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  1. #1
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    How do you improve climbing?

    I see riders climb hills like it's nothing, while I'm on the side struggling and having to stop. How do you guys improve in climbing better aside from riding more? Do you work out using free weights? Is there a certain way to climb with your bike?

  2. #2
    spec4life???..smh...
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    Look a few threads down where this is already being discussed.

  3. #3
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    i finally climbed a hill after i learned to shift to a lower gear and just have enough momentum going to the hill so i can keep spinning my legs till i make it up there ... if that doesn't work rarely i will try to stand up and push my way up the hill but most of the time i end up walking if my speed drops enough.

  4. #4
    spec4life???..smh...
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    Quote Originally Posted by -Devil-
    i finally climbed a hill after i learned to shift to a lower gear and just have enough momentum going to the hill so i can keep spinning my legs till i make it up there ... if that doesn't work rarely i will try to stand up and push my way up the hill but most of the time i end up walking if my speed drops enough.

    Are you hikeing or are you bikeing....

    Sry had to say it thats what i ask my ridin buddies all the time when they get off and push, all in good fun...

  5. #5
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    it depends on why you're failing at climbing. do you just get winded and/or run out of gas? then riding more and shifting earlier might fix your problem. do you constantly spin out and fail at having enough traction to keep you moving forward, then practicing keeping your weight back, but keeping pressure on the front wheel is probably what you need. either way practice will help.
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  6. #6
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    don't be ashamed to use your granny gear.

    seriously though, climbing is a combination of skill, strength, and endurance. all of those things can be improved upon with practice. those guys climbing are probably just seasoned riders who wen through what you're going through at one point.

    i generally try to keep my butt on the seat at all times, so that i don't spin the back tire and lose traction. i've also picked up from MTB magazines that climbing with a slower cadence can be better for bike control, and also reduce the risk of spinning out the bike tire.

  7. #7
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    Thanks markf! I think I just need to ride more and stay on low gear. I'm not used to spinning.

  8. #8
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    Yeah, stay in a low gear and sitting down. No problem in using a low gear to get up hills. Better then the guy in high gear who can't make it up.

    Just keep practicing until you find what works best for you.

  9. #9
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    Hi,

    If you're climbing (a steep hill), make sure that you are in a low gear (can be the lowest). In this gear you should get to the top of the hill easily. But now, shift one gear up and start riding standing up on your pedals (don't sit on your saddle). just play with this and see what works best for you. This way of climbing looks like you're dancing on those pedals. Lance Armstrong rides this way on steep climbs (maybe you've seen this?).

    When i climb i'm always in a lower gear than the other riders, so i make more round per minute with my pedals, but i'm getting to the top easier en faster. Don't try to ride with a too high gear (it hurts more and the speed is getting lower and lower). I still don't get it why some riders won't shift down, even when they're almost standing still?

    If the climb is "normal" i sit on my saddle and ride; when the hill is getting steeper i shift one gear up and ride standing up. When the climb it too long, i shift down again and ride sitting. This way of climbing really work out for me.

  10. #10
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    Riding a lot is really what helped me. No matter which way I go from my house, I have to climb a hill. The more I climb, the better my cardio endurance gets.

    I also agree with those who suggest downshifting, finding a low gear in which you can grind away, and then just peddling at your own pace. Don't worry about going up fast. Just try to find a gear and a pace that you can sustain. Then, the more you ride, the better you'll get.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by spec4life
    Are you hikeing or are you bikeing....

    Sry had to say it thats what i ask my ridin buddies all the time when they get off and push, all in good fun...
    hahaha i have asked myself that a few times as well while carrying the bike up a hill ...

    i am still hit or miss on climbing hills .. one day i can get up em no problem at all, the next time i hit that hill tho, about halfway up it i am stalled out and having to hop off the bike.

  12. #12
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    Sometimes you gotta do what ya gotta do!
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  13. #13
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    It would help if you would describe what type of hill. Is it a simple hill that's hardpack? Is it a loose hill with lots of rocks? Does the hill get steeper beyond a certain point? If it's a simple hill that's firm under your tires the guys have already given you some really good advice. You basically just need to use a lower gear until you gain enough strength to muscle up the hill in a bigger gear. If you like to stand while climbing you need to find the sweet spot so you can stand without losing traction. It takes time.
    There is not much choice between rotten apples.

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    Granny <3

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    In my opinion endurance is the most important factor. Without endurance all the skill in the world, even strength, won't help for long. So, the best way to get better at climbing is to do a lot of it. This may sound obvious but I've ridden with guys who aren't good at climbing so they shy away from it and never get better.

    Jay-You're here in the South Bay, right? Fortunately there are some great places to train for climbing. My advice is to find a place with a good, but doable, climb, like Quicksilver. If Quicksilver is too big head over to Fremont Older. The key is to find somewhere that's not too overwhelming. Go specifically to climb. In other words, take the most direct route to the top. Do the same ride at least once a week and time yourself each time. Every time try to do a little better, push yourself. It may sound a bit boring but consider it training. Then you'll be in better shape for the longer, more fun, rides.

    Every Tuesday night I ride Quicksilver and do exactly what I describe above. My climbing has improved drastically. The other thing I do that I find has helped a lot is that I run 2-3 miles on days I don't ride. It's different muscles but really helps with the cardio endurance.

  16. #16
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    I eventually have made climbs that I couldn't do. I always tell myself I came to ride, not hike. If I have to stop, I stop. But I restart and climb again until I have to stop. Sometimes I only make it .1 miles before I have to stop.

    It's usually been my heart rate that causes me to stop, and it wouldn't slow down while hiking, so I may as well let it settle, then try riding again. The upside is that I have developed some skill at getting started in sketchy spots, in addition to getting some cardio capability. I still am looking ahead for the next reasonably level spot on a climb, so in case I have to stop, I can get restarted.

    I do think any kind of aerobic exercise will help with the stamina needed for riding, so running, or an eliptical machine, or anything else you can do will help.

  17. #17
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    When im climbing I try my best to use, middle cog front instead of the lowest of gears using the bottom cog front, for a gradual, smoother climb, I have always done it like this because you seem some riders pedalling their heart out in a low gear, better off doing less rotations of the pedals slower I think...........and also, if it is technical or rocky, I will conserve my energy for these rocky sections, hitting them hard so Im not stopped or bogged down by them because they are the sections that take all your strength..nothing like hittin a rock and it stopping you dead!.... may be not the right way of doing it...but thats my way and it works for me.....
    Hold on 2 your f***n fillings !!!!!

  18. #18
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    Endurance has tons to do with it, as do muscular development, weight of your bike/equipment, lung capacity, etc. But the one thing that gets me up the meaning of hills is aggression: "It me or you, hill, and it AIN'T GONNA BE ME, FU---R!!!" I kinda learned that years ago in the gym while nearly trapped under the legpress rack. Sometimes you just have to grab that hill and wring it's f'ing neck. Once you make it to the top, let the happy thoughts come back.

  19. #19
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    I'm still a beginner, but some advise that's helped me is to climb the hill diagonally, that is, don't go straight up, rather go up at an angle. Obviously, this only really helps for wide trails. Just steer left and then right and then left - this effectively reduces the angle at which you're climbing, making it easier. As you get better, you'll need to swerve less.

  20. #20
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    I'm not a great technical climber but I try to improve. I've got this one hill that I use as a benchmark for my progress. I have always aproached the climb thinking I should be in a very low gear and I should stay on the seat as much as possible. Using those techniques I gradually improved but always spun out at the same spot.

    One day I got really PO'd and attacked it in a higher gear and mostly standing. I made it well past my usual spinout point and only stopped when I ran out of gas.

    I realized after that I was trying to rely to much on finesse and not enough on power. When I got PO'd and just attacked it with pure power I had much better results.

    Now I try to find the right balance of power and finesse. If possible I like to stand but am getting better at recognizing the spots where I need to get my weight on the seat to avoid a spinout. I also find that my technique while standing is gettin better and that I don't have to sit as often.

  21. #21
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    Bring the seat up and stick it in a comfy gear...play with these until you find a sweet spot
    if the grade gets bad sometimes you gotta just stand up and mash...click it 1-3 gears ahead of what you were in due to the increased power when you stand up and just push it...

    if you find yourself climbing alot clipless pedals might be a worthy investment due to the ability to be able to pull....comes in handy...click it up a gear and just stand up and do full cycles with tons of power


    lastly switchbacks...if you are climbing these suckers my advice is simple...bring it up the side....make a wide turn and dont get sucked into the middle line...dont lean and just bring er around

    you can only read so much...best to get better at climbing is just do it
    Lean back, Hit both brakes, And ask yourself, Do you feel lucky today?

  22. #22
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    At first I loved fast smooth decents (hopefully with jumps), then I started to love steep technical decents (scarey but fun), now I am finally getting some joy out of difficult climbs. You know, if you were still a kid all you would be thinking about is getting to the top so you could go down fast. You need to work on the climbs to be a good rider, but if you wanna walk some just do it. I do attempt the hard climbs if the mood strikes me, otherwise I just walk it sometimes; the main thing is you gotta want it bad, put er in granny and own that climb (also a lot of the dudes passing you probably know the perfect line on that particular climb, watch the line they are taking).

  23. #23
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    I almost never stand when climbing. I try and hit the hill in 2-3 gears above my lowest so that I have something to fall back to when I am slowing down. Also, like DesertDave said, there is no shame in stopping, just as long as you start again.

  24. #24
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    Easy, get clipless pedals. They make climbing tremendously easy IMO. I think there is only one hill that I haven't been able to climb up since I've had them. Using these pedals and the techniques that have been previously mentioned are a winning combination. That being said, I'm still not 100% sold on clipless pedals because I feel a little bit less in control of my bike, specifically on my downhill. I've been holding my brakes way more than I want to lately. I'm hoping that over time I get better with them. Hijack over.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by opivyattack
    Easy, get clipless pedals. They make climbing tremendously easy IMO. I think there is only one hill that I haven't been able to climb up since I've had them. Using these pedals and the techniques that have been previously mentioned are a winning combination. That being said, I'm still not 100% sold on clipless pedals because I feel a little bit less in control of my bike, specifically on my downhill. I've been holding my brakes way more than I want to lately. I'm hoping that over time I get better with them. Hijack over.
    i noticed a substantial difference to climbing with clipless...its not like wowzorz what a diff...but its there if you swap back to plats...

    going downhill i find rather comforting being clipped in....until you realize that you are endoing and your left foot refuses to get out xD
    Lean back, Hit both brakes, And ask yourself, Do you feel lucky today?

  26. #26
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    Build a single speed, or use your geared bike, and do hill repeats once a week on a very short(1/4 to 1/2 mile) steep hill. Set it up with the hardest gear you can climb the hill in. After a couple of weeks change to a harder gear. This won't only help on hills, longer rides will seem easier too.
    "If we don't change the direction we are headed, we will end up where we are going." Chinese Proverb

  27. #27
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    On a really tough hill, pace yourself. Ride easy before you get to the hill, so you can catch your breath, and you're not too tired before you even start. Start out in the lowest gear so you don't tire too easily. If it's a really long and steep hill, pedal slowly to conserve your energy. I like to mentally focus on relaxing. Imagine that gravity is pulling your leg down into the pedal stroke. Make your breathing really deep and rythmic (more than it would be naturally). This will also improve your lung capacity over time.

    When you can't ride, practice holding your breath. Monitor your results. You should see an improvement over time. Your body will adapt to all these stresses and make you stronger and more efficient.

    If it's a short hill, just attack it, but be ready to downshift before it's too late. If it's a really long, killer hill, then just take it easy. I almost always make it to the top, albeit slowly. I try to avoid walking or stepping down at all costs.

    If you do need to step down, either because of a technical section or because you ran out of steam, DON'T WALK. Wait until you're ready, then start riding again. With time, you'll be riding the whole hill. If you get off and walk, over time, you'll still be getting off and walking.

  28. #28
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    Yes, I agree. Never, I mean Never, get off the bike and walk. That is an embarrassment to the sport, and you will look like a wussy boy as all the good riders pass you by. I never walk 'cause I am such awesome rider.

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    couple things I learned...

    first time I tried a particular hill I ride I stopped 4-5 times with about 2-5 minute stops each time, dying and winded.

    Couple of reasons why... #1 I didn't have clipless pedals, #2 I didn't pace myself and just tried racing up.

    I was able to ride that same 1/2 mile switchback uphill the other week after a month of practicing without stopping or stepping off the bike.

    Few things helped me:

    1. clipless pedals. I was able to use other muscles when my main ones got tired, these were probably the biggest help

    2. pace myself. I tried to go as slow as I could without stopping just to be able to pedal all the way up.

    3. granny gear. I put it in the easiest gear I had and just slow and steadied up.

    4. attack the technical. If you see rocks, roots, ruts or anything that may ruin your balance attack it with higher speed and you'll roll right through it without falling over. Then slow back down after and get your heart rate down a little.

    5. practice. you're not going to get better at hills without doing hills, learn to enjoy them.

  30. #30
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    Just keep trying and trying. You will eventually conquer it. I had a few climbs that would get me half way. But shifting down to my granny gear, sitting and grinding away helps me. It took me about a month to conquer the few climbs that were getting me.
    Granny gear, pedal at your own pace(don't worry about getting up fast, you are not racing), and trying every ride until you get it.

  31. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by f3rg
    Endurance has tons to do with it, as do muscular development, weight of your bike/equipment, lung capacity, etc. But the one thing that gets me up the meaning of hills is aggression: "It me or you, hill, and it AIN'T GONNA BE ME, FU---R!!!" I kinda learned that years ago in the gym while nearly trapped under the legpress rack. Sometimes you just have to grab that hill and wring it's f'ing neck. Once you make it to the top, let the happy thoughts come back.
    Since getting my Rig, this is my approach (and really the only way to do it singlespeeding). The "go berserk" approach works great for shorter, steeper hills and it's something I've taken with me from road cycling- sometimes you just have to stand, stomp, and fly up the hill. It won't hurt until after you're done. I'm probably cheating though because my roadie quads and roadie lack of body mass make non-technical climbing less difficult.

    Also, hill repeats are a time-honored method for not only improving your climbing but for making you a stronger and more powerful rider. More saddle time will increase your performance slowly, but if that isn't fast enough go hammer some hills.

  32. #32
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    Everything that folks have said here have helped me with climbing.

    Personally, I like having music on during climbs. I'll turn it down low so I can still hear what's going on around me, but having something to take my mind off grinding away has been a huge help.

    Back in the day I used to be a swimmer, and let me tell you the worst part about doing lap after lap was the isolation and lack of sound. All you heard was splashing and yourself breathing. It'll drive you crazy after a while, and to me it's huge to be able to be able to listen to music while grinding away.

  33. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by mrbeagle
    couple things I learned...

    first time I tried a particular hill I ride I stopped 4-5 times with about 2-5 minute stops each time, dying and winded.

    Couple of reasons why... #1 I didn't have clipless pedals, #2 I didn't pace myself and just tried racing up.

    I was able to ride that same 1/2 mile switchback uphill the other week after a month of practicing without stopping or stepping off the bike.

    Few things helped me:

    1. clipless pedals. I was able to use other muscles when my main ones got tired, these were probably the biggest help

    2. pace myself. I tried to go as slow as I could without stopping just to be able to pedal all the way up.

    3. granny gear. I put it in the easiest gear I had and just slow and steadied up.

    4. attack the technical. If you see rocks, roots, ruts or anything that may ruin your balance attack it with higher speed and you'll roll right through it without falling over. Then slow back down after and get your heart rate down a little.

    5. practice. you're not going to get better at hills without doing hills, learn to enjoy them.
    Some swear by clipless pedals, but I can attest they're really not necessary. Pulling up while pedaling in toe clips can accomplish the same thing, perhaps just a hair less efficiently. For me, the negatives of clipless outweigh the positives. Sure, I know some folks with clipless that can out-climb me. But I'd bet my house they could do so w/ toe clips as well.

  34. #34
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    The number one thing that helped me start riding over the mountain and back here was to quit smoking

    Otherwise it was practice a.k.a. more ride time.


    I bounce between granny gear and 3-5 higher as I build up momentum, this way I try to keep at least one gear to fall on if it gets really rough (I'm a clyde pushing 245 lbs of body mass and a bike up these hills). I don't know if this helps me in a physical or mechanical way but it does wonders for the mental part just knowing I haven't been beat by the hill.

    Seriously tho between quitting smoking, regular riding and trying pay attention to technique I haven't walked a single hill this summer.
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  35. #35
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    Can anyone give me some suggestions on climbing up steeper, loose, rocky terrain? The long packed climbs for me is a matter of endurance and not an issue, and the short steep packed climbs I've figured out. Its the steep, loose rock stuff that I've seen guys go up but for the life of me I can't figure this stuff out. I always end up losing momentum at some point and can't get started again once that happens.

    Also, how do you attack a climb that invovles a bit of technical climbing in the mix? Like, if I am heading up a hill and partway up is a group of rocks (maybe 6-10" high) that I'm going to need to get up and over. I always end up losing momentum once I get my front tire up on the rocks.

    Oh, and I dont' use clipless pedals and maybe that's the difference but I'm not ready for them yet. Examples of trail below:
    Attached Images Attached Images

  36. #36
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    Try to visualize a plumbline hanging down from your center of gravity...like around the upper abdomen. That plumbline should always hang down about half way between the front and back tire. If it gets back behind the rear axle, the front tire wil come up off the ground.

    If the hill gets steep enough, that may mean that you have to shift so far forward that you are in front of the front of the seat. If you have to get that far forward, you're going to be out of your seat and you'll have to concentrate on spinning the crankset smoothly, maintaining a constant torque...otherwise, the increases in torque will make the rear tire spin out. To do this, you just about have to use clipless pedals.

    Stay seated if possible. Keep your elbows low to get your center of gravity down and forward. If you do get out of your seat to pedal, it'll probably spike your heart rate a good 10 to 20. Not good on a lengthy climb.

    If you are climbing switchbacks, look ahead at where you want to go. Don't look at the wheel or stare at things to avoid, as you'll tend to head where you look. The most common mistake seems to be not getting far enough forward.

    As was said before, sometimes you need to be in the lowest gear, but it's surprising, especially on technically difficult steep climbs, how often I need to be in a higher gear to avoid spinning out and to keep up my momentum over ledgy rocks, etc.

    Get out a lot. If you can't initially make a climb, don't give up on it. Go riding with folks who are a little better than you and watch and learn. And enjoy the pain!

    Hope this helps.
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  37. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by JAYMATIK
    I see riders climb hills like it's nothing, while I'm on the side struggling and having to stop. How do you guys improve in climbing better aside from riding more? Do you work out using free weights? Is there a certain way to climb with your bike?


    If you want to get better at something, do it more.

  38. #38
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    One thing I can advise, which I accidentally did in the beginning, but it appeared to work, was to climb a difficult hill, perhaps a technical one, and the point at which you get stopped, just try to keep it together and turn and ride back down and do this in cycles. I just kept on going up, in the process, getting some good climbing in, but also working on technique.

    In doing so, you getmore in touch with your bike and what it can and can't do and what you need to do to make it work under those conditions.

  39. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by SoMo Addict
    Can anyone give me some suggestions on climbing up steeper, loose, rocky terrain? The long packed climbs for me is a matter of endurance and not an issue, and the short steep packed climbs I've figured out. Its the steep, loose rock stuff that I've seen guys go up but for the life of me I can't figure this stuff out. I always end up losing momentum at some point and can't get started again once that happens.

    Also, how do you attack a climb that invovles a bit of technical climbing in the mix? Like, if I am heading up a hill and partway up is a group of rocks (maybe 6-10" high) that I'm going to need to get up and over. I always end up losing momentum once I get my front tire up on the rocks.

    Oh, and I dont' use clipless pedals and maybe that's the difference but I'm not ready for them yet. Examples of trail below:
    These two examples are two completely different types of trail and will require two totally different approaches. The technical picture (the second one) is hard for me to comment on because I don't have anything like that around here. It's all just simple fireroad climbs, some hardpack some extremely loose and soft and everything in between. Nothing very technical though. The first picture though, I always try to find the line with the most well packed trail. That may mean that you have to move left and right as you go up the trail but it will help maintain traction. Also stay on your seat and if it's too steep and your front tire is coming up then lean your upper body forward just enough so that the tire stays down and your rear isn't losing traction. There's more but I gotta get ready for work lol.

  40. #40
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    Quote Originally Posted by opivyattack
    These two examples are two completely different types of trail and will require two totally different approaches. The technical picture (the second one) is hard for me to comment on because I don't have anything like that around here. It's all just simple fireroad climbs, some hardpack some extremely loose and soft and everything in between. Nothing very technical though. The first picture though, I always try to find the line with the most well packed trail. That may mean that you have to move left and right as you go up the trail but it will help maintain traction. Also stay on your seat and if it's too steep and your front tire is coming up then lean your upper body forward just enough so that the tire stays down and your rear isn't losing traction. There's more but I gotta get ready for work lol.
    These two pictures are actually of the same trail, believe it or not, but yes they are very different beasts to tackle. The second picture I can typically ride by standing and pedaling hard, I can't get over rocks like that seated. My problem is that when I get to the larger rocks in the middle of the picture I can usually only get my front wheel up and that's when I just loose all momentum. If I was on a flat, and not a hill, this would be no problem. The problem comes from me already moving slow and careful up a hill before trying this step up. This is typical stuff for where I ride, so I'd love to figure this out.

    Thanks for the responses so far in this thread, some have been very helpful. Maybe some weekend I'll just keep practicing one of these hills over and over, like a form of sadistic torture, until I get better at climbing it.

  41. #41
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChromedToast
    If you want to get better at something, do it more.

    that obviously doesn't make sense without having the knowledge to know how to do it.

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    what is its a single track with abit of rocks and roots? cant choose the line much since its single track

  43. #43
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    [QUOTE=opivyattack] I always try to find the line with the most well packed trail. That may mean that you have to move left and right as you go up the trail but it will help maintain traction. QUOTE]

    Could you not do that. By riding to the edge of a trail to find grip you are making the trail unnecessarily wider and removing top soil that may be helping to hold the trail together. Learn some skills to ride what you're presented with instead of taking the easy route.

  44. #44
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    SoMo Addict, regarding the second picture:

    When you get to a ledge, naturally, you have to lift up on the front tire to get it up over the ledge, as the rear tire gets to that ledge, try shifting your weigh forward, momentarily, to "unweight" the rea tire to get it up over the ledge. It has to be a very short duration forward shift of the weight, if it lasts too long, the reduction in weight on the rear tire, as you start pedalling again, will result in spinning out.
    "The quality of the box matters little. Success depends upon the person who sits in it."
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    I need a better box

  45. #45
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    Quote Originally Posted by spec4life
    Are you hikeing or are you bikeing....

    Sry had to say it thats what i ask my ridin buddies all the time when they get off and push, all in good fun...

    the technical term is 'Hiking with Helmets'
    '09 Cannondale Moto Carbon 2

    'is that a Thomson in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?'

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    I think this video should have some tips to help you out

    "Bikeskills.com: Roots Rocks and Water Crossings"
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_oQKIog9tWs&feature=user

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    just practice

    the best tip i got was to not stand up and pump hard on longer hills
    just keep winding down the gears until your cadence on the climb is the same as you would do on flat land and you should get up most hills

    as you ride more and get fitter and stronger you will be able to use higher gears while maintaing a good cadence

  48. #48
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    Quote Originally Posted by Joeboater
    SoMo Addict, regarding the second picture:

    When you get to a ledge, naturally, you have to lift up on the front tire to get it up over the ledge, as the rear tire gets to that ledge, try shifting your weigh forward, momentarily, to "unweight" the rea tire to get it up over the ledge. It has to be a very short duration forward shift of the weight, if it lasts too long, the reduction in weight on the rear tire, as you start pedalling again, will result in spinning out.
    I'm not naturally going to like that sensation of shifting my weight foward over the rocks,but it makes sense. I'll have to practice some weekend.

  49. #49
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    So whats the deal? Stand or no stand? I find it physically easier to stand and pump when tackling hills on my road bike. Wouldn't riding a hill on a mountain bike be the same deal?

  50. #50
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    Quote Originally Posted by Whitebread
    So whats the deal? Stand or no stand? I find it physically easier to stand and pump when tackling hills on my road bike. Wouldn't riding a hill on a mountain bike be the same deal?
    Short + steep = Stand

    Long = Sit

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