The seated climb is used on moderate grade, steady climb with limited technical features like loose rocks, roots, mud and sand. The secret to the seated climb is to deliver controlled, steady, consistent power to your rear wheel while maintaining proper weight distribution.
Proper Weight Distribution
Having your tires weighted evenly is the key — here’s how:
Lean your torso forward as you move your rear end back.
Bend at the hips.
Bend your elbows and keep them flexible.
Keep your head up.
This lowers your center of gravity and distributes your weight evenly across the bike. How far you have to lean forward is determined by the angle of the slope and the traction available on the trail. The looser the dirt and the steeper the trail, the closer to parallel your torso will be to your top tube.
Though it’s awkward, you can have your chin right above your handlebar, your back flat and your rear end sticking up in the air. It’s comical, but effective. Learning how far to slide back and how much to lean forward is where the finesse of hill climbing enters. And that takes practice. With time you’ll find how simple, subtle variations in forward-and-back movements can help get you over obstacles and up big hills.
Practice: Find a good stretch of trail with varying conditions and hills. Find a low gear (but not too low) that will allow you to pedal up the hills. Experiment. Move just your weight back without leaning forward. Now lean forward. Try this on various trail conditions and varying slopes.
When you approach a hill, the gut reaction is to click into the lowest gear and attack the slope. This doesn’t work. It’s like spinning your car’s tires on ice. You’ll only upset your balance and cause your tire to slip. Instead, go into a gear that’s just low enough (this will take practice to learn what gear to use) so that you’re neither spinning out of control nor having to stand on the pedals to crank them forward. An ideal cadence will be 70-80 RPM. Keep your cadence steady and smooth.
As you approach the hill, the tendency is to shift before you actually start climbing the hill. For a beginner this is the best approach. But as you learn to move your weight fore and aft to maintain balance and traction, you can modify your shifting to maintain speed.
Once you feel more comfortable climbing, maintain your cadence on your current gear until you feel like you’re about to have to lift out of the saddle to continue pedaling. At this point, shift into a lower gear. This will help you maintain your speed and make the hill seem shorter, the climb less grueling.
It also helps to pick a good line before you go up the hill. A beginning cyclist has the tendency to pick a line that avoids the most obstacles. Seems logical, but this isn’t always the best route. Turning the handlebar to steer around an obstacle can upset your balance more than just going over the obstacle.
Of course, you’ll have to learn which obstacles you can power over and which are best avoided. Obviously big rocks and large, wet roots will stop any advance and are best circumvented. But you can generally power through the small stuff.
As you ride along a trail, your eyes should constantly scan the trail. Move your line of sight from in front of your tire to about 15 feet up the trail, then back. Look for large rocks, roots, sand—anything that can easily stop your forward motion. You’ll see the general lay of the land and obvious paths where your bike can and can’t go. As you become more experienced, your eyes will spot paths that most people think mountain goats couldn’t conquer.
And like all mountain bike skills… practice, practice, practice. Enjoy!
Richard La China is a Professional Mountain Bike racer, USAC Certified Cycling Coach and a IMBA Certified Mountain Bike Skills Instructor who coaches beginner to pro cyclist. Currently working with mountain bike XC, Endurance and Enduro racers and other competitive and non-competitive mountain bike riders seeking to become their best.
Woohoo! As good as it gets is appropriate! Richard is not only a great rider, he is a great teacher!...
Woohoo! As good as it gets is appropriate! Richard is not only a great rider, he is a great teacher! I would encourage everyone to stay away from the mind trap that buying a more expensive mountain bike is what you need to ride better. Spend the money on lessons instead, and I know you will be happier (and safer) in the long run. I can't say enough positive things about the Bike Skills clinics. ~ Chris G.
Within one hour we we clearing a 5 foot jump easily and with confidence!
Wow, a friend and I just did a one day private lesson with Richard and I can’t believe how much...
Wow, a friend and I just did a one day private lesson with Richard and I can’t believe how much we learned. I’ve been riding for over 10 years but with all self taught skills. We wanted to learn fundamentals the right way and Richard took us through all of that (along with critical bike setup) and the intermediate stuff that they teach in one day plus he spent an extra hour at the end to teach us jumping which I had always been nervous about. Within one hour we we clearing a 5 foot jump easily and with confidence, we even learned to move the bike in the air on a crossed take off and landing. I think my favorite part though was riding fast on the very gnarly technical descent. We will be booking up more private lessons during the summer at Big Bear. Thanks Richard you are a very good teacher! ~John U.
I took a Fundamental Skill clinic last weekend and learned so much! I've been riding for a few years and...
I took a Fundamental Skill clinic last weekend and learned so much! I've been riding for a few years and felt stuck and was not improving at all. Aaron was a great instructor! Very patient and broke down everything step by step and we repeated the skills until we felt comfortable. I look forward to mastering the skills I learned and taking another clinic in the spring. ~Jody Hachenberger-Amend
Special thanks to Santa Fe Fat Tire Society for bringing you in!
My wife and I had the privilege of attending the skills 2 day camp in Santa Fe New Mexico August...
My wife and I had the privilege of attending the skills 2 day camp in Santa Fe New Mexico August 20th and 21st. Richard and Aaron and Catherine where fantastic trainers and teachers they brought new light into basic skills of riding each person in the group was able to excel in what we were doing before we moved on to some other awesome skill or task individual attention was felt by all in the group and visible Improvement was seen in all Riders when we have you back next year you should plan on doubling or tripling the number of riders thanks for a super fun weekend and special thanks to Santa Fe Fat Tire Society for bringing you in and of course thanks to Richard and Aaron and Kathryn. ~Bruce Hamby
This past fall I finally broke down and upgrade my mountain bike. I was riding a hard tail bike mostly...
This past fall I finally broke down and upgrade my mountain bike. I was riding a hard tail bike mostly for the workout. After racing in an Xterra, I realized that a new bike was in my future. ( I could tell a huge story about the process of purchasing a new MB and the massive amount of miss information you can obtain from bike shops. Especially when you know nothing about bikes. ) Not long after I purchased the new MB, I had my first over the handle bars wreck. I still cannot remember the actual crash. I can see the rut that I am about to hit on the downhill, and then I remember waking up on the trail barely able to breath. The crash gave me some time to catch up on email. One of those emails was a beginners MB clinic hosted by Richard and the Ride Like a Ninja crew. I swallowed my pride and signed up. To date I have done everything I was taught. I made every adjustment to my bike that was recommended. I then had the bike fitted. The skills taught that day are priceless to me. For the first time I understand what position my body needs to be in for each type of terrain. I am not perfect by any means, but in my mind I am shouting the word NINJA to remind myself. I practice the techniques ever time I ride. ~ Hal N.
This truly life changing gift will be greatly appreciated by the recipient and is the perfect choice for birthdays, holidays, or any other gift-giving occasion!Gift Certificates are available for all Mountain Bike Skills Clinics, Camps, One-on-one Sessions and Ninja Gear. Order yours here.