No Hills? No Problem...

Going up hills is an unavoidable part of riding, but if you don’t live at the foot of a mountain, how can you improve? Ric Stern of has the answers…

Threshold Thrash

Long climbs need to be tackled at just below your aerobic threshold – so raise it to climb faster for longer. “Long intervals on any gradient at 25-mile time trial (TT) effort (85 to 90 per cent) of your maximum heart rate) will do this,” says Stern. “Start with eight-minute intervals, increasing over several weeks to a total of about 24 minutes (3 x eight minutes) with two minutes’ recovery between efforts. Build up to 60 minutes in total, up to three times a week.”

Seated hill sprints

“Find a short hill that takes about two minutes to climb,” says Stern. “Hit it at your normal cruising pace and stay seated the whole way up. Work as hard as a 10-mile TT effort (over 90 per cent max HR), and a cadence of 50 to 80rpm. Add these repeats to a longish ride, and hit them hard. As soon as you get to the summit, select a medium to big gear, like 53x16, and accelerate back down the hill. Repeat at least three times.”

Standing sprints

“Find a slightly shorter, steeper hill with a gradient greater than 10 per cent. Approach it at speed, select the gear you’ll need to get up it – say, 39x17 – then ride hard, out of the saddle. Accelerate hard as you approach the summit. A training partner of equal ability can really help here, as you battle each other. Cadence is up to you – you’re focusing on going up as fast as possible. Start with four intervals.”

Lose weight, gain climbing speed

The simplest way to improve your climbing ability – especially if you have limited time to train – is to lose excess weight. “Write a food diary and cut out all rubbish foods,” say Stern. “Have you trained hard enough to require a bar of chocolate every day? Crisps? Beer? Most likely not, so save these as a special treat. A couple of kilos can make a massive difference on a climb.”