This year on day 5 of Climate Ride California North Coast, we are giving riders the option to climb Mt. Tamalpais. Mt. Tam towers 2,500 feet above Stinson Beach and is the tallest peak in the Marin Hills. Although the last 1,000 feet of climbing and the 7 mile out and back from the Panoramic Highway are optional, the views from the top and the long descent back to sea level are definitely worth training for. When you get to the decision point on the route you may be tempted to coast downhill all the way into a delicious picnic lunch rather than adding another 3.5 miles of climbing to your day but you won’t want to miss out on what some consider the most epic climb in Marin County.
So, as you are preparing for this scenic North Coast route be sure to incorporate plenty of hills on your training rides. Get to know your gears! Find some hills that make you visit your granny gear and find the position or positions that you are comfortable climbing in. There are many different strategies when out climbing hills. Try playing around and find out what works for you. Eventually, you’ll be shifting without thinking twice about it and will be crushing hills left and right!
For short hills, there are at least two philosophies. First, is the “oh shift, a hill” philosophy. This is when one sees a hill, shifts into their lowest gear to get comfortable and spins all the way to the top. This strategy works nearly every time, though you won’t win any races using this technique. The second is the “get over it” or the “get it over with” philosophy. This is where one sees a hill and hammers on the flats to gain momentum. Continue the high cadence in a high gear as far up the hill as you can, sprinting and postponing the downshift until you either crest the top or are forced to shift to avoid stalling out. This technique works well with rolling hills but can be hard to sustain on long hills. It can help alternate muscle groups and get the rider off the saddle which is beneficial on long rides. It gets the hill over with sooner, but you have to work, and sometimes suffer a little to make it happen.
For long hills, the “oh shift, a hill” philosophy works well and can be combined with periods of walking or resting (which is totally okay on Climate Ride). For this technique, the rider accepts that they will be sitting and spinning for quite some time but they will conserve energy for future hills. Another option is the “whatever it takes” option. This is a free form style where riders use various techniques to get to the top. It may include the following: periods of riding out of the saddle, constant shifting to find the perfect gear for the pitch, walking, sprinting, bits of the “get it over with” philosophy followed by periods of laying in the grass to catch your breath, use of the granny gear, consumption of caffeinated GU, seat height adjustments, and use of the Climate Ride sag wagon.
There is no best way to tackle hills — it is all about what works best for you. You want to be sure to train on hills and have your strategy figured out before the ride. After five days of riding the Northern California Coast, you are going to be a better rider but why wait? Training on some hills before the ride will allow you to have the most fun possible and be prepared for the Mt. Tamalpais climb. Visit the training page on our website for more information on how to prepare for the ride.