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Tips for a Hilly Bike Ride

Learning tips for riding the hills better is particularly important for triathletes since they need to be as efficient as possible in the bike portion of the race, in order to save energy for the running portion. In this blog, we will give you a couple of tips for a hilly bike ride to get through safely and efficiently during training and on race day. 

Equipment for a Riding the Hills

The bike itself is not the main concern here unless the bike course of your race is extremely hilly. In this case, a road bike would be more helpful than a triathlon bike. However, when talking about hills, your cassette and wheels are more important. Generally speaking, a cassette that has more teeth on the largest sprocket, will allow you to spin easier. Additionally, the type of wheels on your bike can be another element that can be helpful. It is better and to have wheels that are lighter and even if they are not the most aerodynamic ones.

Maintain Your Energy

tips for a hilly bike ride

Regardless of how long or steep a hill is, the key to conquer it is maintaining a steady amount of energy. Hammering parts of a hill, and then slowing down significantly, will only result in you spending a lot more energy. Instead of focusing on speed, you should try to maintain the same heart rate (or power, if you train with that) throughout your climb.

Watch Your Pedal Stroke

A simple way to be more efficient while riding the hills is by adjusting your revolutions per minute (rpm). A higher rpm, somewhere between 90 and 100, will help you save more energy. This might seem counterintuitive because you seem to be pedaling more, however, you are not wasting as much energy as you would with a slower and harder pedal stroke.

Focus on Your Form

You should also consider your position on the saddle. Seating further back, rather than forwards, can help you get more power from muscles like your glutes or hamstrings. Additionally, a more upright position can help you expand your lungs, making it easier to breathe. Something else to look out for is your heels. Make sure you are are not pedaling with your toes. Keep your foot flatter and drop your heel even more if you next extra push to get to the top of the hill.

Specific Workouts

Practice makes perfect, and that is also the case for riding hills. The more you practice these tips for riding the hills during your training, the easier they will be on race day. 

It can be helpful for you to incorporate hill-specific intervals into your training plan. Ideally, you should be doing high repetitions for intervals no longer than 2 minutes, rather than fewer repetitions for longer periods of time. Doing this can be beneficial if you’re trying to improve your climbing endurance. Additionally, if you are used to using a trainer, it is a good idea to add some single-leg pedaling drills to gain strength, fix imbalances, and improve your pedal stroke.

You’re Ready to Ride The Hills!

These tips are simple enough, but make a world of difference when hitting the hills for a bike ride. Keep these tips in mind before you get out for your next ride: Expert Cycling Tips for Riding the Hills

    • check your cassette
    • maintain your energy
    • adjust your bike pedal stroke
    • be aware of your form
    • practice regularly

With the help of these tips, you’ll be ready to conquer the hills on any ride!

My first open road solo bike ride was a windy one

Holy smokes was the wind blowing fiercely during my first open road solo bike ride. Barny, my coach, picked the windiest day for my first long bike ride! On Saturday, April 14th, I took my no-longer-brand-new-to-me bike out for my first venture onto the open road by myself. Sharing the road with vehicles without the comfort of a group ride was intimidating. Before I left the house, I made sure I had my helmet, brightly colored clothing, lights, nutrition, and hydration. Prepared for every situation was comforting. What I needed was a bubble to protect me from the 30-40 mph wind gusts.

solo bike ride

2018 Rookie Tri bike course.

In late March, I previewed the 11.2-mile Rookie Tri bike course with a group of about 60 cyclists from the Austin Triathlon Club. On my solo bike ride, the Rookie Tri bike course was sandwiched in between an out-and-back on the Southern Walnut Creek Trail. The excessive wind become evident right when I started, but I wouldn’t let it deter me. I’ve ridden a couple times on the trail, but never to the end. I studied Google Maps so that I knew every turn and when the trail would end. Signage where I turned onto the Rookie Tri bike course says the trail is 7.75 miles long. But if you cross Decker Ln. you can ride another 2+ miles of trail just west of Decker Lake. If you parked at Govalle Neighborhood Park and rode the entire out and back you’d complete ~20 miles. I don’t think I got lost, but there were a couple times where I second-guessed where I was. I ended up riding 32 miles in 2:11:33.

My solo bike ride

The Southern Walnut Creek Trail is perfect for introductory bike rides. The trail is 10-feet wide in most places and only narrows on some bridges. There is an honest incline once you get towards the end of the trail, but otherwise, it’s relatively smooth. The trail follows Daffen Ln. and ends near Decker Elementary School. This is where my journey on the Rookie Tri bike course began. I’m familiar with the course, having cycled on it and run on it during the 2016 Decker Challenge. I know where the hills are, I know where the sharp turns are, I know where the shoulders disappear because of the bridges (side note: know your cycling hand signals to let others know your intentions).

solo bike ride

Know your cycling hand signals.

The wind was blowing so strong that there were times where I could barely control my wobbling bike. I managed, but at times I would have to drop a gear when cycling into the headwind. It was nice when the wind was at my back, but that wasn’t as frequent. It was normally head on or hitting me from the sides! I pushed through the inclines, tamed the wind, and eventually made it back to Decker Elementary. Boy was I happy to see that school, it meant I was at the Southern Walnut Creek Trail entrance. I popped off my bike for a few minutes and sat under a tree eating some energy beans and drinking my nuun performance.

I hopped back on my bike to complete my last real trek into the headwind. Riding alongside Daffen Ln. didn’t get any better with the wind until I crossed Johnny Morris Rd. and turned south on the trail. The wind died down a bit once I was back on the trail, but there were a few gusts that made sure I paid attention. The views along the trail are phenomenal this time of year, especially with water in Walnut Creek.

After my solo bike ride

solo bike ride

32 miles. DONE.

Aside from general soreness after my 32-mile solo bike ride, the pain I felt most was from sitting on my seat. I’ll spare you the details. Remember, I’ve never pedaled more than 18 miles. The last 6-8 miles weren’t my fastest because I was standing up at certain times, not pedaling. Thank goodness the Rookie Tri bike course is only 11.2 miles!

Want to take the same route I did but with a group? Then join the Austin Tri Club’s group ride on April 21st!