My buddy, Mike is a crusty, old fart. He’s also one of my best friends in the whole world. He, now look at me here, he sucks riding up hills. He’s so bad I actually feel a little sorry for him, because that $#!+ is all mental – he’s strong as an ox on flat ground and he’s a little crazier than I am on the descents (though not by much).
If there was a guy in our group to identify as the best climber, it’d be Chuck. The guy’s part goat, I swear to God. Anyway, I figure if I’m somewhere in his direct vicinity going up a hill, I’m doing well, and I’m usually pretty close to his wheel – but I have to use some tricks to do it.
First, I have to be in the right gear and I wrote about this a few weeks ago… I know when I’m looking at a baby ring climb (that would be my 36t chainring up front on the Venge or the 30t chainring on the Trek). I’ve got nine or ten gears on the cassette that I can use for anything from 2-mph all the way up to 22… I’ve got enough gears to err on the side of the smaller chainrings so I don’t get stuck trying to grind too big a gear.
Second, I shift a lot. I like to match my speed to the climb and then the cadence to the speed I’ve got heading up the hill. I know exactly how hard I have to push on the pedals to bury many of my friends (or just get to the top so I can coast and catch my breath). All I have to do is go one gear easier than that and keep a good cadence (75-90 rpm). If my breathing gets messed up, too fast, too labored, I upshift a gear and climb out of the saddle until my breathing comes back.
Third, I know this: I don’t have to be the first up the hill, as long as I’m not the last. This doesn’t always work out, but I’m pretty good at making sure I’m in the front part of the pack up the hill – better to hammer the hill and recover while everyone else is laboring up. I think, anyway.
Finally, and for me, most important, I had to find a way to like climbing hills. This is, without doubt, the best chance for climbing well – if you like it, you’ll do better at it. That’s how it worked for me. My buddy, on the other hand, can’t like hills. He hates them, because he sucks at climbing them, so he hates them even more… He ends up feeding off of that hate and slowing himself down in the process. Es no Bueno.
One thing is for sure; if I want to get faster on flat ground, hills will do it. Ride hard, my friends.