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I am new to the road biking scene. On the few club rides I have been on I notice that many riders stay in the big chainring while climbing hills. Myself, I shift to the small chainring (34 teeth on a compact double) and spin up the hill, very often passing the more experienced riders who are pedalling their large chainring with some difficulty. I even get complimented on my climbing skills. Why do people use the big chainring on climbs? Does it make your stronger?
 

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Josh M said:
I notice that many riders stay in the big chainring while climbing hills. Myself, I shift to the small chainring (34 teeth on a compact double) and spin up the hill, very often passing the more experienced riders who are pedalling their large chainring with some difficulty. I even get complimented on my climbing skills. Why do people use the big chainring on climbs? Does it make your stronger?
Big gear climbing is a known method by which to increase your power. However, my guess is that your riding companions are suffering either from poor riding skills or some sort of foolish pride about their gear choices, or perhaps both. :)
 

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You're passing 'em!

You're passing 'em- what's that tell you?

Some people will keep it in the big ring to build power. As an old guy, that would just skree my knees out for months.

Some people keep it in the big ring because they know the hill, have the power to do it, carry their momentum, and frickin' fly. My hat's off to 'em!

Some people are just too blasted to shift. I've been there- either too tired to shift or too brain dead- so just gut it out. Sometimes my butt is aching and I just need to stand and stretch. Of course, my "big ring" is 50...

As for me, I'm 10 pounds over weight, 47 years old, and just did a hill climbing sufferfest (200k Horribly Hilly) and according to the results, I passed hundreds of people in the field. I trained my butt off, and have a great partner- but it was the long hard steep climbs where we made our killing. We had low enough gearing to keep in the saddle and grind at a steady rate, never going deeply anaerobic. Hands on the top of the bars, breathing deep from the gut, suffering at a steady rate all the way to the crests.

We ate plenty of younger, fitter triathletes and sloppy riders for lunch. Good Lord, get OUT OF THE AEROBARS on a climb! At SIX miles per hour getting air in to your lungs and power on to the pedals is everything. If an old fat guy passes you by sitting and spinning- take note, and shift down.

A survival tip I got from an article by Davis Phinney that seems to work for me is to take DEEP breaths from my gut and exhale on alternate downstrokes. It seems to help... dunno why. My own survival tip is to just start counting pedal strokes... just counting. I lose count, and just start counting again- not really looking for much more than 20 feet of pavement at a time- just trying to keep steady cadence (I don't have a cadence function- I just go by what feels right, not some number on a screen)

Yeah, I know the really fast guys are pushing 39x25, get out of the saddle and kick my butt... that's ok. I'll never be that young again and I was never that fast- so I take my satisfaction from passing the guys who THINK they are that fast, that eventually blow up. My motto- "DFL beats DNF" and hey, I'm doing a lot better than that.

Good job on climbing smart. Feels good to eat somebody alive on a hill, huh? Still, we never know what someone is doing for a goal, or how far they went, or are going, or where they went yesterday. It's not a race unless everyone knows it's a race and all... but it still feels good.

'meat
 

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As the world's absolute worst climber....

I absolutely suck as a climber--60 years old, 240 pounds, with a minor cardiac arrythmia that limits my horsepower by about 10-15 percent. Still, I catch and pass people on hills sometimes because they're too macho to shift down, or even to have gears they can shift down to. Anybody can blast past me on a short rise, but when it stretches out, a lot of the guys who blew by come rolling back as I spin along in a 26-26 on one bike or 24-28 on the other.
If you can climb in a tall gear, fine, do it. I would if I could. But I'm not too proud to gear down if it gets me to the top.
 

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the worst part about climbers using big gears and going real slow is when there's four of them riding abreast taking up the entire width of the road and you just can't get pass them without putting yourself in danger (e.g. overtaking on the wrong side of the road around a blind corner).

i find that i need to spin at the maximum possible cadence for any given grade and gearing combination otherwise my legs will build up too much lactic acid. and so the problem with having to cycle behind slow climbers is that i have to reduced my cadence, which puts me into an anaerobic state and i end up suffering as a result. what i need is an compressed-air horn to get those slow buggers to move to one side so that the faster more efficient climbers can pass.

boon
 

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boon said:
the worst part about climbers using big gears and going real slow is when there's four of them riding abreast taking up the entire width of the road and you just can't get pass them without putting yourself in danger (e.g. overtaking on the wrong side of the road around a blind corner).
Oh I HATE that! The same thing goes for downhills, if you don't want to go fast then stay on the damn right hand side of the road don't ride 3 or 4 abreast and chat with your buddies!

In regards to the original question there are two possible answers the first is that they are training for power and in a race wouldn't actually do that, the other is that they are idjiots and don't know how best to utilize their gearing or choose not to for some macho reason.
 

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jaseone said:
Oh I HATE that! The same thing goes for downhills, if you don't want to go fast then stay on the damn right hand side of the road don't ride 3 or 4 abreast and chat with your buddies!

In regards to the original question there are two possible answers the first is that they are training for power and in a race wouldn't actually do that, the other is that they are idjiots and don't know how best to utilize their gearing or choose not to for some macho reason.
Then there's the guys running crossed (big ring, big cog.)

If that's the gear you want fine, but PLEASE get it from a middle-middle combo, save your drivetrain, and put that lost power down onto the road.
 

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lance vs ulrich

people are made different...some like to spin the low gears (lance), others like to push the big gears on climbs (ulrich). same goes for sitting vs standing

do whichever lets you go faster and longer. practice both. best way to be a good climber is to climb a lot (and lose weight).

i'm a fairly big guy, 175lbs 6' but can climb decently compared to my riding buddies who are smaller and lighter than me. go figure. probably because i used to mtn bike and with mtn biking it's never flat, it's always climbing or bombing a run.

in any case, i tend to like to spin high cadences in low gears but upshift occasionally to climb standing to power up or just to give my butt a rest. i have done the high gear workouts, going slowly pushing the big ring, usually give my girlfiend company up a long ride. those workouts will definitely give you knee pain if you have any knee cap alignment issues.

john
 

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jksu said:
people are made different...some like to spin the low gears (lance), others like to push the big gears on climbs (ulrich). same goes for sitting vs standing

do whichever lets you go faster and longer. practice both. best way to be a good climber is to climb a lot (and lose weight).

[...]
john
i don't really care about how people chose to cycle uphill as long as they don't take up the entire road. and another thing that annoys me about slow uphill cyclist is when their bikes start wondering all over place - they exhibit a lack of control over their balance when they move slowly and pushing those big gears.

so i agree, do whichever that lets you go faster and longer, but be considerate about other cyclist who wants to pass - just like driving, when going slow, keep close to the road kerb so that other faster cycling can pass safely, and have control over your balance and not be all over the place like a drunk cyclist.

boon
 
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