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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Posts
    193

    I need lower gears 4 hills on my road bike

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    I have always struggled climbing hills. Every hill I usually manage to redline. My heart rate is crazy high and my breathing, well it's more akin to gasping. Ok, it's not a pretty sight watching me climb. I usually end up bailing half way up just to get my breathing and HR under control. When I ride my specialized dolce up any substantial hill I run out of gears very early. Now that I own a mountain bike getting up hills is much much better. Most steep climbs I have anywhere from 1-3 lower gears left. And I make It to the top with out redlining and gasping, I'm slow, but I make it. And that got me to thinking. Why don't I get similar gearing set up put onto my Dolce? I asked at the local LBS and it sounds like it's going to cost around $500, which then started me thinking why don't I start seriously looking a Surly LHT? And get the gearing I want/need. I want a comfortable touring bike and from what I gleamed from reading endless crazyguyonabike forum posts, Surly LHT seem to be the bike most people use.
    Now, about the gearing.....how low can I get them? And is it feasible to modify a road bike with a lot of mountain bike
    Components?
    I have this crazy idea that I want to ride the USA southern tier route. But I need a bike that is comfortable for riding hours day after day. I want a more upright sitting position (personal choice) and it's going to be mostly credit card touring. Sleeping in a tent is not my idea of fun. I want a shower and a comfy bed after being on the bike most of the day. I have my eye on the surly model with disk breaks. But if I can't get gearing low enough, I won't be going anywhere anytime soon.
    Any thoughts Ladies?
    No pressure No diamonds

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Location
    california
    Posts
    1,226
    The 26/36/48 crankset and the 11-32 cassette on the LHT’s doesn’t give you the climbing gears you need? what's the gearing of your mountain bike? The LHT meets your requirements for your touring. If you aren't going to carry heavy panniers and do lighter 'credit card touring' perhaps slightly less relaxed angles like a sport touring geometry for more responsiveness, faster day rides as well as touring....maybe a Waterford, Rivendell etc.
    ‘The negative feelings we all have can be addictive…just as the positive…it’s up to
    us to decide which ones we want to choose and feed”… Pema Chodron

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Concord, MA
    Posts
    13,394
    I think she meant she wants a LHT, not that she has one.
    I have a mountain rear derailleur on my custom road bike, with an 11-34 on the back. I can get up anything. I had this bike built with slightly more upright geometry. I commute on it, with a heavy pannier. I've also ridden it with a pannier and an Arkel Trail Rider trunk bag. Since when I commute home, I often have a packed pannier and a 10% grade to climb, it's perfect. I may be going 5 mph, but at 7 PM, who cares? However, on my new Trek Silque that is being built, I am getting an 11-32, and it is a road derailleur. If you want a more upright bike, go for the Surly, but I would be happy to spend 500.00 for more gears on the Dolce. Having those extra gears is peace of mind.
    Somewhere I think I remember that you are shorter, like me. I know the Surlys don't have a lot for people who are 5 feet tall!
    2015 Trek Silque SSL
    Specialized Oura

    2011 Guru Praemio
    Specialized Oura
    2017 Specialized Ariel Sport

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Uncanny Valley
    Posts
    14,501
    If that's right that you have short legs, you may well do better with shorter cranks, too. Gearing is one end of leverage, crankarm length is the other end!
    Speed comes from what you put behind you. - Judi Ketteler

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Boise Idaho
    Posts
    1,162
    I have a very short customer who is on a Surly LHT, The smallest is a 46 cm, again we encourage people to go as big as they can with the frame and then work with stems, handlebars, etc for dialing in the fit.
    You can change the 26 to 24 easily and add a 34 or 36 on the cassette, just fine tune the chain. So if you added a 36 in the back and a 24 in the front you'd really have some low gears. If you are a small person don't shy away from the standard LHT. Disc Truckers are certainly nice too but IMO, Disc Brakes for lighter people traveling on paved roads aren't something one has to have. You'll have plenty of stopping power with the standard LHT, especially as it sounds like you aren't planning on carrying a ton of camping gear. Feel free to PM me or call if you need more detail.

    Good luck, Surly is an awesome choice. We had Grant Petersen here a few years ago and he loves them as well, great bike for the price.
    Sky King
    ____________________
    Gilles Berthoud "Bernard"
    Surly ECR "Eazi"
    Empowering the Bicycle Traveler
    biketouringnews.com

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Posts
    193
    Somewhere I think I remember that you are shorter, like me.

    I'm 5ft 6in. I usually fit medium frames.
    No pressure No diamonds

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Uncanny Valley
    Posts
    14,501
    Quote Originally Posted by Wasp View Post
    I'm 5ft 6in. I usually fit medium frames.
    That makes it less likely that crank length is your issue, but it isn't conclusive. Have you ever ridden a bike with 165s or 167.5s?
    Speed comes from what you put behind you. - Judi Ketteler

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    Oakland CA
    Posts
    9
    [Now, about the gearing.....how low can I get them? And is it feasible to modify a road bike with a lot of mountain bike
    Components?]

    I have a steel road bike (a Bob Jackson) with a triple up front and an 11-32 cassette on the back. Definitely makes getting up hills easier. But even when I had a more traditional 11-28 cassette on the back, the way I eventually learned to get up hills without having to stop for breath was to go slow. I mean really slow, down to 3.0 miles an hour if need be. That put an end to my HR getting out of control. I do sometimes still have to stop to let my legs stop trembling, so that is why I am adding weight training to my workouts this winter.
    Anne from Oakland
    1999 Bob Jackson steel road bike

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Concord, MA
    Posts
    13,394
    My bike with the 11-34 mountain rear dérailleur has a compact on the front. My other bike has a triple and an 11-28 on the back.
    I can climb almost anything on both of these; the goal is to get up the road and I do go slowly! But, unless I am on a mountain, I rarely use the lowest gear on the bike with the mountain gears. I've walked twice in 15 years and both of those times I kind of gave up... I could have done it.
    2015 Trek Silque SSL
    Specialized Oura

    2011 Guru Praemio
    Specialized Oura
    2017 Specialized Ariel Sport

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    Oakland CA
    Posts
    9
    I am hoping to get an 11-34 put on the back of the Volagi I am having built (there will be a compact double in front). The LBS is testing it out to see how well it will work with the rest of the drive train before committing to it. If they don't think it will work that well, I will go with the 11-32.

    I will admit to having had to walk several times, especially when I was first returning to cycling a few years ago. These days I do not walk, although I do sometimes have to stop part way up when the climb is long and steep.
    Anne from Oakland
    1999 Bob Jackson steel road bike

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Posts
    212
    Quote Originally Posted by Wasp View Post
    I have always struggled climbing hills. Every hill I usually manage to redline. My heart rate is crazy high and my breathing, well it's more akin to gasping.

    Why don't I get similar gearing set up put onto my Dolce?

    I have this crazy idea that I want to ride the USA southern tier route. But I need a bike that is comfortable for riding hours day after day. I want a more upright sitting position (personal choice) and it's going to be mostly credit card touring.
    Any thoughts Ladies?
    I would encourage you to look at your climbing a little bit.
    Starting off too fast and having out of control breathing is a big problem.
    I'm going to guess that you have had some tingling of your nose lips or fingers during these climbs as you have been likely focusing on INHALATION.

    Next climb try starting out 10% slower and focus on having purposeful EXHALATIONS. Consider a little backpressure, exhaling against pursed lips. You should see a drop in HR and less hyperventilation. Over time your speed will improve but you can focus on finishing in control first.

    What are you using for a pedal and shoe system? If you are using open pedals or toe clips with running shoes, it may be time to consider the huge improvements you can see with a "clipless" pedal and shoe. Use the winter to have a slow easy learning curve.

    At first I couldn't understand why someone with climbing issues would switch from a Dolce to an LHT. (Porsche to John Deere) Then I read the rest of the post and it made a bit more sense. But why such a tank of a bike if you already struggle climbing?

    If you are at or over 5'5" and planning a credit card tour....which is not crazy and you SHOULD do. .... Perhaps take a look at some of the newer commuter cross bikes.
    Something like the $1K Trek CrossRip (5'5-6" = 49cm for Trek) comes with a triple front crankset and weighs 5 lbs (more than 15%) less than the LHT. Upright position and pretty much any tire size you want. It should be able to take a 30T rear cassette with no problem. Likely even the SRAM PG850 11-32T would work fine. So for an additional $30 you would have 50-39-30 up front and an 11-32 in back.
    Last edited by Seajay; 11-28-2014 at 04:33 PM.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Posts
    193
    Thank you for all the great responses and advise

    I got the idea to change the gearing on the Dolce once I started riding my Mtn bike which has 11-36. With that gearing I no longer walk up hills and I very seldom redline. Plus I usually crest hills with 2-3 gears left. When riding the Dolce up any substantial hill I've always run out of gears by 1/3 to 1/2 way up the hill. My speed drops to the point where I have to ziz zag up the steeper portions of the hill, and I'm usually mashing the pedals trying to get up the hill. Mashing up hills leads to knee pain which is a topic I'll leave for a different thread.

    After some reflection, I think I need to start working on my cardio as I realized that cycling is pretty much the only consistent exercise I do that increases HR. I do Zumba and use a treadmill but it's intermittent use as life and work tend to interfere with getting any consistency doing them. It probably would not be a bad idea to work on building more leg muscles, however I think it's more of a cardio issue that I'm experiencing.

    I started thinking about a Surly LHT bike because of the gearing. I figured a touring bike would have much lower gearing than the average road bike. My Dolce fit wise is very good. The only issue I have with the Dolce is climbing with the current gearing which is 12-30. If I could get similar gearing as my mnt bike (11-36) on the Dolce somehow I think that would solve the problem. One I idea I had was...If I got the double compact changed out and replaced with a triple that would get me some lower gears, but I'll have to find out if doing that is actually possible.
    Anyone have any simple ideas how I can add lower gears? Love to hear from you
    Thanks again to all of you that responded with such awesome advise.
    No pressure No diamonds

  13. #13
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    northern Virginia
    Posts
    5,897
    Quote Originally Posted by Wasp View Post
    Thank you for all the great responses and advise

    I got the idea to change the gearing on the Dolce once I started riding my Mtn bike which has 11-36. With that gearing I no longer walk up hills and I very seldom redline. Plus I usually crest hills with 2-3 gears left. When riding the Dolce up any substantial hill I've always run out of gears by 1/3 to 1/2 way up the hill. My speed drops to the point where I have to ziz zag up the steeper portions of the hill, and I'm usually mashing the pedals trying to get up the hill. Mashing up hills leads to knee pain which is a topic I'll leave for a different thread.

    After some reflection, I think I need to start working on my cardio as I realized that cycling is pretty much the only consistent exercise I do that increases HR. I do Zumba and use a treadmill but it's intermittent use as life and work tend to interfere with getting any consistency doing them. It probably would not be a bad idea to work on building more leg muscles, however I think it's more of a cardio issue that I'm experiencing.

    I started thinking about a Surly LHT bike because of the gearing. I figured a touring bike would have much lower gearing than the average road bike. My Dolce fit wise is very good. The only issue I have with the Dolce is climbing with the current gearing which is 12-30. If I could get similar gearing as my mnt bike (11-36) on the Dolce somehow I think that would solve the problem. One I idea I had was...If I got the double compact changed out and replaced with a triple that would get me some lower gears, but I'll have to find out if doing that is actually possible.
    Anyone have any simple ideas how I can add lower gears? Love to hear from you
    Thanks again to all of you that responded with such awesome advise.
    I'm far from an expert on gears, but I don't think a triple is necessary. When I compared my old road bike with a triple to my new one with a compact double using Sheldon Brown's gear calculator, the lowest gears were pretty much identical. So possibly a new cassette (and/or new chain rings) would address your problem.

    FWIW, the cassette I have is 11-28 with 50/34 on the front.

    - Gray 2010 carbon WSD road bike, Rivet Independence saddle
    - Red hardtail 26" aluminum mountain bike, Bontrager Evoke WSD saddle
    - Royal blue 2018 aluminum gravel bike, Rivet Pearl saddle

    Gone but not forgotten:
    - Silver 2003 aluminum road bike
    - Two awesome worn out Juliana saddles

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Posts
    4,516
    For me, the triple isn't so much about range as having lots of gears in my sweet spot. Maybe I havent given a compact engh of a test, but my I couldn't find my happy place.
    Most days in life don't stand out, But life's about those days that will...

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Concord, MA
    Posts
    13,394
    I feel the same about my compacts, but when I recently started using the smaller ring of the compact more, I found more of the sweet spot. And my knees are happier.
    2015 Trek Silque SSL
    Specialized Oura

    2011 Guru Praemio
    Specialized Oura
    2017 Specialized Ariel Sport

 

 

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