A recent editorial in Bicycling Magazine reminded me of some tips for climbing.
They suggest to first scoot back on your saddle, which I already do, but they also suggested to drop your heel as your foot rotates across the top of the pedal. On mild terrain (3-5% grades) I also try to lift with my foot too, but on steeper terrain, I generally just mash.
Speaking of mashing, my friend, Kenneth, as shown on a Super 600 route in Utah (600 km in 50 hours or less…375 miles with 32,000 feet of climbing) did not use clipless pedals, but rather sandals with platform pedals. He said that he likes to move his foot forward on the pedal, so his arch is right over the pedal and then mash, or just push down hard on hill climbs. There is wisdom to that because sprinters like to have their cleats mounted forward, but long distance guys, like me, have them shoved all the way back. I have even heard of some German bike fitters that put the cleats almost underneath the arch of the foot. Now I see why — on a recent hill interval workout, I wanted to pull my foot back so my arch was right over the spindle of my pedal.
Additionally, while doing steep climbs, don’t be afraid to stand up as it helps straighten out the leg and knees for additional comfort.
I also do several strength training exercises (usually twice a week throughout the year) including planks and the so-called Roman chair to strengthen my lower back, usually with a 12 to 15 pound weight in my hands.