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Alpe d'Huez Beginner

LCoHLCoH Posts: 28
edited June 2018 in Road beginners
Afternoon,

First post and I've searched the site but clearly not found what I'm after so really grateful for any pointers.

I'm planning to ride AdH at the end of May and am new (at 49) to road biking, albeit I have to be fit for my job (2 x assessments/yr) but am on the 'athletically-stocky' side. My bike is a second-hande Carrera TdF (which I really like) but it's more of a struggle on the hills. The current gears are 52/39 on the front cog and 26/13 on the rear cassette.

Q1. What are the optimum sizes for front and rear (bearing in mind I want the challenge but the current gears on a 15-20% gradient are proving a tad hard)?

Q2.What are the most cost effective gears, given the bike cost me a £100 off eBay last Summer and has had an excellent service. I'm not keen/able to spend that much on it.

Many thanks for any advice.

Max
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  • sam_anonsam_anon Posts: 165
    I have no idea about gear ratios and numbers but am sure if you train correctly you'll be fine with the bike and gears you have!

    Where do you live? Hopefully a hilly area and if so I'd design a hilly route and cycle it many times.
  • LCoHLCoH Posts: 28
    Thanks Sam, we're down near Newbury and there are some great short hills but clearly there will never be anything to compare. I just ride up and down a 12% hill a number of times, push out longer rides and then grind out in high gears on the Watt Bikes at work.
  • cgfw201cgfw201 Posts: 669
    those gears are fairly punchy. 39/26 is going to be a fair bit tougher than 34/28 which most new bikes come with.

    having said that, it's all just pedalling, you'll just have a slower cadence and possibly sorer knees afterwards.

    whenever i ride in the mountains im amazed at the array of bikes on show, yours will be far from the worst for the job.

    enjoy it, nothing beats riding in the alps, although there's a load better climbs than AdH to tackle in the area if you've got the time.
  • mrb123mrb123 Posts: 2,588
    Q1 - 50/34 front and 11/32 rear
    Q2 - either a new cassette with a wider range or a compact (50/34) chainset. How cost effective either option would be depends a bit on the type of gears you've got on the bike at the moment. Your LBS will be able to advise accordingly.

    FWIW Alpe D'Huez never gets much above about 10 or 11% although there are some long stretches at about those gradients. There are some easier sections too though.

    You've got some time to prepare so you'll probably fine even with your current gears provided you pace yourself on the day and you're prepared to grind and suffer a bit.
  • LCoHLCoH Posts: 28
    edited January 2018
    Really useful advice and thanks for the pointers. Given that my knees are good for cycling but shot for running, I'll look at the 50/34 change. We're driving to Italy so staying in Le Bourg d'Oisans that night; I'm getting up at 6 next morning, climb the hill, coffee and fridge magnet and then descend to crack on to Tuscany. Next year we may have time for others! Many thanks.

    Max
  • cgfw201cgfw201 Posts: 669
    LCoH wrote:
    Really useful advice and thanks for the pointers. Given that my knees are good for cycling but shot for running, I'll look at the 50/34 change. Many thanks.

    Max

    without knowing more about your specific groupset it might not be that simple, but it's worth asking someone who knows what they recommend.

    the Alpe isn't that steep, but will be much longer than anything you can find in Newbury. I've always found long efforts on the flat/on the trainer to be better training for long climbs than repeating short climbs, if that's of any use.
  • While I agree it isn't some 17 and 20% stuff, it's 6 miles of 8% or more. From Veloviewer. Then the rest is less. 6mi of 8% or more is still rough.

    For anyone under 3.0w/kg, you're going to have a really hard time without a compact crank and an 11-28.

    FWIW, using bikecalculator.com and bikecalc.com for the gearing..........a 34 ring and 28t rear cog at 80rpm up 8% is about 260w for someone weighing about 190lb body plus bike.

    To get down under 200w, you'd need an 11-32 AND a cadence under 80 rpm. On an 11-28 at 200w, you'd be grinding it at 60 rpm on a size 34 ring.

    That's assuming you can hold that as your hour power, not 20min. I don't think many people have really spent that much time climbing at 90% of threshold a few thousand feet up.

    Cost wise, the cassette change will likely be cheaper. I looked up your bike, and if it has a tourney then that will do a 28t in the back.

    A 28t might make it doable.

    Just a thought...........maybe rent a bike there instead? Have something to rent with likely whatever gearing you'd want on it.
  • LCoHLCoH Posts: 28
    Burnthesheep, I'm waiting to speak to the man who serviced my bike for his availability but lot's of food for thought from you all so thanks for the tips. Eitherway, the training is hard and I can't wait to get there.

    M
  • daniel_bdaniel_b Posts: 8,643
    LCoH wrote:
    Burnthesheep, I'm waiting to speak to the man who serviced my bike for his availability but lot's of food for thought from you all so thanks for the tips. Eitherway, the training is hard and I can't wait to get there.

    M

    Hello Max, I'm Newbury based too - Walbury Hill and that area is about the best you will get around here, there's a decent one at Lambourne, and also Blowingstone further north.

    Cracking target by the way, definitely on my bucket list - I look forward to hearing how you get on.
    I've also cycled in Tuscany (We used to house sit near Lucca) and it's bloody wonderful cycling roads, and weather most of the time. VERY jealous!

    Those ratios sound like a bit of a battle - and as you say it is only a £100 bike.
    A new compact crank, rear cassette and chain will likely set you back 80% of the cost of the bike, although if you choose wisely you could take those bits off as and when you came to sell it, and recoup some of the money.
    I don't think you would get much back if you sold the bike with those new bits fitted, if you know what I mean.
    How many gears is it running at the back - 8?

    Do you tend to spin, or grind - with those ratios, I am guessing more the latter?

    You could go second hand I guess, BUT to my mind a second hand cassette and chain would be a bit of a lottery, and likely a false economy - chainsets perhaps less so, as it's a bit easier to see the amount of wear on the teeth, and sometimes you can get some crazy bargains on them if you are lucky in the sales.

    Who is your bike servicing guy - Cristian, someone from Banjos, or someone else entirely?

    EDIT: One alternative that has just occurred to me, and your bike guy might be able to advise, is whether you could simply change one or both of the chainrings on your crankset - ie the cheapest option (If the derailleur can handle it) would be to fit a 36 to replace the 39. I have replaced the inner and middle rings on a triple I had, and they only cost me around £10-£15 each - forget the make, stronglight perhaps and one was a legit Shimano one, think I got them from CRC and Ribble.
    IF that would work, then you could look at a cheap 8 spd cassette (Assuming yours is 8 spd), and a chain, which might set you back as little as £10 a piece - that is the beauty with the lower end componentry, it is as cheap as chips.
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  • I wouldn't even attempt the alpe with that gearing (yes, I have ridden it). As you are new to cycling and I am guessing have not ridden a HC climb before it is highly unlikely you will be able to grind up it as others have suggested, getting up a climb that may take you up to 2hrs depending on your fitness and which will probably have you near or at threshold most of the way is incredibly difficult unless you can pedal at a fairly comfortable and constant rhythm.

    Basically I'd recommend a 34 inner ring with a 30t cassette at the back. I have ridden up big climbs with extremely fit riders and they all use compacts, the only one that tried a 39 inner ring regretted it instantly!
  • LCoHLCoH Posts: 28
    MG, I think you're right on all counts! It's a question of economics as Daniel B suggested.

    Daniel, we normally stay near Pistoia (San Baronto) but I'm yet to use a road bike around there as it's always been spinning on a mountainbike. I'm now grinding and dogmatically hooked although Claypits Lane up to Walbury is quite horrible at the moment! Yes it is Cristian by the way! The chainring suggestion is good and I'll get Cris' opinion. The Lambourn hill (if it's the one from Shrivenham) is a corker; may be one for this weekend.

    Max
  • Fair enough, Max. In that case, if budget (and the mechanical side) allows, I would swap the chainrings. If you could manage to get a 34 inner ring on their somehow it will make a big difference.

    Enjoy the climb, it's savage for the first 3 km so don't go too hard from the outset!
  • daniel_bdaniel_b Posts: 8,643
    edited January 2018
    LCoH wrote:
    MG, I think you're right on all counts! It's a question of economics as Daniel B suggested.

    Daniel, we normally stay near Pistoia (San Baronto) but I'm yet to use a road bike around there as it's always been spinning on a mountainbike. I'm now grinding and dogmatically hooked although Claypits Lane up to Walbury is quite horrible at the moment! Yes it is Cristian by the way! The chainring suggestion is good and I'll get Cris' opinion. The Lambourn hill (if it's the one from Shrivenham) is a corker; may be one for this weekend.

    Max

    Not familiar with that area, but it's all gorgeous over there, as is the food and drink!
    Looking on Google maps I can see it's no distance at all from Lucca, well less than 30 miles at any rate - I can highly recommend a visit there, or even a ride there if you fancy it.

    The Lambourn Hill I was referring to is the B4000 heading south west out of Lambourn - 6-8 minute climb for most people.
    I ride out along that same road though, but hang a left before Shrivenham, and go through Bourton, before heading back to Foxhill, and then back through Aldbourne, Chilton Foliat and Hungerford - lovely route imho.

    Thinking more about the chainring situation, if as alluded to above your rear derailleur would only allow you to go to a 28, then it might be cheaper to replace both front chainrings, and then you can stick with the old rear cassette AND chain.
    That way, if the bolt patterns will work and your chainset is constructed as such that it will play ball, then you could conceivably look to go to something like a 46\30 or 32, and then could either stick with that when you get back (If you want to get more spinny) or just change them back out for the originals.

    Those kind of front cogs are along the lines of the lower two you might find on a triple, or on a CX bike - although the latter would probably rock a wide range cassette on the rear, such as an 11-32.

    This is the type of chainring thing I am talking about - although Cristian could advise you on compatibility or not:
    https://www.ribblecycles.co.uk/stronglight-dural-130mm-shimano-8-9-10-chainring/#pid=21671

    And CRC have some from £5 a pop!
    http://www.chainreactioncycles.com/s?q=%20chainring&sort=pricelow

    Here is how to measure the BCD for the chainset if you want to have a look yourself:
    https://www.sheldonbrown.com/gloss_bo-z.html

    If you don't mind me asking, do you have any plans or aspirations to buy a better roadbike at any point?
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    Marin Palisades Trail 91 and 06
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  • cougiecougie Posts: 22,512
    First time I did it I was young and a decent climber and I managed it on 39*26. My Bike was decent though. The tdf is a bit rough. You'll need lower gears and you're gonna spend almost as much as the Bike cost. Personally I'd invest in a better bike. My mate had a tdf and bits kept falling off it.

    I know people are saying it's not that steep but I took 70 mins to do it and the bottom ramp looks up at about 45 degrees.

    Lower gears and a decent bike will make it more manageable. It's a great climb.
  • LCoHLCoH Posts: 28
    We did Lucca last year and an amazing city. I know the 4000 as well and it’s a great route. With regard to my bike comments, it is rough and largely agricultural but I quite like it and in 6 months we’ve put some miles in! I’ll speak to Cris regarding to chain ring as it’s affordable. I’d love to get a new bike in the future but my two little ticks are nothing but a financial drain!
  • briantrumpetbriantrumpet Posts: 4,965
    Yup, change the chainring to 34, and take it slowly on the first ramp - after that it gets easier. When I did it in 2012 with some friends, we passed a chap pulling a child trailer, with child inside.

    It's not really a hard hill - just keep turning the pedals round at a comfortable speed and you'll get there.
  • I'd have said it's quite a hard hill if you're used to Newbury. It goes on for an hour. I wasn't out of 34x28 much when I rode it. If you are "athletically stocky", you won't enjoy grinding up the first couple of km of 10% average in the wrong gears, and the point is to enjoy it.

    I'd hire a bike there if you're happy with your gearing for everything else - but I would bet that you'll enjoy cycling more generally if you invest in lower gears.
  • I cycled up AdH in September last year using 52/36 and 11/32- the same gearing I had put on for Ventoux the year before.

    As most have said - the 1st couple of km’s are the toughest so take it easy so you can enjoy the remainder of the climb. The views are stunning and it’s an iconic climb - some decent training beforehand should allow you to enjoy it.
  • supermurph09supermurph09 Posts: 2,471
    Why not hire a bike out there with right gearing?
  • briantrumpetbriantrumpet Posts: 4,965
    Why not hire a bike out there with right gearing?
    That's a good call, I'd suggest.
  • daniel_bdaniel_b Posts: 8,643
    Yup, change the chainring to 34, and take it slowly on the first ramp - after that it gets easier. When I did it in 2012 with some friends, we passed a chap pulling a child trailer, with child inside.

    It's not really a hard hill - just keep turning the pedals round at a comfortable speed and you'll get there.

    Although I don't think he can do that alone, as he has a 52 up front - too big a difference for the derailleur to handle?
    Felt F70 05 (Turbo)
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  • Why not hire a bike out there with right gearing?
    That's a good call, I'd suggest.

    I think you'll find most hire places doing a 34x32 lowest gear which is a hint.
  • svettysvetty Posts: 1,904
    If the OPs chainset is 52/39 he will have a 130 BCD or 135. Either way he can't fit a chainring smaller than 38.

    It's also improbable that his rear mech will accomodate a sprocket much larger than a 27.

    Best bet would be to fit a compact chainset - IF the front mech will slide down far enough to accommodate it - or hire a bike more suitable.
    FFS! Harden up and grow a pair :D
  • fenixfenix Posts: 5,437
    For 40 Euro - its a no brainer. No hassle taking the bike over.

    https://www.cyclehuez.com/rates-enquiries/
  • kingdavkingdav Posts: 416
    Alternatively... I recently refurbished my 2010 Specialized Allez Sport and removed the Tiagra running gear, I think it is 4500 spec, definitely 9 speed. There's not really anything wrong it it, so, for the princely sum of a picture of you at the top of the mountain posted to this thread and the cost of postage (I'm based near London/you could collect if you want) I'll give you.
    - 9 speed shifters
    - 34/50 chainset
    - front and rear derailleurs

    You could just swap the chainset over or get a new chain & cassette and fit the whole lot.
  • daniel_bdaniel_b Posts: 8,643
    fenix wrote:
    For 40 Euro - its a no brainer. No hassle taking the bike over.

    https://www.cyclehuez.com/rates-enquiries/

    He'll still need a bike though, as I get the impression he plans to ride in Tuscany - the ultimate destination.
    kingdav wrote:
    Alternatively... I recently refurbished my 2010 Specialized Allez Sport and removed the Tiagra running gear, I think it is 4500 spec, definitely 9 speed. There's not really anything wrong it it, so, for the princely sum of a picture of you at the top of the mountain posted to this thread and the cost of postage (I'm based near London/you could collect if you want) I'll give you.
    - 9 speed shifters
    - 34/50 chainset
    - front and rear derailleurs

    You could just swap the chainset over or get a new chain & cassette and fit the whole lot.

    Won't get a better offer than that I would wager, top man Kingdav.
    Felt F70 05 (Turbo)
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    Cannondale Synapse Adventure 15 & 16 Di2
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  • drlodgedrlodge Posts: 4,824
    I would advise 34x32 gearing and hiring a bike...I did Mont Ventoux last year, I'm pretty fit, around 12 stone and struggled in the forest section on 34x32 although that is an unrelenting 10-11%. The climb up from Malaucène is a tad easier but still needed 32x34 just didn't "struggle" on that climb.
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  • LCoHLCoH Posts: 28
    Thanks for all your points. I think it must be some twisted form of Catholic guilt that I seek to climb it on my bike and also the fact that I want it when we arrive in Tuscany. I'll see how cost-effectively I can get a new chainring or cog and go from there.

    Daniel, you should try Pistoia - San Baronto - Lamporecchio and back - great climbs and I believe San Baronto was the patron saint of cyclists; there's certainly no shortage of bikes constantly up and down. San Baronto is on the saddle of the Montalbano ridge and there's a great coffee stop at the top (they own the cliff-top restaurant opposite) with amazing views over to Livorno.

    KG, you're absolutely right; the aim is to enjoy it!
  • fenixfenix Posts: 5,437
    Have you missed KingDav's offer ?
  • LCoHLCoH Posts: 28
    Fenix, indeed I did - censored comms at work!

    KingDav, please PM your details - many thanks, Max.
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