I rode the RAMROD (http://www.redmondcyclingclub.org/RAMROD/RAMROD.html) last week and was pleased to have survived it. It was a challenge to stay hydrated and keep my energy up, but I did it.
I recall people telling me there was nothing to compare to a mountain climb like Cayuse Pass. Because of the heat, and mild fatigue setting in, it wasn't too long before I was in my lowest gear (30t front and 25t rear).
I climb a fair amount, and routinely hit Cascade foothills for weekend leisure rides. Almost never will I use my 25t unless it's a very long ride, or I'm traveling heavy.
While ascending Cayuse, if I allowed my cadence to get too slow, my legs would stiffen. So I would move at 5-6mph, but then take a quick rest off the bike every mile or two.
I had a buddy with a 28t for his largest cog. He went much slower than I did on the climb, but he didn't need to stop as much either. We actually broke even for overall time - I was faster while moving, but had to rest - he continued at a snails pace the whole time.
It's a rare scenario, but next time I replace my 10spd cassette should I get a 12-27t? Or is that such a trivial difference it won't matter? I'm not looking to be competitive, just a setup that will allow me to keep rolling - or at least mitigate against fatigue.
Then again it was hot and this was my first big pass climb with 100 miles ahead of it.
Any advice is appreciated.