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Extra Steep Climbs, Wrong Gears, Old Age, and other Silliness

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

Extra Steep Climbs, Wrong Gears, Old Age, and other Silliness

Old 05-31-19, 05:19 PM
  #1  
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Extra Steep Climbs, Wrong Gears, Old Age, and other Silliness

I used to kind of train hard but for no particular reason. Age related arthritis (DOB 1949) and general lack of motivation saw my riding drop from 175 to 200 miles per week down to the 100 to 150. My ftp 3 or 4 years back was maybe 260'ish and I once did a rolling terrain, solo 100 miles in a little under 5 hours (including time spent in 2 short nature breaks). More recently I have stopped using any kind of measurements other than when I start and when I stop (no HR, no Power, no Speed, etc) and I just ride. For now I like this better. And I seem to be inclined to ride more. Part of the demotivating factor was seeing 'lower performance' stare me in the face on every ride.

I am considering spending a few days in northern Georgia just riding some of the mountains there (later this summer). I would do it the same way, but I have this hankering to maybe try Brasstown Bald (see https://www.mapmyride.com/routes/fullscreen/446480/ ). This has some short sections of 20+% climbing, from what I know.

My bike (see my sig) stripped weighs in about 18 pounds and I weigh around 160. I would guess that my ftp is probably down 10% from what I stated in paragraph #1 and I could probably get half that back as a wild guess. My lowest gear is 34 front/ 27 rear. Am I nuts in thinking that I might be able to do this climb without walking using this 'inadequate gearing'? I am not a power type guy - definitely a distance type so having to suddenly pump out 400+ watts for a minute is not going to be a breeze for me (if I could even do it). If this is just totally nuts I would probably skip that climb.

Thoughts on this?

Thanks.

dave
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Old 05-31-19, 05:32 PM
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You don't need 400w. Just pace yourself. Cadence will be slow and not optimal, but that doesn't matter if the climb isn't long.
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Old 05-31-19, 05:34 PM
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I think your gearing may not be up to the task. Brasstown Bald did a number on World Tour pros during The Tour of Georgia.

https://www.pezcyclingnews.com/featu...rasstown-bald/

But it’s worth a shot either way, worst you have to walk for a bit or just turn around. Nice riding up there.
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Old 05-31-19, 05:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Dean V View Post
You don't need 400w. Just pace yourself. Cadence will be slow and not optimal, but that doesn't matter if the climb isn't long.
Based on an online calculator, for me/bike at 300W and 20% grade, yields a cadence in the high 30's. I am not sure that I could put out that kind of torque.

dave
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Old 05-31-19, 05:47 PM
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Try it out on some hills in your area. If you don't have similar gradients just use a bigger gear to get an equivalent effect.
I have done a fair bit of fixed gear riding and you may be surprised at what you can push.
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Old 05-31-19, 05:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Spoonrobot View Post
I think your gearing may not be up to the task. Brasstown Bald did a number on World Tour pros during The Tour of Georgia.

https://www.pezcyclingnews.com/featu...rasstown-bald/

But it’s worth a shot either way, worst you have to walk for a bit or just turn around. Nice riding up there.
One thing that I would be doing is doing the climb 'fresh'. But still I am no World Tour rider and am afraid that you are correct.

dave

ps. Or maybe I should just man up and do it on a Fixie (up and down)
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Old 05-31-19, 05:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Dean V View Post
Try it out on some hills in your area. If you don't have similar gradients just use a bigger gear to get an equivalent effect.
I have done a fair bit of fixed gear riding and you may be surprised at what you can push.
Despite the fact that I recently decided to abandon all my electronics, I think you are correct on this one. A 50x21 and a 10% grade should be a similar test.

dave
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Old 05-31-19, 07:50 PM
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Originally Posted by DaveLeeNC View Post
I used to kind of train hard but for no particular reason. Age related arthritis (DOB 1949) and general lack of motivation saw my riding drop from 175 to 200 miles per week down to the 100 to 150. My ftp 3 or 4 years back was maybe 260'ish and I once did a rolling terrain, solo 100 miles in a little under 5 hours (including time spent in 2 short nature breaks). More recently I have stopped using any kind of measurements other than when I start and when I stop (no HR, no Power, no Speed, etc) and I just ride. For now I like this better. And I seem to be inclined to ride more. Part of the demotivating factor was seeing 'lower performance' stare me in the face on every ride.

I am considering spending a few days in northern Georgia just riding some of the mountains there (later this summer). I would do it the same way, but I have this hankering to maybe try Brasstown Bald (see https://www.mapmyride.com/routes/fullscreen/446480/ ). This has some short sections of 20+% climbing, from what I know.

My bike (see my sig) stripped weighs in about 18 pounds and I weigh around 160. I would guess that my ftp is probably down 10% from what I stated in paragraph #1 and I could probably get half that back as a wild guess. My lowest gear is 34 front/ 27 rear. Am I nuts in thinking that I might be able to do this climb without walking using this 'inadequate gearing'? I am not a power type guy - definitely a distance type so having to suddenly pump out 400+ watts for a minute is not going to be a breeze for me (if I could even do it). If this is just totally nuts I would probably skip that climb.

Thoughts on this?

Thanks.

dave
Hi dave, imo "performance" goes up and down all the time and the factors are to many to mention. and they all contribute. basically don't worry. this happens with all humans.
most stuff works in cycles. the whole universe works in cycles.

If you want lighter lowest gear you can get either a smaller small chainring. you can probably find these down to 22t. many lesser know companies makes all bolt circles in all teeth. i just found out i could get campy 135mm in almost everything tooth wise(for a coworker). also cheap. alu is cheap. chainreaction had 1, but bike24 had many things to choose from.

You could also get a bigger max tooth cassette. 30 or 32 is not uncommon. for 8sp i thin k 32 is the current max. for 9sp 34 is the max, and for 10sp its higher. you are then getting mtb cassettes. and at about 28-30 or so your rear derailleur will stop working. I can personally run a 32t at the 6sp position on my bikes, so i guess there is quite a bit of leeway there in practice. ymmv though.

if you are on 0-10sp road and 0-9sp mtn all the RDs are the same cable pull and will work with the same shifters. a 9sp road shifter will work with a 9sp mtb cassette and a 9sp road or mtb RD. and all combos in between.

everything up to road 10sp and mtn 9sp is compatible. talking shimano stuff. but if you have a 10sp road RD it might not work with a 32t cass, thats basicaaly the only limitation though. ask me how i know.
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Old 05-31-19, 08:04 PM
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Well you cant have any 10 sp shifter with a 9sp cassette. but the shifters and RDs and cassette spacing is compatible if you are still on the same speed, thats what i mean.

personally i run 8 and 9sp mtb shifters.
8 and 9sp mtb cassettes that i usually build up as 6sp with the 8sp or 9sp spacing between cogs.
with 10sp road rear derailleurs.
with either 30 or 32t as the biggest cogs (even though mt RDs should only clear a 28 or so, and this is not in the 8 or 9sp position its in the 6sp position making it much worse)

hope you get a feel for what you can do and get away with there.
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Old 05-31-19, 08:07 PM
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I too would figure out how to fit a larger cassette. I have no interest in grinding a cadence of 30-40 for more than a minute or two... or walking... if I can help it.

One possibility? https://www.wolftoothcomponents.com/...ducts/roadlink
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Old 05-31-19, 08:35 PM
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I just completed a tour of Ohio, including the southeast, hilly part. I rode a 40/30 granny. I was born July 1952 and weigh 185 pounds. Plus the 35 lbs.of gear. I think you can do it. I averaged 11 mph for the trip.

Edit: The bike was a '80 Trek 414

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Old 05-31-19, 09:28 PM
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Originally Posted by GuitarBob View Post
I too would figure out how to fit a larger cassette. I have no interest in grinding a cadence of 30-40 for more than a minute or two... or walking... if I can help it.

One possibility? https://www.wolftoothcomponents.com/...ducts/roadlink

well he can either get smaller rings or bigger cass. thats it pretty much.
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Old 06-01-19, 02:32 AM
  #13  
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34/27 at 60 rpm is about 6 mph.

At your stated weight you need,

130w at 5%, 243w at 10%, 357w at 15%, 470w at 20% (according to bike calculator).

Only you can decide if you can do it without walking or grinding yourself to death.

Me, I would get a much lower gearing.- The second half of the climb looks fairly steep.
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Old 06-01-19, 04:23 AM
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I did some steep climbs in Spain with a 34-26 and more recently spent some time climbing the canyons around Malibu with similar gradients to the Brasstown Bald using 34-29. You will enjoy it much more with a 29 or better yet 32 in the back. Climbing 11% hills for 20 to 30 min is much easier if you can keep your cadence above 60. The steep sections are short enough to grunt it out but climbing 11% for extended periods is not fun when your cadence drops into the 40s and 50s.
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Old 06-01-19, 07:19 AM
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You'll need lower gearing. After coming back to cycling last July at age 65, after 8 years off, I started riding some routes with very steep hills and need my 34/32 low gear to remain seated on the steepest climbs. I weigh 144, which is 10 lbs more than I used to weigh. Getting that weight off would help, but at my age, I don't have the ability to climb standing for long periods.

I could ride a 7 mile climb that's even steeper, but I may need even lower gears for that. I'm going to try it in July when my fitness improves. The new Campy Chorus 12 speed will have a 48/32 crank and 11-34 cassette that may be just what I need.

FWIW, when I was 53, I rode the race route up the Mt. Evans to 14,000 feet elevation in 2:35, which would usually be a top 10 time.
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Old 06-01-19, 07:27 AM
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Thanks for all the comments. I think that I really need to do some experiments and just come to my own conclusion here.

I am really not interested in making a 'big' change to my bike just for this ride. A lower gear is not something that I would use in my normal course of riding where I live. I do believe that Campy makes a 11x29 which would help, but is really a pretty small change.

Or maybe ditch this ride and choose another route. There is a lot of good riding in that area.

dave

ps. That Wolf Tooth thing is interesting.
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Old 06-01-19, 07:30 AM
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Originally Posted by DaveSSS View Post
You'll need lower gearing. After coming back to cycling last July at age 65, after 8 years off, I started riding some routes with very steep hills and need my 34/32 low gear to remain seated on the steepest climbs. I weigh 144, which is 10 lbs more than I used to weigh. Getting that weight off would help, but at my age, I don't have the ability to climb standing for long periods.

I could ride a 7 mile climb that's even steeper, but I may need even lower gears for that. I'm going to try it in July when my fitness improves. The new Campy Chorus 12 speed will have a 48/32 crank and 11-34 cassette that may be just what I need.

FWIW, when I was 53, I rode the race route up the Mt. Evans to 14,000 feet elevation in 2:35, which would usually be a top 10 time.
Your climbing/aging statement is interesting. I just don't get the sense that riding out of the saddle is an issue for me. I found that an interesting comment.

Thanks.

dave

ps. Riding at 14k feet - WOW! I once hiked at 13K feet for a bit and could hardly walk up a 2% grade.
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Old 06-01-19, 07:39 AM
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Old 06-01-19, 08:08 AM
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Originally Posted by DaveLeeNC View Post
Thanks for all the comments. I think that I really need to do some experiments and just come to my own conclusion here.
I think this is best.

That said, the really steep pitches on Brasstown Bald are short. My weight and FTP are close to yours -- actually, my weight is a couple of kilos higher and my power is a few watts lower. I keep an old bike sorta like yours (steel EL-OS, 9-speed) in France for when I ride in the Alps and Pyrenees. It has a 39/26 but it's an old bike and I only use it perhaps six weeks out of the year so I'm not going to invest a lot of money on changing gearing. Sometimes (especially in the Pyrenees, which can be steeper than the main climbs in the Alps) it can get a little grim. I would think that a 34/27 would be much less grim.
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Old 06-01-19, 09:16 AM
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I love the DOB 1949. Me too. I have done a lot of hill climb and hill climb races. I am not a great climber per se but I like to do them. It is a great way to do long sustained efforts around FTP. I do not think I could gear low enough for Brasstown Bald to make the 20% sections feel anything like normal climbing.

If I were to do the climb, I would use my current setup which is a 50/34 with 11/32 11 speed cassette. For a 20% grade, I would use the 34/32 and stand but position my body way over the handlebars with my quads almost hitting the handlebars and arms vertical and straight. I focus on staying on my toes and not collapsing the foot and push down while thinking to unweight the other foot - think running / sprinting. Keep the arms straight and do not colapse or pump them. This is the technique used in standing starts at the track where one needs a lot of torque from zero to low crank speed rpm. The goal is not to go fast just muscle up the grade. You may even be able to walk faster than you can climb on the bike.

The training for this technique is find a local steep hill and practice. Generally, my upper body fatigues before my legs. For me, climbing shorter steep stuff is a strength / technique versus aerobic matter.

When I lived in NorCal, we had a lot of climbs with steep grades. One of the most notable was the final 200 meters at the top of Mount Diable that was surveyed at 20%. Depending on the route up, the climb was 12 miles and when one got to the final 200 meters, legs were pretty cooked. Most everyone stands to gut it out.
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Old 06-01-19, 09:52 AM
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Originally Posted by Hermes View Post
When I lived in NorCal, we had a lot of climbs with steep grades. One of the most notable was the final 200 meters at the top of Mount Diable that was surveyed at 20%. Depending on the route up, the climb was 12 miles and when one got to the final 200 meters, legs were pretty cooked. Most everyone stands to gut it out.
Yeah, I've done Mt. Diablo many times, including using that bike with the 39/26 before I took it to France. That final pitch could be pretty grim with that gearing, but I've never walked it. It would be much less grim with a 34/27 (I have a 36/28 on my current bike, which is close to a 34/27, so I actually have a pretty fair idea of how much less grim).
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Old 06-01-19, 02:14 PM
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I rode for a bit under 2 hours today and kind of played around with big gears on what we call 'climbs' here in the Sandhills of NC (nothing flat and nothing goes up or down very long before it goes down or up). What I observed is that lots of power, even at very low rpm (35 to 50) is quite doable for short periods of time. But I wasn't starting those spurts after 2 miles of serious climbing and at the top it was flat instead of going from from 19% to 10%.

So maybe the focus should be more on handling stuff that immediate precedes and follows those steep wall portions. So just sticking on a Campy Chorus 29t might well be in play here. This is similar to what Greg stated earlier in post #14 , I think.

Thanks again for all the input.

dave
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Old 06-01-19, 03:51 PM
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Standing works for steep but short sections. I did one today that's not over 200 yards long, using my 23T sprocket. I always sit for the rest of the climb, but today when I shifted to the 28 to sit, I could barely turn the pedals because I left it in the big ring, coming off a flat. Hard to believe that I got that far along, using a 50/23.
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Old 06-09-19, 06:22 PM
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I'm 76 and 180 lb and have climbed short 20%
stretches in a 36x30. My FTP is only 220W. I do see over 500W and am standing. I would walk if I couldn't turn the cranks anymore.
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Old 06-09-19, 08:01 PM
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Originally Posted by DaveLeeNC View Post
I rode for a bit under 2 hours today and kind of played around with big gears on what we call 'climbs' here in the Sandhills of NC (nothing flat and nothing goes up or down very long before it goes down or up). What I observed is that lots of power, even at very low rpm (35 to 50) is quite doable for short periods of time. But I wasn't starting those spurts after 2 miles of serious climbing and at the top it was flat instead of going from from 19% to 10%.

So maybe the focus should be more on handling stuff that immediate precedes and follows those steep wall portions. So just sticking on a Campy Chorus 29t might well be in play here. This is similar to what Greg stated earlier in post #14 , I think.
This is going to come down to is what your legs are like when you hit the steeps. If your legs are thrashed, your output will plummet and a hill that would normally be very climbable suddenly becomes impossible.

What you think of as fun should really be your guide. Just because you can do something doesn't mean it's a good idea. Or maybe it does.
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