Climb Hills Like a Pro
Powering up hills on a mountain bike seems like an easy task. That's until your back wheel starts spinning in loose dirt or rocks and you end up pushing your bike instead of riding. Much like a rear-wheel-drive vehicle on slick or loose terrain, there needs to be weight directly over the back wheels in order to bite down and propel you forward. Here are a few tips to get you up and over those hills more easily and efficiently.
Loose or rocky trail conditions are the primary reason why climbing hills on a mountain bike is so difficult. If you're not balanced properly, the harder you pedal, the more your back tire slips and spins. To correct this you must position more of your weight over the back wheel by shifting your hips back in the saddle until you gain traction. However, if too much weight is on the back wheel, the front wheel can come off the ground and send you backward off the bike. The trick is to lower your center of gravity by moving your torso towards the bike. This distributes your weight more evenly and keeps traction where it's needed. How far back you position yourself and how much of a horizontal riding position you assume is something that takes practice and experience to determine.
Proper gearing is another factor that takes some practice to get the feel of. Beginners will want to shift well before approaching an incline to avoid a mis-shift or a dropped chain. More experienced riders are able to make this decision quicker and even shift while climbing. Make sure that your in a gear that's low enough to keep cadence high, but not so low that you spin-out and lose your momentum. Much like descending on a mountain bike, momentum can be your friend while climbing. The longer you can maintain a strong, steady, high cadence stroke, the easier it is to hang on to your climbing body position. Cranking too hard or spinning-out can force you to break form and lose control.
Also important to good mountain bike climbing is choosing the right line. It's much easier to maintain a good climbing position and cadence when you're not having to constantly steer around obstacles in the trail. You'll want to obviously avoid huge rocks, roots and logs, but sometimes it's more efficient to take small obstacles head on. This allows you to keep that momentum going and not waste precious energy changing positions.
A lot of mountain bikers hate to climb. Practice these techniques on your next ride and you'll begin to see how rewarding it can be to quickly and efficiently make your way over a tough incline.