MTB Technical Climbing Techniques, Cadence & Mistakes
We have all been at the point where we can no longer hold speed or traction and get off the bike instead of riding. This is where your knowledge in MTB technical climbing comes into play. Riders that understand how to position themselves on the bike and the speed to hit the climb, often power away from other riders. In this article, we help you learn how to ride technical climbs with more confidence and control. You can then start implementing these tips into your mountain bike training plan.
MTB Technical Climbing – What You Should Know?
There is a lot more than just pedaling up a hill when you see the correct MTB technical climbing method. Riding up technical climbs require constant shifting of your balance between the front and rear of the bike. Your speed also matters and knowing at what speed to hit the climb at takes time and knowledge to learn.
This might sound all too easy, but it is far from that. To be successful at technical climbing, patience and training are required. Below are some basic guidelines to help get you starting in learning the correct climbing technique.
Choose The Right Speed
Prior to beginning the climb, it is important to understand the speed at which you tackle the climb. While you may be thinking faster is better, this is not always the case. Choosing the right amount of momentum depends on the length, grade, and how technical the climb is.
If the climb is a short technical one, you may be able to use speed and momentum to ride over the climb. This is where the suspension will do most of the work, allowing you to quickly roll over any obstacles at speed. However, if the climb is relatively long (2 minutes or more) your suspension won’t offer the same benefit. As your speed will start to decline as you reach the top.
This is where choosing the correct gear is vital. Make sure that you hit the climb in a gear that isn’t too large or on the contrary, a gear that has you over-spinning.
Balance Your weight Correctly
MTB technical climbing requires constant moving of the body between the front and back of the bike. So, it is important when climbing to keep your center of mass over the pedals. But you must allow for short periods of movement (back and forward) to keep the weight on both tires.
If while climbing your front wheel starts to lift, quickly shift your weight forward. This will help to counteract the effects of falling backward. If you find your back wheel starts to spin out, shift your weight to allow the wheel to regain contact with the ground. Often times with technical climbing you may need to shift a lot of weight, even for only a few seconds.
MTB Climbing Techniques
While road cycling has various types of climbing positions, MTB climbing techniques often revolve around the technical aspects of the climb. This dictates whether you would stand up during the climb or stay seated. The gradient plays a major role in this, as well as how much contact you have to the ground.
The right climbing technique is the one that suits the climb. Often there are climbs where you need to stay seated for the majority of the climb because of the gradient. Other times you may need to spend an equal amount of time seated and standing.
This requires trial and error on the rider’s part. But if you start to find you are losing momentum on a climb, try standing up to get a short burst of speed. This will help you gain a small amount of momentum to allow you to sit back down and regain contact with the ground.
Mountain Bike Hill Climbing Technique
The right mountain bike hill-climbing technique depends on the difficulty of the climb as well as the length. For short steep climbs, a mixture of seated pedaling and standing is recommended. This will allow you to hold the momentum you took into the climb. Often the shorter climbs are more technical and require short standing efforts to ride over bumps, rocks, or roots.
For a less technical and longer climb, a seated position is recommended. This allows you to hold a more controlled speed and requires less energy expenditure than standing. Often the longer climbs are less technical and you don’t have the changes in speed that you have over short technical climbs. The power can be controlled easier and the is less difficulty keeping contact with the ground.
To sum it up, the more difficult the climbs are with rocks, roots, or traction will require a mixture of seated and standing periods. Climbs with less of these features, allow a more controlled speed, thus requiring you to stay seated for longer.
MTB Climbing Cadence
Learning to ride a variety of cadences is crucial in mountain biking. Your MTB climbing cadence can often dictate how well you are able to climb. Unlike road cycling where you can often hold a more controlled cadence, mountain biking requires regular adjustment of your cadence when climbing. This is mainly because of the variations of gradients and roots, rocks and logs you may find on the trail.
For less technical climbs you may be able to hold a more stable cadence. But with technical climbs, you will need to shift this more frequently. So it is recommended that you learn to ride at periods of 90-95 rpm. This will allow you to shift to an easier gear and ride over any rocks, roots, or bumps on the trail. Once you have ridden over these obstacles you can then look to settle the cadence back down. This will allow the heart rate to drop, well until the next obstacle turns up that is.
Common MTB Climbing Mistakes
It’s often normal for newbie mountain bikers to make mistakes when tackling harder or more technical climbs. One of the most common MTB climbing mistakes is to hit the climb in a large gear. This often leads to a rapid stop partially up the climb. This is because they lose momentum quickly, they aren’t able to regain it when rapidly shifting up to an easier gear.
Another mistake that is often seen is hitting the climb in a too easier gear. This brings the rider to the base of the climb with little speed, which doesn’t allow them enough momentum to ride over some obstacles. This often forces the rider to stand and try to gain speed, but more often they end up lose contacting with the ground instead.
Climbing technique can take months of practice to master, so try to vary the types of climbs you do in training. Practice reaching the climb at different speeds, and practice points of the climb where you should be standing or seated.
If you struggle with increasing your cadence while climbing, SportCoaching offers a cadence training plan suited to both road and mountain bike riders. It will increase your cadence and allow you to handle variations of cadence during climbing or flat riding.