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Old 07-15-10, 10:54 PM   #1
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Climbing on a MTB

I am a competitive road racer, and just getting into xc mtb riding, and im having a really hard time climbing.
When i come to a steep climb, i attack the bottom, make my way up, but often feel as if my bike wants to go vertical. I am putting weight on my front end (or so i feel like im doing), but it still doesn't feel right...

Any suggestions?
What am i doing wrong?
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Old 07-15-10, 11:41 PM   #2
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Get even further forward. Slide way to the front of your saddle (so you feel like it's a romantic night in prison), and get your chest closer to the bars.
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Old 07-15-10, 11:43 PM   #3
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Exactly how are you putting weight on your front end? You should be scooching your butt up to the tip of your seat and leaning over your handlebar. Stay loose and don't stop pedaling. There might be something I missed in there, but the rest comes with practice. It's nothing like road biking, unless you're on pavement.

Oh yeah, and just to be sure, your only problem is keeping the front wheel down? No traction issues?
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Old 07-16-10, 07:46 AM   #4
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My problems with steep climbing have always been either getting vertical or losing traction. I found that when I get vertical, it's because the gear I'm in is too high for the hill. When I lose traction, it's because I was leaning too far forward & the rear tire just slips around. I've found the best solution to both problems is to get a fast start before the climb, & then shift aaalllll the way down to the lowest gear & pedal faster, so that I can give the bike a steadier & more consistent supply of energy instead of giving it short powerful bursts that make the front end want to come up. This, in turn, allows me to lean further make & give the rear tire traction without flipping backwards. It's all about trial & error, & eventually you get it right. I'm still working on it after several months.
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Old 07-16-10, 11:17 AM   #5
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Exactly how are you putting weight on your front end? You should be scooching your butt up to the tip of your seat and leaning over your handlebar. Stay loose and don't stop pedaling. There might be something I missed in there, but the rest comes with practice. It's nothing like road biking, unless you're on pavement.

Oh yeah, and just to be sure, your only problem is keeping the front wheel down? No traction issues?
Only REEALLL time i get traction issues is when i stand-up to climb, but really my biggest problem is the front wheel coming up. I bought flats for the bike because of this.. Sick of peeling off my bike with clipless so much... Still in the rookie stage.
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Old 07-16-10, 11:43 AM   #6
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You should always be standing up for the steep climbs. You can adjust your position & shift your weight so much more that way. I can't imagine doing a steep climb sitting down..no wonder you keep getting vertical!
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Old 07-16-10, 11:46 AM   #7
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You should always be standing up for the steep climbs...
No you shouldn't.
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Old 07-16-10, 11:53 AM   #8
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Did you get fitted when you bought your bike. I have two 20" HTs and they climb different. The best climber, for me has a shorter steerer tube and allows me to keep the center of gravity lower on climbs. It also seems to help with lower back strain on long downhills. In addition to the other good advice already offered, check your tires for the conditions you are riding in. I have some Raptors that are great in loose gravelly stuff. Bontrager AC's for hard pack and rockier climbs. Overall the Bontragers are my favorite tires for riding in the Desert SW. I'm don't know about your region.
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Old 07-16-10, 02:58 PM   #9
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Sometimes when this happens to me it's because I'm holding my upper body too stiffly, which transmits some of the torque I'm putting on the pedals to the handlebars. Have to remind myself often to keep my upper body loose on technical terrain.
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Old 07-16-10, 04:04 PM   #10
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You should always be standing up for the steep climbs. You can adjust your position & shift your weight so much more that way. I can't imagine doing a steep climb sitting down..no wonder you keep getting vertical!
Depends on what type of bike - hardtail or fully... this is OK advice for a hardtail but not so good for a fully. Watch competitive riders... you will see most stay in the saddle (even those riding hardtails) because the bike works better that way. Key is to develop an even and efficient cadance and pedal stoke - so as not to spin out on gravel, dirt or sand. That generally means going into a lower gear. Remember its totally different than road riding 'cause hills are steeper and terrain is loose. Low gear, efficient, smooth, consistant pedal stroke, butt waaaay forward on the saddle, chest bent over the handlebars. It's uncomfortable and takes practice but after a while climbing straight up becomes eas(ier).

Note to add: Stop "attacking" the climb. I bet you spin out alot and lose control. Next time try adjusting the gears to something lower and just "rest" up the climb, working on stroke and position. Once you get that down, then increase gearing and force. You will be amazed!
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Old 07-16-10, 04:40 PM   #11
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rigid upper body pulling back on the handle bars, transferring that force through my body down to the pedals, in conjunction with proper weight distribution (sitting normally for the most part, maybe a little forward) seems to avoid slipping/front wheel going up. that's how id describe it.
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Old 07-16-10, 04:47 PM   #12
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+300 to just relaxing and gearing down a little for your climb. I know on a road bike, you typically only run a double up front. But unless you're worried about being passed by Kabush or something, gear down and relax a little- the attack you pull off on a hill on a mountain bike is different from riding the road. Go slowly until you find a rhythm that works for you- then you'll figure out how you should attack the hills.
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Old 07-16-10, 07:05 PM   #13
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Depends on what type of bike - hardtail or fully... this is OK advice for a hardtail but not so good for a fully. Watch competitive riders... you will see most stay in the saddle (even those riding hardtails) because the bike works better that way. Key is to develop an even and efficient cadance and pedal stoke - so as not to spin out on gravel, dirt or sand. That generally means going into a lower gear. Remember its totally different than road riding 'cause hills are steeper and terrain is loose. Low gear, efficient, smooth, consistant pedal stroke, butt waaaay forward on the saddle, chest bent over the handlebars. It's uncomfortable and takes practice but after a while climbing straight up becomes eas(ier).

Note to add: Stop "attacking" the climb. I bet you spin out alot and lose control. Next time try adjusting the gears to something lower and just "rest" up the climb, working on stroke and position. Once you get that down, then increase gearing and force. You will be amazed!
I ride a fully rigid bike, so I guess what works best for me is in the vast minority these days. But for me, standing up & having my a$$ just about an inch or so above the saddle works best. That way I can make quick adjustments to my position if I need to. I assumed, since this guy admits to being a beginner in MTBing, that he had a hardtail.
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Old 07-16-10, 07:06 PM   #14
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Also, I don't have any competitive mountain bikers to watch to learn from their styles. Only videos on Youtube (which rarely, if ever, show someone climbing a hill) & myself.
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Old 07-16-10, 10:30 PM   #15
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I ride a fully rigid bike, so I guess what works best for me is in the vast minority these days. But for me, standing up & having my a$$ just about an inch or so above the saddle works best.
And here I again deal with reality versus theory. Coming from a road bike, I understand that seated spinning is supposed to work best. But from having to climb on an old, heavy, rigid bike, I've found that getting your ass out of the saddle and standing to climb anything reasonably short is the best way to deal with hills.
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Old 07-17-10, 10:26 AM   #16
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And anyone who knows the real meaning of the word steep on a MOUNTAIN BIKE (I started out on the road as well) knows that there is a limit to the effectiveness of standing. Every bike has its limit to how steep it can climb before it needs an ass on its saddle for traction. If you haven't found that point, you're not realizing your bike's (or your own) full potential.
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Old 07-17-10, 12:54 PM   #17
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I have seen some very steep climbs albeit short on certain sections and find it is all relative to the terrain your tires are rolling over at that point in time whether you remain seated and switch to the baby chain ring or adjust accordingly and stand and mash the pedals. Also you may want to check what your tires are geared for???? Some are better climbers than others and then you have the middle of the road that gives you the best of all situations or creeps into both, better put that way.

Plus I too am a converted roadie and mtb is a different beast in my opinion. More quick spurts of power and more constant gear changing as compared to road riding. So try and find what works best but I bet once you get your legs accustomed to mtb you will find climbing gets easier and when to stand as compared to sit.
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Old 07-17-10, 04:52 PM   #18
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I like this!
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Old 07-17-10, 11:07 PM   #19
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And anyone who knows the real meaning of the word steep on a MOUNTAIN BIKE (I started out on the road as well) knows that there is a limit to the effectiveness of standing. Every bike has its limit to how steep it can climb before it needs an ass on its saddle for traction. If you haven't found that point, you're not realizing your bike's (or your own) full potential.
Are we talking long, steady, steep ascents , or short steep ascents? I am a spinner and haven't built up enough muscle to be a good out-of-the-saddle climber, but I've found steep ascents easier when out of the saddle. I've encountered a few ascents steep enough to spin tires while climbing, but I couldn't imagine taking them while seated. Seems like I would need my body up and over the handlebars to keep the bike from pulling up...

Then again, I'm new to this game.
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Old 07-18-10, 01:52 PM   #20
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I've encountered a few ascents steep enough to spin tires while climbing, but I couldn't imagine taking them while seated. Seems like I would need my body up and over the handlebars to keep the bike from pulling up...

Then again, I'm new to this game.
Sounds like you're on the right track. You do indeed need to be up and over your handlebars, but also seated depending on the terrain. Every section has its own properties, and the only way to know what each one requires is to try it.

NurnNotice also mentioned tires, which is a big factor in traction whether standing or sitting. There's a section on a trail I recently explored that I just know I could get up if I swapped from my Black Panthers at 28 psi back to the Fire XC Pros at about 25 psi. I'm not a fast rider, so being able to stay on the bike over technical stuff is a source of pride for me.
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Old 07-19-10, 03:53 PM   #21
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how you climb depends on how technical the trail is, how steep, how sandy, how rocky, etc. sometimes if you sit and grunt up it's best, sometimes you need to stand to get that extra power. that is difficult if you have to pick your way through rocks or step up a rock going up a hill. in general you need to keep your weight balanced between front and back. too far back and your front wheel tends to come up. too far front you lose traction on the back wheel. usually you have to shift weight as you climb, give some traction to the back wheel, give some traction to the front, etc. i assume you know about "rowing" your way up the hill, where you pull on your handlebars as you push on the pedals. i like to pedal as far as i can get, and walk up the rest of whatever hill i'm climbing. i don't mind walking, i have nothing to prove.
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Old 07-19-10, 04:06 PM   #22
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i like to pedal as far as i can get, and walk up the rest of whatever hill i'm climbing. i don't mind walking, i have nothing to prove.
Oh don't get me wrong... I walk alot. That's why they make comfortable walking shoes for mountain biking. I tease friends I just took my bike along with me to hike the North Rim of the Grand Canyon... that said... it really is a matter of practice, trial and error and more practice. There is a danger in standing while grunting up some steep stuff... if you hit a rock or rut, more likely you will be tossed over the bars than not. It is more efficient and safer to stay in the saddle. I've taken a few clinics and all of the trainers have told me to stay in the saddle on climbs. There are times, of course, to stand up, but mostly to adjust ones position, or during descents. I have found, if I get in a nice low gear, work on a steady, consistant cadence, I am much better able to ride up almost everything. I tried the grunting up as far as I can go then stop and walking and frankly that is harder.

It may depend on the terrain of course. Most of what I ride on is steep, rutty, rocky, sandy and loose. It's easy to loose momentum and it takes great strength to get over some obstacles. It is much better to "rest" up a climb, saving that strength for when it is needed, then to power and have no strength when needed.

But to each his own. I have a good friend who stands on her fully all the time and climbs great. I have another friend who never stands and climbs great. It's what works for them. However, I do suggest you try the staying in the saddle and see if that doesn't help your climbing. Again, gear down, don't attack, steady cadence. Good luck.

And Chelboed - that photo was taken in the Fall 2007 on top of my favorite trail, Cactus (appropriately named), in Limestone Canyon right after I got my new Santa Cruz (now old). That is my riding buddy waiting for me on the top of the climb.
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Old 07-22-10, 02:00 PM   #23
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NurnNotice also mentioned tires, which is a big factor in traction whether standing or sitting. There's a section on a trail I recently explored that I just know I could get up if I swapped from my Black Panthers at 28 psi back to the Fire XC Pros at about 25 psi. I'm not a fast rider, so being able to stay on the bike over technical stuff is a source of pride for me.
Urbanknight, is your terrain very rocky/rooty or loose? I also run a Panaracer Fire XC Pro on the back wheel (usually on a Hutchinson Python but now too pricey to buy again), and I am having traction problem on steep uphill of loose dirt or on exposed granite rock. I run around 36 psi, which maybe a little high, I dunno, but I feel that for the rest of the terrain, 36 is good (tube tires, not tubeless), and I'm on a hardtail, so tooo high is hard on the multiple roots, and too low... well. And that Fire XC Pro tire feels like a real tractor tire, but it's a 2.1, I should try a 1.9 maybe? My plan is to swap it for a IRC Serac XC which I have in front right now.
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Old 07-23-10, 09:18 AM   #24
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I stand up on my surly 1x1 and mostly stay seated on my kona. +1 for chin over the stem on a steep climb.
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Old 07-23-10, 07:00 PM   #25
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Urbanknight, is your terrain very rocky/rooty or loose? I also run a Panaracer Fire XC Pro on the back wheel (usually on a Hutchinson Python but now too pricey to buy again), and I am having traction problem on steep uphill of loose dirt or on exposed granite rock. I run around 36 psi, which maybe a little high, I dunno, but I feel that for the rest of the terrain, 36 is good (tube tires, not tubeless), and I'm on a hardtail, so tooo high is hard on the multiple roots, and too low... well. And that Fire XC Pro tire feels like a real tractor tire, but it's a 2.1, I should try a 1.9 maybe? My plan is to swap it for a IRC Serac XC which I have in front right now.
Rocky, but not very rooty (very few trees where I ride), with very little loose sand. The one spot I referred to above actually has a lot of loose chunks and some roots. Most other places around here (including the rest of that trail) love my Vredestein Black Panthers. The traction is great on slick rock, especilly with lower pressure. The Fire XCs are just as good traction-wise in this stuff, but just aren't nearly as fast when I'm cruising the smoother sections.

Narrower tires are hard to find a good pressure on, because too low means pinch flats. 36 seems a little high unless you're a clyde, but only you can decide for sure. I wouldn't go narrower. The only thing keeping me from going wider is my 22mm wide rims.
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