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  1. #1
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    Best technique for climbing?

    I'm still wondering what the best technique for climbing is. I would consider myself a fairly strong climber, but I still have no idea what the optimum technique is for getting up the hills. I suspect that the technique varies quite a bit depending on the terrain, but I would love to hear from what works best as well as what is allegedly best for climbing.

    Here's what I do in my experience:

    FIREROADS - I actually climb best on these by getting out of saddle and riding the high gear - it's not uncommon for me to ride in my middle ring, middle gear on a 3000' climb, out of the saddle the entire way. I can definitely get much more power by having my body weight down on the pedal as well as handlebar pulldown with the arms that I could get seated. It's true, it's more tiring, but I think that if you can hold it, this will be the fastest. On fireroads, where there's no real technical stuff to slow me down, I generally ride out of saddle. On the other hand, I'm not sure if riding out of saddle really improves my biking form much. I feel that the quad burn is greater when seated, and I'm contemplating staying seated at the cost of going slower to strengthen my quads.

    TECHNICAL UPHILLS, STEEP - These are singletracks steep enough mandate use of your littlegest gear regardless of power, and may have narrow sections to navigate through. The sheer brute force of out of saddle climbing doesn't seem to work here, and often times, the hills are so steep that I can't get enough rear traction while out of saddle. I adopt a "turtle" approach in which I put my chest as low as possible to the bike, and pull with my hands. I haven't seem too many other folks doing this thing, but it seems to work for me. I also tend to do the "chicken bob" as well for more power, even when I'm not tired.

    When I see most other riders around me, I notice that most of them keep a level position, with no bob, and no turtling. It looks like a nice position to adopt, however, I haven't seen enough strong riders to judge whether such a "pretty" position actually works for power climbs. Should I try and adopt this "clean" technique at the cost of speed , for a overall long run improvement in technique?

    Anybody with any tips/advice/comments?
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  2. #2
    KGB Style dirtyamerican's Avatar
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    The only help I can give you is look where you want to go if you are climbing a rocky/rooty section. That way you can avoid (if possible) obstacles that will hurt your efficiency.

    And try going down the hill. If you like climbing you'll absolutely love going down hills.

    And you have a 35 pound bike? How'd you get it so light?

    I'm not trying to bust your balls on this I just think climbing is totally overrated. I'm only having fun. The important thing is that you ride and that's what makes us all cool, no matter what style we choose.

  3. #3
    Newbie erhan's Avatar
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    Best technique for technical climbs is to pedal in circles, trying to distribute equal power for the full stroke. That way you will have less risk of spinning. Pushing down the pedals comes naturally so concentrating on pulling up should be helpful. Also, relaxing upper body saves some energy.
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  4. #4
    sarcasm meter: jerk mode santiago's Avatar
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    I started taking a spinning class at my local gym and found it helped my climbing tons.

    As for climbing up steep, slippery slopes I use the boobs-to-the-bar technique, which sounds like what you do. I then play a balancing act of moving my body weight front and back to make sure I have enough traction between the driving rear wheel and the front steering one.
    First Class Jerk

  5. #5
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    I think that seated climbing is definitely more efficient. But after some recent 'gearing issues' limiting my ratios, I've discovered that hammering up the hill in a higher gear works better in many cases.

    For me, I've found that excessive cadence limits the participation of the 'pull up' leg. It seems by the time I get that rear leg to bite that the cadence is over. The slower cadence in the bigger gear allow me the time to really pull up and truly use every muscle to climb.

    Using the standing method, I seem to get up the hill a LOT faster. But I would still say that sit and spin is more efficient.

    I'm 6'3" and I only use 175mm pedals. I would like to try some 180mm in order to get my cadence down while keeping my pedal velocity at the same rate. Then maybe sit and spin will work better for me.

  6. #6
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    I forgot to add - I'm still a cheapo mtn biker on my heavy steel Gary Fisher bike, so I still need to invest in either toe clips or clipless. No upstrokes for me with my plastic pedals right now, unfortunately!

    I guess that's probably the fastest way to improve my technique, although I actually like the challenge of keeping things tough...(the bike rack that goes all the way up the mtn with me doesn't help as well, hee hee)
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  7. #7
    It is what it is... Minesbroken's Avatar
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    I had a steep hill that was just covered with roots where I ride and at the other end is a 5 foot drop with a slope. I just kept trying everytime I passed it to get up and failed. finally I just parked myself at the bottom and tried over and over again for hours until I made it. I went home after I made it and came back the next day and tried again. I failed the first two times and then got it, Now I make it every time. the only problem I have is trying to adjust my fork for more travel before I get to the drop. Hills are a balancing act from what I gather, its like learning to walk again...once you figure out where your place on that bike is then it will just come naturally after that.
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  8. #8
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    Anticipate

    Quote Originally Posted by agarose2000
    I forgot to add - I'm still a cheapo mtn biker on my heavy steel Gary Fisher bike, so I still need to invest in either toe clips or clipless. No upstrokes for me with my plastic pedals right now, unfortunately!

    I guess that's probably the fastest way to improve my technique, although I actually like the challenge of keeping things tough...(the bike rack that goes all the way up the mtn with me doesn't help as well, hee hee)
    Now, now lets not berate steel. Those crappy steel and good steel. If you're on a Gary Fisher it's good steel. Steel is REAL!!!!

    The industry has gone through a general "STEEL BAD" mode from aluminum marketers. But if you look closely, steel is often the superior material for the application. The one downside is that if you don't paint over the chips (nail polish will do) it rusts. The inherint inferiority of aluminum is that it forms tiny cracks just about EVERY time you flex it. EVERY aluminum frame is systematically breaking piece by piece while you ride it. When it fails, it does so catosrophically.

    Look at the new steelie "Ferrous" offerings from Gary Fisher. You will see that they are charging a premium for bikes with steel frames, a technology that has been largely shunned by the industry. They will sell them all to people who have broken one too many aluminum frames near a weld (the other bad thing about aluminum (sans scadnium) the welding process weakens the adjacent metal).

    You're riding a classic so enjoy it. If you do get a new bike at some point, keep that Fisher steelie around. And most certainly get a pair of clipless pedals so you can utilize your upstroke.

    Finally for the person who commented on rooty climbs. You'll almost always slip over any significant sized root regardless of your tire choice (though lower tire pressure helps). The key is that you must give and extra "oomph" before the rear wheel hits every root. So if you're front wheel hits a root you have to pedal twice as hard.

    MTB is about anticipation. One cannot react on the obstacle or it is too late. Whatever gearing or condition you hit you should be prepared before hand. For climbing hills you must select the right gearing before the hill, otherwise you will probably stall switching gears on the way up.

  9. #9
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    try the clipless pedals, I just switched 2 weeks ago and love them!

  10. #10
    Senior Member Curtis_Elwood's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by willtsmith_nwi
    Now, now lets not berate steel. Those crappy steel and good steel. If you're on a Gary Fisher it's good steel. Steel is REAL!!!!

    The industry has gone through a general "STEEL BAD" mode from aluminum marketers. But if you look closely, steel is often the superior material for the application. The one downside is that if you don't paint over the chips (nail polish will do) it rusts. The inherint inferiority of aluminum is that it forms tiny cracks just about EVERY time you flex it. EVERY aluminum frame is systematically breaking piece by piece while you ride it. When it fails, it does so catosrophically.

    Look at the new steelie "Ferrous" offerings from Gary Fisher. You will see that they are charging a premium for bikes with steel frames, a technology that has been largely shunned by the industry. They will sell them all to people who have broken one too many aluminum frames near a weld (the other bad thing about aluminum (sans scadnium) the welding process weakens the adjacent metal).
    I generally agree with you about "good" steel and "bad" steel. My bike is primarily Columbus Zona steel. Just because he's riding a Fisher, doesn't mean he's riding a bike with "good" steel, though. While the OP didn't give his exact model, if it's a 35lb XC hardtail, it's probably made out of cheap steel. Case in point: The 2006 GF Ferrous was marketed as being made of some proprietary steel made just for Fisher. After I e-mailed them, turns out it was 4130 chromo. Now with the 2007's their using a higher-end steel. Just making the point that reputable brands will use cheap steel from time to time as well. Granted, 4130 is still way better than the pot metal that x-mart bikes are generally made of.
    2006 Marin Pine Mountain FX

  11. #11
    It is what it is... Minesbroken's Avatar
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    I have an old steel hardrock that I still ride, It was my fathers. It's the bike that never dies.
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  12. #12
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    I think for long climbs, the best to do more spinning classes or spin on road (pavement). I have seen road bikers going up long hills and they go with very low gear and high rpm. This seems to work for them but not many mtbiker as we are used to heavier gears and when things get too light, we loose control. Having the rear tires slip while out of saddle is another issue but it depends on what surface you are on and types of tires you have. I ran Nokian NBX 2.3 and barly having any of that problem. Only occurs in very wet and soft mud. Other then that (grass, rocks, soil, roots) no problem. I went to put on some michelin wildgripper and omg it was horrible. Only place they work was sand where I don't loose control. Other then that I have to be on the BACK of my SLR saddle all the time when climbing or else the wheel spins like crazy. Even with the weight on the back so the front easily pops up doesn't get traction. So it depends alot on tires and surface. Some people like to keep their arms closer during narrow climbs to have better control and bent forward down and have sit on the tip of the saddle. I found that gives a lot better control. The cons on that is your lungs don't expand fully while you and bent forward so you get tired in long climbs

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