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New to riding what is the best way to ride going uphill? I live on a hill going down is fine but I have a hill to get to the main road.

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  • Use a lower gear (and pedal faster). (And raise your seat -- most new riders have their seat set too low.) Jul 29 '18 at 12:21
  • Thanks for the reply how high should the seat be for a person 5'5 if you can answer part two
    – T.tree
    Jul 29 '18 at 12:31
  • The seat should be set so that your leg is almost completely extended at the bottom of the stroke, while not being so high that you slip sideways on the seat. Jul 29 '18 at 12:38
  • Thanks again you are answering the question very well and helping me with issues, I am having difficulties with.
    – T.tree
    Jul 29 '18 at 12:56
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I'm also relatively new to riding and would like to share with you my experience here. I also struggle specifically with climbs.

  1. As a beginner you're expected to build base miles endurance. The more you ride the better your body is going to become for cycling. Heart volume increases, muscle efficiency increases and you would be able to handle the load much easier.
  2. The best way to become better at something is to do this more often. Our body knows that it's hard for us and optimizes for this specific load so next time it gets easier. Use the climb you have as an opportunity to become better. In Norway there are many mountains which population faces every day, this makes them super fit and healthy, so consider the climb as a chance for you to improve. Sometimes I take alternative commute route just to take a few extra climbs.
  3. Weight. The more you weight the harder it gets. If you have extra weight just keep on riding and eventually you will lose it and it will make climbing easier too (I lost about 5KG in 4 months and it helped me a lot! :)
  4. Gearing. Every terrain requires specific gearing. Keep the easiest gear and see if your heart rate is steady when you climb (preferably staying before the anaerobic zones). If not and you kind of "blow up" and have to push really hard on the pedals - you may consider to get easier gears. It is surprising how many relatively new bikes still have bad gearing for beginners, tested on myself.
  5. Pacing. Some climbs can be taken in fast rapid action, others require steady long work. Both types require different muscles types, so it's worth practicing both approaches if it's possible. If the climb is too long or hard for you it's better to take it easy, stay in the saddle and rotate that easy gear! If you can't make the entire climb on a bike just do whatever you can do - and walk the rest of the way. Keep yourself positive and motivated - next time you're going to make few meters more, at some point you're going to make it all and even challenge yourself to make it even faster!

Generally speaking, the more you practice the more "flat" the surface becomes in your eyes. I remember myself telling to my friend that I don't want to take that route to work because it has that annoying "climb", year after I ride that "climb" averaging 30km/h without even noticing that surface gradient change.

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Basically the only real way to get better at going up hills is to get fitter - which you can do by repeatedly riding the hill :-)

Some tips:

  • Stay sitting down
  • Use low gears and a fairly high pedaling cadence
  • Use good gear management, shift down progressively as you start the hill and keep pedaling cadence up.

The main point is you want to avoid using your anaerobic system and exhaust your legs. Pedaling too slowly and too hard will make you go anaerobic. Low gears and faster pedaling will keep you aerobic longer.

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  • Thanks for the reply with all the rain we been having here it’s hard riding I want to ride for fitness and fun
    – T.tree
    Jul 30 '18 at 1:16
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    Probably worth noting that "fairly high pedaling cadence" means, say, 80+rpm, compared to the 60-or-so rpm that beginners tend to cycle at. Aug 10 '18 at 17:18
  • I'm sorry, but this just isn't true. Most bicycles are not optimized for the customer when they are bought, and there are actual adjustments / upgrades you can make that go beyond simply being in shape and practicing good biking technique - especially with a problem as normal and easily fine-tuned as difficulty going uphill. Being good at it and having good form is crucial (as it is in any physical activity), but to say that it's only about that is to provide false information.
    – Misha R
    Aug 10 '18 at 21:17
  • @MishaR tweaks to bike fit help, but fitness goes the furthest Aug 10 '18 at 21:26
  • @ArgentiApparatus Like I said, it's crucial. But the importance of fitness is generic, and is true for any physical exercise. The difference between a stock bike and a bike that is optimized is vast. Most bikes don't come with great saddles. Most bikes don't come with good pedals. Many come with bad breaks and bad tires (although that isn't as relevant to this topic as the former two). A minor upgrade to these doesn't cost much, but makes an enormous difference for someone who is just starting out.
    – Misha R
    Aug 10 '18 at 21:40
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First off, it sounds like you start your ride going up a hill. This is always going to be a bit hard because usually you wont' have warmed up at this point. You should use the lowest gear on your bike and go as easy as possible.

With that said, four factors are at play:

  • Fitness: riding uphill is a battle with gravity. While you can roll along flat roads with no real effort, uphill requires a certain amount of effort simply to conquer the effect of gravity. The amount of effort depends on the steepness of the hill and the combined weight of you and your bike. Provided you don't gain weight, as you ride more and become stronger you will increase your power to weight ratio, which will make climbing easier.
  • Technique: ideally, you want your legs to be spinning quickly, so you need to choose a gearing ratio that lets you do this. Start with the smallest chainring on the front, and the largest on the back, and see how that feels. If it is too easy and you're going too slow, you could then consider changing gears. On a short and steep climb, riding out of the saddle adds extra power, because you are able to use your body weight for leverage on the pedals. However, staying seated most of the time will be more efficient over a longer climb. Mixing the two together often helps to reduce fatigue.
  • Bike fit: having your bike well adjusted is important. Saddle height and position need to be adjusted so that you and your bike are well matched. If you are interested in riding a lot, you might want to consider getting a bike fit at your local bike shop. Otherwise follow an online guide and adjust it yourself.
  • Equipment: an older, heavier, or poorly maintained bike will make riding and especially climbing harder. In this case, get your bike serviced, or learn to service it yourself. Also, having a bike that doesn't have a good gear range for your fitness and local terrain will make climbing hard as well. Even a great, expensive, lightweight (but aggressively geared) race bike will be hard to get up a hill if you're new to cycling and don't have the fitness for it. If you struggle to climb using the smallest ring on the front and the largest on the back, then you may want to consider your options for changing the gearing on your bike (talk to your local shop).
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  • Probably worth noting that "legs... spinning quickly" means, say, 80+rpm, compared to the 60-or-so rpm that beginners tend to cycle at. Aug 10 '18 at 17:19
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    I'd add "pacing" to the list - you can go real fast for the first 30 seconds then rapidly slow down. The trick is to pace the ride so you're able to do the whole climb at that speed.
    – Criggie
    Aug 11 '18 at 6:35
  • Thank you this is the best information so are well put I start out downhill than short up and the ride is a combo after that and it the same coming back but the more I ride the better it will get
    – T.tree
    Aug 12 '18 at 6:04
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Get pedals with pegs. They bite into the soles of your shoes, which greatly increases your grip to the pedal. What that allows you to do (with a little practice) is to pull the pedal with one leg as you are pushing the pedal with the other. In other words, you can then use all of your leg muscles, as well as work both pedals at the same time, which makes going uphill much easier.

Just watch out for the pegs. They bite into your shoes, but they can also bite quite hard into your leg when you are walking your bike.

Alternatively you could get pedals that attach to your feet (such as "clipless" pedals), but you would need special shoes for that.

PS. I use Atlas pedals from Race Face for this and they work excellently, but there are much cheaper pegged pedals that work similarly.

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  • 1
    You're not going to be able to pull up on the pedals unless you either have cleats or toe-straps. Little pegs on the pedals stop your feet sliding around but they don't let you pull up. And toe straps don't require special shoes. Aug 10 '18 at 17:17
  • @DavidRicherby Seeing as I've actually done this and use this as my current setup, yes, you can do it without cleats or toe straps.
    – Misha R
    Aug 10 '18 at 20:07
  • @DavidRicherby ... That is, in fact, part of the point of pegged pedals.
    – Misha R
    Aug 10 '18 at 20:15
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    @DavidRicherby There may be some overlap here - pedals with pegs can certainly be pushed backward across the floor of the stroke, but there would be minimal way to pull up on them.... you'd have to ankle pretty hard and wipe your foot "up the wall behind you" which would require practice and have less positive effect than pedals with a retention system.
    – Criggie
    Aug 11 '18 at 6:38
  • @Criggie The pull doesn't have as much power as the push. But it has enough power that, if the terrain is relatively flat, you can bike at a decent speed by only pulling (not that I'd recommend it). It does require a little practice, but not a whole lot. When I started, it took be about two weeks to get a good feel for it - mainly during commute, so about 1.5 hours a day.
    – Misha R
    Aug 11 '18 at 8:10

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