Overcoming steep hills

I’ve been riding for a few years now but I’ve never gotten into distance or commuting because the geography where I live is very hilly. Any one of the hills here have me out of breath half way to the top leaving legs so sore that I can barely mount my unicycle.

Any tips to overcoming this. Does it get easier? Is there any shame in just walking up the hill?

Currently I’m running 125mm on my 29" road uni

I have to say that Hill climbing with a unicycle is one of the real attractions of unicycling for me.

I commute to work 15km, 3 times a week, on a KH36 with 110mm cranks and there is a hill that I always ride up (100m long with grade 10-13%) When I used to b*cycle, I rode around that hill as an obvious route.

There is something I like (love) about hill climbing. The feeling of leaning forward and lifting hard on the TBar to conquer the hill.

It definately takes practice, but for me falling off going uphill is less likely to cause injury than Muni down hilling, which I dabble in on the KH29.

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No shame, you do what you can. In my recent 75 mile day I rode this section and and ended up walking about 1/2 mile. I was riding a 36er with 109mm cranks. For shorter hills I can do 12% grades but longer grades I need a break or some walking.


It is a matter of building up to them.

After I learnt to ride I worked my way over the course of a few years through a series of hills on the 24 then the 26 then the 29 and finally on the 36. I got up to about 18% on all but the 36. At my peak I would come back from a 13 km ride with lots of hills and feel like I could go again.

After an extended break I took to riding the 26 again and even modest hills would leave me sore for several days. Now we have wonderful rail trail in my town and I indulge in its level terrain.

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Honestly, to me one of the struggles I had on that matter was that I didn’t understand pacing at all. I grew up in a flat region with some very short hills, so I could always power through them and did not need to learn to hold back, the hill was always over before I ran out of power. When I first got to ride “real” hills, I always started too fast and would be out of breath quickly. So you can try purposefully going slow at the start of the hills, maybe you are going out to fast and then running out of steam like I was.

But no shame in walking hills, you can’t always keep a pace “slow enough” to be sustainable, at least not with all wheelsizes and cranks. Of course there is also some skill to being able to ride slow but efficient uphill that can be practiced, but there is a limit where walking becomes the much better option.


Another thing you can do that will help greatly is to build the lightest wheel you can. Beginning with the tire and rim. I’ve built 4 lightweight wheels simply by swapping the aluminum rim out for a carbon one, converting to tubeless, and putting on the lightest tire I could find. The difference is astounding! The rims were purchased from lightbicycle.com for around $200. I put tape around the crossing of the spokes and changed the rim out without unlacing the spokes from the hub. One wheel I built was 3 pounds lighter than the original. That made a huge difference climbing hills.


I have the same problem living in an area that is all hills. After three to four miles I’m pretty beat. I’m not positive on this but I think you should try longer cranks. There are folks on the site much more knowledgeable than me that could perhaps recommend a crank lengh to try, or stay with the 125’s.

In hilly areas, a brake is important on a large wheel or you will we working hard down the hills too. I use 114s on my 26 inch (no brake), 125s on my 29 inch and 137s on the 36.

The nice thing about hills is they take the rider’s weight of the saddle.

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I have discovered for myself that riding down hills (on roads) is really fun while riding the brakes. I can pedal faster and the brake gives a nice feeling of control.
Just need to lean back a bit to brace as the brake first takes hold.


You’re absolutely right! But you’ll have to be careful about your feet. When riding down hill at high speed, a small bump can eject your feet from the pedals… And that may lead to a really bad crash :face_with_head_bandage:
No, that’s not an ad for clipless :smirk:

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That’s interesting about the bumps and getting ejected…I have not found that. I find that I lean back more " downhilling" riding the brake… and can absorb bumps. Sometimes it feels to me like mogul skiing, feeling and absorbing bumps.

I have been ejected by pulling on the brake lever a tad too hard going down a BMX start ramp. Landed on my feet running…

Btw would a 4 piston brake be much advantage with brake control on down hills or other scenarios? I just got the stock Shimano brakes that come with KH36 and am happy with those. Am I missing anything with the high end brakes?

Low cost brakes tend to overheat pretty fast. They also can’t stop you when you go at 30+ kmph. So, depending on how fast you go and how long your hills are, a good brake could be a game changer! :slight_smile:

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