Q: I moved to Colorado from Indiana and the climbs are killing me! My flatland bike had a low gear of 39×23-teeth and it was fine. It’s not fine in the mountains. However, I don’t want to get a triple. I’d feel like a weenie and a rich one at that because the conversion is expensive. You live in Colorado. What gearing do you use? — Hank W.
COACH FRED: Call me a weenie if you’d like, but don’t call me rich!
On the relatively steady grades of Colorado, I’m comfortable with 53/39-tooth chainrings and a 12-25 or -27 cassette. Other riders may climb most efficiently in gears either higher or lower. And age is a factor.
When I began racing in 1976, I used the standard 42×21 low gear. I liked it a few years later when I could reduce my climbing gear with an inner chainring of 39 teeth. A bit later, I tossed the 21 and went to a 23. Plenty low enough, I thought. But by the mid ’90s I was on a 25. Now I’m shopping for a triple.
The key is to use appropriate gears for your strength and fitness levels. If this means a triple crankset, fine. The problem arises when riders insist on using inappropriately high climbing gears because of peer pressure. Or, they stick with what came on their bikes because they don’t want to spend money to get the gearing they really need.
Sure, it’s expensive to invest in a triple crankset. But it’s lots cheaper than a knee operation!