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Long Distance Competition/Ultracycling, Randonneuring and Endurance Cycling Do you enjoy centuries, double centuries, brevets, randonnees, and 24-hour time trials? Share ride reports, and exchange training, equipment, and nutrition information specific to long distance cycling. This isn't for tours, this is for endurance events cycling

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Old 06-04-10, 08:02 PM   #1
MTBMaven
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Climbing Gearing Questions

I am planning an unsupported 7 day tour along the northern CA coast this summer with a pretty light load and do the Everest Challenge (EC) in late September. For the uninitiated, the EC is 200 miles across two days and a combined elevation gain of over 29,000 feet. For these events I am looking for some more gears. I am posting here because I am not really a touring person and ride a bike more like what the folks here ride, sport touring/randonneur bike.

I am currently running full 10 speed Ultegra with a compact double and an 11x27 cassette. I have a rear 9 speed Shimano barcon from a past failed experiment.

My thoughts are to leave my existing 10 speed barcon installed but remove the shift cable. Install the rear 9 speed barcon shifter, a MTB 11x32 9 speed cassette, and 9 speed MTB Shimano derailleur from the take off wall at my LBS. Thoughts on this plan?

My buddy at my LBS feels pretty confident I can run a 32 cassette with my existing Ultegra derailleur despite the fact that the Shimano site states the max sprocket is 28.
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Old 06-04-10, 08:37 PM   #2
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Just stay off the large front chainring when you are on the 32 which shouldn't be a problem.
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Old 06-05-10, 01:56 AM   #3
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The 32-tooth cog with a road rear derailleur probably won't work. However, a few people, who have been really lucky with the dropout and hanger geometry on their bikes have been know to get it to work. Even so, if you have easy access to a MTB rear derailleur then I would just go with that and not even try to make it work with the road RD.

The 9-speed cassette with the 9-speed barcon will work fine, but I'm not sure why you would mount both this and leave your existing 10-speed barcon on the bike - maybe you mean use the shifter mount of the 10-speed in the end of the bar, and just change the shift lever and other parts that screw onto that to the 9-speed version - that should work if both are similar models (e.g., 7700 and 7800).
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Old 06-05-10, 10:36 AM   #4
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Seems like the only part of your plan that there is any question about is the barcon, is that right? I don't think that you can use the rear derailleur like your friend says, that's a pretty big jump in size.

I think you might win the prize for the strangest justification yet for posting a touring question in long distance. The tourists probably have more expertise at this sort of thing.
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Old 06-05-10, 10:36 AM   #5
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Seems like the only part of your plan that there is any question about is the barcon, is that right? I don't think that you can use the rear derailleur like your friend says, that's a pretty big jump in size.

I think you might win the prize for the strangest justification yet for posting a touring question in long distance. The tourists probably have more expertise at this sort of thing.
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Old 06-05-10, 11:28 AM   #6
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put the MTB derailleur on, change the casette and keep the ten speed barcon exactly where it is. Switch the barcon to friction mode and you are done. The 10s barcon will be fine with the 9speed cassette.

make sure that the H/L set screws (on the rear der.) are adjusted so that you wont shift the chain into your spokes or into your frame...

For what its worth, the ultegra RD very well might work with the 32 (possibly need to add four links to your chain)... I used to use an ultegra (short cage) RD on my previous MTB, which I believe was a 32...The first thing you might want to do is swap cassettes, switch the shifter to friction mode, and try it...
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Old 06-05-10, 11:43 AM   #7
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I'd leave it alone - I mean are you saying you'll need some thing lower than a 36x27? Or is it a 34x27?
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Old 06-05-10, 12:23 PM   #8
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lots of tourists, randos and even racers have a very low bail-out gear. SRAM recently made a big fuss about using their new APEX RD on pro bikes where there was a steep climb.
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Old 06-05-10, 01:16 PM   #9
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I run a 11-32 on my road bike and my recumbent with Ultegra long cage derailleurs and bar end shifters with out ever a problem. I even ran it with a sram attack grip shift on my recumbent for a while and it always worked fine. Also with the barends I was able to hit any gear combo with no trouble. Thats the beauty of barends you can trim the front derailleur all you want and use any combo without rubbing.
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Old 06-05-10, 04:08 PM   #10
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but I'm not sure why you would mount both this and leave your existing 10-speed barcon on the bike - maybe you mean use the shifter mount of the 10-speed in the end of the bar, and just change the shift lever and other parts that screw onto that to the 9-speed version - that should work if both are similar models (e.g., 7700 and 7800).
I don't have an existing 10 speed barcon shifter. I have a 9 speed barcon shifter that is not installed. I have 10 speed Ultegra brake/shifter installed on the bike currently. If I go with a MTB derailleur the indexing of my 10 speed shifter will not work, hence the need for the 9 speed barcon shifter. I will leave the 10 speed shifter installed because I still need to the braking function of the the bifter.
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Old 06-05-10, 04:11 PM   #11
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I think you might win the prize for the strangest justification yet for posting a touring question in long distance. The tourists probably have more expertise at this sort of thing.
Well mainly because I am interested in this new gearing for the EC and less because of the tour but will likely use the set up on the tour as well. I posted here because I didn't want to get a bunch of response about peoples use of triples and such. I really want to keep as much of my existing drivetrain intact, and felt like my drivetrain is likely more similar to people around this board. Maybe not.
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Old 06-05-10, 04:14 PM   #12
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I run a 11-32 on my road bike and my recumbent with Ultegra long cage derailleurs and bar end shifters with out ever a problem.
This might be the winning response. I saw on Shimano's page that at almost every groupo level they make a shorter and longer cage derailleur but regardless of cage length the max sprocket size is 27. Seems strange to me. If the longer cage rear derailleur will accept a 32 sprocket I could just get a new derailleur for permanent use and switch out cassettes depending on the ride (assuming no chain lengthening).
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Old 06-05-10, 05:52 PM   #13
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The real question is, what is the maximum grade you'll see, and how much of it will you see? You can get the same amount of elevation gain with a longer stretch at 10% or with a shorter stretch at 20%; but your gearing requirements are obviously quite different. If your steepest grade is a relatively short stretch that's considerably steeper than everything else, it's probably not worth gearing down just for that. However, if your steepest grade goes on for awhile or there are lots of hills of similar grade, then it is definitely worth it.
Lots of elevation gain may or may not mean steep grades; it's worth checking. Of course with a lot of climbing you might want a slightly lower gear for a given grade than you would on a shorter ride, but not as much lower as what you'd want for a substantially steeper grade. Just food for thought.
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Old 06-05-10, 06:06 PM   #14
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Good point, here are the climb breakdowns. Now this really doesn't address your point because the length of the steeper sections are not known. The hope is to have a bailout gear for the second day when the legs may not have much left in them.


DAY 1

FIRST CLIMB (Red line on map)
Mosquito Flat (10250')
22 miles long, ave. grade 5%, max. grade 12%, total elevation gain 5825'

SECOND CLIMB (Green line on map)
Pine Creek (7425')
8 miles, 7% ave. grade, 11% max. grade, total elevation gain 3000'

THIRD CLIMB (Blue line on map)
South Lake (9835')
20.4 miles long, ave. grade 6%, max. grade 17.5%, total elevation gain 5410'

Total elevation gain for Stage 1
15,465' over 102 miles
Yes, that leaves 1230' of climbing in between the climbs, doesn't it?


DAY 2

FIRST CLIMB (Red line on map)
Glacier Lodge (7800')
9 miles long, ave. grade 8%, max. grade 12%, total elevation gain 3900'

SECOND CLIMB (Green line on map)
Waucoba Canyon (6545')
8.5 miles long, ave. grade 5%, max. grade 7%, total elevation gain 2600'

THIRD CLIMB (Blue line on map)
Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest (10100')
21 miles long, ave. grade 6%, max. grade 15%, total elevation gain 6160'

Total elevation gain for Stage 2
13,570' over 65 miles
Including another 900' of climbing in between the climbs
Total climbing for the two days is 29,035' (the elevation of Mount Everest from sea level!) in 206 miles.
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Old 06-06-10, 01:10 AM   #15
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This might be the winning response. I saw on Shimano's page that at almost every groupo level they make a shorter and longer cage derailleur but regardless of cage length the max sprocket size is 27. Seems strange to me. If the longer cage rear derailleur will accept a 32 sprocket I could just get a new derailleur for permanent use and switch out cassettes depending on the ride (assuming no chain lengthening).
Try not to simply agree with the one post that gives the exact opinion that you wanted to hear. As I said in my previous post, people have been known to make a road RD work with a cassette that has a 32-tooth cog, but for this to be the case, you have to be lucky with your dropout / hanger geometry. On most bikes it won't work. Even if it does happen to work on your bike, setting the B-screw to make an Ultegra work with a 32-cog gear means that the upper pulley will be far away from the cogs when in the smaller cogs, which will make shifting in those gears more sluggish. MTB rear derailleurs actually have a slightly sharper angle of sweep, to allow the upper pulley to stay closer to the smaller cogs and still swing low enough to clear the biggest ones. Therefore, even if the Ultegra does work for you (which is unlikely) it will still never shift an 11-32 cassette as well as a MTB derailleur will.

I totally agree, for those climbs of 7% or 8% average gradient for multiple miles, you will need some lower gearing than a 34/27. The 11-32 cassette is a decent way to achieve this, but will probably require you to change your rear derailleur and rear shifter (although there are about to be several reasonably-priced 10-speed 11-32 cassettes available soon from Shimano and SRAM, you may not have enough time to wait for these). Another option would be to go with a "super compact" crankset instead of a compact. Take a triple crankset and replace the two outer rings with one ring in between these sizes (44 or 46 teeth), you'll then have a 30/46 crankset, and so a 30/27 lowest gear. You'll also need to move your front derailleur down and shorten your chain by a couple of links, but you can keep your current cassette, rear derailleur, and shifters. This also has the advantage of keeping your cassette cogs nice and closely spaced, avoiding the big jumps in the 11-32 9-speed cassette.

Last edited by Chris_W; 06-07-10 at 01:27 AM.
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Old 06-06-10, 09:13 AM   #16
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Try not to simply agree with the one post that gives the exact opinion that you what you wanted to hear. As I said in my previous post, people have been known to make a road RD work with a cassette that has a 32-tooth cog, but for this to be the case, you have to be lucky with your dropout / hanger geometry.
Point well taken. My plan right now is to have my LBS order in a few options and head down there one days and experiment with some available options. I like the flexibility of the longer cage Ultegra derailleur but only if it does not suffer from the problems you mentioned. That will not be worth it in the end.

I do appreciate the thoughtful comments provided by those on this thread. It is also very nice to have a Gear Combo Guru assisting with my thoughts.
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Old 06-06-10, 11:18 AM   #17
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I ride a cross bike (Kona Jake the Snake) with a low gear of 36X25. At the end of May I rode three mountain passes with 12,545 ft of climbing in 133 mi. Personally I found the climbing easier than the 20 knot head winds and though a 27 on the back would have been nice for about ten of those miles, it was hardly neccessary. I have a 10 sp cassette and my riding partners had a 9 and a 7 respectively. One more gear seemed to make a small difference in the rolling sections and 3 more I think made a big difference.

If you are moderately fit and your bike without water weights less than 25 lbs IMO don't change a thing. It gets to be kind of fun grinding away after a while and highway grades are easier than you think.

We are planning a 29,000+ gain ride for next year. If I don't get a new set of wheels I doubt I'll go throught the hassle of changing my gearing.
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Old 06-06-10, 04:23 PM   #18
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I too have done big mountain days having completed The Death Ride last year (120 miles with 15,000 feet of gain), just completed the Planet Ultra King of the Mountains series, and several big climbs in the Sierra. When training is spot on and everything goes well a 39x27 works well. However if things are not going so well but you don't want to quit having something else to fall back on just might get me to the finish.
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Old 06-06-10, 07:38 PM   #19
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The difficulty with this question is that nobody here knows how strong of a rider you are and how much endurance you have. Are you a spinner or a masher? If I tell you what kind of gearing to use it'll be based on my experiences and what works well for me. That might or might not work for you! You're going to get (and have gotten) recommendations all over the spectrum. Seems kind of useless to me.

The EC is a tough race but it is over two days which gives you a nice break and there are long easy descents between the climbs for recovery. My recommendation would be for you would be to have a slightly lower gear ratio range than you normally have and to make sure you have a bailout gear that will let you recover while climbing if you over do it. Other than that, go have fun!
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Old 06-06-10, 11:41 PM   #20
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Homeyba, I wasn't really looking for a recommended gear selection because as you state no one can really give that advice unless they know me well. I have been looking for options for installing a 32 max sprocket with the least amount of parts changes. I have a 27 on now and in the past on big Sierra climbs (Horseshoe Meadows then Whitney Portal for one) I really could have used a bail out gear (or two). This post was an attempt at exploring some options.

Basically what I have learned so far is that there is a very slight chance I can keep my current derailleur and install the 32 cassette, but the chances are slim. My more likely option will be to install a MTB derailleur and 32 cassette. There is a chance a long cage Ultegra derailleur will work.
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Old 06-07-10, 12:39 AM   #21
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My bad, you're right. I don't run anything that big except sometimes on the tandem. On there I use a XTR mtb derailleur. I think that'll be your best bet. It doesn't care if it's 9 or 10 speed and you can use the 9speed barcon.
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Old 06-07-10, 10:46 AM   #22
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I use cheap Deore MTB derailleurs on our road bikes when we go to the mountains. Works great. I would go that way, either a cheap one just for the trip or a better one to match the rest of your components if you want to leave it on permanently.
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