How to Shift a Bicycle Uphill

Polka Dot Images/Polka Dot/Getty Images

Mastering hills on your bicycle can be both a mental and physical challenge. The key to succeeding physically lies in properly adjusting the gears. Bicycles are usually equipped with a combination of low and high gears; the low gears make pedaling easier and the high gears provide some resistance. Pedaling at a constant rate takes less effort than changing your speed when encountering different terrains and conditions. That means shifting into lower gears when tackling an incline.

Establish your cadence, or pedal stroke per minute, before approaching the hill. This is the same stroke rate to strive for when ascending the hill, just at a lower gear. The ideal cadence, according to Bicycle Network, is 60 to 90 strokes per minute.

Stay seated as you approach the hill. It is common to think that rising out of the saddle will help with momentum; however, your gear should allow you to stay seated, and maintain balance, as you climb the hill.

Move your butt back in the seat and lean your torso slightly forward during the hill approach and the ascent to stay balanced against the incline.

Shift into an easier gear when your cadence starts to slow; this may be at a different point for every hill and each individual rider. Maintaining your flat surface gear will likely cause you to fight against the resistance of both the bike and the hill, and may lead to early fatigue. Ease up on the pedals and shift into an easier gear first on the front tire and then fine-tune your resistance level using the gears connected to the back tire. Continue to modify your gears until you return to your original cadence.

Adjust the gears any time you feel as if you have to come out of the saddle to maintain your current speed.


Practice shifting the gears on your bike before approaching any hills; it may take beginners a little time and practice before you are able to fluidly shift gears.

Start by climbing smaller hills and gradually increase the incline grade as you become stronger.


Avoid doing too much too soon, such as pedaling in a high resistance gear or attempting to tackle steep hills if you are new biking. Overdoing it before your body and muscles are properly trained can result in injuries.