079 HOW TO CLIMB WELL

For many cyclists, it is a dream to climb a real mountain. What is it you have to keep in mind if you have never done this before? This article contains recommendations that are important to realize a really successful climb.

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1. Train climbing

It is difficult to train around Udon Thani for real climbing. It is namely too flat. And you do not find longer climbs there anyway. It is recommended that before you start really climbing to practice on shorter climbs first. For a great part you can learn how to climb. Look for an area with plenty of climbing opportunities that are long enough but not too steep. Good preparation is half the battle and a great benefit of cycling is: the more you do it, the better you become.

The flat land around Udon Thani.
High energy sport bar

2. Food & Beverage

Even though you feel like you will be back within an hour take a couple of energy bars and a bidon  with you. During a climb, you lose so much energy that it is better to make sure you take some food and drink with you. Even if you do not eat during the climb it is wise to eat something at the top so you can start the descent concentrated.

3. Constant cadence

Try to find as quickly as possible one steady state rhythm during a long climb. So ride as much as possible with a steady leg rhythm. In general, a cadence of 80 to 90 revolutions per minute is normal, but this is different from person to person. Armstrong was an exception with a cadence of more than 110 per minute. Do not copy that, it is very difficult; it only works after years of training. At a high cadence the leg muscles are less heavily taxed. The rule of spinning is: high leg speed taxes the heart – lung system and a low leg speed charges the leg muscles more.

High cadence Armstrong
Standing while climbing Armstrong
Sitting while climbing Froome

4. Climb sitting

During the climb, it is wise to sit most of the time, in this way you can maintain a strenuous exercise longer. If you stand on the pedals, you are able to transfer up to 30% more power to your pedals and you use other muscle groups causing less stress on the muscles of the thighs. Make sure you are not cycling too long in the red zone and blow yourself up. You can, for example just before a piece of descent, where you can recover, place a strategic breakaway or on a steep piece pedal while standing to maintain the speed and cadence.

5. Climb standing

Let’s be honest: standing while climbing looks very cool, but it also costs a lot of energy. Most cyclists climb sitting on the saddle. In this way you are more relaxed on the bike and it is easier to find your proper cadence.

Helmet
22% No cycling
Downhill. Don’t do this.

6. Helmet

This goes without saying. Also during the climb just wear your helmet. I always skip this advice because the helmet irritates me enormously during the climb because of the excessive sweating. In the descent wearing a helmet is a must.

7. Look around

Not only during downhill is it important to pay attention. Look during the climb well ahead, pay attention to the traffic around you and look through the bends. Estimate the curves well. Riders in a race often focus on the motorcyclist who rides in front of them. The motorcyclist has more insight into the situation of the curve. So be alert and take a good look around you. If you only focus on your cycling performance and not on the situation around you, you are asking for trouble. Pro-cyclists race during competition on a open road, without upcoming traffic and cars behind them. Recreational cyclists ride on public roads and are therefore part of the traffic. If you do not pay attention you will come on the wrong side of the road with cars and cyclists coming down at high speed. Concentrate therefore always on what’s happening around you.

8. The right gear

Choose your gears carefully, you will get into trouble if you do not have enough sprockets in your block. When you have to push too hard when climbing because your gear is too heavy there is too much pressure on your knees. Make sure there are enough sprockets in your block, it will make you feel confident when you know there is always one extra sprocket. We always ride with a double or compact chain wheel set and never with a triple. A wise man once taught me: triples are for pussies.

9. Own pace

It may really happen that a friend can climb better than you. You can just accept it or train harder so you can follow him the next time or even climb better than he can. If you are following someone who climbs at a slightly higher pace than you you can blow up yourself. It is important to properly dose the climb. If your speed is only one kilometer too high you may get to a certain point where you will meet the man with the hammer, who knocks you down from the bike.

10. Reach the top

There must be something very serious if you apply the brakes halfway up a climb and go back to the hotel. Always finish the climb even if it takes you the rest of the day. Climbing hurts. Climbing is tough. It can be very tempting to cut it but that is not an option. Finish what you started.

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11. Prepare yourself well

Always do your homework before you go on a trip with your bike in the mountains. How is the weather and how is the forecast? How hot or cold it is on the top. What special features are there on the climb? Where is the steepest part? Where can you rest? Where is the nicest view point? Is there a place where I can fill my water bottles? How is the descent and are there more possibilities to go down? Which way back am I going to take? Is there also a climb in the way back? All the answers can be very useful to avoid unexpected obstacles.

Hairpins
Mont Ventoux

12. Do not stop too often

I am not opposed to stop during a climb. Everyone rides at his own level, according to my experience it is better to stop for one minute to recover and enjoy the view than obstinately wanting to go on. At long last, you will do about the same time on the ascent, with a brief stop you will reach the top more fresh. Try to minimize stopping, at the most once every 10 kilometers. To catch a break at every turn is not a good choice.

13. Do not be afraid

Fear is never a good counselor and certainly not if you’re going to climb a mountain on a bike. I have seen people climbing mountains that I never thought of they could do it. A little bit of self-confidence cannot hurt! A mountain can instill fear, but if you divide the climb into parts it is often not too bad.

14. No earplugs

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Never use earplugs while cycling. It is highly dangerous because you disable your hearing and therefore you do not notice the cars that come from behind.  You do not also hear the upcoming traffic.  In the mountains, because of the many turns, you see them very late, and because of your earplugs you also do not hear the signal of these cars.  Many car drivers sound their horn before the corner to warn the upcoming cyclists. In the mountains you have superb ambient noise, such as waterfalls, streams and birds. And don’t forget the beautiful sound of the gnomes who are singing their songs.  If you’ve ever heard this you never wear earplugs again

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15. Use your gear in time

Always switch before a hairpin, not IN the hairpin. If you see that it is going to be steeper? Anticipate in advance by switching to a lighter gear, so that you avoid losing speed during strenuous exercise and fiddling with the gear unit and a forced stop.

16. Bicycle in top condition

If you do not exactly know how to maintain your bike properly, asked a friend who can do that or look for a good bicycle repair man. Make sure that the brakes are good. Take care to have good tires. Have the right gear mounted and make sure you can switch smoothly. And ride with a clean bike, it is faster and motivate you more.

17. The outer curve

The hairpin curve is a curse and a blessing when climbing. In particular, the inner turns are usually much steeper than the outer ones. Take the inside curve and you make a shorter distance compared to the outside. Especially these inner bends can take you unbelievably out of your rhythm, and taking the outer line the leg muscles can be relieved for a little while.
When you stop at a hairpin you can enjoy the beautiful views of the valley and getting back on your bike is not very difficult.

Bike in good condition
Thai car drivers

18. Think positively

Self-confidence and positive thoughts are crucial for a good climb. Instead of being concerned with the pain and the distance you better try to enjoy the climb, the vicinity and the beautiful view. Realize that for every one climbing with the bike uphill is heavy. Turn the inner knob and you know ‘this pain is great’. If you are mentally strong you ride up better and you will be better able to focus on your goal: cycling to the top, preferably as quickly as possible.

19. Do not underestimate anything

A mountain can be deadly. Literally and figuratively. This is not meant to scare you, but every year there are hundreds of cyclists who fall into a ravine. A little respect for the mountain cannot hurt. As mentioned before it is important to do your homework. Observe the traffic. Many car drivers cannot drive in the mountains and / or do not care for the vulnerability of cyclists. This advice applies especially to Thailand with by far the worst car drivers in the world. While they themselves are convinced to be excellent drivers. So ride defensively. Do not take priority; do not ride in the middle of the road and always stick to your lane. Expect sand or gravel in the curves. Beware of unexpected potholes in the road. Consider the fact that you see next to nothing when you ride into a dark tunnel and come into the bright sunlight, a very dangerous situation.

Thailand the land of pits and holes

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20. The good posture

Try to climb, as much as possible, with bent arms and keep your hands lightly on the brake levers or in the middle of your handlebar. Keep your back straight and make sure that you maintain on steep sections sufficient pressure on your rear wheel. This prevents your rear wheel from slipping away. If the cadence is going down, because of the steepening of the climb, switch to a lighter gear immediately.

21. Heart rate – and power meter

For me it is no problem if cyclists do not use technical tools. That is ok but by doing so you will miss the best part of cycling, the analysis of all your rides and seeing where you can improve yourself. As for me you are not supposed to constantly look at your heart rate monitor during the climb, but with a heart rate monitor, you can perfectly determine afterwards at which times you really went into the red and where improvements are for the next ascent.

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22. Not in the red zone

If you use your heart rate monitor you can see exactly where and when you go into the red. When you have used your heart rate monitor for a longer time you can assess how long you can sustain a certain effort. Often your feeling does not correspond with reality. Your heart rate can, for instance, be much higher than you feel, making you think you have enough left, while at any moment the man with the hammer may come. Listen to your body and trust your heart rate monitor.

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23. Too much luggage

It is no wonder that cyclists are extremely thin. It is almost scary to see how thin they are. Each gram of ballast must be taken up and ensures that you ride slower. So think about what things you take up all along. Do not save on food and drink. For the rest as little as possible. If someone accompanies you by car behind you on the mountain, you can put everything in car.