Improve your climbing

Whether you are about to enjoy a leisurely weekend ride in the sunshine or you’re training for a 100-mile sportive, sooner or later you’ll encounter a hill that you need to get up and over. The hills are where you really find out whether you have good fitness or you need to refocus your efforts when training, says sports scientist Andy Blow.

The number-one priority if you want to improve your climbing is to increase your power-to-weight ratio. There are three main ways to do this: firstly by increasing the power output you can sustain, secondly by losing weight and thirdly by doing a bit of both.

Losing weight should not be the sole focus of your training as there are many inherent dangers in doing this and it’s likely you’ll lose power too if you are not being monitored by a qualified coach.

Increasing your sustainable power output on the other hand is definitely something that you can do very effectively, especially with the help of an indoor trainer like the Wattbike. The in-built features of the Wattbike enable you to quantify your performances, test yourself regularly and improve your pedalling technique.

Many of the climbs you’ll encounter in the UK are short and sharp so becoming good at these requires a slightly different training approach than for a long Alpine climb. It’s worth pointing out though that even on relatively short climbs power-to-weight ratio is still the main factor that dictates your level of performance, however bigger riders with a higher absolute power output can definitely compete more equally with lighter climbing specialists on short ascents.

To be good at short climbs the main requirement is to be able to hold a high level of wattage for a short period of time and then to recovery quickly and do it again, as often you will be required to do lots of short climbs back to back in an event on rolling terrain.

To train for this indoors, consider doing interval sessions with very hard but short efforts (30 seconds to two minutes) with varied amounts of recovery for maximum effectiveness. Bear in mind that these kinds of sessions are very tiring though, especially when you first start doing them, so they should probably not be done more than once a week and combined with a relatively easy day either side for recovery.

Of course, to make these sessions more climbing-specific, you may feel the need to get out of the saddle a little more and keep the gearing slightly higher as loading up the legs is less of an issue for these short reps. Keep an eye on your pedalling technique when out of the saddle as standing up often has a significantly detrimental effect.

Climbing ability on a bike predominantly comes down to having an excellent power-to-weight ratio over the time period that it takes to get over the hills you’re tackling. Training regularly on an indoor bike like the Wattbike, which gives accurate feedback on your power-to-weight ratio, means you can carry out controlled training sessions at, and around, the power output you think you can hold for the duration of key climbs to stimulate adaptations that will eventually allow you to ride the hills faster, for longer.

Happy climbing from the team at Wattbike.