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Gearing for real hills?

JonEdwardsJonEdwards Posts: 452
edited January 2013 in Road buying advice
So i've been riding around quite happily for the last few years on a fairly standard 53/39 & 12-25 Campag setup. Perfect for the riding I have been doing and has got me over all the usual little challenges to be found in and around the south east. Sure, some of the steeper stuff (White Down) require a bit of grunting and gurning, but that's all part of the fun isn't it.

Anyway - few months back we moved up to Sheffield. Time hasn't allowed for any big rides, but i've been getting in 1 - 1.5hr blasts pretty regularly. That gets me over to Hathersage or Calver or similar. No problems with gearing. Barely had to use the 25 sprocket any more than normal in all honesty.

So cut to today - day off, so i went for a longer jaunt, planning to take in Winnats. Was in bottom gear within meters of leaving the main road and out the saddle before the cattle grid. 2/3rds the way up i had to give in and take a breather after hauling the bike up at about 40rpm - breathing, legs, arms, back - they'd all had enough. NOT impressed with myself. Took me a good minute to get the breathing back under control enough to get going again. On a good day i reckon I could have made it, but it would properly hurt, and I'd really have to *want* it.

So what's everybody else using for that kind of climb? The obvious change seems to be getting the engine remapped, but I'm also wondering about a cassette with a bigger bottom end. 13-29 seems the obvious, but it's fricking expensive at Chorus level (rest of the bke is 2004 10S Record), and I seem to lose more at the top end than I gain at the bottom according to Sheldon, and whilst I might want a lower gear some of the time, I'm also spending a lot of time descending in the 30-40mph range - whilst not quite spinning out of 53/12, I'm definitely twiddling pretty quickly. (oh and before anybody suggests it, I'm firmly of the opinion that triples have no place on a roadbike. Flame me if you like...)

Me? 37, 5'10", 10stone. Dedicated mountain biker, part time roadie. Usually reckon i'm pretty good uphill.
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  • I don't know how we did it in the 70s on 42/23 (I lived in Glossop then) and was 9 stone !
  • northpolenorthpole Posts: 1,499
    Must confess I tried the Peak District 65 mile sportive this year and I had to dismount when I got to the Pass. There was an excuse available - some poor fellow in an Astra with a trailer managed to burn his clutch out and there was no way past him due to oncoming traffic. Still, I reckon I would still have walked at least part of the hill. And the weather was very kind this year!

    As to gearing, I have a compact chainset with an 11-25 cassette. Most of my hill exposure is in the Surrey Hills but the total climb on that 65 mile sportive was twice what I would expect on a similar length run (7,000ft instead of 3,500ft). If I do it again this year, I'll change the cassette to either a 27 or 29 top ring. (Or put in more effort training now that I know what to expect!).

    A compact chainset would make a huge difference for you if you can pick one up used off fleabay. Otherwise I'm not sure what cassettes are available (mine's 11 speed which have up to 29 available).

    Peter
  • rolf_frolf_f Posts: 16,015
    Are you serious that you must have a minimum spec Chorus cassette? I mean really? :lol:

    Just get a Veloce 13-29 and use it when you need it and take it off when you don't. I've never had any funny looks for having a lower spec cassette than the rest of the groupset........

    As for the top end - you won't be spending much time descending in the 30-40 mph range. At that speed it doesn't take long to get back to the bottom again.

    PS, I think you'd have to be crackers to buy a Chorus cassette in the first place! I mean, you aren't actually gaining a thing for your money.

    PPS - did Winnats on 34-25 lowest gear and that was OK. Depends how many climbs of that sort you are going to do - I did it on the Phil Liggett which isn't too evil a route. On harsher routes I use the 13-29
    Faster than a tent.......
  • markyonemarkyone Posts: 1,051
    50/36 on front and 11/25 on back thats all i use,
    done galibier,alpe duez and more with that no probs.
    Colnago c60 Eps super record 11
    Pinarello F8 with sram etap
  • Once you have ridden it a few times and learned where to make the efforts and where to go easier, 39x25 will be fine but maybe get a 27 if it does't get any more enjoyable.
  • Monty DogMonty Dog Posts: 20,614
    You'll improve your climbing a lot with training and increased strength, so it depends on how much effort you're prepared to put in. Also depends on your preferred climbing style i.e. out the saddle at 80%+ effort or sitting down and twiddling - there's nothing in the UK a fit cyclist can't get up on 39x25, including Hardknott Pass or the Bealach na Ba.
    Make mine an Italian, with Campagnolo on the side..
  • rolf_frolf_f Posts: 16,015
    Monty Dog wrote:
    there's nothing in the UK a fit cyclist can't get up on 39x25, including Hardknott Pass or the Bealach na Ba.

    I'm a fit cyclist and decent at climbing. I couldn't get up Hardknot on a 34-29 on the Fred though I still got a faster time than most. Whether you can get up a hill in a particular gear is hardly the whole story - it's how many hard hills you can deal with on your choice of routes with a given gearing - I'd have assumed you'd realise that. To suggest that no-one (if fit) needs more than 39x25 is simply wrong and, tbh, sounds like willy waving.
    Faster than a tent.......
  • styxdstyxd Posts: 3,234
    there's nothing in the UK a fit cyclist can't get up on 39x25, including Hardknott Pass

    Yes, true, but its not necessarily the quickest. On the FW last year my mate was on a 39/25 - he made it up hardknott. But I and had to wait around at the top for about 10 minutes for him as I found I was quicker on a 34/27.
  • Tom DeanTom Dean Posts: 1,723
    Lower gearing won't make it any easier - it's too steep to stay in the saddle anyway. You just have to stand up and grind it out.
    You made it 2/3rds of the way up, next time try to go easy at the bottom and you will make it. (choose a day when there isn't a gale blowing down the hill!)
  • sheffsimonsheffsimon Posts: 1,282
    Best advice is to avoid Winnats altogether, cos its horrible.

    Mam Nick from Edale is your best route the top of Mam Tor, followed by the old road (dont turn off for Winnats, its closed to cars but doable, apart from a short bit at the top, on a road bike).
  • rolf_frolf_f Posts: 16,015
    Tom Dean wrote:
    Lower gearing won't make it any easier - it's too steep to stay in the saddle anyway. You just have to stand up and grind it out.

    Gearing doesn't cease to matter just because you are standing :lol:

    If you say lower gearing won't make it easier on Hardknott, then you may as well suggest going single speed at 50-11!
    sheffsimon wrote:
    Mam Nick from Edale is your best route the top of Mam Tor, followed by the old road (dont turn off for Winnats, its closed to cars but doable, apart from a short bit at the top, on a road bike).

    Actually, the route up the Tor is the new road - the old road is Winnats!
    Faster than a tent.......
  • JonEdwards wrote:
    So i've been riding around quite happily for the last few years on a fairly standard 53/39 & 12-25 Campag setup. Perfect for the riding I have been doing and has got me over all the usual little challenges to be found in and around the south east. Sure, some of the steeper stuff (White Down) require a bit of grunting and gurning, but that's all part of the fun isn't it.

    Anyway - few months back we moved up to Sheffield. Time hasn't allowed for any big rides, but i've been getting in 1 - 1.5hr blasts pretty regularly. That gets me over to Hathersage or Calver or similar. No problems with gearing. Barely had to use the 25 sprocket any more than normal in all honesty.

    So cut to today - day off, so i went for a longer jaunt, planning to take in Winnats. Was in bottom gear within meters of leaving the main road and out the saddle before the cattle grid. 2/3rds the way up i had to give in and take a breather after hauling the bike up at about 40rpm - breathing, legs, arms, back - they'd all had enough. NOT impressed with myself. Took me a good minute to get the breathing back under control enough to get going again. On a good day i reckon I could have made it, but it would properly hurt, and I'd really have to *want* it.

    So what's everybody else using for that kind of climb? The obvious change seems to be getting the engine remapped, but I'm also wondering about a cassette with a bigger bottom end. 13-29 seems the obvious, but it's fricking expensive at Chorus level (rest of the bke is 2004 10S Record), and I seem to lose more at the top end than I gain at the bottom according to Sheldon, and whilst I might want a lower gear some of the time, I'm also spending a lot of time descending in the 30-40mph range - whilst not quite spinning out of 53/12, I'm definitely twiddling pretty quickly. (oh and before anybody suggests it, I'm firmly of the opinion that triples have no place on a roadbike. Flame me if you like...)

    Me? 37, 5'10", 10stone. Dedicated mountain biker, part time roadie. Usually reckon i'm pretty good uphill.

    Winnats... I seem to recall I was on 34 x 23, but it was hard going, difficult to pedal that slow (4.5-5 mph) in that gear. A 34 x 27 will get you anywhere for sure... if you can't get up a slope in 34 x 27, it's either lack of fitness and lower gears won't help or the road is not passable.
    39 x 25 as mentioned will be OK on most climbs, not sure all climbs and not sure all climbs in all conditions. I recall using 34 x 27 up the Tourmalet (west side, from Luz St. Saveur), as it came after the Aubisque and the weather was horrible
  • rolf_frolf_f Posts: 16,015
    A 34 x 27 will get you anywhere for sure... if you can't get up a slope in 34 x 27, it's either lack of fitness and lower gears won't help or the road is not passable.

    This is still incorrect. Fitness and power are two different things.
    Faster than a tent.......
  • styxdstyxd Posts: 3,234
    This is still incorrect. Fitness and power are two different things.

    Yes, but surely fitness determines power? If you're not very fit then you're not going to produce much power
  • Mike67Mike67 Posts: 585
    styxd wrote:
    This is still incorrect. Fitness and power are two different things.

    Yes, but surely fitness determines power? If you're not very fit then you're not going to produce much power

    Think of a bodybuilder/weighlifter on a bike....plenty of power but not particularly suited to (fit for) cycling and would probably die on a hard climb.
    Mike B

    Cannondale CAAD9
    Kinesis Pro 5 cross bike
    Lots of bits
  • rolf_frolf_f Posts: 16,015
    styxd wrote:
    This is still incorrect. Fitness and power are two different things.

    Yes, but surely fitness determines power? If you're not very fit then you're not going to produce much power

    I'm stick thin - I can cycle all day, I've ridden 18000 miles in the last two years, done a lot of the big Northern Sportives with respectable times but I don't have masses of power. If I'm not cycle fit then most Sportive riders are also not cycle fit - but that doesn't alter the fact that I simply didn't have enough brute power left at the end of the Fred to get up Hardknott on 34-29 and neither did the majority of other riders around me. Those that did were a minority on standard crankset, more on compacts and most on touring triples. I still had plenty of miles left in me but not at that gradient at that cadence. What gear I'd have needed I don't know but I reckon I'd have got up with my MTB gearing! Normally, I'm much quicker than most people on climbs (to the extent that on the rare occasions I get overtaken on a climb, I get slightly irritated!!)

    If Monty and Ugo don't understand this then they don't understand much about cycling. The only crack in my argument that I can see is that maybe I could have MTFU'd and got up - but really, I simply don't believe that.
    Faster than a tent.......
  • Rolf F wrote:

    Actually, the route up the Tor is the new road - the old road is Winnats!

    Nope, the old road from Castleton was closed in the 1960s and it's still passable with a MTB or cyclocross bike (or a road bike if you walk some bits). The new road (left at the fork) is Winnats
  • Rolf F wrote:

    If Monty and Ugo don't understand this then they don't understand much about cycling. The only crack in my argument that I can see is that maybe I could have MTFU'd and got up - but really, I simply don't believe that.

    Steep climbs require technique too... it's not just about having low enough gears. First time I went up the Koppenberg, I had to walk... then I learned how to do it on 34 x 27 and now I can do it with 34 x 25 and possible harder gears, but I am not any fitter.
    Same for the Eroica, first time up Monte Sante Marie was walking, then recently I did it in 41 x 26... slightly fitter than in 2006, but most importantly I learned from the cobbles how to takle very steep inclines
  • styxdstyxd Posts: 3,234
    I simply didn't have enough brute power left at the end of the Fred to get up Hardknott on 34-29 and neither did the majority of other riders around me.

    But surely you didnt have enough brute power left in you because you werent fit enough?
  • Tom DeanTom Dean Posts: 1,723
    Rolf F wrote:
    Tom Dean wrote:
    Lower gearing won't make it any easier - it's too steep to stay in the saddle anyway. You just have to stand up and grind it out.

    Gearing doesn't cease to matter just because you are standing :lol:

    Let me explain my thinking: its too steep (for me) to stay in the saddle - I can't keep the front wheel on the ground, no lower gearing would help with this.

    Out of the saddle is more of a whole-body effort i.e. more fatiguing for a given power. I could choose gearing that would get me up Winnat's in 10 minutes but I couldn't stay out of the saddle for that long. I think there is a trade off between time taken and power output when you are forced out of the saddle. In this case I would not buy new gears for one local hill, its going to basically be a max effort regardless.
  • rolf_frolf_f Posts: 16,015
    styxd wrote:
    I simply didn't have enough brute power left at the end of the Fred to get up Hardknott on 34-29 and neither did the majority of other riders around me.

    But surely you didnt have enough brute power left in you because you werent fit enough?

    You can certainly say that but, as I intimated, if I'm not fit enough then the vast majority of entrants to the Fred aren't either. 'Fit' as a term means nothing whatsoever; it is simply a relative term. We are all very fit compared to the average couch potato but pretty unfit compared to Cavendish, Wiggins and all. However, this is mainly a forum for hobby cyclists and I don't get the impression that the OP is any different in that respect.

    I take Ugos point - and I'd like to know what technique he uses as my conclusion after the Fred was that something was a bit wrong with my climbing - but then I'm not sure I haven't let myself get away with poor technique because generally I do find hills easier than the vast majority of cyclists because I am light. I know that some of the minority who did manage to pedal up Hardknott on the Fred were far, far slower than me overall. So who there is the fitter?

    But I'm pretty sure that if there is a secret trick, most of us don't know it and maybe most never will. I tend to assume though that to a point, it is down to sheer brute strength. If you weigh 9.5 stone there's not much weight available to force a pedal down at ultra low cadence!
    Tom Dean wrote:
    Out of the saddle is more of a whole-body effort i.e. more fatiguing for a given power. I could choose gearing that would get me up Winnat's in 10 minutes but I couldn't stay out of the saddle for that long. I think there is a trade off between time taken and power output when you are forced out of the saddle. In this case I would not buy new gears for one local hill, its going to basically be a max effort regardless.

    I see where you are coming from but you don't need to stand all the way up most of these climbs. The tough part of Winnats must be under 5 minutes - I did that on 34-25 but don't recall if I stood up all the way; I tend to ration my pedal standing severely! In the case of Hardknott - there are two steep sections which probably amount to less than 10 minutes of work and they are split by a lengthy straightforward section.
    Faster than a tent.......
  • Monty DogMonty Dog Posts: 20,614
    There's a huge difference between those that have trained to 'race' up hills rather than just ride up them - perhaps if you had cycled enough to know the difference between the two then you wouldn't need to start sleighting others because they have a different perspective?
    Make mine an Italian, with Campagnolo on the side..
  • Tom DeanTom Dean Posts: 1,723
    JonEdwards wrote:
    On a good day i reckon I could have made it, but it would properly hurt, and I'd really have to *want* it.

    This^

    You know the road now, when it gets steep, get off your censored and commit to it:)

    If you are cruising up Hathersage etc in the 23 you are more than fit enough.
  • rolf_frolf_f Posts: 16,015
    Monty Dog wrote:
    There's a huge difference between those that have trained to 'race' up hills rather than just ride up them - perhaps if you had cycled enough to know the difference between the two then you wouldn't need to start sleighting others because they have a different perspective?

    I think I've cycled quite a lot and I have tried to get up hills as fast as I can but I'm not sure what the relevance of 'training to 'race' up hills' has to do with anything. I am not a racer - I just ride as hard as I can. I'm not that good at 'training' as such as I habitually just default to long distance riding but I am aware that I should change my habits.

    This isn't about difference in perspective. It's about giving bad advice. Eg that a fit cyclist can get up anything on 39-25; that's bad advice. If you don't want to be sleighted, don't give bad advice. Whether or not we have a theoretical ability to be trained to do that in an ideal world is not relevant. Some people just want to enjoy their cycling and ride hilly days at a decent pace without bothering with intervals, thresholds, powertaps etc. A 29 tooth cassette ring can make a big difference to that enjoyment whether or not the cyclist could cope with a 25 - and that attitude doesn't make them unfit.
    Faster than a tent.......
  • Evil LaughEvil Laugh Posts: 1,412
    Monty Dog wrote:
    There's a huge difference between those that have trained to 'race' up hills rather than just ride up them - perhaps if you had cycled enough to know the difference between the two then you wouldn't need to start sleighting others because they have a different perspective?

    Maybe you should listen to your own advice!

    Monty, you have given me and no doubt loads of others on here plenty of great advice over the years. Thanks.

    Lately I've noticed a growing, almost bitter contempt on your part for any cyclist who doesn't race to a certain standard.

    Not everyone on here is a featherweight 5'4", participates in racing or buys cycling products from the perspective of someone who is. Maybe you could appreciate that a bit more and stop being so prickly when advice is being asked for from someone who doesn't fit your idea of what a road cyclist should be.
    I
  • siamonsiamon Posts: 274
    Quelle charge de la censored . Vous devriez tous avoir honte de votre auto servir et condescendants comportement.

    Délibérément incompréhension d'un poste simple, afin de juger et d'augmenter vos propres délires d'importance de soi est l'essence même de la lâcheté agressive passive.

    J'ai posté en français pour accentuer le niveau de mon mépris pour votre comportement, et pour illustrer la magnificence incroyable de ma supériorité intellectuelle et physique sur vous tous (sauf l'op qui a posé une question honnête et juste, si un peu évidentes).

    Merci.
  • Rolf F wrote:

    I take Ugos point - and I'd like to know what technique he uses as my conclusion after the Fred was that something was a bit wrong with my climbing - but then I'm not sure I haven't let myself get away with poor technique because generally I do find hills easier than the vast majority of cyclists because I am light. I know that some of the minority who did manage to pedal up Hardknott on the Fred were far, far slower than me overall. So who there is the fitter?

    When the road is steep and slippery or the surface is bad, you have to stay on the saddle, lower your body, hands as far forward as you can (hoods), try to distribute the weight both on the rear and on the front wheel (look how Cancellara does it at the Tour of Flanders)... in other words make yourself long, rather than tall, this way you won't loose traction and the front wheel won't lift. As for the pedalling, start slow and keep it steady, zig zag if necessary and at all possible. If the traction is good, you can allow yourself to stand up, but your body has to follow the legs as they try to spin... pointless to try and keep the revs up with silly low gears, you might overcome the steep section of the Cheshire view up Mow Cop, but you'll run short of oxygen very quickly on a longer steep incline... patience is the key.. forget your computer, monitor etc... just keep going... you need to work on the balance too, to be able to keep going at 4 mph or even less without falling off.
    MTB helps a lot as off road you will find gradients that do not exist on tarmac
  • TMRTMR Posts: 3,986
    siamon wrote:
    Quelle charge de la censored . Vous devriez tous avoir honte de votre auto servir et condescendants comportement.

    Délibérément incompréhension d'un poste simple, afin de juger et d'augmenter vos propres délires d'importance de soi est l'essence même de la lâcheté agressive passive.

    J'ai posté en français pour accentuer le niveau de mon mépris pour votre comportement, et pour illustrer la magnificence incroyable de ma supériorité intellectuelle et physique sur vous tous (sauf l'op qui a posé une question honnête et juste, si un peu évidentes).

    Merci.

    Ceci est un forum anglais. S'il vous plaît parler l'anglais, pas français.

    Merci.
  • siamonsiamon Posts: 274
    Evil got there first but mine is in French so it is better :lol:, and mine is aimed at everyone, although Evils is far more polite and tactful. :D
  • siamonsiamon Posts: 274
    Rappe: il est trop brutal pour moi de traduire, un point dont vous êtes bien conscient!

    Everybody else: It is too rude for me to translate, a point which the obviously expensively educated Rapper is well aware!
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