One of the skills I’ve never fully mastered is the uphill start on a road bike. I get it right some of the time, but I find when I have other riders who aren’t so skilful around me, I tend to stuff it up.
I was on an organised ride on the weekend and we had to stop a couple of times at traffic lights on an uphill slope. This meant that when the light went green we all had to start riding on an incline and most people in the group handled it poorly, including me. So here’s a few tips on how to start riding on a climb or incline.
Be aware of your surroundings
Be aware of cars, other riders and other obstacles around you and when you take off don’t wobble or move off your line. Focus on keeping yourself moving forward in as straight a trajectory as possible.
Choose the correct gear
Make sure it’s an easy one but not the easiest because you want to gain momentum on the first pedal stroke. In the easiest gear otherwise known as granny gear you’ll struggle to get up enough speed to balance and then struggle again to get your foot clipped in.
Gain momentum before clicking your second foot in
Focus on completing a few pedal revolutions before you try to click in your second foot. Simply pedal with your shoe resting on the top of the pedal. With your foot resting on top of the pedal you will not have a strong pedal revolution on that leg, so focus on pulling up on the pedal revolution with the foot that is clipped in while you gain momentum. After you have completed a few pedal revolutions your balance will be more stable and you can click into the second pedal.
Practice starting with one shoe resting on the pedal on flat surfaces, then develop your skill moving to steeper uphill starts to perfect you technique.
Ride across the incline
If it’s safe ride across the slope and turn back into the climb you’ll have a much easier time getting going. Start with your favoured leg in about a 2 o’clock position and have your bottom on the saddle. If you’re riding up a mountain which has switchbacks then the gradient is easiest on hairpin bends so head for a bend to get going.
Find something to hold
If there’s a fence or post available you could also hang on to it, get seated and clip both feet in before you push off with strong pedal strokes.
Become a pedestrian
And if you really are struggling then become a pedestrian and cross the intersection or area on foot and until you can safely remount. Just be aware of drivers and other road users around you.
Practice, practice, practice
Like all bike skills, practice makes perfect so practice these techniques in a nice quiet location when you can concentrate on the skill without feeling pressured to nail it on the first attempt. Part of any skills training is mental – you must believe you can do it, otherwise you’ll fail.