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So for years I've been doing long distance biking from my home on my mountain bike, and recently I've been trying to push north into the Hudson Valley. However, even though I'm pretty decent at handling very long, non-stop bike rides, the mountainous terrain has made things extremely difficult for me to keep going past the first two bike path (especially since I have to already clear a good 10 mi. to get there).

Does anyone have any tips for improving the distance I can cover on my bike when it comes to mountainous terrain?

  • Are you riding road or off-road ? Advice will be similar but details will vary. – Criggie Jan 15 '17 at 2:18
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    Kind of a mix between the two. For the most part I ride on road, but there are portions of the route that use dirt bike paths (which is also where it gets the steepest). – Mattias Jan 15 '17 at 4:02
  • Pay attention to your cadence. Gear down rather than pedaling slower. And note that a suspension bike (unless the suspension is locked out) will cost you effort especially when you are pedaling harder than normal. – Daniel R Hicks Jan 15 '17 at 4:42
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    You'll need to tell us what you mean by long distance biking and mountainous terrain. For some people a big ride is 2 hours, 50 km (30 mi), and 100 m (300 ft) of climbing. For others, a big ride is 8 hours, 200 km (120 mi), and 3000 m (10000 ft) of climbing. The advice given is vastly different for those people. What do those terms mean for you? – andy256 Jan 15 '17 at 8:46
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You and I are in a similar place. I can do 150 km flat rides with no problem, but 1000 metres of elevation increase wears me out.

So the longterm solution is to practice by doing more. I've set a climbing goal in strava of 50 km vertical for the calendar year 2017. As of Jan 15 I have done 3,435 metres, which is well on track, but its summer here.

Technique helps - learning to gain momentum from any downhill or flat bit and then carry that momentum as far up the next slope as possible. Don't coast down grades.

Pacing is a big thing too - working your body to a point that is not your maximum, so you can maintain a speed up the whole climb. No point going mad for the first quarter and then needing a rest stop.

Equipment - climbing is hard work. I have an unfashionable road bike with a triple front, and a low gear that's below 1:1 (ie 26 teeth on the front and 28 on the rear cassette largest cog) Roadies look down on triples, but this is about YOUR performance, not theirs. Many MTBs had triple chainrings too, but 1x have become more popular lately.

In short, you might benefit from adding bigger gears, so that you can increase your cadence while climbing. Mashing is not as efficient as spinning up a steep grade. This might mean changing your cassette for a larger one, or having a choice of rear wheels available.

Weight - If you're lugging 2 bottles of water up, do you need them? Its hard to justify carrying stuff that you might need, but some things like pumps are non negotiable. Are you carrying too much food?

On the same vein - your bike's weight. I changed from a 20 KG steel MTB to a 12 KG aluminium road bike and my segment times all dropped by 10% immediately.

This image shows how much of your energy goes into different things as the slope increases. This one is aimed at MTB riders, road is worse.

enter image description here

Timing - riding in the heat takes energy out of you. Consider riding when its cooler, like earlier morning rather than noon or afternoon. Also, looking at the local weather forecast for a nice tailwind could help your climb.

Training - Doing specific training to target climbing, like hill intervals where you go hard-out up a grade for 30 seconds and then 2 minutes of relaxed climbing. Repeat 6-10 times.

Motivation - go out riding with someone who is better than you. Track your progress on climb segments in Strava, to see your progress. Here's an 800 metre segment at the top of a climb, where I got a PR today. You can clearly see a decrease in my times over the last 20 months. A bit more work and I might get to half the initial time, which would be awesome!

enter image description here

Other than that - practice. You can't improve without doing.

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Have you monitored your cadence during your climbs? Or asked differently: why can't you climb further? Is it because your legs give in or because your whole system us exhausted?

Two things I can recommend:

  • Nutrition. Eat and drink enough during your ride.

  • Do some intervals in your training. Besides your long and steady rides, spice up your training with intervals. You could do something like 2-3min with a cadence of 60 and 1min rest for something like 4-6 times.

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