There is more to climbing than pedalling hard. Better technique will not only make you faster, but it will be less effort to get up. On a 24-hour circuit, there is as much climbing as there is descending. Mastering these basic techniques will have a big impact on your race.
Avoid changing gear when the chain is under a lot of tension, so try to enter the hill on the same gear you are in at the top. This is because derailleur systems struggle to change gear when under tension – forcing you to slow down making you more likely to stall.
Selecting a gear
When it comes to selecting a gear there are two camps – the grinders and the spinners. Spinners argue that you should select a lighter gearing to reduce the amount of force you put through the pedals. Grinders argue you should throw down as much force as it takes to get to the top as quickly as possible. Naturally, there are arguments for both – spinning makes it easier to save if you lose control of your rear wheel and it reduces the work your legs do; grinding allows you to put down more force and ride faster.
Which is better? This argument has been going forever, and it has been shown that while spinning reduces muscle fatigue generally, every rider has a ‘gearing’ whereby they are more efficient and it is down to your ratio of fast to slow twitch fibres.
‘Weighting’ refers to where you put your weight relative to the centre of the bike. Putting your weight towards the front of the bike is known as over-weighting and moving it backwards is known as under-weighting. Over and under-weighting the bike have different effects and on some steep, loose hills you may have to keep moving your weight around!
Climbing a steep slope will naturally push your weight backwards which makes you more likely to lift your front wheel when pedalling. To keep control, you’ll need to push more weight to the front to fight this tendency.
Over loose terrain, if your weight is too far forwards, you may end up spinning your rear wheel, which can stall your forward momentum. If you feel this happening, move your weight back over your rear wheel – giving it more grip.
Know your limit
This is the least ‘rock-n-roll’ idea on this site – during an ultra it is far more important to keep moving than burning all your energy on one hill! Sometimes getting off and walking is simply a better call in the long run..