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Clydesdales/Athenas (200+ lb / 91+ kg) Looking to lose that spare tire? Ideal weight 200+? Frustrated being a large cyclist in a sport geared for the ultra-light? Learn about the bikes and parts that can take the abuse of a heavier cyclist, how to keep your body going while losing the weight, and get support from others who've been successful.

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Old 05-30-12, 11:49 AM   #1
Wildewinds
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Gearing issues

So I have an 11-25 cassette in the rear and 52-39 on the front. My regular route has a 1 mile steep climb to it that really kills me. I don't think it would be so bad if my gearing were a bit lower.

I have two options. I got my bike used and the previous owner left the triple shifters on, but set it up to work with the double crankset. So, I could get a triple crankset and use that. Or... I could swap out the rear cassette to an 11-36 mountain bike cassette. Apparently that works, but I'm not sure how well it works.

I used a gearing calculator and the 11-36 would actually end up giving me an "easier" gear than swapping out the crankset. But... the triple crankset will offer me more gear options.

Thoughts?
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Old 05-30-12, 12:04 PM   #2
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Thoughts?
You could spend a whole lot of money changing your gearing to make it a little easier to climb hills. You'll still have to do the work of getting yourself to the top, you'll just have an easier gear to do it in. Going to a triple would be cheaper for you than for most people, because you can use the shifter you already have, but it still won't be anything you'd mistake for free! It's less expensive to change your cassette, like you're thinking about, if your RD can handle that many teeth.

Or ... you could do hill repeats, and maybe throw in some diet. These will also make it easier to climb the hill, they'll take longer but be a lot more pronounced, and they won't cost you a cent.
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Old 05-30-12, 01:57 PM   #3
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Or ... you could do hill repeats, and maybe throw in some diet. These will also make it easier to climb the hill, they'll take longer but be a lot more pronounced, and they won't cost you a cent.
Agreed (and with SF's other options he mentions). 39/25 gear combo works out to less than 42 gear inches; how steep is this hill you're climbing for a mile?
My previous commute had me climbing a 2.25 mile climb that peaked at sections of 9%. My current commute has me climbing a short stretch which tops out at 15%, and I've got a couple of training rides that climb 10% for up to a mile. It took me a while to get to this point, but I'm doing all my road riding on a 44/17 singlespeed these days.
I must admit that my previous gearing setup on the same bike was very low. I had a 34/48 front and a 12-32 rear with a long cage mtn derailleur. I never realized until I switched over to the singlespeed how reliant I had become on the bail-out gear, and I was dropping all the way down for the most minor of inclines. When I first started riding singlespeed, I went with a 39/18 to gain some strength and confidence on the hills. Over time, I moved up to a 42t ring, and then the 44t I use now. It was just recently that I switched from the 18t freewheel to a 17t.
Like SF stated; it's more of a process, but there are benefits to just grunting it out instead of gearing it down.
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Old 05-30-12, 03:07 PM   #4
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Leave it double. The triple shifting can be finicky- the binary BIG RING/SMALL RING of a double rocks, and rocks all the more as your pace picks up. IME you can't run a cog bigger than a 28 with a short cage road RD. 38t 130mm BCD chainrings do exist, but they have a reputation of being somewhat failure prone. That said I rode one (superbe pro) nearly 1000 miles last summer and fall with no problems and I was around 230# and hammering.

The difference between a 11-25 and a 11-28 is noticeable. Also, depending on how much you pedal downhill and max out, you might find that the tighter ratios of a 12-28 or even a 13-28 are more suited to what you're looking for.
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Old 05-30-12, 03:24 PM   #5
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or you can do both on the cheap...get a 50/34 fsa crank, and a tiagra or 105 11-28 rear

I have seen deals on ebay where the total set up would be less than 200..I think I just saw an apex 175mm 50/34 crank with no bb on there for 115 or so and the cassette cant cost over say 40 or so (dont quote me but I am close)
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Old 05-30-12, 04:22 PM   #6
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$200 is still a lot more money than free, though. And the diet part can even save you money ... depending how you go about it.
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Old 05-30-12, 04:53 PM   #7
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I replaced my 11-25 with a 12-34. Required a mtb derailleur too. It's much better on the hills, but I have trouble getting it set just right. My next will come w/ SRAM Apex 11-32 on the back. It will be my reward for hitting goal weight. Since I will be lighter I will not need such a big bottom gear, but I still life in hill country.
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Old 05-30-12, 07:53 PM   #8
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$200 is still a lot more money than free, though. And the diet part can even save you money ... depending how you go about it.

I agree, and honestly see your point. I think experienced sports people, often forget how hard it was starting out. I know I saw that in my running. I was dying, and those I sought advice from on the running forums, said run more, it will be alright. When it finally clicked for me, I was running with a group, and I found out I could run slower, and that made me run longer, which made me ale to complete my training. If I had kept running at what I thought was my minimum run pace, I doubt I would have made it..I may have decided it was too hard...who knows.

All I am saying is if you can swing the 200 and it gets you riding and feeling better about yourself and the exercise in general, then that's a viable option.
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Old 05-30-12, 10:16 PM   #9
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Well, if you only ride up that one hill, SF's advice is probably best. What is "steep" anyway?

I recently changed from a 53/39 to a 52/36 and the cassette from 12-26 to 11-28 and that made an enormous difference for me. I've also found that as I ride more I rarely use that lowest gear but when the hills get to be 10%, I like it.

A triple front is probably your cheapest option if you can find one that fits and isn't too spendy. A cassette that goes to 28 teeth would probably be immediately helpful too, and you can get one of those for about $50 or so new. Do you have the chain whip to remove your old one?
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Old 05-30-12, 11:29 PM   #10
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Yeah, "ride more" is great advice. :-/

I guess I'll keep my eyes open for any triple cranks that go on sale. Does anyone know if the sram 11-32 would work with a short cage RD?
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Old 05-30-12, 11:38 PM   #11
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Depending on which RD you have but the answer is likely no. 28 is usually the limit.

Ride more is always good advice.
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Old 05-30-12, 11:41 PM   #12
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Option 3: HTFU,............and diet, and ride more, like the others stated.

(just inserting a little 41 into the clyde forum in an effort to keep it realistic and entertaining:-)
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Old 05-31-12, 01:19 AM   #13
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Or ... you could do hill repeats, and maybe throw in some diet. These will also make it easier to climb the hill, they'll take longer but be a lot more pronounced, and they won't cost you a cent.
Unless, of course, you damage one or both knees while pushing too hard and then are stuck with a bunch of medical bills and/or PT to get things working again.
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Old 05-31-12, 01:33 AM   #14
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i know it sucks to hear people tell you to practice hills more, but think about it like this: if you wanted to be a better cook, you would cook more. if you wanted to get stronger muscles, you would start lifting weights. the only way to improve a weak area is to practice more. i have been purposely adding more inclines to my rides to help improve myself, trust me, hills get easier over time.

if you are really dead set on lower gearing, changing out the cassette seems to me like the easiest way (as long as your current components will support the new size).
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Old 05-31-12, 08:45 AM   #15
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i know it sucks to hear people tell you to practice hills more, but think about it like this: if you wanted to be a better cook, you would cook more. if you wanted to get stronger muscles, you would start lifting weights. the only way to improve a weak area is to practice more. i have been purposely adding more inclines to my rides to help improve myself, trust me, hills get easier over time.

if you are really dead set on lower gearing, changing out the cassette seems to me like the easiest way (as long as your current components will support the new size).
It's not that it sucks to hear it. It's just that it's a lazy answer.

Maybe since I used to be an avid mountain biker, I have no aversion to low gearing. I plan on tackling the mountains by my house, so it's not like I'm talking about just one hill that I need to conquer.
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Old 05-31-12, 08:53 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by Wildewinds View Post
So I have an 11-25 cassette in the rear and 52-39 on the front. My regular route has a 1 mile steep climb to it that really kills me. I don't think it would be so bad if my gearing were a bit lower.

I have two options. I got my bike used and the previous owner left the triple shifters on, but set it up to work with the double crankset. So, I could get a triple crankset and use that. Or... I could swap out the rear cassette to an 11-36 mountain bike cassette. Apparently that works, but I'm not sure how well it works.

I used a gearing calculator and the 11-36 would actually end up giving me an "easier" gear than swapping out the crankset. But... the triple crankset will offer me more gear options.

Thoughts?
I know that "ride more" is one answer. But "ride more with some easier gears to help make it more pleasant" is another.

I recently swapped out the drivetrain on my old Raleigh Record, going from 52/42 to 52/36 in the front, and from a 14-28 5-speed freewheel to a 14-34 6-speed freewheel in the back. I did have to swap the old road RD for a longer cage MTB RD to accommodate the 34 tooth cog, but it was fairly cheap and a really easy install.

The bike was a lot of fun before, but it's a lot more fun now.

There's no reason you can't make the gears a little easier AND ride more. After a while, you might not need the bailout gear for that hill. But there might be other hills in your future where it will really come in handy. Just sayin'
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Old 05-31-12, 09:16 AM   #17
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Or ... you could do hill repeats, and maybe throw in some diet. These will also make it easier to climb the hill, they'll take longer but be a lot more pronounced, and they won't cost you a cent.
They won't cost you a cent... until you need knee replacement a few years down the road. I have the muscle to climb pretty much anything using a 53/39 crank and 11-28 cassette, but the constant mashing puts a ton of stress on my knees and leaves the joints themselves sore for a couple of days afterward. I, personally, find that a 50/34 crank and 11-28 cassette are much more knee-friendly.

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The triple shifting can be finicky-
I keep hearing people say this, but I've owned 6 triple-equipped bikes (2 road, 4 mountain) over the last 15 years and I've never had a single shifting problem...
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Old 05-31-12, 09:37 AM   #18
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I plan on tackling the mountains by my house, so it's not like I'm talking about just one hill that I need to conquer.
Then find a triple crank.

Just because you HAVE a bailout gear doesn't mean you HAVE to use it.
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Old 05-31-12, 10:00 AM   #19
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So I have an 11-25 cassette in the rear and 52-39 on the front. My regular route has a 1 mile steep climb to it that really kills me. I don't think it would be so bad if my gearing were a bit lower.

I have two options. I got my bike used and the previous owner left the triple shifters on, but set it up to work with the double crankset. So, I could get a triple crankset and use that. Or... I could swap out the rear cassette to an 11-36 mountain bike cassette. Apparently that works, but I'm not sure how well it works.

I used a gearing calculator and the 11-36 would actually end up giving me an "easier" gear than swapping out the crankset. But... the triple crankset will offer me more gear options.

Thoughts?
If you're used to a higher cadence or simply want lower gears, I wouldn't let anyone else convince me otherwise.

You didn't say -- or perhaps I missed it -- whether you have a triple front derailer. If you can handle the wider q-factor, a triple preserves a lot of gearing granularity and it lets you acquire really low gears if needed. IME, swapping a cassette and making adjustments to the b-screw is easier than swapping a crank and making adjustments to the front derailer.

Whether a short cage rear road derailer accommodates a 32-tooth cog is largely a function of the derailer hanger length. That is, I don't expect the path of the jockey pulley to vary much across Shimano, SRAM, or Campy rear road derailers since their cassettes are not that different. Moreover, I don't expect whether it is a short or long cage road derailer to matter since (I think) they both have the same jockey pulley paths. It will affect how far you can cross chain. The few times I tried getting a road derailer to fit a 32 were successful with lots of b-screw adjustment but according to the guys at the Harris Cyclery, they said it was hit or miss.
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Old 05-31-12, 10:15 AM   #20
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All I am saying is if you can swing the 200 and it gets you riding and feeling better about yourself and the exercise in general, then that's a viable option.
This is definitely true.

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Yeah, "ride more" is great advice. :-/
It's honestly the best advice there is for you. It's the least sexy, but the most effective, and the least expensive. Most people prefer to try and just buy speed, though.

Do whatever makes you happiest and most comfortable on the bike. And definitely follow your own compass over the advice of strangers on the internet, who don't ride in your conditions.

But there's nothing wrong with the gearing you have now, even for hills. I've climbed five mountain passes this spring in 39x25, plus lots of mountain roads that dead end and so aren't passes. Mount Baker was 3,500 feet of elevation gain in 17 miles. In town, I've done hills as steep as 26 %, in the same low gear you currently have. It isn't because I'm a super man; I'm average, but I follow the same advice I gave you.
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Old 05-31-12, 12:14 PM   #21
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It's honestly the best advice there is for you. It's the least sexy, but the most effective, and the least expensive. Most people prefer to try and just buy speed, though.

Do whatever makes you happiest and most comfortable on the bike.

Riding more is a great solution.

But, I will confess, age may decrease the effectiveness of simply riding more. I used to climb great with a 53-39 and a 12-25 cassette.

Last year it became abundantly apparent that age was catching up with me. I moved to a 50-34 compact and a 12-28 cassette.

For a hilly ride I have in August I am scoping out adding a MTB rear derailleur and a 12-36 cassette. My fitness is not that different based on miles ridden. But, my knees and lungs are just older.
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Old 05-31-12, 04:20 PM   #22
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This is definitely true.



It's honestly the best advice there is for you. It's the least sexy, but the most effective, and the least expensive. Most people prefer to try and just buy speed, though.

Do whatever makes you happiest and most comfortable on the bike. And definitely follow your own compass over the advice of strangers on the internet, who don't ride in your conditions.

But there's nothing wrong with the gearing you have now, even for hills. I've climbed five mountain passes this spring in 39x25, plus lots of mountain roads that dead end and so aren't passes. Mount Baker was 3,500 feet of elevation gain in 17 miles. In town, I've done hills as steep as 26 %, in the same low gear you currently have. It isn't because I'm a super man; I'm average, but I follow the same advice I gave you.

Ok now your must killing me, I have to start climbing more. I have to be able to say stuff like that by the summers end...hell I find myself in my 34/28 all the time now...I am a big wus...must catch Seattle...
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