Knowing how best to tackle long climbs can be the difference between reaching the summit and rolling back down defeated. As with every aspect of cycling, it’s as much about your head as your legs.

>>> Which climbs faster – an aero bike or lightweight bike? (video)

Taking a measured approach and thinking your way through the many hairpins and ramps of the climbs you might be tackling will mean you reach the top and can celebrate your achievement, rather than rolling back down with your tail between your legs.

Pacing

The peloton climbs the Lacets de Montvernier on stage eighteen of the 2015 Tour de France

You’ll want to ride at a pace that you can comfortably sustain. Attacking your mates on the early slopes will soon catch up with you as the climb continues, and you won’t have anything left for the latter part of the climb.

Technique

Sky pacing Wiggins climb 2012

For endurance it’s important to stay seated and spin at a high cadence, around 90-100rpm where possible. Using your aerobic capacity rather than pure muscle strength, you’ll retain leg power for when you really need it: towards the top or on the steeper ramps.

Fuelling

Eating at the Tour de France

Unless you’re doing a controlled fasted ride, fuelling is essential for all kinds of cycling. However, when you’re climbing this is even more important: get hungry on the way up and you may not see the top.

>>> Top 10 nutrition tips for peak performance

It almost doesn’t matter what you eat, as long as it doesn’t disagree with you, you just need to make sure you do eat something. Remember: little and often.

Get out of the saddle

CONTADOR Alberto42pp

In slight contradiction to the pacing strategy, there are times when climbing out of the saddle is necessary. Taking on hairpin bends and coping with short changes in gradient may need extra effort, which standing up can provide.

Finally, preparing for the descent

Nico Roche rain jacket

You’ve made it to the top but now comes the descent. Riding faster for a lot less effort you’ll soon cool down so it really pays to carry extra clothing. Arm warmers and a gilet or wind jacket will be very welcome when making your way back to the foot of the climb.

Additional photography by Graham Watson and Yuzuru Sunada

  • Jack Elton-Walters

    I thought maybe I’d written ‘somewhen’ in the article…

  • Dan C

    I could try think of something funny but it would probably backfire and not be funny at all. Just recognise the name from island cycling

  • Jack Elton-Walters

    How did you guess?

  • Dan C

    Is this written by a person from the Isle of wight?

  • TrevorHoldsworth

    Great advice! Remember, when eating – little and often – you don’t want to be choking on half a cereal bar when a climb gets serious. 😉