This month’s how-to takes a look at handling short steep climbs and will show you some of the techniques I use to make them a little easier. Success or failure on longer technical climbs has a lot to do with physical conditioning, once you start to get tired your technique isn’t as good and you’ll begin making mistakes. On short climbs technique is paramount, here are some tips to help you climb to new heights.
1. The Approach
The run up to a climb is just as important as what you do on the actual climb. If you are approaching something steep, loose or slippery you want to use the run in to build speed and gain the momentum necessary to make the ascent. In most cases I’m seated for the approach.
Tip: A common mistake I see people doing is upshifting too early and spinning out before they hit the hill. Pedal a gear a couple cogs harder than what you expect to need at the top to keep your speed up.
2. The Compression
Depending on the type of climb you should have some type of compression at the base of it. I like to stay seated as long as possible but I shift my weight to the nose of the saddle and get my upper body closer to the bars by dipping my elbows down. As you start to run out of speed shift to easier gears to keep your cadence up, don’t wait too long so you can keep the changes smooth.
Tip: I always try to run a slightly harder gear if I can turn it, this helps give me a little less torque so I have better traction.
3. Find Traction
This particular rock was really steep, in this photo you can see I’m keeping my head up looking ahead and scanning for the best route up the face of it. As I start to lose speed I stand up and begin to slightly traverse the rock which lessens the incline of the climb and allows me to keep going.
Tip: If you have the room, climbing something on an angle will make it easier however you’ll be on the side of your tire and will sacrifice some traction. Be careful not to spike your uphill pedal on the ground and pay attention to your rear wheel.
4. Focus to Finish
After I’ve shifted down to the lowest gear I have and I’ve begun traversing, the main goal here is to just focus on finishing the climb. In order to maximize traction my elbows are bent and my hips are low and forward which gets my center of gravity low and keeps my front end down.
Tip: On technical climbs where you struggle to keep the pedals turning, try focusing on pedaling quick smooth circles instead of stomping down hard side to side.
5. Crest the Top
As you a get near the top look beyond it, most mistakes are made by focusing on reaching the peak and easing up before you finish. Pay attention to your pedal timing if there is a knuckle at the top of the obstacle so that you don’t strike your crank on the ground.
Tip: You should start the climb with momentum and try to smoothly shift through gears when necessary to keep a consistent speed and pedal cadence. Keeping your center of gravity low and arms bent will help give you the traction necessary to scale up just about anything.
For more of Jeff Lenosky’s monthly how-to tips, click here.