We have seen how to ride a bike up a steep climb thanks to the video we made on Mount Tersadia. We have also mentioned some advice on how to tackle a climb of 10% or more on a racing bike. Now let’s dive deeper and answer some of the most frequently asked questions bike enthusiasts ask themselves when they think about a tough climb.
Power is nothing without control
This is the first false myth that we want to break down with this post. It is clear that as Eddy Merckx said “When the road rises, you cannot hide.”. It is clear that without an excellent weight/power ratio you cannot climb. But having the right approach and the right technique helps. This is demonstrated by the fact that mountain bikers from the cross-country speciality are very strong uphill even when they ride on racing bikes.
Let’s start with the riding position. When we ride up a 10% or more climb on a road bike, on the steepest sections we should move our weight balance forward, just like they do on a mountain bike. Our hips must move toward the tip of our saddle. This helps to find more thrust and counteracts the climbing slope. The slope in fact changes our attitude in the saddle. A very steep ascent like that of Monte Tersadia makes us rotate backwards. For this reason, we also often feel the need to get up on the pedals often: to bring our position back into thrust.
how to ride a bike up a steep climb better
“Carpegna is enough for me” is one of Marco Pantani’s most famous phrases. This climb in the province of Pesaro and Urbino measures almost 6 km with a vertical drop of 630 metres, with an average gradient of 10.7%. A challenging climb, even if not comparable to the Dolomites or the Pyrenees. With this sentence, Pantani did not want to compare the Carpegna to the most famous climbs, but rather saying that a short or medium climb can be more training than a great climb. To train for a 20km climb you don’t have to prepare on a 20km climb.
There is both a physical and a mental reason behind this fact: if we attack our 20 km climb in training, our mind will automatically set a speed that will allow us to reach the top. We will be slow. Back to mountain biking: how can bikers be so strong on steep climbs? Because they continuously train on short and impossible short ramps. Try to figure out this: is it more tiring to tackle a 10 km climb, or 10 times a 1 km climb?
How To Ride Steep Climbs On A Road Bike
We talked about technique and training. Now let’s move on to a factor which is halfway between the two: cadence. A question of technique and training together. Technique, because we are all inclined to push high gears when going uphill. And it’s wrong. If we compare ourselves to cars, to climb uphill we have to look for torque in our engine, not maximum power. And the torque develops in short gears. So just like the car, to climb uphill we should downshift and increase the number of revolutions of our engine. Also, remember that on the flat parts, we can take advantage of a flywheel effect of the long ratio. This advantage is completely lost uphill.
Lance Armstrong changed cycling, taking the rpm to a higher pace. In the perfect manual for how to ride a bike up a steep climb you should at least keep 80-85 pedal strokes per minute, even if the Texan often used to face a 10% climb even at 100 pedal strokes per minute. So it is about the technique for the approach to this system. But it’s also about training because you need to be used to riding at high frequencies uphill to think about keeping high rpm for long.
A bike expressively designed to climb
Is there a specific bike to use to face a steep climb? Indeed some bikes are more suitable than others. The main feature of a climbing bike is lightness. But that’s not the only factor. We talked in this post about the riding position. And therefore, a bike with custom sizes and designed for climbing will certainly perform better than a bike with standard geometries. If you ask experienced cyclists, they will surely tell you that a more vertical seat angle positively affects uphill performance. A study on the bike fitting for the ascent can lead to excellent improvements. Making a specific bike, expressively designed to tackle steep climbs, is obviously even more effective.
Let’s make an example that clarifies that lightness is not everything. Our bike frame designed for climbing is the Daccordi Fly. Obviously, it’s the lightest frame in our collection. But a fundamental part is also the structure of the chain stays, in correspondence with the bottom bracket, designed to transmit the maximum power to the rear wheel when standing on the pedals or, in any case, with an advanced centre of gravity. Even the main tube, with an enlarged section, is designed for this. So it’s a bike designed for climbing, not just a lightweight bike.