Hills for the Faint of Heart
You can ride up hills!
Riding up hills can be a daunting prospect for some cyclists, but can also become one of the most rewarding parts of a ride as you discover you can do it!
Here are our completely unscientific but proven-on-the-road tips for conquering the hills.
There are three things you need to get ready for becoming a queen or king of hills climbs.
Most people seem to agree that about 70% of overcoming a physical challenge is in your head, just 30% in your body. If your brain tells you that you can do it, you will; if your brain tells you that you can’t, you won’t.
Set yourself up for success.
Your brain can be trained to know you can achieve a hill climb, by succeeding at climbing a hill. The first time you ride up a hill, make sure it is one you know you can ride up. If you haven’t ridden up a hill since records started, I suggest a gentle hill of 50 metres length. Or less if required. Something ridiculously easy.
Do it a few times until your brain is convinced you’ve nailed it. Next time (less than 1 week later), make it a little further, but not much. And so on: increasing the distance up a hill you ride each time, staying within your ‘success’ level to train your brain to believe you can do it.
As your fitness and confidence increases, you will find yourself starting to want to push your boundary, and finding out how far you can go becomes fun!
Don’t worry if you have a set back, and for some reason last week's achievement seems too hard this week: just go back a step or two to keep your brain convinced that you can do it.
The Hill is your Friend.
If you are going to make it up a long, long hill, you will have to become friends with it, by finding a kind, gentle, steady pace that you can maintain the whole way. Unless you are a Tour de France contender, forget about attacking the hill, going all out hell for leather in the hope of making it to the top. This works for very little hills or super athletes, but not the long ones, or those of us who are mere mortals.
Stop for a rest now and then to enjoy the company of the hill and it's scenery.
Keep your legs happy.
Pushing hard from the start of the hill will fatigue your muscles, leaving you nothing to get you all the way to the top.
Choose as low a gear as you need to keep your legs swinging along with a relaxed cadence (ie how fast your legs go around) at an easy steady pace that you think you can maintain all the way up the hill. Don’t use up all your energy at the start – save it for the rest of the hill as well.
In the process of organizing your brain to deal with hills, you will have dealt with your body as well. Training sessions should ideally be at least twice a week to build on the progress made from the last session. If you just don’t have a lot of time, try to do some little hills as often as you can – it will all help.
To increase your strength and fitness you will need to start pushing yourself a little: but first make sure that your brain is on side and will back you up!
For the hills on the Murray to Mountains ride, your goal should be to be able to ride up a continuous, moderate gradient 4 km hill.
On longer hills, don’t forget to keep drinking, and maybe have a morale boosting snack. Sometimes it helps to get off and walk for a few minutes to use different muscles and give others a rest.
Soft tyres, rubbing brakes, grinding bearings and a rusty chain are like dragging an anchor behind your bike. Get it to the bike shop for a makeover before coming on the ride! It will love you for it, and may be the start of a whole new beautiful relationship!