Do you hill climb at your lowest possible gear?

oreo_muncher

Senior Member
A bit of a silly question but when you hill climb are you just meant to use the lowest possible gear or do you not have to resort to the lowest possible gear but e.g. 3rd lowest gear? Any other tips on hill climbing would be appreciated.. I'm not that great at hill climbing and find myself out of breath a lot of the time but I'm in good shape and young :sad:
 

SkipdiverJohn

Veteran
Location
London
Climb the hill in whichever gear is most efficient in being able to make some progress whilst keeping the load on your legs and more importantly your knee joints, down to a sustainable level. If you only have a few gears to choose from, that might be your lowest one. If you have plenty of gears available you might have a suitable gear a couple up from the lowest one. It all depends on how the bike is geared, how steep the hill is, and how much weight you are trying to get up it.
 
OP
oreo_muncher

oreo_muncher

Senior Member
Climb the hill in whichever gear is most efficient in being able to make some progress whilst keeping the load on your legs and more importantly your knee joints, down to a sustainable level. If you only have a few gears to choose from, that might be your lowest one. If you have plenty of gears available you might have a suitable gear a couple up from the lowest one. It all depends on how the bike is geared, how steep the hill is, and how much weight you are trying to get up it.
Shimano claris gearset. I usually get up hills but feel like my lungs are exploding by the time I get to the top of it! So I don't know if that means I should just lower the gear more- even though it feels about right when I do it, or if Im out of shape? (50kg to the top with 9kg bike+1kg bottle=60kg)
 
OP
oreo_muncher

oreo_muncher

Senior Member
You discover pretty quickly which are the best gears for getting up a particular hill. When I get it wrong I seem to end up walking. There's no shame in that. Try and avoid being in a too high gear and grinding to a halt because you can't actually turn the cranks another quarter turn. It's bad for morale.
It's sometimes hard to tell when you're going on a new route and you see a new hill- but I don't tend to ever have to walk it up the hill- but my lungs feel like exploding by the time Im at the top.
 

Tigerbiten

Veteran
A bit of a silly question but when you hill climb are you just meant to use the lowest possible gear or do you not have to resort to the lowest possible gear but e.g. 3rd lowest gear? Any other tips on hill climbing would be appreciated.. I'm not that great at hill climbing and find myself out of breath a lot of the time but I'm in good shape and young :sad:
I've silly ultra low gears, so I only need to use my first gear at +20%.
Even then I'll get to the top of the hill with my breathing almost normal.
But my aim is not to get to the top as fast as possible but to climb using as little extra energy a possible.
If you're running out of breath then you're working at/above your maximum sustainable power output.
But how you can save energy on a climb depends a lot on your style, sitting vs standing.
But it normally involves changing down one more gear so you can climb slightly slower.
As you get more cycling fit then your max sustainable power output will increase and you'll climb hills faster.

Luck .......... ^_^
 

PaulSB

Legendary Member
I climb in the gear appropriate to the hill for me, how I feel on the day, weather conditions etc. There is no hard and fast rule. For most climbs I'll be on the small ring and mid to low range on the cassette but there are days when I might ride the same hill on the big ring. I don't have a hard and fast rule.

For me the key is to relax, spin up the hill and avoid pushing hard. I achieve this by selecting my chosen gear as I approach the climb, sit back, hold the middle of the bars and relax my upper body and arms. Settle in to a rhythm and try to avoid breaking that rhythm. If the climb is feeling hard or has a particularly brutal section I will stand to relieve my muscles. Do this smoothly. Learning when and where to attack a section can be valuable. Disciplining myself to ride like this has taken, and still does, a lot of effort as it goes against my instincts to attack.

A couple of small tips. I angle my heels downward so I push more in to the pedal and the climb. I can actually feel the extra power I gain. Try to avoid changing gear during a climb. If I hear someone change gear behind me I know I'll probably drop them as it can interrupt the rhythm of the climb.

On big climbs I breathe hard but I never gasp and would expect my breathing to be back to normal in a minute or so.

I have friends who've asked for help and I've explained my technique. Some have adopted it and find it works for them. I have noticed the difference in them.

Different people have different approaches. I regularly ride with one of the best climbers in my club. His strength is an ability to sit in and maintain a pace, my natural strength is a more explosive pace. I regularly reach the top of short sharp climbs first but he will always be first on long climbs, usually by 50-100 metres. On a recent trip to the Lakes where all our rides where on the golden ratio I crested every short climb first but on the big ones, Hardknott, Corney Fell, Wrynose, etc. my buddy was first. No matter how hard I discipline myself I never hold quite enough in reserve to maintain my pace.

I love to ride hills, attack them and attempt PBs. It's a fun thing not a competitive one. My best times always come when I relax, if I arrive at a climb determined to smash my PB I may well fail to do so.

Relax is the key word.
 

cougie uk

Senior Member
Try and keep your cadence about the same. So you'll need to lower your gears in conjunction with the slope.

The steeper the hill the lower the gear.

No need to drop to the lowest gear for every hill. That'd be silly.
 
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I like to climb knowing that I have at least one unused gear, though whether that's possible depends on the hill and how I'm feeling on the day.
 

Sharky

Guru
Location
Kent
I don't have (multiple) gears. At least on my SS and Fixed bikes. I try and hit a hill with my breathing normal. Push myself to the rear of the saddle and hold the brake hoods. Just at the point where I am reaching stalling speed, I get out of the saddle and use every muscle in my arms, legs and back to get up the hill. I avoid really steep hills on my SS (1:8 or steeper), but for most get up them as I would on my geared bike.
 
A bit of a silly question but when you hill climb are you just meant to use the lowest possible gear or do you not have to resort to the lowest possible gear but e.g. 3rd lowest gear?
To answer the questing directly, it depends on the gears and the hill!

In terms of tips for hill climbing: do more of it. Ideally many short maximum efforts in a ride.
 
If you are young and only weigh 50Kg ( in my books thats a featherweight if you are male) you sound like you have the basis to be a master hill climber. You say you are in good shape but you can be in good shape as a normal everyday person but dont actually have cycle specific "good shape". How long have you been regularly cycling? under a year?. I am in good shape for a older cyclist but crap shape for lifting heavy things. I recently started in the gym weights room after a 3 yr lay off and I am rubbish compared to the other guys. I know however that I need time and practice to get back to heavier weights probably months if not year or more. You just need the same probably, time and practice. I would suggest going down the gym and squatting and some bent leg dead lifts but opinion can be divided on whether that is a good idea for improving climbing ability. My personal opinion is it may help.
 

Sniper68

It'll be Reyt.
Location
Sheffield
For me it depends on the hill.
If its a shortish but steep climb that I know I will mash up on the big ring(front) if it's a longish drag I'll hit it in 4th or 5th then drop down as I feel my cadence slowing.Anything above 15% and longer than a few yards and I'm in 1st or 2nd spinning away:rolleyes:
I find I'm much more comfortable spinning with a relatively high cadence.There's a couple of long climbs nearby that have 20-25% stretches and they have me in 1st gear working very hard.I'm 52 and 85kgs and have gone from a 50/34 compact with 11-30 cassette to a 48/32 sub-compact with 11-30 cassette as 95% of my rides are hilly.
The only way to get better at climbing is to do it more!
 

nickyboy

Norven Mankey
Try to figure out what cadence feels best for you. We're all different and we all prefer to turn the pedals at different rates

Then, always try to select a gear that allows you to pedal at that cadence be that uphill, downhill or on the flat

Of course there are some hills so steep that you can't maintain optimal cadence even in your bottom gear. For those you just have to suffer I'm afraid
 
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