|Niece Lisa at a riverside stop|
When I first started riding I loathed hills. I can't say they are my favorite thing to ride right now but I don't dread them like before. As with any kind of obstacle it takes time to learn how best to deal with it. There are many ways to ride up one. You can attack it with force, speed and power or you can "spin" up one. Or some type of combination of those methods. Knowing yourself, your efficiency level on that particular day and having the correct equipment are major factors.
The brute force method of powering up a hill can work if you are strong, feeling at your peak on that day or moment and you have built muscle necessary to do the work. The mind plays a role as well and can defeat you just as easily as the obstacle. Spinning up a hill puts you into the lowest of all your gears, takes time and can be nearly as exhausting from the high cadence as the power method. You aren't going to get up a hill without work and it won't be as easy as pedaling on flat land. There is no magic wand but practice, technique, understanding how to use your bike and it's gears, knowing yourself and knowing the hill will be an ally. When you accept that you've passed your first hurdle. Again, you can mentally defeat yourself if you aren't in the right mideset to spin.
"Know thine enemy" this can be your most powerful tool. If you want to get better at riding up hills you need to ride up them and not avoid them. Period. Practice makes perfect. Well not always perfect, but makes you better at it for sure. If you continue to ride the same hill and wait for your nemesis hill to get easy you will have a long wait. If you continue to tackle higher and harder hills, in time when you revisit your earlier routes you'll be surprised to find that climbs, inclines and hills that you had a hard time with are easier. I've had this experience first hand many times over.
A revealing example of this took place this week. On Monday I revisited a route that I had classified as difficult, challenging and hilly. I had not been on this route in a few weeks and had been riding other hilly routes on dirt roads. I was feeling very strong that day. I flew up some of the lesser hills and managed the steepest of climbs without trouble. Everything seemed to click with utilizing the momentum from the previous downhill correctly and making the most use of all the gearing available on my bike and most importantly using it timely. All the components were in concert, mental, physical and technique clicked to make this happen.
On Tuesday I rode another section of this route with as many hills and possibly a tad bit more challenging. Physically I was more tired than I felt, when I returned home I checked my log and realized that I'd rode 8 straight days with no break. Clue #1. Being physically past a peak it showed up in technique and in using my skills and tools. I did not fare as well on the second day. I had frequent stops and those were a result of faltering with gear selection and timing. I was not as mentally in tune because I was physically out of tune. Knowing yourself makes a big difference in whether you feel defeat or not. If I wasn't tracking progress and logging time I could easily have felt crushed by this turn of events from one day being very successful to the next day not having much success. Instead I learned a lesson about paying more attention to my training routine.
I am finding more parallels to golf as I go along this new path. Just like golf is a game of mental attitude as much as physical fortitude, so it is with any sport. I golfed for many many years and I made great progress when I learned to think my way around the course as much as using brute force through the end of my golf stick.
I rode yesterday with my niece Lisa, photos above