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What gearing do you guys use for hills?

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What gearing do you guys use for hills?

Old 03-04-15, 09:41 PM
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Alias530
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What gearing do you guys use for hills?

I live in a mostly flat area but 30 miles away there's plenty of 10-15% grades and 25%+ grades offroad. I climb pretty decently on my mountain bike but I just recently started going out to the hills to road bike and I'm getting killed.

I have a 34/50 compact with 12-25 cassette. I was just reading the suggestions on a century ride with a ton of climbing and they suggest 39x28 gearing for this extreme climbing event. That's harder gearing than what I have!

I'm in good shape... I can go on 70-80 mile rides and average 20mph, but at my weight (6'6" 240lbs) the hills just kill me on the road with the harder gearing. My easiest mountain bike gear is 30x40 and my easiest road gear is 34x25.
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Old 03-04-15, 09:56 PM
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50/34 with 11/28 is my normal setup... I have a few rides planned in the 100+miles with 9k climbing.. and one of the climbs comes late in the ride and really taxed me last year.. I almost walked.... going to a 11/30 for that event this year.. extra bailout gear
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Old 03-04-15, 10:05 PM
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48/34 12/32
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Old 03-04-15, 10:09 PM
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Originally Posted by TGT1 View Post
48/34 12/32
My cross bike is 46/34 and 11/32, I like it but need the smaller gearing steps for road.
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Old 03-04-15, 10:09 PM
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I have 28/38/48 and 13-34 cassette. I hate hills, and that's why I'm the first one at the top My gearing is easy for the hills if I want to be a turtle, but it would kill me if I had to keep looking at that top of the hill for longer than it's needed. Faster is better...I always explain to new riding buddies that I will be waiting for them at the top...otherwise they would think I'm an show off and an ass
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Old 03-04-15, 10:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Alias530 View Post
My cross bike is 46/34 and 11/32, I like it but need the smaller gearing steps for road.
That's exactly why I went to a 48 big ring and a 12/32 Nice small steps between 16-25 mph. Yer' still goin' over 30mph to spin out the 48-12

48 big rings are rare as hens teeth though. Bought three when I found some.
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Old 03-04-15, 11:35 PM
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I am down to a regular compact now (50/34) and 3 different cassettes depending....

11-26 for general duty / flattish riding or short hills (< 10 min)
11-28 will tackle just about anything, including 1+ hour hills
11-32 really will tackle anything - I put this one on for special rides, like trying the mt Baldy ski lifts or the Palm Springs tramway. If my garmin says 15% this is the cassette I want on.

The trick for long rides like a century is that it is always nice to have an easier gear than you might normally have because you just get tired after a while. Go find yourself a 12-28 cassette, they're cheap enough and you will probably appreciate that 28 cog at some point during your ride. 3 teeth isn't a lot until it's the difference between your heart rate blowing up and you keeping pedaling.
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Old 03-04-15, 11:38 PM
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48/38/28 with an 11-32. The spacing between gears isn't great, but I'm not too ashamed to admit that 28-32 combo has come in handy!
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Old 03-04-15, 11:38 PM
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current setups

roadie 53/39 x 11/25
cx 50/36 x 12/27
xc mtb 38/24 x 12/36
xc singlespeed 32x19
am mtb 44/32/24 x 12/36
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Old 03-05-15, 12:18 AM
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50/34 with 11-32
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Old 03-05-15, 04:20 AM
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I also have 50/34 w/ 11-32 cassette on my commuter. Lets me tackle my hilly commute, even when dead tired at the end of the day and loaded down with a backpack full of gear.

Using this same set up every year to tackle five mountain passes on a very challenging century (125 miles and 15k of climbing).


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Old 03-05-15, 07:47 AM
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50/34 w 11-32 cassette on the road bike (700 x 25)
44/32/22 w 11-32 on the gravel grinder (700 x 32-40)
44/32/22 w 11-32 on the MTB (26 x 2.3)

I'm a 50+ Clyde from the flatlands so hills are not my strong suit, but I'm getting better. The road bike setup is great but leaves me wanting one more gear when I get into the steeper climbs out in lakes country. I'm sure when I am stronger and lighter, the current gearing will be excellent. The gravel grinder and MTB are both excellent climbers.

Last edited by GravelMN; 03-05-15 at 08:03 AM.
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Old 03-05-15, 08:10 AM
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I just consulted a gear inch calculator. your lowest gear, 34 x 25 is 35.9 gear inches, assuming you use 25 mm tires. That might be a decent climbing gear for someone 170 lbs, but a bit difficult for me at 230 to 250 lbs. My lowest gear is 26 x 25, which is 28 gear inches at the tire size I use. And frankly, I am considering going with a wider range cassette, or more like 25, or even 23 gear inches. Most of the hills around my area are known quanitities and I am reasonably comfortable handling them with my current gearing, but there are group rides that go out to areas that are a bit more challenging, and I think it might be good to have an extra bailout gear, or two. With your compact double, you would need to go with something like an 11 - 32 cassette to get down to 28 gear inches.
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Old 03-05-15, 09:58 AM
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My road bike has a 50/34 crank with 11-28 cassette. With a little training under my belt, that setup will get me over all but the steepest climbs.

My touring bike uses a 26/36/48 crank and 11-28 cassette if I'm carrying gear. If I'm just riding around town I'll swap a 30/39/52 crank onto the touring bike.
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Old 03-05-15, 10:04 AM
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Originally Posted by Alias530 View Post
I live in a mostly flat area but 30 miles away there's plenty of 10-15% grades and 25%+ grades offroad. I climb pretty decently on my mountain bike but I just recently started going out to the hills to road bike and I'm getting killed.

I have a 34/50 compact with 12-25 cassette. I was just reading the suggestions on a century ride with a ton of climbing and they suggest 39x28 gearing for this extreme climbing event. That's harder gearing than what I have!

I'm in good shape... I can go on 70-80 mile rides and average 20mph, but at my weight (6'6" 240lbs) the hills just kill me on the road with the harder gearing. My easiest mountain bike gear is 30x40 and my easiest road gear is 34x25.
On my cross bike (which I use for road riding), I have a 46/34 up front (note, this was a 46/36, but I changed the small chainring to a 34 to give me more ability to climb). In the rear I used either a 11-28 or a 12-30, depending on whether I'm doing a bunch of hills!
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Old 03-05-15, 11:28 AM
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My road bike has a compact crank 50/34. I have a variety of cassettes:
12-25
11-28
12-30

My normal, at least last year plus has been the 11-28. I like the 28 for descents. My CX bike has a 46/36 btw.

This Strava segment that I climbed last weekend although rather short is killer steep in places however I had no problems with my 12-25 cassette climbing it and actually had a little extra at the top to raise the pace. This has me rethinking my cassette choice. I may change to an 11-25 or 11-26(Sram) for everyday use. For rides where climbing is a big part of the route I'll use a wheel with an 11-28 mounted.

it has been my thought that most riders adapt to what they have and my experience last weekend seems to support that. Granted a larger cog would have been more comfortable on the hill climb. The difference between 10 speed cassettes seems to be in the largest three cogs given either an 11 or 12 small cog, with the midway cogs the same. Given this it does make sense to go with the widest range your RD can accommodate. Then just choose between an 11 or a 16. For me given the jump between 15-17 is not too severe the occasional usefullness of an 11 makes the trade worth it.
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Old 03-05-15, 11:44 AM
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I don't have it on the bike yet, but I am in the process of upgrading to 5800 105 with 34/50 up front and 11-32 (11 speed) in the back.

I charted out the speed at a couple different cadence to get an idea of the gaps. I had a triple before.

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Old 03-05-15, 11:53 AM
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I mostly ride a 42/32/22 crank with an 11-32 cassette driving 700x35 tires on my hybrid. Laast year I lowered the gearing because I had real troubles with almost any hill at my weight.

I am working on a 1x8 setup on another hybrid, and it will probably be a 34 tooth matched to an 11-34 cassette with 26" wheels/tires.

My touring bike (which isn't setup for touring, but for easy road riding) has a 50/34 crank and 11-32 10 speed cassette driving 27" wheels/tires. I'm not sure how this will do on real climbs, but it is the only drop bar bike currently in my fleet of riders.
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Old 03-05-15, 11:53 AM
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Currently have 38/26 on my offroad/bike camping bike that I use for commuting with 11-34, no problem on any steep hills.

My road bike has 43/28 with 11-32, no problems either. Never have to shift down around my area unless the climb is sustained for more than a couple of miles
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Old 03-05-15, 12:03 PM
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I use 53/39 chainrings and 11-25 or 12-27 11spd for hills...but what's a hill? To me, hills are short climbs that rarely take more than 5 or 6 minutes (.2 to 1.5mi), so I can tackle grades with pitches like 24% with that gearing ok. I train down in Bloomington, IN every spring, and there of lots of those kinds of hills down there, climbs like Bean Blossom, Griffy, Boltinghouse, The Wall, and Firehouse. If I had to climb a mountain for an hour, well, I dunno...I suppose if it was 5% that'd be ok, but 11% would have me needing more gear, probably. I haven't ridden the mountains in a couple of years; last long climb I did was in '13 along a 2.9mile, 5% avg grade topping out at 12% and gaining 726ft, which I did in 20mins on a 39/25 including a stop to put my heart back in my chest. A little more gearing would have helped then, but I'm sure I'm in better shape today and wouldn't hesitate to clean that now.

The nice thing is that you rarely have to sacrifice anything to get some extra climbing coverage, so if you go with a wide range cassette, it's not like you're going to be getting dropped on the flats, but you've got the bailout gear if you need/want it.

Last edited by chaadster; 03-05-15 at 12:07 PM.
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Old 03-05-15, 12:46 PM
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We must be talking about "UP" hills. I'm fine in any gear on a down hill... I don't even pedal. 50/34 12-27. Right now, I don't think I could make it up several of the steeper hills in the area with that gearing. Gotta ride more, and gotta lose 20+ pounds.
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Old 03-05-15, 12:56 PM
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Just got a smaller little ring for really hilly rides, so
26/42/52 and 11-26.

The flat to moderately hilly bike has 52/39 and 13-27.
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Old 03-05-15, 08:43 PM
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As @chaadster said, it really depends on what kind of hills we're talking about. In my area, there's plenty of hills, but they're not really that high nor long compared to some other people's hills. Long slow grinds kill me because we don't really have many of them close to us. When I had my previous bike, I was riding 39/53 with a 25/12 cassette. I toiled for a long time wishing for that extra gear on the odd occasion. So when I went and upgraded 2 years ago, I made sure I got a 28/11 cassette. Ya know what, I'd spent so much time working on the 25/39, that once I finally had the 28t, I rarely ever used it. In fact I reckon you could easily count on 2 hands the number of times I've actually used the 28t. So when the cassette wore out, I went back to a 25-11.

Go and head into the hills as often as possible. They're going to hurt just purely due to your size. You're pretty damn close in size to me, I'm 6'5" and 110kg now, coming down from up to 140kg, but for the last 2 years I've been hovering around 120kg. Go and ride the hills up to the point you can't anymore, turn around and cruise down, and when you get to the bottom, turn around and have another go. Rinse and repeat for 4-5 times and head home. Doing this will give you a whole lot of improvement in a very short amount of time. I do this very thing in the leadup to our interclub races as there's some killer hills and there's some longer climbs, and the hill repeats is about all I can do that's close to home to help me.

But aside from just getting stronger, you may need a second backup cassette for venturing on the longer climbs, so perhaps you should invest in a 28/11 or even something like a 32/11, but you might need a new rear deraileur to handle the 32t.
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Old 03-06-15, 08:21 AM
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50-34 compact with 11-32, 11 speed cassette. I was worried about the gaps between the gears but turns out I don't really notice them. If shimano comes out with an 11speed 12-32 I'd be all over it though because I almost never use the 11 tooth.
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Old 03-06-15, 09:40 AM
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Originally Posted by TrojanHorse View Post
I am down to a regular compact now (50/34) and 3 different cassettes depending....

11-26 for general duty / flattish riding or short hills (< 10 min)
11-28 will tackle just about anything, including 1+ hour hills
11-32 really will tackle anything - I put this one on for special rides, like trying the mt Baldy ski lifts or the Palm Springs tramway. If my garmin says 15% this is the cassette I want on.

The trick for long rides like a century is that it is always nice to have an easier gear than you might normally have because you just get tired after a while. Go find yourself a 12-28 cassette, they're cheap enough and you will probably appreciate that 28 cog at some point during your ride. 3 teeth isn't a lot until it's the difference between your heart rate blowing up and you keeping pedaling.
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