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.
They’ve helped build my confidence and competence!
Coming from a triathlon background I had spent most of my time on the road, though I did have a...
Coming from a triathlon background I had spent most of my time on the road, though I did have a few seasons of cyclocross under my belt. I was a novice mountain biker with just enough confidence to get myself into trouble on the trails. I started by attending the free Tuesday night mountain bike workouts at Balboa Park, led by Coach Richard. While these are primarily geared toward building fitness, we learned some skills tips and I met some cool folks. Since then I've taken the intermediate and advanced skills clinics, as well as raced a couple times. Coaches Richard and Kris are great at instruction, which is not easy. Most great riders cannot teach others to do the same, but these two are exceptional at it. They've helped build my confidence and competence. In fact they have taken time during weekday and weekend rides to help give me pointers! I joined Team Ninja to train and race with this fun crew and would highly advise you check them out! ~Henry H.
All in all, you couldn’t get more for your money than this clinic.
This clinic was PERFECT for me…as a very experienced roadie but pure beginner on MTBs, Richard’s instruction was clear, detailed,...
This clinic was PERFECT for me…as a very experienced roadie but pure beginner on MTBs, Richard’s instruction was clear, detailed, and specific, so that I could start to get the feel of how to work effectively on trails instead of asphalt. Jeff (a former elite cyclocross racer) also joined us and added some solid hints and comments. All in all, you couldn’t get more for your money than this clinic. ~ Mike Sofen
I highly recommend their skills camps, and plan on attending more …
I've been a recreational mountain bike rider for a few years, and have been riding on single track, but never...
I've been a recreational mountain bike rider for a few years, and have been riding on single track, but never had any formal training. I just finished the weekend skills course in Irvine, CA with Richard, Randy and Daniel as the instructors. They are excellent instructors breaking every fundamental skill down, demonstrating the skill and then evaluating your practice runs with constructive criticism before applying the skills on the trails. Even though I have been riding single track for a few years, I quickly found out that I have been doing many things if not everything wrong, which means the people I ride with are doing it wrong too. Richard, Randy and Daniel are very patient and professional encouraging every student no matter what the age or gender (our class had males and females from late 20s to late 50s). They went over everything from bike set up, basic position, turning, high speed cornering, wheels lifts to you name it. If you have a desire to improve your skill then Ninja Mountain Bike Performance are the team to go to! I highly recommend their skills camps, and plan on attending more of their camps in the future. ~Kyle Kimm
Just finished the Intermediate/Advanced course. I had previously taken the Beginning course about a year ago. I was not disappointed....
Just finished the Intermediate/Advanced course. I had previously taken the Beginning course about a year ago. I was not disappointed. The preparation and lesson planning is great. Instructors seem to be everywhere providing input and excellent advice. Both groups had a wide range of skilled riders, but the team made everyone welcome and everyone learned important new skills. This training makes everyday more fun on my bike. DAY 2: Just rode one of my "regular" morning workout routes. 2 PR's - and I thought I was just cruising. I was making no effort to ride fast... just smooth like I was taught. ~Peter O.
It was very professional and at the same time really fun!
The intermediate and advanced clinic was very helpful and effective. Easy to follow, a lot of information but somehow I...
The intermediate and advanced clinic was very helpful and effective. Easy to follow, a lot of information but somehow I was able to retain it. I think because the instructors present it well. It was very professional and at the same time really fun! ~ Karen B.