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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.

52 comments

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Some Fella [890 posts] 3 years ago
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I have no advice to give re. gearing but can assure you Blaze Hill has claimed many a poor soul and you should not feel any shame.

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andylul [410 posts] 3 years ago
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I run a compact with a 12-29 on it and that got me up Yorks Hill (but just)

My buddy's just swapped out his 12-25 for an 11-28 Ultegra on his Canyon (standard chainset) - he's a couple stone lighter than me and flies up anything approaching 1 in 4.

When he had his rear cog swapped over, he didn't have to have anything adjusted with the rear changer, cost him £70 (fitted) at LBS

Hope that helps

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ploughclose [18 posts] 3 years ago
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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)!

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cat1commuter [1421 posts] 3 years ago
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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.

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Psycling [50 posts] 3 years ago
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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.

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dave atkinson [6210 posts] 3 years ago
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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  19

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SammyG [274 posts] 3 years ago
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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!

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kayakboyuk [30 posts] 3 years ago
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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

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Gkam84 [9086 posts] 3 years ago
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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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giff77 [1232 posts] 3 years ago
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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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bashthebox [751 posts] 3 years ago
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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.

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kev_wal12 [14 posts] 3 years ago
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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

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Gkam84 [9086 posts] 3 years ago
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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  3

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veseunr [256 posts] 3 years ago
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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.

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kayakboyuk [30 posts] 3 years ago
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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.

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Timbo13 [264 posts] 3 years ago
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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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Simon E [2652 posts] 3 years ago
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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  3

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zzgavin [193 posts] 3 years ago
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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/

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giff77 [1232 posts] 3 years ago
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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  3 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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a_to_the_j [118 posts] 3 years ago
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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!

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Gkam84 [9086 posts] 3 years ago
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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  3

Hit my name and click on contact. Fill in the stuff and that'll email me and I can reply  3

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JediNeo [35 posts] 3 years ago
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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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simonsti [3 posts] 3 years ago
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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.

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kayakboyuk [30 posts] 3 years ago
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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!

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giff77 [1232 posts] 3 years ago
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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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mpt68 [99 posts] 3 years ago
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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

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kayakboyuk [30 posts] 3 years ago
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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

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captain_slog [335 posts] 3 years ago
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That looks glorious. Don't know if it counts if you stop to take pictures, though.

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giff77 [1232 posts] 3 years ago
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Well done mate!

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kayakboyuk [30 posts] 3 years ago
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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.

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