I’m always fascinated at seeing the different riding styles of people, especially when climbing. Combing from mountain bikes where the granny gear was tall enough to go up a vertical wall I never considered myself a climber and when I first got back on the road seriously I hated the climbing. Now I welcome a good climb and thrive in the sense of accomplishment when I make it to the top or set a new personal record.
My style has evolved over time and I try to keep a constant pace up a hill. I may not be the fastest as the start but usually I’ll catch up to the people who attack at the bottom and then taper when they burn out near the top and usually I’ll still have some left in the tank to meander on by them. Then there are the people who shift too late and start grinding early in the climb or they are afraid of shifting too late and thus shift too early and have no momentum to carry onto the hill. I used to be both of these people and I would try different things on my solo rides until I figured out when the optimal time for me to shift would be – basically when I start feeling my momentum slow it’s time to drop to the smaller chain ring. There is one exception and that would be a small roller where I just need to dig a little to get over the hump w/o expending too much energy. Once I’m in the smaller chain ring I try and keep what momentum I have left while spinning a high cadence which for me would be 80-90rpm as I am most comfortable in that range. If it’s a long and/or steep climb I’ll go through the cassette trying to keep me in that range until I hit the big cog. From then on it’s just a matter of grinding it out. If I’ve played my cards right I’ll have enough left in the tank to actually accelerate over the top of the hill while everyone else is looking to recover.
When I ride solo I’m more apt to push the envelope a bit because if I burn out no one else will be waiting on me. But on the club ride I’ll pick a pace and go at it. This past weekend ride was interesting because we had a rider that would attack the hills early and stand on the pedals and pass the group before sitting down. Now we aren’t racing but I always like a challenge so I would then pull out of line and follow. He would of course be ahead of me but I would slowly reel him in as we reached the top, sometimes just tucking in behind or other times pulling up along side. It was comical as we did this over and over again throughout the day. I don’t think he ever caught on but I’d always be right there when he turned around.