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Thread: Climbing hills

  1. #1
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    Climbing hills

    Hi guys, I'm new to the sport of mountain biking and purchased a Trek Marlin back in September. I'm having a problem climbing hills, I make it up about half way and the rear tire starts spinning and momentum runs out and i have to walk my bike up the rest of the hill. I run about 40 lbs of pressure in my tires. What can I do to get all the way up the hills? Thanks

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    Run a little less pressure and drop into granny sit in the front of your saddle and turn those cranks. That's what I do. It's not fast but I make it up the hill.

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    40psi is really high. Drop the pressure to low 30s max. Use a slightly bigger gear if you're spinning the tire still. Leg strength is your friend
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    I still run tubes, can I drop the tire pressure that low?

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    Wink

    Yup thats right . Danny and I just gave conflicting gearing advice. We are both right, depends on how your body works.
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    If your sitting on the saddle granny gear works great but once you get out of the saddle choose a bigger gear the more you stay in your middle ring throughout your ride the more traction youll have if you are forced into your granny you have to weight the rear tire by sitting on the saddle, plus everyones right about tire pressure dont be afraid to run 32-35psi in those tubes experiment with some different tires as well. Kenda nevagals are great all arounders

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    Climbing hills

    Also, if you are enjoying mountain biking, think of either buying or borrowing Mastering Mountain Skills by Brian Lopes

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    lots of quick responses, thanks guys. Thanks for the link Shalom, I also added that book to my wishlist on amazon, it'll be on my xmas list if i don't buy it before then. I'll definitely try dropping the tire pressure down to the low 30's and try that. I also try changing where on the saddle I sit as I climb.

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    The one thing in the REI article I found strange was recommending changing gears in the middle of a climb. That takes skill and lots of practice as you "should" unload the cogs for a second while the chain shifts to keep from potentially doing damage to the chain or teeth on the cogs or having your chain jamb in between the cogs. As I understand it, you pedal a hard surge to increase momentum, let the momentum carry you for half a rotation or so as you shift and the chain switches cogs. You can then turn the power back on. All this happens in about a second or you end up completely losing momentum and pushing your bike anyway. This is a skill I have been told about and have read about but haven't really practiced - I'm still a noob If I'm wrong on this point I'm sure I'll be corrected very quickly by somebody else on here.

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    keep your elbows in, and keep your weight balanced between the two wheels. Its easy to lean to far forward and lose traction, when you need to shift surge hard to give yourself a good push and a moment to shift while not having to put force into the peddles.

    if your still spinning out try a slightly harder gear and peddle your ass off, try and keep your cadence up.
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  11. #11
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    Climbing Hills

    Hey, you're doing great. I always run out of breath and/or strength.

    All the advice given is good. One additional tip would be to focus on 'pedaling efficiency'. With steep hills and limited traction, it helps to even out the pedaling torque. If you just mash down on the pedals, you'll have uneven torque that will promote wheelspin.

    The ideal is to focus on pulling back on the pedal on the bottom of the stroke, while at the same time, pushing the other pedal forward on the top. Don't pull up on the back stroke, since this only adds to the opposite pedal's torque from the down stroke.

    You'll find this really makes a difference, both in traction and eventually in strength. You're adding new muscles to your pedaling. More muscles equals more strength.

  12. #12
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    1. keep forearms parallel to the ground...chest low over your stem
    2. butt out of saddle and forward (yes your saddle might poke your bum)
    3. middle ring
    4. on the powerstroke pull back on your bars (not up)...like you are rowing.

    this drives your rear tire into the dirt while keeping your front from wandering.

    it hurts at first - but it works for really steep hills

    your friends will call you spiderman out of the sheer awesomness of you newly found climbatude....and buy you beers.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shalom View Post
    Climbing hills

    Also, if you are enjoying mountain biking, think of either buying or borrowing ...
    This link is very helpful...I didn't know about the book either. I'm brand new as well and appreciate having something to work on!

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    Quote Originally Posted by timcking View Post

    The ideal is to focus on pulling back on the pedal on the bottom of the stroke, while at the same time, pushing the other pedal forward on the top. Don't pull up on the back stroke, since this only adds to the opposite pedal's torque from the down stroke.

    sounds like I'll need clipless pedals

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    Quote Originally Posted by crash926 View Post
    sounds like I'll need clipless pedals
    not necessarily. i just switched to clipless a few months ago. i'm better at climbing hills now, but i attribute that to being in better shape and really working on climbing hills. you can get pretty much the same effect by using platforms with pins and sticky shoes like 5.10s. This is what i was running before the clipless. just drag your foot through the bottom of the stroke and push your foot through the top. the biggest reason i went to clipless was so that my feet would stay on in chunky stuff.

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    The other thing about hills is remembering to always look up the hill to where you're going....it helps you to anticipate, to ride a better line (which will help your traction), and it helps your breathing.
    "Wait, this thing doesn't have a motor?" - Socrates

  17. #17
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    Climb more hills to develop the endurance. You can't expect to be able to run a marathon after going out for a couple of jogs.

    What I generally do on long climbs is I go on the granny gear and just spin staying seated. It's really tempting to stand up and start mashing when you're dead tired but that's what's causing your rear wheel to slip/spin.

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    Something that I dont think ive seen mentioned yet: Is your rear tire on backwards? Most tire treads have a arrow shape " > ". putting the tire so that the back end of the arrow rolls into the ground is best for climbing, and the reverse is best for breaking traction. I know I phrased that confusingly, so basically:

    Climbing: tread arrows on top of rear tire point towards back of bike.
    Down/Braking: tread arrows on top of rear tire point towards handlebars

    Obviously you don't really want to change your tire mid ride like you would the seat height, but if slipping is happening and your tire is currently set for braking, consider flipping it around.

  19. #19
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    Shifting uphill is a skill, but the better the drivetrain, the easier it is to do. Good point though !!!
    Four wheels transport the body,

    Two wheels transport the soul !!!!

  20. #20
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    Another thing that helps me is to count my cadence - 1,2,3 1,2,3
    as I climb. Helps me keep a smoother circular stroke and takes my
    mind off of the burning quads and lungs.

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    Something that I have been having a bad habit doing is always going to the absolute lowest gear every time I am on a decent climb. I have been getting better at climbing, but I have learned really bad habits of bailing to easier gears too soon and too often.

    Ive been trying to shift only when I have to and if the slope eases up to go to a harder gear.

    First you gotta make sure that you clear those hills though.

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    Quote Originally Posted by crash926 View Post
    Hi guys, I'm new to the sport of mountain biking and purchased a Trek Marlin back in September. I'm having a problem climbing hills, I make it up about half way and the rear tire starts spinning and momentum runs out and i have to walk my bike up the rest of the hill. I run about 40 lbs of pressure in my tires. What can I do to get all the way up the hills? Thanks
    I agree with dropping the pressure slightly (maybe a pound or two tops). Climbing in the saddle is always best if you ask me. Climbing out of the saddle may fatigue you legs faster and you are more likely to spinout anyway.
    If you're just starting out, I suggest staying on the smallest ring in the front and work with the "granny gear" and no more than the first 4 gears in back (don't crosschain) until you are comfortable with hitting the hills and selecting your gears. Later you're be able to use the second ring up front and then the whole span in the back is available to you.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by swingset View Post
    The other thing about hills is remembering to always look up the hill to where you're going....it helps you to anticipate, to ride a better line (which will help your traction), and it helps your breathing.


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    Quote Originally Posted by swingset View Post
    The other thing about hills is remembering to always look up the hill to where you're going....it helps you to anticipate, to ride a better line (which will help your traction), and it helps your breathing.
    I try not to look up the hills I end up climbing, it's too demoralizing!

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    Your want to be in a low enough gear that you can maintain a good cadence without running out of steam. Also, spinning at a higher cadence provides steadier power to the rear, which will help keep the rear from breaking loose. I agree with Chum about pulling your chest to the bars, but I keep my taint on the saddle nose (taint what's in front, taint what's in back, it just taint!). This keeps weight on the rear wheel, adding to traction. It helps to have a taint-friendly saddle - dropped nose or wide rounded nose.
    Use it, use it, use it while you still have it.

  26. #26
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    You want to keep some weight on the back because that's where your traction is. I understand the temptation to go way forward because you want to avoid front wheel lift, but if you go too far forward and unweight the rear entirely, you will lose traction and spin out.

    Climbing with the nose of the saddle (GENTLY!) touching your taint puts you in a good position to make fore-aft adjustments, as well as to stand up to put more power into the pedals when you need it.

    I find that I climb differently depending on the bike I'm riding. On my geared FS, I stay seated MUCH longer and spin. You will want to spin in the biggest gear you can, because that power will get you up that hill faster.

    I also ride a rigid SS with platform pedals geared at 46x18 for the road, and I have to get out of the saddle and get my upper body involved by pulling on the bars on climbs. Keeping the cranks turning smoothly is possible, but a different technique than spinning with clipless. This method really builds leg strength, but does not work well on a FS for extended climbing.

    When I get up out of the saddle on the FS, it's only for a few pedal rotations at most to clear a technical spot.

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    pedal hard but be relaxed... look around you, look at the trees... at small things, think... try to take your head thinking about ur feet.

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    wow lots of responses! I'm going to try these tips, especially turning my tire around. I recently picked up a new tire and used the arrow to put it on the right way but braking isn't a problem for me, so I'll flip that around and keep the pressure low which has helped some. I have moved around on the seat and stayed seated that seems to help a lot. Thanks for the advice guys

  29. #29
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    Dont forget the fitness factor. You will handle the hills better as you improve your aerobic conditioning and strengthen your quads. Also dropping any extra weight from the biking and substituting junk calories for ones that count will make a huge difference if you are overweight.

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    Totally agree about the fitness factor, nothing like a lot of power to get up steep hills. One thing I read that's helped me on tough hills is to picture a rope pulling me up the hill. Helps me focus on getting to the top.

  31. #31
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    There's a couple of things that weren't mentioned: obstacles suck as rocks and roots; feeling tire grip/spin.

    If you are trying to climb rooted/rocky stuff you often need to unweight the front as it rolls up and over rocks/roots and will need to unweight the rear as it clears the obstacles. Clearing the rear is a bit tricky because you need to ease up on the power at the exact time you throw your weight up and forward so the wheel hops up and over the rock/root easily. The instant the rear clears you need to reapply power without spinning the tire.

    Spinning the back tire can be avoided a lot of times by feeling the traction through the pedals. As the tire begins to break loose you'll feel it and you can often save the climb/pedal stroke by backing off the power, and/or yanking up firmly on the bars. Even if you totally spin the wheel you can often recover forward motion with the next pedal stroke if you don't mash and can still maintain your balance.

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  32. #32
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    I ride SS for uphill and I think the most important is your riding position. Press your body down and try different sadle position. I usually get backward to get more leverage and power and use your thigh not your calve to pedal.

    Try to do constant pedal by spinning not pushing and try to balance your weight if you face obstacle.

    Lean your body backward to get over the obstacle on front wheel, by doing this you'll have more traction on the rear easier to pull the bar against obstacle.

    If you're off saddle climbing you can always use gravity and your weight for pedaling efficiency, I do this a lot because I ride SS. Just change your riding position where it comfort and less pain when pedaling, your body should tell what to do - don't think to much trust your instinct.

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    What tire do ya have on the back? There is a good amount of technique involved, balancing your weight between the front and back is definitely important (if standing up) as well as not being geared up too high.

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    Quote Originally Posted by zephxiii View Post
    What tire do ya have on the back? There is a good amount of technique involved, balancing your weight between the front and back is definitely important (if standing up) as well as not being geared up too high.

    bontager 29.3 and the width is 2.2

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    Ah, interesting tread. I've been running a Spec' Hardrock'r that is 1.95 wide, fast rolling but kinda like tractor tire lol...for the width it has been awesome at climbing.

    One of the things i like to do if I can, is get some good speed up and sit on my ass to climb to get all the weight on the back. Works pretty good but not always ideal!

    Good pressure setting and weight balance!

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