Gears & Climbing

Apr 3, 2009
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I just moved to the foothills of the White Mountains in New Hampshire. Having previously lived along the seacoast the biggest difference I have experienced so far is steeper longer hills.

I'm running the standard Dura-Ace 7800 and purchasing a new compact gruppo is not possible at this time. However I am thinking a new rear cassette would be helpful (as well as dropping some weight).

Any suggestions on gear ratios for a new rear cassette that would make it easier to get up these climbs?
 
Aug 13, 2009
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I'd look for at least a 25 in the back, depending on ability, fitness, strength, etc, bigger (more teeth) wouldn't hurt, a 39 in front. Lots of things you can ride in a 39/25, but the level of pain varies from person to person ("yes it hurts" to "OMFG this hurts"). If you're going to do Mt Washington, I know people that have put MTB gearing on and basically just used the innermost chainring and biggest cog in the back.
 
Apr 3, 2009
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I don't know off hand what the gear ratio is in the back at the moment. I am running a 54/39 up front though on a Madonne 5.2 with Race X Lite wheels. And some of these hills are OMFGTH and some aren't. I do eventually plan on doing the Mt. Washington Hill Climb but in a few years.

My ability, strength and fitness are all good (440 lb leg presses, ridden over 4,000 miles this year and have finished 7 centuries this season alone - 5 were solo). I'll get back later with the gear ratio I have right now.
 
Mar 30, 2009
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You probably have a 12-25....Also, you haven't mentioned how much you weigh. If you are a bigger rider you may need a 12-27. Or, you may just need to get used to climbing more. What are the grades you are climbing, do you know?

Unfortunately, Shimano groups the last three to four cogs, so you will have to buy a whole new cogset. But a 7800 shouldn't be too expensive.
 
Aug 13, 2009
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Doesn't Shimano make a 12-26? If you had Campy 11 you can run a 12-29 on a regular derailer.

I would advise suffering for while before moving to a compact. You will be surprised how fast you adapt.
 
Sep 11, 2009
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Cassette choices

With Shimano, think you are limited to a max of 27 on a 7800 compatible rear cassette (unless you convert to Mtn bike gearing ... but then likely you will have to change out rear derailleur). Or if you want even more range you could throw on a SRAM cassette which goes out to a 28.

As for cassette model/grade..if you want to save some $$, why not buy a 12:27 Ultegra cassette? It's a lot less expensive that Dura Ace with little added weight. Heck, could even consider a 105-graded cassette (even less expansive). On SRAM, the PG 1070 (in 11:28) is roughly comparable in grade to Ultegra
 
Mar 16, 2009
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I assume you're running 7800 derailleurs, too. The Shimano DA 7800 will handle up to a 28-tooth cog, but I think you'll have to go with a cassette other than Shimano. See this as an alternative: http://www.interlocracing.com/cassettes_steel.html

Don't think you'll have shifting issues, but if you do, you might try a Wipperman 10-speed Shimano-compatible chain.
 
Apr 3, 2009
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IE_Sprinter said:
you haven't mentioned how much you weigh.
Right now I am fluctuating between 195 - 197.

My Edge 705 has an option to show grade, which I haven't used yet. However I know that some of the hills in the area have an 8% or more grade. Now I realize my weight is a big factor here (no pun intended) and I do plan on doing something about it.

But I also think a compact cassette or eventually crank will help out.
 
Jun 16, 2009
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cawright1375 said:
But I also think a compact cassette or eventually crank will help out.
Why not just spend some time (on the roads in the area) before you spend some $$$?

I have recently made a temporary move back to Wellington in NZ from Ottawa. The two biggest differences are the constant strong winds (50km/h - 30mph - is common) and the sharper and longer hills than I was used to in Ottawa. Despite having moved to Ottawa from here originally, both of these factors really hurt when I came back about a month ago. And for a start, I was very much in the OMFG camp - actually I was in the "but I've been riding more over the last 12 months than the previous and I know I'm fitter, why I am riding like a barrel of ****?" camp. Now however, all is much better and I'm much more used to the geography and the elements.

So, if it's possible, can you build in a series of rides that give you an introduction to the climbs in your area? (Sorry, I have no idea of the geography there, so don't know if this is practical to suggest or not.) Things like building in loops with a few of the gentler climbs or shorter climbs in the area - maybe put only one or two climbs in per ride at the moment. Then after a few weeks throw in a few harder ones - maybe longer, maybe steeper. My experience is that longer and flatter climbs are the better ones to build hill strength on - basically hills where you're not spitting your lungs out mean that you can concentrate on the technique and power building. Keep adding in "degrees of difficulty" as you go along and you'll be surprised what improvements you get.

You still may find you have to change the cassette after all of that - but even if you do, you may find that the gearing you'll be comfortable with will be completely different to what you'd buy now. I mean, imagine if you went with the compact and a 12-27 only to find that 3 months down the line all you actually needed to do was to ride a 12-23 cassette on the back ...

:)
 
Jul 27, 2009
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get a 12-27 or 11-28 cassette

If you don't have one, get a wider-range cassette.

Even if you don't *use* your lowest gear all that often, it's very handy to have something that you know you can keep turning over, even up a steep hill, when you're really tired.

I know a young guy who's currently riding the Tour of Hainan (he also pops up on the CN forums occasionally). He probably weighs 50 pounds less than you do, and is *seriously* quick up hills (in fact, he's seriously quick, full stop). It so happened that he and I were entered in (different categories of) the same, mountainous race, and he asked whether I'd seen a profile of the final climb. I hadn't, but I told him I'd heard that there were some long stretches of 12-13%. Upon hearing this, he stated that he'd better go get a 28-tooth cassette.

I figure if it's alright for him to run that kind of gearing on steep terrain, it's perfectly OK for the rest of us.
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
I plugged some numbers into a cadence calculator to get an idea of how little the changes in cadence are for a new cassette or crank:

The 39x25 gear ratio:

20km/h = cadence 101
15km/h = cadence 76
10km/h = cadence 50

Compared to a 39x27 gear ratio:

20km/h = cadence 109
15km/h = cadence 82
10km/h = cadence 54

So upgrading your cassette from a 12-25 to a 12-27 aint really gonna help you get up the hills, and it aint gonna make much difference if you get caught on a really steep ramp at 10km/h...

If you are really suffering, then long term, a compact crank might be a better option, but even then, comparing the 39x25 to a 34x25 ratio, only minor (but bigger than the cassette change) changes to the speed/cadence ratios:

A 34x25 gear ratio:

20km/h = cadence 116
15km/h = cadence 87
10km/h = cadence 58

Of course, these numbers may change depending on the tires you have (i.e. different tires, different circumference therefore different speed/cadence ratios) but it gives you a rough idea that upgrading a 12-25 to a 12-27 is not a huge change to the speed/cadence ratio

So the jist of this long post. Just wait. If you find after 2-3 months you need either a larger cassette, or a smaller crank, then you can make the decision then. Bike components aren't cheap, so I'd save money now and decide later if I were you
 
Apr 3, 2009
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Actually I just got off the trainer and counted and it is a 12-23 in the back. And I do agree with your suggestion regarding training on the hills. However it is late fall and it's New England, which means that by the time I get home at night it is too dark to ride outside and up here there are street lights. Dark is OMFG its dark.

So that leaves me with two days a week to ride outdoors. Then you have to factor in the possibility of snow and well you get the point. Wah-wah-wah. :D Consistent outside riding won't be a reality until at least late March.

Anyway, do any of you think that as I ride a 12-23 currently that even going up to a 12-25 would help? Or should I just tough it out. I plan on selecting the grade option on my Edge 705 next time I am out to see just how steep some of these beasties are.
 
Mar 30, 2009
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The grade matters big. And a 23 is WAY to small for someone your size. Yes, a 25 will make a big difference. I know because I am also a bigger rider. Although I am only 180 now which is only because I didn't race this year.

At 195 I can tell you that losing weight would be a better option than a new cassette. Dropping down to 185 will make those grades over 8% much easier, and a 25 would be sufficient. I find every 5-6 pounds I drop I can almost push another cog down on the same climb.

Use the Garmin to it's full advantage. Its super easy to change. Have the gradient displayed when you ride and when it feels hard look to see what the grade is. At nearly 200, I am sure even a 4-5% grade will feel hard.

As far as the harder grades around 10%....Well thats hard for everyone, even the tiny guys.
 
Jun 16, 2009
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cawright1375 said:
Anyway, do any of you think that as I ride a 12-23 currently that even going up to a 12-25 would help? Or should I just tough it out. I plan on selecting the grade option on my Edge 705 next time I am out to see just how steep some of these beasties are.
Unless you've got a major race targetted for the early spring, just tough it out for a while and see how you go once you get riding again.

And get out in the winter as much as you can - it's good for the strength to keep riding in slush and snow! :) Do you have a MTB? If so, get out on that and do the same thing with the hills that some of us have suggested doing on the roads.

Again, subject to my previously stated ignorance of New England ... but what about XC skiing? Great cardio and strength exercise and you can get in heaps of hills to help build some general climbing strength on ....

Another thing that you may want to try is to run a few days a week - and put hill running into your program. I ride cyclocross and have to put running into my program. When I start running again, it hurts and my legs feel like crap. After a couple of weeks I find that my cycling legs come back - and then some! To me it is a very good way of building the sort of strength that you need for the hills.

About now there'll be a heap of other posters tapping out messages giving you 101 reasons why I'm wrong to suggest running and how I'm suggesting something that is pretty much akin to cutting your (cycling) legs off - most of which will centre around the long held belief that biking and running don't mix. For me, I know that I'm right and they're wrong - running does help my cycling. But that's for me, not them. Maybe running would also work for you, then again, maybe not. So, I'd say to you - if' you're not going to be doing much riding over the winter, perhaps give the running idea a go and see if it helps. If it works - good. If not - you've lost nothing and, since you're not planning on riding much, haven't hurt your riding at all.
 
Jun 16, 2009
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cawright1375 said:
Actually I just got off the trainer and counted and it is a 12-23 in the back. ....
...
Anyway, do any of you think that as I ride a 12-23 currently that even going up to a 12-25 would help? Or should I just tough it out. I plan on selecting the grade option on my Edge 705 next time I am out to see just how steep some of these beasties are.

You've got a nice bike with very nice components, it's false economy to "tough it out" with a cluster that doesn't suit the task at hand. Get yourself a nice 12-25 or 12-27 climbing cassette. I'm close to 25% lighter than you and can climb any of my local hills (short and sharp blighters with average gradients around 8 percent) relatively painlessly with a 12-23, but I love my current 12-25 as it lets me choose to climb at "recovery" pace when I want/need to.
 
Jun 16, 2009
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badboyberty said:
You've got a nice bike with very nice components, it's false economy to "tough it out" with a cluster that doesn't suit the task at hand.
Given that the OP has said that they want to make the climbs easier, but hasn't said:
- they can't do the local climbs; or
- they're getting knee problems; or
- they're not able to ride with their friends/local bunch/etc
and they have said:
- they're new to the area and are adapting to the new terrain; and
- some of the hills in the area are quite rideable as is; and
- they ride a moderate recreational distance (about 600km/400mile a month); and
- they aren't at the weight that they want to be (which, since they said that they want to loose the weight, also implies probably not at the fitness they want to have either)
then to me it seems hard to claim that there's a false economy in not spending money on a bike that doesn't absolutely need to be spent.

Granted, if money is no object, buy a cassette - in fact, buy a few to cover all of the different places that you could end up riding (I used to have a collection of cassettes back when I was road racing more - was great when you travelled to different races). But if that's not the case I'd have to say that I'd respectfully disagree with BBB's call of a "false economy" ...

Maybe I am a "retro grouch" as someone said in another thread, but to me people in biking are too quick to pay money on the bike and too slow to pay attention to the rider ... :)
 
Jun 16, 2009
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kiwirider said:
...

Granted, if money is no object, buy a cassette - in fact, buy a few to cover all of the different places that you could end up riding (I used to have a collection of cassettes back when I was road racing more - was great when you travelled to different races). But if that's not the case I'd have to say that I'd respectfully disagree with BBB's call of a "false economy" ...
My opinion is that if you've spent enough to have a Dura-Ace equipped bike, it might as well be the right Dura-Ace equipped bike. If it was Tiagra or even 105/Veloce maybe "tough it out" but if you've spent enough to have 7800 DA, it might as well deliver the goods. Yeah, buying new cranks to go to compact is definitely overkill, but swapping out a cassette and chain a little early is another matter.

IMHO at least... and Kiwirider, IMHO anyone who calls someone who rides a carbon duallie a "retro-grouch" is a little off balance.
 
Aug 13, 2009
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I live in NH too, although the southern part of the state. I've ridden some up where the OP is talking about. Lots of very long climbs that aren't steep, but once on them you have to make it to the top. Toss in a bunch of the short steep sections in the middle or at the end of the long gradual ones, and it makes for lots of "fun" (insert barfing emoticon here). A few of the people I know that have places up there are the OP's size. Pretty much run a standard 39/53 with 12-25, you just wind up having to tough it out sometimes. These same people are the ones who did Washington with MTB gearing I think around a 34/30 for the lowest gear and he wanted lower.
A compact crank may not give you a huge difference, but it does allow you to tweak things a little bit. I have one that I run 38/52 with 12/25, just because it "feels" more natural to me.
Me, I'd get a 12/25 and get outdoors on the road as much as possible. You will adapt, but it may take some time. Keep your eyes open for announcements of "Crank the Kanc"; it's an early season event (hill climb, not USCF) that is pretty fun. Google you should be able to find info about past ones.

Here's a link for the 2009 edition.

http://www.nebikes.com/?PageName=10

Retro grouch? Italian steel (Columbus SL), Turbo Saddle, all Campy with downtube shifters (7 speed), Cinelli bars, does that make me one?
 
Jun 16, 2009
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badboyberty said:
...

IMHO at least... and Kiwirider, IMHO anyone who calls someone who rides a carbon duallie a "retro-grouch" is a little off balance.
Yeah, I can see where you're coming from with that ... :)

And yeah, I have to say I had a bloody good laugh when I read that other post you refer to ... :D
 
Mar 13, 2009
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what are the pro's cadences up climbs these days? Maybe the rest of us mere mortals should aim for a similar cadence, but obviously a slower speed? Hence running 34-27s makes sense?
 
Apr 3, 2009
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kiwirider said:
Another thing that you may want to try is to run a few days a week - and put hill running into your program. I ride cyclocross and have to put running into my program. When I start running again, it hurts and my legs feel like crap. After a couple of weeks I find that my cycling legs come back - and then some! To me it is a very good way of building the sort of strength that you need for the hills.
Actually I have started running at least 4 days a week, mostly because I want to try my hand at triathalons next summer. The benefit I have noticed from that is that it keeps my cardio fitness up when I can't get on the bike but can hit the gym at work to pound at some miles on a treadmill.

I can do the local climbs they just hurt like hell. I haven't done any group rides up here yet and no knee pain. I really do think my weight is the biggest factor and will be the biggest motivator. My actual fitness level is pretty good. In fact there is a bike shop where I used to live in Dover, NH that I went into a few times and because I appeared to be a bit heavier and presumably a bit less fit when I asked about group rides they brushed me off without even asking what I can average (20 mph) on group rides.

I guess it comes down to money versus weight. Obviously as stated above dropping another 10 lbs is what I would like to do before spending the dough. But whereas in a perfect world I'd get the new Dura Ace 7900 at this time that just isn't feasible so that is why I was going to go the cassette route.

I do have a mtb that I could use, but really don't like riding it on the roads as it is so slow. And I don't mind the slush. Much to the chagrin and dismay of some of my friends in southern maine I take my Madone out year round, usually giving it a good hose down to get rid of the rock salt.

Anyway, thanks for the advice and the retro grouch disscussion too. I'm sure when the actual decision making time comes I'll still be just as conflicted but probably owing more to the differences between a 12-25 & 12-27.
 
Mar 18, 2009
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You mention steeper longer hills and grades of up to 8%. How long are these hills?

The 7800 gruppo is tried and tested. There are some minor advantages in terms of weight and ergonomics with the 7900 gruppo, but hardly worth splashing out so much cash when you have an excellent gruppo in the 7800.

I personally run compact (50-34) with a 11-23 rear cassette (7800 DuraAce). My usual training grounds are the same as Kiwirider with climbs in the 6-8% mark, but for less than 2km. I am slightly overweight, but have no problems remaining seated on these climbs in the 34-23/21 combinations and maintaining a cadence of over 80.

I did ride the Bicycle Tour of Colorado this year (with very long climbs of up to 50km at 3-7%) and also a self-supported ride around the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia (three climbs of 3-5km at 11-15%). For these rides, I changed my rear cassette out to a 12-27. I could have tackled these climbs with my usual setup, but the 25 and 27 cogs allowed me some recovery time and ability to maintain a higher cadence. This was only important to me because the Bicycle Tour of Colorado was over 500 miles in 5 days and the Cabot Trail 300km in 4 days, so I wanted to make sure I was as rested as I could be to do 100-160km rides back-to-back. You will not face this in your usual training week, especially in late fall and with winter around the corner, so running 27 on the back is probably not that important for your climbing abilities.

So my personal advice: stick with your standard cranks and 7800 gruppo, and either stay with your current rear cassette or change to a 12-25/27 (but I do not think you need a 27).

For more information on gear ratios, check out Sheldon Brown's page at http://www.sheldonbrown.com/gears/. This allows you to compare compact v standard cranks and rear cassette combinations. You'll find that using the standard compact crank setup (50/34 with 11-23 rear cassette) that the top end and bottom end are better than the standard standard crank setup (53/39 with 12-25 rear cassette). The only difference I could find in advantage of the standard cranks is that you can generate greater torque with the standard cranks, and this would only be important for sprinters.
 
Mar 18, 2009
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No, there is no DA-7800 compact crank. The Shimano RC-700 is the compact crank used with the DA-7800. This is supposedly an Ultegra-level crank. I have used this crank on my current setup for I think 3 years and 19000km with absolutely no problems and excellent shifting. I had originally tried compact FSA cranks with the DA-7800, but this combination had poor shifting and even my LBS had many difficulties in fine tuning the combination. The switch to the RC-700 compact cranks was like night-and-day: no noise and shifting was flawless.
 

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