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Old 08-29-17, 10:50 AM   #1
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Hillier Than Thou 2017

I've done a foolish thing and registered to ride in the Hillier Than Thou ride on Sept 24. There are two courses: 100 mi with 12,000 ft of climbing, and 63.5 mi (about 100 km) and 7,000 ft of climbing. I'm not a supreme fool, so I'm doing the shorter course.

Wish me luck. On Saturday, I took a ride of 51 miles with 4,000 ft of climbing and fared pretty well. Gotta do more like that. I took my McLean.

I have to decide which bike to ride. My Lemond (Ti) has 39/53 chainrings, and I have a 12-29 cassette to install on it. My McLean has 30/42/52 chainrings and a 12-27 cassette, so it has a lower bottom gear. But the McLean tends to give me sore shoulders and back, and it's heavier. Right now, I'm leaning towards the Lemond. The McLean has supple 28mm tires on it, a plus which could reduce fatigue. The Lemond accepts 25mm tires, max.

I haven't figured out how to get there and back. It's way out in Port Murray, NJ. My wife has a car, and I don't. If I can't find a ride, I may end up renting a car.
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Old 08-29-17, 10:54 AM   #2
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Ride the triple.

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Old 08-29-17, 10:55 AM   #3
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Good luck.

You sound like someone who would appreciate the Dirty Dozen Race in pittsburgh. Race up the dozen steepest hills in the area. (Including canton ave. one of the steepest (if not THE steepest) hills in the US.)
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Old 08-29-17, 11:25 AM   #4
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Have fun!

I'd take the LeMond Ti, but only you know what's right for you. Depends a lot on your fitness level and climbing style. Consider that the last few climbs you may need a gear or two lower than you'd normally use on the same climb during a shorter ride.
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Old 08-29-17, 11:27 AM   #5
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Take the McClean and put the 29 cassette on the rear. You may need it.
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Old 08-29-17, 12:03 PM   #6
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Take the McClean and put the 29 cassette on the rear. You may need it.
The cassette with the 29 fits Campagnolo, which the Lemond has. The McLean has Shimano. If I do take the McLean, the gears will be low enough. I have experience climbing tough hills with insufficiently low gears. A couple of summers ago, my rear derailleur failed in the middle of a century ride. I jury rigged it to stay in a middle cog, and my front derailleur turn my bike into a 3-speed. Climbing the biggest hills was hard, but I managed.
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Old 08-29-17, 12:26 PM   #7
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Unless you are in uncommonly great shape and used to riding a lot of elevation all day (like our buddy Spaghetti Legs) gears are your friend. The 30-27 combination on the McLean is pretty close to 1:1, which is what I aim for on truly hilly and long rides. Also, a lot depends on how the elevation gain happens- long 5-7% grades, or shorter, more agressive 10-18% grades? On the former (like Thunder Ridge) a compact with a 25 rear cog will do the trick. On the latter (like the Dairyland Dare) you need a small granny triple or the double equivalent like a 34-34.

Regardless, good on you for having the courage to try this ride even though you question the foolishness of same.
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Old 08-29-17, 01:53 PM   #8
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Me, I'd take the McClean. But I'm not a strong climber. Never have been.

Saturday I rode the hilliest route I can reach locally, with 2,600 feet in 64 miles. Not much by most standards but we don't have many hills.

I took the Centurion Ironman. The stock 42/24 wasn't nearly appropriate for me. My lower back was already aching from training for this ride doing hill repeats nearby, and lowering the bar to cope with the windier route I'd planned to ride.

After Saturday's ride I could barely move. Between the wrong gearing and 700x23 tires on rough chipseal, I was shot. Couldn't even manage an easy recovery ride until Monday evening.

Heck, I could barely finish the last 10 miles. The outer tail end of Hurricane Harvey hit and I was finishing one of the hilliest sections facing 20-30 mph headwinds and rain. On a couple of 7% grades I was literally pedaling on my heels, around 5 mph -- my legs were shot. Good thing I was riding platforms or I'd have been off the bike walking. More like staggering.

I should have taken the Univega with 30/40/50 triple and 13-28 rear. Yeah, the bike is heavier than the Centurion. But it's far more hill friendly. And the wider tires are better suited to the unusually rough chipseal I encountered.
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Old 08-29-17, 02:11 PM   #9
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Yeah, good on ya for signing up for a challenge.

You'll make it, looking forward to the write-up in about a month. How big a crowd? just came off non-fixie thread about a BE ride of 225 people, which sounds the right-sized for mass start. YMMV
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Old 08-29-17, 02:21 PM   #10
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I just finished the Mt Tamalpais century, with 8,200' of climbing and am very thankful that I went with the low gears. I suggest you do the same. Weight is less important than gearing IMHO.

What is it about the McLean that gives you sore shoulders? It should be straightforward to compare the bike fit for the two bikes and adjust the McLean to be more like the LeMond. Start with the BB center, figure out vertically and horizontally where your saddle is fore-aft with respect to that, then ditto for the handlebars relative to the saddle. Perhaps you need to move the saddle back and/or get a shorter stem to reduce the weight on your hands (which is a common reason for sore shoulders).
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Old 08-29-17, 03:14 PM   #11
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As of today, 48 people are signed up for the century and 10 for the metric century. The limits are 200 and 100, respectively.

On my solo century ride two years ago, my bottom gear was 54 inches, because of the aforementioned mechanical problem. The McLean has a bottom gear of 31 inches, and the Lemond will have a bottom gear of 36 inches, so it seems like a small difference. (I made a mistake above; the McLean's cassette is 12-26.) I made it up the big hills by doing something similar to a track stand, balancing and barely moving forward. I think I substituted strength with balance. I came close to falling a lot but never did.

I'm working on the fit problems. The Lemond doesn't have an ideal fit for me, either, so I'm not going to model it off that. I just put a tall and short-extension stem on it, so it's sufficiently high but now the reach is too short. The McLean's reach is either too long or the bars are too low or both.

I wasn't particularly exhausted after Saturday's ride, so I should be good for rides with more miles and climbing.

@canklecat, you make good arguments in favor of both of the bikes I mentioned. There's no question that a lower bottom gear helps, but soft tires are a good thing, too. I don't know what the surfaces will be like, but I imagine they are reasonable. New Jersey's rural roads are generally smooth-ish.

From the website:

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Hillier Than Thou is the New Jersey classic century bike ride featuring a 100 mile course with over 13,000 feet of climbing and metric century with over 7,000 feet of vertical. This is no ordinary bike ride-If you don't train for it you will regret riding it. But if you are looking for a true test of your grit and determination then Hillier Than Thou is a challenge you will remember for a life time. So throw away your doubts, face your fears, and sign up for New Jersey's toughest century.
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Old 08-29-17, 04:31 PM   #12
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Just because you have lower gears doesn't mean you have to use them, but I always appreciate having them there just in case.
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Old 08-29-17, 04:40 PM   #13
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The thing about 6-7 hour rides with 8-12k of climbing is that you get to the point of bonking and have to plan to have gearing for about 40% of your normal power. When that is true having a selection of low gears is much better than a single bailout gear.
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Old 08-29-17, 04:44 PM   #14
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Just because you have lower gears doesn't mean you have to use them, but I always appreciate having them there just in case.
Yup. I tend to challenge myself by pretending I don't have the last cog or the smallest chainring. Then after a while I say the heck with it and use it. So basically, whatever bottom gear I have, I almost end up using it, and there's no shame in that. But I also get by without a very low gear. I had to walk my bike up a steep hill last year. It was a fixed gear, 74". I definitely need a lower low than that.
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Old 08-29-17, 04:44 PM   #15
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The thing about 6-7 hour rides with 8-12k of climbing is that you get to the point of bonking and have to plan to have gearing for about 40% of your normal power. When that is true having a selection of low gears is much better than a single bailout gear.
Yes, I'm starting to give some serious thought to the fuel I plan to bring. Better too much than too little.
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Old 08-29-17, 04:49 PM   #16
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I rode last year's western MA D2R2 100k ride with about 6300 feet of climbing. A great deal of that is on unpaved roads with some very steep grades. I was glad to have a crankset with 42/28t rings and a 32t max cog in the rear. Only once or twice did I go to 28/32, but I was glad it was there.
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Old 08-29-17, 05:00 PM   #17
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I've heard it's a tough ride.

Go slow and hydrate. Go a speed at which you can eat and ride at the same time. Hydrate. Snack constantly if you can; if you can't snack all the time, snack all you can. And hydrate.

Which bike? The one that won't let you down. Just to be sure think about what component or system on your bike is in the most dire need of maintenance, and do some maintenance.
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Old 08-29-17, 05:03 PM   #18
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Thanks, Neal and Rudi. Coming from you, it's very sound advice.
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Old 08-29-17, 05:31 PM   #19
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Yup. I tend to challenge myself by pretending I don't have the last cog or the smallest chainring. Then after a while I say the heck with it and use it.
I think we all tend to do that on rides that are well within our abilities. However, when pushing the envelope (and this ride sounds a bit like that) I think it's best to save that kind of strategy until you're near the finish. No sense in wearing yourself out early in the ride. Spin on those early hills.

Another important factor that hasn't been mentioned is the distribution of climbing within the ride. If most of the hills are at the beginning when you are fresh then the ride as a whole will be much easier than if you hit 10+% grades at mile 80 when your glycogen stores have been depleted.
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Old 08-29-17, 06:54 PM   #20
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hmm. I just checked out the route. Why don't you just punch yourself in the nuts and call it a day?

I thought about signing up but then I did that, and it helped.
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Old 08-29-17, 07:01 PM   #21
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hmm. I just checked out the route. Why don't you just punch yourself in the nuts and call it a day?

I thought about signing up but then I did that, and it helped.
Yup, that sounds about right. My challenge to myself is to be the champion nut self-puncher. I figure if I can't ever become a fast cyclist, at least I have that.


@davester, the hills are distributed evenly throughout the ride, and for maximum sadistic effect, they send us up the steep sides of the hills, and we coast down the shallower slopes. There are long ascents with grades in the teens of percents.

Here is the elevation profile. See why I'm thinking about hills?

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Old 08-29-17, 07:28 PM   #22
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Wow! That looks like hard work. Oh my.
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Old 08-29-17, 08:27 PM   #23
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That's definitely a McLean profile. With a larger rear cog.
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Old 08-29-17, 09:53 PM   #24
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The thing about 6-7 hour rides with 8-12k of climbing is that you get to the point of bonking and have to plan to have gearing for about 40% of your normal power. When that is true having a selection of low gears is much better than a single bailout gear.
Very few cyclists (other than pro's) are able to do a 7 hour ride with 12k of climbing.
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Old 08-29-17, 11:15 PM   #25
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Well don't bonk; you don't want that. Bonk is no fun at all. Easy to prevent. Eat some food. Lunch, snacks, whatever.

Profile doesn't look that bad. No 4000+ ft climbs. Two at ~800ft, about eight 5-600 ft climbs. It is a little cruel! Some are around 10 - 15%, which is pretty tough, but doable. If you aren't doing climbs like that often enough to know exactly what you need, IMO take the triple, just in case.
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