Text Box: To enjoy, and sometimes just to survive a climb, pacing is everything!    
Text Box: Unlike riding on the flat, where if you get in trouble you can coast, on climbs there is no rest for the wicked.  If you start too hard, you will be forced to continue on in miserable suffering and pain or stop and wait for your heart to catch up with your mis-guided ambitions.

It is important to understand the both Heart Rate and Perceived Effort lag behind in their response to higher level efforts.  In the case of very hard efforts, that lag can be around 30 seconds.  If your effort is more in the medium hard range, there can be a lag of up to 5 minutes.  By lag, I mean, you will start the effort feeling very good and thinking that you are riding at an sustainable pace.  The truth is:  Unless you have started out at a pace that seems VERY EASY, your system will be creating Lactic Acid, depleting muscle glycogen, dehydrating and otherwise damaging your muscle cells.  All this is going on while you feel great, at least for the first 30 seconds to a few minutes.  Then you start to feel the BURN and shortly after this the BURN become the ALL CONSUMING FIRE not only in your legs but in your lungs, while your heart is trying to leap out of your chest.  In short, IT’S NO FUN ANYMORE.  So remember to start all climbs real easy.  This often means that you will have to let the group you are riding with go.  That’s OK.  On most climbs riding with a group is counter-productive, as you are forcing yourself to try and maintain the same pace as the strongest climber in the group.  Instead you should be focusing on maintaining the proper pace for you.

I have never seen any law which says that you must climb as fast as you abilities allow, yet it seems that this is how most people approach a climb.  How about focusing on “How much Fun” you can have, not “How much Pain”

So once again, in case you haven’t been paying attention, SLOW DOWN.  If you are going at the proper pace you breathing pattern should be deep but regular and you should still be able to converse with someone, although between breaths.  If you breathing becomes ragged and gasping you are done, well done, no need to put a fork in you, you’re cooked.  Climb mostly seated, as standing brings in the upper bodies muscles and uses more energy, driving you heart rate up higher.  Focus on breathing out deeply.  It is on the outward breath that the CO2 and Lactic is purged from your body.  Most of us never use our full lung capacity, taking shallow, panting breaths.  Relax and breathe out smoothly and deeply using the stomach to drive the diaphragm.  This will often lower your heart rate by a couple beats.  Don’t worry about breathing in as that happens naturally.  Also use gears that are appropriate for your ability.  Most club riders should have Triple Chain Rings up front and the largest available cluster on the back.  This usually allows a 27 or 28 on the rear.  Another option, to increase the gearing further, is to install a mountain bike derailleur on the back along with mountain bike gears.  This will allow you to install a rear gear of 30, 32 or even 34 teeth.  With a triple and a mountain bike setup, you can end up with a 30 front 34 rear, which should allow you to pull out old tree stumps out in the south pasture.  Much more detail on the benefits and mechanics can be found in another article on this site, “Cadence and Gearing”

Never let your breathing get ragged.  Focus on the smoothness of your pedal stroke.  Don’t stomp as this brings your fast twitch muscles into play.  They are baaaaaaddddd.  Fast twitch cells eat up fuel like candy, create lactic acid like teenagers run up cell phone bills and fatigue quickly bailing out on you like all your good buddies on moving day.  Apply the pressure on the pedal with a smooth and steady increase in pressure.  This allow the body to recruit more slow twitch muscles, which have none of the bad traits of those show off, fast twitch cells.  

If the climb is so steep that these techniques don’t work, or if you refused to pay attention, and now your in trouble, stop and take a picture.  One of the reasons you should be climbing is because this is where the best views are.  Stop often and enjoy them.  Stop plodding along, staring a hole in your front tire, look around; enjoy the spectacular scenery that we have around us.  And lest we forget, “Go Slooowwwww”

A couple quick points on Nutrition.  Prior to the start of a climb is a good time to eat a gel.  Also make certain that you stay hydrated.  This last is especially important during the Summer Heat.  When it is hot, 90+, be especially cautious.  Do poor water over your head, and do take breaks often in the shade.  Your body spends most of it time warming itself; remember your body temperature is suppose to stay a 98.6.  However, your body also generates a tremendous amount of heat during exercise, and this couple with outside temperatures above 90 will force you body into a cooling mode.  Many of us either live near or ride near the beach here in California.  Because you spend most of your time exercising in cooler weather you are especially susceptible to over heating or heat exhaustion.  When it happens, it will hit you quickly.  You may feel light headed, you will lose about half of your power, and you may have nausea.  Immediately get to the nearest cool shade and sit down, if it is available, poor water over your head and drink a cool liquid.  The good news is that once you cool off you will be OK, but take this seriously and be careful during the summer months. 

And lastly, slow down, you will be amazed at what you climb if you take it easy.