Can Road Bikes Go Uphill?

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“Can road bikes go uphill?” The simple answer to this question is “yes,” but it is also important to note, that the elements of good technique must come into play as well. For instance, maintaining good balance, shifting, pedaling technique, and mental toughness are all key to your success.

Body Positioning

As long as you have traction, climbing hills on a road bike is a matter of getting the most power for as little energy as possible. To do so, body positioning plays a big role.

1. Sitting

When you are climbing hills in the seated position, keep your backside on the seat and keep your pedaling rate high to ensure a maximum transfer of energy into power. The best pedaling rate is anywhere between 70 and 90 revolutions per minute.

If you find that you need more power is considered these tips:

  • Lean forward
  • Push your backside to the rear of your seat as you push down
  • Flex your elbows but pull on the handlebar opposite from the leg that’s going down. Doing so will help you engage your gluteal and leg muscles.

2. Standing

As the hill becomes steeper, you will need a lot more power than you can get from sitting so, you will have to stand up. To get more power in this position:

  • When beginning the downward stroke, lean the bike away from the the foot going down.
  • Place your body in a straight line over the foot on the downstroke
  • Lean forward on the handlebars but keep your elbows loose
  • Move your weight to the other foot as you are finishing the first downstroke

3. Pedaling Technique


Your pedaling technique should resemble a scraping motion, as if you are removing dirt or mud off the bottom of your feet. To accomplish this:

  • When your foot is at the bottom of the pedal stroke, move it foot back in the aforementioned scraping motion.
  • Pull up on the pedal and step forward until that foot is ready to do another stroke.

To learn how to do this technique properly, try paddling with one foot until you’re able to do a small circle at least a hundred times. Once you’ve accomplished this feat, do it with the other leg as well.

4. Shifting

Proper shifting is key when climbing a hill in your road bike. If you shift too quickly, you’ll lose momentum. But, on the other hand, if you shift too late, it’ll be harder for you to get up the hill. Consider the following tips for optimal shifting:

  • Keep your pace consistent throughout the climb
  • As soon as your pace begins to slow, shift into an easier gear
  • Ease up on the pedals while shifting to take the pressure off the chain

The gear that you use will be dependent on your level of fitness and the steepness of the hill. More athletic bikers can climb the hill in a higher gear while keeping their pace consistent. Beginner bikers will usually have to use the lowest gear for the majority of the climb.

Mental Toughness

Although proper bike technique is essential to climbing up the hill on your road bike, mental toughness plays a factor here as well. To be a good climber, you have to trick yourself into staying on your bike even when you don’t want to.
To increase your mental fortitude, try breaking the hill down into sections and set achievable goals. For example, you can tell yourself that you just have to make it to the next sign. Then once you’ve reached this point, choose another goal and then another until you make it to the top.

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