Pacing a climb

Hills are the Marmite of cycling. Some love them, others will do anything to avoid them. – Scarletfire

When I started out in Cycling I was an unfit, overweight, Couch Potato. Cycling just a few miles was challenging enough without adding hills in to the equation and so I generally tended to avoid the bigger and steeper hills at first. Joining a Cycling club that never shy away from hills [Castlereagh Cycling Club] forced me to start riding them, but not knowing the hills created another issue of how to pace the climb. It is very easy to push too hard at the start of the climb only to run out of energy before the summit. Likewise you can set too conservative a pace and end up making slower progress than what you are capable of.

A hill that you’re familiar with, however steep, is manageable. Knowing where the top is removes any fear that you might not make it. When you don’t know whether it levels out or ramps up after the next bend, or how many next bends there are between you and the top, pacing yourself to cope with the gradient is only part of the challenge. There’s a mental battle as well. Will this be one that forces me to ignominiously walk the final section or even turn back?The Mamil

Modern technology offers the cyclist a helping hand with pacing a climb, it won’t turn the pedals for you, it won’t stop the hurt in the legs, it won’t silence that wee voice in the head telling you to get off and Walk but it will assist you to visualise your progress up the ascent. Visualising your progress up the climb can help keep the motivation and the belief high. I use a Garmin Cycle computer to give me real time stats during my cycle rides such as heart rate, speed, cadence etc but if you pre-plan a course on one of the numerous cycle route planning websites and come to a big climb, you can scroll across to the elevation profile screen on the Garmin and it will show your progress up the climb with your current position shown as a red dot. Providing you have set the Garmin’s scale to something more useful than the default setting this elevation profile screen can really help you out with the physcological battle of the climb. Seeing that little red dot edge ever closer to the summit gives you extra motivation to keep turning those pedals when the little voice inside the head is screaming at you to get off and Walk.

Below are three screenshots captured on my Garmin cycle computer during yesterdays climb up the Knockagh road, they show my progress up the climb as a red dot, the current percentage grade of my current position on the climb, and my current elevation.

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2 Responses to Pacing a climb

  1. Nick G says:

    Thanks for the tip about changing the scale on the Garmin. Elevation is one of the various features I am yet to master. Thanks also for the quote!

  2. Cleggy says:

    Hi Nick, I would say that changing the scale is pretty essential if using this elevation screen as the default scale is iinadequate

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