Arguably the hardiest cyclist of them all - the Hill Climber.  Why do I say that? Well here are guys willing to push themselves into and over the red for anywhere from 2 -10+ mins, attacking some ridiculous gradients up and down the country. From central London with a super short 2 minute climb, to ‘the longest continuous gradient in England’ in Mytholmroyd in Yorkshire - the infamous Cragg Vale that can take from 14min to 30mins to climb! They may well race twice in a day or even 4 x in a weekend.

A Hill Climb is a unique beast and, like all other branches of cycling, has its own unique challenges.  There are dedicated hill climbers who build their seasons around this event, as well as road, time trial and club men who enter for the ‘craic’ and a chance to really test themselves.

Successful Hill Climbing

There are some key parts to successful hill climbing, that are the ultimate extrapolation of many key cycling traits, let’s look at them:

  1. Weight - both of the individual & bike
    1. BIKE - hill climb bikes are often very unique things, created to save weight in EVERY possible area. There is no weight limit and bikes can be as little as 4.5 kgs!  They may have:
      1. Cut down handlebars and shifters
      2. The lightest wheels possible
      3. Limited gearing, usually a single ‘big ring’ and limited climbing gears suited for the event
      4. Trimming ANYTHING extraneous
        1. Cable ends
        2. Saddles
        3. Bar tape - even better none at all
        4. Shorten the chain - if you are only on the ‘little front ring’ then a few links can go
      5. No garmin 
      6. No water Bottle
      7. Lightweight skewers
      8. Take off the stem cap or any other ‘protective caps’
      9. The least kit possible and no helmet - you won’t do much damage if you fall off going up a hill at 6mph!
  2. RIDER power to weight is key - so the least weight (all round) is optimal - BUT this isnt only for the super competitive, mountain goats weighing 60kg or less - anyone can do it!
    1. Slim down as much as possible
    2. Empty your bowels before a race!

Choose your events - if you are targeting the National Hill climb then you need to be looking to replicate the distance / time gradient in training. If not, be choosy - you may be powerful but not a super lightweight - then go for the longer events, the Cat & Fiddle in Derbyshire or Cragg Vale in Yorkshire.  If you are super light, head for the super steep stuff, such as the Rake in Ramsbottom in Lancashire.


Let’s say you have done all that and let's assume that you have come out of the summer with some decent base fitness. Now is for focussing on some KEY sessions to enable you to really work you top end and go into the red.

The below sessions work across the spectrum of events from short explosive climbs to the longer events.

What is different to CX is that we are not (most people anyway) looking to repeat the effort in a short period of time, but get out one FULL ON AWESOME effort. As such the training is targeted here to help achieve that with 2 sessions below to look at that.

Short / explosive power

This session may be over 70mins long but there is just 10mins of HARD work. A solid warm up leads into 3 x 20 secs sprints to waken you up. A stepped recovery section leads you into the first of 3x 3 min blocks at 140% of FTP.  This simulates an all out typical length of a hill climb in the UK. It's brutal, full on from the gun and will have you on the edge. A really good recovery period and repeat twice more.


A variation on some sessions used to ‘pull’ FTP up. What is great about this is its 4x 4min intervals way above FTP as overs with unders that are just under FTP - the result is 4 mins of work that will be above FTP and be simulating the type of power out put in a hill climb, but (arguably) mentally more manageable - but repeated 4x!

Stepped Hill Climb

This session looks to simulate a slightly longer hill climb or one where the gradient may steepen. After a solid building warm up you have just 2 intervals to focus on.

4 steps, decreasing in length but increasing in effort from 110% of FTP to maximum (maybe 150%+ of FTP).

This will hurt and you get a massive easy rest before repeating. Just twice but this is real quality work.

Get in Contact

If you’d like more information on how Spokes can tailor a training programme to your exact needs, why not check out our products and services. Need more info or would you like to speak to one of our coaches? Get in contact.


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