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Climbing? Is this a strength or aerobic capacity problem?

Old 08-14-13, 09:14 PM
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Climbing? Is this a strength or aerobic capacity problem?

I did my first ''climb'' https://www.strava.com/activities/73693512
during this climb I tried to follow all of the conventional cycling rules (pacing, mind over matter, keep spinning <- what a joke). I made it to about spies road before having to stop for a minute. After this point I had to stop 4 or so more times. The problem was that my legs were on fire (going anaerobic I assume). After a 40 second rest they felt decent again.

My question is, what was going on here? I assume I was going anaerobic which eventually made me have to stop.
I was in my easiest gear, and when things started to get steep, I could not keep ''spinning''.
I tried to stand occasionally, but that made the burn even worse :O



Notes: I weigh 195, yes i'm working on losing weight. The bike has a compact (34) and a 12-28 rear. I ride about 5 or 6 days a week and do rides of 30-40 miles on average.
Yes i'm going to keep doing hills, and occasional climbs, etc.

What specific training can I do to help overcome this problem?

My guess would be to take some non-steep, long hills and hit them at a harder gear then normal, and focus on just spinning the harder gear?

(yes i'm going to ''keep doing hills''), I am looking for specific training to help my legs.

Thanks!
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Old 08-14-13, 10:18 PM
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That looks like a nice training climb, almost 900'. Do stuff like that more. Or do that once a week. Then start in New Paltz, go over the pass plus a few miles, then ride back. Anything like that. Bike riding is about climbing. And climbing is the specific training you need. You did about 3000' of climbing on that ride. That's a nice amount. No need really to do much more than that in a single ride. Just ride the hills harder. You'll find that if you really punch it on the shorter climbs, you'll get so you can climb better on the long ones. You had some there that were 200'-300'. That's long enough to do a nice interval.
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Old 08-17-13, 05:16 AM
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In your current lowest gear you need to do at least 6 mph. When going up a steep hill, the grade, your weight and that minimum speed will dictate how much power you need. The average grade is 6.3%, to go up at 6 mph with your weight that requires about 200W, however there are also parts with a grade of 12%, going up those at 6 mph requires 350W.

So what does this all mean? If you want to climb this without stopping, you need to be able to do about 200W for 20 minutes and you need to be able to do about 350W for 1 or 2 minutes and then recover and repeat a bit later.

You don't need a hill to train for this. Probably what would benefit you most is training the short bursts of power. You can do this e.g. by going all out for 1 minute and then recover for 3 minutes and repeating 5 times.
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Old 08-17-13, 05:53 AM
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Try the same climb again, but slow down on the bottom half. On a 6% to 8% grade, you were doing 7 to 8 mph. That's a big effort.

I do better on a familiar climb, since I have a good idea of how steep and long the whole thing is, and can pace my efforts better.

When standing I shift to a harder gear, and slow my cadence way down (on reasonable grades). If I try to keep the same cadence when standing, I'll burn up my legs.

My low gear is 34-29, similar to your low. To recover on an 8% grade, I'll slow down while sitting, and use only light to moderate pedal pressure, enough to keep moving at around 4 mph or so. Experiment with how slow you can go on very steep grades, too--I've gone as slow as 3.1 mph at 35 rpm while standing on a 15-18% grade.

Strava calculates a VAM score on most climbs. That's vertical meters per hour. Your 622 meters/hour, or 2040 feet/hour, is pretty respectable already. VAM is a good way to compare your efforts on different climbs (but very steep climbs tend to get higher scores--any slower, and the rider falls over!)

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Old 08-17-13, 08:13 AM
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I notice that neither I nor anyone else actually answered your questions. What's probably going on is that you were not clearing lactate (the burn) as fast as you were making it. A certain amount of lactate is good for performance, but too much limits performance. Your body will naturally get better at clearing it when you push it as you did on that climb. It's not really a strength or aerobic capacity issue, it's a metabolic issue at the cellular level. Takes time for your muscle cells to change, but they will. You had to stop to give your body a chance to clear a little of it. Soon you won't have to stop, it'll just keep up as long as you don't demand too much from it. Technically, your power at lactate threshold will go up. 15-20 minute intervals at lactate threshold is the standard training methodology.
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Old 08-17-13, 08:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy
I notice that neither I nor anyone else actually answered your questions. What's probably going on is that you were not clearing lactate (the burn) as fast as you were making it. A certain amount of lactate is good for performance, but too much limits performance. Your body will naturally get better at clearing it when you push it as you did on that climb. It's not really a strength or aerobic capacity issue, it's a metabolic issue at the cellular level. Takes time for your muscle cells to change, but they will. You had to stop to give your body a chance to clear a little of it. Soon you won't have to stop, it'll just keep up as long as you don't demand too much from it. Technically, your power at lactate threshold will go up. 15-20 minute intervals at lactate threshold is the standard training methodology.
Or, I have heard, riding longer at "just above" the lactic threshold will also increase it. My cardiologist was happy with everything except what he called my "ventillatory anaerobic threshold" -- aka lactic threshold. He said my VAT occurred at a heart rate of 114BPM -- so he told me to get my average up to 120 or higher.
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Old 08-17-13, 08:19 PM
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Originally Posted by GeorgeBMac
Or, I have heard, riding longer at "just above" the lactic threshold will also increase it. My cardiologist was happy with everything except what he called my "ventillatory anaerobic threshold" -- aka lactic threshold. He said my VAT occurred at a heart rate of 114BPM -- so he told me to get my average up to 120 or higher.
There are many levels that will increase your threshold. But there is a trade off between training effect and recovery time. That's why it is better to do 10 or 20 minute intervals at slightly below threshold so you can go again a day or two later.
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Old 08-17-13, 11:15 PM
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Originally Posted by GeorgeBMac
Or, I have heard, riding longer at "just above" the lactic threshold will also increase it. My cardiologist was happy with everything except what he called my "ventillatory anaerobic threshold" -- aka lactic threshold. He said my VAT occurred at a heart rate of 114BPM -- so he told me to get my average up to 120 or higher.
With a number like that, I advise backing it off and not doing so much hill work. Just ride and don't worry about it. Getting your body converted over to a cycling machine is a slow process. I've heard 7 years for complete adaptation, and I think that's probably about right. On the good side, that means that you'll keep getting better and faster for at least 7 years, which is nice to look forward to. Your VAT will come up no matter what you do as long as you're riding lots. You have a lot of base work to do. You'll know when you're ready for hills, and if you keep doing 150+ miles/week, you'll make good progress.
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Old 08-18-13, 01:14 AM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy
With a number like that, I advise backing it off and not doing so much hill work. Just ride and don't worry about it. Getting your body converted over to a cycling machine is a slow process. I've heard 7 years for complete adaptation, and I think that's probably about right. On the good side, that means that you'll keep getting better and faster for at least 7 years, which is nice to look forward to. Your VAT will come up no matter what you do as long as you're riding lots. You have a lot of base work to do. You'll know when you're ready for hills, and if you keep doing 150+ miles/week, you'll make good progress.
Personally I'm incredulous that the person reporting this actually had a VAT of 114 BPM. (Unless he's over 70 years old?)

To the OP: your power to weight and your gears are barely enough to spin up this hill at ~70 rpm. It is quite normal to experience signs of failure as described in this situation. Your best options are to get a 12-32 cassette and to lose weight.
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Old 08-18-13, 08:19 AM
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Originally Posted by hamster
Personally I'm incredulous that the person reporting this actually had a VAT of 114 BPM. (Unless he's over 70 years old?)

To the OP: your power to weight and your gears are barely enough to spin up this hill at ~70 rpm. It is quite normal to experience signs of failure as described in this situation. Your best options are to get a 12-32 cassette and to lose weight.
Yes, my heart rate at my Ventilatory Anaerobic Threshold (VAT) is 114. It was determined by an MD during a "metabolic stress test" at the Cleveland Clinic -- where I wore an oxygen type mask and they measured the volume and type of gases entering and leaving my body (at least gases coming from ABOVE the waist!)... It was measured by an MD and checked by another MD as well as an exercise physiologist. I have no reason to not believe it.

I think that the VENTILATORY part of that is key: it measures essentially the same thing as the lactic acid threshold -- but it is different.

As they described it, for my age (63) my VAT of 18.9 ml/kg/min is 50% of my VO2Max of 38.1. Average for that is 60% and they want to see 70%. So, while my VO2Max is high, my VAT is low -- but it's not out of the normal range... And, with a BMI of 29, I could improve both numbers simply by losing some pounds (as well as improving my hill climbing!). (Unfortunately, losing that second 20 pounds has been inexplicably hard to do...)

Further: I suspect that my heart rate at my actual 'lactic acid threshold' would be higher than 114 -- but since that has never been measured, I do not know how much higher. But since I do not experience ANY burn or other noticeable ill effects at 114BPM, I think it is clear that my Lactic Acid Threshold is somewhere above that.

Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy
With a number like that, I advise backing it off and not doing so much hill work. Just ride and don't worry about it. Getting your body converted over to a cycling machine is a slow process. I've heard 7 years for complete adaptation, and I think that's probably about right. On the good side, that means that you'll keep getting better and faster for at least 7 years, which is nice to look forward to. Your VAT will come up no matter what you do as long as you're riding lots. You have a lot of base work to do. You'll know when you're ready for hills, and if you keep doing 150+ miles/week, you'll make good progress.
And, Carbonfiberboy: The exercise physiologist did not tell me to stay away from hills. Rather he suggested that I get my average heart rate on a ride up to between 120 and 138 (from the current 112) so that I could build my VAT level and be able to climb hills without getting bonked. Or, in other words, he said I had been spending too much time at low levels of exertion and I needed to push my body harder in order to build my VAT up to where he wants to see it: 70% of the VO2Max. When he told me that, I asked him: "Are you telling me I've been dogging it? I road 4,000 miles this past year!" He just smiled and nodded...

But, I agree with you: I have spent the last 40-50 years abusing my body through too little exercise and too many BigMacs. 7 years seems reasonable in order to compensate for that. But, at the same time, I will be fighting the deteriorating effects of old age. So, I may never get there if I take it easy as you suggest. Instead, I've made cycling my top priority and try to get in about 1 1/2 or 2 hours of saddle time a day, 5 or 6 days a week -- with my heart rate averaging above 120.
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Old 08-18-13, 08:45 AM
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Originally Posted by GeorgeBMac
<snip>
And, Carbonfiberboy: The exercise physiologist did not tell me to stay away from hills. Rather he suggested that I get my average heart rate on a ride up to between 120 and 138 (from the current 112) so that I could build my VAT level and be able to climb hills without getting bonked. Or, in other words, he said I had been spending too much time at low levels of exertion and I needed to push my body harder in order to build my VAT up to where he wants to see it: 70% of the VO2Max. When he told me that, I asked him: "Are you telling me I've been dogging it? I road 4,000 miles this past year!" He just smiled and nodded...

But, I agree with you: I have spent the last 40-50 years abusing my body through too little exercise and too many BigMacs. 7 years seems reasonable in order to compensate for that. But, at the same time, I will be fighting the deteriorating effects of old age. So, I may never get there if I take it easy as you suggest. Instead, I've made cycling my top priority and try to get in about 1 1/2 or 2 hours of saddle time a day, 5 or 6 days a week -- with my heart rate averaging above 120.
OK. If you rode 4000 miles in the past year, you already have a nice base. With a VAT that low I was concerned that you might be trying to do too much too early. Climb on!
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Old 08-18-13, 09:13 AM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy
OK. If you rode 4000 miles in the past year, you already have a nice base. With a VAT that low I was concerned that you might be trying to do too much too early. Climb on!
40+ years with a computer (or accountant's ledger) in front of you, a cigarette on one side and a cup of coffee on the other, 10-12 hours a day, 6 days a week tends to make your VAT a little low, your cholesterol and blood pressure a little high and your waist a little wide...

Today, everything except the VAT and the waist line is in pretty good shape. But I'm working on both!
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Old 08-18-13, 09:52 AM
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OK, if you're 63, then having VAT in the neighborhood of 114 is possible. What's the highest average heart rate you've seen during a 30 minute long continuous effort?
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Old 08-18-13, 12:08 PM
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I agree on the 7 years. I'm 2 1/2 years into my training regime...mostly 14-20 miles per ride with a hard (interval ride), a recovery ride. and a mid paced ride (focusing on 90 rpm) per week. I've lost about 20 pounds and reapportioned the remaining weight, I'm 5'10", 190 pounds and 58 YO. The last 10-15 pounds is the hardest to lose....I might get to 180 (doc says thats my ideal weight for my age...170 would be better) by next spring. My max heart rate is 170.


Using bike calculator and studying my rides over the years: I've gone from sub 100 watts to about 155 watts steady state (a pace ~ 17 mph). My long term goal in the next two years is 225 watts steady state to put me at/near 20 mph and a 7 mph pace on a 6% grade. What is a problem is that I'm riding a 53:39 with a 13-28 casssette and that bike gearing is very hard on hills as I can't spin efficiently at 85-90 rpm as that puts me at 9.0- 9.8 mph on 6% which is like 250-290 watts steady output. And that would be 3.6 watts per kg.


it just takes time to get there, steady improvement month by month. The positive side is that even though I'm an older cyclist, the steady improvement is a great reinforcer and when I replace my crankset...I'll go triple or compact to get those efficient low gears. In the meantime...I include 3%-4% grades and headwinds into my training and watch the lower cadences to protect the knees.
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Old 08-18-13, 04:00 PM
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IMO, it is an aerobic capacity problem coupled with too much body weight. The fix is eat less, ride harder and do more climbing.
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Old 08-18-13, 09:25 PM
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Originally Posted by hamster
OK, if you're 63, then having VAT in the neighborhood of 114 is possible. What's the highest average heart rate you've seen during a 30 minute long continuous effort?
I've only been using a heart rate monitor since May -- and I've only tried to up the intensity of my rides since being cleared (or is it pushed?) by my cardiologist and the execericise physiologist to up the intensity...

But, August 7 my highest heart rate during an 82 minute ride was 154 (my calculated max is 157 and the cardiologist said his stress test showed it is 161). The average for the whole 82 minute ride was 131 -- but that doesn't include the last 17 minutes on a down hill where it dropped well below the 120's.

I haven'figured out how to get my IPHone software to break the ride into pieces so I could answer your question.
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Old 08-18-13, 09:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Hermes
IMO, it is an aerobic capacity problem coupled with too much body weight. The fix is eat less, ride harder and do more climbing.
You should get a job at the Cleveland Clinic because you sound like my damn cardiologist!
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Old 08-18-13, 09:31 PM
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Originally Posted by GeorgeBMac
I haven't figured out how to get my IPHone software to break the ride into pieces so I could answer your question.
My Runmeter app defaults to 1 mile intervals if I set "cycling" as the activity in advance. The graph function allows interpolation down to about 1/10 of a mile or thereabouts. I've not linked it to a HM...that's a future project.
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Old 08-18-13, 10:24 PM
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Originally Posted by GeorgeBMac
I've only been using a heart rate monitor since May -- and I've only tried to up the intensity of my rides since being cleared (or is it pushed?) by my cardiologist and the execericise physiologist to up the intensity...

But, August 7 my highest heart rate during an 82 minute ride was 154 (my calculated max is 157 and the cardiologist said his stress test showed it is 161). The average for the whole 82 minute ride was 131 -- but that doesn't include the last 17 minutes on a down hill where it dropped well below the 120's.
So, is it 131 averaged over 82 minutes or over 65 minutes?

In either case, this would suggest that your heart rate at LT is at least 130. This is reasonable for a 63 year old. This would also suggest that your %VO2 at LT is 70% or higher. Normally LT = VAT (within the margin of measurement error). I think there was something wrong with the ventilatory test.
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Old 08-18-13, 10:55 PM
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At 68, my max HR is probably around 165. I just hit 161 on a climb and could have taken it up a bit more. My LT is 148, meaning that I can hold that HR on a climb for about 40 minutes. That's about 90% of MHR, which I believe is fairly normal for a well-trained rider. VT and LT are normally about the same.
https://bfitsandiego.com/bfit/content...-quick-summary
Test results and OP's experience do not match.

OP probably does not have the endurance to perform the LT test in the forum sticky. I suggest an alternative which will be close. Warm up 1/2 hour at 120 HR, including an all-out 1 minute effort at 20 and 25 minutes. Rest for a moment, then restart the HRM and immediately go very hard for 10 minutes, attempting to reach MHR at the end of the time. LT will be very close to the average HR for that 10 minutes.
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Old 08-18-13, 11:49 PM
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Aerobic capacity comes from innervated muscle. You've got to strength train to innervate the muscle, and the first off-shoot is strength gain. This increases aerobic capacity and it increases the intensity you are capable of using for shorter periods as well along with better recovery for aerobic activity.
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Old 08-19-13, 10:08 AM
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Originally Posted by hamster
So, is it 131 averaged over 82 minutes or over 65 minutes?

In either case, this would suggest that your heart rate at LT is at least 130. This is reasonable for a 63 year old. This would also suggest that your %VO2 at LT is 70% or higher. Normally LT = VAT (within the margin of measurement error). I think there was something wrong with the ventilatory test.
Sorry, I expressed that completely wrong: it DID include the 17 minutes (for a total of 82 minutes)...

But to your main point:
I am finding that an average is not a very good measure of anything related to thresholds -- especially as it relates to bike riding. That is, 20 minutes at 160bpm and 20 minutes at 90bpm average out to 125 -- which tells you almost NOTHING about capacity.... (And with the long, roliing hills I ride on, that is a pretty common scenario)

But, to your point: I can hold a heart rate of 128-130 (or higher on a good day) for 20 or 30 minutes. Which, while not a formal test, I think says something about my overall capacity and my LT.

BUT, I am not sure I agree that LT values can be compared directly to VAT values. They are measuring different things: LT is measuring the amount of lactic acid in the blood. Which, by the way, indicates nothing in and of itself -- but it is an indicator of acidosis which DOES trigger physiologic responses. Meanwhile VAT can be measured in different ways, but it basically indicates a change in breaths per minute as well as a change in the relationship between CO2 and O2 in those breaths. CO2 is produced from both aerobic as well as anaerobic metabolism.

So, while VAT and LT both are trying to estimate aerobic capacity and sustainable power, I am not so sure that their individual numbers or percentages need to correlate. And, in addition, even the unit of measure changes the perentage: For example:

Measured in ml/kg/min my VAT is 50% of my VO2max using the same unit of measure (18.9 vs 38.1).
BUT
Measured in beats-per-minute my VAT is 83% (114 vs 138).

Since the LT is measured almost exclusively based on heart rate and it is measuring blood chemistry instead of ventilation parameters, it is hard to compare numbers.
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Old 08-19-13, 11:16 AM
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Originally Posted by hamster
Personally I'm incredulous that the person reporting this actually had a VAT of 114 BPM. (Unless he's over 70 years old?)

To the OP: your power to weight and your gears are barely enough to spin up this hill at ~70 rpm. It is quite normal to experience signs of failure as described in this situation. Your best options are to get a 12-32 cassette and to lose weight.
For a 12-32 cassette, would I need to alter the chain, RD, and a million other things?
I have a '13 spec. secteur compact.

This thread really blew up over the last few days.


I made a second attempt at this climb, similar results. I think I took the early segments slower (up until spies road when I needed to stop)
I did some standing during some ''steeper sections'' before spies road, there were maybe 3 or 4 areas. They werent that steep, but I felt like ''recruiting different muscle groups'' as they say.

https://www.strava.com/activities/75198997
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Old 08-19-13, 11:24 AM
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Originally Posted by blackvans1234
For a 12-32 cassette, would I need to alter the chain, RD, and a million other things?
I have a '13 spec. secteur compact.

This thread really blew up over the last few days.


I made a second attempt at this climb, similar results. I think I took the early segments slower (up until spies road when I needed to stop)
I did some standing during some ''steeper sections'' before spies road, there were maybe 3 or 4 areas. They werent that steep, but I felt like ''recruiting different muscle groups'' as they say.

https://www.strava.com/activities/75198997
New chain, new RD, probably XTR. That should do it. For long climbs, I try not to let my cadence fall below 74, 78 more preferable. Gearing, speed, and cadence calculator here:
https://www.machars.net/bikecalc.htm
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Old 08-19-13, 11:32 AM
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Get better gearing (SRAM 11-32 10 speed cassette works great w/ deore 9 speed derailleur) and ride hills more
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