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3 Ways To Become A Better Climber

With the first mountain stage of the Giro d’Italia just a few days away many cyclists will be inspired by the pro’s to take on a mountain pass or two. If you’re one of them, and you’re adding a mountain climb to your itinerary this summer, read our 3 ways to become a better climber before you head out. 

1. Improve your power to weight ratio

A perfect place to start when trying to improve your climbing is to calculate and optimise your power to weight ratio. If you’re heavier than your fellow climbing companions, you’ll need to produce more power than them to tackle the hill at the same pace.

There are two main ways to improve your power to weight ratio. Firstly, think about your body weight - are you carrying a few extra pounds? If so, these could be hampering your efforts when climbing. Aim for a healthy balanced diet and consider the Wattbike weight management plan to help you get off to the best possible start.

Secondly, if you’re at optimum bodyweight, consider implementing some power specific training sessions to improve your power.

2. Practice makes progress

A number of climbs in the Giro reach over 2000ft. If you’re taking on a climb similar to the pro’s you’ll need to get in plenty of practice beforehand to ensure you are up to the challenge. Practising before the big day will help you develop three of the key skills needed to successfully tackle the mountains:

-       Pacing - for long climbs it’s important to select the right pace to ensure you don’t blow up half way up the hill after pushing yourself too hard. Practice your pacing during training on varying levels of hills, you can use cadence, heart rate or power training zones to help guide you to a sustainable pace.

-       Gearing - the climbs of the pro tours are long, probably much longer than anything you’ve attempted before so you’ll need to practice your gear selection. Opt for lower gears than you think you’ll need and practice on the longest and hardest hills in your area - you may find you need to add a different chainset or rear cassette for a wider range of gears.

-       Mental preparation - climbs like those in the Giro are tough and you’ll need to get into a good headspace to tackle them effectively. Mimicking the effort required for a long, slow, gruelling climb indoors can help you prepare mentally, as well as physically, for the challenge ahead.

Advice for replicating climbs on a Wattbike

Unless you live near a mountain range, it’s unlikely that you’ll train on climbs similar to the ones faced in the Giro. To replicate the effort needed to conquer your climbs, try training indoors on a Wattbike.

Everybody climbs hills differently and there are many factors which affect how quickly you will reach the top. Ride style, body weight, the gradient and length of the hill and the weather all play a part.

Rather than trying to imitate all these factors on the Wattbike by simply cranking up the resistance and going for it, think about the length and type of hills you’ll be facing, then replicate a power output, cadence and smooth technique that you can maintain within your personal training zones to tackle them.

This is particularly key on shallower gradients and longer climbs, where that gradient can continue for several kilometres.

3. Think about technique

An age old debate when it comes to climbing is should you climb seated, or standing? We are big advocates of staying seated when it comes to climbs for three main reasons:

-       Staying seated is more aerodynamic. When seated, the frontal drag area is smaller than if you were standing, that essentially means you require less power to move your mass (i.e. body and bike) forwards. 

-       Staying seated ensures an effective pedal stroke. Standing when you climb results in pushing power at the front of the pedal stroke, which has a negative impact on the smoothness of your pedalling technique.

-       Staying seated reduces peaks and troughs in your heart rate. For most riders, it's more effective to choose an appropriate gear and sit in the saddle tapping out a good rhythm with a smooth and balanced pedal technique as opposed to jumping out of the saddle and seeing your heart rate skyrocket (and having to slow again for a period of recovery).