By Coach David Ertl, Ph.D.
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What do you think of when you see a hill up ahead when riding your bike? Does it elicit an ‘Oh No’, or ‘Ugh’, or something more vulgar? Do you avoid certain routes or tours because they are too hilly? If so, that is a shame, because some of the best rides involve climbing, and climbing itself can be one of the most rewarding experiences of cycling.
Cyclists tend to dislike climbing because hills are hard, they slow us down and they may reveal something about our fitness or weight we’d rather not know. Hills are brutally honest. They will give us very direct feedback on our fitness level (or lack thereof) and the amount of weight we are dragging up the hill.
So, yes, you may have reasons to dread hills. But it doesn’t have to be this way. When viewed and used appropriately, hills are a great tool to improve fitness and add enjoyment to your cycling. This eArticle is designed to help you become more competent and confident in your climbing. It will explain equipment and techniques to help your climbing ability. It then provides a series of workouts to use to improve your ability to climb long and gradual, as well as short and steep, hills.
If you do some hill work regularly, you will improve your climbing and you will gain confidence in the process. While there are no guarantees you will ever truly enjoy climbing hills, at least you may reach the point of avoiding them less, and fearing them less! In other words, you can (and should!) come to terms with hills, because becoming better at climbing is an essential cycling competency. In short, climbing is a key element of cycling, and to be able to ride hills makes you a more complete cyclist.