nor too low. –  Vorac Feb 13 at 10:04
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I second the pedaling smoothly approach. Good form saves lots of trouble. –  WTHarper Feb 13 at 20:15
    
Indeed -- if a gear was made which would let me pedal this particular hill smoothly that'd probably help a bunch :P –  Billy ONeal Feb 13 at 21:44
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@BillyONeal don't be afraid to try a bigger range cassette or smaller ring up front, could make the difference while your fitness improves. –  DWGKNZ Feb 15 at 7:30
    
And elbows down. –  cherouvim Feb 19 at 5:28

I would suggest that your bike is not set up correctly and your centre of gravity is too far back.

The first thing to consider is what is the predominant terrain you are riding?

  1. If its mostly flat consider using a technique such as alex has suggested in his answer to cover pinch climbs and small hills.
  2. If your doing a lot of climbing (sitting on the front of your seat is uncomfortable and more suited to mtb) the second thing is to change the set up of your bike to fit you better. One of the biggest misconceptions made by bike stores when they set a bike up for people seems to be that they believe the rider is going to spend their life riding around parking lots. Thankfully this isn't true, but it does mean that many people have their bike fitted for flat land rather than climbing.

There are things you can try at home but I would recommend talking to a professional to get their expert advice on the correct fit for your style and terrain.

You can:

  • slide your seat forward in the rails (you may need to adjust the height also for your leg length)
  • reconfigure the spacers on your stem (move the spacers above the stem and see if that has an effect)
  • experiment with different stem lengths (this usually requires you to buy or borrow many stems to get the right one).

Many people spend thousands on a bike then scrimp on a $100 fitting.

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It seems like this would be moving the handlebars down relative to the seat; but if I do too much of that I start having neck issues. –  Billy ONeal Feb 13 at 21:45

You can work on a pedal stroke that applies pressure for a larger portion of the rotation of the pedals. That will reduce the peak force that is causing the wheel to lift.

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Because of a herniated disc in my lower back, I was forced to NOT PULL with my hands on steeps. Surprisingly, I found that by concentrating all of my energy below my belt, I could climb much better and faster. This was definitely a "lemonade from lemons" kind of discovery. Try this and see if it helps.

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