Improve at climbing without big hills

Get climbing skills no matter where you train

Going up hills is an unavoidable part of riding, but if you don’t live at the foot of a mountain, how can you improve? Ric Stern of RST Sports has the answers.

Threshold thrash

Long climbs need to be tackled just below your aerobic threshold – so raise it to climb faster for longer. 

“Long intervals on any gradient at 25-mile time trial effort (85-90 percent or your max heart rate) will do this,” says Stern. “Start with eight-minute intervals, increasing over several weeks to a total of about 24 minutes (three sets of eight minutes) with two minutes of recovery between efforts. Build up to 60 minutes in total, up to three times a week.”

Seated hill sprints

“Find a short hill that takes about two minutes to climb,” says Stern. “Hit it at your normal cruising pace and stay seated the whole way up. Work as hard as a 10-mile TT effort (over 90 percent HR max) and a cadence of 50-80rpm. 

“Add these repeats to a longish ride, and hit them hard. As soon as you summit, select a medium-big gear such as 53x16 and accelerate back down. Repeat at least three times.”

Some simple training steps can mean you're prepared to make like a King of the Mountain

Standing sprints

“Find a slightly shorter, steeper hill with a 10 percent gradient or higher. Approach it at speed, select the gear you’ll need to get up – say, 39x17 – then ride hard, out of the saddle. Accelerate hard as you approach the summit. 

“A training partner of equal ability can really help here, as you battle each other. Cadence is up to you – you’re focusing on going up as fast as possible. Start with four intervals.”

Lose weight, gain speed

The simplest way to improve your climbing ability – especially if you have limited time to train – is to lose excess weight. 

“Write a food diary and cut out all rubbish foods,” says Stern. “Have you trained hard enough to require a bar of chocolate every day? Crisps? Beer? Most likely not, so save these as a special treat. A couple of kilograms lost can make a massive difference on a climb.”

This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

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