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Hilly Hills; Will a cassette change do me good?

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Hilly Hills; Will a cassette change do me good?

Old 03-28-24, 03:44 PM
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Hilly Hills; Will a cassette change do me good?

So I'm in a new location now (TN) after many years in Los Angeles where there aren't very many hills in the city, or at least nearly none between my usual ride from Hollywood to the beach and now I'm having some pain with the hills here. I have a 10 speed drivetrain with a 12-25 cassette and my options in bigger gears are limited as it's Campagnolo. Anyway, my question is if I will notice a change to a 26 from the 25 or is that a lot of trouble and money for that difference?

Campy has a 13-26 or a 12-27 which I would rather have but they are not as popular so they're a bit harder to find these days. And wondering if I'll notice any gaps in between 12 & 27 where they've left out gears? Probably not as now when I shift with the 12-25, it seems like the middle gears are very close and not all are needed. Unless I'm tired, then sometimes that closeness is perfect I don't think I need anything bigger than 29 as I'm not talking about intense, long hills and my short cage will only allow up to 29

Just would like to hear what you guys think is my best course of action or if anyone has any suggestions about all of this. Even already I've noticed that the true key to all of this is to ride more hills and build up muscle and strength. But it's pretty difficult at this age (57), I admit, as there just isn't any reserve when I try to stand in the saddle and power up a hill; it is just painful and difficult!
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Old 03-28-24, 03:49 PM
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New bike with 50/34 and 11-34 sounds like the ticket!
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Old 03-28-24, 03:56 PM
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There are several online calculators like this one that will allow you to quantify the impact of different gearing on your cadence or speed. But to answer your question: going from 12-25 to 12-26 is trivial, and going to 12-27 might be a slightly noticeable change.

My advice, having been in your situation a couple times (I've lived and ridden in several states with very different terrain) is to skip the half measures; instead, bite the bullet and go to a compact crankset (e.g., 50-34 chainrings) and perhaps change the cassette. (Though with a 34t chainring, your 12-25 might be all you need.) If your bike is ready for a new chain and maybe a few other bits, perhaps just go to a shop and have a 12 speed groupset installed.
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Old 03-28-24, 03:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Mojo31
New bike with 50/34 and 11-34 sounds like the ticket!
Ha, with that logic I'd just say, "New Ferrari and who cares about the rest?"

Plus, I don't think I have the patience to ride a 34/34 ever!
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Old 03-28-24, 04:00 PM
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I rode Campy equipped bikes for 25 years. I put a 53/39/28 FSA crank on for the Colorado mountains in 2003.

Times have changed. Get a new bike with a modern 12 speed drivetrain. I've been using SRAM force AXS 12 speed for several years now.

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Old 03-28-24, 04:23 PM
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Originally Posted by tNuvolari
Ha, with that logic I'd just say, "New Ferrari and who cares about the rest?"

Plus, I don't think I have the patience to ride a 34/34 ever!
You don't?
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Old 03-28-24, 04:41 PM
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Originally Posted by tNuvolari
... I have a 10 speed drivetrain with a 12-25 cassette and my options in bigger gears are limited as it's Campagnolo. ...

Campy has a 13-26 or a 12-27 which I would rather have but they are not as popular so they're a bit harder to find these days. ...
Miche?
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Old 03-28-24, 04:54 PM
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I noticed a big change when I went to a 34T Bailout Cog on my Freewheel. I spend more time in it then I would like to admit.

But for your particular bike whats best. Going smaller on your Crank, or going bigger on your Cassette? Often going bigger on your Cassette means getting a long cage derailleur, and sometimes adding a few links to your chain.

And if your not using Friction Shifters lets not even mention the Re-indexing problems.
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Old 03-28-24, 05:08 PM
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Recently I went from a 53/43 +12-24 to a 53/43+ 13-32. Huge difference in climbing, and allows me to spin up hills instead of grind/stand being my only options.
You will gain strength and capability after a couple weeks, but I found I was just camping in the top half of the freewheel and rarely going down to the 12th.

The question really is what parts do you have on hand. If you have a long cage and can get a high range cassette easily do that.
However you are talking 10 speed campy, so the cassette is probably hard to find and you are running index shifting.
IMO easiest would be a compact crank or better yet a gravel crankset with a 46/30. That would be a big change
Check the gear calculators so you can understand how much easier the gears will get.

The advantage to crank swapping is you reduce your top end for bottom end, but you still get that tight cassette. Personally I do great on wide range cassettes/freewheels but I know many don't like that. I don't mind loosing a little top end since my mass tends to get me going fast enough down most hills.
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Old 03-28-24, 05:57 PM
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You have options depending on how much you want to spend. Max out the rear with what ever the current RD is rated for now if you can. RD's generally aren't that expensive comparatively to the other parts of the group set you are running. So consider another RD that has the specs for a larger low cog and go for more low sprocket teeth up to the max of the new RD.

Though I really doubt you need more than a 28 or 30 rear sprocket. You'll eventually get use to the bigger hills there unless you have some really steep grades to deal with on all your rides. Steeper for me would be a long grade at a constant 6%. If most of the grade if 4%, then even 10% briefly isn't too bad.

Depending on what crank you have, changing rings is an option too or change the entire crankset.
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Old 03-29-24, 05:12 AM
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Originally Posted by tNuvolari
Ha, with that logic I'd just say, "New Ferrari and who cares about the rest?"

Plus, I don't think I have the patience to ride a 34/34 ever!
But you said you were struggling to grind up hills on the current lowest ratio? Youíd get up them in less time with a more natural cadence in a 1:1

I just installed a 52/36 x 11-34 because some of the hills around here hit 20% and itís just ugly with a 28 max which is what I had before. I donít know what your terrain is like though.
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Old 03-29-24, 05:48 AM
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I'm using a Miche Campy-compatible 10sp cassette with a 29 that works fine. Miche also makes one with a 30. I added a clone Roadlink for extra clearance and of course a new chain.

https://www.tradeinn.com/bikeinn/en/...1896/p?tqw=10s
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Old 03-29-24, 06:18 AM
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Originally Posted by choddo
But you said you were struggling to grind up hills on the current lowest ratio? Youíd get up them in less time with a more natural cadence in a 1:1

I just installed a 52/36 x 11-34 because some of the hills around here hit 20% and itís just ugly with a 28 max which is what I had before. I donít know what your terrain is like though.
It took me a long time to get one of my mates to realise this. He kept saying that a 34/34 gear would just make him slower. So I had a look at his data and he was struggling to maintain a 40 rpm cadence on steeper climbs. He now has a 34/36 lowest gear and is much more comfortable and faster on the climbs. That could be overkill on easy climbs, but I often spin a 35/33 ratio on long climbs of around 6-7% and Iím a reasonably strong climber. Power is equally generated between pedal torque and cadence. So unless you are genuinely spinning out, it makes sense to use lower gearing.

In your case on 20% slopes I would ideally want the lowest gearing possible, which on my AXS setup would be a 33/36 ratio. I actually have a 35/33 fitted which I can just about grind up the steepest 20%+ hills, but it still isnít pretty!
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Old 03-29-24, 06:31 AM
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Originally Posted by tNuvolari
Plus, I don't think I have the patience to ride a 34/34 ever!
Will you have the patience to stay off the bike after knee replacement years down the road?

Grinding up the hills puts a huge strain on your knees. I recently went from a Shimano 11-34 11spd cassette with 50/34 crank to SRAM 10-36 12 spd cassette and 46/33 crank. At 71 with one bad knee already it's nice being able to sit and spin my way up the hills here in the Upstate. I may not be fast, but it beats the "Walk of Shame" up the really steep grades, and the "Walk of Pain" the following morning.

Sure beats having to grab on to my riding partners seat post and get a tow from his e-bike up those hills.
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Old 03-29-24, 06:34 AM
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No one has mentioned standing or seated climbing in combination with their gear ratios. If the hills are short enough, standing usually allows two sprockets smaller to be used. Instead of my 36, I'd be likely to use a 28.

For the Colorado mountains, I used a 46/30 crank and 10-36 cassette for several years. I recently changed to a 10-44. I rode a short 7% yesterday pedaling seated in my 46/38. The little ring doesn't get used until the slopes are steeper or longer. The 30/38 or 30/32 work for 10-12%, pedaling seated. Steeper or longer and I'll try the 30/44.

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Old 03-29-24, 12:03 PM
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I always stand at least part of the way when climbing hills of some length and find that standing and sitting alternately rests different muscles so I can keep going more easily.
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Old 03-29-24, 12:09 PM
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Originally Posted by tNuvolari
Ha, with that logic I'd just say, "New Ferrari and who cares about the rest?"

Plus, I don't think I have the patience to ride a 34/34 ever!
Just waitÖ
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Old 03-29-24, 12:15 PM
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To answer your question will you notice a difference between 25 and 26 in back, I believe the answer is probably not. I would not even bother with a change unless you can go to 27+ from 25.

Unclear if you will “need” an easier bailout gear, only way to find out is to try.

I rode for many years with a 12-25 but now use 11-28 which I prefer. As always, YMMV.
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Old 03-29-24, 12:23 PM
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Of the two bikes in my living room (on trainers), one (my wife's gravel-sh road bike) had 30T front, 36T rear, as its lowest gear. The other one (my touring bike) has the same front and a 40T rear (which GRX handles fine).

But this is for coastal CA, where the steepest grade to get to my house is only 21%. I've never been to Tenn.
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Old 03-29-24, 12:48 PM
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Wow, lots of responses but I have some info to clarify and update about my particular idiosyncrasies:

1). These hills I'm struggling on are not steep! To most of you, you would probably laugh at me! But I'm 57, diabetic, and skinny without much muscle. And now at my age, I just don't have the added strength in my legs that I had when I was younger. So while I've been able to make it up every hill I've attempted so far, sometimes it hasn't been fun. And these are short hills, meaning feet and not miles. I tried to find the grades from Strava but all I could find was 6.5% as the highest and that was 1/3 of a mile. Not sure if that's the steepest as I could only find the grade for segments and not my whole route (free Strava account.) Not sure if that's steep to you guys but it's tough for me. First time I had to stop midway but the last time I made it in one pull and it's also after a less steep climb that is challenging to me. But I made it to my halfway mark (about 12 miles) without a rest so I was happy about that. Overall average was 13mph. I consider this ride a definite improvement both in body and mind as I was feeling good after the ride. I like to ride fast and I'm pretty decent on flat to almost flat roads. But hills are tough, surprisingly so as even when a hill doesn't look like much, I can definitely feel it.

2). When I said I had no patience for a 34/34 gear combo, I meant in my location, that would be complete overkill. I realize some of you are in mountainous terrain but I am not trying to say that our hills are anything like being in the mountains. So forgive me for what may have sounded arrogant; no disrespect or offense intended. I'm sure if I were in CO I would need even more relaxed gearing than that! And my knees are fine (knock on wood) and even when climbing, I don't feel any stress in my knees as my legs give out much sooner, ha ha!

3). Thanks for all the gear calc and options on Miche, etc. Miche does have some nice choices and at good prices. Do they work ok with Campy index shifting? I have researched the gear charts and while very helpful, they don't give a subjective account of what the difference feels like when actually riding. Of course, subjective is.... well, subjective so I realize nothing will substitute for actually buying and trying something new. This thread is just to get some info on what people with much more experience than I have can impart.

4). 20% grade? That's insane if I struggle with 6.5%! What's the steepest you guys ride? And what feels like a "hill" to you? I have no relative experience as I have only ridden alone and on mostly flat areas. What gear would you use for a 6.5% short grade?? Very curious to see how far out I am comparatively.

5). I'll keep riding, improving my strength, of course, and if that's not enough, I'll try a 12-27 or 13-26, whichever I can find for cheapest. Then if that's not enough, as someone said, there are still plenty of options. Failing that, there's always a Ducati, although since I don't have the money for a Campy 12 speed right now, a Ducati would be tough, but gotta keep dreaming!

Thanks to everyone for all the responses so far!
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Old 03-29-24, 01:33 PM
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Originally Posted by PeteHski
It took me a long time to get one of my mates to realise this. He kept saying that a 34/34 gear would just make him slower. So I had a look at his data and he was struggling to maintain a 40 rpm cadence on steeper climbs. He now has a 34/36 lowest gear and is much more comfortable and faster on the climbs. That could be overkill on easy climbs, but I often spin a 35/33 ratio on long climbs of around 6-7% and I’m a reasonably strong climber. Power is equally generated between pedal torque and cadence. So unless you are genuinely spinning out, it makes sense to use lower gearing.
Agreed, low cadence wears out your muscles, and high cadence takes more concentration to maintain power. In between lies the optimal range.

The problem with optimal gear selection on climbs is that it's hard to estimate the power you're actually putting out, unless you have a power meter.

It may feel like you're putting out more power in a bigger gear, and shifting down feels like you're capitulating to reduced power. But as PeteHski mentions, that may not be the case.

My preferred gear for a 6% grade seems to be 34/21, but on this week's Hamilton climb, that gear was feeling hard, so I shifted down to the 34/24. That felt much easier, but my power meter reading stayed the same. Moral: lower gears aren't always slower gears.

Everyone is different, but my ideal climbing cadence range seems to be 75-85 rpm. Below 75, and my legs feel the fatigue. Above 85, and my power starts to drop off.

Originally Posted by tNuvolari
4). 20% grade? That's insane if I struggle with 6.5%! What's the steepest you guys ride? And what feels like a "hill" to you? I have no relative experience as I have only ridden alone and on mostly flat areas. What gear would you use for a 6.5% short grade?? Very curious to see how far out I am comparatively.
Don't concern yourself with comparisons. If you want to get faster on hills, get gearing that you're comfortable with and just ride more hills. You will get stronger.
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Old 03-29-24, 01:50 PM
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Originally Posted by tNuvolari

3). Thanks for all the gear calc and options on Miche, etc. Miche does have some nice choices and at good prices. Do they work ok with Campy index shifting? I have researched the gear charts and while very helpful, they don't give a subjective account of what the difference feels like when actually riding. Of course, subjective is.... well, subjective so I realize nothing will substitute for actually buying and trying something new. This thread is just to get some info on what people with much more experience than I have can impart.
!
Below is a recent pic of my Cyfac with 2008 Record 10. A couple of years ago I replaced the Record chainrings and cassette with Miche parts from BikeInn that work just fine. The largest cog now at back is a 29 (max per Campag spec), up 3 from the previous 26. In my post above I said I also used a RoadLink clone but just checked - not true. To determine what you can get away with on your bike find out what the max recommended cog size and chain wrap are for your rear derailleur / rd (see Campag docs / Velobase / Mechanics subforum). Adding a RoadLink (clone - see Ebay) will increase upper rd pully clearance and maybe wrap by a tooth or two over Campag spec.


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Old 03-29-24, 04:10 PM
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Originally Posted by tNuvolari

4). 20% grade? That's insane if I struggle with 6.5%! What's the steepest you guys ride? And what feels like a "hill" to you? I have no relative experience as I have only ridden alone and on mostly flat areas. What gear would you use for a 6.5% short grade?? Very curious to see how far out I am comparatively.
For me 6.5% is a comfortable gradient riding in a 35/28. Anything over 10% and I'm usually sat in my lowest 35/33 gear. 15% starts to feel pretty steep and North of 20% is very steep. Our steepest local climbs are in the 20-25% range, but those are usually quite short sections. Just turning over the cranks at minimal cadence out of the saddle is about all I can manage on those and that's with a minimum power of around 300W just to keep moving! Ideally I would want even lower gearing for those (basically gravel bike gearing), but I don't climb them enough to warrant it. Standard compact 12-speed gearing with a 48/35 chainset and 10-33 cassette is perfect for most of my riding. Those old-school setups are nuts unless you are in the flat lands!

In your shoes I would try to borrow a bike with much lower gearing and see how you like it. A compact double might sound like overkill, but I doubt it would be in reality. Even if you didn't use the lowest gear all that often it would always come in handy when tired or on a steeper section of a climb.
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Old 03-29-24, 04:17 PM
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Originally Posted by terrymorse

Everyone is different, but my ideal climbing cadence range seems to be 75-85 rpm. Below 75, and my legs feel the fatigue. Above 85, and my power starts to drop off.
I'm about the same, although I usually produce my maximum power on a climb seated at 90-100 rpm. But I wouldn't go there on a long climb! Just below 80 rpm is my comfort zone for longer climbs. Out of the saddle I drop my cadence a fair bit, usually around 60 rpm in a higher gear or when it's steep and I've run out of gears and talent!
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Old 03-30-24, 01:56 AM
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If you don't want to invest in new drivetrain components to enable a 34x32+ climbing gear then the least you can do is try a 29t cassette. Big difference from the 25t and the only thing you might need is a longer chain.
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