When I first started riding again, in mid-May this year, hills were demon-spawns from the Devil himself! No matter what gear I'd use, I'd come to the point where I was huffin' and puffin' like the bad ol' wolfie after the little piggies. So, I figured why not use the lowest gear I can and huff-n-puff up the hill a little faster for all the work? *shrug*
This entire summer I've been commuting to school, usually 4 days each week, and riding for endurance on Fridays and Saturdays. I kept up the lowest possible gear routine on hills, figuring that was the best I could do, all the while envying the spinners who occassionally passed me on the uphill sections.
Today, I'm out for a ride to shake off the blues caused by a recent root canal, and I noticed I'm peddling really well going up one hill that used to quickly put me into panting-dog mode. I look down, and, indeed, I'm one gear higher than usual for the uphill. So on the next hilly spot, I upshift and spin up most of the hill before I hit the huff-n-puff wall.
Woot! It can be done, and I'm on the way to doing it for myself. Take heart fellow hill huff-n-puffers, after a while it DOES get easier and better.