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What makes a great climbing bike?

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What makes a great climbing bike?

Old 04-16-20, 01:36 PM
  #1  
RockiesDad
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What makes a great climbing bike?

Okay we all know that wheels/tires combo, a weight weenie bike and not to exclude the engine riding it makes any bike climb hills better. But what else is there on a bike that makes it a good climber? My guess is probably the frame geometry and stiffness in places that matter. So where are these magic areas? Is it shorter chain stays, shorter wheel base, huge BB etc? By looking at a geo chart, what would give me an indication its a good climbing bike, if there is such a thing? What characteristics do the pros look for when riding long and steep climbs? Just wondering...
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Old 04-16-20, 02:12 PM
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HTupolev
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The big ones are adequate gearing, light weight, and a good climbing posture.
Adequate gearing is probably the most oft-neglected thing in the road world. Bottoming out your gearing can cost a lot of power, even if you're trying to ride hard.

Tire rolling resistance matters, albeit usually less so than on flat ground.

On unpaved surfaces, short chainstays can be helpful in keeping the rear wheel planted, especially when getting out of the saddle (people usually bring their weight forward and pedal with more choppiness when riding out of the saddle). Beyond that, geometric factors across production bikes are usually minor enough to not matter overly much: a road bike with a 68-degree head angle and 90mm of trail would feel pretty floppy when you're rocking the bike around, but nobody makes road bikes like that.

Marketing and tradition would hold that a huge amount of stiffness is important for climbing due to power transfer, but the reality seems to be more complicated. You'll notice that nobody ever publishes measurements of the purported losses, and furthermore, it's not obvious that bicycle reviewers really know what they're talking about where stiffness is concerned.
There is some evidence that frame flex can have meaningful physiological interaction with a rider's pedaling. This isn't well-understood, but it doesn't seem to be as simple as stiffer = better.
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Old 04-16-20, 02:27 PM
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Provided they fit there is very little difference in how bikes of the same weight climb. Obviously lighter bikes go up a little faster. Stiffness, wheelbase etc are all pretty much irrelevant.
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Old 04-16-20, 02:36 PM
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Combo tires, wheels and less weight. Thats it
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Old 04-16-20, 02:49 PM
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The rider.
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Old 04-16-20, 03:15 PM
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Old 04-16-20, 09:07 PM
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Light weight and big gears. When I was racing, we had special bikes we used to ride in mountain stages. These had lighter wheels, latex tube, lighter tires, and larger sprockets on the freewheel, and we carried as little as we could get away with. The worst of the climbs was the Alto Angliru in Spain, where some riders used triples and mountain bike cassettes. In those days pretty much every bike used Campy components, so our driveline options were limited.
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Old 04-16-20, 09:27 PM
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A compact feeling bike/frame. I've found a one size smaller frame seems to do it...
outside of the things already mentioned.
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Old 04-16-20, 10:45 PM
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Agreed that a properly sized (or slightly small) frame feels much more nimble when the road points upward compared to a long, stretched out bike. Also, a head tube that is at the right angle (with a matched fork and corresponding rake) which feels stable out of the saddle at lower speeds whilst you’re stomping away, out of the saddle, clawing your way up the steepest grade any man has ever had the guts to scale, all the while swearing, sweating and spitting, determined to get that KOM this time... well, lads, *THAT* is what makes a bike a great climber. That, and a couple of sinewy, monstrous thighs.
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Old 04-17-20, 06:45 AM
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A great climbing bike is the easy part. Lightweight, nimble, tight wheelbase, proper gearing. A great climber is an entirely different story. Think Egan Bernal... Slight, wiry, blessed with the right ratio of slow / fast twitch muscle fiber, large lung capacity, and a high VO2 Max. Some of us climb all the time, but have nothing but slow twitch and naturally well developed aZZes... I do the sweating, swearing, spitting determination part with the best of them, but that KOM still remains a minute out of my grasp - and that's pushing up to 375-400 watts. Ces't la vie...
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Old 04-17-20, 07:28 AM
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A bike with a motor!
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Old 04-17-20, 05:10 PM
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A friend of mine was on a team sponsored by Bridgestone. CAT 2 level racing out in Colorado. Their mountain stage bikes were simply standard geometry with the exception of shorter chain stays. Gearing was lower and lighter wheels. That was it.

My personal favorite climber is the V11 Moto Guzzi parked in my garage. Really climbs well! Aside from that my touring bike is next favorite climber due to the low gearing options available. Will be putting a 36/50 crank on the road bike this summer (new frame) and will compare that to the touring rig for climbing.
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Old 04-17-20, 08:17 PM
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Originally Posted by RockiesDad View Post
Okay we all know that wheels/tires combo, a weight weenie bike and not to exclude the engine riding it makes any bike climb hills better. But what else is there on a bike that makes it a good climber? My guess is probably the frame geometry and stiffness in places that matter. So where are these magic areas? Is it shorter chain stays, shorter wheel base, huge BB etc? By looking at a geo chart, what would give me an indication its a good climbing bike, if there is such a thing? What characteristics do the pros look for when riding long and steep climbs? Just wondering...
a small light fellow with big lungs and powerful legs.
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Old 04-17-20, 08:35 PM
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For the other 90% like myself who have no aspirations of ever racing or grabbing a KOM, a bike that tracks well, is solid on the descents, and I can ride all day in comfort, is a great climbing bike. Oh yeah, give me adequate gearing with a lazy susan cassette and compact crank set to get my bellowing carcass over the top as I heave.
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Old 04-18-20, 03:22 PM
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Fredo_Adagio
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It's the rider.

The gradient has to be severe for the bike to make much of a difference.


That being said, the gearing is important. I like the third chainring on my touring bike.
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Old 04-19-20, 06:27 AM
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I am sorry but I will be the flamer here.....other than some of the things posted here it comes down to the rider and their physical condition. I can see a pro or even an good amateur on a GMC Denali < el piece of junk in my book, outride many up a climb on a tour riders highest of high end < simpleton terms there, bike that is even dialed in for the weekend warrior.

Yes, there are many things that go into that right mix but ultimately if you have the genetics of a climber, then a Sears CroMo frame will be better than anything of professional status to a weekend warrior.

I would say get out and ride and train for climbs and they will come easier. Bottom line, people hate climbs but love the back side of one. I like a rolling terrain rather than constant flats as they are boring. Extreme climbs......shooooo, glad they only happen every so often.
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