2014 Dirty Dozen scouting rides
“I actually went from 26 teeth to 28 teeth on biggest rear cog. It may not be much, but if it helps me even the slightest bit, I’m a happy camper. I don’t know nearly enough about bikes as most of you guys do, but I’m trying to learn! :) ”
Hey, Lori … it’s Russ! It’s been great riding with you also and I’m really looking forward to seeing you on Canton this Sunday! ;) You’ll be just fine!
The difference between 26 and 28 in the rear should be pretty noticeable to you. It will allow you to sit a little bit longer and conserve some energy you will certainly need later on. I will use the 28 (my lowest) on the few parts where you can sit (Center, bottom of Logan, Sycamore, Flowers, etc.) but then I’ll usually shift up to my 25 or even 22 when climbing out of the saddle on the really steep bits. It’s all personal preference, of course, but I find the return on my effort is highest when used in this manner.
On the fat bike I have 36/22 in the front and 11-32 in the back. Such a low gear haha. Too low almost.
Thanks for coming out, everyone. Sorry I had to leave after the first 4 hills. I had a cross race to watch.
Hope to see you all this Sunday.
Steph, I wish I would have taken a bit of video of you riding up Logan on the Fat Bike. That was Dirty Dozen history in the making.
Russell! Hey buddy! Thank you for the encouragement, advice and support. You are totally awesome!
When you say you shift to 25 or 22 when climbing out of the saddle, do you find that difficult to do (the shifting of gears) on such a steep grade? I’m always a little hesistant to do that b/c I feel like I might drop my chain. I imagine it takes skilled and practice (like anything else) and you have mastered a fine finesse with your shifting while I’m still trying to work out the kinks on my technique?
BTW, you see, this is why I love this group. Everyone is so giving with their advice/recommendations, encouragement. Seriously. Really awesome group.
Really wish I could be out there with you guys. On a single speed for now, which wouldn’t work for me for those sorts of hills. Time to do some dead-lifts maybe.
But this discussion reminds me of my old bike, which was a CL beater hybrid that had an 18/28. The issue was that it was unusable (the only exception I found was Boustead) except seated but at the grades where it was a more sane gearing I REALLY had to fight the tendency to wheelie. Was fun being able to do 120rpm+ up Negley though!
With modern shifters upshifting from a larger rear cog to the next smaller rear cog is pretty straightforward because you just click and the rear derailleur relaxes to the new gear. It is always good to ease off pedaling for just an instant while the shifting happens, but with a rear upshift that is really fast, so it is really just a 10th of a sec or so while you are preparing to stand anyway.
I don’t believe that dropping the chain is a problem if you are upshifting from your larger rear cogs. A buddy of mine did once catch his pulley guard in his spokes when he stood up in his lowest gear on Tesla because he torqued the cage enough (and the stop wasn’t set quite right), but it had nothing to do with shifting. That was pretty entertaining — I was very, very impressed that he managed to unclip and put his foot down. I would have been in a heap.
Personally, I would never touch the front derailleur under any kind of load related to a steep climb. That’s where chains drop, catch, etc. I am well and truly in the small ring before any of this conversation even begins.
On shorter hills with a run-up (say Tesla because of the flat bit before it gets suddenly very steep) I get quite used to building up some speed and working my way from say 34:22 (4th) on the run up progressively to 25 and 28 and maybe 32 (or even 36 on the cyclocross bike I was riding Sunday) while staying seated during the first half of the steep part. Downshifting requires more thought because it is much more work to move the chain up to a larger rear cog and that can cause a lot of trouble if there is too much load on the chain (like the chain or cog breaking), so the general idea is to upshift while your cadence is still high enough that you can back off (even accelerate a touch, ease, shift, continue).
I am afraid to downshift while standing because a lot can go wrong. Actual trained cyclists may have useful hints about that (like, is it always a bad idea or are there good ways to do it if necessary?). Consequently, I pretty much commit to a given rear cog when I stand on a steep hill. If I know the hill well, like Tesla, I’ll decide as I am going up the first half (which I do sitting) what I feel like and then use the “false flat” just beyond Prescott St to the left (it dips to 15% of so for a few meters) to accelerate and then upshift to my 25 or 21 to stand just before it gets really steep again so I can kick up my speed for that last really steep section.
However, caveat. I am old, not that experienced, and not very strong. If I don’t know a hill, or if I am in DD mode and just trying to survive, all I do is get in my easiest gear, stay seated as long as possible with my heart rate out of the red and stand when needed, still in the easiest gear because I don’t have the confidence to get back into it under duress if the hill seems to be winning. The downside of that is you can almost completely lose momentum in too easy a gear while standing (Steph was doing a track stand every half revolution, but she knows what she is doing and I get the impression she could have done that up a 10km hill at 20%).
I also suck at unclipping in those situations, so for me the steep climbs are pretty much a fight to the death. I also hate falling because somehow the ground seems to get harder every decade. Compacting with time I suppose.
I don’t seem to have any issues shifting, either up or down, on steep hills. If you are able to maintain a steady cadence (or even back off the throttle a bit) and make clean shifts one gear at a time…you will be fine! You will run into trouble if you’re pedaling all helter-skelter-like and try to shift too many gears all at once (see Berryhill). So, keep calm and shift as needed…no worries!!
Thanks for this great discussion! Neil, you said, “If I don’t know a hill, or if I am in DD mode and just trying to survive, all I do is get in my easiest gear, stay seated as long as possible with my heart rate out of the red and stand when needed, still in the easiest gear because I don’t have the confidence to get back into it under duress if the hill seems to be winning.”
For me, this is BULLSEYE. Exactly what I’ve been doing. Too scared to experiment with my lack of experience on these hills. This being my first (but not my last!) DD, I’m gonna play it safe and hope to hell that I can just finish the damn thing.
Manisker (have we met yet? Not sure!) you said, “You will run into trouble if you’re pedaling all helter-skelter-like and try to shift too many gears all at once (see Berryhill). So, keep calm and shift as needed…no worries!!” —-> tru dat, bro. Yoga has helped me learn how to breathe through the stressful times my brain goes in to overdrive (which is pretty much constantly) and like Neil said, I try to keep my HR “out of the red” and focus on a consistent & steady cadence. I am going to make this my mantra while I climb, thanks to your advice here: Just. Stay. Calm. Brilliant advice and thanks bro! :)
Thanks for posting this stuff Will and Manisker!! RULE #5!!!!
Russell, your pics really capture the steepness better. Nice!
We’ve done all the hills now, so I suppose it’s repeat and more repeat till the big day.
Yeah, it’s amazing how tame some of these hills appear in photos. Perhaps a lack of scale is to blame? Or maybe we just need to find steeper hills…haha!
That bike is geared so low. I was in slow motion. I am graceful, too, I know.
Lori, hope you and your helmet are ok.
A couple videos from Sunday,
For my part, I’m now 1 for 1 on Canton and found it underwhelming (though not so much that I let’s say needed to ride it up 3 more times just ’cause ) Boustead on the other hand impressed me.
I haven’t been on the message board in a long while. I’m thinking about inviting you all out on tour of junior hills, maybe this Saturday, out-my-back-door tour of Braddock Hills, South Face approaches. I’ll post something. Not quite DD-caliber, but, you know not too shabby.
Nice videos! I hadn’t noticed that anyone had a helmet cam going. Love the bouncy clip as you’re going up Canton. I do agree that Canton, although challenging because of the severe grade, is so short that it doesn’t take the life out of you like Boustead and a few others like Logan, Suffolk and Barry-Holt-Eleanor.
It is so interesting how different things seem. Canton (obviously) is still an issue for me. I was intimidated by Boustead but it wasn’t that awful — it certainly hurt, but the top of Logan feels steeper to me. Barry-Holt-Eleanor did not get me out of the saddle (that 34:36 again) and only the very end of Hazleton on Suffolk-Hazelton-Burgess took a quick kick standing. I stood almost all the way up Boustead but felt quite in control of my effort. I think for me it is still about top-end W/kg.
I’m still in the Barry-Holt-Eleanor camp for toughest (although adding any motor traffic to the mix might tip the balance towards Logan).
I say B-H-E because I’ve failed on that hill more times than any other (excluding Canton, as, for me, that’s a bike geometry problem rather than a hill toughness one.)
Gotta say I’m with Neil on this one. Canton blew me away due to the steepness. I had absolutely zero experience in *that* severity of a hill and even though I walked it this past winter to introduce myself to it (hoping it would like me and shake my hand), I still had a terrible time getting the hang of how to tackle it. Thanks to you guys who gave me so many awesome tips, I shook hands with Canton and then flipped it off. ;)
Thanks for the vids! I’m gonna study the Canton one over and over again.
Just an observation from a ride marshall/observer of the DD for several years:
Getting to and up Canton EARLY is helpful. After 30 riders or so, a soft areas emerges right in the sweet line, halfway up the hill. Rear tires spin, but momentum stops. I’ve seen this happen to dozens of riders on each of the past three or four DD rides.
Riding in dry, almost pristine conditions is one thing. Riding through a 6 ft by 6 ft patch of mud halfway up is another.
Factor it into the training, folks!
Swalfoort….fyi, the nasty part halfway up has been recobbled. See pic in first page of this thread. Thank goodnees, as that had made a difficult hill even more trying.
stand alone i think suffolk or berry holt are the hardest. They are
the longest. Suffolk has the least recovery and is pretty brutal. BHE
has a bit of recovery where you can loligag if you want. Even the
front end is coasting this section in the race.
steevo……interesting to know what goes on up front and nice to hear that there’s some “coasting” before the attacks. i’m so far back i’ve got no idea except for rialto where we can view the action as we’re waiting at the top till it’s our turn to ride down.
would you place logan 3rd toughest or further down on the list?
I had trouble with Logan the first time I tried it. I still don’t like it. I may bring the road bike out to the next dirty dozen scouting ride.
I rode the North hills yesterday in one continuous run except I did not bother to go up and down Rialto because it is sort of dumb without a bunch of people ( sort of dumb with a bunch too, but you gotta do what you gotta do ).
For my old legs hill grades break down into 5% ranges.
10-15% is steep but I can go all day at some pace – the only question is how tired I want to be at the top and how far away that is. Kilborne in FKT is like that, about 14%.
15-20% is very steep. Pacing is definitely required. All of High, Sycamore, Center, Ravine, fall in this category. The lower 2/3 of Logan too. Most of Suffolk is under 20 but right around 20. These guys are where my beloved 36:34 lets me more or less chill, whereas the 32:34 on my road bike requires a bit more focus.
20-25% is extremely steep. Tesla, Rialto, Welsh, Berry Hill, maybe Elanor are mostly in that range. There is a limit to how far I can go at that grade so I really like to know the hill.
25-30% is stupid steep and for me the issue is NOT to think it is all out. If I can relax and put out just enough to keep going, then things work out. The top of Logan, a short bit of Tesla, and basically all of Boustead are there. Boustead is right nasty. Once I realized I could make it up Boustead my psychology took a dramatic turn… I think the top of Logan gets really close to 30% especially if you go left. Right is a bit more gentle but still way over 25. For me the key on Logan is to totally zen out for the first 2/3 or 3/4 and then the top is hard work but there is plenty in the tank so it is fine.
30% + is WTF steep. I’m still working on that… I need to go to Dornbush and try it a few times for Canton practice…
It is crazy how much psychology plays a role here – 2 years ago I thought Tesla was impossible, now I plan gear shifts by cracks in the road ( no joke, if they repave I’m screwed ) and regard it as wimping out to do anything other than to stay straight right. I was like that with Logan two weeks ago… now it is sort of my friend. At this point Boustead is the toughest for me other than Canton, and I haven’t needed to pee enough to get up Canton…
Enough ramblings of an old Irishman whose great grandmother was named Llewllyn. Do not go gentle into that good night. It is the centenary of Dylan Thomas’ birth. My mother gave that poem to the pastor to read at my grandfather’s funeral. Afterwards he told her “you write VERY well…”. I digress…
Neil….excellent break out of all the hills. For every hill except for Canton, I’m either sitting and grinding it out or like the top of Logan, standing and grinding it out.
Canton though is a different animal. Last year I struggled with making it up Canton and my success rate was about 25%. Even then I didn’t consider it the hardest. When I didn’t make it, I wasn’t tired, just disappointed. One day I happened by pure chance to be there at the same time as Danny Chew and he said to attack it like an all out sprint. I thought he was crazy and I was concerned I’d crap out. But I’ve learned that since it’s so short, if you can go all guns and get enough momentum to get past the halfway mark, you’re going to make it. It’s the only hill I attack and it seems to work.
Very interesting and entertaining back and forth here gentlemen. Missed you both last Sunday! Steph was gracious enough to lead the ride despite not feeling 100%. There were only a few of us (Tom, Mark, Rich, Daniel, another fellow whose name I do not know, Steph and me). Small group but still just as much fun. I’m gonna miss this Sunday’s ride (dammit!) but will see you on for the rest of the training rides and then on the big DD day!
Neil, I think we should add to your buddy Jason’s advice and edit it to say, “Do it mad and with a full blad.” That’s epic.
you got that right lori!
there aren’t many pit stops on the route, so full blads are the norm. ha ha.
i had a family gathering last weekend so missed out on the fun on sunday. knowing i would miss i went out and rode to connellsville and back on sat. 133 miles for me. building my base for crush the commonwealth.
i’ll be there this sunday. hope we get a nice big group.
we meeting at triangle rental? long slog to Aspinwall. I think my students ( colleagues, they have both defended ) are bringing their tandem.
Steevo I see you are listing a cool green home in Garfield for your day job. Andy Grieshop is starting to think of selling as well. That’s all pretty random…
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