Can you imagine it? Knowing how to climb on a mountain bike just like the Pros?
Well, by the end of this page you will. You’ll learn the climbing tips and techniques the Pros use to climb just about anything in their path. These tips are going to bring so much more satisfaction to your mountain biking and make you a much more capable and versatile mountain biker.
It will take a bit of work and sweat, but the reward will be huge. Let’s begin!
How Does He Do That?
You’ve probably seen a rider scale an amazingly tough hill and thought…
- How do their legs not blow up?
- How do they stick to the hill so well?
- And how do they keep going when their mind starts saying stop?
Put in simplest terms, there are two reasons why they succeed. They have:
1. Expert Mental Skill and 2. Expert Mountain Bike Climbing Technique
These are the two main characteristics of the expert climber. So, if you really want to become an expert climber, you need to make those two characteristics yours.
Start by believing in yourself that you can do it. Forget the negative thought. Believe that with a bit of commitment and the right skills and technique you can train yourself to become an incredible mountain bike climber. Make it your new goal to be able to climb the toughest hills. Hills you never thought possible!
Let’s start working on that goal with:
Characteristic Number One – Expert Mental Skill
Advancing your mental skill is all about developing mental toughness. It’s about training your mind to think only what is required to get the job done. When you can control your thoughts to that extent you will succeed.
How to Climb on a Mountain Bike – The Three P’s
1. Passion, 2. Perspective and, 3. Persistence
Your passion is a burning desire to succeed. You need to own that desire. Make it yours. More than anything in mountain biking, you want to be unstoppable up the hills and stronger than ever before. So shut out negative thoughts such as
- “my legs are burning”
- “How the hell will I get up there?”
And think only positive thoughts of success.
Remember, you are what you think. So think success and your mind will find ways to make that success happen. Think I am going to conquer this hill. And to make the challenge a little easier, put the climb into…
Perspective is all about how easy or difficult you think the challenge will be. Have you seen the hills they ride in the Tour de France or the ABSA Cape Epic? THEY are hills! Real hills and mountains. And that is Perspective.
So compare the hills you are about to climb with bigger hills. This will put you at an emotional advantage. Your mind will realise that your hills aren’t that big after all. And you’ll realise that there’s no point in whinging. Only doing.
So, give yourself that emotional advantage and think ‘This is just another hill’ and ‘compared to the climbs in the ABSA Cape Epic, this will be easy’. And if you happen to falter and think that the hill has you beat, remember to apply some…
If at first you don’t succeed, try again.
- Don’t think about
- Forget the negative
- Don’t allow any time for those excuses to creep in
Just turn your bike around, ride back down and try the climb again. And make sure you climb seated as much as possible. Resist the temptation to pedal off the seat while climbing. Seated climbing will develop your leg strength much faster than climbing out of the seat.
You’ll be surprised.
The desire to have another go will become addictive and you’ll develop a tendancy to challenge yourself at almost every opportunity. It will become part of your riding culture. And as your passion, perspective and persistence grows, so too will your leg strength and your mountain bike climbing skills. All you need now is the second key to your climbing success…
Characteristic Number Two : Expert Climbing Technique
Ask an expert climber the one thing besides desire that gets them to the top and they’d probably say Momentum. And they’d be right. For the expert climber it’s all about maximizing momentum. Now, that answer might sound too simple, but it’s the answer of experience. After all their years of climbing, momentum is the expert mountain biker’s number one focus.
How to Climb on a Mountain Bike – The Six Skills Of Climbing
The six skills of climbing will help you develop your climbing technique to the level of expert. Develop these six skills, along with your passion, perspective and persistence, and you’ll be able to climb hills you never thought possible.
1. Approach With Momentum
- Carry enough momentum to give you a good start up the climb
2. Eyes Forward
- Size up the task
- Look for critical sections that could pose a challenge
- Keep your eyes looking ahead and up the trail
- Scan for the line that offers the most grip with the least hassle
At times you’ll need to look closer to the wheel. Just be sure to boost your eyes forward again once those moments are over. Remember that your wheels follow your eyes. What this means is that you’ll ride where you look. So focus on the line you want to ride, not the lines or obstacles you want to miss.
3. Gear Shift in Advance
Shift to your next climbing gear before you need it. Select a gear that allows you to
- pedal at a higher cadence than normal
- settle into a smooth rhythm that will take you to the top
- apply instant bursts of power to overcome tricky sections
Shifting to the easier gear just before you need it means smoother gear changes,less loss of momentum and less risk of chain suck or snap.
And if the climb dictates the use of the granny ring, shift into it early also. Look ahead and time your gear shifts with easier sections of the climb. These sections can also be a chance to give your legs a break.
4. Relax Your Grip
Gripping the handlebar too tightly can influence your steering in ways you don’t want it to. It can make you unbalanced on your bike, with your front end wandering all over the place. You’ll lose energy and momentum fast. So, to keep control of your bike, make it a habit to
- release your hand tension on approach to the climb
- drop your shoulder blades and bend your elbows
- tell yourself to relax
This will loosen up your strangle-hold on the bar and let the bike flow with you.
The steeper the climb, the more skill it takes to maintain control. But don’t let that tight grip sneak back in. Keep your hands relaxed to keep control. Pulling on the bars is ok on gentler slopes, smooth climbs, or for standing pedaling. But doing it up rough technical climbs will only make you struggle with steering.
5. Pick And Pace
To reach the top of the toughest and trickiest climbs you often need every bit of skill and strength you’ve got. But that doesn’t mean you need to attack the hill with all your might. Rather the opposite…
Pace yourself and pick your battles. Or in other words
- pedal a good rhythm
- keep constant traction
- don’t pedal flat-out for all of the climb
- use 100% effort only when you need instant bursts of power to overcome the most difficult sections
and use the easier sections of the climb as opportunities to change gears, rest your legs if they need it, or to accelerate away from your competitors. And when it gets really steep, make sure you use your…
6. Chest And Nose Technique
Done right, this skill will improve your center of gravity on the very steep climbs, keeping the rear wheel gripping and the front wheel steering. 90 second Chest and Nose video here
As the climb gets steeper and the front wheel struggles to stay down
- drop your chest closer to the handlebar
- keep looking forward
- keep pedaling seated
and if you still need more weight on the front slide your bum forward towards the nose of the seat, while still keeping some weight on the seat and your chest low.
The chest and nose climbing technique does two things
- it keeps the back tire gripping because your weight is still pushing on the seat to hold the back of the bike down
- it shifts more weight forward to keep the front wheel from lifting
Hit the trails and practice these climbing tips and techniques until you get them right. Then once you’ve done that why not take your climbing skills to the next level with these tips for mastering the art of climbing on a mountain bike.