How to make your bike ready for climbing

It’s not only you making a difference by training hard. But to be climbing better, there are also a few thing you can do to your bike to improve riding uphill.

While climbing it’s always a goal to be on the road with a total weight that is as low as possible. And with a total weight, I mean bike AND rider. You know where I’m heading to? Indeed! Buy a lock to put on the cookie cabinet or on the wine cellar. Controlling your food pattern and habits is actually step 1.

Luckily there also is an other and easier way to lose a few extra grams. The lighter your bike is, the easier the climbing will go. Now don’t start drilling holes in your bike frame. I’m happy to give you a few affordable tips on how to reduce the weight of your bike.

Latex Baby!
Latex inner tubes like the ones from Vittoria or Michelin, I mean. Latex is lighter than rubber. It even reduces the friction between outer and inner tube which lowers the rolling resistance. A win-win!

Latex inner tubes have the characteristic to lose air faster than the normal rubber ones. So it’s best to control the tire pressure before every ride or just more often.

Go for ‘folding’
Nope, I don’t mean toilet paper ;-p but I’m talking about tires again. Outer tires this time and then the lightweight version. Yes, they exist! Those aren’t hyper special super sonic ones. Simpy put, you have 2 kinds: foldable tires and tread tires. The names tell already.

You buy foldable tires folded in the package. With tread tires, this is impossible. For the production of foldable tires they use thinner treads per inch. therefor they are a lot more flexible. The bead wire ( the sides where the tire is fixed in the rims) also is a lot more flexible.

Because of this, foldable tires aren’t only lighter, their rolling resistance also is a lot lower. In other words, you’ve got to do less efforts to make your wheel spin. Sounds great, doesn’t it!

Let us be honest. The easiest way to go for ‘light’, is carbon. A carbon frame is a real upgrade compared with a aluminium version. I ride a Ridley Liz SL. That actually isn’t Ridley’s climbers frame, but it’s a bike you can use whole year round.

So, probably this is the best tip of the total blog: don’t focus too much on super light material that you can’t use in your regular weekend rides. Search for the ideal combination for all your rides.

For me that is the Liz SL. Lighter than those pure aero power horses, but not as light as a climbing bike. Just right in the middle, spot on!

Climbing wheels
Bicycle wheels went through some evolutions during the last few years. The more expensive models became lighter and lighter, without losing their most important aspects (aero, endurance).

Though you can do a good upgrade with a better set of wheels. A basic set can go to 1,8 to 2 kilo’s. While with a small adjustment you can lower the weight easily to a 1,4 to 1,5 kilo’s. There are a few brands that score very well price-quality, like Fulcrum Zero or DT Swiss PR1400. Both not expensive, aluminium even, but still light and firm.

This is a segment with which, if you do some research, you can really upgrade your bike. Weight is important but don’t forget to check out the hub (the central part of a wheel, rotating on or with the axle, and from which the spokes radiate). Good bearings (are located on the wheel hub, are components that help decrease friction when the wheel is turning) make a world of difference.

Coffee grinder
Your knees aren’t meant to be cracking while riding up a mountain. The best climbing technique is pedalling at a high frequency (Chris Froome has a extreme high pedal frequency but it seems to work well 😉 ). It’s like pushing the pedals on the rhythm of a coffee grinder!

This way you can climb more efficiently. It will cost you less energy than when you pedal at a low frequency. Many cycling fans remember  Ullrich vs. Armstrong. Their dark past aside, the cycling technique of both was incredibly different. Ullrich, the Ullrich who always pushed a massive gear versus Armstrong the ‘coffee grinder’. Armstrong’s way of pedalling always looked lighter, nicer and better.

To be able to do this, you will need a gear that is light enough.

Triples are outdated

Wow, that is a statement my dad wouldn’t like to hear! But it’s actually a fact. The triple (3 big chain rings) has totally disappeared. What came instead? A Compact. Let’s lineup a few terms.

· Compact: 50/34 (amount of ‘teeth on the big chain rings))

· New double: 52/36

· Classic double: 53/39

The theory is very simple: the lower the amount of ‘teeth’, the lighter you pedal. So, a compact is ideal for climbing and perfect for many cyclists at whatever location.

Then you also have the cassette at the back. There the theory is the other way around: the lower the amount of ‘teeth’, the heavier you pedal. A few options:
– 11/23
– 11/25
– 11/28
– 12/32

Today’s standard for many cyclists, is 11/28. Do you feel that that isn’t sufficient? Than go for a 12/32 (but you will need a different rear derailleur).

I know, cycling can sometimes be so technically complicated. Thank God for the bike mechanics!

Also watch the video: “What do you take along when you go out riding?”


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