Pure MTB skills climbing technique mountain bike training Alps Switzerland

Riding the Alps? prepare to climb


Thinking about mountain biking in the Alps? Maybe you’ve already booked your trip and are well into your skills training. Whatever stage you’re at, one thing to prepare for is climbing. It takes a bit of time to master but instead of dreading those steep techy climbs, you’ll be relishing them!

First of all, ditch the uplift! Sorry folks but you need to build endurance. Now get up that hill! Ride that steep section not once, not twice, but again and again and again. Check your saddle is set up right, stay loose and really engage that core (see Muscle Up post for tips). Try to bend from the hips rather than hunch over. Pace yourself, look ahead, pick your gear in advance, avoid obstacles, look for traction and most of all, maintain your momentum. Check out this video for a quick demo of the basics:

Second of all, fuel up. Climbing burns a lot of fuel and not just food. Focus on deep breaths in through the nose, really fill your lungs and breath out through the mouth. Nail that and you’re halfway there. Riding for more than two hours, your body will need some slow release carbs first thing e.g. breakfast porridge with nuts, seeds and berries. If you’re short on time, power up with a quick smoothie. En route stay hydrated, keep your energy levels and electrolytes topped up with your favourite sports drink or homemade equivalent. As soon as the ride’s over, accelerate muscle growth and repair with a high protein recovery drink e.g. chocolate banana milk (either dairy or plant based substitute).

Last but not least, get technical! I like to call this one the spider manoeuvre. It’s all about using your body’s centre of mass to maximise traction. This move comes into play on a succession of hefty roots, rocks or unavoidable lumpy bits. Broken down, the manoeuvre is made up of 3 steps:

Step 1 – Front suss compression
Before the front tyre hits the obstacle, you’re leaning forward, arms bent. Compress the front suspension to roll up over it. Maintain control of your line.

Step 2 – Backside lift
Before the back tyre contacts the obstacle, unload the back by taking your weight off the saddle (about the height of the obstacle), still leaning forward with your arms bent in a push up position.

Step 3 – Thrust forward and sit
From that push up position, thrust the bike forward with your arms. This brings the back tyre over the obstacle. As soon as the saddle bounces up, regain contact with the saddle and sit down. This reloads the back tyre, supplying traction.

By shifting your body forwards and backwards – forwards before the back wheel makes contact and backwards after contact – your body’s weight becomes your climbing advantage. It does take a bit of practice but will conquer stalling. If you’re stuck in an urban environment, staggered steps are a good place to learn.

Best of luck and happy climbing!

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