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Hill climbing gear?

I saw a road bike today at a shop in Houston that had 11 gears on the back axle and two in the front. Mine has ten in the back and two up front. every year I get into a situation going up a hill where I wish I had one more gear. Are 11 gears something new? Is that eleventh gear for climbing or for speed on the high end? I ask the fellow at the shop but he danced around the subject until another customer came in and he walked away from me to help the other person.

45 Replies

ehlent, May 28, 2014 at 9:50 pm

I run 34 front, 25 rear for my lowest gear. That will be plenty low enough for anything we will see this year. Potter’s hill a few years ago was doable but a bit off a strain with that gearing. This year you won’t even need to drop out of the big ring except maybe for the last day.


VIKING, May 30, 2014 at 2:57 pm

I run a 44 up front and a 34 on my freewheel. I’ve use it on the last 6 Ragbrai. And I have had no problems.


Pdiddly, May 30, 2014 at 9:12 pm

Oh you mighty, mighty MEN! I run 34/32 on my compact double and rear cassette. Of course I can get up just about anything with that. However, it is not necessary for RAGBRAI. Funny I don’t hear knee cartilage tearing or grinding with that combination either.


knees36, May 30, 2014 at 10:03 pm

This ol’ guy has run a 48/44/24 (half-step and granny gearing) up front and a 13-32 in the rear for twenty+ years and loves it. No problens shifting down onto the 24 tooth chainring when it’s needed…and it seems to be needing it more and more as time slips by. Cheers.


GetAClue Blue, May 30, 2014 at 11:21 pm

I finally found a really good bike mechanic here in the Houston area. i started talking to him about the 11 gears on the back wheels of a bike I’d seen recently. He explained to me that the 11th gear will usually help with the middle gears and is not necessarily added to make it easier to go up hills. I told him I always wish I had one more gear when struggling up a steep hill. He said if I had one more I would always want one more. Probably right. Anyway, he’s got my bike shifting like it did when I first bought it. Hard to find someone you can put your confidence in.


Houdini, May 31, 2014 at 5:51 am

It makes me sad that bike shops in the U.S. sell so many race bikes to recreational cyclists. If you are not racing or in general not trying to ride faster than the person next to you a race bike will serve you poorly relative to your alternatives. Race bikes cost a lot more and require more frequent and more expensive maintenance. They are a whole lot less comfortable. On the steeps their recreational owners are simply unable to ride them; hence this thread.


Jason Stoller, June 23, 2014 at 2:50 am

Amen to the spinning up the hill and the endurance. You only have one set of knees ( original equipment). Take care of them. Sure you can get them replaced, but I would rather keep the ones I came with and keep them in good working order. So as one of the previous posters has said to you, one of the key is not going for power its spinning for endurance.

I am also going to add that proper gear is important. I am going to add I no longer ride a DF(diamond frame) or two wheel regular standard bike for those of you not familiar with the term. We also have another word for them “Wedgie” which I am sure if you give it some thought you will figure it it out.

Years ago I started riding recumbent bikes, so I do not stand on the pedals to climb, or stomp on them to go faster. I do have the ability to mash my pedals but I do so at the risk of injury to my knees. To protect my knees and joints as much as I could from injury, I learned to shift gears the min I felt I was getting too much pressure on my knees. Learning to keep a Steady Cadence, helped be aware of when this was happening, and also helped me improve my riding. As I learned to ride this way, I was able to get stronger, gained endurance as mentioned by another poster, and did not suffer from the major soreness that riders suffer from when they over exert themselves.

Recently I have switched to a Recumbent Trike. I will be happy to explain the reasons for this if you really want to know but you will have to ask. Anyway, my trike is even heavier than my 2 wheel recumbent was. My two wheel recumbent was titanium and very light and fast. The trike I am bringing RAGBRAI is over 50lbs. I am also probably going to drag a two wheel trailer behind me unless I change my mind in the next few days. Imagine having to climb a steep grade with that much weight. Common sense will tell you that you have to be geared right to do it, and that you also need to spin.

See you all at Ragbrai. I will be the one smiling while I am spinning and climbing.



Michrider !!!, June 23, 2014 at 6:52 am

ComicDom1 “The Hase Whisperer”: I am also probably going to drag a two wheel trailer behind me unless I change my mind in the next few days.

Why the trailer?


Brian Zupke, June 23, 2014 at 10:21 am

I too have switched to recumbents, both bikes and trikes for the same reasons plus I find it easier to focus on my surroundings without having to constantly tilt my head up to look around. I will be riding a recumbent trike on RAGBRAI. I also thought of bringing a trailer with me to be able to bring more stuff with me than what can be hauled by the luggage trucks. But I since I joined up with a group that is having Out of Staters do the hauling, I’m not limited on what I can have them carry. So my plan is to have panniers to carry the things I will want to have access during the day’s ride or that I don’t want to have out of my possession.

On a recent 2-week business trip, I rented a diamond-frame bike to continue training and take advantage of the wonderful trails in Tulsa. It reaffirmed my preference of recumbents over diamond frame bikes!

When I used to haul my kids on a bike (my setup was a Bike Friday tandem, Burley Piccolo trailer cycle, and Burley kid trailer), the gross weight of my train was about 500 lbs. Going up hills really took a toll. A 25 mile ride felt like over 50 miles and a 50 mile ride felt like a century. I think if you carry too much weight on RAGBRAI, you may experience the same thing. But if you still plan to pull a trailer, I would suggest you do all your training rides carrying at least as much weight as you would during the ride.


Michrider !!!, June 23, 2014 at 5:26 pm

If you’re not traveling self contained, do you need to carry that much stuff on RAGBRAI?


Jason Stoller, June 26, 2014 at 11:36 pm

Mitch I have been training with it behind my trike all this time and carrying my bike lock, cable, spare tire, tubes, rain coat, spare shoes, and some tools in it all this time. I also have two big flag poles that stick up on it and give me good visibility and a flashing light on the stroller handle that is eye height for automobile drivers.

Since I am bringing my own tent I am also worried about not getting up on time to get my tent down and getting it and my get at the truck on time. So I think you can see my concerns. My trailer is kind of like a safety blanket for me right now.

This is my first Ragbrai and even though I am going with PBV I am inexperienced and I want to CMA (cover my …) So I am a little nervous.

I know the Trailer will slow me down a little, so that is why I am still up in the air about taking it or leaving it. I have been encouraged by several to leave it. I did take it with me when I did Natchez Trace Parkway. I am fixing to put the Front Panniers and other rear bag that fits between the back wheels on my trike and see how that goes.

I did sell off my 17lb Eureka cot and bought a 4lb therm-a-rest cot that will fit in one of my Front Panniers or in the rear bag.

What I want to do in the next day or so is load up my tent, cot, sleeping bag or blanket(not sure which), clothes, and other little stuff I am taking on my trike and do some 20 mile practice runs with them. This is just loading my Trike without the trailer.

Oh, last thing, on the back of my seat is a Camelbak backpack where I carry my cell phone, snacks, and 100 oz of water that I sip as I ride.

This will help me test my mountain drive for climbing the hills too.

Thanks for the question. As always I am open for suggestions



Michrider !!!, June 27, 2014 at 5:26 am

Dom, have fun on RAGBRAI and be safe!!!!


OG, June 27, 2014 at 8:51 am

You’re probably OK for this year’s ride. It’s North, short and relatively flat. Just beware of any state parks ride through. In Iowa, it’s a state park because it’s too vertical to till.


Sandaltan ., June 27, 2014 at 11:08 am

OG is absolutely correct!! I am thinking of Springbrook, Dolliver, The Ledges and some other Iowa parks.



Brian Zupke, June 27, 2014 at 4:01 pm

Jason, I am bringing lots of gear with me, but most of it will be going on the OOS truck (even so, I think people will think I’m crazy with lugging the stuff to/from the truck to where I set up camp). It is too much for me to rely on a trailer as a contingency in case I miss the time cutoff in the morning. So I will be sure to get going in the morning early enough that it won’t be a problem. I will have panniers and a trunk on the TerraTrike I’ll be riding to carry things I will want during the day or that I don’t want to leave my possession.

I’ve never worried much about weight when riding. Most of my fellow club riders carry the bare-minimum, even going so far as to have a riding wallet with just their ID and some cash). I like to carry extra water, plenty of tools, an air pump (vs. cartridges), my big fat wallet (I would worry about forgetting to put my license back in it otherwise), etc.. For RAGBRAI, I will also be carrying walking shoes and probably a change of clothes for when I go through Sumner since I have family there and expect to spend a few hours (for some reason, people don’t like to hug me in my sweaty cycling clothes…). And I have lost almost 40 lbs. since I started training so I figure I can haul more stuff with the same gross vehicle weight! :) :)

One thing for you to consider if you decide to bring your trailer “just in case” and you get your camping gear to the truck in time, you would either be pulling an empty trailer (which would not be a significant amount of weight) or you may be able to have PBV haul it to the next town for you. This is assuming that PBV doesn’t limit you on the number of “bags” and also you’d probably want to get a bag in which you can put the trailer to protect it and make it easier for them to haul it.


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