With a few simple tweaks, you can significantly improve your ascending speed and power.
Want to climb like Campagnolo-using Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) or Guillaume Martin (Cofidis, Credits Solution)? Okay, if not climb exactly like them, at least significantly improve your ascending speed? It is possible with the correct training, techniques and gear.
POWER TO WEIGHT
Your watts per kilo, also known as your power-to-weight ratio, are an important factor when it comes to climbing. Firstly, focus on training effectively to increase your strength and improve your power output. Then, if needed and safe to do so, you can look to lose a little weight.
Remember that weight loss can negatively affect your power output, so there is a fine balance to be struck here.
This doesn’t need to be excessive but broadly, every kilogramme lost results in a 1% increase in speed, or a 10min climb, 1kg lost would save around six seconds. A simple method to cut a small amount of excess fat is to ease back on the carbohydrates during the off-season and consider reducing portion size.
The weight of your bike also plays a factor of course.
PACE YOUR CLIMB
Fitness and strength matters, of course, but arguably pacing’s the most crucial element of them all. If you go off too early, for instance, it’s inevitable that you’ll hit the wall.
That’s why you should look to keep a maintainable pace throughout. This is where a heart rate monitor comes in useful.
If you try and keep under, say, 80-85% of your maximum heart rate, you should ascend okay. If you have a power meter, you can stick to a pre-planned wattage.
Many of us enter a climb in too big a gear, which drains you for numerous reasons including overloading the muscles and the heart. On the flipside, if you always climb in your lowest gear and it’s a day packed with hills, your legs could be blown by hill number three.
That’s why a groupset like Campagnolo’s 12-speed Super Record is perfect for ascents, offering you the perfect gear whatever the gradient. More specifically, the 11/34 rear cassette is the ideal choice for climbs.
STAND OR SIT?
When it comes to ascending, what’s most proficient – to stand or sit? Well, a study out of Japan showed that, in general, seated climbing was most efficient for most climbs. That was until the gradient reached around 10%.
Then, the subjects felt effort drain from their legs. As a one-size-fits-all solution, stand on shorter, punchy climbs; when the hills are shallower, stay seated.
SMALL GOALS, BIG VICTORY
Many riders are psychologically beaten before they even start climbing, looking up at the peak and feeling the challenge is insurmountable.
That’s why you should break your climb down into manageable chunks. A series of shorter goals and landmarks to tick off is mentally less tiring than a huge goal that seems unachievable.
SPIN TO YOUR STRENGTHS
When it comes to cadence, often choice should come down to your build. Aerobic, light riders might aim to hit around 90rpm on the climbs.
Conversely, those who are more muscular and have big, heavy legs should avoid pedalling too fast because gravity’s opposing those heavy limbs on the recovery section of the pedal stroke, causing you to fatigue faster.
Instead, bigger-legged guys may be more efficient using a lower cadence of around 70rpm.
Ultimately, you’ll naturally find your optimum cadence by spending more and more time on the mountains and hills.
Climbing’s all about optimising energy reserves and with that come a few technique pointers to follow. Starting from your head down to your toes, aim to keep your head up with shoulders relaxed and slightly set back. Your hips should be slightly tilted forwards.
Also, maintain good hip to knee to foot alignment and control the heel drop. And don’t forget to unleash a good rotation of the pedal rather than inefficiently stomping up and down.
BREATHE EASY, CLIMB FAST
Your breathing rate tells you a lot about how well you’re coping with a climb; in other words, if you’re panting and breathing shallow, you could be in trouble.
That’s why maintaining control over your breathing is so important. Lose control and your lactate levels will shoot up. Soon, you’ll be leaching power and riding backwards.
It’s a tricky one to master, especially during a real steep ascent, but if you can keep breathing deep from your diaphragm, you’ll maintain a good power output.
IMPORTANCE OF WHEELS
It wasn’t that long ago that you’d choose aero wheels for the flat and true lightweights for the climbs.
Now, the advancement of material technology and the knowledge of experts like those at Campagnolo mean that, for most conditions, aero gains will outperform any weight savings.
The new Bora Ultra WTO wheels can express all the desired characteristics depending on the profile you choose.
Available in versions 33, 45 and 60, each profile excells more in the most suitable soils.