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Gearing - is it time to change?

supermurph09supermurph09 Posts: 2,471
edited October 2013 in Road general
Having just competed in the Monsal Head hill climb today, I drove home contemplating my gearing. I currently have a 50/34 with a 12-30 cassette. Living in the Peak District, 90% of my rides are hilly, in fact I target 15-25% gradients as I enjoy riding hills. I would say I'm a decent climber, especially on longer climbs, it's not a discipline I shy away from, but I want to get stronger and quicker.

having that cassette means that psychologically (like today) I'll always make use of all the cogs available but as I look towards some quality winter training I wonder if I should now start pushing some bigger gears and going to something like 12-27?

I'm sure this is not an uncommon dilemma, would welcome some thoughts from people.
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  • thegibdogthegibdog Posts: 2,106
    You could always just adjust your rear derailleur so you can't select your 30t cog and see how you get on. But I don't reckon reducing you gear range will help your training, it's how hard you push yourself that matters.

    If you enjoy hills then you're not riding hard enough!
  • diamonddogdiamonddog Posts: 3,422
    thegibdog wrote:
    You could always just adjust your rear derailleur so you can't select your 30t cog and see how you get on. But I don't reckon reducing you gear range will help your training, it's how hard you push yourself that matters.

    ^^This
  • supermurph09supermurph09 Posts: 2,471
    Believe me, I push myself hard. But the point I'm trying to make is if I'm pushing at the same intensity but in a 27 then surely I'll end up going quicker. Of course I could just not use 2 cogs, but not having them would make that choice easier.
  • turnerjohnturnerjohn Posts: 1,069
    try a 12-28....mind over matter tho...if you want to get stronger drop a gear and stomp up !
  • FocusZingFocusZing Posts: 4,373
    Believe me, I push myself hard. But the point I'm trying to make is if I'm pushing at the same intensity but in a 27 then surely I'll end up going quicker. Of course I could just not use 2 cogs, but not having them would make that choice easier.

    Great suggestions above. If you take a small scew driver you could always adjust it back if required.

    Nothing more add.
  • BarteosBarteos Posts: 657
    Believe me, I push myself hard. But the point I'm trying to make is if I'm pushing at the same intensity but in a 27 then surely I'll end up going quicker. Of course I could just not use 2 cogs, but not having them would make that choice easier.

    That makes no sense to me.
    If we assume that "the same intensity" equals the same power output then I don't understand how it is physically possible to climb faster on one gear than on another...
    You'll be just mashing harder gear unnecessarily and getting tired more quickly on longer rides.
  • Barteos wrote:
    Believe me, I push myself hard. But the point I'm trying to make is if I'm pushing at the same intensity but in a 27 then surely I'll end up going quicker. Of course I could just not use 2 cogs, but not having them would make that choice easier.

    That makes no sense to me.
    If we assume that "the same intensity" equals the same power output then I don't understand how it is physically possible to climb faster on one gear than on another...
    You'll be just mashing harder gear unnecessarily and getting tired more quickly on longer rides.

    This ^^ totally.

    It's purely psychological. Just make sure you're in the right gear for the slope. If you need to use the 30, then use it, doesn't mean you'll go any faster if you use a 27.

    If you find that you're never really using the 30, THEN get a 27-11 (not 12 please!) cassette.

    You'd be amazed how fast you can go if you spin the 34-30 like a mad b*star*d!!!
  • supermurph09supermurph09 Posts: 2,471
    Appreciate the input, not sure I thought this through. Thanks for clarifying.
  • alihisgreatalihisgreat Posts: 3,872
    You should be able to get up anything on a 34/28 let alone a 34/30 and if you've got to the point where you never really use the 30 then switch it out, but bear in mind that you will always use your bail out gear on super steep gradients so its about whether you're confident pushing a 27 or 28 rather than a 30 on the super steep stuff.
  • supermurph09supermurph09 Posts: 2,471
    You should be able to get up anything on a 34/28 let alone a 34/30 and if you've got to the point where you never really use the 30 then switch it out, but bear in mind that you will always use your bail out gear on super steep gradients so its about whether you're confident pushing a 27 or 28 rather than a 30 on the super steep stuff.

    I have that confidence, thanks for the input I'll consider some options.
  • You should be able to get up anything on a 34/28 let alone a 34/30 and if you've got to the point where you never really use the 30 then switch it out, but bear in mind that you will always use your bail out gear on super steep gradients so its about whether you're confident pushing a 27 or 28 rather than a 30 on the super steep stuff.

    I have that confidence, thanks for the input I'll consider some options.

    It's nothing to do with 'confidence' surely; if the gradient is steep (and it is as the OP has mentioned 15 to 25%), then 30 may well be the perfect gear at the perfect cadence. Thinking of going to the 27 'cos it's a harder gear', is quite likely to be counter-productive.

    If your HR is at or near the max, and you know you're knocking out pretty much max power, what good is changing down going to do?
  • GiantMikeGiantMike Posts: 3,139
    If you climb the same hill in 2 different gears at different speeds, the gearing you climbed quickest on is the best for you.

    If you're trying to improve your strength, seated lower cadence climbs are a good way to do this, but watch out for knee pains.
  • hatch87hatch87 Posts: 352
    Riddle me this, why do so many people treat hill climbing so differently to any other part of a ride. I've never been riding along on the flat and thought, 'you know what, I'm not pushing hard enough I should put it in the highest gear and disconnect my derailleur.'

    Every other part of the ride you spin away at the pace you need to go for the length of ride you are doing, so why do you assume you are not doing that on a steep hill?
    http://app.strava.com/athletes/686217
    Come on! You call this a storm? Blow, you son of a censored ! Blow! It's time for a showdown! You and me! I'm right here! Come and get me!
  • slowbikeslowbike Posts: 8,498
    hatch87 wrote:
    Every other part of the ride you spin away at the pace you need to go for the length of ride you are doing, so why do you assume you are not doing that on a steep hill?

    Because on the flat you can soft pedal - even for a couple of seconds - to get some respite. On a hill you don't (often) get that - you've just got to go up it. I recognise the OPs problem - I went from a 39/52 with 26-12 on my first road bike to a 34/50 with 28-11 on the current one - I got up everything including (short) 25%ers on my first road bike - so why do I need such low gearing on the current one? I don't - it's just that the gear is there and I'll click down to it if I'm not concentrating on gearing. I'll change the setup at somepoint - just haven't decided what too (39/53 with the 28-11 cassette?)
  • andrewjosephandrewjoseph Posts: 2,165
    You should be able to get up anything on a 34/28 let alone a 34/30 and if you've got to the point where you never really use the 30 then switch it out, but bear in mind that you will always use your bail out gear on super steep gradients so its about whether you're confident pushing a 27 or 28 rather than a 30 on the super steep stuff.

    I have that confidence, thanks for the input I'll consider some options.

    It doesn't sound like you have that confidence, as you can't allow yourself to not use the 30t. In other words, if you had the confidence to use a lower gear, you'd be doing so already.
    --
    Burls Ti Tourer for Tarmac, Saracen aluminium full suss for trails
  • hatch87hatch87 Posts: 352
    Slowbike wrote:
    hatch87 wrote:
    Every other part of the ride you spin away at the pace you need to go for the length of ride you are doing, so why do you assume you are not doing that on a steep hill?

    Because on the flat you can soft pedal - even for a couple of seconds - to get some respite. On a hill you don't (often) get that - you've just got to go up it.

    But thats my point, why is it OK to ease up on the flat, but on a hill everyone seems to want to get up it as fast as physically possible without making it easy at any point in any way.
    http://app.strava.com/athletes/686217
    Come on! You call this a storm? Blow, you son of a censored ! Blow! It's time for a showdown! You and me! I'm right here! Come and get me!
  • alihisgreatalihisgreat Posts: 3,872
    You should be able to get up anything on a 34/28 let alone a 34/30 and if you've got to the point where you never really use the 30 then switch it out, but bear in mind that you will always use your bail out gear on super steep gradients so its about whether you're confident pushing a 27 or 28 rather than a 30 on the super steep stuff.

    I have that confidence, thanks for the input I'll consider some options.

    It's nothing to do with 'confidence' surely; if the gradient is steep (and it is as the OP has mentioned 15 to 25%), then 30 may well be the perfect gear at the perfect cadence. Thinking of going to the 27 'cos it's a harder gear', is quite likely to be counter-productive.

    If your HR is at or near the max, and you know you're knocking out pretty much max power, what good is changing down going to do?

    Its a trade off though surely?

    If you go down to a 25 or 27t then you get closer ratios over the cassette which are nicer to ride over the rest of the route, and which is worth a bit of suffering on short stretches of 15%+ gradients.
  • slowbikeslowbike Posts: 8,498
    hatch87 wrote:
    Slowbike wrote:
    hatch87 wrote:
    Every other part of the ride you spin away at the pace you need to go for the length of ride you are doing, so why do you assume you are not doing that on a steep hill?

    Because on the flat you can soft pedal - even for a couple of seconds - to get some respite. On a hill you don't (often) get that - you've just got to go up it.

    But thats my point, why is it OK to ease up on the flat, but on a hill everyone seems to want to get up it as fast as physically possible without making it easy at any point in any way.

    Because you can ease up on the flat without dropping speed too much. As soon as you drop power input on a good hill you'll find yourself in grind mode.
  • hatch87hatch87 Posts: 352
    So wouldn't having easier gears help in that situation? If you need to ease up for a few seconds drop to the 30t or whatever, recover then go back to the 27t. Making yourself push a harder gear from the start is surely going to put you in grind mode earlier and leave you with no bail out option
    http://app.strava.com/athletes/686217
    Come on! You call this a storm? Blow, you son of a censored ! Blow! It's time for a showdown! You and me! I'm right here! Come and get me!
  • rolf_frolf_f Posts: 16,015
    hatch87 wrote:
    Slowbike wrote:
    hatch87 wrote:
    Every other part of the ride you spin away at the pace you need to go for the length of ride you are doing, so why do you assume you are not doing that on a steep hill?

    Because on the flat you can soft pedal - even for a couple of seconds - to get some respite. On a hill you don't (often) get that - you've just got to go up it.

    But thats my point, why is it OK to ease up on the flat, but on a hill everyone seems to want to get up it as fast as physically possible without making it easy at any point in any way.

    I don't think it is about getting up as fast as possible - rather as efficiently as possible. What always strikes me, as a reasonably decent climber, that however hard I am finding a climb, the folk I'm passing are finding it harder. Even if they are pushing out exactly the same wattage as I am, they are spending much longer doing it. Chances are, the quickest way up a climb for you (assuming you are sticking to a threshold and not trying to get a Strava KOM) is also the easiest even if you might not think it at the time.
    Faster than a tent.......
  • slowbikeslowbike Posts: 8,498
    hatch87 wrote:
    So wouldn't having easier gears help in that situation? If you need to ease up for a few seconds drop to the 30t or whatever, recover then go back to the 27t. Making yourself push a harder gear from the start is surely going to put you in grind mode earlier and leave you with no bail out option
    Ah - but this is where your mental determination comes in - or rather, doesnt ... once you've popped to the 30t you've got to put a monumental effort to make it worth going back to the 27t - so you end up just running up in the 30t.
    Believe me - this is one of my issues - I want to just MTFU and go up the hill - I've even done it on occasion - but othertimes I just give up and click through the gears until I run out. I know it doesn't really matter, but on the occasions where the will power is lacking then setting the bike so it's impossible to wimp out might just make the difference.
  • Slowbike wrote:
    Ah - but this is where your mental determination comes in - or rather, doesnt ... once you've popped to the 30t you've got to put a monumental effort to make it worth going back to the 27t - so you end up just running up in the 30t.

    If you're in the 30, and don't quite have the power/willpower to go to the 27, here's a tip;

    Drop it 3 gears, to the 21 or 19, and stand up and pedal. You change your muscle groups and get some fresher fibres working for you. Cadence drops of course, but this is normal when 'en danseuse'. (French - literally 'like a dancer'). Your speed should be about the same, possibly a touch faster.

    Then when the freshness wears off, sit down and go back up to the 24 or 27. You should now be able to hold the 27 for at least a while, before going back to the 30.

    Et voila!
  • slowbikeslowbike Posts: 8,498
    Ta for the tip ... :)
  • Slowbike wrote:
    Ta for the tip ... :)

    Touch of sarcasm there perhaps....?! :)

    What I said may seem kind of basic stuff, but having passed 11 000 riders on this year's Etape, it's amazing how many don't climb comfortably.
  • slowbikeslowbike Posts: 8,498
    Nope - no sarcasm at all - thanks for the tip ... !
    I do stand on some longer climbs (sometimes) but usually when I'm at the end of my grinding ability - and often I don't change down before doing so - if I did it'd only be down a sprocket ...
    I have no problem standing and climbing - did plenty of that on Saturday - quite fun overtaking everyone else on the (short) climbs - a new experience for me! but they weren't steep or long and I wasn't struggling up them.

    One of the hills I want to improve on is avg 7% with plenty of bumps but it's 3/4 mile long - if I get time tonight I might just try your technique ... :)
  • Slowbike wrote:
    One of the hills I want to improve on is avg 7% with plenty of bumps but it's 3/4 mile long - if I get time tonight I might just try your technique ... :)

    On a hill like that I would normally climb it about half in, half out of the saddle.

    If going for a KOM or maxxing out, possibly all out of saddle or 75% out.

    You should really be spinning quite fast (cadence >80) whilst sitting, so that you HAVE to drop 2 or 3 gears when you stand up. Then cadence drops to 60 or so. This is how the economy bonus works for you - going from light force, high cardiovascular work (seated) to high force, lower CV work (standing).

    (N.B. Not everyone gets on with out of saddle climbing - I think it helps to be light, but I'm convinced it's a useful skill to train)
  • supermurph09supermurph09 Posts: 2,471
    Clearly I have sparked a discussion here.

    I'll try and sum up the reason for my post again. First of all, I have total confidence going up climbs, I really do not fear them, my rides take me straight to them not around them. My thinking was that if I went to a 12-28 from a 12-30 my easiest gear would be harder than what I have now so if I can build my strength further then I'll eventually be spinning the same in a 28t as I was in the 30t thus going quicker? I'm going to focus on keeping out the 30t for now (which I actually do sometimes anyway when attempting to over gear myself sometimes), but I just felt that removing it all together would make sense.
  • t4tomot4tomo Posts: 2,643
    [ but having passed 11 000 riders on this year's Etape,

    Did you count them all? :D
    Bianchi Infinito CV
    Bianchi Via Nirone 7 Ultegra
    Brompton S Type
    Carrera Vengeance Ultimate Ltd
    Gary Fisher Aquila '98
    Front half of a Viking Saratoga Tandem
  • Clearly I have sparked a discussion here.

    I'll try and sum up the reason for my post again. First of all, I have total confidence going up climbs, I really do not fear them, my rides take me straight to them not around them. My thinking was that if I went to a 12-28 from a 12-30 my easiest gear would be harder than what I have now so if I can build my strength further then I'll eventually be spinning the same in a 28t as I was in the 30t thus going quicker? I'm going to focus on keeping out the 30t for now (which I actually do sometimes anyway when attempting to over gear myself sometimes), but I just felt that removing it all together would make sense.

    If you want to build your strength, just practice going up in the 28 or 25. This may build strength, but will probably be sub-optimal in terms of climbing speed.

    Once again, if you feel the need to use the 30, then there is a reason for that, and therefore it's place is justified.

    Grinding up a hill in too high a gear is one of the worst ways to do it IMO, (unless it's for a specific type of strength training).

    (I use 50/34 (compact) with 21-11 for 'normal' riding and 28-11 for Alps, etc).
  • t4tomo wrote:
    [ but having passed 11 000 riders on this year's Etape,

    Did you count them all? :D

    Had a 607 start number but rode it with my mate who had a 12000 something number.

    Finished with about 1000 in front, hence the 11000.
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