How to ride your road bike up really, really steep hills – with minimal weeping (Guest post)

I’ve been guesting again over at Fit is a Feminist Issue, the blog belonging to my friends and colleagues Sam Brennan and Tracy Isaacs, both feminist philosophers at Western. As usual, I’m writing about my life as an amateur road cyclist. But this post, while specifically directed at other road cyclists, features a transferable lesson about working through fear and anxiety to meet a really, really tough challenge that I suspect many readers of this blog will find valuable. It’s perfect for those of us (yup, that includes me) currently working madly on essays, overdue articles, and all the other stressful stuff that fills our so-called university “holidays”. And, of course, since we’re coming up on the holidays proper in about five minutes, this post – which features a story in the middle and some great photos courtesy of my coach, Jo McRae – might also make nice, diversionary reading for those of you still marking (that includes me too. SIGH).



Regular readers of this blog know that Sam is not a hill climber, and that Tracy, while she has been assured she *will* be a hill climber, is not one yet. Hills are in short supply in the part of the world where Sam, Tracy and I ride our bikes together: the flat terrain and gently rolling slopes of farmland surrounding London, Ontario (100 miles west of Toronto).

I didn’t learn to ride a road bike in little London, however; I took to riding after my husband and I moved to (the rather larger) London in south-east England in 2012. That means I cut my climbing teeth in the short, sharp Surrey Hills, on the ridges in Kent, and in the South Downs, which features the gut-busting Ditchling Beacon, among other gems. While training for our epic London-to-Paris 24-hour challenge ride (read about it here), Jarret and I also did…

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About Kim Solga

I am a university professor currently based in Hamilton, Ontario. I teach theatre and performance studies at Western University; previously, I was Senior Lecturer in Drama at Queen Mary, University of London. On Wordpress, my teaching blog is The Activist Classroom; I'm also a regular contributor to the popular blog, Fit is a Feminist Issue.

5 thoughts on “How to ride your road bike up really, really steep hills – with minimal weeping (Guest post)

  1. Well yes.. and lots of really good advice..for competative cyclists (including those competing against themselves) but personally I don’t see what is so
    terrible about getting off and pushing?

    • Nothing wrong with getting off and walking, if hills aren’t your thing! But I guess it’s like any challenge: if it’s one that matters to you, the challenge becomes a test of spirit or strength or personal limits. So for me walking isn’t an option, and learning to climb well, learning what I’m capable of, learning about my own strength, etc, are all things I get from climbing challenges.

  2. I don’t consider myself fantastic on hills. It helps if the weather is cooler and there aren’t a heavy stream of revving cars and trucks beside one while grinding up.

    To allay panicking, perhaps try some deep slow yoga breathing while grinding up. It helps me otherwise when I breathe fast, I tend to hyperventilate and feelings of panic increase.

    I’m sure your coach has other tips.

    • Thanks Jean! Slow breathing is definitely a good way to stay in emotional control on hills, I’ve found. I really recommend it, to the extent it’s possible!

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