Tips For Hill Climbing on a Mountain Bike

Mountain bike riding is a popular pastime and sport for many Americans. According to the National Bicycle Dealers Association, 28.5 percent of the bicycles sold by specialty bicycle shops in 2008 were mountain bikes. But it is a good bet that few of these riders consider actual mountain bike climbing to be their favorite part of the sport.

Climbing hills, particularly steep hills, is an activity that most riders approach with dread. They know from hard, painful, sometimes humiliating experience that mountain bike climbing leads to the agony of defeat much more often than it leads to the thrill of victory. With the right strategy, however, hill climbing can be done efficiently, without causing undue hardship to the bike or to the body.

Three Ingredients of a Successful Bike Climb

Biking enthusiast Ken Kifer says that there are three ingredients of successful mountain bike climbing:

1. Physical strength of the rider
2. Proper gear selection for the climb
3. Hill climbing strategy employed

Assuming that most people who participate in such a rugged sport as mountain biking are physically fit, the first ingredient should not pose too great an issue. If it is a problem, some rough and tumble rides up and down various hills for a few weeks should eliminate this obstacle.

Items 2 and 3, however, are not quite so easy to master. However, before these aspects are even attempted, one must choose the correct type of bike

Choosing the Correct Type of Bike

There’s a vast difference between a road bike and a mountain bike and not knowing this difference-and perhaps making the wrong choice-can make mountain bike climbing nearly impossible.

In general, one can tell the difference between a road bike and a mountain bike by considering two factors-the framing and tires of the bikes.


Because road bikes are built for speed, they typically have lighter frames than do mountain bikes. By contrast, the heavier frames of mountain bikes house suspension systems that are built to withstand the frame-jarring shocks of rough terrains.


Road bikes have thinner, smoother tires. The tires of mountain bikes, however, are broad with a significant amount of traction to handle rough terrains.

The Final Ingredients

The final two ingredients-proper gear selection and hill climbing strategy-are indispensable parts of each other. Both are essential ingredients of successful mountain bike climbing. Both involve strategy. And the uses of both are dependent on the different types of hills.

Mountain Bike Climbing Up Different Types of Hills

Most hills or mountains fall into three categories. Each category brings its own unique set of challenges. But each different type of hill can be conquered-with the proper strategy.

1.The concave hill is steepest as the top. Such a hill appears to get taller as the rider approaches.
2. A convex hill is steepest at the bottom. This type of a hill appears to get shorter as the rider approaches.
3. An even grade hill has a sloped, even rise.

To make mountain bike climbing even more challenging, some hills can be a combination of all three types and some can be part of a series of hills. Some can even be mountains. The strategies for climbing the different types of hills must be considered in relation to whether one is climbing an isolated hill, a series of hills, or a mountain, as the strategy is different for each.

This article will address the strategy for mountain bike climbing up an isolated hill.

Climbing an Isolated Hill

An isolated hill is one that “stands alone” without any surrounding hills. The strategy employed in climbing same will depend upon whether the hill is convex or concave.

Convex Hills.

Climbing any hill takes power and speed, two components that must gradually be increased upon approaching a hill. For a convex hill (one that is steeper at the bottom), the timing and the speed of the ascent must be nearly perfect. As odd as it may sound, the way to accelerate up a convex hill is to shift down. This provides more power for the climb. But timing is everything when using this method. Downshift too soon, and exhaustion will plague the rider even before reaching the hill. Downshift too late, and climbing the hill can be too labor intensive.

Concave Hills.

Concave hills are steeper at the apex and, as such, require a different strategy than do convex hills. Two key factors to this strategy are keeping the speed steady, thus conserving energy, at the start the climb. As the hill becomes steeper, the downshifting should begin.

Another strategy to mountain bike climbing of a concave hill is to stand up on the pedals, which creates a more powerful cycle. When standing, make sure the full body is evenly distributed on both pedals. This will create sufficient power to overcome the hill.

A Few Tips for General Technique

One’s pedaling technique is also an important factor in successful mountain bike climbing. The right placement of the feet can have a huge impact on the amount of effort expended while climbing the hill. The feet should be positioned properly and the heel should be kept parallel to the ground. (If the toes are pointed down, the muscular contractions of the leg are minimized which will affect the speed and the stamina of the rider.)

Another point to consider is the cadence of the ride. (Cadence is the number of times that the pedal is rotated, on either side, per minute of cycling.) Aiming for a steady cadence is a healthy goal, whether the surface is flat or is on a hill. Cycling at a cadence of 85 to 105 is an optimum level.

When mountain bike climbing, one’s power to climb the hill will be increased at a higher cadence while downshifting to a lower gear. The effort on the pedal, however, should remain the same on both the upstroke and the down stroke. Maintaining the same amount of pressure throughout the whole pedaling cycle will create a more even stroke, which can help to maintain the energy level needed to climb the hill.

The View from the Top

Mountain bike climbing is not for the faint of heart. It takes strength, stamina, and good technique. But with these tips, you should be able to see the view from the top of the hill (or mountain) sooner than your friends!

Mountain Bikes

Mountain biking is a sport that involves riding bicycles off paved roads. It is an activity that is gaining popularity all over the world since it is does not require any special skills other than being able to ride a bicycle and can be done anywhere.

A mountain bike is a sturdy bicycle with a strong frame, wide tires, gears and horizontal handlebars. This bike has special tires that are fat and knobby, providing the extra traction that is required for dirt trails and unpaved terrain. Though called mountain bikes, these bicycles are often used for off-road cycling and can be ridden cross country, on gravel roads and even on dirt trails.

People use mountain bikes for several purposes including trailing, dirt jumping and street-urban riding, but the most popular versions of mountain biking are down-hilling, cross-country and free riding. Apart from a few common features, the specifications for mountain bikes differ, depending upon the activities that the bike is primarily designed for. For example, a cross-country mountain bike normally weighs between 20 to 30 pounds and is lighter than bikes designed for down-hilling and free riding. Mountain bikes can also be ordered online.

Although bicycles have been used since the time they were invented, the first specialized mountain bike was built by Joe Breeze in 1977. The first regularly available mountain bike frame was built by Tom Ritchey, with accessories being built by Gary Fisher and Charlie Kelly. These bikes were sold by their company called MountainBikes, later renamed Gary Fisher Bicycle Company. It wasn’t until 1982 that the first mass produced mountain bikes were sold. These were called the Specialized Stumpjumper and Univega Alpina Pro. A huge range of mountain bikes with specialized features are now available to cater to the ever growing population of mountain bikers.

Should My Mountain Bike Have Bike Disc Brakes?

A mountain bike is a bicycle that is designed specifically for mountain biking, either on dirt trails or on other unpaved environments. Mountain bikes are different from regular bikes in a number of ways.

First, they have wide and knobby tires for extra traction and shock absorption.

Also, most mountain bikes are fitted with bar ends on the handlebars. However, with the increase in the popularity of riser handlebars, fewer riders now tend to use bar end extensions.

There are basically four different classifications of mountain bikes.

1. Fully rigid- Fully rigid mountain bikes have a frame which has a rigid fork and fixed rear with no suspension.

2. Hard tail- Hard tail mountain bikes have a frame with no rear suspension, and these bikes are usually used with front suspension.

3. Soft tail- Soft tail mountain bikes have a frame with a small amount of rear suspension, but activated by the flex of the frame instead of by the pivots.

4. Dual or full suspension- Dual or full suspension mountain bikes have a frame with a front suspension fork and rear suspension with a rear shock and linkage that makes the rear wheel move on pivots.

Mountain Bike Disc Brakes

There are many key components on the typical mountain bike. One of the most critical components of a mountain bike is the mountain bike disc brakes. Mountain bike disc brakes are featured on most new mountain bike models. Mountain bike disc brakes offer much improved stopping power over the previously used rim brakes.

Mountain bike disc brakes also work much better under adverse conditions. This is because they are located at the center of the wheel. Unlike rim brakes, they remain drier and cleaner than other rims. Although there are many advantages to mountain bike disc brakes, there are some disadvantages as well. They tend to weigh more and are often more expensive as well.

Maintenance on disc brakes also tends to be more difficult and costly. This is especially true of hydraulic disc brakes, which work by moving brake fluid through a hose or line to squeeze the pads together.

It is very important to make sure that your brakes are in as proper working condition. This means you need to take your bike in to your local bike shop and get a full inspection at least once a month. This will not only ensure that your brakes and the rest of the parts on your bike last as long as they possibly can, but more importantly that you can feel safe riding on a bike that you know is safe and secure and which will be able to properly handle those rugged and steep hills.