How to go slow uphill?

Any suggestions for going slower uphill? I’m trying to climb some fairly steep (15 to 20+%) hills, and I’m successful for some distance, but then I run out of gas and I need to bail. The obvious answer is to train more, and I’m doing that. But I also think I’m trying to go too fast. I’m using a bit of speed for balance, and that won’t cut it going up steep hills. So I need to find a way slow the cadence a bit, remain upright, and get up that hill. In some of the videos in seems like riders pause just a tiny bit on each pedal stroke. Is that a good idea? Any other thoughts?

(Getting younger would help, but I haven’t found a way to do that either.)


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If a hill is really steep, I’ll pause and maybe do a small corrective hop before mashing the pedals another half revolution. On pavement though I just push through and try to pedal smoothly, also paved hills tend to be less steep than what I encounter on trails sometimes so that’s probably the reason for my difference in method based on surface.


On steep stuff I usually go one pedal stroke at a time, steering the wheel under me so that when that stroke is done, I’m balanced. Then it’s a brief standstill and another pedal stroke + steer. I don’t know if there’s a proper uni-word for the pedal+steer; I think of it as a “power swerve”.

It feels a lot like uphill hiking to me, one step at a time.


That’s almost like an uphill mini switchback maneuver if I understand correctly. I hadn’t thought about that but I also use that technique sometimes.

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Keep training.
Practice your slow riding and stillstands to compliment your hill climbing technique.
I wouldn’t add in extra exercise like hopping or unnecessary turning as you’ll need this energy for making it to the top.

Pick your line and ride it.
Mark your high mark and ride past it next time.

I’m not a fan of sessioning. (especially on an exhausting effort)
Try it and then walk the rest while picking your line to the top for your next ride (attempt).

This is just what works for me.

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Stand up and half rev it. On the really steep stuff in the 25% and up range, I find myself pausing every few half revs, almost like a still stand. It helps me catch my breath. I don’t really like to do it, but you could also try zig-zagging to help reduce the vertical steepness a bit.


UniG is right. Watch his youtube video.
Riding up hill is not “speeding up hill” it is “climbing” one pedal at a time. It feels like stop/go + still stand in between = efficiency/energy saving.

That requires a “different” technique. Basically it’s"
a.) Precise, “fearless”, upper body rocking motion to get that forward lean fore/aft balance. Violent forward rocking is needed to balance the violent quick jab down pedal. Newton’s 3rd law, I know right.

b.) Twist the unicycle for extra balance/stability. Yes, counter-intuitive. Watch George Peck video ride over rocks/boulders. Twist = a few microseconds of pause between each down pedals. During this short pause you can slowly(grind) the pedals to 3/9 o’clock position for a short still stand.

c.) Practice on grass. Preferably tall w/hidden gofer holes/stuff. This really forces you to learn one pedal/at a time offroading = uphill technique.

d.) Never ever just “speed up” to climb a hill. Do the opposite.

Done right. This technique feels like a controlled session on a stairclimb machine, or something. That you can do slowly, but for a long time. Not a quick short spurt spring then an exhausted bad UPD.


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What Slamdance said. I’ll just add a little something that hasn’t been specifically mentioned here. When “grinding” half a rev at a time, the pauses in-between pedal strokes have a few purposes:

  • Each pause gives your muscles a mini-break
  • It gives you a moment to calculate any micro-steering you need to do for the next stroke, to keep you on course
  • Most importantly, each pause gives you a second to lean into the next stroke

The steeper the climb, the more useful all of that is. If you’re able to power through a climb without having to pause, it’s either relatively short, or not so steep. Or you’re a really fit badass (like UniGeezer; check out his climbing videos!). As your technique improves, you will be able to continuously pedal for longer distances, or steeper slopes.


This is really good advice, thank you all. The issue is translating these explanations into actual physical success. I really do want to learn to go slower as discussed so I don’t run out of gas on these climbs. I think I may try to learn this on some moderate slopes that are steep enough to provide a challenge but not so steep that I’m already at my limit. I’ll report back in a bit. Thanks again.

Keep working.
It’s really a mindset and unicycle riding philosophy that I am constantly battling:

a.) Look straight ahead and straight back vs. hunching forwards and weight on pedal
b.) Speed up for gyroscopic stability vs. Riding slow with pedal to pedal balancing dynamics.
c.) Riding big wheels and short pedals to keeping up with 2 wheelers on the bike trails vs. riding offroad over grass and bumps.

Learn to do both. Learn to “teach both”.

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You can’t go too slow or you’ll stall out, especially on bigger wheels, since it takes longer to get to the next downstroke. I challenged Ben Soja to ride my 36er up a local walk path measured between 32-35% grade. Because this path is less than 3 ft wide it has to be ridden straight up without zigzagging. It’s 270 feet in length, and about 90 feet of elevation, and each revolution takes you 3 feet higher! I had made my 36er as light as possible with a carbon fiber-based saddle and lift handle, and 175mm carbon cranks. I was absolutely astonished that he was able to make that climb all the way to the top! He had to keep his momentum because if he had slowed down even a little bit he would have stalled out. It was an amazing thing to witness!