Defeated by Blaze Hill, gears for 25% incline

by kayakboyuk   September 11, 2012  

Variety is the spice of life they say so I thought a bit of hill climbing would help my all round strength for my sportive ambitions. That is how I found myself tackling Blaze Hill on the edge of the Peak District. I am used to battering my way around the north Cheshire plain between Mobberley and Middlewich in my biggest gears 53/11. In seconds I found myself on my smallest gear 39/25 and struggling.
10kph, 9,8,7,6,wobble. And I was off. After a quick breather I tried to get on again. I couldn't get enough pressure on the crank and hop on with my left; I couldn't get going again. I had to walk my bike up the last 100m like a kid. I had been defeated!
I found out that Blaze Hill has an incline of up to 25%, just as steep as some of the worse finishes on the Vuelta.
Umm, so I don't want say that I couldn't ever get up there on 39/25, but I ain't no pro. So what size cogs at the back would get me up that hill or anything else? There can't be many other steeper roads in the UK.

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I ain't no pro either and I don't go racing. I have always used a compact (50/34 on the front). I honestly don't think that anybody who is below a level where they're competing regularly needs to consider anything else but a compact. There's this macho element which deems that you must have 53/39 on the front, because it's "hard". Cobblers.

I also have a 28 tooth on the rear cassette. That's (just) got me up everything I've climbed, and that includes some 25 percenters. It also makes me a more effective hill climber over greater distances, 'cos I can just sit in the saddle and spin whilst others blast their legs coming out of the saddle. Conserves energy and is much more efficient. Helps that, despite the fact that I'm 6'3", I only weigh 70 kg (11 stone)!

posted by ploughclose [19 posts]
11th September 2012 - 15:04

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I've done a couple 25% roads in Cornwall (there are plenty). But that was on my bike with a Rohloff hub, which goes as low as MTB gears.

This year I failed to get up a Cornish hill on 34 x 29 (Church Hill, Golant). Thinking back, I should have tried getting out of the saddle!

Anywhere with a double arrow on the 1:25,000 OS map is a challenge.

two wheels good; four wheels bad

posted by cat1commuter [1321 posts]
11th September 2012 - 15:09

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I too would suggest a compact chain set. I live in rural north Yorkshire and there's plenty of 25% hills round here. Managed to climb anything with this and a 25 sprocket but this year invested in a 28 sprocket as my knees used to ache after a day riding in the hills.

posted by Psycling [49 posts]
11th September 2012 - 16:03

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I run a 50/34 compact and 11-28 cassette; that's enough gears for even me (100kg) to get up most stuff. I needed an 11-32 for Hardknott Pass though Devil

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posted by Dave Atkinson [7233 posts]
11th September 2012 - 16:06

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I would suggest not spending any money and "optimise gravitational resistance" and train like a beast over the winter then dominate the incline with your current setup next year.

Then you can remain macho on your double!

posted by SammyG [295 posts]
11th September 2012 - 18:21

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Right, all great stuff guys, thanks

First, I don't think I'll be trying a compact, I had one I wore out and was spinning out all the time, it came with my Jamis. Only when I came to replace the set did I learn I could go bigger. I don't think a 53 is 'macho' and am quite happy hitting 40+ kph on the brand new Alderley Edge bypass cycleway!
So I'm not going to mess with the front as it is not an easy swap. I am looking at a nice 11-(28)32 on ebay and hope those two extra cogs on the back will make the difference. Oh and training like a beast might work... eventually
I just googled Britain's Steepest Road and will keep Hardknott pass up my sleeve for later.

cheers, G

Only good at sitting-down sports

posted by kayakboyuk [41 posts]
11th September 2012 - 19:25

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This will not be to everyone's taste. But here is what I did.

I regularly climb some of the highest roads in Scotland. 7 of the top 20 are within my cycling range. I used to struggle quite a bit on steep parts.

Once I got to the stage where I could go no more. I climbed off and remembered the part which got me this time. Next time I would try and get further that I had done the last time. Many times later, I was at the stage where I could get over no problem.

Gearing will give you a bit more range. But keeping your pace steady and keep trying to get further every time you do the climb. Eventually you'll get there. Its more about the rider than it is the bike. I gave myself a little more range with gearing. I was still struggling. Now I can manage just fine. Its mind over body and bike sometimes.

Now I can manage the old Devil's Elbow up here, its a 33 percenter on my compact 50/34 with a 11/26 on the back. I have tackled it on a 53/39 with 14/24 on the back.....Deadly

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posted by Gkam84 [8645 posts]
11th September 2012 - 20:17

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I would say much the same as gkam. While different ratios may help. Work on your climbing skills and cadence. If you have got used to belting out a 53/11 I suggest working on cadence on a mid range gear then you've got plenty of scope for sprints and climbs. And as gkam says. Mark where you fall off the bike and the next time try and beat it. Let us know when you conquer the climb!

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posted by giff77 [1032 posts]
11th September 2012 - 22:02

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Ouch. I've done Mow Cop up in your part of the world, but I did it on a compact and an 11-27. And it nearly broke me, so very nearly. Highest I've ever seen my HR go. It was awesome. From memory, it's a 25% last lateral 100m after a hard climb. Lovely stuff.

posted by bashthebox [594 posts]
12th September 2012 - 1:03

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Does anyone know when shimano will release their 11-32 105 cassette? Seen articles on their 2013 range but cannot find a potential release date

KW

posted by kev_wal12 [14 posts]
12th September 2012 - 10:04

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The problem with the 105 mechs, short and long cage have a max rear sprocket size of 28 at the moment. So if you were after a 105 cassette to have everything 105.....It wouldn't work with a 11-32 Wink

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posted by Gkam84 [8645 posts]
12th September 2012 - 14:23

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Buy my Canyon CF SLX (61cm) with a compact 50/34 and 11/28 on the back. Just over 6.8kg and climbs like a beast. Brand new Ultegra/Dura Ace everywhere and it is soon to be advertised properly. PM is interested and I'll send some pics after I finish building it!

Built to go up the Alps, but trip fallen through and I can't have a £2k+ bike sitting around when I have 6 others in the garage!

Clever thing to do would be split it and sell for parts (Frame £1300, New groupset £800, Wheels £500, Handlebars, Stem, Seat, etc £200) but too nice for grabbing a few extra ££ - need someone to use it properly.

posted by veseunr [277 posts]
12th September 2012 - 14:33

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Dude, I haven't got 2 grand to buy your bike off you.

No I've decide what to get now. I will replace my 11-25 10speed cassette with a 11-32 and keep my 53-39 on the front. A compact 34+32 gives a ratio of 1.1 but the bigger 39+32 is still down at 1.2 and by keeping the front big I still get my 53+11 and 12 and 14 to play with. Yep this might be the OMNI gears I need for the flat and the hills.

Only good at sitting-down sports

posted by kayakboyuk [41 posts]
14th September 2012 - 1:24

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As Gkam mentioned before, that may well need a whole new rear mech with a long cage. Cheaper than a new bike, but still an added expense when an 11-28 cassette might avoid that and still be enough for Blaze Hill.

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posted by Timbo13 [272 posts]
14th September 2012 - 8:48

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I think the current Tiagra 10 speed rear mech will cope with a 32t bottom gear but I'm sure I read that 105 5700 and Ultegra are not designed to cope with cogs that big. 5600 has even less clearance, Shimano say officially 27t is max sprocket.

SRAM designed Apex to facilitate similar ultra-low gearing.

Of course you could always get a 105 triple chainset... provided you can cope with the nosedive in your street cred Wink

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posted by Simon E [1885 posts]
14th September 2012 - 9:43

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One other thing to consider is lighter wheels, I've definitely noticed a difference since getting some RS80s to replace the RS20s which my CAAD10 came with. I use a compact and a 12-27 on the back with 105, I do notice a bit of spinning out, but I can climb well with that. Took the bike to the Pyrenees in the summer and it was great fun. Longer stretches of 10/11% and infrequent jumps to 20+ England definitely is shorter and steeper.
The training videos from the sufferfest help a lot, Angels, The Hunted and Hell Hath No Fury are all brutally efficient at building climbing strength and working on proper climbing cadence. the latter two have sustained 20 minute climbs. Start with Angels, as it is fun, by the time you are at the top of the Alps D'Huez, you'll have had your fill.
http://www.thesufferfest.com/video-sufferfests/details-angels/

Cannondale CAAD10, Condor Terra-X and an orange Brompton.
Ride for East London Velo

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posted by zzgavin [204 posts]
14th September 2012 - 10:25

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As others have said. If you are going up to a 32 then you also need to look at getting a long cage rear mech. As I said in mylast comment, work on your climbing technique then you will find you only need a 28 Wink unless of course you are touring then a triple will help those hills. Also meant to say in my last post that if you are covering huge distances on 53/11 you are going to go through chainsets like nobodies business. Keep it in the middle then you've got room to play with. Also meaans that you don't need to change into a lower gear quickly if you hit the hill while on 11

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posted by giff77 [1032 posts]
14th September 2012 - 22:53

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if your running shimano do what i did and get xtr long cage rear mech and xtr rear cassette - super light, crisp shifts and great gearing for 25%

GKAM84 - i;m new to morayshire area, would be keen to do some great "mountain passes" around scotland - if you could list some places to climb ? many thanks!

posted by a_to_the_j [73 posts]
15th September 2012 - 20:39

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What abouts in Moray are you? I used to live in Elgin, pretty flat around there though. Give me an idea where you are and i'll try to suggest some for you. I have a good knowledge of that area Wink

Hit my name and click on contact. Fill in the stuff and that'll email me and I can reply Wink

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posted by Gkam84 [8645 posts]
15th September 2012 - 21:01

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I too have an 11-28. With it I can get up most of the hills in the local area. Worst we have is about 20% at the top.

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posted by JediNeo [32 posts]
16th September 2012 - 5:59

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I have never found I need anything more than 39/25 for any of the local climbs around me.
That includes any of the macc forest climbs, mow cop or south peak district climbs.

It is just a matter of practicing climbs in a big gear to get better at them.

posted by simonsti [3 posts]
18th September 2012 - 15:43

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Well I am going to try it again tomorrow or Thursday. It turns out I was actually trying to do the hill in 39/23. My gear alignments were off and shifted inwards to favour my smaller cogs (I've had shifting issues before and need it to go to the top ring.) But it is now tested, aligned and shifts through all 10 gears. Will it be enough with a bit of determination?

I am amazed this thread is still going by the way!

Only good at sitting-down sports

posted by kayakboyuk [41 posts]
18th September 2012 - 17:06

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Just remember when your lungs are burning and your legs are turning to jelly 'dig in' mate. Hoping you can conquer it. Look forward to hearing all about it.

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posted by giff77 [1032 posts]
19th September 2012 - 2:27

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veseunr wrote:
Buy my Canyon CF SLX (61cm) with a compact 50/34 and 11/28 on the back. Just over 6.8kg and climbs like a beast. Brand new Ultegra/Dura Ace everywhere and it is soon to be advertised properly. PM is interested and I'll send some pics after I finish building it!

Built to go up the Alps, but trip fallen through and I can't have a £2k+ bike sitting around when I have 6 others in the garage!

Clever thing to do would be split it and sell for parts (Frame £1300, New groupset £800, Wheels £500, Handlebars, Stem, Seat, etc £200) but too nice for grabbing a few extra ££ - need someone to use it properly.

is the bike anywhere near being finished ??
would interested in it if it is.
looking to buy a new bike in that price range

posted by mpt68 [101 posts]
19th September 2012 - 4:33

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I did it! Blaze Hill it earns it's name on a magnificent late Saturday afternoon. It doesn't look like 25% and this is only the end of the first part, there was another 20% section above it up to the Macclesfield Road. Proves I need to learn how to maintain my bike to do anything challenging.
So the 39/25 was enough but only just, fortunately all of 'Britain's Steepest Roads' are well away from me. But I've signed up for the Etape Cymru 2013 so I have a year of hell in the Peak District to get ready.

cheers, G

blaze hill.jpg

Only good at sitting-down sports

posted by kayakboyuk [41 posts]
24th September 2012 - 1:42

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That looks glorious. Don't know if it counts if you stop to take pictures, though.

Noli porcum linguere

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posted by captain_slog [262 posts]
24th September 2012 - 8:14

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Well done mate!

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posted by giff77 [1032 posts]
24th September 2012 - 18:40

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captain_slog wrote:
That looks glorious. Don't know if it counts if you stop to take pictures, though.

Thanks, wait, hey, I'm not allowed to stop at the top? If we take that argument to the extreme; if I had just climbed Col du Tourmalet I'm still not allowed to take a pic? I should just plough on over the other side. Well this is just training, you'll know when your in a race, and there is no stopping.
Stopping on the slope was were it all started.

Only good at sitting-down sports

posted by kayakboyuk [41 posts]
24th September 2012 - 20:47

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FYI - Shimano do Tiagra, 105 and Ultegra short cage mechs in an 'A' version that will take a 30T rear cog. I struggled to find one in the uk though so ordered it from Rose in Germany.
http://www.rosebikes.co.uk/article/shimano-ultegra-rear-derailleur-rd-67...
I compared it to the standard max 28T 105 mech and it's just got a slightly different placement of the upper jockey wheel. If you want bigger than a 30T you can fit a medium cage XT mech that should run to 34T

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posted by joemmo [768 posts]
25th September 2012 - 13:10

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Damn right about the horror that is cornwall. Trying to climb out of Coverack with a belly full of fish and chips even with a triple and 12/26 = bleaugh!!

cheers m'dears

2011 Rose Pro-SL 3000 Road
2006 Lemond Alpe d'Huez Broken
1997 Marin Sausaulito Urban bimbling/shopper
1980 Orbea project

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posted by daviddb [120 posts]
19th October 2012 - 21:39

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