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Old 04-19-11, 11:00 PM   #1
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Gearing for Climbing Question

I'm a terrible climber. Most of it is me, not the bike ("it's the legs, not the bike!"). However, I need to gain just a little more help from my bike then I'm getting ("are you in the lowest gear on that thing?").

I ride a Look 566 with Ultegra gruppo. It's a 50 - 35 compact with (it says on the cassette) CM 5600 12 -25t. On steeper grades (more than 10%), when standing I can just about turn over the cranks, and if I sit - oh, my. My problem is I cannot stand for long, I flood with lactic acid and just die! I need a lower gear!!!

I've done a little reading, and I've discovered that the cyclocross bikes seem to use a 11 - 28t cassette. Lower gear, right? Would that work for me, if I was to change out the cassette on my bike to an 11 - 28t?

Thanks in advance!
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Old 04-19-11, 11:16 PM   #2
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You might want to think about an 11-34 rear cassette. This will require a rear derailleur change, but it will give you some nice gearing. The Shimano Deore RD works well and is not expensive. I've set up several bikes this way for friends and family.

This is the way my commuter bike is set up, and I genetrally use it for most rides rather than my "good" road bike. I also run smaller chinrings on it.

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Old 04-19-11, 11:30 PM   #3
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It must climb like a goat with the triple and that 11 - 34! Impressive!

Umm, my Look is my only road bike, and it was rather expensive. Your suggestion is great, but I'm not sure I'd want to go that extreme with it.

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Old 04-19-11, 11:32 PM   #4
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Put the 11-28 on and give it a whirl. That lowers your lowest gear by about 12%. If your crank can take a smaller chain ring you can get a little more by going to a 34 or even a 33 tooth small chain ring. Also, have someone knowledgeable look at your climbing technique, particularly when you are in the saddle, to make sure you are involving as many large muscles as you can (are you feeling it in your buttocks?).

I do most of my riding on my touring bike, so I have a triple (48-34-24, 11-28). However, I have never actually used the granny gear when unloaded. Well, I did use it once to tease a friend on a climb when he ran out of gear and was struggling to turn the cranks over.
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Old 04-19-11, 11:38 PM   #5
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Put the 11-28 on and give it a whirl. That lowers your lowest gear by about 12%. If your crank can take a smaller chain ring you can get a little more by going to a 34 or even a 33 tooth small chain ring. Also, have someone knowledgeable look at your climbing technique, particularly when you are in the saddle, to make sure you are involving as many large muscles as you can (are you feeling it in your buttocks?).

I do most of my riding on my touring bike, so I have a triple (48-34-24, 11-28). However, I have never actually used the granny gear when unloaded. Well, I did use it once to tease a friend on a climb when he ran out of gear and was struggling to turn the cranks over.
I misspoke in my opener! The chainring IS a 50 -34!

Yes, I feel it "in my butt" when seated, and struggling to turn the cranks over can apply to me (at times) as well. I have had other riders "rescue" me on climbs, they were offering encouragement (less so now - "Sara again - still slow..."). No one has said anything about my technique except to suggest standing straighter, and that I'm stronger than I think. Oooookaaaaayyyy....

Where is Evie Stevens when I need her??
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Old 04-20-11, 12:41 AM   #6
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Thought it must be a 34t. Gearing for hills is down to the rider and their fitness- and bike setup and speed and severity of hills. I have plenty of 10 to 15% hills where I live but most of them are not too long. But I do have to have the gearing right for me to be able to conquer them. I run a compact with 12/27 cassette. That gets me up all the hills but like you I am slow. I take my own pace on all hills and NEVER attack them. May chase other riders near the top if I am near them but that rarely happens. I also use a heart monitor and use that to gauge how much effort to put in. I normally ride on the flat at around 135 to 140 and on hills get to 150. I may reach my max of 160 by the end of the hill if it lips up or I just want to see my max for the day but at no-time do I "Go" for a hill.

On the gearing-I do have one bike set up with a 12/25 cassette and "IF" I use that set of wheels on the steep hills- I know it. That extra 2 teeth on the cassette makes the difference between struggling and surviving.
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Old 04-20-11, 02:18 AM   #7
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I've used the 11/28 for the last couple of years. I feel no shame any more
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Old 04-20-11, 03:51 AM   #8
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Sara,

On the bike I use for climbing I have a tripe 54/39/30 and can replace the 12-25 with an 11-28. I don't like the 11-28 for normal road riding because of the gear spacing. So depending on the ride I switch out cassettes. This bike is used for the long climbs, those lasting miles. My other bike is set up just like yours, I can climb with it as well but I can't do the long steep hills.

Other options for you would be to change the chain rings. Although I have not done it, you may be able to have your inner chain ring swapped out for a 30 or 32. You would probably need to a chain drop guard on the bike as well.

Now to what Stapfam said - climbing also depends a lot on your fitness level, both strength and weight. For me I know I don't climb comfortably until my weight is low and I have built up my strength. Since I live in the great North east I have to go through this pain every year as I work off the winter fat. I am currently training for a hill climb race, Only 8.5 miles but up 3500' of vertical. I go out and seek hills, small 1000' climbs at first build up each week until both my strength and mental will is back. So don't try to be a great climber overnight - it takes time. One other thing I have noticed, if you just gear down, you can reach a point were you are actually slower and more uncomfortable on a climb, climbing requires force on the chain and it's hard work - there is just no way around it.
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Old 04-20-11, 04:31 AM   #9
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Harris Cyclery makes a custom 30T cassette they call the Century Special.
It works with most road derailleurs.

http://sheldonbrown.com/harris/k7.html#9
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Old 04-20-11, 04:58 AM   #10
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Harris Cyclery makes a custom 30T cassette they call the Century Special.
It works with most road derailleurs.

http://sheldonbrown.com/harris/k7.html#9
With most derailleurs, yes, but not with all shifters. The OP rides 10-speed, the cassette you're recommending is 9-speed. Won't work.
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Old 04-20-11, 05:20 AM   #11
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With most derailleurs, yes, but not with all shifters. The OP rides 10-speed, the cassette you're recommending is 9-speed. Won't work.
http://www.bikeman.com/BTI-RD2989.html
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Old 04-20-11, 05:33 AM   #12
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I ride with 11-28 and it works fine for me. I seldom use the 28 and I've had people tell me that I should switch to 12-25 but it's useful sometimes for those short nasty steep hills where I ride.

There's no reason why you couldn't go to 11-28. I see that Shimano CS-6700 (Ultegra) has 11-12-13-14-15-17-19-21-24-28 that is supposed to work fine with your existing rear derailleur.

Are you sure it says CM 5600 ? CS-5600 is Shimano 105 (2010). According to the Shimano website, you can use a 105 11-28 (CS-5700) or the Ultegra (CS-6700) cassette.
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Old 04-20-11, 05:57 AM   #13
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Sarals, I would first switch to an 11-28 cassette for an easy improvement in gear range. That, along with improving your strength and climbing technique, may be enough to get you up the hills better. Climbing technique is a deep topic and the subject of many threads and articles. Search the forums and Google for more advice than you can digest.

My top tips for climbing are to do it often and to concentrate on spinning circles with your feet to get more power out of your pedaling. It may help to visualize scraping mud off the bottom of your shoes as each foot moves rearward through the bottom of the pedaling circle. When I feel my cadence dropping on a climb, I concentrate on pedaling full circles and will often see my speed start creeping up.

Next step would be a rear derailleur switch to a MTB one (Deore, SLX, XT etc.) and a MTB cassette with a 32 or 34 tooth largest cog.
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Old 04-20-11, 06:04 AM   #14
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With most derailleurs, yes, but not with all shifters. The OP rides 10-speed, the cassette you're recommending is 9-speed. Won't work.
There is an IRD cassette 10 spd that covers this range and before the MTB shimano 10 spd came out- this was the one you had to buy if you wanted to climb a wall with 10 spd. BUT IRD cassettes do not change as crisply as Shimano and for that reason-it is better to buy a better quality cassette.
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Old 04-20-11, 06:42 AM   #15
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Even the faster guys here in my town ride a 50/34 compact with an 11/28 cassette. These guys ride sub 6 hour 10K' climbing centuries. Of course the Cat 1 cyclists ride standard doubles but we're not Cat 1s are we? 10% grades are getting pretty steep. Even in my 28 I will be turning the cranks over at a low cadence, perhaps in the low 60s or lower. I have one bike setup with a compact crank and an 11/32 cassette. I use it when I expect steep grades on a longer ride. I'm thinking of replacing that cassette with an 11/34 for the Century ride I'm doing in May that ends with a climb of 3 miles at 12%. At mile 101, facing that climb, there isn't a gear low enough!
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Old 04-20-11, 07:17 AM   #16
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I would keep your existing crank-set & brifters, but go to a 12-32 Sram Apex ten speed cassette when riding hilly routes. You will need a new derailleur, like a Shimano Deore SGS and a new chain. This will give you a really huge range and the hills will take less out of you.

The spacing of some the gears is twice the change in cadence of your current cassette. If all your rides are hilly, the 12-32 is all you will need.

See the following thread, I've mixed the Sram Cassette with Ultegra Brifters and derailleur with great results: http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...r-fear-no-hill

Last edited by Barrettscv; 04-20-11 at 11:47 AM. Reason: Sram now has a 12-32 cassette
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Old 04-20-11, 07:36 AM   #17
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I've just put together a custom cassette with a 30 T cog because I want to do some touring in the mountains of New Hampshire. I did not want wider spacing in the higher gears. So it may be you can just change out one cog of your existing cassette to achieve the low gear you need and are otherwise satisfied with the other gears.

I am also mightily influenced by how smooth and effortless the best athletes make their sports appear. My experience is with skiing and tennis. It is a pleasure to just watch good athletes perform. Along this line of thinking, I enjoy watching this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HRFNK...eature=channel. The man in the video is very fit obviously but he is also very smooth - no wasted energy. My knees are on fire climbing but I'm getting better. Like Bluesdawg suggests, I'm paying attention to the pedal stroke and trying to look like the guy in the video although I'll never be that young again.
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Old 04-20-11, 07:38 AM   #18
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I need to gain just a little more help from my bike than I'm getting...
Bikes are our friends. They want to help us climb.
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Old 04-20-11, 07:50 AM   #19
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Try a 105 11-28 cassette. They are relatively inexpensive. Weigh only slightly more than the Ultegra. In my experience 105 shifts and wears just as well as the more expensive Ultegra. You can even install it yourself with some readily available inexpensive tools. See the Park Tools web site for directions. If the 28 is not enough, many people have reported success with larger cassettes like the above mentioned Apex with short cage Ultegra RDs even though it exceeds the published specs. This seems to be a function of RD hanger length and a willingness to accept some chain slack in the small/small combination that you should not be using anyway. Also make sure your chain is long enough for the 28. I had no problem swapping the 11-25 that came stock on my wife's 566 with a 12-27 without changing the chain. Made a huge difference in her hill climbing. I personally don't like the large jumps between cogs when going to a wider range cassette and would make the change to a triple instead of anything over a 28.

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Old 04-20-11, 07:58 AM   #20
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Bikes are our friends. They want to help us climb.
I call BS! The guy had the tail wind behind him, a walker nearly beat him up the hill and the little girl near the bottom had a birthday sometime during his climbing attempts.
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Old 04-20-11, 08:23 AM   #21
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I've always liked lower gearing . When younger, I didn't have time to ride enough to be bike fit and I'm not the athlete most road bikes are geared for.

I've always put a mountain bike crank set on my wife's road bike (22/32/44) with an 11-32 mountain bike cassette. You need to use a mountain bike rear dérailleur. For my cyclocross based road bike I use a TA 22/36/46 crank set (the rings are changeable over a wide range) with a 12-27 road cassette with a mountain bike rear dérailleur. By adding a few links of chain (with SRAM gold links) I can easily switch the cassette out to an 11-32 for the N Georgia mountains. That combination exceeds the rear dérailleur capacity, but it doesn't matter as the 22 ring is not used with the smaller cogs anyhow.

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Old 04-20-11, 10:40 AM   #22
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Sarals,

Here is a chart with both your current gearing and one with an 12-32 cassette. An easy way to review this conversion is to think about adding two lower gears, the 34/28 & 34/32. However, you will be losing a intermediate gear combination:the 50/16 which you might miss.


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Old 04-20-11, 10:44 AM   #23
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I read the gears y'all are using and I feel so inadequate. Granted, I'm packing more poundage than I should be but I really have to wonder if asthma has a much broader effect than I realized. On my old Lemond -a 9 speed- I used a 30/30 to get up some of our local climbs. That worked pretty well. I lost that option when I got my Giant, where I have a 30/28 for my lowest gear. I can still get my HR way up there. I just figure the gears you guys talk about will always just be a fantasy to me.... though a little voice in my head keeps saying "Try a compact". I mean, how much difference is there, really, between a 30T and a 34T?
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Old 04-20-11, 10:59 AM   #24
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I read the gears y'all are using and I feel so inadequate. Granted, I'm packing more poundage than I should be but I really have to wonder if asthma has a much broader effect than I realized. On my old Lemond -a 9 speed- I used a 30/30 to get up some of our local climbs. That worked pretty well. I lost that option when I got my Giant, where I have a 30/28 for my lowest gear. I can still get my HR way up there. I just figure the gears you guys talk about will always just be a fantasy to me.... though a little voice in my head keeps saying "Try a compact". I mean, how much difference is there, really, between a 30T and a 34T?
I would keep the Triple. Not only will you have extra low gearing, the middle ring is very useful on flat sections.
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Old 04-20-11, 11:14 AM   #25
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I ride with 11-28 and it works fine for me. I seldom use the 28 and I've had people tell me that I should switch to 12-25 but it's useful sometimes for those short nasty steep hills where I ride.

There's no reason why you couldn't go to 11-28. I see that Shimano CS-6700 (Ultegra) has 11-12-13-14-15-17-19-21-24-28 that is supposed to work fine with your existing rear derailleur.

Are you sure it says CM 5600 ? CS-5600 is Shimano 105 (2010). According to the Shimano website, you can use a 105 11-28 (CS-5700) or the Ultegra (CS-6700) cassette.
No, I'm not sure. I was looking at it last night in dim light - it said "** 5600 HG Hyperglide Shimano Japan". Perhaps it is "CS". Maybe it is a 105 cassette after all? It won't be until tonight, when I get home from work, that I can look again (drat, I should have brought my bike with me).

Another question - can I change the individual gears, say, swap the 25t for a 28t gear on my cassette (and maybe the gear below it for better spacing)?
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