I have a technical question. I am an amateur cyclist in not so great shape and pretty heavy. I have a campagnolo veloce double groupset on my bike (52-39/ 12-25). I am planning to go with some friends to the Alps to cycle. Cycling on my lowest gear while pedaling smoothly I can't go less than 11 km/h on the local hill. I feel that I will not be able to climb the mountains with these gears. Can anybody advise me on what my options are? My groupset is still in reasonably good state so I would not like to change it completely. Is there a possibility to add a 3rd crank to the crankset or change the 39 crank to a 30?
I fit your situation as well, not particularly fit much older I guess at 64, though not overweight. However I do have a heart arrhythmia which seriously affects training. I have been out to the Alps a few times and coped enough to thoroughly enjoy it. Done climbs like Col de Bonnet, Izoard, Alp d Huez, Gavia, Stelvio, Simplon, Ventoux so I'm not a complete dummy.
Depends on how long before you go. So clearly do all you can to get fitter, a few longer rides but mostly shorter and harder. Use hill intervals if you can. Build slowly, that is get the pulse up steadily. A 5 minute hill done 3 or 4 or 5 times with say a 8% grade is a good start. 4 or 5 mins recovery. Riding every day you can, even twice is good. Really hard efforts can only be done 2 or 3 times per week. For the climbing its sorting your position, your breathing, your gearing, your head, developing power, raising your pulse eventually to a steady 85-88% ish of your max pulse and being used to that. That will make the long climbs and less intense effort in the Alps seem OK.
Have a good rest / recovery in the week, 10 days before you go.
In the Alps on the climbs learn to go at your pace. Never over do it, the pay back is huge. Aim for steady effort up to around 75% of max pulse, no higher. You'll soon find the pace you can sustain. Drink plenty with salt in your drink, I use diluted orange juice + salt since its available everywhere. The psychology of a steady climb within your limits is the key to survival and enjoyment. Unless of course the object is to burn everyone else and yourself and you are pretty fit
Gearing could make your trip. You will know your gearing now. For me 25x39 would be a disaster. I use a triple Campag and have replaced the inner ring with a 24 or 26 TA ring, works OK with a long cage Campag rear gear and 28 rear sprocket though I often have basic touring kit on my bike. An empty bike is easier. A new Campy triple, block, rear gear would be £155 ish including chain though you should be able to use the existing front changer and gear levers. You can always use the old kit later on. Just a non campag 32 rear would need a new changer as well but still cheaper. Next up would be adding a compact but it only saves the bottom bracket.
For example to climb the 16k and 1000 metres of Alp d'Huez, a not particularly hard climb, at 660 metres per hour will take you 1.5 hours and an average of 10.5 KPH. So your gearing would work OK if you can do the climbing. Can you climb at 650 to 750 metres per hour just now on shorter hills? Obviously some bits on the Alp are steeper but I guess when it came to it you would cope and your current kit would be OK. Pedalling more quickly is better but its surprising how slowly you can peddle if you need.
Another way to see it is if you can cope with your current gearing at 11kph that would mean climbing at 1100 metres per hour on a 10% grade and 550 mtrs/hr on a 5% grade. How does that fit with what you can do now, bear in mind the Alps are bigger though you will be fitter.
So it can depend on where in the Alps you are going, will there be many climbs with long stretches of 10-12% gradients - need a lower gear. And at what speed can you climb now - if you still have some time before you go you should be able to improve that.
If you have no local hills take a couple of days and go and find some. Need not be that long but a few hills at 200+ metres of climbing would be good. In any case a couple of back to back days would be very beneficial. Meanwhile use intervals and other riding at home.