Is uphill muni really this difficult or am I just

Am I just a wimp and need to suck it up and practice, practice, practice. I’ve been riding my muni on a local mountain bike loop for a little over a month. Avoiding the steep stuff, just mild, rolling single and double track cross country.

The learning curve for downhill has been pretty good, but riding up what I consider to be minor grades stops me dead. I have been able to go up a few sections that I couldn’t last month but they are very minor slopes and it is discouraging.

Do you never see muni vidios of riders going up because it is not any fun to watch or because they walk up?

What size are your cranks and wheel?

I’ve been out on muni trips with my 20" (because that was my only uni) and it was tiring. And I couldn’t go uphill.

I am on a 26 with 165’s

It’s fun to conquer a hill. There are quite a few around here that I’m still working on. I actually get more excited about making it up a steep hill than riding down one. When I first started muni, I bought some longer cranks (165s on my 29er) so I would have some more leverage when stomping on the pedals. After about a year I was able to retire the 165s and am back down to 150s.

Uphill is hard, but with practice you can climb most things that you could climb on a bike. The exception is short very steep slopes, where on a bike you’d need a massive run up to get speed up, whilst on a unicycle you can’t get the speed required.

The bike still has a bit of an edge on really steep stuff, but not massively.

Learning to ride uphill will help you on the downhill too with increased fitness, better strength for control, some riders do always walk the uphills, but every really good rider I’ve met will ride as much uphill as they possibly can.

I know when I started, I used to attempt to ride a long uphill stretch, about 1km and 150m of ascent in total, on a ride I did most weeks. To start with it was completely impossible, and it took me about a year before I rode it the first time. Last time I was back there, after a few years gap, during which I’ve ridden quite a bit in other places, it was easy.


The stronger hill climbers I’ve seen always seem to use shorter cranks and a constant “zippy” cadence for the ups. Or at least just a “zippy” aggressive cadence, the terrain probably dictates the crank size.

Edit: Also “standing” on the pedals and pulling up on the seat seems to leverage a little extra power on the uphills.

Are you more used to shorter cranks? I know that when I got my 29" with 170s, I didn’t know how to ride it at all after being too used to my 20", 125mm configuration.

I agree with BluntRM - standing on the pedals helps because you’re forcing your weight on the pedals. Another reason might be that you’re too afraid to fall off to lean forward enough.

We ride as much up as down here in the northern part of California. Most of us prefer 150s, but some on these boards will argue that 165s or 170s are better because of increased leverage.

Climbing uphill is definitely a unique technique to be learned. Try to relax. Hold onto the handle with one hand. Stand up or sit down, which ever is most comfortable at the moment. On steeper stuff, your pedal strokes will be half a revolution at a time. When you get better, you can actually take mini breaks by still-standing if the grade isn’t too steep.

Riding uphill is a combination of technique and fitness. Technique being the more important part. No amount of fitness will get you up challenging climbs if you don’t have the technique.

It is also about learning to pace yourself so you don’t blow up during the climb.

If the climb is steep enough that you need to stand on the pedals you need to switch over to a technique that is more efficient for that style of climbing. If you’re standing on the pedals you need to smooth out the pedaling so you don’t get stuck at the bottom of the pedal stroke. I do a little bounce technique where I flex my foot to point the toes down at the bottom of the pedal stroke. That gives a little bounce at the bottom of the pedal stroke and keeps you from losing momentum at the bottom of the pedal stroke and wasting energy. You want to dance on the pedals and not mash them with Frankenstein style steps.

For longer climbs you can also learn to pause briefly while the pedals are horizontal so you can pace yourself and catch your breath.

I feel that it is almost easier to climb the steep hills on my usual route with 125mm cranks compared to 170mm. As BluntRM says the shorter cranks allows more of a flow uphill. With the 170s the larger movement counteracts the increased leverage, breaking the “flow” and hurting my knees (I’m 170cm/5’7").

I am going to mount the 150mm cranks again some day soon. Hopefully they will get me up the last few hills. Technique and fitness improve with practice so just keep at it!

Shorter cranks are better for hills you can “cruise” up without having to slow down too much. This is more about fitness than steepness, so it can’t be linked to any particular piece of trail or grade of slope.

But when the going gets tough and you’re going half a wheel turn at a time, the long cranks definitely help! I had been running 145s on my Wilder for a while, but I put on 160s for Moab and it was a great compromise between speed and leverage. The original cranks were 170s, which are probably the most appropriate for Moab, but are too slow for most of the places I ride.

A small change in crank length can make a big difference.

I normally have 170’s on my 24" for me it’s hard to pedal smoothly, esp. when one of the cranks comes to the up position. A while ago, I road Tholub’s '05 KH w/ 165’s & it was MUCH easier to pedal smoothly, which supprised me, since they’re only 5 mm shorter.

On gentle climbs it is easier w/ the 165’s, but on slopes at the limit of my skill my 170’s are still easier (doing half wheel turns), as well on technical terrain. The 165’s take less energy and overal are much better IMO, but since my terrain is so hard for me, I’ll stick w/ the 170’s for a while.

When I can make it up most of my smooth, moderate trails on my DX w/ the 170’s w/ few UPD’s, I’ll prob upgrade to a KH 24 w/ 165’s.

I’m by no means a good climber, but can tell you that yes, practice is what you need to do. The trails I ride include lots of uphills, both short and long, gradual and steep. There are a lot of sections that I still can’t ride, but others that I ride regularly now that a few years ago I couldn’t make it up.

If you have (or can afford) some shorter cranks, give them a try. My 13 year old son, who rides my old 26er muni, has improved his climbing greatly after I swapped out the 170s for 140s. I’m surprised to find that I can climb almost everything on my 29er with 150s as my 24 with 165s (but not everything–I can still do better on the 24).

John Childs is right about the technique/fitness divide, too. I’ve got reasonable technique, but run out of wind too soon on steeper, stand-up sections. Still, I think I like climbing almost best when on rides; the challenge is fun.

I too am by no means a good hill climber but last spring I did a muni ride with a beginner and recommended he let some air out of his tire to smooth things out since he was running 35psi. Well, it got me thinking maybe I am running to little pressure at approx 14-18psi so I tried increasing my tire psi till I knew I was running to much and backed down a hair from there and now I run around 24-26psi and it is amzing how much this helped my hill climbing ability.
P.S. I am still not great uphill but I am walking ALOT less

A lot of good feedback on here. My 2 cents is that practice is the key. The more you try, the better your technique will get and the more successes you will have. Last summer I could not do much on hills and didn’t really attempt them, but through the winter season I made an effort to try each hill instead of just walking up. Sometimes repeating them until I could make it (some are more technical than others). I am amazed at some of the hills I have been able to do now that 3 months ago I thought I would never be able to do. Let it be known that I do not consider myself a great hill climber, but I am a lot better than I use to be! So keep working at it and you will improve. You may not notice it day to day, but if you compare how you are doing now with how you do in 6 weeks, I’ll be you’ll see a big difference if you keep working at it regularly.

Coming back to the “pulling up on the handle” thing, I would confirm that this is helping quite a lot - however I have a mixed experience about it if the handle we talk about is the default handle at the front of the seat.

Maybe this is due to the fact I am pretty tall (1.85m), but I will always naturally try to catch a “virtual” handle that would be quite a few centimeters LOWER than where the handle of the seat really is.

I just feel that I do not use to its maximum potential the “pull effect” when pulling up the handle of my seat in steep uphill areas.

I do not know if someone else would share the same experience, or if someone could explain this in a more theoritical way, but I remain convince so far that one day I’ll have to add a handle to my Muni to replace the handle of my seat - and this new handle will be at least 5cm (2.00") below the seat.

Perhaps the new Coker handle will do the job well - I am keeping an interested eye onto it…

Cheers, MadC.

125’s on 29

I use 125 on my 29’. These are the cranks I had since the beginning and I’ve grown accustomed to them.

Climbing steep banks I simply grab the handle, remain seated and lean into the hill. Then muscle my way up singing (I thing I can, I think I can)

Works for me…

I get the same feeling: It seems as if the pulling force wants to be lower and closer to the frame stem. Saddle flexing might be part of the reason for this though.

I think it is a lot about just holding onto the saddle so that you don’t push yourself off the seat than actively pulling up on the seat.

Just kind of lock your handle arm and pedal hard. Most riders keep their handle hand on the handle all the time.

I don’t think it can make a massive difference being tall or short, as I’ve met extra tall and extra short people who are good at riding uphill.

Also, the T7/coker style handles in front of the seat - they’re no use for muni at all, really bad.

I think technique is a bit overrated though, riding strength/fitness makes way more difference than anything else.


I only really pull up on the handle when clearing rough sections of uphill. Otherwise, I try to just lightly hold on–I don’t want to waste energy unnecessarily pulling on the handle! The handle height feels right to me, but proportionate arm lengths vary.

On short rides, strength and fitness can make up for poor technique, but perfect technique cannot make up for lack of strength and fitness. Good technique is most important when you want to ride far and/or fast. Bad technique will burn you out quickly.