How To Ride A Mountain Bike Uphill (7 Climbing Tips)

woman on mountain bike in forest

If you’re relatively new to mountain biking, then you might have noticed what a challenge it is to ride that bike uphill. It’s definitely more difficult to cycle uphill on a mountain bike compared to a road bike.

But, with the right tips and training, you’ll improve your mtb climbing when you’re out on the trail. We’ve got a few ideas for you before you do that next hill climb on your mountain bike.

1. Stay Seated

When you’re struggling to get up that hill, you may be tempted to lift up off the saddle to really power through the challenge. But, this is definitely the wrong idea.

As soon as your butt is off that seat, you’re disrupting the weight distribution and creating instability. That is not what you want.

So, instead of standing up while pedals, try just shifting your weight just a wee bit forward a bit while you’re still seated. When you do this, you’ll dip your chest toward the stem.

The key to this position is balancing the weight just right so that you have slightly more weight up on the front wheel than the back wheel. 

2. Check Tire Pressure

The key to successful climbs is having the proper pressure in your mountain bike tires. You need the perfect combination of rolling resistance and grip from your tires.

If you get your tire too hard, then you’ll have great rolling resistance but poor grip. And too little tire pressures means great grip and poor rolling resistance.

Too much pressure and not enough grip means that you’ll have to work harder to get up the hill. Lack of pressure means a higher likelihood that you’ll puncture the tire on the trail.

The ideal way to find the perfect tire pressure for your mtb tires is to make small changes in PSI. So, try PSI changes of one to two PSI at a time until you find that perfect spot.

mountain bikers in slim shady trail

3. Pedal Faster

A higher cadence, or spinning of those pedals, is directly related to how well you do on a longer climb. While you do need to pace yourself, it’s important that you do not have too low of a cadence because it will lead to quicker fatigue due to more strain on your muscles.

Instead, you should focus on spinning those pedals faster (lighter gear) so that you can pedal for longer without fatigue. This is because the lighter gear removes the strain from your legs and puts it on your lungs and heart.

When you are spinning fast, it may seem more difficult at first, but you’ll discover that it is the better option.

4. Have Even Pedal Stroke

When you’re on that trail, there are going to be loads of different obstacles that your tires roll over – from tree roots, to rocks, to mud. And if you’re not careful, and expecting those trail obstacles, then you might lose focus and have an uneven pedal stroke.

Don’t let that happen to you.

Instead, stay focused and in the zone so that you apply a measured, even force on those pedals with each stroke. This way you will maintain traction and not experience any uneven spikes in power from your strokes.

idaho mtb

5. Stay Loose

Mountain bike climbs are challenging and stressful, which is why it’s important that you stay loose. You’re going to encounter bumps along the trail and get jostled on the saddle.

If you keep your body loose, then you’ll be able to better handle those jostles. Focus first on making sure that your jaw isn’t locked and tense and that your hands aren’t all tensed up and gripping the handlebars.

As a result of loosening up those areas of the body, you will naturally have a looser back, arms, neck. etc. as you climb that hill.

By not riding all tensed up, you also save more energy and you’ll discover that you end up having more control over the bike when you encounter the more technical sections of the trail.

6. Take Steady Breaths

Hill climbs will wear you the hell out, so it’s natural to end up panting by the time you reach the top. But try to avoid the sort of ragged breathing that leads to panting.

Instead, focus on breathing in and out in rhythm with your pedal strokes. This helps you to keep a steady pace and momentum – plus it gives you something to focus on other than how miserably steep the incline is in front of you.

seneca creek trail

7. Be A Smart Rider

There are a few conscious choices that you can make to smartly climb that hill while making it a bit easier on yourself.

If it’s an uphill curve that you’re climbing, then be sure to take the outside line. Sure, this way is longer but it’s also easier and shallower.

Ride in a straight line instead of weaving back and forth on the climb. The back and forth zig zag might feel easier at the time, but science shows that it actually takes more energy than just riding up in a straight line.

Now that you know how to make that ascent a bit easier on yourself, it’s time to prepare for the best part – the descent!

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