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How to Climb Steep Hills While Cycling

Climbing hills on a bicycle isn''t everyone''s idea of fun... Yet, if you live in a hilly area or you''re traveling through hills, why deny yourself the pleasure of continuing to ride regularly just because of those steeper hills? Climbing steep hills on a cycle requires knowing a few tips about increasing your stamina, positioning yourself correctly on the cycle, and changing those gears. So hop back on your bike with this advice and find yourself a few steep hills to practice on until it feels much easier!

Prepare yourself mentally. If you''ve cycled a hill before, you''ll already know that it hurts physically and takes a lot of effort. If you''ve long been the sort to hop off the bike and walk it up the hill, you''ll need a little mental prepping first!

 
  • Accept that riding uphill is more effort. Once you stop fighting it mentally, you can spend more time motivating your body and learning how to make the ride easier on you.
  • Get excited about the challenge of making it to the top of the hill. This is something that you''re quite capable of doing and proving it to yourself can be a lot of fun in between the agony!
  • Don''t expect to go fast. That''s unrealistic and likely to wear you out before you''ve hardly begun.
  • Understand the benefits to your body of cycling on hilly terrain. Hilly terrain builds your fitness levels up by helping your body learn to use oxygen more efficiently. Also, the process of climbing the hill on a bike uses different muscle groups as you shift about on the bike to maintain maximum power. The climb allows you to work hard, and the descent allows you to recover, providing a perfect exercise workout per each hill.[1]

Start the hill climb staying seated on the bike seat (or saddle). Keep your weight back and hold the handlebars over the top and close to the center.[2] Your hands should be about 2-3 inches (5-7.5cm) from the center stern to allow maximum breathing. If your chest is open and shoulders back, you''ll be able to breath much more easily.

As you move up the hill, crouch down. This requires you to keep your body low and your elbows low but slightly pointed out to keep your chest open for easier breathing and to keep your upper body relaxed.

Toward the top of the hill, stand up from the seat (saddle). At this point, use all of your body weight to assist you in pushing down hard on the pedals. Standing up takes a lot more energy than sitting down, so don''t overuse this technique; keep it till the last portion of the steep hill. Your hands should now sit on top of the brake levers.

  • Shift your body in time with your legs. Keep your back straight and your chest open to aid good breathing.

Learn how to shift gear going uphill. Those gears are there to be used, and uphill they will definitely assist you with extra power if you change them effectively. However, it takes practice to get used to how it feels to change gears as a method of changing the pace and power when climbing a hill, so don''t despair, just keep practicing it.

  • Shift the gears in anticipation of or just before each terrain gradient change, not once you''ve already reached each gradient. Keep pedaling while you change gears, so as to maintain momentum.[5] The aim is to keep your effort as constant as possible.
  • A low gear is needed for going uphill (you''ll need the higher gear for going back down).

Keep practicing. This technique won''t be easy for the first few tries but it''s important to persevere. It is only in the doing that you will learn the feel for climbing the hill on the bike and learn the right timing for shifting your body weight on the bike to achieve the maximum power for the least effort.

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Risk of Injury for Bicycling on Cycle Tracks Versus in the Street

In the United States a frequent source for cycling-infrastructure design is the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials’ Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities. In its current form, the guide favors one-way bike lanes separated from vehicular traffic by painted lines; cycle paths at sidewalk level are discouraged and physically separated two-way paths, known as cycle tracks, are not mentioned.

Based on sources such as the AASHTO guide, many state and local transportation leaders currently prioritize development of on-street bicycle lanes, believing them to be safer that alternatives such as cycle tracks. A 2010 study from the Harvard School of Public Health, “Risk of Injury for Bicycling on Cycle Tracks Versus in the Street,” published in Injury Prevention, suggests this belief is unfounded.

To better understand the relative safety of on-street and separated bicycle lanes, the researchers looked at 20 years of crash and injury data from Montreal, which has extensive cycling-specific infrastructure. Overall, the researchers found that physically separated cycle tracks are as or more safe than in-road bike lanes.

The study’s findings include:

  • Cycle tracks were used by 2.5 times more cyclists compared to nearby on-street bicycle routes
  • The relative risk of injury was 28% lower on cycle tracks compared to nearby on-street routes
  • The safest cycle tracks were on streets that experienced the least amount of vehicular traffic
  • Cycle tracks located on high-traffic streets saw fewer or the same number of injuries as alternative routes that were also in heavy traffic areas

The researchers noted that, despite their improved safety over on-street bike lanes, Montreal’s cycle tracks are still not ideal. Among other factors, in some situations they lack of parking setbacks at intersections that increase the ability of drivers and cyclists to see each other, and they aren’t uniformly two-way. Such changes would theoretically further improve the safety of the city’s cycle tracks.

Tags: bicycling, bicycle, bikes, safety, infrastructure

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