Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Beaverton, OR
Bikes: 2013 Kona Jake, 2015 Kona Jake the Snake, 2008 Kona Major Jake, 2013 Kona Jake the Snake, 2006 Kona Kula, 2012 Ridley Excalibur, 2008 Surly Long Haul Trucker, 2001 LeMond Buenos Aires, 1984 Pinarello Gran Turismo, 1982 Trek 614, 1979 Austro-Daimler
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I have the same problem, and in fact posted the same question in the CX racing sub-forum just a couple of weeks ago. I've been doing a weekly race series that has the situation you describe in the course every week. Just when I thought I was getting the hang of it, they changed the approach angle just a little and made it steeper (that or I relapsed in my technique).
With the understanding that anything I say could be entirely wrong, it seems to me that this situation is about three things: (1) power, (2) traction and (3) weight transfer. I have a mind boggling lack of power, and there's not a lot I can do about that in the short term. Traction is generally limited by the conditions and your tires, though the weight transfer has a huge effect. So really, it's all about weight transfer.
What was (sort of) working for me was this:
At the advice of someone here, I gave my second lowest gear a try and I think that helped. The whole thing is over quickly, so using a higher gear for just a second to get even a little speed into the hill is worth sacrificing a little in the gear you're in on the hill. Ideally, I think you'd down shift as soon as you hit the hill, but that's probably too much of a risk mechanically even if you could pull it off.
Next, as I hit the hill I tried to push down on the pedals and pull up on the bars. I read somewhere that it's kind of like jumping -- you want to start out crouched and time it so that you reach a full standing position just as you crest the hill. I have no idea if I did this right, am describing it right or even if it really applies in this situation.
Finally, front-to-back weight distribution is critical throughout this process. You need enough weight on the back tire to keep traction, but you need enough weight on the front tire to keep it from lifting off the ground (but no more). I don't know if there's a trick to this. As far as I can tell, you just need to develop a feel for it.
In the end, I think the absolute slowest thing you can do in this situation is try to ride the hill, fail and end up doing an awkward dismount halfway up. If you know you can't pull it off, it probably isn't a lot slower to dismount at the bottom and run it -- unless of course there's something immediately afterward that requires a quick clip-in.