A better pedal stroke is your key to going up hills faster and easier. Many people resort to a push-push kind of stroke when going up hills, which is very tiring and doesn't work nearly as well. You can tell if you're one of these people with a bad pedal stroke by paying attention to your body as you go up hills. People with bad pedal strokes will notice that their upper body sways when they pedal seated up hills. When they push down with the left foot, their upper body will move to the left to exert more pressure. This will not happen with people with a good spin, because they aren't putting all their effort into pushing, but instead onto making their pedal stroke smooth and even. I guarantee you that if you fix your pedal stroke, you will go up hills easier. It also gives you something to think about as you are climbing, which makes the hills seem to go by quicker: you pay attention to your body, feeling your legs, trying to keep things as smooth as possible. And then when you get to the top, you'll look behind you and see that you've left most of your fellow riders far behind. I'm not kidding. It works that well.
The best thing I've done for my pedal stroke was a trick taught me by Penn Cycling Team coach Pete Durdaller. Find a flat road with light traffic. In Philly, this is West River Drive on the weekends. Then pedal with only one foot, holding the other one out. This works best with clipless pedals, but if you don't have your straps too loose, it probably could work with toeclips as well. You can't do this for very long because it's very tiring. What I would do is pedal about 15 strokes on each leg, do 3 reps of this, then just pedal regularly for awhile before doing it again. The first time I tried this, my pedaling motion was incredibly jerky. But I stuck with it, and concentrated on it (this is why you need the low traffic), and eventually I got it more or less smooth. This teaches you the feel of smooth pedalling. Once your legs learn what it feels like, you can do it when you're pedaling with both legs.
Another things that helps is to make sure that you're pulling back at the bottom of you pedal stroke. Think about scraping mud off the bottom of your shoes after a muddy walk. This is more or less what should be happening at the bottom of your pedal stroke.
Keep it up, and soon you'll find that hills aren't nearly as bad as before.More bike articles