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Hi - long time reader, first time poster!

 

I’m joining a few friends to cycle some of the Pyrénées cols, including some big HC efforts (at least Port de Pailhères). They’ll all be on carbon framed race bikes. I’ll be on this Kona endurance/cross bike. It’s setup as out of the box (apart from a few months of use). 

 

How is can I best set this bike up for big climbing rides? I was thinking maybe a new set of wheels with 25s/28s? Any advice re. a cheapish disc wheelset that’s suit? Is there anything else I could do?

 

I don’t really want to buy a new bike, or hire anything - but is the endurance-style going to make this hard going? 

 

Any opinions / facts / advice very welcome.

 

Thanks!

 

25 comments

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Canyon48 [1054 posts] 8 months ago
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Cosine make some light wheels  at a low price as do Prime, both available through Wiggle.

Honestly, when it comes to hills, your own fitness is going to make the biggest difference. When it comes to endurance (and I guess hills), bike fit is VERY important, so you might want to go to your LBS and get a bike fit.

I use 28's on my endurance/winter/commuter bike - they are definitely more comfortable than 25mm when it comes to rough roads, they roll marginally slower, however.

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pockstone [233 posts] 8 months ago
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As above , wheels are probably a good place to start but I can't find any details of the Novatec your Kona came with, so hard to know how much weight you'd save per ££.

One thing that surprised me recently was how cheaply I could shave off quite a few grams by replacing my Cube saddle and post with a Cosine  endurance saddle and Tifosi Carbon/Alloy seat post. Whip your post and saddle off and weigh them. A couple of hundred grams might make a difference on the long climbs.

I'm a stranger to the Scwalbe s ones, but I bought some cheap Vittoria Hyper voyagers last year for my gravel/tourer and despite being proper jumbos they don't seem to have slowed down my progress compared to 25mm tyres on the road bike, and they're super comfortable. 30mm tyres might not be the handicap you think. 

As for the style of bike, if it's built for long days and your comfy on it, stick with it. 

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kil0ran [1046 posts] 8 months ago
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Looking at the spec you're adequately geared, just make sure your pads are in good nick for the descents, may be worthwhile getting a brake service from your LBS.

Agree that best upgrade would be wheels and no harm in sticking some racier/lighter rubber on those. Maybe use it as an opportunity to go tubeless too. It's surprising easy to find half a kilo in savings from tyres and tubes, let alone looking at rims.

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Rod Marton [107 posts] 8 months ago
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Your bike is perfectly adequate for long climbs, technique will probably make more difference than equipment. If you do want to change anything, wheels and tyres will have the greatest effect.

Don't go haring off at the bottom. Find a comfortable gear, then drop down a couple of teeth. A comfortable gear at the bottom will be a struggle at the top. Then just keep pedalling evenly and steadily. It is always a temptation to go too fast at the bottom, particularly if your friends disappear up the road, but if you do this you are likely to catch them when they have collapsed in a heap halfway up.

If you want to start racing, wait until you get near the top. If you have been cautious at the bottom you should still be reasonably fresh and be able to surprise a few people.

 

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PRSboy [306 posts] 8 months ago
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As Rod says, the bike looks great as is.  In fact, Im sure a bloke on an Alps tour I did had a very similar Kona bike.  The 11-32t cassette gives a sensible spread of gears.

Im sure you're on it, but a decent training regimen will make more of a difference than bike mods.

That said, I would want to make sure that the tyres were of excellent quality for those speedy descents...

 

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kitlewis [1 post] 8 months ago
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Thanks everybody for the notes on tyres - tubes - rims. I’ll see how much I can loose from them easily and cheaply. 

 

Great to to hear the bike looks good for the task at hand, and that 30s MIGHT not be a big issue. 

 

And I hear the trading point loud and clear: I’ve got a stone to loose and climbing to get into the legs...!

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CXR94Di2 [2192 posts] 8 months ago
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My touring bike setup for climbing, uses a MTB crankset and derailleurs. I started with 40/28 crank and an 11-32 for general hilly stuff. I will change out the rear wheel with an 11-40 cassette when doing alpine climbs. I weigh 90+kg so like to spin at 85 rpm even when the gradient is >10%. I changed my outside chainring to 44t now for better cadence on slight declines.

You can now get 11-34 11 speed cassette from Shimano
Change the inner chainring for a 33t
(Currently doing both these to my daughter's Kona Jake the snake cyclo-cross bike for hilly outings)

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kevvjj [422 posts] 8 months ago
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That bike looks just fine. You might get a 11 -34 cassette - you can never have too low a gear in the Pyrenees. If you are thinking of changing tyres I would go for the lightest in 700 x 23c. You won't notice any comfort difference climbing on those magnificent French roads and a 23c tyre will always be lghter than a 25c or a 28c. I have climbed the Port de Pailhères, its a cracker of a climb!

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Daveyraveygravey [611 posts] 8 months ago
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Have a look at the profile of the climbs.  A lot of proper mountain roads are engineered to have a steady average gradient, usually around 5-8%, that's why they switchback across the mountain.  They will probably have a smoother surface too.  If you know it, Boxhill in Surrey is like this (I think the road was built by the Canadian army so tanks and artillery could get up it during the war).

More rural mountain climbs may take the shortest distance approach, and go straight up in places.  These stretches where the gradient ramps up and then drops back, can be the hardest to climb as you can't maintain a steady rhythm.  If you're on one of these, get up the steep parts as best you can and then really make the most of the recovery time when the gradient calms down.  Pebble Hill off the A25 near Boxhill does this, a bit of faffing around across the hill at the bottom, then near top it just goes straight up!

Also be aware of the weather.  If it is hot, that will sap your strength like nothing else. Take plenty of fluids (mountain roads in Europe often have springs at the side of the road for drinking water).  On top of that, it can be 25-30 degrees at the bottom and sometimes only 5 degrees at the top.  In my experience that is ok whilst climbing but as soon as you stop you need to get warmer clothes on, and wear them down the hill too.

Descending can be harder work than expected - you look forward to tearing back down again as you grind up, but after 20 minutes a different kind of tiredness can catch you.   Your weight will be forward, you'll be on the drops, your neck will be canted up at an extreme angle, your wrists will hurt, and you may be glad when it is over.  If you're going to be coming back down the road you go up, look out for loose surfaces, holes, tightening corners and try to remember them for the descent.  don't get too close to the guys in front, when it goes wrong going down a mountain things happen very quickly.

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fukawitribe [2542 posts] 8 months ago
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CXR94Di2 wrote:

My touring bike setup for climbing, uses a MTB crankset and derailleurs. I started with 40/28 crank and an 11-32 for general hilly stuff.

Lovely looking bike - mind if I ask what model the cranks are (XT ?) and any issues with BBs/chainline etc when you put it on ?

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fenix [1047 posts] 8 months ago
1 like

Forget changing the seatpost or saddle to save  few grammes - not worth it. 

 

Focus on your training.

Get quality tyres if you can. 

Get a lower cassette if you can - nobody ever complained about having too low a gear.

 

 

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joules1975 [562 posts] 8 months ago
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wellsprop wrote:

Cosine make some light wheels  at a low price as do Prime, both available through Wiggle.

Honestly, when it comes to hills, your own fitness is going to make the biggest difference. When it comes to endurance (and I guess hills), bike fit is VERY important, so you might want to go to your LBS and get a bike fit.

I use 28's on my endurance/winter/commuter bike - they are definitely more comfortable than 25mm when it comes to rough roads, they roll marginally slower, however.

Are the tyres like for like brand/model? it's been well documented that wider tyres actually roll FASTER (it's only as the speed increases above approx. 20mph that you need to start worrying about the areo disadvantage cancelling out the rolling advantage).

There is however a massive different between brands and models.

I've fitted some 47c WTB Horizon tyres and 27.5 wheels onto one of my bikes and they are considerably faster rolling that the Giant own brand 700x32 tyres they replaced (former run at just 40psi, latter at 70psi).

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alansmurphy [1868 posts] 8 months ago
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But the jumps can be horrible of the spread is too wide. I ended up with a cassette that had a 28-34 jump on the end of the range and hated it.

The training element of you only have small sharp ramps around you, I found a good tactic that helped for Ventoux last year. We have a climb of around a mile and found a 3 mile loop back to it. The climb was only around 6% so we had 2% downhill on the loop. When we did reps we would try and work in zone 4 or 5 of your heart rate for the downhill so you arrived at the foot of the climb knackered, then spin up it. As time went on we were pleased that we could get to a stage where reps 1-5 we'd hold similar times for the climb. We also found that we'd be working at 165hr for the down and 150 or so on the climb and over time could sustain longer or improve times. This meant when I went on Ventoux I was confident in my ability to break down the segments and know where I could work and for how long...

As others have said, you can use this also to dictate whether it's worth chasing your mates or whether that will put your success at risk.

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fukawitribe [2542 posts] 8 months ago
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alansmurphy wrote:

But the jumps can be horrible of the spread is too wide. I ended up with a cassette that had a 28-34 jump on the end of the range and hated it.

Ouch, that's quite the jump there. The new Shimano HG800 11-34 looked interesting to me - 2T gaps all the way up until the last two, which is a 3T then 4T transition. I'll see how it runs when I get it on, hopefully tonight.

Edit. get the gaps right...

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alansmurphy [1868 posts] 8 months ago
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Yup, I reckon it went 28-32 before and you'd never think 2T would make that much of a difference. It taught me why some old school riders sing the praises of a 12-26  1

It was following my shoulder injury so the idea was I'd never have to get out of the saddle. Dropping into the 34 I seemed to stop, spinning and shifting into 28 made it feel you were climbing a stupid incline!

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Simon E [3373 posts] 8 months ago
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kevvjj wrote:

a 23c tyre will always be lghter than a 25c or a 28c. I have climbed the Port de Pailhères, its a cracker of a climb!

True but the difference is about 20-40 grammes, that's not even worth contemplating; the wider rubber is likely to be a better option when descending. Several tests have shown 28mm tyres to roll faster than 23s.

People want to believe the hype so will invariably exaggerate the benefit of lighter components but the fact is that it in reality 100g here or there makes naff-all difference.  An 'endurance' model like this (i.e. one with slightly more relaxed geometry than a head-down out-and-out race bike) with 34x32 gearing is is perfect for this kind of riding.

It would be far more beneficial to make sure your bike fits you properly and is mechanically tip top; that you eat properly (and lose some weight) and that you have put in some decent training.

 

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CXR94Di2 [2192 posts] 8 months ago
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fukawitribe wrote:
CXR94Di2 wrote:

My touring bike setup for climbing, uses a MTB crankset and derailleurs. I started with 40/28 crank and an 11-32 for general hilly stuff.

Lovely looking bike - mind if I ask what model the cranks are (XT ?) and any issues with BBs/chainline etc when you put it on ?

 

XT crankset 40/28, changed outer ring to 44t from 9 speed shimano.  It has standard threaded bottom bracket with 2 spacers drive side. I ground off 0.5mm from the drive side spacer to make it absolutely perfect with no catching of chain when cross chained big-big or small-small. 

I think its a perfect setup for me and probably most riders.  It allows me to climb silly gradients>30%, maintain a decent cadence 80+rpm and travel on the flat upto 32mph before cadence gets too much @110rpm.  Outside serious road racers what more gearing does an average guy need?

 

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CXR94Di2 [2192 posts] 8 months ago
1 like
alansmurphy wrote:

But the jumps can be horrible of the spread is too wide. I ended up with a cassette that had a 28-34 jump on the end of the range and hated it. The training element of you only have small sharp ramps around you, I found a good tactic that helped for Ventoux last year. We have a climb of around a mile and found a 3 mile loop back to it. The climb was only around 6% so we had 2% downhill on the loop. When we did reps we would try and work in zone 4 or 5 of your heart rate for the downhill so you arrived at the foot of the climb knackered, then spin up it. As time went on we were pleased that we could get to a stage where reps 1-5 we'd hold similar times for the climb. We also found that we'd be working at 165hr for the down and 150 or so on the climb and over time could sustain longer or improve times. This meant when I went on Ventoux I was confident in my ability to break down the segments and know where I could work and for how long... As others have said, you can use this also to dictate whether it's worth chasing your mates or whether that will put your success at risk.

 

I went to Tenerife last year, loved it, did 99% of my training indoors, even used a simulated climb with the same gradients as mount Teide, took me 3 hours to climb around 155bpm.  What I learned very quickly whilst in Tenerife is to set your own pace, lighter, fitter riders will be quicker and you will destroy yourself trying to stay with them on a long climb.  The difference was say 20-30 minutes compared to the fastest over a 12 mile climb.  I then went to Ventoux and really enjoyed the climbs, pacing my way up letting all the 60kg riders disappear, whilst I pootled my 95Kg body up the mountain.  At the end of the day we all could chat about our experiences whilst climbing.  The scenario changed when on the odd occassion the roads were flat or going down hill- horses for courses!

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CXR94Di2 [2192 posts] 8 months ago
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If you look at the ratios and not the number of teeth, the jumps are pretty evenly spaced throughout a 11-32/34 cassette.  Ideally we would be all running triples with an 22 lower chainring and 11-25 close range cassette. But the trend is double crank and wide range cass.  My ratio jumps arent huge even with 11-40 cass, I manage happily to vary my cadence from 80-95rpm when climbing long hills. I actually like the variety, wakes the legs up. 

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fukawitribe [2542 posts] 8 months ago
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CXR94Di2 wrote:
fukawitribe wrote:
CXR94Di2 wrote:

My touring bike setup for climbing, uses a MTB crankset and derailleurs. I started with 40/28 crank and an 11-32 for general hilly stuff.

Lovely looking bike - mind if I ask what model the cranks are (XT ?) and any issues with BBs/chainline etc when you put it on ?

 

XT crankset 40/28, changed outer ring to 44t from 9 speed shimano.  It has standard threaded bottom bracket with 2 spacers drive side. I ground off 0.5mm from the drive side spacer to make it absolutely perfect with no catching of chain when cross chained big-big or small-small. 

Cheers for that, my main worry was the front derailleur pull (probably not an issue for you, you're running Di2 aren't you ?) with the MTB chainset, but i'll just suck it and see I think.

CXR94Di2 wrote:

I think its a perfect setup for me and probably most riders.  It allows me to climb silly gradients>30%, maintain a decent cadence 80+rpm and travel on the flat upto 32mph before cadence gets too much @110rpm.  Outside serious road racers what more gearing does an average guy need?

Completely agree. I was looking at 46/30 originally, sub-compacts and the like, but reckon you're probably right on the 44/28 - would be ~45km/h @ 90rpm on 44/11 with my wheel/tyre setup and like the idea of the 28T in extremis.. thanks for the idea.

CXR94Di2 wrote:

If you look at the ratios and not the number of teeth, the jumps are pretty evenly spaced throughout a 11-32/34 cassette.   

Yep, and I actually quite like a slightly larger % jump at the bottom of the cassette when i'm doing longer, steeper climbs- I find it often means I just need to shift between the bottom two gears when getting in and out of the saddle, something I appreciate when i'm mainly concentrating on being able to breathe..

CXR94Di2 wrote:

 Ideally we would be all running triples with an 22 lower chainring and 11-25 close range cassette. But the trend is double crank and wide range cass. My ratio jumps arent huge even with 11-40 cass, I manage happily to vary my cadence from 80-95rpm when climbing long hills. I actually like the variety, wakes the legs up. 

I was looking at 11-36 cassettes recently, decided against it this time for a couple of reasons, but the interesting thing for me was the difference between the SunRace 11-speed 11-36 and 11-40 clusters - basically they drop the 12T for the 40T. That would be a no-brainer for me as that's a really appealing granny gear and by the time i'm hitting the top of the 13T i'm invariably going to the 11T in short order anyway. Horses for courses of course.

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PRSboy [306 posts] 8 months ago
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The gaps in the 11-32t cassette were not half as bad as I expected and the 11t is good for applying a bit of resistance on the descents to keep the legs turning... its easy to get cold on the way down.

Interestingly, I also found it was easier to stay in the big ring more of the time, as the chain was running straighter with sprockets more toward the middle of the cassette than they are on the 11-25t, if that makes any sense...

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alansmurphy [1868 posts] 8 months ago
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CXR94Di2 wrote:

If you look at the ratios and not the number of teeth, the jumps are pretty evenly spaced throughout a 11-32/34 cassette.  Ideally we would be all running triples with an 22 lower chainring and 11-25 close range cassette. But the trend is double crank and wide range cass.  My ratio jumps arent huge even with 11-40 cass, I manage happily to vary my cadence from 80-95rpm when climbing long hills. I actually like the variety, wakes the legs up. 

 

Absolutely in terms of ratios. Unfortunately I was running an 8 Speed Claris so the 11-34 was probably too much for it. As a beginner I may not have noticed too much but being used to a 10 Speed 105 with 11-30 it felt bloody awful. Like I say, it was those 2 gears that were the most uncomfy, think I'd rather have had to push a little harder than never quite have a comfortable gear. This wasn't my Ventoux bike, just a general observation.

 

Also agree with my point reference training. I wasn't suggesting the same approach works for all, more that I hear people say they struggle as there's nothing as big as the French climbs to train on or when they find a climb they nail the climb then try and recover. I found nailing the recovery bit would mean you were already in trouble for the climb which is what I needed when preparing for 20+k at 7%  1

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PRSboy [306 posts] 8 months ago
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Ref training, I found the best way in my part of the UK at least was to nail 1-2 hr rides at a steady 'sweetspot' effort/heart rate.  When you break it down, a long 6-7% climb feels more like a fast sustained ride (just without the speed!) than the sort of short sharp climbs we have in the UK.  The hairpins provide some welcome relief too, if you can go round the outside.

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iandusud [94 posts] 8 months ago
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Your bike looks ideal for that sort of riding. The most important thing will be making sure you get plenty of long steady rides that take in long climbs.

If you (not your bike) need to lose weight then do so - by far the best and cheapest way to improve your climbing. 

Others have mentioned tyres. The roads on French cols are generally very good and if you're thinking of changing tyres I would personally suggest Continental GP4000s 700x25c. The weight saving of going down to a 23c is minimal but the gain in confort for long days in the saddle will be appreciated. You don't say how much you weigh so this will be factor to consider when choosing tyres. I'm 6'1" and weigh 71kg and run the above tyres at 70psi.

Above all have a great time.

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andyp [1587 posts] 8 months ago
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PRSboy wrote:

Ref training, I found the best way in my part of the UK at least was to nail 1-2 hr rides at a steady 'sweetspot' effort/heart rate.  When you break it down, a long 6-7% climb feels more like a fast sustained ride (just without the speed!) than the sort of short sharp climbs we have in the UK.  The hairpins provide some welcome relief too, if you can go round the outside.

 

Spot on. You don't need to train on mountains, or even hills, to train for riding mountains.