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Old 03-17-09, 06:07 AM   #1
BikeArkansas
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Front wheel coming off the ground

I made my first climb attempt on a grade so steep I was having trouble keeping the front wheel on the ground. I am not sure of the grade, but my riding partner has a 705 which was reading in the twenty something percent. He said he was not sure of the second number, but the first was a 2.

The incline only lasted about 3 blocks, but it was more than I could manage. There were many problems, but the overweight and worn out old engine was probably the major factor.

First was my gearing. I have a 50/34 compact on my road bike, which is good. But my cassette is a 12/25. I could have used a much higher number on the cassette.

Second was the front wheel. I was having trouble controling the bike because it is hard to steer with the front wheel coming up. I almost lost it a couple of times. My partner was laughing later about watching my front wheel. He said it was not just bouncing up, it was staying up quite a bit. Anyway, this basically frightened me and contributed to my aborting the climb at about 2/3 of the way up.

Third was the fact I was breathing so hard I decided it was best I shut down. Part of the breathing was from the effort to climb and there was some contribution from fear of falling over.

Therefore, for the first time in quite a while I walked the rest of the hill, a bit embarrassed. My partner said I did well getting off the bike. He said the first time he attempted to climb this hill he fell over and lost a lot of skin in the process. Also he had trouble standing when he did get up. I unclipped before it was too late and was able to walk up it.

I will learn how to distribute the weight to keep the wheel on the ground and someday I will ride this short monster, I think.
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Old 03-17-09, 06:13 AM   #2
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Perhaps you need a bicycle with a larger front wheel?

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Old 03-17-09, 06:17 AM   #3
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Sometimes you just got to walk.
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Old 03-17-09, 06:20 AM   #4
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Sounds like a perfect excuse for a new bike, one with a triple crank and a 12/30 cassette
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Old 03-17-09, 06:23 AM   #5
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IMHO, there is no shame in walking a 20% hill.
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Old 03-17-09, 06:53 AM   #6
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Sounds like a perfect excuse for a new bike, one with a triple crank and a 12/30 cassette
Or a few older bikes equipped with a similar drive train.







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Old 03-17-09, 06:54 AM   #7
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Were you sitting during the climb? Returning from my daily ride means that I must go up a 17% grade to get home. It's only about 1/3 a mile, but at the very top it kicks up to over 20% for about 60 yards. I can't ride it sitting, because the front wheel comes up. If I stand and keep my weight positioned slightly forward the front end stays put. During the fall I've actually fallen during this last stretch when the rear wheels spin out on wet leaves. As Maddmax says, there's no shame in getting off on a 20% grade. Hell, most people wouldn't even try it.
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Old 03-17-09, 07:07 AM   #8
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Were you sitting during the climb? Returning from my daily ride means that I must go up a 17% grade to get home. It's only about 1/3 a mile, but at the very top it kicks up to over 20% for about 60 yards. I can't ride it sitting, because the front wheel comes up. If I stand and keep my weight positioned slightly forward the front end stays put. During the fall I've actually fallen during this last stretch when the rear wheels spin out on wet leaves. As Maddmax says, there's no shame in getting off on a 20% grade. Hell, most people wouldn't even try it.
Yes, I was sitting during the climb. I was concentrating on keepng the pedals turning over and keeping the front down. When I realized I was in trouble and probably must stand I also realized I was probably too winded to stand long enough to make a differnece.

I do believe standing is a good solution. I also believe a little experience on a grade of this type is important.

The 12/27 cassette is out of storage and ready to be installed. Not a lot of help over the 12/25, but every little bit helps.
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Old 03-17-09, 07:35 AM   #9
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Balance Grasshopper, balance.

The first(few) times I tried to ride a mtb up a steep climb, I either lifted the front wheel, or spun the rear. Both had the same effect, instant stopage. Practice make perfect, just keep trying till you get everything dialed in. I may take a few attempts. And as your conditioning improves, it gets easier.
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Old 03-17-09, 07:42 AM   #10
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This is where some time on a hardtail MBT really helps. Riding off road is all about shifting your balance around. Its like learning to fly in a tail dragger.
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Old 03-17-09, 08:02 AM   #11
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. During the fall I've actually fallen during this last stretch when the rear wheels spin out on wet leaves. As Maddmax says, there's no shame in getting off on a 20% grade. Hell, most people wouldn't even try it.[/QUOTE]

I know what you mean with the wet leaves, it is frightening when you are breathing hard and laboring up a steep grade and you hit those leaves. It is like you hit a patch of ice.
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Old 03-17-09, 08:14 AM   #12
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Sometimes it works to lean forward by using the drops. If you do stand try lean forward to keep your weight over the center of the bike. And try hard to relax your upper body to keep from pulling up on the bars. If you get desperate and the traffic allows you can weave back and forth across the road to reduce the grade. Traction vs steering is a recurring problem in Seattle with steep hills and wet streets.
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Old 03-17-09, 08:42 AM   #13
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Sometimes it works to lean forward by using the drops. If you do stand try lean forward to keep your weight over the center of the bike. And try hard to relax your upper body to keep from pulling up on the bars. If you get desperate and the traffic allows you can weave back and forth across the road to reduce the grade. Traction vs steering is a recurring problem in Seattle with steep hills and wet streets.
My riding partner was weaving to get up the hill. That is something I have not done on a hill, but I think it is time to start. I thought of trying it yesterday, but there was some traffic. He got away with it though.

Practice with the balance is something I have not worked on, because I have not tried inclines this steep. I guess you figure it out as you try it more often.

My brother rides off road quite a bit and says he is a much better bike handler because of it. He is also much better at applying bandages with all the practice he gets.
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Old 03-17-09, 09:42 AM   #14
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Two major issues. The first is cadence and beocming winded; the approach here is to improve conditioning and to reduce the gear ratios. Bigger cogs with smaller chainwheels, as has been noted.

Second one is front-rear weight distrubution. The classic frame design guides (at least Talbot, Oliver, and CONI) plus the modern Arnie Baker say there should be 40 to 45% of the bike+rider weight on the front wheel. Saddle fore/aft positioning affects this, as do chainstry length, and front-center. I've found it's a lot more comfortable for me to get this on my Woodrup with a 44 cm chainstay and 60 cm front-center, than on my Mondonico with 41 cm chainstays.

Obviously leaning forward accomplishes something similar, but it's a lot more tiring. My HR soars faster if I stand.

I can't say this will work for you, but it should get the bike more working for you. It argues in favor of a sport-tour geometry rather than a modern road race geometry.
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Old 03-17-09, 09:44 AM   #15
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My climbing bike has 48/32/22 chainrings, and 11-34 cassette, and I use *all* of the gears.
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Old 03-17-09, 11:03 AM   #16
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I have ridden hills that get to 20% and have not had that problem. Of course, I was out of the saddle with my weight forward.

A friend of mine, Edwina, said she was doing a race up Brasstown Bald. It hits a max of 28%. She was seated and the bike wheel came up and she went over backwards. She could not restart the bike because of the steepness so she picked up her bike and ran. Funny thing is that she passed people.
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Old 03-17-09, 11:05 AM   #17
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Balance Grasshopper, balance.

The first(few) times I tried to ride a mtb up a steep climb, I either lifted the front wheel, or spun the rear. Both had the same effect, instant stopage. Practice make perfect, just keep trying till you get everything dialed in. I may take a few attempts. And as your conditioning improves, it gets easier.
We have an offroad climb just like that. Not long but just as you tire out- it steepens. Couple of tricks and first is not to attack it till you have to. The object of this game is never to walk--+ the fact the bike is heavy to push.

So just as you get to the steep bit you are seated on the saddle with weight forward. Then the juggling starts. Front wheel lifts so put the body forward- then the rear wheel spins so body back on the saddle- but the front lifts.

There is a technique that works and sit in the saddle just on the wings to keep weight back and Superglue the butt to that position. As the front wheel lifts- turn the wrists downwards- keeps the weight back and the front wheel down but you are now stretched out along the top tube so keep the teeth away from the bars- just in case you hit a lumpy bit.

But on the road- I learnt years ago that riding out of the saddle and not throwing the bike from side to side does not use a great deal of energy- but you have to change up one gear to stop the legs spinning out and to keep speed up. AND Don't look at the heart monitor.
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Old 03-17-09, 12:26 PM   #18
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We have a steep little climb to the ski lifts on Mt. Baldy Road (2,000 verticle feet in 4.6 miles) that hits 20+% on the switchbacks and has an extended 18% (1/2 mile) just before the finish.

For the last bit I usually have to alternate sitting and standing, plus I do play with lifting the front wheel while sitting (I'm easily amused), and that's what I thought of when reading the OP!

I should add that this climb is so difficult that I only did it 5 times in 2008, and not yet at all in 2009.

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Old 03-17-09, 06:28 PM   #19
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We did a 20%++ gradient hill a few weeks ago (Uhlerstown Hill Rd. in PA, on the Delaware). Three of us had compacts with 12/25. I stood up most of the way and it's maybe a half mile long. I was leaning waaaaay over the handle bars, and worried that the back wheel would spin out on the lose gravel and twigs. A guy who is much stronger than me (and quite a bit larger) did not make it on his 53/39-12/25.
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Old 03-17-09, 06:47 PM   #20
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Anything in the neighborhood of 20% is a real climb. Don't know what the grade is of Observatory Road in Morgan County but it is steep; was able to get up it a couple of years ago twice on my hybrid with 36x34. Failed twice the the next year on my Tailwind 'bent. Will try again this year on my V-Rex, which seems to be a better climber for me. (24 gear inches) The downhills in that area make the climbs worthwhile, even if a little walking is involved.
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Old 03-17-09, 06:57 PM   #21
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My climbing bike has 48/32/22 chainrings, and 11-34 cassette, and I use *all* of the gears.



Now *that* is a climbing bike.
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Old 03-17-09, 07:19 PM   #22
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I've never seen a hill I couldn't walk (and push the bike).
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Old 03-17-09, 08:11 PM   #23
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I think you guys are all working too hard - my climbing "bike" has 52/42/30 chainrings and an 11-32 8-spd cassette; I can stop and restart in the middle of any hill I've come across with no wobbling. Of course, the correct spelling for it is actually "trike" - that 3rd wheel is really handy sometimes...
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Old 03-17-09, 08:20 PM   #24
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My riding partner was weaving to get up the hill. That is something I have not done on a hill, but I think it is time to start. I thought of trying it yesterday, but there was some traffic. He got away with it though.
Please don't. I really hate trying to pass someone who's weaving up a hill. I never know what line they're going to take. There's no shame in walking, the same can't be said for weaving.
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Old 03-17-09, 08:21 PM   #25
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Interesting.
The only time I've seen a front wheel "lift-off" on a grade was when my friend was touring on a bent with loaded panniers on the back!
I'm all for climbing hills. Good advice here re gearing. But really.... If my front wheel comes up that's clearly a sign from the bike gods that it's time for my feet to hit the ground. The hill just won.
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