5 Tips For Riding Uphill Faster for Beginners

Riding uphill faster is all about finding a comfortable cadence in a gear that is just right for you and the gradient of the hill.

5 Tips to Riding Uphill Faster

  1. Find the right cadence that is comfortable
  2. Push the pedals with your hips.
  3. Belly breath
  4. Relax your upper body
  5. Mix mostly seated riding with some standing

Riding uphill faster is all about finding a comfortable cadence in a gear that is just right for you and the gradient of the hill. 

I recently did a clinic with an amazing group of women riders in the Cadence Cycling Club in Milwaukee to learn how to climb hills with better bike technique. 

They wanted to learn how to improve climbing hills and how to climb hills without getting so tired.

The first lesson? There is no one way to ride uphill faster on a bike!

Each person, given their unique situation, needs to find their own rhythm in climbing.

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Riding uphill faster requires cadence practice

The first thing we did during the clinic to learn how to ride uphill faster was to ride up a short hill five different times, each with a difference cadence (number of pedal rotations).

We did pedaled really slowly, slowly, moderately, quickly, and really quickly during the cadence segment. 

I didn’t define the rpms so that each rider got a sense of what the cadence meant for them. 

I wanted them to find a self-selected cadence that felt comfortable for riding uphill faster. 

A key, as several riders found out, is having a cassette and gearing that is big enough for climbing hills! 

Cadence practice means finding gearing that works for you

We discussed that using a bigger gear (pedaling slowly and pushing harder) tended to keep your heart rate down and used a certain group of muscle fibers that may get burned up quickly. 

And using a lighter gear (pedaling quickly and pushing lightly on the pedals) tended to increase your heart rate and use a different set of muscles. 

Professional riders like Lance Armstrong and Chris Froome were known for pedaling a really high cadence in order to reduce muscle exertion. 

However, Philip Skiba, in his book Scientific Training for Endurance Athletes, argues that high and low cadences simply use, for the most part, different muscle fibers. 

So we should find a moderate cadence that works for us in riding uphill faster, but also train using higher and lower cadences to balance out the muscle fibers. 

Breathing right helps riding uphill faster

One of the first things I noticed with the riders was how they were breathing. 

Most of them were breathing high, meaning their shoulders and upper chest were riding with their inhalation. 

So we talked about belly breathing and nose breathing for riding uphill faster. 

While changing your breathing pattern can really be a challenge, learning to breath from your belly can change everything about how you climb! 

Think about pushing your belly button out when you inhale. 

Also, if you can ride while just breathing through your nose, you can make sure you’re staying in the endurance zone. 

Push with your hips and keep the pressure on

Back in the day, we were told to pull back on the bottom of the pedal stroke to maximize the power, a story that is still told in many articles about riding uphill faster. 

However, research seems to show a couple of things: the best pedal stroke emerges from the hips and is kind of egg or sausage-shaped (or maybe I’m just hungry and thinking about food!). 

The key is to work on pushing down from your hips, not your quads or knees. 

When you push with your hips, your ankle naturally drops a bit on the down stroke (12 to 5:30 on the clock). 

Then keep the momentum going but don’t worry about trying to pull up. 

Riding uphill faster requires sitting and standing

For the most part, riding comfortably uphill means you stay seated. 

Riding in the saddle is more efficient and less taxing on your aerobic and cardiovascular system. 

Sometimes, though, the hill gets steeper or you get tired, and then standing gives up a shot of power and a different position. 

Standing on the pedals produces more power, but also takes far more energy. 

The cadence is usually lower while you stand, and you can use the position to do a little more pulling while you push back on the pedals. 

Generally, a mix of sitting and standing is the best way to get up long climbs. 

Keeping your upper body relaxes helps riding uphill faster

Along with calming yourself by breathing into your belly, relaxing your upper body helps riding uphill faster. 

According to this article, famous pro cyclist Eddy Merckx was the one who said to pretend to play the piano while holding the handlebars. 

(I always thought it was Bernard Hinault, but I couldn’t find the attribution!)

That’s the tip, though: ride with your hands on the top of the bars and relax your grip. 

You’ll find yourself more able to breath into your belly as well. 

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I help a limited number of cyclists and runners achieve their goals with more strength, endurance, and mobility. 

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Paul Warloski is a: 

  • USA Cycling Level 3 Coach
  • RRCA Running Coach
  • Training Peaks Level 2 Coach
  • RYT-200 Yoga Instructor
  • Certified Personal Trainer