How do you deal with hills?- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    How do you deal with hills?

    So, how many of you have hilly commutes? How much is your commuter load, including your bike and bodyweight, and what is your gearing look like?

    Would a 52-39-30 crankset with a 12-28 be normal for commuting, or do many of you go lower, to 30 or even 32?

  2. #2
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    It is pretty hilly here in Stuttgart. I used to hate hills to the point that sometimes it would determine whether I rode my bike or drove to work. I even seriously considered getting an electric bike at one time. But the more I rode and better shape I got into, the easier the hills became. When I first started cycling a few years back, I was just over 230 pounds and I was riding a 40 pound bike. Now I'm about 200 pounds and I ride a 25 poundish bike (plus anywhere from 3 to 8 pounds of gear). You may be okay with a raod triple, give it a shot. My cyclocross frame has a 50-39-30 and I almost never drop down to the 30.
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  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Solomon76
    It is pretty hilly here in Stuttgart. I used to hate hills to the point that sometimes it would determine whether I rode my bike or drove to work. I even seriously considered getting an electric bike at one time. But the more I rode and better shape I got into, the easier the hills became. When I first started cycling a few years back, I was just over 230 pounds and I was riding a 40 pound bike. Now I'm about 200 pounds and I ride a 25 poundish bike (plus anywhere from 3 to 8 pounds of gear). You may be okay with a raod triple, give it a shot. My cyclocross frame has a 50-39-30 and I almost never drop down to the 30.
    Ok, you're riding on the 39 tooth with maybe a 26 in the rear on 8% grades, for maybe a mile or 2?

    I can do the commute fine with 28-28, but I'm thinking a 32 tooth would be more ideal. I don't hate hills, I just don't want to work so hard so early in the morning.

    Then again, I'm not even sure if my knees are in any good shape, let alone if my position on the bike is efficient, or if my tires are at the right pressure, given my size.

    You know, I'm not riding with mountain bike gearing, meaning no 22 tooth chainring, so I feel a little better just trying to get by with a 32 tooth on my hybrid. I think I just consoled to myself my own dilemma, lol.

    Also, it's great all of you are in such great shape to be pounding hills with a 39 tooth chainring, but there has to be someone spinning away on their granny right?

    Edit: I'm also riding a 26 pound hybrid, not counting all the gear and the weight of lights, rack and whatever else. If I had an 18 pound road bike, sure I could definitely get by doing a hilly century ride everyday with a standard double, but I'm not riding an 18 pound carbon super bike to school or work. Thus, the hybrid with the low gearing is appropriate.

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    I'm not trying to make it sound like I'm some super rider. I know for a fact that I wouldn't have been able to make my commute without the granny gear when I first started riding. I'm just saying that the best way to deal with hills are to keep riding them. If you need easier gearing at first, by all means go with what feels comfortable for you. As I said earlier, I was seriously considering an electric bike at one time becuase of hills.

    Here is the elevation profile of my daily commute:


    I'm not sure what the grade of the first hill is, but it is about a 200ft climb in just under a mile. When I first started riding, that seemed like a mountain.
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  5. #5
    weirdo
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    Solomon makes sense, H.M. If you`re concerned about it, why don`t you start with the 32t cassette, then you can swap it for a tighter one later if you don`t like it or don`t need it any more.

    EDIT: 26 pounds isn`t really a heavy bike. It`s a good bit lighter than my commuter, slightly heavier (less light?) than my roadie. ALL my bike have nice low granny gears.

  6. #6
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    I have a 12-32 8 speed cassette on my commuter, but I don't have a front derailleur and I use the 50 tooth big ring of a road double cranset up front. My commute itself isn't that hilly, but I couldn't have done it all in the 50 tooth ring when I started.

    I'd think you'd be OK with your 12-28 cassette with your 30 tooth granny gear up front for just about any hill. My small ring up front (accessible by shifting with the big toe) is a 34, and after pushing the 50 tooth around for a while, that feels like as low of a gear as I could ever want.

    My bike isn't very light (probably well over 26lbs), and I'm 210 plus a backpack.
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  7. #7
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    Quite hilly here, my last 3.5 mi gains 1000', I have mostly ridden it with a MTB triple (don't recall the exact gearing, or my bike weights (25ish?), or my weight (135ish?) for that matter) & that has worked great, I don't go fast but I get up the hills. Recently got a cyclocross with a double (39-?) & that has been challenging, I am still seeing if I want to stick it out with the existing gearing or not...on the one hand it could help me develop some more power, which would be nice on some trails, but there are a lot of dirt roads here that are much steeper than my commute that the x-bike would be fun on with lower gears...don't think I'll ever be able to power up them with the existing gearing. Solomon's 50-39-30 is tempting, but I'm still in the wait & see (& free) mode.

    But overall, I think there are too many variables of people, terrain, bikes, load, etc. to say or worry about what is "normal". If you think you want lower gears, get them. One thing about commuting is that you don't always feel at your best every day, so sometimes the lower gears are nice just when you're feeling less zoomy than usual.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hybrid_Mountain
    So, how many of you have hilly commutes? How much is your commuter load, including your bike and bodyweight, and what is your gearing look like?

    Would a 52-39-30 crankset with a 12-28 be normal for commuting, or do many of you go lower, to 30 or even 32?

    Make sure you have a low enough gear that you can sit and spin up the steepest hill you have to ride...

    You need this cause standing and hammering can hurt your back, especially if you do it everyday.

    Then make sure you have a tall enough gear that you can't spin out on the flats without wind....

    Your done.

    Ride hard stand and hammer, do back exercises everyday...become a better rider.

  9. #9
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    I'm 200lbs and in the last three years I've done almost all of my road and mtb rides single/fixed. However, I just made a utility* bike out of my SS Rockhopper and with racks front and rear, fenders and a Brooks saddle it is probably 30ish.

    General point- you can always change your gears around- but the better shape you get in, the easier the hills are. In February I did a 160 mile round trip to the coast over the coastal range SS. Anyone else could do it.

  10. #10
    jrm
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    On the CX bike

    Im using a 44/34 with a 11-30 cassette. The gearing is a bit low but it works well in almost every situation i find myself in.


    I just spin and stand to stretch. I try to keep my pack as light as i can because i tend to use way to much upper body if i feel like the packs weight is pulling on my shoulders. Just relax and spin..spin..spin..

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by jrm
    Im using a 44/34 with a 11-30 cassette. The gearing is a bit low but it works well in almost every situation i find myself in.


    I just spin and stand to stretch. I try to keep my pack as light as i can because i tend to use way to much upper body if i feel like the packs weight is pulling on my shoulders. Just relax and spin..spin..spin..
    Can you swap out the 44t chainring for a 50t one? The 34-30 is a good low gear just in case you're tired or don't feel like slugging up a hill. I used to have a road bike with 50/34 and 11-26t gearing. The 34/26 wasn't enough, and I couldn't justify paying $40 for a 12-27 cassette. And yet, everyone condemns a triple for a road bike. a triple with a 12-27 would be ideal for commuting, for me at least, but I don't have a road bike, I have a slow hybrid that I catch a lot of wind on.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by umarth
    I'm 200lbs and in the last three years I've done almost all of my road and mtb rides single/fixed. However, I just made a utility* bike out of my SS Rockhopper and with racks front and rear, fenders and a Brooks saddle it is probably 30ish.

    General point- you can always change your gears around- but the better shape you get in, the easier the hills are. In February I did a 160 mile round trip to the coast over the coastal range SS. Anyone else could do it.
    You know, I was thinking about picking up an SE draft and just suffering up most of these hills. I sort of cringe thinking about my knees and my efforts at spinning the cranks inch by inch.

    Maybe if I do that, my legs would get beefy and I would be a better climber.

    How long should I force myself up hills with a fixie before I start seeing progress that would translate to easier hill riding on a geared bike?

  13. #13
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    ^^ You'll see progress in a week or two. No joke.
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  14. #14
    Hail Satin!
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    Stand up and pedal you sissy! The best way to find out what gears you need is to just go ride and experement. My Vassago Fisticuff has a 48/15 gearing with 180mm cranks. I only really have one killer hill on my commute. But the rest is kinda flat. I refused to snail along the whole way because of that one hill. So I sorta beat myself into duing it. It was the best thig I ever did. When I ride trails on my mtb now I never run out of leg. And the gears feel sooooo easy. So just get the big cassette for now and work your way up. But just remember, some days no matter how big the gears. You're gonna feel like you're dragging a cinderblock. Some days I push that hill. Just ride and enjoy riding.
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  15. #15
    I got nothin'
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    My commute is either up or down both ways. I think I have one 1/4 mile flat section. I am pedaling a cross bike with 36/50 chainrings and a MTB cassette 11-30. The combo works well except the steepest sections where I cannot sit and spin. I have to stand and hammer to get up the steepest hills.

    I would say if you need a triple chainring, then go for it. In time your fitness will improve and might not need it, but no reason to kill yourself now. With a triple you can work your way toward being fit enough to hammer up the hills. You should be able to find an inexpensive triple MTB crankset online or through your LBS.
    I ride at ludicrous speed

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