Climbing when wet

by MrBLH   October 1, 2012  

Climbing a steep hill(Barhatch lane ~20%) yesterday the rear wheel slipped a few times after getting damp passing through a puddle.
Fortunately grip returned as the rest of the road was dry, however this lead me to think how do you climb when the road is wet?

Is there a particular technique, is it about equipment, should I just avoid steep hills when wet?

16 user comments

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If you stand up then you're unweighting the rear which means the wheel is more likely to slip. best to stay seated and make your pedal stroke as smooth as possible. I think the most important skill to master is anticipating when it's going to happen...

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posted by Dave Atkinson [7026 posts]
1st October 2012 - 13:10

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I've read that a combination of remaining seated and keeping some of your weight over the rear wheel combined with a smoother pedalling technique is the way to do it (as frequently practised by skilled MTB riders trying for grip on steep climbs).

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posted by Simon E [1774 posts]
1st October 2012 - 13:21

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What pressure are you running in your tyres? I cycle a 25% climb on the way to work sometimes and get the same problem, I did it on Saturday while racing a hill climb and dropped tyre pressure from 120 to 90psi. It gave me a lot more grip, even when out of the saddle.

Twitter: @velosam

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posted by SamShaw [201 posts]
1st October 2012 - 13:33

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Think I'm right in saying that ideally, cyclists should always stay seated on climbs. Better traction being the main reason. It's just that most of us mortals need to stand up occasionally on the really steep bits and/or to use different muscles. Or to launch devastating, Contador-esque attacks, obvs.

posted by Yennings [150 posts]
1st October 2012 - 13:35

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Yennings wrote:
Think I'm right in saying that ideally, cyclists should always stay seated on climbs. Better traction being the main reason. It's just that most of us mortals need to stand up occasionally on the really steep bits and/or to use different muscles. Or to launch devastating, Contador-esque attacks, obvs.

Depends on what rider you are physiologically.

If you are carrying a bit of padding, stay seated as your legs are not having to hold your weight and try and climb at the same time.

If you are lighter, i.e Contador, you can afford to stand and get more power into the cranks.

However, back to the OP, I would go on the advice of sitting and getting a balance of weight. Also, try and avoid going through puddles Wink

posted by Darthshearer [141 posts]
1st October 2012 - 15:14

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Yep, sit up, head up, heels down.
If you can position your hands on top of the bars, not on hoods, so much the better, as that lifts your body upright a bit more. If it does get too steep to keep the cranks spinning without standing up, just try to keep your weight back a bit and ignore the natural impulse to lean forward over the bars for more power.

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posted by Chris [97 posts]
1st October 2012 - 15:15

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Chris wrote:
Yep, sit up, head up, heels down.
If you can position your hands on top of the bars, not on hoods, so much the better, as that lifts your body upright a bit more. If it does get too steep to keep the cranks spinning without standing up, just try to keep your weight back a bit and ignore the natural impulse to lean forward over the bars for more power.

If you are riding with clips, you dont want heels down on a climb when "pulling up" as its not efficient.

posted by Darthshearer [141 posts]
1st October 2012 - 15:21

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When I'm climbing, huffing and puffing, grovelling and hurting the very last thing I can consider doing is a "devastating Contador-esque attack"!

That is firmly in the dreams department (up the stairs and second cupboard on the left, BTW).

Interesting point re. tyre pressure Sam. 120 psi sounds high even for heavier riders on good surfaces. I'm quite light but I find 80 psi plenty except for time trialling (95-100 psi).

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posted by Simon E [1774 posts]
1st October 2012 - 15:46

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Busyish thread full of useful info - thanks.
I'm used to spinning it out on the mtb, however cannot resist the need to stand when climbing on a road bike, the lack of gears get to me... maybe I need to man up and find more steep hills to practice on.

To answer some of the questions/thoughts -
Down to 70 kg (5'11") so not too heavy.
In clips.
95 - 100 psi.

"when wet" = unavoidable damp surface Wink

So heals up or down?

posted by MrBLH [31 posts]
1st October 2012 - 17:25

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I always pull up MrBLH, same as when on the MTB. Its more efficient.

Its a case of getting your self weighted correctly thats all.

I have noticed some roads are worse than others, i.e fresh tarmac is slippy.

posted by Darthshearer [141 posts]
1st October 2012 - 17:48

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Darthshearer wrote:
Also, try and avoid going through puddles Wink

... You mean stay at home? Wink

posted by MrBLH [31 posts]
1st October 2012 - 17:56

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Sorry I can't give advice on this because the only climbing I do whilst wet is out of the bath Rolling On The Floor

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posted by FATBEGGARONABIKE [481 posts]
2nd October 2012 - 8:14

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FATBEGGARONABIKE wrote:
Sorry I can't give advice on this because the only climbing I do whilst wet is out of the bath Rolling On The Floor

Rolling On The Floor Rolling On The Floor

posted by Darthshearer [141 posts]
2nd October 2012 - 8:18

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Wheelie up the hill!

No seriously, if you apply the same technique to riding up a steep hill as you would to a wheelie, you will put all your weight over the rear and the correct pressure over the pedals, just don't pull up on the bars, pull back and don't kick the pedals to start off.

Reduced tyre pressure will assist but then who actually needs to ride about on anything over 70 psi anyway, save that benefit for racing or a big long sportive.

Gears do matter as well, if this is a regular route, maybe you want a different rear sprocket if possible. You could go further looking at crank length and front rings but then you could also look at frame profiles and stem length which are all costly. Just a rear sprocket change would do.

Only other thing is commitment to suffer...lots.

posted by Farky [174 posts]
2nd October 2012 - 20:59

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Took a diversion on way home. Hill, cobbles, avg 11% with a 15% ramp half way up. Not a great idea once into the more sheltered bit which was still wet and I hadn't thought about. Bad idea - back wheel not biting. Scared the **** out of me. Bounced on the saddle to get some traction. Fortunately managed to put enough weight down and get over to the dry stretch.

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posted by giff77 [956 posts]
3rd October 2012 - 18:30

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What tyres for( Wink to stw regulars) wet roads?

I assume the compound can make difference in the wet, I use Rubino pro's year round so have no other point of comparison.
Would the added drag of a 'grippy' tyre be more of a pain on the flat to outweigh any benefit?

@giff77 not a pleasant feeling losing traction Sad

posted by MrBLH [31 posts]
3rd October 2012 - 20:53

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