How to go up hills faster

Thank you for the workouts so far. I have a question in regards to cadence and hills. I have been known as a grinder with average cadence of low 80s. However, the last few months i have really struggled and on the slightest of inclines my quads strain even though my lungs can keep up. I have had a bike fit and all is where it should be. I mentioned this to the fitter and he said i should increase my cadence to relieve the stress on my legs and therefore can recover quicker. The last two weeks i have actively been trying to increase my cadence to 95 average, but now my lungs can’t keep up and i feel i am going backward a bit. My weakness has always been hills, and its even harder when on bunch rides the boys keep improving and always have to wait for me (not that they mind). I hate feeling like the weakest link! Any advice would be appreciated.


Hi @puggles there is no one ideal cadence for hills. The cadence should vary according to the length of the hill/climb and the terrain. And for advanced riders, body position (seated/standing) along with power and cadence changes as well.

This concept is referred to as “surfing the terrain” as my own coach calls it. So for example, you build speed on the flat before hitting the hill. Once you hit the hill, carry that momentum, and drop cadence/increase power for the steeper sections. Then increase cadence/keep power or even accelerate for the flatter sections. How much power will depend on what you are able to produce. If you know you are slower on the hills, you should also try to position yourself in the front of the group before the climb. If you are towards the back, it will be even harder to keep up.

Do you have the Strava link from one of those rides that you can share with me so I can take a look?

Workouts mixing low and higher cadence on hill and climbs simulations are very helpful, as are low cadence workouts that build muscular strength. Those andVO2 workouts for aerobic capacity, which also helps with hills.

@Michelle used to be less than a fan of hills and climbs, and now she has “Hills” as her middle name :wink: perhaps she can offer some insights as well.

For more on cadence in general, check out this post.


Thanks for the tips. Below is a link to my last long ride where I struggled to keep up on even the slightest of inclines.

Weekly I do hills around our area and still struggle
I would love to love and enjoy Hills and keen to take out what I can from your cycling challenge

Hey @puggles I feel your pain with the hills. As Theia said I used to really struggle with hills, I had a hate-hate relationship with them for my first 18months of cycling. It got to the point where I would get really stressed when I knew a hill was coming!
Like you I was worried about being too slow and keeping people waiting. I’d also be worried that I’d run out of energy before I got to the top and would fall off (this never happened but was a constant worry). My thighs hated hills and would hurt the moment I hit the start of the incline, this usually resulted in me changing down through the gears far too quickly and losing all my momentum - I’d often be seen spinning my legs really fast at the start of a climb, setting my heart rate racing and giving me a struggle before the hard work had even begun.
After some advice from Theia I decided to tackle my hills issue - I went to my local park and practiced climbing the hill there, taking it easy and teaching my body that I can climb.
Whenever there’s a hill on a club ride or an event I ‘do my own thing’ - I know people will be quicker than me and I’m ok with that. I also know most people will go too hard at the start and my steady pace will see me over take them part way up the hill (if it’s a long climb).
When I get to the start of a hill I try to keep the momentum going that I built up in the approach; I’m conscious not to change down too early, I’ll generally wait until I can feel it in my legs and my cadence starts to drop below 70rpm before I think about changing down - I used to effectively change gear with my eyes (when I saw the incline getting tougher) but now I change with my legs (when I feel the incline getting tougher). I’m getting better at tapping out a nice steady pace on the pedals, if things get tough (like a sharp increase in the incline or my legs start to hurt) I get out of the saddle for a bit. I also distract my mind by either reciting a mantra or singing a song in my head… occasionally the singing has accidentally slipped into actual singing which is a little embarrassing when you haven’t realised some guy is sucking your wheel :see_no_evil:


Thank you for your response. As much as I change gears to make it easier as the incline starts, I still manage to push too hard which results in my legs tiring . I am now trying to put it all together and not spin too much, but also not push too hard. It’s tough and I like the idea of practicing as well. I need to get more confident with tapping away and waving at the others as they pass by. Fortunately all the rides are no drop, but it would still be nice to not always be one of the last.

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Keep at it @puggles and you will notice a difference - Id definitely recommend doing some practice on your own so you can work out a technique that suits you. I used to go super easy and still have loads left in the tank when I reached the top - now I can measure my effort to have just enough left to give a spurt as I crest which means I overtake those that went out too hard :grin:

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@puggles thanks for the files. As you don’t have a power meter outside, I am limited on the feedback I can provide. Also, how to you pace yourself outside - do you go by “feel”?

If you continue to train with a power meter, as you have been doing in Zwift, and you have a power meter outdoors, you will learn the power/cadence combos that work for you and be able to use that data to pace yourself outdoors.

So based on cadence and speed data only, I noticed that you lose momentum by spinning at high cadence then dropping it significantly, over and over, such that it has many ups and downs. Every time you stop pedaling and have to restart, you need to use more energy, and that adds up. In addition, often times you use very high cadence up the hills (95, 100+ rpms) and could be loosing speed that way.

Here is a screen shot of one of the sections of your ride. The yellow line is cadence. Note the big ups and downs.

To carry momentum, you need to change cadence but not have these big variations or stop. Carry momentum over the top and continue pedaling on the downhills. Shifting is also critical. Here is an example of keeping momentum going by always pedaling even though terrain and power vary quite a bit (blue line is cadence):

To efficiently maintain speed you need to “surf the terrain” and the way to learn that is first and foremost, do the workouts outside of ERG, so you can better work on controlling your power and cadence.

Lastly, are the riders in your group much stronger than you? Another consideration when trying to keep up with them is also developing strength.

I also sing when I climb, and I often do it out loud. I find that it helps to regulate my breathing.


Thanks all. Definitely feel like i am improving since doing the womens cycling challenge. Yes i do ride by “feel” and probably push too much. I am trying to get more comfortable with my cadence and it is slowly starting to show improvements. 2 steps forward, 1 step back. I did sing in my head yesterday which also helped. Usually kids songs keep my cadence going on tough climbs lol.

@Coach_Theia i am not sure what segment you looked at, but we do live in the city with lots of traffic lights, traffic and a few stops and starts pending on the bunch. In saying that, i usually do struggle off the lights as well.

Appreciate all the feedback and I look forward to doing more training.

PS. my birthday is this weekend, i am considering a power meter as a gift lol.


My birthday is in July and I thought the same about the power meter!!! :rofl::rofl::rofl:

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I understand @puggles

I heard power meters make a wonderful birthday gift @puggles and @mariannamarcucci :grimacing::grimacing::grimacing:


Happy Birthday for the weekend @puggles

Thank you :slight_smile:

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That’s a deal @puggles…which one are you going to buy?!? :rofl::rofl::rofl:

@Coach_Theia I just finished 4.3…I can’t believe it’s finished…seriously?!?
I have a question, here it’s super hot now, 30/35 celsius and during the nights I wake up cause my legs hurt, I feel the urge to stretch them…do you think I need magnesium/potassium or what? It’s frustrating cause I wake up tired in the morning. :roll_eyes:

@mariannamarcucci not so fast… one more week to go!!!

Have you had leg pain at night before? Did it start when the weather got hot? And is it pain or cramps? Whole leg or only quads/hamstrings/shins? Do you have back pain/issues?

There could be many causes, from fatigue to dehydration, low levels of magnesium, circulatory problems, etc…

You could try to take magnesium before bed. I have been taking it every day for about 3 years now. Not for leg pain, but for better sleep, recovery, and to keep me regular :poop:

Try taking magnesium in pure form.

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Ahahaha yes, I mean…just one week more!

The pain starts with hot weather, mostly on calves and it’s a sensation of anxiety on muscles, not really cramps…I know it’s weird to say, I’m sorry I can’t explain better, but it’s anxiety on calves. :rofl:

Probably I need to drink more and I’ll try Magnesium powder as you suggested, Thank you!

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Not sure what the prices are for power meters where you are, but a good one over here is over $1k aud. I am better to hold off until I upgrade to my next bike which would have one standard :smirk:

Here in the US there are many good options to buy refurbished or used power meters…