How To Bike in Hilly Terrain

Biking through hilly terrain can be nerve-wracking, especially if you’ve never done it before. However, there are safe and effective ways to navigate hills, even in densely populated areas, starting with the type of bike. Hybrid bikes are a great choice for steep inclines, but you can still have fun and traverse safely if all you have is a road bike.

Create a Plan

The road bike vs hybrid debate is more about your preferred cycling style than effective travel. However, before you set out to conquer hills, you should know how your bike handles. To get familiar with your bike, try some easy routes with gradual inclines and turns.

Next, get familiar with your route. You can do this by searching the internet, looking at maps and reading reviews if your path is a mountain or hiking trail. This preparation will show you what kind of terrain to expect, so you know what cycling techniques you need to practice.

Don’t Brake Too Abruptly

Braking is one of the most important tools for hilly terrain. Remember, once you’ve gone up a hill, you’ll need to go back down, and even if you aren’t pedaling, gravity will cause you to build velocity gradually. Your brakes help you control your descent, but using them abruptly can send you flying.

Instead, lightly apply your brakes and gradually increase the pressure as necessary. If done right, you can maintain a constant speed as you follow a decline.

Use Your Weight While Descending

Descending can affect your balance, especially if you’re riding into the wind. To ensure you have complete control over your bike, try to increase your aerodynamics:

  • Tuck in your elbows
  • Raise out of the saddle slightly
  • Get low to the handlebars
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Choose the Right Gear

Your bike’s gears are another tool specially designed to help you with difficult terrain. Higher gears allow you to cover more ground quickly, but they offer a lot of resistance that can tire beginners. If you’re just starting to build your endurance, you should stick to the lowest gear. If you’re eager to push yourself, you can try the higher gears, gradually working your way up until you find the one that works best for you.

Change Your Body Position

If you need more power in your pedal, you may need to stand while cycling. This position can feel precarious if you’re not used to it, so you should definitely practice before tackling a hill. That way, you can adjust to the new center of gravity in a safe space.

Once you’re comfortable, you can use this technique on sharp inclines. Standing gives you more leverage to push down on the pedals, allowing you to conquer stretches that would be impossible to cover while sitting down.

If you really love the thrill of cycling through hilly terrain, you should get the best electric bike for hills. Electric bikes do some of the work, so you can focus on maneuvering rather than pedaling. Of course, if you like the workout of biking up and down hills, an electric bike can still be beneficial, as it can help you push your limits. However, no matter which bike you choose, what matters is that you have fun.

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About the Author: Cory Weinberg

Cory Weinberg covers the intersection of tech and cities. That means digging into how startups and big tech companies are trying to reshape real estate, transportation, urban planning, and travel. Previously, he reported on Bay Area housing and commercial real estate for the San Francisco Business Times. He received a "best young journalist" award from the National Association of Real Estate Editors.

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