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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

Your hill and advices

Old 08-02-11, 10:32 AM
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hyhuu
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Your hill and advices

Questions for those who live in hilly areas or love to climb:

What's your typical gradient and length?

Do you use standard or compact? What's size of the cassette?

I have standard with a 9-speed 12-26T cassete and found it difficult to maintain good cadence on hill. I'm new to road biking but used to do mountain biking. Am I just too weak or should I try a different cassette? Also with the bigger cassette, is there anything special I need to do with the RD?

Can I just blame the bike for being too heavy? I know that not taking the two bottles of water make climbing easier (so much for the "weight doesn't matter") but that's not an option. Thanks.

Last edited by hyhuu; 08-02-11 at 10:44 AM.
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Old 08-02-11, 11:04 AM
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It definitely takes a while to get used to climbing hills or even mountains. The biggest factor in climbing is you. I'm referring to your weight and your training.

When I got started, climbing totally sucked! I lost weight and road every hill I could find until I was ready to conquer the mountains. It took about 6 month and about 2000 miles, but now I don't think twice about it.

I ride with a compact 10 speed 11-28 cassette. The typical climb gradient I ride is between 4% and 10% and the length is between 2.5 and 6 miles for each mountain I climb. Occasionally I ride multiple mountains in a day.
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Old 08-02-11, 11:09 AM
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there is no typical gradient or length, at least not for me

talkin 'cassette' without talkin chainrings is fairly useless - ultimately if you want to discuss gearing you need to get to gear development, or for olde phartes, gear inches...

blame the bike or any component however much you want. however it sits quietly in the corner regardless of the blame heaped on it... blame the motor

every week I go for my weekly hill climb. It is 3.2 mi long, avg gradient of 7.5% (with bumps to 16% & 12%), I do it 2x. Every week I say to myself "I'm gonna fly up today!", every week, about 1/2 way up, my heart is poundin in my mouth and I'm hardly flyin... defective motor...
sometimes I'm less slow... sometimes it seems eternal.

I ride a triple 52/42/30 with a 13/14/15/16/17/18/19/21/23 (9 spd) or a 53/39 with a 13/14/15/16/17/18/19/21/23/25 (10 spd) which, on long uphill drags usually means I ride low 50 to 40 gear inches.
Sadly, I find myself finding the 34 or 36 more often than I have in the past.

ymmv
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Old 08-02-11, 11:24 AM
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I can't really give you a typical gradient and length, but a weekday after work ride might have me climb 1,500 to 2,000 feet over the course of ~20 miles. Hills are unavoidable in Seattle.

I'll skip the gearing talk, and say it mostly comes down to the engine. I used to hate hills, but my favorite rides included lots of them. I'd do the rides a lot, especially when I got a newer bike that was more fun, and they eventually started getting easier. Then I started doing hill repeats. Climbing never got to be as easy as cruising along on the flats, but I managed to improve a lot. Also, knowing the climbs I do most often, I've figured out how to pace myself and take them at a sustainable effort level.
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Old 08-02-11, 11:37 AM
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Originally Posted by hyhuu View Post
Questions for those who live in hilly areas or love to climb:

What's your typical gradient and length?
Whatever I can find. Most of the longer climbs (more than 1600' elevation gain) here are in the 5-8% range. But we have some that are steeper. The road to my house has 2 miles of 10% and 1/3 mile averaging 16% with a 23% ramp.
Originally Posted by hyhuu View Post
Do you use standard or compact? What's size of the cassette?
50/34 with a 12-27 cassette. I rarely use the lowest two cogs but they are useful on extended 10% sections and that last bit to my house.
Originally Posted by hyhuu View Post
I have standard with a 9-speed 12-26T cassete and found it difficult to maintain good cadence on hill. I'm new to road biking but used to do mountain biking. Am I just too weak or should I try a different cassette? Also with the bigger cassette, is there anything special I need to do with the RD?

Can I just blame the bike for being too heavy? I know that not taking the two bottles of water make climbing easier (so much for the "weight doesn't matter") but that's not an option. Thanks.
Losing a bottle won't make much difference. You can find 9sp cassettes all the way to 11-34. You will need a road touring derailleur for cogs 28t-30t and a MTB derailleur for cogs larger than that. Get a 9sp MTB derailleur not the new 10sp ones. (I am assuming you have Shimano).

Asking what other people use is pointless. The gearing that works for me won't work for you. Pick the gearing that you need. Err on the low side. You can always shift up if it doesn't hurt enough.
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Old 08-02-11, 11:44 AM
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"Typical" is not going to really be possible as I've climbed miles-long false flats of 0.5% and short, steep pitches of up to 23% and everything in between. On normal, flat-ish routes, I ride a standard 53-39 with an 11-23 cassette. On routes where I know there will be alot of long climbs (more than 2), I'll put on my 12-25 or 12-27 cassette. But these are my numbers and you're not me. So it's of little practical use to you.

However, a hill that I (somewhat) regularly use to assess my own fitness? Ah... 0.2 miles long, 6%. I ride it with a group. The leaders fly up this thing like they were shot from a cannon. Clydesdale me? Not so much.

When I first tried the hill, I would shift to my 39-tooth small ring as I started and try to spin up. But I couldn't barely hang on to the back of the 30-rider pack. Then I saw a very accomplished rider (track master's world champ) doing it in his big ring. So I tried that. It was amazing. Suddenly, I could make it up with the group. Not easily ("It's never easy, you just go faster").
  • Then, I tried other tactics. I tried standing at first, then sitting down before my heart blew up.
  • Then, I tried standing for the whole thing but my power output nearing the top just disappeared.
  • Now, I'm sitting on it first, then standing up to try and increase my power over the last 1/3 of the climb. This is helping, too.

Plus, what is a "good" cadence for me might not be for you & vice versa. I tend to use my bulk & power to mash on short climbs, and try (probably unsuccessfully) to spin on longer climbs.

Can you blame the bike? Only if you weigh in at 140 lbs. and have 5% body fat or less. Otherwise, to quickly lose weight, take a trip to the john.
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Old 08-02-11, 12:06 PM
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FWIW, I love hills. If it wasn't for the hills I prob wouldn't like cycling as much. I can get up the hills just fine but just wish for higher cadence because that seems easier on my knees (the reason I stopped running in the first place and started biking). At 130 lbs soaking wet I don't have that much weight to loose. I've been leaner in the past but my endurance suffered.
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Old 08-02-11, 12:16 PM
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Originally Posted by hyhuu View Post
FWIW, I love hills. If it wasn't for the hills I prob wouldn't like cycling as much. I can get up the hills just fine but just wish for higher cadence because that seems easier on my knees (the reason I stopped running in the first place and started biking). At 130 lbs soaking wet I don't have that much weight to loose. I've been leaner in the past but my endurance suffered.
maybe go to a triple?? or at least compact??
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Old 08-02-11, 12:19 PM
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Originally Posted by cyclezen View Post
talkin 'cassette' without talkin chainrings is fairly useless - ultimately if you want to discuss gearing you need to get to gear development, or for olde phartes, gear inches...

ymmv
WHy is it useless to talk about cassette? It seems to be cheaper to change than a crankset.
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Old 08-02-11, 12:34 PM
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Originally Posted by hyhuu View Post
WHy is it useless to talk about cassette? It seems to be cheaper to change than a crankset.
You can't use this chart without knowing both, and this chart is really, really cool, especially for climbers: http://www.sheldonbrown.com/gears/

Use it, and be cool now, too!
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Old 08-02-11, 12:51 PM
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Originally Posted by hyhuu View Post
FWIW, I love hills. If it wasn't for the hills I prob wouldn't like cycling as much. I can get up the hills just fine but just wish for higher cadence because that seems easier on my knees (the reason I stopped running in the first place and started biking). At 130 lbs soaking wet I don't have that much weight to loose. I've been leaner in the past but my endurance suffered.
With a higher cadence I usually move slower. Some people can spin better than I can. I prefer to pound it up the hills.

Weight is not the issue for you, it your conditioning. Just keep on hammering it and the climbs will get easier. There is no big secret to endurance sports such as cycling for 99.9% of us out there. Just keep doing it.
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Old 08-02-11, 01:01 PM
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Hi,

You seem to be a bit overgeared. What rear cassette and derailuer do you have? If you can get bigger than 26 do it. I use a compact crank and a 12-27 cassette for where I live. We have short steep hills that I can grind up in the big ring or spin up with the small ring and 27. But for mountains or long hills you probably cannot grind up in the big ring indefinitely.
As others have noted you will get better at this with the regular training.
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Old 08-02-11, 01:17 PM
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Originally Posted by DScott View Post
You can't use this chart without knowing both, and this chart is really, really cool, especially for climbers: http://www.sheldonbrown.com/gears/

Use it, and be cool now, too!
That is a cool chart.
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Old 08-02-11, 01:22 PM
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Originally Posted by curtwally View Post
Hi,

You seem to be a bit overgeared. What rear cassette and derailuer do you have? If you can get bigger than 26 do it. I use a compact crank and a 12-27 cassette for where I live. We have short steep hills that I can grind up in the big ring or spin up with the small ring and 27. But for mountains or long hills you probably cannot grind up in the big ring indefinitely.
As others have noted you will get better at this with the regular training.
That's what I'm trying to figure out: whether I'm overgeared. Gears came with the bike are a standard double 53/39 with 12-26 cassette and Tiagra rear derailuer.
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Old 08-02-11, 01:27 PM
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Originally Posted by jbholcom View Post
With a higher cadence I usually move slower. Some people can spin better than I can. I prefer to pound it up the hills.

Weight is not the issue for you, it your conditioning. Just keep on hammering it and the climbs will get easier. There is no big secret to endurance sports such as cycling for 99.9% of us out there. Just keep doing it.
Is it going to be easier on my knees as my training/conditioning improves? I don't really care if the climbs get easier because once it is I'll just find steeper/longer climbs to do.
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Old 08-02-11, 01:54 PM
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Never hated hills, I just avoided them at first.

However, being I live in a mountainous area of the Greater Los Angeles area, I had to learn to like them. The biggest improvement I made in my approach to climbing was my mental state. Once I stopped dreading hills, learned that suffering was temporary, and that the feeling of conquering one far outweighs the fear, I was A-OK with climbing.

I did make some gearing changes on my Compact from a Shimano 105 12-27 cassette to a SRAM Apex 11-32. Combined with a 105 long-cage rear derailleur, I have the gearing for Alp d Huez to Pacific Coast Highway.

Of course, as the engine has gotten stronger, I now see the 32 tooth cog as overkill, but it is there on days I am just not feeling my best (and you will have those days).
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Old 08-02-11, 02:20 PM
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Originally Posted by hyhuu View Post
That's what I'm trying to figure out: whether I'm overgeared. Gears came with the bike are a standard double 53/39 with 12-26 cassette and Tiagra rear derailuer.
I think you're over-geared, but then I ride a 50/34 compact and 12-27 cassette. I've got the gears for anything here in So Cal, just not always the motor. IMO, easier is better, at first.

Where are you riding?
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Old 08-02-11, 07:38 PM
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Got lots of hills, but the most notable is 8% for about 1.5 mile. 50/34 and 12-27 is the minimum I would attempt for that hill.
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Old 08-02-11, 09:07 PM
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How do you guys determine the gradient of a hill? I live on the edge of an escarpment, and the hill climbs here are pretty steep, but on the shorter side. I am more curious as to how steep they are, than anything else.
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Old 08-03-11, 10:19 AM
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Originally Posted by DScott View Post
I think you're over-geared, but then I ride a 50/34 compact and 12-27 cassette. I've got the gears for anything here in So Cal, just not always the motor. IMO, easier is better, at first.

Where are you riding?
The rolling hills of Northern Virginia. My goal is to tackle some of the hills in West Virginia.
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Old 08-03-11, 10:26 AM
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Originally Posted by Clod_King View Post
How do you guys determine the gradient of a hill?
On BF, every hill is > 8%.

But srsly, with a little digging you can probably find the grades of hills in your area. Your LBS might know some of them...or you can calculate them if you know the beginning elevation, ending elevation and distance (assuming the grade is somewhat constant). Several years ago I rode Mt. Hamilton in the Bay Area. According to several sources, the road was designed not to exceed 7% because it was going to be used to transport a telescope to the top. I think about the steepest part of that climb and then judge whether what I'm riding is steeper or less steep to arrive at a guess.
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Old 08-03-11, 10:28 AM
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I'd get either a compact crank or a cassette with larger cogs, or both. As I said, I can climb just about anything with my setup. However, regardless of gearing, you still have to climb more to get better at it. Until you change the gear, just climb whatever, and wherever you can, as often as possible. Know that it gets better with more time doing it.

Or, rather, as Lemond said, "it doesn't get easier, you only go faster". So true...
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Old 08-03-11, 01:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Clod_King View Post
How do you guys determine the gradient of a hill? I live on the edge of an escarpment, and the hill climbs here are pretty steep, but on the shorter side. I am more curious as to how steep they are, than anything else.
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Old 08-03-11, 01:53 PM
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I really need to get a compact crank to really spin
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Old 08-03-11, 03:11 PM
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Is the garmin edge grade accurate? mine shows up to 8% on some places

Originally Posted by dstrong View Post
On BF, every hill is > 8%.

But srsly, with a little digging you can probably find the grades of hills in your area. Your LBS might know some of them...or you can calculate them if you know the beginning elevation, ending elevation and distance (assuming the grade is somewhat constant). Several years ago I rode Mt. Hamilton in the Bay Area. According to several sources, the road was designed not to exceed 7% because it was going to be used to transport a telescope to the top. I think about the steepest part of that climb and then judge whether what I'm riding is steeper or less steep to arrive at a guess.
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