6 Steps to Mastering Uphills on an MTB

Marcelo Gutierrez on a Cross Country bike pedaling up a steep climb at La Leyenda del Dorado

One of the biggest challenges when riding a mountain bike, whether recreationally or professionally? Of course, it's the steep climbs, and I'm sure many of you have realized that it's not just about being physically fit, which is VERY important, but technique also plays an equal or even more significant role to climb more comfortably and efficiently and not see every ascent as an endless ordeal.

In MTB, the technique and strategy we use while biking uphill are not exclusive to professionals and experienced riders; anyone who enjoys biking in any of its forms, paces, and settings should have solid foundations to ensure they enjoy it.

So, let's start with the 6 key points to master steep climbs and not perish in the attempt.

1. Line Choice

Choosing the right line is crucial, so it's important to avoid treacherous terrains and look for solid or the cleanest areas possible. A suitable line provides a more efficient path, avoiding unnecessary obstacles and inclines. Generally, it's preferable to take turns in an open or round manner, that is, on the flattest part, which usually involves less risk and effort.

Marcelo Gutierrez pointing out the correct line for a steep uphill bike ride

2. Posture and Pedaling

The way we sit and pedal on the bike profoundly affects traction. We've all experienced that moment when, after a pedal stroke, the bike skids, forcing us to exert extra effort to remain upright and continue riding. To avoid this unnecessary energy expenditure, the key is to lean your chest towards the handlebars and sit on the tip of the saddle. This will significantly improve the bike's grip on the terrain. Remember to maintain a steady cadence to avoid skidding and keep a suitable gear ratio.


3. Proper Use of Pedals

If you are someone who uses shoes without cleats, pay close attention to your foot's positioning on the pedal and ensure the pedal has a good grip and a solid platform for foot support. This means the ball of your foot should be on the pedal, leaving the heel relatively free. This ensures good mobility and control and helps prevent discomfort, inefficient pedaling, and potential injuries from poor posture.

Now, if you use clipless pedals, one might say you have a bit of an advantage and experience. Nevertheless, you should ensure that your cleats are correctly positioned, as misalignment could lead to injuries, discomfort, or inefficient pedaling.

Lastly, knowing when and how to stand on the pedals is crucial. The body's core plays a vital role in maintaining balance and generating power simultaneously.


4. Starting Uphill

No matter how much we try to avoid it, there will be times when we must stop mid-climb. Whether due to an unexpected obstacle or simple fatigue, the trick lies in how to restart. This is where the coordination of body movements comes into play to achieve the following: mounting, being correctly positioned, and pedaling without skidding.


PRACTICE IS KEY, not just once, but many times, because it's a matter of coordination that only practice will provide. I recommend intentionally stopping on uphill terrains such as dirt, asphalt, rocks, gravel, grass, etc... and understand the differences between terrains so that little by little, you become a master of uphill riding without fearing unexpected stops.


5. Gear Ratio

The correct use of gears is essential. The key here is to maintain a smooth ratio to ensure cadence, but not so light that we don't progress enough, and the energy expenditure is higher. Remember, it's not the strongest who climbs the best, but the one who does it efficiently and with the right technique.

Click here to watch a complete video on how to use the gears on your bike.


6. Maintain Balance

Climbing slowly means balance. The key is to practice balancing on flat terrain and then take it to the climbs. Over time, you'll realize that you can climb at slower speeds without losing control.


What's important is to remember that it's not just about strength; it's about technique, strategy, and knowing your bike. And as I always say, it's not just about riding, but understanding how to do it.

If you wish to delve deeper into this topic, don't forget to check out the full video on my YouTube channel for a detailed demonstration and additional tips.

The next time you face a challenging ascent, remember these tips! And enjoy the ride.

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1 comment

Está muy claro


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