Climbing

When climbing a gradual hill, try to remain seated for as long as possible. This will help maintain traction and good control. Climbing should be done in a relaxed position with the elbows bent and your attention focused ahead. Keep your hands firm on the handlebars or bar-ends. The key to good climbing is keeping your backside on the saddle, remaining relaxed and transferring your weight to compensate for quick shifts in balance.

When attempting technical ascents, lift your backside off the saddle and shift your weight to the front of the bike. Bar-ends help these situations by providing extra mechanical advantage. However, remember that steering the bike with your hands on the bar-ends is difficult, and can sometimes land you in trouble.

Climbing requires a good sense of balance, especially if you are in your small chain-ring on the front, and your large cog on the rear. Establishing the proper balance needed for some climbs takes practice, so don't feel bad if you find that a steep climb is giving you trouble. Persevere and you will find that, in time, that climb will not be so threatening.

A good exercise to improve your balance is to try to pick things off the ground while riding at a slow speed. Place your water bottle on the ground and, while balancing on your bike, try to bend over and pick it up, without putting your foot down. This might seem impossible at first, but keep trying and you will be surprised to discover how fast your balance improves. As you improve, try picking up smaller items like gloves, or even coins!

Descending

For safe descents, it is important to recall the procedure of shifting yourself back on the saddle that we discussed in Section 3.5 on proper braking techniques. For steep descents, shift your weight behind the saddle. Arms should be fully extended, knees slightly bent and your back straight as possible to avoid imbalances. In areas where shrubs can scrape you, keep your elbows out. If you are skeptical about any decent, stop and walk your bike.

During a descent your main focus should be on choosing the right path or line down the hill. Keep the cranks parallel to the ground and look 2-3 meters ahead, choosing the right line. Avoid skidding by again referring to Proper Braking Techniques.

Make sure that you enter a descent in a comfortable gear, and then forget about the gears for the duration of the descent.