Claw your Way to the Top: Intro to Climbing

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Saturday’s ride is a climb. We’ll be riding 24 miles with 1400 feet of elevation gain. Sounds intimidating, right? If you’ve never really climbed before, it is. But if you’ve done 24 “flat” miles, you can do 24 miles with a hill. In fact, you’re going to have to learn! Saturday’s ride is going to be very much like Day 5 on the AIDS/LifeCycle. That day is 42 miles with about 2000 feet of elevation gain. So we’re starting you off on the path to success. You already have all the tools you need to achieve success.

These tips will help all new riders prepare for their first hill climb. Here’s a typical climbing ride. (iframes don’t seem to be working for me on WordPress. I’ll research and fix it. You can click in the meanwhile.)


Trust yourself. Confidence is the key to success in cycling. If you’re healthy and are starting to feel comfortable on your bike, you can do this.

Trust the Training Ride Leaders. Every AIDS/LifeCycle training ride is designed to help you succeed. We plan the routes as best as we can to allow riders of any skill level to challenge themselves. If you can’t do it, tell a TRL and we’ll help you make your way back. Since the rides are “swept” (meaning on TRL remains behind the riders), someone will be by eventually to check in on you. But keep their numbers handy, just in case.

Take every ride one pedal stroke at a time. That means don’t start fretting about the top of the hill when you’re at the bottom looking up. Instead, every foot you climb is a triumph if you’ve never climbed before.

Breath. Concentrate on what you are doing. Focus on keeping your heart rate down. Climbing is very much a cardiovascular exercise more than it is a muscular one. If you’re relatively fit, get a relatively good amount of exercise, and have no medical issues, there’s pretty much no reason why you can’t do climbs such as this one.IMG_6186_Fotor

Pedal faster, not harder. Make sure you’re in your lowest or “easiest” gear when starting the hill. Then you can adjust by shifting into a higher gear when you feel comfortable with the climb. We call this “cadence.” A low cadence may mean you are exhausting your muscles.

Slow down. A new rider can successfully keep a bike upright at 3 to 5 mph. So don’t worry if you’re going slow. That’s part of the process.

Remember, you can stop to rest. I recommend avoiding stopping in the middle of hills. You can learn to “rest” while pedaling. But until you have, there is no shame in taking a minute to prepare for the next leg of the journey. The only rule is: make sure you can move fully out of the road and out of the path of travel of your fellow cyclists.

Practice. If you have time this week, get in a couple 10–30 mile rides. Preparing your muscles and your mind in this way will help tremendously. Later in the season, this will be crucial, but for now, do what you can.

This is your ride. Don’t be intimidated by the successes … or not … of others. No one is judging you. Everyone wants you to succeed. Be selfish. Focus on what you’re doing.

When you get the top, pause and consider your achievement. If you got there in the first group, stop to cheer the others on. If you’re the last rider, accept the well-deserved adulations of your friends. We are all here for you.

With love,
Your Bear


3 thoughts on “Claw your Way to the Top: Intro to Climbing

    Heather Stevens said:
    January 20, 2015 at 5:37 pm

    I love these tips!! Thank you for posting…I am now more confident and looking forward to this weeks ride!!


    […] the beginning of the season, I wrote “Claw your Way to the Top,” a post with general advice about climbing. Here is another mashup of important advise which […]

    […] written several posts on how to climb, how to descend, nutrition and climbing, and related safety issues. Please review them because this […]

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