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So I finished the London 100. Having finally found the Excel centre and been overjoyed at the sensation of lifting a 5.2kg bike on exhibit, and after a rubbish hot nights sleep at a local hostel; I got up at 4:30am and found my way to the start. The first sections through London were on wonderful cool open empty motorways with only marauding groups of fast riders appearing on the right, I tried to get a pull out of them for a couple of miles before getting dropped for another group.

The trouble started when I got to the first of the big climbs, pushed but had to take it down to my smallest gear. I was suddenly suffering. I struggled on but decided the trees were inviting me to stop and have a pee. Well it turned out I really didn't have to go and when I got back on a bit more collected it turned out I was near the top. Things got worse at Leith Hill were I had to stop twice. Once on the straight lane upwards when I had gotten down to 7kph with head and heart thumping. It was at this point that finishing the course became the priority not keeping my target; I did wonder why I couldn't and all these other people could keep going. I just could not walk my bike up the hill. It took terrible force to get going and my left shoe would just not clip in but I wobbled back on and upwards to an inviting gravely bend. Others were stopping there. A friendly resident who had seen it all before promised it was only 400m to the top and that Box Hill was a doddle compared. I am not sure that 400m was true but Box Hill was indeed easier. The smooth road surface for the Olympics was wonderful. I did just shift down and stayed left and let everyone else go by, but I promised myself not to stop, and I didn't. The view at the top was majesty but brief. I found mostly there wasn't much chance to watch the landscape, so watching the road surface, picking lines around traffic islands and what kit people were wearing was what I was doing. Especially if there was one jersey going at a similar speed who I kept dropping on the downhill and flat but kept somehow catching up.

After about 20miles my top gear had come loose, the 11T ring spins; I've tried tightening it up as much as possible but sometimes the torsion just sends it spinning loosely. There is a lot I can do with 12T and cadence but every now and again on a fast downhill you still want everything you can get. Even so some hills were so fast you just had to get aero and enjoy the ride. The top speed I got was 73.2kph; which was exhilarating, I was thinking, this was great 'free' speed and I don't have to pedal, but don't crash or you will die. I haven't felt like that since I stopped kayaking, picking lines came back to me quickly. I did wonder sometimes when I glanced over my right shoulder to move across, if there might be someone coming up behind me quickly we could clip wheels and send us both down, but most of the time the people approaching would have an annoying but expensively clicky freewheel noise as a warning.

I had to stop twice more for a couple of minutes each on the long rolling route back to London, my body was now in new territory, I had never done more than 100km or the amount of climbing before and I just had to stop to stretch my back and shake my legs. I felt like I was just going slower and slower due to pain and a stop would speed me up in the long run.
As I was struggling into the last 15 miles there was a guy stood at the side of the road around Henley. He was a big fella, looked like he went to the gym a fair bit and wasn't a cycling type, but he was holding up a hand written sign on cardboard, it read: 'THE PAIN IS LEAVING YOUR BODY.' I looked up at him, he smiled and point to me with a downward swooping finger that said 'yes, you.' I laughed out load as I swished past, but from then on I did think I could control the pains and push on to the finish. My lower left back was a stitch of pain; my right big toe was throbbing, it just flattens itself against my shoe, the force just seems to go through there; the palms of my hands feeling every judder. Coming about the corner at Wimbledon there was a big cheer, I looked around at the gap behind and wasn't in any group, there was 50m either way, and they were just cheering for me, or maybe for my GB kit?

Coming down the hill through Putney on the right of the road and over the bridge I maxed it out again and got really tucked down and though 'Ha, now I am Vinokurov [that fink]' I now recognized every part of the route from the finale of the Olympics. Having lost the use of my 11T ring earlier I discovered that the 12T doesn’t engage until you are under 46kph, that little nugget of knowledge gained made me laugh again.
As we charged north of the river I saw some familiar jerseys that had been dogging me for the last 40miles and I just kept pushing and sped past them. Then as we got onto one of the blue lanes a group started to build along Millbank, a motorbike outrider appeared in front of us and slowed the pace to about 25kph 'uur whats the hold up' (turns out something to do with the pedestrian crossings) but he quickly peeled off. He had build up a group of about 25 riders and there were whoops and a shout of 'Have it Boys!' We stormed through Parliament Square and Whitehall at full tilt. There was a massive crowd cheering the turn at Trafalgar Square and under Admiralty Arch. One final sprint up The Mall to the finish and I felt a bit emotional at the end. The support was wonderful and I though this was all a bit amazing. The event was supposed to be me 'doing' the Olympics course and that is exactly what it turned out to be and I was surprised just how much it had all changed around since the top of Leith hill.
Just as I crossed the announcer said that the 4000th finished has crossed in my group. I though back to the hundreds of people who had passed me every time I stopped for a drink or to stretch my back, or the hundreds who just passed on the hills and was surprised it wasn't more. In the end my time was 6:02:02 (d'oh), according to my computer my moving time minus stops was 5:34:25. Off my target 5h20/ 30kph average but having never covered the distance before factoring in the extra stops was something I didn't plan for.

So now I have the Etape Cymru coming up to finish the summer. But after my desperate climbing performance in London (797m) the Etape (1680m elevation gain) seem like I have bitten off more then I can chew. I am 36 (nearly 37, yep) years old, 90kgs, fittish but carrying a 'desk' belly. There isn't much I can do to loose more weight this year. Can I buy my way to a bit better climbing?
I mostly train in south Manchester/Cheshire, which is quite flat. I finished the Great Manchester Cycle 2013 52miles in 2h26, but that is pan flat. My preparation for that was ideal but I just couldn't find the hours to get enough hill climbing or distance done. I now have a couple of weeks off before the Etape but worry that with my current gears I just can't cope. I wonder what everyone else was using or if I just haven't done enough. My current cassette is 11-25T and needs replacing. I wonder what extra I can fit on the back without changing my derailleur? The Etape has 6 cat1 climbs compared to 1 of Leith Hill. I have to do something or abandon it for this year. Can anyone suggest what cassette I should buy? (Sorry for the long preamble to the question.)

57 comments

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Leviathan [1975 posts] 2 years ago
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Here is the source of my pain/dilemma: 11/25 Cassette. I still need 11 but What can I go up to 28? 32? more?

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arfa [747 posts] 2 years ago
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Sounds like you need to get out into the pennines and do some hills - the more you do, the easier they get....

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thebungle [103 posts] 2 years ago
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Yup, get climbing, it's the only way.

If you can get out 3-4 nights make a point of doing the hilliest routes that you can, I'm of a similar weight to you and a period of targetting hills earlier in the year really paid off.

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Al'76 [110 posts] 2 years ago
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Sorry, this is not going to be what you want to hear...I live in the Surrey Hills and climb Leith Hill frequently. It's one of the more gentle climbs in the area; in close proximity there's Barhatch Lane (21%) and White Down (18%) so the organisers were actually really quite kind to only include Leith. Anyway the point behind this is that the worst the Surrey Hills can throw at you pales into insignificance compared to the Etape Cymru. I rode it last year and, whilst it was an awesome day, there's some "good" climbing on that route.
Given that you've only got a month, could be time for a medium cage rear mech and a 12-32 cassette  24

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gazer117 [26 posts] 2 years ago
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Yep hills hills and more hills. However a 12-27 cassette should give you a fairly low gear. I assume that the limit for the rear much is probably 27t. Are you running a standard or compact up front ? Btw if Box or leath are 'Big Hills' then the etape has mountains. Could be the time for a triple  3

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dave atkinson [6223 posts] 2 years ago
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yup - think about a GS cage rear mech (i'm assuming that mech is shimano? looks it) and a wide cassette: 12-30 or 12-32 if the mech will take it.

don't forget that if you were 4,000th across the line you're in the top third of all finishers. so don't be too hard on yourself.

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sm [382 posts] 2 years ago
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Find a local short and sharp climb. Do three reps as fast as you can. Next week do four and so on. Even with just a month to go you'll improve massively. Just remember to push as hard as you can on every single rep.

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msw [113 posts] 2 years ago
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I had a Tiagra 12-30 cassette that worked fine with a medium-cage Ultegra rear mech. I'm 15 kg lighter than you and I would put that 12-30 on without a second thought if I was going to do Proper Hills.

Also you might be surprised how much weight you can lose in a month. I should have been doing the RideLondon but for a crash, and I got quite a bit lighter just by cutting out alcohol and biscuits.

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robdaykin (not verified) [368 posts] 2 years ago
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I agree, the Surrey Hills are comparatively mild.
Leith Hill was rated as Cat 2 for the pros, so it's much less than any of the cat 1's in the Etape in gradient and length.

I've had trouble with one cassette with the 11 ring not really engaging on the hub. Changing cassette fixed it, and I can't account for it. Almost as if the cassette is slightly wider than it's replacement, which is identical in theory, same model, though different ratios (11-26 vs 11-28).

As for gears, what have you got on the front? 52 or 53 and a 39? If so you'll probably need to change that. You could try a medium cage mech to get 11-28 with a compact chainset (50/34). But if you really need 52/11, and you want to give yourself a serious crack at the hills, then think about a triple (52/39/30). Trouble with that is new shifter, derailleur and chainset. Though compared to the same cassette on a compact, you're gaining 1 or maybe 2 gears, so it's not a vast difference. An SRAM Apex 11-32 cassette supposedly makes up for that, but the gaps between the gears can make riding cadence on the flat harder. The 11-32 may not fit a medium cage Shimano derailleur with a compact chainset. You'll need to read the specs on maximum teeth difference accommodated. I think for Shimano 5700 medium cage it's something like 38 or 39, 22 for the triple plus 17 (11-28) on the back, so it might. I think the short cage derailleur that yours looks like has 28 or 30 teeth capacity, but I haven't checked. If it's Shimano there'll be a number on it somewhere, like 5700 which can use to look the specs up on techdocs.shimano.eu.

To give you a comparison, for heavy climbing in the North York Moors, I ride a triple 52/42/30 with 12-26 cassette (9 speed). Round Surrey I'm riding a semi-compact double 52/36 Q rings with 11-26 cassette (10 speed). 36/26 is getting me up everything I've pointed it at down here, and I've been up steeper than Leith Hill. Up north 30/26 sometimes isn't enough. I still have 1 hill near Scarborough I've never cleaned.

I'm slightly heavier than you, but I'd expect to do the london 100 route in a similar time, so not too different, and I definitely don't consider myself a climber.

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Leviathan [1975 posts] 2 years ago
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robdaykin wrote:

I'm slightly heavier than you, but I'd expect to do the london 100 route in a similar time, so not too different, and I definitely don't consider myself a climber.

Ballot for 2014 opens on Monday 12th August, so hope you can back this up  19

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Leviathan [1975 posts] 2 years ago
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Where to start: Thanks Dave but I did start at about 6:09, they didn't really stop the C's rolling out with the B's, so plenty of people could have started behind me by up to two hours and still got a better time.
I was not blessed with a whippet like body, more of a sausage dog, all middle. Lets me just see how I get on with the beer and biscuits for now.
I work in central Manchester so any proper hills are about two hours away. There is no way to get to them 3/4 times a week. I will look at finding a small local hill to do reps on, but I will have to learn about new muscles the hard way as riding out of the saddle seems very alien to me and seems to drain me even quicker than struggling in a low gear.
I do have a 'normal' front set 53/39T and I know you might think a compact is better for climbing, but in the words of Meryl Streep, the Crankset is strictly non-negotiable. I am already using the 53/13+12+11 90% of the time and was in London. I am already giving away speed to younger skinnier guys swooshing past me, it isn't just cadence. I used to have a compact and was just spinning out on the flat so it is not an option.
I don't understand why you can't get a big and small combo like 34/53 so that there is little overlap between the rings; a compact or large, or triple always seems like you are loosing range or function somewhere.
I am glad my puny struggles amuse you Al. Those hills do sound steep and you are fortunate to have them on you doorstep but I thought the point of mountains were that they were not so steep but very long. Five miles at 20% would take you a mile up which is well, Denver is not in the UK.
So back to the rear Cassette, it is Shimano 10 speed, I don't know how you know this by sight Dave. I don't have money for new cages, I know how easy it is to mental spend money here. So no cranksets, no triple (an entirely rebuilding, really?) Wiggle has a Ultegra 11-28 for £44.99, maybe there is a 11-30 out there somewhere or a 11-32 (how do you determine the size of a medium or short cage? It just says Shimano Ultegra, no numbers. Some of my components come off ebay because my level of remuneration does not reflect my level of qualifications,) but then I might loose some of my options in the teens. Maybe I just have to change me.

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msw [113 posts] 2 years ago
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Quote:

Wiggle has a Ultegra 11-28 for £44.99, maybe there is a 11-30 out there somewhere or a 11-32 (how do you determine the size of a medium or short cage? It just says Shimano Ultegra, no numbers.

In the Shimano ranges it looks like you have a choice of 11-28 OR 12-30 - no 11-30. If it were me I'd rather lose the 11 than the 30 given that it's the hills you're worried about.

However SRAM make an 11-32 10 speed cassette, which should work with a Shimano rear mech OK (right everyone?). Could be the answer. You'll almost certainly need to put a longer chain on.

As for whether you have a GS or SS cage, this might help - I guess "centre-to-centre" is the distance between the jockey wheel axles. Doesn't cover Ultegra but I can't think why they would be different. http://sheldonbrown.com/harris/derailers-rear.html

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ilovemytinbred [161 posts] 2 years ago
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You really would be much better off with a compact. I am a masher and I still do the majority of my long hilly rides on a compact, it is a lot easier on your legs when there are hills involved. 800m is basically flat, you may need all the gears you can get when it gets lumpy.

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dave atkinson [6223 posts] 2 years ago
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the reason you don't get 53/34 chainsets is because the rear mech can't cope with the difference between 53/30 and 34/11 - they don't have the spring capacity for that.

however, you *can* get 52/36 chainsets these days, which are a good compromise. however, you can't fit a 36T to your standard chainset, as the bolt circle diameter won't allow it. smallest you can go on 130mm BCD is 38T. newer standard chainsets have started to use 110mm BCD so you can run whatever rings you like off the same spider.

if you're 'spinning out' a 50/11 on the flat then that means 36mph, even at the fairly normal cadence of 100rpm. I'd suggest that your cadence is low and some work on increasing it would probably help your riding generally.

you can get a tiagra 12-30 cassette for less than £20. a Sram Apex 11-32 will cost you about twice that. the mech you're running probably has a stated max of 27T but you can normally squeeze 28 in; if you want to go bigger you'll need a new mech too.

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dave atkinson [6223 posts] 2 years ago
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if you want to increase your cadence, make a cheap hack fixed bike and fit it with a spinny gear. you won't have any option but to learn to spin your legs then.  4

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SammyG [274 posts] 2 years ago
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Buy a medium cage derailleur and an 11-32 cassette. Drive to a tough long climb and test it, if you have enough gears sorted. Should be around £75 all in.

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stuartp [68 posts] 2 years ago
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bikeboy76 wrote:

Maybe I just have to change me.

This may be it.
I don't climb very well at all, I can ride 'quickly' on the flat for reasonable distances so don't consider myself to be that unfit.
I am an office worker 50 something 5'10" and 11 1/2 stone in old money.
There is nothing wrong with my bike set-up, it's light and has 50/34 and 26 to 12 - so it is just me.
As the others have said just get out there and do some, it does get easier. I found I used to panic slightly when a hill was approaching, which restricted my breathing but have found trying to relax into it has helped me hugely.
As I have a sportive coming up I went out last night and did 17 miles of just hill assent/descent loops, oddly the last assent was the easiest of the lot, so to me that implies it's a head thing not a fitness thing?

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alexjones5 [27 posts] 2 years ago
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From Central Manchester you can be in Oldham in 20 minutes then ride up the Sky road to Holmfirth. That'll sort you out.  4
I'd go compact for what it's worth. Lots of guys race these now as well (certainly round here in 2/3/4 races), 50x11 or 12 isn't going to spin out on the flat if your cadence is right and the lower gears will also stop your legs fatiguing which may be contributing to the pain you feel on the hills.

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SammyG [274 posts] 2 years ago
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If you already have a double though it would be cheaper to get a wider range cassette and a medium cage mech.

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notfastenough [3679 posts] 2 years ago
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I live in the same part of the world bikeboy76, I'm only 72kg, but I still use a compact chainset and an 11-28. I might not need it all the time, but I also know that the times I need more than 50x11 are vanishingly small.

Suggest you sort out at least a 28-tooth cassette (think Shimano might do up to a 30 with the short cage rear mech, you'd have to check). The nearest climbs to me (and probably you) are Alderley Edge. Just put aside 60-90 mins 3 times a week, go out to Alderley, then do this:

Up Macclesfield Rd to the wizard
Turn right, go down Artists Lane
Turn right, back to the village
Go along Chapel Rd, then up Swiss Hill this time (left at the T, then come out on Macclesfield Rd)
Turn right, down Macclesfield Rd
Turn left back along to Artists Lane
Climb that, left back down Macclesfield Rd
Back up Swiss Hill again, then home.

That's 2 short sharp blasts, and 2 slightly longer but shallower climbs. None are as long as you'll see on the Etape, so if you can get out on a weekend go up Long Hill, then into and out of the Goyt Valley.

Remember to leave a good few days to recover before the event.

Don't under-estimate the impact you could make by cutting out alcohol, sugars and bread between now and then. That's a big change to make all at once, but it depends how much you want it.

Good luck!

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Mr Will [91 posts] 2 years ago
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Sounds to me like your problem is leg speed. You are not spinning out 53x11 on the flat; sorry but you just aren't - that's knocking on the door of 40mph even at a reasonable cadence.

Pick up a 12-28/30 (depending on what your mech will take) and then focus on keeping your cadence high while training. Most people are at their best at 90+rpm and it sound like you are closer to 70. It will feel odd at first, but you'll soon see your pace increase and it will become natural.

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Simon E [2720 posts] 2 years ago
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Al'76 wrote:

the worst the Surrey Hills can throw at you pales into insignificance compared to the Etape Cymru.

Absolutely. Etape Cymru is a very hilly event and the roads won't be as well surfaced as Surrey. It could be windy, it's very exposed in some places.

You don't "need" an 11-tooth sprocket if your problem is climbing hills. If your STIs are Shimano then Tiagra 12-30 or a MTB cassette with 32t bottom gear would be better (and a new rear derailleur). You can always put your 11-25 back on afterwards.

But you have dismissed the most significant and cheapest means of weight reduction: eat fewer pies (and ride more hills). Why? Your bodyweight is not set in stone.

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700c [902 posts] 2 years ago
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Well done on completing the course in a very respectable time. I was on the Mall watching the missus finish and it was a great atmosphere. Any GB / Olympic tops drew a cheer!

Do not back out of the etape! To cope with the gradients I agree a lower range cassette is a good idea, and you will need a new longer cage derailleur - AND CHAIN, otherwise it will probably be overstretched and might skip in any case if it's worn.

It sounds as though you have the speed on the flat, and a decent technique to enable quick descending, (though the etape will be much more hazardous and technical), so as the others have said, find some steep, long gradients and practice hard.

For the etape, get into a rhythm which is sustainable, which still allows controlled breathing, and if it gets too much, then pause or walk. I am sure others will if you have to. As a bigger chap, my climbing is not as strong as my flat speed and descending, what goes up must come down, so remember you will be passing lots of them again when you descend.

Good luck!

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Al'76 [110 posts] 2 years ago
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Yep, sorry about that - I thought about going in and deleting the post afterwards - it was pretty unkind and just a little childish  9
Dealing with the issue at hand, your standard short cage mech will not handle anything larger than an 11-28 cassette. However, I would have thought that will give you a fairly significant improvement over what you're running now, and the cost will be minimal.
Google the climbs on the Etape Cymru, find out what the typical gradients are and then try and find a local, similar climb. Have a go with the new cassette and if it's doable then great, if not pick up a compact off ebay, use it on the day, and then put it in the shed 'til next year.
The Etape Cymru is a great route and a rare opportunity for good, fast descending on closed road.
Good luck.

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Leviathan [1975 posts] 2 years ago
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Glad to be stirring some debate. I absolutely cannot be parted from my 53/11, this would take away one of my few strengths (Y U wana take my toyz?) I have found this tool useful: http://www.bikecalc.com/gear_ratios
My current lowest gear is 39/25=1.6
So my options seem to be cheapest: 11/28 shim gives me 39/28=1.4
or 11/32 sram (works with shim you say) and a medium cage gives me 39/32=1.2. My current rear derailleur is 5cm between the hubs of the jockey wheels, which I surmise is how you define 'short cage.'
A compact 36/32 is still only 1.1 so is not worth the expense and gives away to much at the top end. I've had a compact and was glad to see the back of it. I had a 50/12 before my first set of upgrades, it was that that I found wasn't fast enough. I only really started to cover big distances once I got rid of the 'small' kit.
I probably have a lower cadence that some, though I don't know where the '70' figure comes from. Aren't you supposed to be pushing? If your legs are a blur shouldn't you change up. I often pass people just spinning in a low gear which I call 'overrotation,' as opposed to underrotation. I thought there was an ideal cadence range for each gear and you should not over or under rotate; that there should always be a bit of bite about the gear you are in, and you should shift if your legs are going too fast or too slow. You will now all tell me I am wrong...
I live in Didsbury so I know the Wizard, still seems a long way from Deansgate; when it gets to 6:45 you look at your watch and think 'Jeez, I have to get home, its still and hour away.' There is dinner to make and dishes to wash and sleeping and posting on internet forums  3 The weekend is the only hope, but then there is family and friends and alcohol and movies, then it rains. Dedications what you need.

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billyman [148 posts] 2 years ago
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this month's cycling plus has some great info on climbing how to and such.

one year ago I hated hills, I now look for them, not many by me though, sounds similar for you, hence my suggestion of the magazine, it gives you training tips for hill climbing where you have no hills to climb, good luck in the Welsh one, wish I could do it.

Billy

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bashthebox [751 posts] 2 years ago
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Yeah, mashing your pedals isn't good for you. You want to be spinning along with the lightest of touches. Two of my friends, who were once about your size, have improved their riding style with compacts and riding at around 90rpm. And hey presto, the weight has fallen off too. I'm not 100% sure on this, but our work will be aerobic like this, rather than when mashing and it's a combo of anaerobic and aerobic. You'll burn more fat stores this way rather than entirely the glycogen in your blood and muscles.
Please someone with more physiology and nutritional knowledge put me right if I'm wrong.
You'll also put far less strain on your knees this way.

That's all a bit long term, I appreciate - adapting your riding style is a longish process. If most of your riding is done on the Cheshire plain (and my god, if you live in S. Manc why aren't you in the peaks every weekend? Get your lazy bum up Mow Cop) then I appreciate you're very attached to your 53/39. As I've gotten stronger, I've been pondering a replacement to my chainrings as and when they need it. Praxis make replacement Shimano rings for a compact crankset with 52/36 on them. Combine that with a big block on the back and you'd probably have the best of both worlds. Fair bit of cash to splash though, but worth it I should think.

Anyway, for now - biggest block you can shove on the back. Work on spinning faster in a lower gear. And eat better!

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SammyG [274 posts] 2 years ago
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Tony Martin mashes a big gear so did jan ullrich so I say ride your double if your strong enough to power a 53/11 along the flat.

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bashthebox [751 posts] 2 years ago
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Time trials are a little different, I think. And holding Ulrich up as an example of anything is daft. EPO is a helluva drug.

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Timbo13 [264 posts] 2 years ago
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I also work in the centre of Manchester (commuting in from Flixton) and have a regular midweek evening ride up to Bury, setting off around 5:45 and getting back home about 9 - 9:30pm. Generally 45 - 50 miles including the commute back home from town at the end. At this time of year it is still light enough at 9:30 or so to warrant this distance, but I'd recommend some precautionary bike lights.

It takes about 40 - 45 minutes into Bury, even with rush hour traffic, and then there are a variety of steady climbs to be found there and thereabouts.

If you're on Strava, have a look at the following segments:

Elton to Affetside via Walshaw
Totty Rd full
Harwood rd to 4 lane ends climb
Tottington Road hill climb
Hare & Hounds to Grane Rd

They are close enough to each other that you can string a few of them together into a decent loop.

I don't claim to be any fantastic cyclist (I have a compact with an 11-28), but a month of these midweek workouts, coupled with weekend rides, meant that my trip last year to the Pyrenees to ride the Tourmalet and Col d'Aubisque was a challenge rather than a killer.

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