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What makes a bike a "climbing" bike?

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What makes a bike a "climbing" bike?

Old 07-15-20, 01:48 PM
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rbrides
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What makes a bike a "climbing" bike?

The new TREK SL6 PRO has a drive train of 52/36 chain rings and rear cassette with max 30T gear. That is a 1.2 ratio. They market it as "This upgrade makes it a worthy choice for any ride, from sprints on your local roads to pro stage races to hill climbing competitions." That just seems like not as low a ratio by today's standards for climbing. Maybe 1.2 is well suited for younger, lighter weight riders but is seems underwhelming to me. I'm currently on a bike with a 48/32 chain rings and cassette with 34T for a .94 ratio.

What are typical gear ratios for climbing these days?
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Old 07-15-20, 02:57 PM
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I have a Emonda SLR with a compact crank (50/34) and a 11-28 cassette. While i've not ridden the Aps but what I have ridden i've not had to walk up yet.
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Old 07-15-20, 03:01 PM
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The rider is what makes the bike a climbing bike, it's all about the rider.
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Old 07-15-20, 03:22 PM
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Originally Posted by wolfchild View Post
The rider is what makes the bike a climbing bike, it's all about the rider.
That and the hidden motor. 😀
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Old 07-15-20, 03:25 PM
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Originally Posted by rbrides View Post
The new TREK SL6 PRO has a drive train of 52/36 chain rings and rear cassette with max 30T gear. That is a 1.2 ratio. They market it as "This upgrade makes it a worthy choice for any ride, from sprints on your local roads to pro stage races to hill climbing competitions." That just seems like not as low a ratio by today's standards for climbing. Maybe 1.2 is well suited for younger, lighter weight riders but is seems underwhelming to me. I'm currently on a bike with a 48/32 chain rings and cassette with 34T for a .94 ratio.

What are typical gear ratios for climbing these days?
In a road context, "climbing bike" doesn't refer to the gear ratios, it's a marketing term to distinguish framesets that are less optimized toward aerodynamics than "aero bikes." This tends to result in them being lighter, and especially when aero road frames were a very immature technology, could perhaps lend them advantages in how they felt to ride.

As far as what's typical, who cares? Use whatever gears you have use for. Different riders in different terrain have vastly different needs.
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Old 07-15-20, 04:15 PM
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the rider
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Old 07-15-20, 04:20 PM
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Originally Posted by wolfchild View Post
The rider is what makes the bike a climbing bike, it's all about the rider.
This. I have friends who use SS bikes for gravel races that have over 100' of climbing per mile average, with grades over 20%. And they clear the climbs, even though I sometimes get off and push my 11sp bike with its 31-34 low gear.
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Old 07-15-20, 04:37 PM
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My hill climb PR's, and by that I mean long, steep gradient climbs, are all from riding my 5.8kg Wilier, a bike with aero wheels and forks but otherwise optimised only for weight reduction. It accelerates very quickly albeit not a great bike for powerful sprints but great for climbing; super stiff, ultra responsive.

It is a very different ride with a night and day feel compared to my heavier aero bike with which I definitely sprint and TT better on; Strava times prove this. While obviously the engine is the single most important aspect of cycling, it is false to claim that the bike itself makes no difference. Like most, I am demonstrably faster on a lighter bike than a heavier, aero bike on steep, long climbs local to me - circa 6 - 20+%, 8 - 24km. Same engine, different bikes, each optimised for different goals. The time differences aren't big, they are small, sometimes down to a second or two, sometimes nearly a minute. Enough to make a difference if you chase such fine margins.

​I have a compact 50/34 on both, as is my preference nowadays.
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Old 07-15-20, 04:42 PM
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I like this story. He looked at that year's upcoming hill climb circuit, looked at Strava data of those routes, and determined he could be competative with a fixie. Built a custom fixie for that specific set of hill climb races.


The moral is, optimal gearing depends on the course.
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Old 07-15-20, 05:07 PM
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I don't like the 50/34 compact crank for climbing. The 46/30 sub compact crank isn't much better, and I run a 10-42 cassette. The 30T front chain ring paired with the 42T cassette low gear will enable most hill climbs even with luggage, but transitioning from the small chain ring to the large chain ring, downshifting the cassette, is a bit problematic when going uphill. I have bikes with 1x11, 30T or 32T chain ring and 11-46 cassette or more recently, 9-46 cassette. 1x11 or 1x12 and a big cassette is what you need, IMHO.

If you visit flatland, bring a 42T chain ring and a longer chain.
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Old 07-15-20, 05:10 PM
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CAT7RDR
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Fresh legs always make my bikes better climbers.
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Old 07-15-20, 08:38 PM
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All you people who are writing about gearing are ignoring a crucial element: gradient.

I used to do some big climbing events in Colorado, where I rode them quite well with 53-39 in front and 12-25 in back. Out there, the grades tend to be lower and the climbs longer, so taller gears work fine.

Now I live in western Pennsylvania, where the climbs are shorter but very very steep - I’ve climbed a hill that has a max grade of 37%. Lower gears are essential.
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Old 07-15-20, 08:49 PM
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ofajen
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Originally Posted by Koyote View Post
All you people who are writing about gearing are ignoring a crucial element: gradient.

I used to do some big climbing events in Colorado, where I rode them quite well with 53-39 in front and 12-25 in back. Out there, the grades tend to be lower and the climbs longer, so taller gears work fine.

Now I live in western Pennsylvania, where the climbs are shorter but very very steep - Iíve climbed a hill that has a max grade of 37%. Lower gears are essential.
Yeah, Iíve been in Pennsylvania. Serious hills! We have some steep ones here, especially the close ones tumbling to the Missouri River, but maximum surface relief of maybe 200 feet. My low ratios on both bikes are 1.5 and there are some hills that beat me up, but at least they are over after at worst five minutes.

My favorites are the nice steady grades at 5-6%. Those I can just attack and finish off at decent speed and not need much recovery. But yeah the grade matters!

Otto
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Old 07-15-20, 08:57 PM
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In my mid 20s I climbed fast. Won a couple hill climbs, did well at a lot of steep races. My bike was 53/39 and 11-23 most of the time. I had a "climbing" cog at 12-25 I'd occasionally run, like if it was crazy steep. I borrowed a 12-27 that everyone was talking about and hated it. Too low.

Fast forward 15 years. I have gained one pound I think. But boy have I lost some muscle and lungs. My road bike is 50/34 and 12-30. It's very low and excellent climbing. I don't think I'd want to go lower for a road bike.

My gravel is 40x42 at the lowest but when you factor in much bigger tires, it's only a few gear inches less than the road bike. I'd love to try 36x42 with a 10 tooth high cog. It's very cost prohibitive on my build to do that though.

My vintage Spectrum has 53/42 and 13-24 6 speed. I'm not sure it was ever considered a climber, but I use every gear on every ride. That's pretty cool.

I have a local monster, 3500' in 8 miles. 3000 in the first 5. I've been up it with a mountain bike at 20 GI, a gravel at 26GI, and road at 30GI. The speed is approximately 8 minutes faster with each bike. Probably due to the weight, 18, 22, and 26 lbs, not the gearing.
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Old 07-16-20, 04:44 AM
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Originally Posted by thehammerdog View Post
the rider
In the context of the bike I'm gonna disagree. Given the same rider and gear train, a bike that is a lb lighter than another bike is the climbing bike. This is why GCN and others compare aero bikes and "climbing bikes."
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Old 07-16-20, 07:31 AM
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ofajen
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Originally Posted by bruce19 View Post
In the context of the bike I'm gonna disagree. Given the same rider and gear train, a bike that is a lb lighter than another bike is the climbing bike. This is why GCN and others compare aero bikes and "climbing bikes."
Yeah, the gravity term is giMs (the product of gravity, incline, total mass and riding speed).

Uphill this term dominates, so extra weight on the bike makes a difference proportional to the increase in total mass of cycle and rider.

So in my case with roughly 200 pounds of cycle and rider, every pound is about a 0.5% difference.

I guess I would add, though that if you are climbing at 15 mph, aero resistance might still matter at some comparable level of variation so it may not be fully negligible. Iíve never done any calculation on that sort of thing.

Otto
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Old 07-16-20, 08:40 AM
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When I was younger I had a bike with a 52-36 crank I used on hilly countryside rides...

Then when taking self supported tours I put a triple crank on ..
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Old 07-16-20, 09:04 AM
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Originally Posted by wolfchild View Post
The rider is what makes the bike a climbing bike, it's all about the rider.
^this is really it. No bike will make you a better climber. Only you can make yourself a better climber. It's hard work. Lose every ounce that you don't need on your body.

Now, for any particular rider, there will be certain bikes that climb faster. What are the factors? Weight and fit. Tires. Wheels. Gearing would be low on the list.
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Old 07-16-20, 09:41 AM
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the hill
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Old 07-16-20, 09:45 AM
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Originally Posted by Phil_gretz View Post
^this is really it. No bike will make you a better climber. Only you can make yourself a better climber. It's hard work. Lose every ounce that you don't need on your body.

Now, for any particular rider, there will be certain bikes that climb faster. What are the factors? Weight and fit. Tires. Wheels. Gearing would be low on the list.

It stands to reason that the stronger and fitter you are, the better/faster you will be - this applies to pretty much anything. The discussion is about the bikes themselves, not human engine fitness/strength/diet programmes. The human engine is not the subject here - we have to take it as read that the engine is the same engine but that the bikes are different and if one is a better climber or not than another.

The answer is that specific bikes can make you a better climber in terms of time against the clock. A lighter, more aero bike ridden by the same person will result in a faster time than if that same person rode a heavier, less aero machine - assuming same gearing too, to suit the ability of the human engine. Ergo, the former is a better climbing bike. Naturally, the time gains will vary too according to engine ability and this also equates to how much of a benefit the climbing bike can offer.
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Old 07-16-20, 10:57 AM
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Originally Posted by ofajen View Post
Yeah, Iíve been in Pennsylvania. Serious hills!
Earlier this year, I took a trip to Ohioplye and mapped a loop to Salisbury with a dip into Maryland using local roads.
I wont lie. It was the hardest 89 miles of my life. 10K+ft of climbing. I thought my 18bs 34tx28t bike would handle the hills. For the first couple climbs, to include Sugarloaf Rd, my legs and gearing worked fine. But then it was hill after hill, after hill, after hill, after......
After the climb south of Salisbury and the start of my climb into Grantsville, I had become completely demoralized.

I think I would have had a much easier time with my triple crankset aluminum bike running a 30t chainring and a 32t cassette.
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Old 07-17-20, 02:11 PM
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Originally Posted by AlgarveCycling View Post
It stands to reason that the stronger and fitter you are, the better/faster you will be - this applies to pretty much anything. The discussion is about the bikes themselves, not human engine fitness/strength/diet programmes. The human engine is not the subject here - we have to take it as read that the engine is the same engine but that the bikes are different and if one is a better climber or not than another.

The answer is that specific bikes can make you a better climber in terms of time against the clock. A lighter, more aero bike ridden by the same person will result in a faster time than if that same person rode a heavier, less aero machine - assuming same gearing too, to suit the ability of the human engine. Ergo, the former is a better climbing bike. Naturally, the time gains will vary too according to engine ability and this also equates to how much of a benefit the climbing bike can offer.
Thanks for "getting" it. And thanks for your reply.
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Old 07-17-20, 07:06 PM
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Does it go up a hill? Climbing bike.

On a more serious note, it tends to be a bike that is lighter weight and has maybe easier gears for getting up hills. Less about aerodynamic gains and more about weight.

For the British hill climbing stuff it tends to be as light as possible and fit within the rules. Some people eschew bar tape and cut down bars and things like that to make it as light as possible as they don't need to follow UCI ruling. I have heard of people using track tubulars which are super light and not puncture resistant for that. For non-fixed bikes I believe you need two brakes and for fixed bikes you only need one with the rear wheel acting as a "brake"
Here is some info on one BHC bike:
https://www.bikeradar.com/features/p...ll-climb-bike/
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Old 07-17-20, 08:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Koyote View Post
All you people who are writing about gearing are ignoring a crucial element: gradient.

I used to do some big climbing events in Colorado, where I rode them quite well with 53-39 in front and 12-25 in back. Out there, the grades tend to be lower and the climbs longer, so taller gears work fine.

Now I live in western Pennsylvania, where the climbs are shorter but very very steep - I’ve climbed a hill that has a max grade of 37%. Lower gears are essential.

Grew up there. Lived on steep brick road that cars would spin on in the rain. I had a 46/14 single speed and you just got out of the saddle a lot. That was MANY years ago.

Last edited by u235; 07-17-20 at 08:15 PM.
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Old 07-17-20, 09:24 PM
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As in everything, hill climbing is very personal. You have to fit the bike/gearing to the rider and the hill. There are physiologically gifted climbers. They will have a different set up than a roulleur. There are different hills. That will help decide your gearing. The main constant will probably always be weight.
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