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CYCLING UPHILL FASTER - Improve your w/kg

Whether it's the challenge of getting over the legendary local climb, a summer trip to cycle in the mountains or the peculiarly British tradition of late-season hill climb races, cycling uphill faster is on every cyclist's list of goals.

As part of a new client's introduction to Custom Cycle Coaching we go through an in-depth questionnaire to find out, amongst other things, a rider's goals, strengths and weaknesses. Something which inevitably comes up on one of these lists is cycling uphill faster – we all want to improve our climbing! How to go about that is, like everything we do, very individual to that rider and their abilities.

Put simply, climbing faster is about improving your power to weight ratio, or w/kg. However, how best to improve your w/kg depends both on the type of rider and the type of climb. A seasoned hill climb racer might spend the weeks leading up to an important race shaving the final grams off their body and bike, but this is the final piece in the puzzle, after 'the engine' has been optimised. What training to focus on in order to improve your w/kg over different durations depends on the type of climbs you ride, but to be successful your training must be specific to the race demands.

The British hill climb season runs in September and October, culminating in the National Championships. Over the years National Hill Climb Championships have taken place on climbs as varied as Long Hill in 2011, where many competitors chose to use a time trial bike for aerodynamic gains which outweighed the weight penalty on the 3% incline, to Streatley Hill in 2020, a lung-busting 2 minute effort averaging 13% where the best strategy for a fast time is to improve your w/kg and lighten your bike.

This shows how even within the UK, training for the two extremes of climb requires different training, due to the different energy systems used. At Custom Cycle Coaching we use testing to help to determine your physiological strengths and weaknesses and indicate what needs working on. A 2 minute maximal effort has a large anaerobic component whereas a 12 minute climb is much more aerobic. Of course, in the long mountain climbs of Europe the characteristics differ even more and a Grand Tour King of the Mountains might struggle to break the top 10 on Streatley Hill.

While the simple answer to the question 'How do I ride uphill faster?' might be to ride more hills, in reality, optimising your performance goes way beyond that. If climbing is crucial to your goal events we recommend that you examine your individual strengths and weaknesses to determine how you should train, analyse the climb to determine what equipment to use and, possibly the most important of all, how to pace your effort optimally.

So, if you're looking to train for hill climb races get in touch and see what we can do! If you're more about the long Alpine climbs and maybe planning to ride l'Etape du Tour, Marmotte or even the Haute Route events we can help too, both with coaching and our fantastic early season training camps where you will find plenty of fantastic climbs when the Alpine and Pyrenean Cols are still snowbound!

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