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It’s pretty hilly around San Diego. I haven’t ridden inland to the real climbs, but just riding in North County and then back up Mt. Soladad constitutes climbing in my book.

I’ve never been a great climber. Some days I had my moments, but in general I was just mediocre. I climb steeper hills much better than I climb long, drawn out climbs. I never much liked a typical Colorado climb that went on forever at 6%. That is probably why I always did better in Europe where the climbs had switchbacks and seemed to be at a steeper grade.

Even better for me are the climbs in England or Southern Belgium. Those climbs are super steep, but pretty short, usually less than a couple kms. Climbs like Snake Alley, in Burlington Iowa and on the Stillwater Criterium, in Nature Valley are good climbs for me. Super short and pretty steep.

I’ve ridden up, and down, the World’s Steepest street. It is in Dunedin, New Zealand. It is pretty steep, but short. Just like I like. It is nearly scarier going down the thing because it ends at a T intersection of a busy street and it is pretty hard to scrub your speed enough to stop if you’ve went down it full speed.

It is kind of funny, but you can instantly tell how seasoned a rider is by watching them climb. Especially the first time you see them get off their seat and stand. Standing on a bike is 2nd nature to most of us, but there must be something a little intrinsically difficult to attain, because unless you’ve paid your dues on the saddle, the proper climbing technique never is there. A smooth transition between being seated and standing must be harder than it seems.

It always amazes me how many people don’t pull correctly on the bars, transferring their upper body power down to their cranks. I climb off my seat a lot. Climbing up Mt. Soladad yesterday, I noticed that I seem to be almost pushing my bars back the other direction as much as I’m pulling up on the opposite brake lever on the power stroke. I don’t think I used to do this. It sort of bothered me, since I don’t change my riding style unless something needs to be addressed. I messed around with it most of the 2 miles up the hill. It does seem to be easier helping the rock of the bars. I’m probably not explaining it right here, and I haven’t really figured it out completely, so maybe I’ll just stop trying now until I get it.

I still use bar ends on my MTB bike. I can’t understand how you can climb properly off your seat on a MTB with your hands on the bars. It seems to me that you’re taking a lot of your arm muscles completely out of the equation. Climbing on bar ends is pretty much the same as climbing on your brake levers. And climbing without them seems to me to be more like climbing on the top of your bars. It would nearly be impossible climbing in that position, off your seat, on a road bike.

I guess I’m going out today and try to figure out my “new” climbing technique. Maybe I’ve always done it and just forgot. That seems to be happening more and more nowadays. Or maybe I’ve figured out something that makes me more efficient on the bike. That is what is super cool about the sport. Small tweaks is all it takes sometimes to get a lot better.

Snake Alley is one of my favorite races of the year.

Alpe d'Huez is probably the most famous climb in the world for switchbacks.

5 thoughts on “Climbing

  1. SB

    My out of saddle style changes depending on steepness, fatigue, effort level etc. But I get what you’re saying about the sideways pushing instead of upward pulling. Sometimes I feel like I’m moving the bike under me, others like I’m moving my body over the bike. Only on the really steep stuff or if the pace is super high will I really be pulling on the brakes.

    Want some steep stuff, try this road sometime:

  2. Zach T.

    Canton in Pittsburgh is also considered one of the steepest streets in the world. And it’s cobbled. I’ve ridden it and it’s definitely no joke — I got my front wheel caught between some cobbles and almost tipped over, but since I’m awesome, I saved it. I had to go back to the bottom to try again, though, so maybe I’m not so awesome. Danny Chew does the Dirty Dozen ride and it hits that street and 12 others. Maybe you should give it a try with your new technique? I’ll be there.

  3. Jake

    I still use flat bars and bar ends on my MTB. I don’t understand the current trend of riser bars and no bar ends. Rider bars help you sit up more, but that can be done with spacers or a different stem.

  4. tilford97 Post author

    SB-I’ve raced Talimena a few times. Last time I was there, quite a while ago, I won both Saturday and Sunday. Those hills are amazing. Anyone thinking that Oklahoma is flat should make their way over there. It is some of the steepest roads in the US. Plus, it is beautiful.

  5. Curtis

    I don’t know much about bike racing. Nor did I know much about you. But, when I saw you come out of the saddle and climb the short hill at the crit in Des Moines I immediately knew that guy knows how to ride a bike. While everyone elses motions were rigid and mechanical, yours were smooth and graceful. I’ve followed your blog ever since and secretly rooted you on in every race. Even though I don’t even know you I wanted you to with the sChequamegon 40 so bad. Forget all the naysayers that anonymously post on your blog. You are a true inspiration to everyone who visits this blog even if they won’t admit it.

    You need your own tv show!


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