Go 20% Faster: Climb at speed

Stuck in a riding rut? We've got five essential climbing tips

We've all got our regular trails that we're gradually getting better and better on, but wouldn't it be great to get significantly faster? And so quickly that your mountain biking mates won't know what's hit them?

On the face of it, getting you to ride 20 per cent faster in just a few weeks may sound impossible. But if each of our expert honed tips only gains you one per cent extra speed, you can see how the results soon start to add up.

We'll show you how to say goodbye to days when you ride like crap, and sections you never clear, with a quantum leap in your ability and riding attitude. We'll explain the small technical tips that'll unleash the natural speed of your bike as well as boosting your fitness so you're flying up climbs you'd cough your lungs up on right now. Whatever your current riding level, we'll make you the faster, smoother rider you've always wanted to be and free the speed that's bursting to get out of your bike...

Climb at speed

Climbing hills faster isn't just about hurting yourself more. These five essential techniques will have you screaming over summits you've never even scrabbled up before...

Selecting the right gear is all about balancing the torque your legs can deliver against the traction of tyres and trail. You need to choose a gear that's turning slow enough that you can feel any slip from the tyre and back off pedal pressure slightly to save yourself. But it also needs to be sufficiently easy to turn that you're not wrestling the pedals round every rpm and bouncing your bike all over. Middle chainring, largest back cog is our default climbing gear for most situations.

1. Gearing up

Selecting the right gear is all about balancing the torque your legs can deliver against the traction of tyres and trail. You need to choose a gear that's turning slow enough that you can feel any slip from the tyre and back off pedal pressure slightly to save yourself. But it also needs to be sufficiently easy to turn that you're not wrestling the pedals round every rpm and bouncing your bike all over. Middle chainring, largest back cog is our default climbing gear for most situations.

2. Climbing crouch

Even if you can keep the pedals turning, keeping the back wheel connected without the front wheel coming up and dumping you off line needs wise weight distribution. On steep crux pitches, slide your shorts right to the front tip of the saddle like you're trying to rip yourself a new one. Now drop your elbows as low as they'll go. This gets your body weight as low and forward as possible to stop the front tyre lifting up. For extra traction, pull backwards and down on the handlebars (basically towards the ground contact patch of the rear wheel) in time with every push on the pedals. This gives you more power and more traction exactly when you need it.

3. Look up, get up

As soon as you're looking at your front wheel, you'll stop - simple as that! Don't let roots, rocks or step-ups hypnotise you as they get to your bike. Keep forcing yourself to look as far uphill as possible to scope smooth lines and your body's subconscious balance, and natural rider reactions will get you over the immediate stuff. Seriously, you'll be astonished at what you can ride over smoothly once you stop staring at it.

4. Step up to the summit

Fast climbing is all about keeping momentum, so always choose the smoothest line even if it's longer. However if you can't avoid a big rock or step-up, learn to lift your front wheel up and over it so it doesn't just stop you dead. As your back wheel reaches it, throw your body weight forward to hoick it over the lip. It'll feel really clumsy at first, but keep practising and you'll soon be flowing uphill the way water flows down.

5. Holistic hill climbing

Any fool can set off fast, but only the best climbers finish fast. Size up the climb ahead and take note of any particularly steep bits so you know where you're going to need to be strong. If the gradient does ease off at all, try to grab back momentum by accelerating rather than just sitting twiddling and getting knocked back at the next nasty bit. If you set off steady, you can always push the pace at the top, but if you burn out early you probably won't get to the top at all.

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