The Art of the Kiwi Hill Climb

It's a competition against yourself - don't worry about where you're placed overall, just focus on bettering that next attempt!

Gillian Hatch
AHCS 2022 Women's Champion

Since 2019 TORQ Events has been putting on a Hill Climb Series in Auckland, and now in Wellington and Taupo.*  Let's be real: if you ride a bike in New Zealand you're already a climber.  So why not test yourself and build some friendly rivalries? 

The Concept

Tackle a new Strava segment every week for five weeks. Then enter your best times in the Google Scoresheet and let the fancy algorithm calculate points.  There's so many ways to compete with results sortable by age, gender, club, or weight-class.  Everyone comes together for the fifth week Finale and races for a crowd.  In Auckland there'll be a live brass band for extra hype!  

Thanks to Ride Holidays for their support! The Hill Climb Series is fully volunteer run - please reach out if you're interested in a sponsorship opportunity.

The Challenge

Regardless of speed, targeting the Hill Climb Series is the ultimate physical and mental challenge.   Whether it's setting a PB or beating your mates, pure determination is rewarded.  And for the few with a chance of actually winning… there's no greater pressure, nor greater prize! 

Find out more about the Auckland, Wellington and Taupo Hill Climb Series on Strava or Facebook.  And register here.

The Training

In the month before the series, try to get some all-out Vo2 max efforts under your belt.  Train your body and brain to push harder for longer.  Practice emptying your tank evenly and completely over different gradients and durations.  Resist the temptation to go too hard at the start!  Save that energy for the last minute when your lungs can finally explode.  For those used to training with power, try climbing by feel.  Coaches have reported that their athletes regularly set power PBs at the Hill Climb Series.  Motivation is a beautiful thing!

The Tactics

  • Know exactly where the Strava segment starts and finishes.  Hint: on the Strava segment page, clicking the start and end points on the map will open the location in Google Street View.
  • Check the wind forecast and pick your moment.  Some segments are more impacted than others.
  • Make an attempt early in the week if you can, as sometimes conditions can turn unfavourable later on in the week.
  • Since only your top four stages count towards your total score, there’s an advantage to completing all five stages.  And during the fifth and final week, you’re allowed to redo one previous stage (not many take advantage of this rule!).
  • Second attempts immediately after first attempts almost never result in a faster time.  However, attempting again after a few days rest - odds are good!

The Gear 

Power to weight is everything, so here are some cheap ways to shed precious grams:  

  • Stash bottles, spares, and phone in the bushes  
  • If you're proper committed, stash your glasses, socks, and jersey as well
  • Go on the Cabbage Soup Diet 
  • Remove your appendix
  • Poop.

Or if money’s no object, buy a new featherweight frame and build it up with the lightest possible components. Who needs bartape anyways?  Here’s some proper build inspiration.  So what’s the lightest hill climb bike ever? A mere 2.7kg

The Excuses

So you’ve spent years of training and your child's uni fund.  Bad news: you're still not fast enough.  Not to worry! It's now time to master the art of the excuse. No excuse is too wild, as long as it’s only used once.  The Google Scoresheet has a very special column for you to wax lyrically on what could have been. 

The Final Word

My main advice to any would-be contenders is to focus on five minute power efforts.  And your bitter unsaid rivalries with your friends.  And definitely don’t start a business and a family like me.

Andy Craggs
AHCS 2023 Men's Champion

My favourite part of AHCS has been discovering new roads and places around Auckland with my friends that I didn't know about.  Except for the 'Concrete Monster’-- that one I would happily remain oblivious too.  And shaving a few seconds off my Huia Road time on a Friday night after work - it was the only way I could stop myself thinking about it!

Gillian Hatch
AHCS 2023 Women's Champion


*Christchurch is home to it's own great Hill Climb Series. Join their Strava group for more information.

Words by Carl Wells.