Hill training...every dreaded aspect of it.

I have been noticing that I have been having a difficult time on (seemingly) easy inclines; going downhill I just lean back and brake with calf power, going uphill I lean forward and start pumping and usually end up in a UPD.
I realize that hills are inherently more difficult than flat ground or descending slopes, yet how much difficulty should I have going uphill? I have tried rolling a little faster before hitting the incline; I have also tried grabbing onto the handle to increase leverage and kind of “kip” up, but this usually results in the uni flying out from under me.
Should I be trying to create more of a flowing spinning movement as I go uphill? I’m stuck where I just pump my legs hoping to bring the pedal to a good position, but it is to no avail. I usually just lose momentum and shoot off. Would a handlebar help? I’m currently riding a 26" so I don’t think it should be a problem, is my technique/form/determination all in the wrong places?

Climbing hills is all about fitness and technique. As with everything unicycle related it’s about putting in time on the saddle and just keep trying.

When riding hills try get a steady cadence (spin speed of the pedals). It also helps to have your feet a little more forward on the pedals forcing you to push with your outer quads which are larger and stronger than the quad muscles running up the centre of your leg, from just above the knee. A steady pace will prevent you blowing your legs and lungs out to soon. Once you get used to the technique of riding up hills, it’s then all down to your fitness.

It’s all about practice, but not just more of the same falling off practice!

Just like a trials unicyclist can’t hop up onto half a dozen pallets the very first time they try, you won’t ride up your ultimate hill first go. Like the trials unicyclist you need to break it down. Find your own personal ‘one pallet’ climb and master it, then do the same with a ‘two pallet’ climb and keep progressing until you can successfully climb your ‘six pallet’ hill. Then, if you are perfectionist, try and do it with fewer UPD’s each time until you can do it in one, then count how many times you do it without a UPD.

However, some hills are just unrideable either up, down or both so be realistic as well as ambitious. Good luck.

Practice, practice, practice and also fitness, fitness, fitness. I’m mainly a long distance runner but even so when I first started unicycling any kind of distance, especially on trails or up gravel roads it was not easy! However overtime I adapted to this new kind of body stress; but I will say being physically fit does help a lot! Anyways I have this gravel road hill where I work that climbs around 700 feet in around 1.9 miles. It starts out pretty steep the first half mile then flattens a bit and even has a short section of downhill for recovery but then finishes with a mile long up that has steep spots. At first I couldn’t even make it up the first bottom section w/o a PD (or UPD!). But I gradually learned how to ride more efficiently, slowly and in control. You see when I first started I didn’t have any trials skills so I couldn’t ride slow and in control. You know half a crank, pause, half a crank, pause, out of the saddle. I was trying to just “race” up the hill and of course it broke me! You’ve got to learn to finesse it less and just ascend a bit slowly. Well now, after gaining some trials and other trail riding skills I’ve been able to, several times, ride all the way up the entire 1.9 mile, 700 foot climb hill w/o a PD or UPD! It’s a pretty good fitness challenge and skills challenge as well as a lot of the road is washed out or has loose gravel so one has to constantly change lines. I love it! So just stick with it and learn to ride slow!

“going uphill I lean forward and start pumping and usually end up in a UPD”

When you lean forward, push your chest out and up, but keep your head straight up and not pushed forward.

I find that if my head is leaning forward in the same line as my chest that I will almost always launch myself off the uni somewhere through the process of the climb. I also tend to pull the seat up hard into myself as I’m climbing and this seems to help maintain my above mentioned posture.

Not sure what ‘kip’ means? But you almost certainly want to be holding a handle while riding up hills - that lets you pull your weight down on to the pedals. Otherwise when the torque required increases you will just find yourself stepping off the front of the wheel.

And like they said - practice, practice, practice. The smoother your pedalling circles are the less energy you lose fighting one leg against the other, and the easier putting your power into the hill is.


There are basically two ways to get up hills
A) Practice (as if you haven’t heard this one before)
B) Get off and walk… I don’t advise this one as it requires giving up and looking like a doofus when you have to get off everytime you come to an incline.

While this might get you started on hills, you should, as a goal, try to ride hills like you ride flat ground. Aim to stay relaxed, weight on the seat, and grip the handle lightly. The more muscles you use, the faster you’ll spend your energy, the sooner you’ll tire out. You really only need your legs to do the work!

Absolutely! You might give yourself a little burst of speed before you hit the hill, to allow you to maintain your flow once you’re on the hill.

Once on the hill, however, try to avoid jerky movements… focus on relaxing in the saddle and “spinning some circles”. That is, don’t just push down on each pedal… remember that the pedals travel in a circle and you’ll need to do the same with your feet for maximum efficiency.

Be sure to use all your leg muscles in the process: at the bottom of the stroke, use your toes to pull the pedal back even further (engaging your calf muscles). At the top of the stroke, push forward with your heel to begin the push.

When the grade gets really steep, and the terrain becomes more loose, rocky and uneven, I find myself getting up off the saddle and standing on the pedals doing full and half revs. This actually works well for me on the super steep stuff, that I otherwise would have to hike up. It also has the added benefit of letting me get up off the saddle to “stretch” my legs, and use my weight in addition to muscles on each down stroke to keep going. My philosophy on climbing is to be as efficient as possible, focusing on pace, form and technique, but not trying to go too fast and wear yourself out. And when it gets insanely steep, do whatever it takes to keep going! :smiley:

I do like this piece of advice especially. Some other good points on spinnng in smooth circles.

On long drags off-road I sometimes switch between standing up on the pedals ‘cranking’ my way up to sitting down and spinning smoother qute a few times. This may not be the best technique but the change helps me I find.

On the second day of MUT there was a stupidly big hill once we got into Croatia. Around where I live (Newfoudland) you can see the tops of all the hills before you’re even at the bottom - they’re not that tall.

I was so used to just gunning it up a hill and then recovering on the flat or downhill at the top that I didn’t have the required skills to make it up this thing (which was several times the height of any hill around here, but still smaller than some I would later get up in one go). I was stopping every 50 meters or so to catch my breath, then gunning up the next 50, then stopping… took me forever!

I later learned that you can actually get up a hill by going slow. If you have a bike computer, I’m talking 12km/hr (7.5mph) or so. Just enough effort to keep pushing you forward. After you have put in your time, you’ll find that you can push more uphill, and when you get tired, you can ‘rest’ by going a bit slower, and while you’re still pushing up a huge hill, you will recover a bit at the same time. Then you know you’re in shape :slight_smile:

Also a note on crank sizes with respect to hills - the longer your cranks are, the slower you’re able to go on hills, however the harder it is to maintain momentum. If you are not fit enough to get up hills at 10-15kms/hr, you can throw on some 150s and crank up in ‘low gear’ at a pretty chill pace, 8km/hr or less (this is the rate of a vigorous walk). If you put on shorter cranks, you’ll need to be able spin up at a reasonable speed to maintain enough momentum to keep the pedals turning.

anyhow… that’s enough of a rant for today I guess :stuck_out_tongue:

I do the same sort of thing. There is a trail that is by my house that goes up some steep hills. Mine go up about 500 feet in a bit over a mile. I used to take two breaks to get to the top. Now I can go up it twice without upd’s. The trick i find is to save as much energy as you can. I stand up only when I have to. I try to sit on the seat and slow down as much as possible. I find this helps a lot. Try it somethime.

I do have the same issue at times, although I’m doing much better now with more and more practice. But I used to really lean forward, but then due to the hill, I couldn’t bring the wheel under me fast enough like you do on the flat, and so I was falling forward. I now try to stay more upward on the steep hills.

Tire pressure also plays a huge role. Low pressure tends to compress the tire when you push on the pedals rather than moving the wheel forward, so keeping the tire pressure fairly high helped me practice going uphill.

So if I am on dirt my tire pressure is lower than street. Does that matter?

I also find myself going up a hill with the tire going left, right, left. It’s an exaggerated wobble. Is that normal or do I want to try and keep the wheel straight?

I prefer lower pressure for trails, that aren’t too smooth (like sidewalks with ridges, curbs, roots, gravel, etc…), but high pressure for smooth road riding and for hills. So depending on the ride I’m preparing for, I change the pressure on the tire. Since it’s often a mix of condition, I try to choose the one I think will work best. You can go uphill with a low pressure tire, but I find it harder. And you can ride dirt trails with a high pressure tire but it’s also harder (it’s a bit like riding a bull during a rodeo, every bumps will try to throw you off the saddle, instead of being absorbed by the tire).

Do whatever works :). Wobbling makes you more stable, so as long as you’re staying on the uni and not falling, I say it’s a good way to do it. With time and practice, you’ll be more stable on the seat and ride straighter with smaller wobbles (I’m not quite there yet myself, I still wobble quite a bit, but I notice it being better and better the more I ride).

Just back from a training ride with some big hills …pant… pant! I am working on getting stamina back after winter and there is this one long, big hill with a very steep resolve. Today was the best yet!! Got some tips from this thread … thanks …
The more you ride it the better you get. That simple. But my trick is that I lean and push down on my seat extender thing rather than pulling up like I used to. Gets me kinda up off the saddle but not riding standing up all the way…
Been doing this every other day and hope to get better and better. I love MUni but have always struggled on the uphills.

Unicycling has a natural wobbling to the tire. Just look at a track through the sand. When humping up a hill, I exagerate this wobble so that the downward traveling pedal is more in front of the tire contact patch with the pavement. This also allows me to slow down because body weight, tire patch, and pedal are a little closer to being in line.

I stand up. Raising the seat might make an easier transition from sitting to full standing.

I always find it helps me to find a rhythm to get into. I notice that I usually sync my breathing up with my pedaling and focus on nothing but the rhythm of my legs and my breath. My head often tends to bob with the rhythm too. I ride a 36, so I’m not sure if that would work as well with a 26".

Just one word: really big freakin cranks. Yeah. And really big freakin legs. That helps too. A light skinny tire is also good. No whining. Just practice, get in shape. Get some manly legs and you’ll be climbing 14,000’ mountains just like Osmundo in 10 or 20 years tops.

Life it too short for riding on the flats.

On non-technical terrain (ie. not on big rocks & roots off road), there’s no real technique to riding uphill, it is just about hanging on the unicycle and keeping pedalling.

Most people hang onto the handle on really steep stuff, so they can get a bit more force on the pedals.

On really long uphills, if you get to a less steep bit, back off and slow down and take it as a rest, that can make it much easier.

The rest is just practice and fitness that you get through practice.