How To Get Better At Climbing Hills (For Cyclists)

Hills are the biggest challenge for cyclists. It is easy to go too hard on a hill and leave yourself winded and with trashed legs. Do that too much, and you can completely ruin your ride.

One of the first things you must learn is to pace yourself. If you ever watch a bike race on TV, they’ll talk about how a rider is “riding his race.” In the mountains (or hills!) it is important to do that. Let the skilled riders get away from you, maintain a steady effort that will still leave you some power when you hit the top. And swear that you are going to get faster for next year.

Hills are where I begin to regret every donut I have ever eaten. Weight matters, and if you are serious about being fast on the bike, you will have to get serious about weight loss.

Before you tune me out, consider incorporating an added seven servings of vegetables every day. Broccoli, salads, fruit. I shoot for about three servings of fruit and four servings of vegetables, especially in the evenings when I am tempted by the ice cream.

It is amazing how fast the weight starts to come off on a vegetable-heavy diet. Don’t believe me? It’s because you haven’t tried it!

Hill repeats are also essential. This is where you ride up a hill, coast down it, and then ride back up the hill.

My variation is to choose a hilly loop where I have several hills to climb, about 10 minutes to ride “around the block” to get back to the hilly section where I climb them again. This provides a nice balance of climbing + recovery similar to what you would hope to see on your century ride.

Hill repeats allow you to practice all of the proper climbing techniques over and over, and helps you get faster and build more strength.

I haven’t met a rider who didn’t practice hills which weren’t saying they “loved” them by the end of the season.