Riding uphill is often considered the bane of riding a fixed gear or tracklocross bike, but it isn’t. I will give you the number one tip for going uphill right here. See if you want to get off and push or sit down for a minute? Do it. You shouldn’t care what anyone else says. The people who want to suffer can suffer. Keep cycling fun, and do you and don’t feel pressure to be superhuman.
Any other advice for riding uphill?
If you know you are going to be out on a hilly ride, the most straightforward piece of advice might be to change your gearing. Making your gearing easier can also help with your mental game. You know it should be easier, so the suffering part comes later or not as hard. The main issue with this is laziness. How many of us want to change gearing for every ride?
One of the main reasons for riding single-speed is simplicity. Changing gear all the time, and we’ve made that simplicity a thing of the past or given ourselves more work than we want. It also means having a box of cogs and rings and giving ourselves too much time to ponder earing rather than riding. I like the approach of finding a gear that mainly works for you and sticking with that. I have written a nice guide to picking a gear ratio for your tracklocross bike.
If the hill is short, then attack that hill. Come into the slope with as much momentum as you can. If you are coming in with speed and using that as your approach, you can do a few things as you ride up the slop to keep your momentum. You’ll also not want to attack a long climb; it’ll be counterproductive. The following little advice will work for all hills.
Position yourself as far back on your saddle as possible, and use your heels to drive through the pedal stroke’s bottom. Then find a rhythm. Having a rhythm will do wonders on every hill climb. To keep this going, you’ll need to be sitting upright. As soon as you aren’t, your lungs will be getting crushed. Make it easy to get air in.
At some point when riding uphill, you’ll probably want to stand. Stand up and pedal but try and keep your back straight and chest open. Standing on the pedals will also cost you more energy than sitting, gut will give you a little more power and possibly a psychological advantage.
You can unlock the benefits of standing up by knowing where to position your body. You want to be engaging your hips as you pedal. As with a lot of advice, this sentence sounds a little abstract, so what you’ll want to do is stand up and keep your weight over the bottom bracket. Many people will tell you to lean over your bars, but this unweights your back wheel, and you’ll find it wants to skip out. You can let your bike rock side to side, but don’t let this become aggressive rocking.
If you ride up a hill in zigzags, you will effectively be lowering the grade of the mountain. You’ll find this a useful way to climb on hills where you feel the grade may be too much for you. You’ll need a wider trail for this, and you’ll also have to be aware of people coming downhill or behind you. You can also use this technique for coming down steep slopes as well. I find it more fun to carve down big hills than straight line them. I guess this is my skateboard/snowboard background on a bike.
Sometimes we find it easier to tell ourselves what we can’t do rather than what we can do. It is really easy to talk yourself out of a climb. The best way to tackle this issue is to try and stay calm. Focussing on breathing helps here. A little bit of mindfulness can also work wonders here.
Don’t look down
By this, I mean don’t look at your front wheel or the road directly in front. You want to keep your head up. As soon as you start looking down, that is where you’ll be going. Look ahead, and you’ll cover that distance faster than you think. Look ahead and create markers on the climb. Allow yourself to celebrate as you pass these markers.
Keep it light
Don’t keep a death grip on your bars. Hold on lightly. Gripping hard and pulling will give you some handling issues, especially if you are tired. Keep your thoughts light. Don’t let heavy dark thoughts come in. You’ll eventually realise that climbing can be more of a mental game than a physical one.
Always keep it light.