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  1. #1
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    Dumb beginner question - proper technique for climbing hills

    So I'm only a few months into this whole 2 wheeled face-full-of-dirt thing and I have a friend telling me that my approach to riding up hills is incorrect. I tend to stand up and hammer it after dropping one or two gears as necessary. He drops to a VERY low gear and spins his way to the top. Slowly.

    I'm beginning to understand cadence and its importance, but then I see (and get passed by) the single speed guys who don't see the need to shift at all and provide a great example of what I've been doing - arse out of the saddle, lean forward, and here we go.

    I usually have a mild traction issue while going upwards. Not enough to stop things, but I do get a decent amount of rear tire slippage. Is this something I can correct with proper body english, etc., or is my friend correct in telling me to sit down and slowly spin my way to the top?

    Thanks in advance. Cool forum, and a great place to learn!

  2. #2
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    How long are the uphills? On really long climbs I will go seated. If is a very short uphill rise that is step then I will tend to stand and climb it. Standing = more power, but also more energy and you need to balance the energy output for the duration of the ride. I may stand for a 30 second rise in the trail, but for a 20 minutue climb I will be sitting and spinning most of the way.

    As for traction with standing. This happens because you are putting too much weight forward. You can solve this by moving you body back. It takes practice to know where you want your weight to have enough keep the front end down and enough to keep good traction. Seat position and handle bar position can be used to fine tune this.
    Joe
    2003 KHS Alite 4000 26" Hardtail - XC, All mountain, blah blah blah.. I just ride.

  3. #3
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    As you already discovered, different strokes for different folks.

    Its sort of based upon what speed you want to go, and depends on the trail:

    Long extended strenuous uphill:
    Switching from being in the saddle and being out of the saddle somewhat often allows you to switch muscle groups. So getting out of your saddle occasionally will give your "sitting muscles" a break on long climbs. This allows your muscles a break to get rid of the acid forming causing the pain yelling stop.

    Moderate boring uphill:
    If you are conserving your strength just spin your way up in the saddle in a low gear. Going for speed, do the switcharoony thing mentioned above.

    Technical uphill:
    Normally you don't have a choice on technical terrain, and need to be out of the saddle somewhat often to clear boulders, rocks, logs, roots etc....

    Super steep uphill:
    Out of the saddle, pedal to the metal, with the saddle tickling your butt.

    Slippery, loose, sandy, gravely uphill:
    In the saddle, weight back and off the front wheel. Let the front wheel sort of go where it wants.

    If you are slipping under "normal" conditions out of the saddle, transfer more weight to the rear wheel by standing more upright, or imagine pulling on the handlebars.

    Single speeders are mashing the pedals with a grimmace on their face because they hate their lives and enjoy punishment. Our inner rage when single speeding is being taken out directly by punishing our bike wile grunting and swearing. I love my Single Speed in a hatefull way
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  4. #4
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    Like what was said above, I'll stand and hammer it on a short, steeper climb, but for long climbs I'll stay seated and spin my way to the top in a lower gear.

    And yes, body position is key, too far foward and you unweight the rear wheel and lose traction I'll try to keep my rear end over the seat as much as possbile while standing, but I'll lean forward at the waist as required to keep the front wheel weighted enough so that it doesn't start to lift.

    When I'm on the road, I stay seated at all times. Shorter climbs I try to grind it out in as high a gear as possible, but longer, steeper climbs I'll try to spin my way up, even using granny gear if needed. My goal is to get in the kind of shape where I never have to use the granny gear on the road. I mostly don't use it, but there's a few long and steep climbs here that kick my arse.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Guerdonian View Post
    Slippery, loose, sandy, gravely uphill:
    In the saddle, weight back and off the front wheel. Let the front wheel sort of go where it wants.
    The uphill in the trail I ride is pretty much what you described above. I'll try staying in the saddle instead of standing up and hammering down. Thanks

  6. #6
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    I tend to stand and mash since I did a 1x9 conversion. If I had the granny I would get in a manageable gear and stay seated.

  7. #7
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    There's some interesting stuff on this youtube channel.

    Climb better on a mountain bike in 90 seconds - YouTube

  8. #8
    RTM
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    guidelines are good, and proven. and you should adhere to them.

    but I also suggest you get out there and try it all. ride...ride...ride...see how the bike reacts. sit on a descent and stand on a climb...try to be comfortable in any situation. some day you will be in a situation where the book said "X", but "Y" just feels right.

    you'll also notice that active control is crucial, don't be a passenger! stand, sit, lean forward or back or side to side, use power strokes and high cadence, etc. Learn & practice it all, you will instinctively pull out the best trick for the situation. and you'll be able to temporarily do the "wrong" thing in a pinch. you'll be faster and smoother for sure.

    The guidelines are proven and correct, but they are general guidelines.
    "The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of a low price is forgotten." - Benjamin Franklin

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by RTM View Post
    guidelines are good, and proven. and you should adhere to them.

    but I also suggest you get out there and try it all. ride...ride...ride...see how the bike reacts. sit on a descent and stand on a climb...try to be comfortable in any situation. some day you will be in a situation where the book said "X", but "Y" just feels right.

    you'll also notice that active control is crucial, don't be a passenger! stand, sit, lean forward or back or side to side, use power strokes and high cadence, etc. Learn & practice it all, you will instinctively pull out the best trick for the situation. and you'll be able to temporarily do the "wrong" thing in a pinch. you'll be faster and smoother for sure.

    The guidelines are proven and correct, but they are general guidelines.
    I don't have much to add to this; it's really, really good advice.

    I will say that your buddy's and your techniques both have their place. While your technique may get to the top faster, it will come at a higher cost of energy. Your buddy may not get to the top quickly but he may have conserved more energy than you did. On my trail bike it's sit and spin all day long; there are very few places where standing up to pedal on a 7" travel bike makes sense. On the singlespeed I tend to have to stand up almost all the time because I'm weak and pushing too big a gear for my weak legs and lungs.

    I learned when I started riding SS that when I'm standing up, if I pull upwards on the bars while mashing the pedals then I can usually keep the rear wheel planted. It's a strange movement, and I'm pretty sure even mentioning it in type was a bad idea because I can never explain how to execute it without seeing myself and someone else try it. Basically, to generate more power I use the bars for more leverage.

    Anyway, keep riding and you'll keep getting better at everything.
    Don't you hate it when a sentence doesn't end the way you think it octopus?

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by zebrahum View Post
    I learned when I started riding SS that when I'm standing up, if I pull upwards on the bars while mashing the pedals then I can usually keep the rear wheel planted. It's a strange movement, and I'm pretty sure even mentioning it in type was a bad idea because I can never explain how to execute it without seeing myself and someone else try it. Basically, to generate more power I use the bars for more leverage.
    This makes sense. As when standing you can only push down the pedals with your body weight. So 150-200lbs down force per pedal stoke. However if you pull up on the bars you can use you upper body strength to push between the bars and pedal in weightlift style motion to put alot more force on the pedals.
    Joe
    2003 KHS Alite 4000 26" Hardtail - XC, All mountain, blah blah blah.. I just ride.

  11. #11
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    Thanks for the replies! Looks like I've got a lot of stuff to get out there and try!

  12. #12
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    Great answers and I think it is basically all about your own feeling, doesn't matter if it is uphill, downhill or flat, there are no labels and one bulletproof way to ride. I am considering only two factors - do I need to save energy and how tired I am currently.

    if you are tired and need to save energy - go with low speed
    if you are full of energy and dont need to save it - stand up and as said above "pedal to the metal" :-)

    Also speed shifters without indicators teach to listen to your body and forget about theory :-)
    There is no man living that can not do more than he thinks he can. Henry Ford

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by BigRed390 View Post
    So I'm only a few months into this whole 2 wheeled face-full-of-dirt thing and I have a friend telling me that my approach to riding up hills is incorrect. I tend to stand up and hammer it after dropping one or two gears as necessary. He drops to a VERY low gear and spins his way to the top. Slowly.

    I'm beginning to understand cadence and its importance, but then I see (and get passed by) the single speed guys who don't see the need to shift at all and provide a great example of what I've been doing - arse out of the saddle, lean forward, and here we go.

    I usually have a mild traction issue while going upwards. Not enough to stop things, but I do get a decent amount of rear tire slippage. Is this something I can correct with proper body english, etc., or is my friend correct in telling me to sit down and slowly spin my way to the top?

    Thanks in advance. Cool forum, and a great place to learn!
    Practice and learn all the various ways....

    Stand and Hammer....

    Sit and Spin....

    Sit and Spin go as slowly as possible

    Stand and Hammer go as slowly as possible

    Going slow and/or track standing on a climb is the start of trials riding

    In the end on the toughest climbs....you end up with your seat off the saddle and the point of the saddle about to enter where the sun don't shine.....(this balances the front and rear weight really well)....

    You also end up going slowly if the hill is of any length...

    25 degrees is doable, but only for a short while without the ability to track stand.

    Another way is to catch the flow.....sometimes if you go say 16 kph you end up having to grind up a hill, but if you go 25 kph you don't have to grind the hills you just flow over them....sounds wierd but it works great...

    just a little more effort returns handsomely.

  14. #14
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    If you get to the top, does it matter?

  15. #15
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    I will add in that climbing is all about traction. However you find it is up to you.

    You should get your tire pressure to the perfect amount, something that might barely bottom against the rim once a ride. At this pressure you will have maximum conformity with ground, that is your tires will fold and wrap around obstacles.

    Spinning will increase your "horsepower" to the ground or decrease your "torque" but it is a lot harder to control if your tires slip. Pushing a big gear will decrease your "horsepower" but it will add to your torque modulation, meaning it applies the torque more slowly.

    Sort of like driving on slick roads. If you want to accelerate safely and rapidly you put it in a low gear and let the torque out. However that can let your engine bog down. If you put it in a high gear and drive you will be spinning your wheels and have a harder time controlling the tires traction but if you hit somewhere with better traction you won't bog down.

    For a lot of climbing I will go at it in a harder gear than I think I need because a lot of time I will get to a point in a technical section that I need to go faster to pop over something and I need to shift forward to get the back tire over and in a lower gear I spin too fast and then when I unweight the rear tire to pop over I spin it out. I the harder gear I can spin up faster, pop over and then use the slower tire speed and harder gear to get the back over without spinning.

    Hard to explain but practice makes perfect. The rule of thumb I like is to be able to hear my tires scratching for traction but not spinning. That is the perfect gearing sweet spot.
    Try this: HTFU

  16. #16
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    single speeders are mashing the pedals with a grimmace on their face because they hate their lives and enjoy punishment. Our inner rage when single speeding is being taken out directly by punishing our bike wile grunting and swearing. I love my single speed in a hatefull way
    lol!

  17. #17
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    If you have the strength and endurance to stand and power up the hill, more power to you. Go for it, you'll be faster than the person sitting and spinning.
    Breaking the rear wheel loose can be counteracted by transferring more weight to the rear wheel. You can also try changing to one gear harder so that you don't have as much torque available to spin the wheel. Also, try concentrating on spinning circles while standing, this will smooth the pulses of power that might be breaking the wheel loose.

  18. #18
    RTM
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    Quote Originally Posted by 006_007 View Post
    If you get to the top, does it matter?
    no. unless your friend gets there first!
    "The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of a low price is forgotten." - Benjamin Franklin

  19. #19
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    Sorry for hijacking this thread, but I ride with guardrail guys who sit and spin there way to the top of any climb. Yes avoiding every obsticals possible. I ride a 5.5" travel soft tail and would love to know what the proper technique is for soft tails as of right now it's hammer down and over anything that stands in my way but this doesn't work on long tech climbs.

  20. #20
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    Been riding for years and just realizing that there are several things I'm doing wrong (like braking). Glad this forum is around.

  21. #21
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    Anyone have any thoughts on what's easier on the knees? For that reason alone I'm partial to spinning. Standing and pushing creates a lot of torque on your kneecap and patellar tendons.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by FriarTuk View Post
    Anyone have any thoughts on what's easier on the knees? For that reason alone I'm partial to spinning. Standing and pushing creates a lot of torque on your kneecap and patellar tendons.
    Yep, spin away, don't buy a singlespeed
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  23. #23
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    I've had similar situations. This is helpful

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