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On some of our cycling holidays there are several hills to climb. Climbing hills on a bike can be difficult, but reaching the top of a mountain is one of the most rewarding feelings in cycling.

When cyclists look to avoid hills they miss out on this feeling, as well as the superb views that you get near the summit of a climb. Here are some of our tips to make climbing more enjoyable

Why climb?

Monachil, Sierra Nevada The Views - To get the best views you have to climb. Mountain scenery with unobstructed views for many miles around is one of the great pleasures of cycling.

Rewarding - There is a great sense of achievement when you reach the summit of a tough climb.

Low Traffic - Most mountain roads are have very few cars on them.

Fitness- Cycling hills requires a much greater caloric expenditure than cycling on the flat. It can help with losing fat as well as increasingy aerobic capacity.

Downhill- Without climbing you can't get the exhilirating experience of a fast descent.

Technique

Gears

Sa Calobra, Mallorca It is important to have the correct gears on your bike. If you are new to climbing long hills it may be a better idea to start out with a triple chain ring instead of a double. Your gears should allow you to spin comfortably (at least 55-60 rpm on hills) without building lactic acid in your legs. On some steeper climbs (above 12%) spinning comfortably may be impossible, except on mountain bikes; however, these steep gradients do not usually last more than a kilometre or so.

The other important point about gears is to use them properly. I have lost count of the number of times I have heard people say they were 'saving a gear' for later, even though they were struggling. It might be a small mental advantage to know that you have an extra gear should you need it, but this is far outweighed by the energy saving you will make by switching to a gear where you can spin comfortably.

Breathing

It is useful to open your chest out and allow as much oxygen in as possible. One of the best ways to achieve this is to put your hands close to the stem on the handlebars. At least keep your hands on the hoods, rather than the drops, to make breathing easier.

Pedal Stroke Col D'Agnes

When climbing long hills you can rest muscle groups in your legs by making adjustments to your pedal stroke.

By dropping your heel slightly you can bring the hamstring more into the stroke, resting the quadriceps. There is also the option of standing from the saddle which, if done well, will give your legs some time to recover.

To stand correctly you should try to keep your upper body very still, while gently rocking the bike underneath you. This will ensure that your bodyweight is pushing the pedals without using up too much energy.


Mentality

It is important to maintain a positive mindset, particularly on long climbs. If you are struggling it is useful to break the climb up into smaller sections.

You can break it up by each kilometre or simply set yourself the goal of reaching the next tree or the next switchback. Some professionals break it down even more; focussing on and analysing each individual pedal stroke to take their mind off any pain.

Also, don't forget to enjoy the views. Take time to consciously admire the scenery and pick out details that interest you; the top of the climb will arrive before you know it.


Nutrition

Pico Veleta, Sierra Nevada

Drink

You need to take on a lot more water when climbing when on the flat. On our guided tours the guide cycling with the group will carry a lot of spare water for the group. However, on your own it can be tempting to take less water than you need, in an effort to keep your weight down.

It can, however, be very difficult to find a water source on many climbs and the extra kilogram of taking an extra litre of water is a sacrifice well worth making. As little as 2% dehydration can decrease performance by 20%. An isotonic drink can be useful, particularly when it is hot, to help replace electrolytes which are lost through sweat.

Food

Eat little and often. You should consume some simple carbohydrates half an hour before the start of the climb and every 15-20 minutes while climing.

Energy gels are designed for cyclists but can be expensive. It can be nearly as effective to eat a handful of jelly beans or some dried fruit.

Speed

Lizarra, Urbasa Natural Park Whether you are climbing a hill for training, in competition or on a cycling holiday make sure that you enjoy it.

Start at a speed that you know you can maintain to the top of the climb. This will be frustrating for the first few kilometres, as you will be itching to go faster. Once you have got into a good rhythm you can gradually step up the pace, but make sure you stay aerobic.

Apart from sprinting for the summit, under no circumstances should you become anaerobic. When your lungs and legs start to burn you are going to fast. On the flat, you can do this, then recover by soft pedalling for a while; however, on a hill there is no place to recover.

If you would like to try a a cycling holiday with some hills we would be glad to welcome you on one of our cycle tours.

From the big mountains in the Pyrenees, Tenerife, and Mallorca to smaller climbs in Valencia and The Basque Country, we run tours to suit all levels.

Please contact us if you would like any further information.