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Gearing change?

Old 07-03-22, 07:49 AM
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Microfiche
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Gearing change?

I moved from the flat ass prairies to any area where I am now having to learn how to ride hills.
I know almost nothing about gearing or derailleurs.
My 5 year old stock Giant Defy Advanced 3 has a Shimano Tiagra, 11-32, 10-Speed cassette and a Shimano Tiagra, 34/50 crankset.
I think that gives me about a 1.06 ratio in the lowest gear and I am finding that it is too high for me - in trying to keep my heart rate under 150, my speed is only around 7 km/hr and my cadence is in the low 40s
In addition, when going downhill, I find I can't keep up when I reach around 60 km/hr or so - i.e. I can't pedal fast enough to increase speed. I think that I am maxing out around 108 RPM.
I think that is a 4.55 ratio with my setup.
Is it feasible to change this up so I can have a higher ratio in the top end and lower in the bottom end?
I can't post a pic or link yet, but perhaps I could share Strava ride by DM if that would help.
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Old 07-03-22, 08:23 AM
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It might just be a matter of training and getting familiar with hills. A 34-32 low gear is lower than what I use and I'm old and fat. Also, a 50-11 high gear is higher than I have and I only rarely get spun out.
Give it some time, do lots of climbing and you should get more comfortable with it. Descending steep roads I usually just tuck and don't pedal anyway.
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Old 07-03-22, 08:52 AM
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I moved from flat to hilly 4 - 6% grades of 40 to 50 feet occasional 80 feet of elevation change with each hill. For me it was getting a lighter bike that did the most good. Even 5 pounds lighter will make some of those hills vanish.

Why the cap on your HR? Some of my 1 hour rides are at an average of 150 BPM.

For a 10 speed or less rear, you'll get your best range of gearing for both top and bottom end ratios if you go to a 3x front.

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Old 07-03-22, 09:28 AM
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Originally Posted by Iride01 View Post

Why the cap on your HR? Some of my 1 hour rides are at an average of 150 BPM.
.
I was wondering the same thing. I am 72 years old and I don't really feel warmed up until my heart rate gets to 150 bpm.
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Old 07-03-22, 09:35 AM
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Depending on the rest of the groupset, you might go up to an 11x34, which would give you a 1:1. That's probably about as low as you can go without a triple crankset.

As far as the top end, you could go to a larger big ring but that usually comes with a larger small ring, which means your low gear gets higher. I don't think you want the gap between the two rings to be more than 16t, or you'll have problems shifting. Also, if you're in 50x11, spinning at 100 rpm will have you going >35 mph. If you're spinning out with a 50 x 11, you could probably just tuck and coast.
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Old 07-03-22, 09:42 AM
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The hill I am climbing and descending is about 2 km at about an average 6% grade, as high as 12% at times. Total ascent about 150 m (500 ft) or so?
I am pushing 60 now and from what I have calculated, 150 bpm is a decent cap for my HR, though I have not done an FTP test.
What I would really like would be just to be able to pedal a bit faster when I can only manage 6-8 km/hr, as well as maybe get a little faster on the descent.
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Old 07-03-22, 09:58 AM
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It’s your body and your physiology, but if I capped my HR at 150 I would not get far. I am 57 and can max out at 190.

Maybe you just need to pedal harder and/or gain more fitness. I know that’s not what you asked. For gearing you could try a 34 in back.
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Old 07-03-22, 10:03 AM
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Swapping out the 50/34 chainring to a 46/30 would reduce your climbing effort by about 12% and allow you to climb at about 7 kph at a reasonable 60 rpm. I would not pedal over 50 kph, Just coast.

There probably are gearsets avaliable to give you both more speed, and lower effort climbing, But IMO it is not worth the effort.
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Old 07-03-22, 10:10 AM
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I wouldn't change anything. 11-32 with 50/34 is a really good setup for hills.
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Old 07-03-22, 10:11 AM
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I know nothing about your health, but unless you have a condition or are taking medication that limits your HR, I would not arbitrarily set a limit so low. I'm 64, and most of my rides my maximum is about 165 but if I'm really going hard I'll go as high as 175. 150 is Tempo for me.
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Old 07-03-22, 10:13 AM
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Thanks xroadcharlie that is helpful!
I am pretty happy with my fitness level and cycling ability and willing to slowy improve with time.
In the meantime, I was just wondering if I could make that climb a little easier.
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Old 07-03-22, 10:40 AM
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I wouldn't change the gearing. Try to expand your cadence by spinning smoother at 100 rpm or more. Above 35mph I bring my knees and elbows in tight and try to hold a more horizontal position. I can usually pull away from other riders without pedaling.
Also learn to develop power at low rpms while you climb. Flatlanders need to change their habits and skills when the route becomes dominated by hills.
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Old 07-03-22, 11:01 AM
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Lighter weight going up the hill, whether the bike or you will make it easier. Lower gearing too will make it easier as you've ask about. But that will also make your climbing speed slower unless you pick up your cadence. But then you'll be bumping up against that self imposed HR limit.

On a 10 speed Tiagra equipped bike, I'd think you'd get the most by changing your front crank to a 3x. That'll require a crank, front DR and front shifter change. Not cheap, but not too expensive either. If your rear DR is a short cage, then you might also have to change it to a mid cage model. But rear DR's in 105, Tiagra or lower tier are also inexpensive.

I just don't think a 2 tooth change on the rear is going to do much for you. And that is probably the limit you should go on the rear without also having to change other stuff that will up your costs closer to what changing the front crank will be.
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Old 07-03-22, 11:02 AM
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I'd ignore all these people and put easier gearing on the bike if you need easier gearing. I don't know what it is with roadies and their HTFU attitudes. Get a Wolf tooth roadlink and stick an 11-36 or even 11-40 cassette on the back of that thing. Won't cost much and you can always swap back when you get your climbing legs.
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Old 07-03-22, 11:06 AM
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As others have already pointed out, the key limitation in your system is not the gearing or the cadence on the bike, it is your arbitrary bpm limitation. I'm another 60+-er who would get up no big hills with my current gearing if I had to hold my heart rate at 150. The 220-age formula is considered only an initial guess only as individuals very greatly, and it is now well-known that for more fit senior athletes it doesn't fit well. There are several better formulas for more active athletes, eg.

Maximum Heart Rate = 211–0.64 x Age

Which if you were e.g. 70 would put your max at 166bpm. Here is an article on this issue which includes this formula. Check with your doc of course. Most docs these days have moved on from the 220-age formula and are aware how all formulae are just an initial approximation.
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Old 07-03-22, 11:08 AM
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Originally Posted by Canker View Post
I'd ignore all these people and put easier gearing on the bike if you need easier gearing. I don't know what it is with roadies and their HTFU attitudes.
I'd think your statement here is a HTFU attitude
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Old 07-03-22, 11:38 AM
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Thanks everyone. I guess I should not have put a reason for the gearing change request, as it apparently invites editorial comment.
Or maybe that wouldn't have mattered. In any case, I have some ideas from those who chose to answer my question directly. Thanks - I am out!
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Old 07-03-22, 12:19 PM
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I'm 69 and still get my heart rate over 170 on a tough climb. I came back to cycling four years ago after almost eight years off due to my worn out knees. With new knees I ride slopes as steep as 12%. Power to weight ratio makes a big difference. I now weigh 133-134 which is about 8 pounds less than when I came back. It took over two years and 10,000 miles to get my fitness back. One important thing to get back was my ability to pedal standing for up to a mile to get up some of the steepest slopes. Pedaling out of the saddle allows me to use about two sprockets smaller than pedaling seated.

I found a modern bike setup to be valuable. I was riding a shimano grx 46/30 crank with sram force axs 12 speed 10-36 cassette. I'm using a 48/31 with a 10-33 cassette now that I'm in better shape.
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Old 07-03-22, 01:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Microfiche View Post
Thanks everyone. I guess I should not have put a reason for the gearing change request, as it apparently invites editorial comment.
Or maybe that wouldn't have mattered. In any case, I have some ideas from those who chose to answer my question directly. Thanks - I am out!
Sorry about the editorial. It's tough to not put my own spin on an inquiry. I promise to do better.

That said, are you sure you really want to limit your HR to 150?
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Old 07-03-22, 02:18 PM
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I wish I could limit mine to 150, I climbed 1900 (virtual) feet yesterday with my goofy pacemaker and my average for the climb was 102.
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Old 07-03-22, 02:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Microfiche View Post
I moved from the flat ass prairies to any area where I am now having to learn how to ride hills.
I know almost nothing about gearing or derailleurs.
My 5 year old stock Giant Defy Advanced 3 has a Shimano Tiagra, 11-32, 10-Speed cassette and a Shimano Tiagra, 34/50 crankset.
I think that gives me about a 1.06 ratio in the lowest gear and I am finding that it is too high for me - in trying to keep my heart rate under 150, my speed is only around 7 km/hr and my cadence is in the low 40s
In addition, when going downhill, I find I can't keep up when I reach around 60 km/hr or so - i.e. I can't pedal fast enough to increase speed. I think that I am maxing out around 108 RPM.
I think that is a 4.55 ratio with my setup.
Is it feasible to change this up so I can have a higher ratio in the top end and lower in the bottom end?
I can't post a pic or link yet, but perhaps I could share Strava ride by DM if that would help.
Originally Posted by Microfiche View Post
The hill I am climbing and descending is about 2 km at about an average 6% grade, as high as 12% at times. Total ascent about 150 m (500 ft) or so?
I am pushing 60 now and from what I have calculated, 150 bpm is a decent cap for my HR, though I have not done an FTP test.
What I would really like would be just to be able to pedal a bit faster when I can only manage 6-8 km/hr, as well as maybe get a little faster on the descent.
Originally Posted by Microfiche View Post
Thanks everyone. I guess I should not have put a reason for the gearing change request, as it apparently invites editorial comment.
Or maybe that wouldn't have mattered. In any case, I have some ideas from those who chose to answer my question directly. Thanks - I am out!
moving from mostly 'flat' to 'climbing' rides is a shock for most... and as Lemond has said "It never gets easier, you just go faster"... also seems to mostly hold true for Rec. riding as much as it does for racing...
There is this 'Magic' in cycling which seems to happen (both good and Bad magic) which is : when you're climbing and generally going quite slow, at slow cadence (under 60 rpm), going into a smaller/easier gear doesn't make it 'easier', you just go even slower... on descending, the 'magic' happens at about 55 60 kph on slopes of +- 5% ish - going into a 'Bigger gear' doesn't really make you faster, cause to go faster you have to pedal harder... and since you're prolly pedaling at a cadence which is already your 'comfort' max, trying to get the bigger gear to that same cadence requires more 'power', captain.
150 HR... for humans.. seems to happen quite easily, when the road goes up. Doesn't really take much to hit 150... a small bump roller will have me at 150 in no time... it's the 150 to 170 where the rubber meets the road... this doesn;t change as you get older, it's the SAME... so it's just a matter of whether you choose to hit the 150 to 170 range, for how long - as you age...
most make that decision to avoid 150-170 at some point in their riding life, and stop doing riding climbs which go there... that's a choice we all can make...
gearing...
IF you don;t want to pedal more for the descents you're doing, then you'll at least want to keep the 50x11... ?
IF you want to try an easier/smaller gear, then you'll need something larger than 32 - and all the mech changes and adjustments to getting it to work....
IF you want to lighten the load, 2 ways, the bike & parts OR You.
'You' is the cheapest, and most difficult for most of us. 'Bike' is always a varying range of economic costs...
The Posters here are mostly NOT being judgemental or callous - they're just giving the pragmatic reality within the framework of the request.
There may be joy in the 'Giving', but you gotta expect a little of that.
We ALL have the same challenges, in some degree varying to our own current states.
Best to take the comments, especially those repeated by many, often; and apply as you see fit. Cycling is a reality check, and it's NOT about the speed...
OH... one could also choose an E-bike ... if the answer were purely speed... or even making it up a rise...
... I have a cycling buddy, who really quite strong and fit for 75... he chose to get an e-bike - Spec topline road machine - BECAUSE he doesn;t want to ride with the 'Old guys/old racers'. He still wants to mix it with the quite young and very fit racers... We remain good friends and appreciate each other's choice...
It does get better, over time, when we try... and if life steps in the way, that should be totally expected...
Ride On
Yuri
EDIT: HTFU... speed is a big component of cycling, unless you're doing trials... so yeah, what might be HTFU depends on the rider. And how it's presented/'given', may add 'attitude". That's hard to avoid in the non-meat-space of the internet. You could try to limit by "ALL I want/ask is for equipment based option !!!"
But it likely won;t be an observed limiter... LOL!

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Old 07-03-22, 02:59 PM
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I'm 57 and am probably the worst climber on the forums that's not obese or has a disability. Other riders on the board can back that up. I'm in the OP's wheelhouse. I ride road triples. Usually a 52/40-42/30 in front with an 11-28 or 30 in the back. I may go a month or two at times between visits onto the granny. I have one climbing ride a year that I swap the 40-42/30 rings for a 36/28 combo. Anyway, my thoughts:

If you go with even lower gearing, you might be able to pedal faster, but you won't be getting up the hill any faster. You'll be spinning up that hill at 80 rpms............and only going around 4-5mph. That's what I do. You can either spin a really low gear and go slow or try to mash a bigger one and go a little faster. Take your pick.
On the top end, if you can't spin/hold a 50/11 at a decent clip on level ground, a bigger gear isn't going to help you much. Keep the 50/11 and try to use all of the gears. Tuck in on the downhills and conserve your energy. Work on increasing your cadence/power. Improvement will come.
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Old 07-03-22, 04:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Microfiche View Post
Thanks everyone. I guess I should not have put a reason for the gearing change request, as it apparently invites editorial comment.
Or maybe that wouldn't have mattered. In any case, I have some ideas from those who chose to answer my question directly. Thanks - I am out!
Yeah, that. Any question opens up Pandora's Box.
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Old 07-03-22, 05:26 PM
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Originally Posted by cyclezen View Post
There is this 'Magic' in cycling which seems to happen (both good and Bad magic) which is : when you're climbing and generally going quite slow, at slow cadence (under 60 rpm), going into a smaller/easier gear doesn't make it 'easier'
Yes it does, or at least, it does in my experience. Gearing bottom-out puts a lower bound on the amount of force you need to pedal at in order to keep going; lower gears decrease this bound. Plenty of the hills around me force me to go at least somewhat hard if I'm on a bike with typical road gearing, but if I'm on my gravel bike (which has a 19" bottom gear), I have the option to take it easy if I want to.

you just go even slower...
You only go slower if you use the lower gears to go easier. For the most part, in my experience, gearing bottom-out is bad for power: the lower your cadence has been kicked, the more dramatic this is. Although it's sometimes easier to produce more pedaling force at lower cadences, there are harsh limits to this. If I'm fighting to keep the pedals turning over at 50rpm, changing to a higher gear that sends me down to 40rpm is unlikely to facilitate the corresponding 5/4ths increase in pedaling force that would allow me to maintain the same power.

My '83 Miyata has a 42-28 low gear, while my Emonda has a 34-28. On moderate climbs, the Emonda has a speed advantage of a couple percent, which is in agreement with basic kinematic differences between the bikes (i.e. the Emonda's 5-pound weight advantage). But on climbs where I start feeling bottomed out even on the Emonda, its advantage over the Miyata can quickly rise to over 10%.
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Old 07-03-22, 06:15 PM
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For all those bringing up his maximum HR - please be aware that some of us DO have medical / heart conditions and/or take medications that will limit your maximum HR.
OP - when in doubt, consult a cardiologist. Possibly request a stress test, and ask an actual medical professional (rather than internet forum posters) what is best for you.
I know of one cyclist, many years younger than I, who pushed his HR on a hard climb, and suffered a full blown heart attack on the descent.

If you want to check your gearing, go here: Sheldon Brown's Bicycle Gear Calculator
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