How to Climb Faster on a Mountain Bike? [10 Helpful Tips]

Want to know how to climb faster on a mountain bike? Are your friends winning every uphill race this summer? Feeling the urge to tackle that one tricky climb in the park you’ve never faced?

Climbing hills isn’t easy on a mountain bike, and it’s a challenge every biker may face at some point. If you’re new to the mountain biking world, learning how to climb efficiently is a skill you’ll have to master. Developing this trait can take time, but you’ll get there with time.

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Here are some helpful tips that can improve your uphill mountain biking game.

How to Climb Faster on a Mountain Bike?

1. How Familiar Are You With the Power-to-Weight Ratio?

Nothing will improve your biking ability as quickly or effectively as an improved Power-to-Weight ratio.

In mountain biking or road cycling, riders with the greatest PWR can pedal up hills at the fastest time.

There are four key ways of improving your PWR:

  1. Lightening your bicycle’s weight
  2. Losing weight (fat)
  3. Lightening your bike’s pack
  4. Gaining strength (without gaining too much weight)

For every 0.8 km (half-mile) slope at an approximately 15-degree gradient, every extra kilogram of weight adds almost 6 seconds to the climb.

If a cyclist is overweight by 10 pounds and wears a backpack that weighs an added 10 pounds, they will down by approximately a minute for every 0.8 km they ride on their bike.

These figures, however, have been calculated based on the rides of road cyclists. This means that if you’re climbing a single track on your mountain bike, the obstacles and the uneven terrain will slow you down further.

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2. Do You Have Consistent Speed?

We’ve all done it.

There has been a point when we’ve hit the bottom of a climb early on into the ride, and then we’ve struggled to maintain that pace to the top.

As we come closer to the summit, the only high thing is our enthusiasm, while energy and speed levels are at their lowest.

The best way to handle this problem is to increase your pace as you start going up a mountain. Start at a steady pace, and then get yourself accustomed to the ride.

This can be hard if you’re riding with a group, but it would be suitable if you crafted your strategy. Once you settle into the climb, listen to your body. If you think you can go faster, gradually increase the effort you put in.

Even though these increases are small, they’re going to leave you feeling sore when the day ends!

This strategy, however, is more suited for a long climb. For a short climb, we would recommend taking on a dash strategy. It would also help if you consulted a few data points at this instance.

Heart numbers can work, but power data is the most suitable option. Just don’t get stuck in analysis paralysis!

Knowing how your body feels after a tiring ride is an excellent way to pace yourself, too, if you can’t access these metrics.

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3. Clean the Drivetrain and the Bike

Knowing how to climb faster on a mountain bike also depends on your bike’s drivetrain.

When a bike’s drivetrain is clean, it can be approximately 98% efficient. However, these numbers are only seen in laboratory settings, and emulating them in the mountains is almost impossible.

Once a bike’s drivetrain has taken a beating from different elements like worn teeth, dirt, or grime, the transmission will barely operate at 75% efficiency.

Hitting the terrain with a bike that has been properly lubed up and cleaned will make your ride easier since you’re going to waste a lot less energy pedaling.

Additionally, a clean bike is faster. Switching gears becomes more manageable, and your pedal strategy becomes a lot smoother.

So remember! Regardless of the price of the upgrade you get for your bike, everything can go to chaos if you’re not cleaning your bike regularly.

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4. Choose Your Line

Knowing your line is critical. Look ahead of the wheel and find a pathway with the least resistance. More importantly, think about where your rear wheel will be when you’re climbing up a mountain.

Different objects like rocks, roots, sticks, and stones can catch your rear wheel or bring you t a halt entirely. The terrain may make your wheel spin out of control, so know if the hurdles on it can be avoided before you pick a path.

Secondly, spot a secondary path you’ll pick if things don’t go according to plan.

To ride over a technical section, you need to have some momentum to carry you over the hurdles on your way, and you won’t have to make an effort.

Start by going into a slightly harder gear, which will give you improved control over your bike’s power.

Now, slightly unweight each bike wheel as it reaches the patch by moving your body backward and then slightly leaning forward on the bike. This will prevent your wheels from getting stuck.

While this may sound complicated at first, you’ll be surprised by the obstacles you can ride over.

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5. The Right Tire Pressure

Having tires with the right air pressure can make a huge difference in your climbs, yet we all forget this. While having tires at high pressure makes them roll better, these aren’t necessarily good for climbing.

That’s because since the tire deforms less on the terrain, a smaller patch comes in contact with the ground, which means less grip and traction.

On the other hand, tires that are too soft will grip the ground too much, and it will then be more challenging for you to move the bike. You’ll also be at a higher risk of getting the tire punctured.

With the bike’s tire pressure, it’s all about finding the sweet spot. The spot at which the bike’s rolling resistance and grip are optimal.

Small decreases and increases (one or two PSI) can make a huge difference. That is why we recommend you spend ample time experimenting with different tire pressures to know which pressure reading value works the best for you.

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6. Smoothen the Pedal Stroke

Unlike road cyclists, who ride on smooth road surfaces, mountain bikers have to deal with all kinds of features when they’re climbing up a terrain. Be its roots, rocks, stones or all three simultaneously.

Pumping pedals like crazy will make you lose traction since you’ll be churning out uneven spikes of power.

A lesser-known fact is that pro cross country bikers have perhaps the smoothest pedaling movement in the cycling industry. This also means that their pedal action dishes out the most power and a lot more evenly, too.

So the next time you face a steep climb, think about the bike’s pedals and apply pressure in a circular stride.

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7. Consider Losing Weight

Unfortunately, one of the biggest enemies of a fast-climbing mountain bike is the weight you have to propel up the mountain as you climb.

You can lose bike weight, and there are several articles online that will tell you how to do that. But while it’s easy to throw money at deducting weight from a bike, hope for improvement will stay low if you don’t make some drastic bodily changes.

It’s not only the fat that will slow you down, but your muscles are also a lot denser than your body fat, and much of your upper body muscles don’t contribute productively when you’re riding uphill.

Be it big shoulders, pecs, or big biceps, you’re essentially carrying them uphill. Experts recommend that you lose fat steadily and safely contract to the typical approach.

Consider losing weight in the off-season (March and October). That is also because regular exercise for fat loss is best done when the rider isn’t building uphill biking power.

Experts also suggest that the winter and autumn months are great for steady rides since they put less stress on our immune system. This gives riders ample time to build up power.

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8. Improve Your Cadence

Instead of grinding a strong gear on a tough climb, do what the pros do and consider using an easier gear and increase cadence.

While pushing a bigger can make you feel comfortable, experts’ research has consistently shown that spinning a lower gear often improves performance.

Pedaling a higher cadence is effective because you’re decreasing the tension and the load on your leg’s muscles.

This reduces fatigue and prevents lactic acid buildup (this can adversely impact your performance). If you have a habit of pushing high gears, adjusting to a lower gear may take some time.

That is why you should allow yourself some time to adapt to add some short periods of high cadence. You can also use a cadence sensing tool for measuring this.

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9. Stay Loose

Climbing up a mountain can be stressful and challenging, which is why you must keep your body loose. You’re going to counter several bumps along the way, which may make you jostle on the seat.

When actually, you should keep your body loose to handle those jostles better. First and foremost, ensure that your jaw isn’t locked and your hands aren’t tense while gripping the handlebar.

When you loosen up these areas, you’ll naturally have a loose back, neck, and arms as you climb up a hill.

By not riding with a tense body, you’ll also have more energy, and you’ll also discover that you have more control over your bike when you encounter a tricky patch.

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10. Ride Smartly

While riding up a hill, there will be a few conscious choices that you’ll make to climb smartly up the hill while making the journey easy for yourself.

If you’re climbing up an uphill curve, make sure you take the outside line. While this will be a long way, it’ll also be easy and shallow.

Moreover, consider riding in a straight line rather than back and forth. While the zig-zag pattern may make you feel more comfortable, research has shown that it takes up more of your energy.     

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The Most Common Mistakes Novice Riders Make

Keeping their Toes at the Corner of the Pedals

Whether they’re using flat pedals or are clipped in, the position of your feet while riding will have a massive impact on your overall ride; while it may seem natural to only put your toes on the pedal or the ball of your foot, this will put unnecessary stress on your legs when you’re riding downhill.

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Not Looking Far Down

Anticipation can make a huge difference in the mountain biking world, specifically when you’re climbing uphill. It’s also easy for beginners to develop the habit of looking down at the trail directly in front of the wheel. This can lead to problems.

Since you won’t see the next obstacle coming your way, even things that you can avoid become an unpleasant surprise.

So the next time you’re on a familiar trail that you’re confident about, constantly remind yourself that you must look forward. This will let you see what’s ahead and adjust your line in time to avoid the worst possible outcome.

Sitting on the Saddle too Much

Sitting down on that comfortable saddle will seem like a safe bet when the terrain gets challenging, but this way, you won’t be able to use the best shock absorbers on the planet: your legs!

Not only will your legs soak up those bumps and lumps efficiently, but they’ll also let you separate your body from your bike.

This way, you can stand up and shift your weight around, which will make you a much more confident and faster biker.

Watch an enduro race or pro downhill race, and you’ll see a common theme in every race: the riders will rarely sit down. This is why it’s a skill you should pay attention to, too.

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Wrapping Up

Amidst the hustle and bustle of trying to climb a mountain, don’t forget that safety always comes first. In a speedy dash to the top, an accident can easily take place, which may render you bikeless for months or even years.

To avoid the worst scenario, practice in a safe setting before you’re sure you’re ready for extreme conditions. Got an idea on how to climb faster on a mountain bike?