Last week’s ride was 37 miles with 1100 feet of elevation gain; the upcoming ride is 39 miles with 2800 feet of elevation gain. Same distance, twice the climbing. You may be thinking: I could barely climb 1100 feet, how am I ever going to climb nearly twice as high? The answer is preparation.
At 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 will tame those hills for you — and each item requires some practice. So this week, I want you out on the road, putting in some extra miles so you’re ready for Saturday.
- Braking: Descents can be as scary as climbs. The trick to descending is to brake at the right time and in the right manner. To keep safe, (a) brake before you begin a turn, (b) brake enough so you feel comfortable taking the turn, (c) apply both brakes equally each and every time you brake, and (d) apply the brake smoothly but firmly and release when you’ve slowed enough — never ride the brakes.
- Cornering: Whether you’re climbing, on a flat, or descending, knowing how to take a corner will help you not to crash, to maintain your speed in a safe manner, and keep you and your fellow riders safe. Remember to turn by counter steering. Press away from your body with your outside leg, keeping your inside leg high. (Read my first blog post about cornering.)
- Climb like a Champ: I know you want to stop on those climbs, but you are really better off pedaling. So, analyze NOW what is most intimidating for you on a climb. Is it simply a fear? Is it muscular cramps? Pain in other parts of your body? Do you think your heart rate is too high? — If it is this last, then please see your doctor immediately. Otherwise, practice, bike fit, or nutrition and hydration are the likely culprits. And remember: be one with the hill.
- Practice: Even if you don’t have time to ride hills this week, get on your bike. Every mile you ride will aid you in achieving your goal. If you can squeeze in even a single climb, you will be all that more prepared. We’ve reached the point where our single Saturday ride is insufficient to prepare you.
- Eat: If you find yourself cramping (or with attitude problems) on the hills, the first thing to look at is: am I getting enough calories. You may think you are, but if you’re eating your regular diet or less, then you probably are not getting enough to eat. Proper nutrition on the bike stars the night before you cycle. Breakfast is nearly as important. Plus you should have Gu or some similar at least every hour. Read more about cycling nutrition and here.
- Drink: As with eating, you need to maintain proper hydration. Drink about a single 16 ounce water bottle per hour, though you may need more or less depending on the weather, your own needs, and the road conditions. Drink more for hilly workouts and hot weather. Read about hydration.
This is more than just nagging. When you are out on the road, in the middle of nowhere, failing in one of these is a recipe for a horrible ride. But if you’re prepared, nothing will stop you!
PS: I have been writing a lot of generic advice posts. I’ll be back later this week with a full post about braking.