The Bikes Way

what gear to use when going uphill on a mountain bike

What Gear to Use When Going Uphill on a Mountain Bike?

Riding uphill is one of the most challenging aspects of mountain biking. It’s also one of the most rewarding once you’ve conquered it. After all, what’s the fun in a high-adventure sport if there are no high-adventure challenges?

When going uphill on your bike, you want to be in low gear so you can pedal more slowly and have more power. Low gearing means using a smaller chainring at the front and a larger cassette at the rear. This will give you a higher gear ratio, making it easier to pedal uphill. And when you’re going downhill, you need to be in high gear to pedal fast and maintain your speed.

What is the best gear for riding uphill?

what is the best gear for riding uphill

There are a few things to consider when choosing the right gear for going uphill on a mountain bike. First, you’ll want to ensure a low gear ratio so you can pedal more slowly and have more torque to get up the hill. You’ll also want to avoid using your highest gears, making it challenging to maintain control of your bike. Additionally, its keeping your cadence (pedaling speed) consistent is important to avoid tiring yourself out too quickly. And finally, don’t forget to use your body weight to help you power up the hill – lean forward and use your legs and core muscles to drive the bike upwards.

Why Is Riding Uphill Hard?

Riding uphill is challenging for a few reasons.


The force of gravity pulls you and your bike down, which means that you have to apply more force against that downward pull, making it difficult to move up the slope. The amount of effort you have to put in depends on a few things: your strength, the grade of the slope, the gear you’re in, your pedaling cadence, the type of terrain (e.g., loose gravel or sand are more challenging than firm soil or pavement), and whether you’re riding with a backpack or pillion.


Moving up a hill takes more effort to pedal than going down, which can be exhausting. If the hill is steep, keeping the bike balanced can be difficult, making riding uphill even harder. Wind resistance is also greater when riding uphill, making it more difficult to pedal.


The gear you’re in determines how much force you have to pedal, and when climbing, being in a lower gear is generally beneficial in reducing pedal force.


A smooth road or paved path is easy to ride on, but trails and off-road terrain are challenging and require more strength and skill.

Shifting Gears While Climbing

shifting gears while climbing
  • First and foremost, practice your shifting skills before you need them in a race or on a long ride. This is especially important if you’re riding with a lot of gear. As you climb, you will likely shift into a lower gear, so you can maintain a sustainable cadence and avoid wearing yourself out.
  • Keep in mind that if you shift to a very low gear at the start of a climb, you might have more trouble getting back up again.
  • Shifting gears too often can cause excessive wear on your chain. So, remember to shift one gear at a time and gradually reduce the pressure on the pedals while changing gears for smooth gear shifting.

Chain Tensioners and Auto-Shift Gears

These two extra gear pieces are designed to make your ride easier.

  • A chain tensioner is a small device that attaches to your rear derailleur and helps keep your chain in position. This makes it easier to shift gears, which is useful for long climbs where you might shift a few times.
  • Auto-shift gears are found on some high-end bikes and are especially helpful for beginners who might not know how to shift properly while climbing.
  • Although they can make your ride easier, they also add weight and expense to your bike, so it’s worth asking yourself if the investment is worth it.

On the Bike: Foot Position and Technique

mountain bike ride position

Pedal position

As a general rule, keep your knees slightly bent when climbing. If your knees are too bent, you’ll be putting a lot of pressure on your quads, which can lead to cramping and pain.


Standing on the pedals can help you to generate more power and move more quickly up the hill. It’s important to do this correctly to avoid injury, though: make sure you are still applying most of the force to the pedals and not just pushing against the ground with your feet.


Riding at a certain cadence can be helpful when climbing, but it’s important to remember that climbing is different for everyone. There’s no ideal number. Instead, focus on maintaining a comfortable pace to finish the climb without wearing yourself out.

Off the Bike: Improving your Body’s Ability to Climb

Strength training

Lifting weights can help you build more strength in your legs, making it easier to push up the hill. Be careful not to overdo it, or you’ll risk injury.


Climbing doesn’t have to be a purely leg and glute workout. You can help keep your heart rate from getting too high by taking short breaks and climbing at a steady pace rather than a high-intensity pace.


You sweat more when you’re climbing, so make sure to stay hydrated.


You burn many calories when climbing, so it’s important to fuel your body with the right foods.

Things To Consider Before Start Riding Uphill

Good mountain bike

This is the most important piece of gear for riding uphill. A good mountain bike will have a lightweight frame, shock-absorbing suspension, and knobby tires that can grip the terrain.


A helmet is crucial for safety when riding a mountain bike. Always wear a helmet when riding, and make sure it fits properly.

Find out more about the Best Selling Adult Bike Helmets

Mountain bike shoes

Mountain bike shoes have stiff soles that help transfer power to the pedals, and they often have grippy treads to help keep your feet from slipping off the pedals.

Find out more about the Best Selling Men’s Cycling Shoes

The right clothing

Mountain biking can be strenuous, so you’ll want to wear comfortable clothing that won’t hold you back.

Find out more about the Best Selling Men’s Cycling Clothing Sets

Mountain bike pedals

Mountain bike pedals have a larger surface area than road bike pedals, which helps you stay connected to the bike.

Find out more about the Best Mountain Bike Pedals

Hydration pack

A hydration pack is a great way to carry water and snacks with you on a ride.


Choosing the right gear is the most important thing when you are climbing. When you’re climbing a hill, you need to choose a lower gear, which saves you pedaling effort and helps you maintain a high speed that will help you avoid stalling. Using a lightweight bike, shifting gears carefully, and keeping yourself hydrated, you can confidently tackle any climb.