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Hill vertigo: how to cycle up long hills


Posted by Cags R under Cycling on 24 May 2013 at 11:00 PM

How many cyclists, from beginner to pros still harbor resentment or fear about cycling up big hills? 

Seskin Hairpin - Baldy John's hill nemesisHill vertigo is the overwhelming moment where you convince yourself you'll never make it to the top of a long or steep hill when cycling. It's something which is predominantly psychological, though hill vertigo will manifest itself in several physical ways: 

  • eratic or panicked breathing
  • dizziness
  • poor gear choices 
  • stopping 

Hills which enduce hill vertigo will vary from rider to rider - for the sprinters out there, long hills with slight inclines and lots of turns can be terrifying whereas the slow-and-steady cyclists will find steep and straight hills more intimidating.

What is it about hills that makes cyclists suffer for hill vertigo?

  • The inevitable climb - looking up and only seeing hill for as far as the eye can see
  • The unknown entity - winding hills with no hint of of where they'll end
  • The wall - runners speak of 'the wall' as a psychological wall, cyclists can boast the experience of what seems to be a vertical climb!

So what can you do to battle hill vertigo with your cycling training?

Check out the Up hill cycling technique and tips guide to make sure your technique when approaching hills and on the hill is the most efficient way to get over it. Once your physical technique is in place, the effects of hill vertigo will just be psycological - this is where breathing practice and breath awareness can help you. 

Cycling in a group can also build confidence on hills - if you have a hill-loving cycling friend, ask them to help you with your training by cycling up in front of you, you can then focus on their backwheel rather than on how far you have left to climb.

The most effective training to battle your hill vertigo is to cycle up more hills! Practice on hills which are less intimidating, making sure you follow the tips on gear selection and cadence. 

What's next? You've got to go and Conquer that hill!!

Conquer that hill

  • Encourage

    Alan C and Ingrid R encouraged this.



    I find this happens to me, so I practice concentrating on landmarks to conquer. I pick out a landmark - unusual tree, shadow across the path, a puddle etc. about 100 meters ahead. Once I conquer that, I pick my next target until I have reached the top.

    Barry Y encouraged this.

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