Forum home Road cycling forum Tours, routes, audaxes & organised rides Sportives/audaxes/training rides

Big enormous cassettes for climbing mountains !!

roadieseanroadiesean Posts: 577
I am off in July for 2 weeks to ride all the big mountains in France, Hautacam, Ventoux, Crois de Fer, etc etc.

I have a standard chainset on my System Six, I am 42 and pretty fit, used to climbing, but having never been over there am uncertain as to what to use on my gearing. I use a 11-23 usually for everything currently. Do I need to go to a 13-29 or would a 26 be enough to get me out of jail ? I don't really want the aggro or expense of going over to compant chainset. Whats the consensus?

Thank you all very much !
«1

Posts

  • 25 or 26 will be fine. These hills are long and no matter what gear you use it will end up a slog.

    29 dinner plates are for eating your dinner off not riding
  • fluff.fluff. Posts: 771
    If you want more than 26 you'll likely need an MTB rear mech. Unless you're carting your own gear with you I'd go for 26, the steep sections are few and far between in most cases.
  • vermootenvermooten Posts: 2,697
    Got me 34x30 for the Fred.
    You just have to ride like you never have to breathe again.

    Manchester Wheelers
  • pneumaticpneumatic Posts: 1,989
    34x27 got me up the Ventoux with a flattening tyre. I'm 45, 16 stone and somewhat idle most of the time. You'll be fine!


    Fast and Bulbous
    Peregrinations
    Eddingtons: 80 (Metric); 60 (Imperial)

  • popettepopette Posts: 2,089
    vermooten wrote:
    Got me 34x30 for the Fred.

    Can you give more details please vermooten? that sounds good to me.
  • vermootenvermooten Posts: 2,697
    Sure can. I've got a Dura-Ace compact chainset and a Marchisio cassette from Parker International which has a 30-tooth sprocket - big enough to bake a family-sized pizza on it. I can get up Hardknott Pass on 34x25 but not after 100 miles, so the 30 will help me out. I'll need to get a new chain too cos my current one isn't long enough. The 34x30 ratio will get me up the side of tall buildings.

    You're doing the Cheshire Cat aren't you? That last section of Mow Cop is a reet censored and although I managed it last year, it was tough so this year on my winter bike, which has campag bits on it I'll have 34x29 which will make it a doddle.

    I'm also working on my glutes and hamstrings for extra oomph. Do likewise! - because this is not acceptable:

    .It%27s%20much%20easier%20without%20shoes.jpg
    You just have to ride like you never have to breathe again.

    Manchester Wheelers
  • davidmillerdavidmiller Posts: 320
    ........now there's a man who values his cleats !!!!!

    DM
  • andypandyp Posts: 8,321
    roadiesean - if you fit a 29 you'll use it. You'll get up them on a 26 but having that 29 will be something you're thankful for at some point. Don't be macho, your knees will thank you for it.

    Personally I'd fit a compact but if you feel it's an unnecessary expense then go for the 29.
  • popettepopette Posts: 2,089
    vermooten wrote:
    Sure can. I've got a Dura-Ace compact chainset and a Marchisio cassette from Parker International which has a 30-tooth sprocket - big enough to bake a family-sized pizza on it. I can get up Hardknott Pass on 34x25 but not after 100 miles, so the 30 will help me out. I'll need to get a new chain too cos my current one isn't long enough. The 34x30 ratio will get me up the side of tall buildings.

    You're doing the Cheshire Cat aren't you? That last section of Mow Cop is a reet censored and although I managed it last year, it was tough so this year on my winter bike, which has campag bits on it I'll have 34x29 which will make it a doddle.

    Cheers hon, did you have to change anything else to get it to work?
  • redddraggonredddraggon Posts: 10,862
    fluff. wrote:
    If you want more than 26 you'll likely need an MTB rear mech. Unless you're carting your own gear with you I'd go for 26, the steep sections are few and far between in most cases.

    Nope.

    13-29 implies a Campagnolo cassette, and they don't make MTB mechs.

    A long cage Campag mech should suffice.

    OP: Before you go fitting a 13t smallest sprocket, make sure your frame has the clearance for it, not all frames do, a lot taking a maxium of 12t as the smallest sprocket.
    I like bikes...

    Twitter
    Flickr
  • fluff.fluff. Posts: 771
    Did say probably, had to use an MTB rear mech on my Ultegra with 30T bit ring, long cage Ultegra mech didn't cut it either.
  • vermootenvermooten Posts: 2,697
    popette wrote:
    Cheers hon, did you have to change anything else to get it to work?
    No, just lots of testing. I once* put on a bigger sprocket and didn't get the chain length right - the chain pulled the rear mech into the cassette and bent everything, had to get new cassette, chain, rear mech and the frame got bent. Had that been carbon might have been game over for the frame...

    (* about 6 weeks ago)
    You just have to ride like you never have to breathe again.

    Manchester Wheelers
  • nickwillnickwill Posts: 2,735
    fluff. wrote:
    If you want more than 26 you'll likely need an MTB rear mech. Unless you're carting your own gear with you I'd go for 26, the steep sections are few and far between in most cases.

    Nope.

    13-29 implies a Campagnolo cassette, and they don't make MTB mechs.

    A long cage Campag mech should suffice.

    OP: Before you go fitting a 13t smallest sprocket, make sure your frame has the clearance for it, not all frames do, a lot taking a maxium of 12t as the smallest sprocket.
    I think you could use their medium cage rear mech.
  • ColinJColinJ Posts: 2,218
    vermooten wrote:
    Got me 34x30 for the Fred.
    The grovelling gear on my Basso is about 5% lower than that - 30x28 (52/39/30 chainset).

    On my Cannondale the lowest gear is 39x29 (standard 53/39 double chainset) but I tend to stay away from 25% gradients on that bike unless I'm feeling really fit. I did so many steep hills last year and was carrying so much extra weight that I didn't bother unpacking the Cannondale after getting back from Spain in March. The non-summer of 2007 didn't exactly encourage me to ride my best bike either :cry:!
  • KléberKléber Posts: 6,842
    If you go to the mountains and have to ask what gear to use, then my advice would be to go for low gears.

    There's nothing wrong with a 29 that you don't use but if you only have a 26 and find you are grinding uphill, it's not going to be fun. Cycling is not weighlifting, you should always be spinning. Of course it is harder on a long pass but aim to keep your pedaling smooth.

    You can adapt your bike for £100, it's not free but having a great holiday and enjoying the climbs will provide priceless lifelong memories.
  • Jaguar.Jaguar. Posts: 51
    I lifted this from a website about the Marmotte...

    If you do a bit of googling on this topic you will find loads of people saying how 39x23 or 39x25 is fine for the Alps. Maybe if you're a 'weak' rider you 'might' need a 39x27. Well, I reckon this is quite misleading. Now, I don't doubt that the people making these claims have ridden on these gears, but they must have been pushing a seriously low cadence which is no fun, or they have fitness levels approaching that of a pro rider. Look at it this way: Lance Armstrong used a 39x21 on Alpe D'Huez when he almost matched Pantani's record time. Lance climbs the Alp nearly twice as fast as a respectable time for a club rider. So, to match Lance's cadence an average rider doing 60 minutes would need a 39x36. But that's running flat out, on the ragged edge. Switch to an aerobic pace and you would need at least a couple of gears lower, say a 39x44, or lower than 1:1! OK, so Lance spins a really high cadence of around 95rpm and you might prefer to do 70rpm - that still means a 39x32. And that's with fresh legs. As a further point of reference the guy in our team who came 94th out of 6000 riders in the Marmotte had a triple chainset and was using 30x23 on the top of the Galibier - that's the equivalent of a 39x30 for people with a dual chainring. Now remember, he finished in the top 2% of the entire field! Mere mortals would need at least 2 gears lower than that which, again, is around a 1:1 ratio. Finally, a British journalist writing for Cycling Weekly suggested a 34x26 was a good ratio and that he had done 1h 26m up Alp D'Huez on this ratio at the end of the Etape du Tour. Well, if you work out the cadence for that gear and a 1h 26m ascent it works out at 52rpm - oops! To get up to 70rpm he would have needed a 34x34 - that magical 1:1 ratio again. So, my advice would be to use a triple with a road cassette or a compact chainset with an MTB rear cassette and derailleur.
  • MossriderMossrider Posts: 226
    If you have a 29 you may as well fit it. I'm a similar age and used to riding in the Pennines. I did Ventoux a couple of years ago with 36X25 (and used it) but was fine at that. Better to be over geared than undergeared...
  • ricadusricadus Posts: 2,379
    Unless you are being paid to ride fast up Alpine climbs then comfort is the key, especially if you are going to be doing these long climbs over several successive days.
  • Ken NightKen Night Posts: 2,005
    Jaguar. wrote:
    I lifted this from a website about the Marmotte...

    If you do a bit of googling on this topic you will find loads of people saying how 39x23 or 39x25 is fine for the Alps........................... Lance climbs the Alp nearly twice as fast as a respectable time for a club rider. So, to match Lance's cadence an average rider doing 60 minutes would need a 39x36. But that's running flat out, on the ragged edge. ........................................Finally, a British journalist writing for Cycling Weekly suggested a 34x26 was a good ratio and that he had done 1h 26m up Alp D'Huez on this ratio at the end of the Etape du Tour.

    Fascinating.

    Also consider, most people riding up Alpe D'Huez are 10kg heavier than Armstrong and you have a case for still lower gears

    For the record, I used 36/29 in the Etapes 06 and 07, and Marmotte-and was very pleased to have the 29 when I wanted it-I didn't have to stop on the Alpe as so many presumably better riders than me did (they'd got to the Alpe before I did)

    I saw a few 39/32's and long derailleurs by people who got Elite on the Fred Whitton last year-easy to do, just take them off your MtB (providing you have the right hubs/shifters)
    “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best..." Ernest Hemingway
  • oldwelshmanoldwelshman Posts: 4,733
    Jaguar. wrote:
    I lifted this from a website about the Marmotte...

    If you do a bit of googling on this topic you will find loads of people saying how 39x23 or 39x25 is fine for the Alps. Maybe if you're a 'weak' rider you 'might' need a 39x27. Well, I reckon this is quite misleading. Now, I don't doubt that the people making these claims have ridden on these gears, but they must have been pushing a seriously low cadence which is no fun, or they have fitness levels approaching that of a pro rider. Look at it this way: Lance Armstrong used a 39x21 on Alpe D'Huez when he almost matched Pantani's record time. Lance climbs the Alp nearly twice as fast as a respectable time for a club rider. So, to match Lance's cadence an average rider doing 60 minutes would need a 39x36. But that's running flat out, on the ragged edge. Switch to an aerobic pace and you would need at least a couple of gears lower, say a 39x44, or lower than 1:1! OK, so Lance spins a really high cadence of around 95rpm and you might prefer to do 70rpm - that still means a 39x32. And that's with fresh legs. As a further point of reference the guy in our team who came 94th out of 6000 riders in the Marmotte had a triple chainset and was using 30x23 on the top of the Galibier - that's the equivalent of a 39x30 for people with a dual chainring. Now remember, he finished in the top 2% of the entire field! Mere mortals would need at least 2 gears lower than that which, again, is around a 1:1 ratio. Finally, a British journalist writing for Cycling Weekly suggested a 34x26 was a good ratio and that he had done 1h 26m up Alp D'Huez on this ratio at the end of the Etape du Tour. Well, if you work out the cadence for that gear and a 1h 26m ascent it works out at 52rpm - oops! To get up to 70rpm he would have needed a 34x34 - that magical 1:1 ratio again. So, my advice would be to use a triple with a road cassette or a compact chainset with an MTB rear cassette and derailleur.
    I don't think you have to spin at 95 on climbs, infact it would be very difficult to go up an alpine climb at that cadence.
    60 rpm can feel comfortable on a 39 x 21,23 or 25 or even higher. I would not attempt 95 revs unless in a race, this is more endurance so comfort more important.
    For the record for the Marmotte I am usinf 50/34 12,25 :D
    I find sometimetimes if you have a lower gear, you will use it, so I think its better to go with your experience of climbing and what gears you usually use.
    I reckon if I use a 34 x 25 at 60 will be ok, any less will be so slow would be easier to get off and walk .
  • andy_wrxandy_wrx Posts: 3,396
    I posted this on another thread recently, where the question was whether to use compact or triple.

    I went to France last year and did Ventoux, Bonette, etc - they're not the same as climbs in this country so you shouldn't be comparing the gearing you'd use on Hardknott.

    These big Continental climbs are different to what we have in this country, is my opinion.
    My Winter bike is a triple but I never use the inner ring in Cheshire, just if I go to the Peak District and I hit Winnats at 1:4 or something.
    My Summer bike has 36 x 27 compact on it and gets me round UK sportives, including up Winnats and Mow Cop, but out of the saddle.

    I took the compact to France last year and felt decidedly overgeared - I wanted perhaps two lower gears to spin as I was just grinding in a seated position all the time and it was knackering doing it daily for a week.
    The climbs weren't steep, 7 or 9%, but they went on forever, upto 10 or 15 miles for instance, and are built at a very steady regular grade.
    They're not like our climbs where they have steep bits, flatter bits, steeper bits, flatter bits, you push on some bits and then recover, push again out of the saddle, recover seated, etc.
    When it says 7-9% for 10 miles, it really means 7% to 9% for 10 miles and there aren't those flatter bits to recover on.
  • redddraggonredddraggon Posts: 10,862
    I find sometimetimes if you have a lower gear, you will use it, so I think its better to go with your experience of climbing and what gears you usually use.

    I agree.

    There's a climb I do everyday to work. Whether I do it in 36-25 or 50-20, I can't tell any difference - I'm still (only) slightly knackered at the top.

    I'm not a spinner though, and wouldn't rather get out of the saddle pretty often (as I'm a bit fidgety and don't like being the same position for long).
    I like bikes...

    Twitter
    Flickr
  • musto_skiffmusto_skiff Posts: 394
    I reckon if I use a 34 x 25 at 60 will be ok, any less will be so slow would be easier to get off and walk .

    34x25 @60rpm = 6.4mph so I'd think the above is about right ...
  • jimwinjimwin Posts: 208
    It depends on the gradients you want to get up. Anything over 20% deserves a triple. There are a couple of factors at play between a compact and a triple...

    1. With a triple you can get a much shorter gear in the low thirties (or even lower) saving your knees and allowing you to keep a decent cadence (your legs will thank you at the top of the hill).

    2. A much underestimated point is that with a 53/42/30 you actually spend most of your time between the 53/42 using the 30 only for the big hills. Changing between 53/42 is better since it keeps your cadence more consistent.

    A compact can lose you speed when you change the front rings because of the larger shift ratio (50/34 compared to 53/42). Typically 3 rear sprockets for a front mech change on a compact; 2 rear sprockets for the change between 53/42.

    But the weight penalty for the extra ring? It must be at least.... say a couple of swigs of water?

    - Jim

    PS - I use both a triple and a compact. I tend to prefer the triple for the reasons above.
  • I am 63 and reasonably fit. I did the Alps for 8 consecutive days 2 years ago. Rode on 34/27 for two days until I got wise and put on a MTB cassette with 32 teeth. The cols are not steep, but when you are climbing for up to 30k without respite and ending at 2000 metres you run out of energy. I also ended up using a heart rate monitor to restrict my output and thus made the distance. Don't be fooled by the Alps, they can make a fool out of you.
    Born to ride
  • Jaguar.Jaguar. Posts: 51
    I reckon if I use a 34 x 25 at 60 will be ok, any less will be so slow would be easier to get off and walk .

    34x25 @60rpm = 6.4mph so I'd think the above is about right ...

    That's what I made it, well 10.3km anyway :) That's an hour and 20 minutes on the Alp at what I'd consider a grind, and I'm not a spinner! Of course, 60 is an average and as has been said, you *will* be in that gear all the time with no rest, no chance to spin up and clear the legs, no little downs, just a constant 13.8k at between 7-11% - sounds easy ;-) Of course, for that average, on the 11% bits you will be well down in the 50's.

    I used a 34x27 for the last couple of years on the Marmotte and I passed a lot of people, both years, on Alp d'Huez, I also ficked into the bottom gear on the first ramp and, erm, stayed there, well excluding the big ring over the finish line, which if it's the same route as last year is the first bit of down hill you see for over an hour :D

    Compact and slow change, not an issue on these climbs, for the Marmotte, with 4 cols, it's a change you make eight times in 108 miles ;-) Hmmm, could get off the bike and do it manually thus saving the weight of the front derailleur and cable!

    To answer the original question, if it is your first time in the alps and you're not sure, I'd go for as many gears as you can afford, a compact and a 12/27 or 29 or a triple.I don't believe you will regret it unless your middle name is Pantani or something! If you're doing one day or one climb then you will get away with UK gearing, if you're doing a number of climbs in a day or consecutive days, it will start to grind you down and I presume you want to enjoy it. That's the best advice I can give unless you want to go into details such as preferred cadence, sustainable power, weight etc...
  • Ken NightKen Night Posts: 2,005
    For the record for the Marmotte I am usinf 50/34 12,25 .....................

    I find the gap 50/34 too great, much happier with 48/34

    Using the 12, which gives a 108" gear, you won't spin out, even on the Lauteret descent (40mph at 120rpm)
    (BTW, let everyone else waste themselves there-just tuck in and wheel suck, it's so easy to get into the state of mind that because you can go so fast down it, that you have to drive your peloton on. Don't, you'll pay for it towards the end, when it kicks up again, and of course on AD)
    I reckon if I use a 34 x 25 at 60 will be ok, any less will be so slow would be easier to get off and walk .


    having 12-27 (OW is a Shimano user) is a no brainer-low sprockets 21,24,27, compared to 21, 23, 25, , and even if you don't use the 27 on the first couple of ramps, by the time you've been climbing for 45mins in 40degrees as last year, the chances are you'll need it, even if you haven't on the Galibier which is much cooler

    I didn't use my low gear on the Galibier, and as above, was glad to have it on AD-I finished around 1000th overall for gold in my category, so while not brillant, I wan't hanging about either

    What is your goal time OW?
    “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best..." Ernest Hemingway
  • Jaguar.Jaguar. Posts: 51
    Ken Night wrote:
    I didn't use my low gear on the Galibier, and as above, was glad to have it on AD-I finished around 1000th overall for gold in my category, so while not brillant, I wan't hanging about either

    Hehe, you could be me! Been stuck at 8hrs 50 for the past couple of years... which is gold (for me) and around 1000th overall. Hoping to get down towards 8 30 this year but it's easy to hope whilst lounging about so maybe just dreaming :-)
  • 11 years ago, at the age of 50, I made it up Alpe d'Huez in 70 minutes on a 39/26. I'll be going back up there this year, and will be pleased to make it up in 90 minutes on a 34/29 (and that after first riding over the Lauteret). I'll also be doing the Bonette and the Izoard on the same trip. Over the years, I've done many of the big climbs in the Alps, Pyrenees and northern Spain (Covadonga amongst them) and with age, however regrettably, comes the inevitable slowing down. It comes to all of us, even though we don't believe it can ever happen to us when we're younger. There's no shame, and every virtue, in matching your gearing to your capabilities, and I suspect that many are over-geared out of pride. On the Ventoux during the Etape in 2000, the first year I fitted a triple for such a ride, I found I was passing loads of riders struggling up over-geared. Better under-geared than over-geared, as others have said.
  • massimanmassiman Posts: 16
    After reading all these I'm confused. I asked my local specialized dealer and his reply was "speak to a road racer" very helphful! But honest I suppose.

    I am doing Ryedale Rumble and want to get up Rosedale chimney without stopping. I currently have Ultegra running gear 39-52 front rings and 13-23 9 speed cassette. What's the biggest cassette I can go to without changing the rear mech (or wrecking it) that will help up the cliff?
Sign In or Register to comment.