The 7P’s are essential to good performance, both in sport as well as business .. Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance.
Preparation falls into two categories, preparing your bike and preparing yourself. Make sure you eat a good solid breakfast as this will ensure you have enough fuel (energy); porridge, cereals, wholemeal or oatmeal toast are good options. For more info on how to prepare, read this useful Guide to Energy Drinks and Foods. We are assuming that if you have bothered to read this, you know to also have a good night’s sleep and to have kept the alcohol intake to a minimum, unless of course you can stay away completely (just the night before that is!).
So, now that you are ready, it’s time to get your bike prepared. First the basics; ensure it’s clean, adjusted correctly and well lubricated. A clean drivetrain works better than one covered in grease & grime, inflate your tyres to the correct pressure and check for nicks & cuts on the edges. Whilst you won’t need your brakes on the climb, what goes up must come down so be prepared. Make sure you plan ahead, what gears will you need for the climb? Some riders will need a triple, the majority a compact and fitter riders a standard double.
Clothing for Climbing
You won’t be surprised to read that we recommend the lightest kit possible. However, unless you are on a race-day, make sure you take appropriate clothing. Personally, I wouldn’t go on a ride without an extra layer; lightweight jacket for the so-called summer months, a rain jacket for the wet and cold winter months. Gilets are becoming quite popular. These lightweight Garneau helmets may be worth looking at for those of you looking for a top quality lightweight helmet.
The main thing to remember with regard to clothing for hill climbing is that you are riding in the hills or perhaps even mountains. In these environments, the weather can change very quickly, so as the Scouts say, be prepared.
As a cyclist, you and I are different. In fact, you’re unique, honest. The point is that we are all different from each other and as such, you need to pay attention to your own riding style. Some riders sit in the saddle, some don’t, some push big gears, while others .. you get the picture! Whatever your riding style, hill climbing hurts! Oh, can it hurt. So take your training seriously and make sure you warm-up properly by stretching both the front and rear thigh muscles, along with your calf muscles.
When you set off, keep it steady, pace yourself. Having done your preparation, you should know how long the climb is, where your moving rests are, and when your stops are. At the beginning, try and stay seated, in a comfortable gear, and at an even pace. You’ll probably pedal between 50-80rpm. There will of course be times when you need to get out of the saddle, but try to preserve your legs across the whole climb, don’t burn too much energy at the start – think of the tortoise and the hare story. Keep the gear low and don’t fight the bike.
Staying relaxed on any climb is the key. This is a combination of your position on your bike and fatigue (see the reference to the guide to energy foods & drinks mentioned earlier). Try your absolute best not to get off and push, besides the embarrassment, you’ll lose all rhythm and it’s no fun anyway!
Know your enemy, the hill itself. If you know the peaks and troughs, well the plateaus, then you can pace yourself. You’ll know when to take moving rests, and drink water. Read any maps or elevation profiles. Also, look at the weather forecasts, especially checking the wind direction and wind strength.
Whilst energy intake is important before you set off, the intake of further energy whilst on the climb is also important. Lots of water, plus energy foods and possibly gels. Above everything else, stay hydrated by drinking water. Camelbaks are a great way of taking 2, 3 or 4 litres of water with you. However, they’re not for everyone. Personally, I love them but for every litre of water on your back, that’s an kilo of weight.
Although gels are easier to consume on the go, they do leave you feeling rather empty. Gels should be used as an inbetween food source. Try to balance your energy intake between gels and proper food. Personally, we’d recommend eating every 30 minutes.