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Epic fail rant with a question at the end.

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Epic fail rant with a question at the end.

Old 09-13-16, 12:20 PM
  #1  
NYSteve
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Epic fail rant with a question at the end.

I woke up at the crack of dawn this morning, shaved, showered, put on my bike shorts, and took my frozen water bottle out of the freezer. I felt good and excited, I was ready to ride my first 35 mile ride. The ride planned would have the majority of the last 12 miles would be down hill, down some nice hills.

I have drove the route. I was okay with road biking at this time of the morning. I figured there wouldn't be much traffic. I have never really ridden much on roads. I ride bike trails and a few streets. So I unload my bike and start on my way. I ride a few blocks, and then I hit "the hill" the mother of a climb I was really really fearful of. I put myself into my lowest gear and I pedal and pedal, I go nowhere fast. I pedaled my ass off and I didn't even make it a quarter of the way up the hill. I had to stop I was out of breath and I was feeling physically ill. I had to stop. I was really angry with myself! I turned around and rode back to my car.

When I got back to my car, I chugged a bottle of water, I ate two cheese sticks, and went on a 20 mile ride. I let my frustration of not being able to make the hill even cut my normal 20 mile ride short by 25%. I hated the ride

I ran out of gears. Am I approaching a hill climb correctly? I generally ride on the highest gear on the middle cog, as I approach a hill I shift down to up my cadence a tad. When I get to the lowest gear on that middle cog, is where I believe I am messing up. I shift the front cog down to the lowest one, and then I am bottomed out. I have no lower gears.

When switching your front cog from middle to low, how do you shift just down one gear? What I am asking if im on:
Front cog is the middle
Rear is on the lowest gear.
How do I down shift one gear so that:
Front cog is now the lowest &
Read cog is now the highest?

The way I shift is: When I hit the lowest gear on the middle cog, I shift down the front gear to the lowest, and I am out of gears. I can only go up.

How do you switch the front down and the rear up at the same time?
I hope I was able to correctly explain my question, and not make a fool of myself because I don't understand shifting very well.
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Old 09-13-16, 12:36 PM
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You would need to shift the rear derailleur up a couple of gears and shift the front derailleur down at the same time to accomplish this. I tend to avoid the lowest gear on the back and drop the front down to it's lowest gear first so that I have those small gear changes in the back left. If you want to see what the actual shift pattern from highest to lowest gear ratio or gear inch, check out Sheldon Brown's stuff.

Sheldon Brown's Bicycle Gear Calculator

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Old 09-13-16, 12:44 PM
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Particularly with triple cranksets you have several repeat ratios. Expect to have about 2/3 as many usefully different ratios as you have combinations. So if your bike is 3x9 (AKA 27 gears), expect to have maybe 18-20 usefully different combinations.
If you think you're gonna need the smallest chainring, downshift into that before you're at the biggest sprocket, say at 3rd biggest or something like that.
Here: Sheldon Brown's Bicycle Gear Calculator is a gear calculator you can tinker around with to determine your ideal shifting sequence and which your repeat ratios are.
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Old 09-13-16, 01:33 PM
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Practice the shifts to get a feel for it. I did on flat rides so that I knew moving chainrings means moving two gears on the cassette on my bike. Feeling what happens is how to make it second nature. Muscle memory and all that.
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Old 09-13-16, 02:32 PM
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When you shift the front onto the smallest (easiest gear), also shift the rear a couple of clicks into harder gears. This should put you into about the same effective gear, but ready for the big hill. Then shift the rear into easier gears as needed.
If you run out of low gears and can't pedal any more. Stop and walk up ?? Note where you stopped, and try to make it a bit further next time.
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Old 09-13-16, 02:40 PM
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you were on your lowest gear front and back.. and you couldn't make it up the hill? Try a smaller hill.

But seriously, if you know you're coming to a challenging climb drop to the smallest front chain ring before you hit it. You need to practice switching front chainrings while switching back cogs in quick sequence. Bikes have different gear meshing so dropping the to smaller front chain ring might equal a 2 cog shift on the back... or similar.
Example:
You're riding along in middle chain ring and you're coming up to the start of a good climb..
Drop to smallest chainring, and up 2 gears in back to place you in same relative cadence..
now, you hit the hill and only need to start dropping rear gears as needed.

Last edited by dwing; 09-13-16 at 02:51 PM.
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Old 09-13-16, 02:49 PM
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Also, if you're panting and out of breath you should not be switching to easier gears. That is a sign that you are moving your legs too much/ too fast. Stay in a harder gearing and use more power, when you're struggling to push and have no power THEN you switch to easier gears. You're not panting, you're grunting at this point.

When approaching a big hill get in the easier gear up front up front and raise the back if you plan on needing it. Takes work up front but sets you up to more easily do what you want to do.

Last edited by TheLibrarian; 09-13-16 at 02:54 PM.
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Old 09-13-16, 03:08 PM
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If you're in the lowest gear on your bike and still can't make it up the hill, I'm afraid the answer likely is: more training required.

The secret is being able to make it, without running out of steam. This means not over exerting yourself at the start of the climb, but having a steady effort all the way up.

Do you have a HR strap or power meter? If yes, you can use them to try to keep your effort from maxing out, for example, I try to keep myself in HR zone 4 when climbing, to avoid running out of steam. If I go into Zone 5, I try to ease off a bit. With a power meter this becomes even easier, because you can see how much wattage you're putting out, which gives you a much better idea of how much effort you're putting in.

If you have neither of those things, just listen to your body!
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Old 09-13-16, 05:30 PM
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Something I have done in the past, when planning a longer endurance ride, is to do segments of that longer ride, as I am working up to it.
This allows me to experience each segment, make adjustments as needed, such as shifting, then when feeling up to it, put segments together until I can do the entire course.
This way I have experienced it, then just put them together into the "big ride" but with some practical knowledge under my belt.
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Old 09-13-16, 05:55 PM
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I'm not sure it's a matter of power meters or necessarily spinning out too fast -- for we larger folk, hills simply hurt. You need to work on your crossover shifting, but really the bottom line is just taking the necessary baby steps. We have some hills on a few of our routes that I can't climb w/o a break. So just take the break, and as noted above, try to make it a little higher next time and the next and the next and ...

There is no shame in walking up a hill, either.
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Old 09-13-16, 06:17 PM
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Id of walked it.

I know i would have only made it so far so i would have stopped there and walked. Tried again another day.
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Old 09-13-16, 06:45 PM
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Originally Posted by TheLibrarian View Post
Also, if you're panting and out of breath you should not be switching to easier gears. That is a sign that you are moving your legs too much/ too fast. Stay in a harder gearing and use more power, when you're struggling to push and have no power THEN you switch to easier gears. You're not panting, you're grunting at this point.
For a newbie Clyde on a bike, the panting and out of breath is also just from too much effort whether spinning like mad or grinding it out on a hill. It wasn't long ago that I was there.

I don't spin up hills. I grind them out at a slow cadence. I am panting and out of breath when I climb some hills.

OP, keep trying the hills. My first big hill (I live in nothing but hills, this was a BIG hill compared to just an average hill that would be killer for flatlanders) halfway up it my heart rate was screaming in my ears and I could barely breathe. I stopped. I did not turn around nor did I walk it. I merely stopped and waited for my heart rate to slow down and the breathing to ease up. I took some water then continued on. At the top, same thing with the heart rate screaming and the breathing heavily labored. I made it and I stopped to rest.

I rode the same route and the same hill all week. At the end of the week, I was moving right up that hill, still winded and heart rate still pumping, but nothing like that first time. Hills make you stronger. Now a hill similar to that one that nearly did me in is just a bump in the road. With a year under my belt, I was climbing hills that were twice as steep and twice as long with no problems. I am still carrying a lot of extra weight, so I don't just sit and easily spin up them. It takes some work to pull the weight up, but it's no longer any problem to climb hills.

I will say, the area I live in is average of about 75 feet per mile climbing on my rides, so it seems that climbing is about all I do. Just now, the 7-8% grades just feel flat and it's the 15-18% grades that I seek out to "have fun" with climbing.

As others have said, as you get to the hill, move down to the small chain ring before you start into the climb. Don't worry about momentum as you enter the hill, gravity trumps momentum for us Clydes. You don't get very far trying to hold the momentum with the higher gear. The front derailleur is the more difficult to move once you are putting power down into a climb so get it moved early into the smaller ring.

If you keep trying hills, you will eventually find you don't need the smaller ring as often any more. You will start just dropping into lower gears in the back while staying in the middle ring up front. Eventually you'll be riding along and realize, "Hey, I use to have trouble climbing up this and now it's easy." The more you work the hills, the flatter the road gets. I'm 3 years into it. 3 years ago was when I had to stop halfway up and rest. Now I'm seeking out the steepest I can find and I do have some nice steep climbs that I regularly go for.
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Old 09-13-16, 07:42 PM
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IMO the issue wasn't the gearing, it was your condition, mindset and the layout of the ride.

When I got to the part of the post where you described the 12 mile mostly down hill finish, my reaction was, "so when and how are the climbs that set that up?"

Add to that, that you probably weren't conditioned for hard climbing, and spent all you had too soon.

The biggest mistake was laying out your longest ride with a long hard climb early on. You're fresh, and not yet warmed up so it's too easy to get sucked into giving it more than you have, and running out of gas. The key to long rides is pacing yourself and you blew it crack out of the box.

I grew up on the side of a decent hill, and by happenstance have lived on hills all of my life save a few years. I've always hated starting with a climb. Even finishing with a climb, which can be torture after a hard ride, at least is a finish, so it doesn't matter how much I burn and how spent I am at the top.

Here's my suggestion. Plan rides just about this climb. Go out and ride a few miles changing up the pace a bit to loosen up, then hit the hill. Choose a gear that is the lower of the two that feel right. My test is to find a gear that allows me to accelerate if I want to, as opposed to one where I'm giving all I have just to try to maintain speed. Keep revisiting the hill until you find a pace that gets you up with something left in your legs. Nothing wrong with topping it tired, just not so tired that you need more than a fw minutes to recover.

When you've learned to pace the climb, keep that pace in your mind as you build this hill into a long ride.
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Old 09-14-16, 08:32 AM
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Thank you all for the information. I really apperciate the help.
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Old 09-14-16, 10:02 AM
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I did exactly the same thing. However the next time I rode I made it up my hill about 20 more yards, then 20 more then 20 more. It took me about 6 weeks and more then 10 attempts, but eventually I conquered the hill!
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Old 09-14-16, 10:27 AM
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Great news. I am going to try it again maybe in one or two gears higher and see what happens. I Am practicing shifting both the chainring (front?) and the sprocket (rear?) I am almost trying not to bottom out on the sprocket before shifting.

Today I did a small ride, very flat, I did most of my pedaling on the biggest chainring. Trying to save some gears as well. I would like to be able to do a good part of my biking up on the biggest sprocket.
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Old 09-14-16, 10:32 AM
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Out of interest, how many miles is this climb, and what is the elevation change and/or average grade?

Given that you didn't make it up last time you tried it, I wonder why your strategy is to try a higher gear? Personally I would go in the lowest gear possible and set the goal of making it up the hill, and at a reasonable cadence (60-80rpm). If you make it, then next time, try going up faster in a higher gear.

My point is, once you've made it up the hill once, that's a big psychological barrier broken. If you fail a second time, that's just compounding on the issues.
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Old 09-14-16, 10:39 AM
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On the plus side, my whole 9 mile ride today was road biking. I wasn't exactly comfortable riding on the roads, but It wasn't too awful.
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Old 09-14-16, 11:04 AM
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Don't get caught up in that "biggest chainring" thing. You need cadence. And you need to save your knees, too!
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Old 09-14-16, 11:18 AM
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Originally Posted by amchef View Post
Don't get caught up in that "biggest chainring" thing. You need cadence. And you need to save your knees, too!
+1

Not necessarily because of the knees, but the common error of relative newbies is using too high a gear in an effort to go faster (or maintain a decent pace at all).

This works for a while on flat terrain because newbies tend to lack the speed needed to pedal at a higher cadence, and even high gear riding is lower load on the legs than walking. But as soon as loads go up, ie. in hill climbing or when higher speeds raises the wind drag, those loads begin to come closer to what's involved in climbing stairs and I don't know anyone who can climb stairs for more than a few minutes.

To the OP --

Train yourself to always ride in gears low enough that you can produce added torque and accelerate if you choose to. If you're at maximum load just maintaining speed, both on flats or climbing, you're in to high a gear.

Riding is like driving, you can shift your car's gears to drive at under 1,000rpm, but your ca will be straining to maintain speed that way, and you'll have zero passing power unless you down shift.
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Old 09-14-16, 11:56 AM
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Originally Posted by NYSteve View Post
Great news. I am going to try it again maybe in one or two gears higher and see what happens. I Am practicing shifting both the chainring (front?) and the sprocket (rear?) I am almost trying not to bottom out on the sprocket before shifting.

Today I did a small ride, very flat, I did most of my pedaling on the biggest chainring. Trying to save some gears as well. I would like to be able to do a good part of my biking up on the biggest sprocket.
What does it matter which gear you're in? Use the gear that's appropriate for the conditions, and one that allows you to maintain an appropriate cadence. Most non-racing mortals would probably agree that somewhere in the 80-90 range is good for flats and maybe 10-20 RPM lower for hills.

Are you saying you slowed and stopped because you could no longer pedal and you had lower gears available? That makes.... no sense. If you have to go slower to get up the hill, go slower to get up the hill.
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Old 09-17-16, 03:37 PM
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Originally Posted by NYSteve View Post
Great news. I am going to try it again maybe in one or two gears higher and see what happens. I Am practicing shifting both the chainring (front?) and the sprocket (rear?) I am almost trying not to bottom out on the sprocket before shifting.

Today I did a small ride, very flat, I did most of my pedaling on the biggest chainring. Trying to save some gears as well. I would like to be able to do a good part of my biking up on the biggest sprocket.
Why do you need to shift both front and rear at the same time? I shift only one at a time, I feel that there is too much of a chance of dropping the chain and I don't want to do that while I am climbing a tough hill because something bad will happen. Try to anticipate the proper gear that you will need before getting to the climb.

And riding in the biggest chainring won't make you faster unless you are spinning in that chainring. get a computer that measures cadence, and keep your cadence in the 60-90 range.
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Old 09-22-16, 07:07 AM
  #23  
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Originally Posted by NYSteve View Post
I woke up at the crack of dawn this morning, shaved, showered, put on my bike shorts, and took my frozen water bottle out of the freezer. I felt good and excited, I was ready to ride my first 35 mile ride. The ride planned would have the majority of the last 12 miles would be down hill, down some nice hills.

I have drove the route. I was okay with road biking at this time of the morning. I figured there wouldn't be much traffic. I have never really ridden much on roads. I ride bike trails and a few streets. So I unload my bike and start on my way. I ride a few blocks, and then I hit "the hill" the mother of a climb I was really really fearful of. I put myself into my lowest gear and I pedal and pedal, I go nowhere fast. I pedaled my ass off and I didn't even make it a quarter of the way up the hill. I had to stop I was out of breath and I was feeling physically ill. I had to stop. I was really angry with myself! I turned around and rode back to my car.

When I got back to my car, I chugged a bottle of water, I ate two cheese sticks, and went on a 20 mile ride. I let my frustration of not being able to make the hill even cut my normal 20 mile ride short by 25%. I hated the ride

I ran out of gears. Am I approaching a hill climb correctly? I generally ride on the highest gear on the middle cog, as I approach a hill I shift down to up my cadence a tad. When I get to the lowest gear on that middle cog, is where I believe I am messing up. I shift the front cog down to the lowest one, and then I am bottomed out. I have no lower gears.

When switching your front cog from middle to low, how do you shift just down one gear? What I am asking if im on:
Front cog is the middle
Rear is on the lowest gear.
How do I down shift one gear so that:
Front cog is now the lowest &
Read cog is now the highest?

The way I shift is: When I hit the lowest gear on the middle cog, I shift down the front gear to the lowest, and I am out of gears. I can only go up.

How do you switch the front down and the rear up at the same time?
I hope I was able to correctly explain my question, and not make a fool of myself because I don't understand shifting very well.
Climbing hills?

Although I do not have a lot of hills in my area, here is what I do:

1) Breathe deeply and consistently;
2) Shift my butt to the rear of the saddle, putting more weight on the rear wheel. Grasp the hoods more firmly and try to draw more power from the core;
3) Stay in as big a gear as possible for as long as possible, removing pressure off the drive train as i need to shift down, rising out of the saddle to gain speed to spin to shift down.
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Old 09-22-16, 05:55 PM
  #24  
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I was listening to a Global Cycling Network (GCN) video on YouTube, and one of the thing they suggested was starting the climb in the gear you expect to be ending the climb.

This may be counter intuitive and you would have a fairly high cadence at the start, diminishing as you go up, but you would not kill yourself. Also, you can always shift to a harder gear if you still have the legs. This is pacing yourself, basically equivalent to holding a set power level if you have a power meter.

I do have a power meter, and lets say I decide to ride at 200W, I will change gears up, or down to maintain that level, which means easier gears on climbs.
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Old 09-22-16, 06:29 PM
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Juan Foote
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Something that I have been working with the wife about in reference to hills, is that she tends to go too low a gear, resulting in a really high cadence. Even without the added strain of the hill, it would be simply rotating her legs at a speed beyond her physical ability to sustain.

The point of it being, slow your legs, slow your speed, and see where you are in a balance between pushing too hard, and pedaling too fast.
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