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Need a lower first gear for hills

Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

Need a lower first gear for hills

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Old 01-06-19, 03:15 PM
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Robert A
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Need a lower first gear for hills

I'm struggling on grades >6% and really need a lower first gear. Bike is a 2019 Cannondale CAAD12 with OPI Spidering 52/36 in front and an Ultegra R8000 11/30 cassette in rear.

1. Do I replace the cassette, with perhaps an 11/34? Replacing the cassette would also require a derailleur replacement. Compared to the 11/30 I already have, the 11/34 has a 13% lower first gear.
2. Or do I replace the chainrings to 50/34, which is expensive because it's the OPI Spidering? Going from a 52/36 to a 50/34 gets me a 6% lower first gear, which doesn't seem like much.
3. Or do I live with stock gearing and focus on leg strengthening?

Comments and suggestions would be appreciated.
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Old 01-06-19, 03:28 PM
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Getting a long-cage derailleur and going 11-34 seems the best option of what you have suggested. Another option is keeping your derailleur and adding a Wolf's Tooth hanger. If you do any of that you will need to lengthen your chain a little.

I would consider going for one of the new clutched derailleurs, because (as I understand it) they lessen the problems caused by a longer chain when it is slack (running small ring and smallish cogs for instance.) I must confess I haven't done all the research on the newest Shimano group sets---I don't need them so I haven't looked that hard.

But changing the cassette, derailleur and chain all together ought to cost less that a new crank set---and if you have extremely odd proprietary chain rings, I would definitely consider something more generic (like Shimano) if I was going to buy a whole new crank set. I wouldn't change what came with the bike for no reason, but if I had to change .....

But, yeah, your best bet seem to be changing things out back. I think you might be able to squeeze 11x36 out of a Shimano long cage derailleur. Also look into a Wolf's Tooth as an option.
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Old 01-06-19, 03:41 PM
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Robert A
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Replacing the OPI Spidering is just the chainrings, not the entire crank, though it does cost $250 new. Can I do this, go with an 11/32 cassette and avoid both the derailleur replacement and the chain lengthening? Probably a question for Shimano, but I thought I'd ask here as well.

How do most road cyclists climb hills anyway with 11/30 or 11/28 that come standard on most roadbikes?

Originally Posted by Maelochs View Post
Getting a long-cage derailleur and going 11-34 seems the best option of what you have suggested. Another option is keeping your derailleur and adding a Wolf's Tooth hanger. If you do any of that you will need to lengthen your chain a little.

I would consider going for one of the new clutched derailleurs, because (as I understand it) they lessen the problems caused by a longer chain when it is slack (running small ring and smallish cogs for instance.) I must confess I haven't done all the research on the newest Shimano group sets---I don't need them so I haven't looked that hard.

But changing the cassette, derailleur and chain all together ought to cost less that a new crank set---and if you have extremely odd proprietary chain rings, I would definitely consider something more generic (like Shimano) if I was going to buy a whole new crank set. I wouldn't change what came with the bike for no reason, but if I had to change .....

But, yeah, your best bet seem to be changing things out back. I think you might be able to squeeze 11x36 out of a Shimano long cage derailleur. Also look into a Wolf's Tooth as an option.
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Old 01-06-19, 03:48 PM
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Get a 11-34 and a hanger extension. Shouldn’t be more than 60 dollars. I have a 50-34 with a 11-34 on my felt and never had issues climbing 10-15% grade in the lowest gear I’m also a heavier rider.
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Old 01-06-19, 04:31 PM
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Quite a bit of options. R8000 GS can run 11-34 natively or possibly up to 11-40 or 42 with/without a roadlink.

Personally I have an 11-36T rear with a 46/36 front. Have a set of 46/30 rings that I am going to replace the front with to help with 20-30% grades offroad.

If I were you I'd put a 50/34 front (48/32 is even better) and an 11-36 rear and you should be able to do 99% of the paved roads in LA.
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Old 01-06-19, 04:36 PM
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I use a RX8050 with a Roadlink and run an 11-42 on the climbing bike. Seems to work just fine.
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Old 01-06-19, 05:26 PM
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Just get a 34 chainring and go with a 34-52. A good friend of mine runs this on his domane w/ ultegra.
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Old 01-06-19, 05:56 PM
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I think with the OPI, the rings are sold as a pair.
Originally Posted by RShantz View Post
Just get a 34 chainring and go with a 34-52. A good friend of mine runs this on his domane w/ ultegra.
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Old 01-06-19, 06:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Robert A View Post
I think with the OPI, the rings are sold as a pair.
Sorry, I'm clueless on those cranks. Guess I should have kept my mouth shut.
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Old 01-06-19, 06:14 PM
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From your postings, you sound rather new to cycling and hills. I'd give it a chance with your current set up before giving up on your current set up and wasting cash. IMO, a 36/30 is a pretty low gear. I think you need to train more in hills after reading your other post about nutrition.

The more you do hills, the stronger you will get and the more comfortable you will be with your current gearing.
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Old 01-06-19, 06:58 PM
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It's good advice, and one option I considered (hence the 3rd option). I've been cycling regularly for 3 years, though only 3 months on a road bike, and only recently have I begun training for an upcoming Century.

Are you comfortable climbing 8-10% grades with standard roadbike gearing?


Originally Posted by GuessWhoCycling View Post
From your postings, you sound rather new to cycling and hills. I'd give it a chance with your current set up before giving up on your current set up and wasting cash. IMO, a 36/30 is a pretty low gear. I think you need to train more in hills after reading your other post about nutrition.

The more you do hills, the stronger you will get and the more comfortable you will be with your current gearing.
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Old 01-06-19, 07:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Robert A View Post
It's good advice, and one option I considered (hence the 3rd option). I've been cycling regularly for 3 years, though only 3 months on a road bike, and only recently have I begun training for an upcoming Century.

Are you comfortable climbing 8-10% grades with standard roadbike gearing?
I have completed centuries with 10,000- 12,000 ft elevation gains climbing up to Big Bear on a standard double set up. 53/39 chain rings and 12/26 cassette. Look up Breathless Agony if you are into searching centuries in our local area.

Climbed Mt Baldy Rd, 16% grades with the standard double. Some of my training rides were 5,000-7,000 ft gain climbing to Baldy via GMR, back down to the bottom then back up to the shack.

Yes, Forrest Falls, didn't have a Garmin at that time but other forum members said it was a 20% grade, I think Stava has it at a 16% but either way, much better than a 6% grade.

You have a 36/30 set up, much lower than what I was using. I started out thinking 6% was tough. Got used to climbing and after more time on the climbs, I look for 7% grades to recover ha ha!

I've done the Solvang Century as well, piece of cake. I hear horror stories of the THE WALL! Same with the Amtrak century and Torrey Pines. Did some riding up GMR and other mountains, got used to climbing, then did the rides wondering where the BIG HILLS were.

I say get some time under your belt first if you have not concentrated on hills. You don't have to finish an 8 mile climb the first time. Go a little further each time till you get up to the top. then when you do Solvang, you'll laugh at the hills.

A 230 lb Clydesdale, I also did this ride 4 times over the years. 100 miles, 10,000 ft gain placing #123 out of 400 entries on the timed event. 7:10 ride time. 7:38 official total time including breaks.

On a standard double 53/39- 12/26. Pretty nice considering when I started, I thought a one mile 5% was killer.



Well heck, here is the BA profile as well. Did it on a standard 39 front and 26 rear set up.




Here is a profile of Oak Glen. Some points of 8, 9,10, 11 to 13%....and that is the first part of the ride on Breathless Agony as you can see from the profile. Though the longer overall average of the climb is 7 like most places riders claim 10% grades.



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Old 01-06-19, 07:33 PM
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I'll take your advice, especially since the roadbike I had in the '70s had the same gearing as yours -- 39/26 -- and I managed to climb all kinds of steep hills. Out of curiosity, what is "The Wall"?

Originally Posted by GuessWhoCycling View Post
I have completed centuries with 10,000- 12,000 ft elevation gains climbing up to Big Bear on a standard double set up. 53/39 chain rings and 12/26 cassette.
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Old 01-06-19, 07:43 PM
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Originally Posted by Robert A View Post
I'll take your advice, especially since the roadbike I had in the '70s had the same gearing as yours -- 39/26 -- and I managed to climb all kinds of steep hills. Out of curiosity, what is "The Wall"?
I'm not sure myself since I didn't even notice it!

I believe it is a supposedly steep climb on the Solvang Century. I think it is only about a mile or two long and maybe 5 or 6%. Many riders made a big deal about it. We trained on Mt Baldy and didn't even notice the climb on the century. There was plenty of wind but the 3 of us cruised through the ride in 5:30 without too much effort.

If you live in LA, try riding to Griffith Park Observatory. You don't have to make it the first time, the second, or even the third. Just keep trying to get as far as you can. If you do this, the Solvang century will be a breeze for you.

Same with the Amtrak century and Torrey Pines. Plenty have made a bid deal about the 1 or 2 mile climb on the ride. Some call that the wall too, but it's more of a bump if you train in the hills beforehand.

I remember being introduced to hills. 1 mile 5% was killer. One day I woke up and realized my weakness was the hills. I went back to that same 1 mile 55 hill. Rode up, then back down, then up then down again. Soon I was doing several repeats when I never thought I could do that. Soon after I was riding up Mt baldy Rd and GMR (Glendora Mtn Rd) for fun.
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Old 01-06-19, 07:48 PM
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This is the wall on Solvang century. 3.3 miles at about 3.4%

I looked up the map course and elevation.
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Old 01-06-19, 07:49 PM
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I've been training locally in Mandeville, which is 1000 feet in 5 miles, but easily gets to 4-10% towards the end. Yesterday, I rode from Brentwood (near Santa Monica) to the bottom of PV and back. PV isn't especially hard, but layered into a 75 mile RT ride, it presented a challenge at my stage of fitness. Until last month, most of my longer rides were along the L.A. and San Gabriel Rivers, which are mostly flat.

Originally Posted by GuessWhoCycling View Post
I'm not sure myself since I didn't even notice it!

I believe it is a supposedly steep climb on the Solvang Century. I think it is only about a mile or two long and maybe 5 or 6%. Many riders made a big deal about it. We trained on Mt Baldy and didn't even notice the climb on the century. There was plenty of wind but the 3 of us cruised through the ride in 5:30 without too much effort.

If you live in LA, try riding to Griffith Park Observatory. You don't have to make it the first time, the second, or even the third. Just keep trying to get as far as you can. If you do this, the Solvang century will be a breeze for you.

Same with the Amtrak century and Torrey Pines. Plenty have made a bid deal about the 1 or 2 mile climb on the ride. Some call that the wall too, but it's more of a bump if you train in the hills beforehand.

I remember being introduced to hills. 1 mile 5% was killer. One day I woke up and realized my weakness was the hills. I went back to that same 1 mile 55 hill. Rode up, then back down, then up then down again. Soon I was doing several repeats when I never thought I could do that. Soon after I was riding up Mt baldy Rd and GMR (Glendora Mtn Rd) for fun.
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Old 01-06-19, 07:53 PM
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Funny, I missed that little detail, thinking only about the long-ish climb that begins around mile 70.
Originally Posted by GuessWhoCycling;2073546
6

This is the wall on Solvang century. 3.3 miles at about 4%

I looked up the map course and elevation.
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Old 01-06-19, 07:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Robert A View Post
I've been training locally in Mandeville, which is 1000 feet in 5 miles, but easily gets to 4-10% towards the end. Yesterday, I rode from Brentwood (near Santa Monica) to the bottom of PV and back. PV isn't especially hard, but layered into a 75 mile RT ride, it presented a challenge at my stage of fitness. Until last month, most of my longer rides were along the L.A. and San Gabriel Rivers, which are mostly flat.

Ah yes, I posted a profile of Solvang above. The wall is not that impressive.

If you have ever heard of GMR, it is a playground for cyclists over here by Mt Baldy. First 8 miles is pretty much the fun ride. 8 miles with 2300 ft of gain. the bigger ride is 21 mile climb with about 4600 ft.

1000 ft in 5 miles is good. So I am guessing our GMR is about the same but only longer. Some steep here and there but only averages 6%.

If you work on your climb, you'll be golden when it comes to hills. But do repeats as well. Repeat the 5 miles or pick a one mile section and do it over and over just for a workout. Once you get into it, you'll dig it!

...and Solvang hills will be a breeze for you.
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Old 01-06-19, 08:01 PM
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if you are just coming back to cycling, what gearing an exceptionally strong rider who likes to climb uses is pointless ... the pros use set-ups which wouldn't work for amateurs, and the very experienced climbing specialists use set-ups which wouldn't work for beginners or new returners. Your call, though.

Personally i would change the cassette before the chain rings just because it is so much cheaper. You are going to have to replace the chain anyway after a couple or a few thousand miles, and the cassette eventually too. Adding a couple links or installing a new longer chain is stuff you should learn how to do anyway---neither task is as complicated as tying shoes (and I mean that literally.) Also, you would get a much wider range if you went from 30 to 34 ... as opposed to 52-36 to 50-43.

And seriously, if just the chain rings costs $250, you can get a whole Ultegra crankset for much less than that ... but again, your call.

Whatever. You will do whatever you do, and learn by doing.

I did some riding in the San Gabriel Mountains a few years back ... grades max 5.5% I think ... if I were headed back out i would want a 50-34x11-32 or lower. Just long, long climbs.
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Old 01-06-19, 08:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Maelochs View Post
... grades max 5.5% I think ...
Maybe I have been climbing the wrong mountain all these years.

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Old 01-06-19, 08:15 PM
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BTW, I am not telling you to keep your current set up. I am suggesting you give it a try first at improving your climbing strength since you are new to climbing. You may develop much faster than you expect once you hit the hills.
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Old 01-06-19, 10:01 PM
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Go for the gears and derailleur to accommodate the new cassette. Better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. It won't hinder efforts at getting stronger.

Climbs are my nemesis and with my old school road bike I'm limited to a 38T small chainring on the 130mm crankset, and 13-28 freewheel. Currently I'm using a 50/39 chainring and 13-25 freewheel. That's my compromise without redoing the entire bike. It's a little easier than the original 52/42 chainring and 13-24 freewheel. But on Sunday's climbs into headwinds it was a thigh burning chore. Actually made me wish for my heavier hybrid with 50/40/30 triple and 12-32 cassette -- it enables much more leisurely feeling climbs without actually being slower.

And I work the hell out of my legs to get stronger, but at age 61 it's pretty much all downhill from here. Literally. I love the fast downhills. Hate the climbs back to repeat the fun part.
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Old 01-07-19, 06:17 AM
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Spinning is winning. Two years ago I went from 11-32 to 11-40 using Wolf Tooth road link ($21.95) while in Thailand, and never looked back. I am currently on the same set up, and will go back to 11-32 state side. I really don't get the whole grinding thing. Serious cyclist here are using 40 rear cassette on road bikes. I learned the hard way. I am running Shimanno DI2 Ultegra. Have fun

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Old 01-07-19, 11:36 AM
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Another +1 for an 11-34. Even the pros use 34x32 nowadays. Limiting yourself to certain gearing just to pretend to harden up is dumb.
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Old 01-07-19, 11:54 AM
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Originally Posted by redlude97;20736392?
Another +1 for an 11-34. Even the pros use 34x32 nowadays. Limiting yourself to certain gearing just to pretend to harden up is dumb.
Does going from 11-30 to 11-34 and the associated change in derailleur and chain lengthening affect shift quality?
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