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Hi all,

I read a lot of articles that said it is better to spin at a high rpm to save your legs. I tried this for a while and always felt tired. My buddy always rides the middle ring even for the very steep climbs and always beats me. I tried it a couple of times and it also works for me.

How do others feel about this? Churn the butter or whip the cream? What works for you?

Thanks in advance.
 

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I think it depends on your definition of high RPMs. I don't use a cadence, and I'm too busy mountain biking to count, but if I'm going up a moderate hill in something like 22-midtwenties, I'm spinning super fast and going nowhere. If I put in the middle ring and keep the back where it is, I go up the hill a lot faster (obviously) and usually I'm able to maintain a pretty decent (feeling) cadence - certainly above 60 RPM, definitely below 120. I don't feel like switching into the middle ring really slows my cadence enough that I feel like I'm riding with a slow cadence. There have, however, been times when I've been riding up nasty technical (roots and rocks) trails where I would drop into granny and up the cadence to near-uncomfortable levels to maintain momentum and a smooth power output while bouncing up and over stuff.
 

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squish is good
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It also depends on your definition of climbs. For fireroad climbs I've found that grade really determines the gear. For singletrack, I almost always prefer the middle ring, provided it's a 32 on a triple setup. I've been using a dual ring 22-36 lately and have floated in between the rings to get what works for me on singletrack.

There are actually quite a lot of variables here so it's hard to argue granny vs anything else. Just ride what works for you.
 

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Lance said it best...

When asked whether he prefered to spin in the small ring or mash in the big ring, Lance said he prefered to spin in the big ring.

It's all relative and a lot depends on the grade that you're climbing, how technical the trails are, etc.

I've always had problems in a small gear on technical trails. For me, I've found that a harder gear works better for me. But I ride in the Midwest. Our "sustained" climbs are measured (in distance) by feet, not miles.
 

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It sounds like the concepts are getting mixed up. First of all, spinning versus pushing a big gear on the trails will be different then on the road, especially compared to technical, rooty or off camber trails. It also depends on how "full" your pedal stroke is. You can try to spin your way up a very steep, technical climb, but the constant shift on body weight can make it very hard, compared to the greater momentum when using bigger gears.
Spinning may feel strenuous, but it does save your legs. How? For starters its more of an aerobic workout. You use your lungs more and build up less lactic acid in your legs. Second, (this is what you're really saving) is that you use less muscle glycogen in your legs (sugar stores in your legs). When you push bigger gears it's the opposite, it's more anaerobic and therefore you use more muscle glycogen. If you're in good shape, you can normally maintain a good pace whether in a big gear or a small gear. It's easier to to accelerate in a bigger gear, while the pace is more of a tempo while spinning.
To prove my point, look for a long sustained climb with an even grade (at least a mile) and ride with a buddy who rides with a consistent pace. Do the climb from the bottom to the top in the "bigger" gear. It may be easier at the start, but then try to sprint the last 2-300 feet. Then when you recover (wait to fully recover or wait a day) do the climb again and pick at least 2 gears easier then with the first attempt. The burn may seem painful, but that's the lactic acid being drained away from your legs (important, remember to breath deeply). You should also be able to keep up (as long as you have a descent pedal stroke) at the same pace. With 2-300 feet to go slap on the bigger gear and sprint. I'll bet you anything that on the second time around you will feel like you're flying compared to the first time up. With training your legs cardiovascular system will be well developed and the burn should be less and less and you'll be able to spin bigger gears with no greater effort.
 

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Push that big gear! You'll build up stronger legs that are comfortable pushing that gear, accelerating to get up steep sections will build cardio. When you need to sit back and spin on that epic ride, your legs will be less stressed cuz you have muscle to spare.

I can't climb technical stuff for crap in the granny, the front end hops and you can't accelerate over obstacles.

Every ride is a training ride!!! ...There's no reason to kill yourself goin too big though.
 

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I'm with scottzg: on climbs, I stay in the middle ring. There's less torque to cause the front end to hop around, less torque to break the rear end loose, and enough resistance at the pedals that I can stand up momentarily to lurch the rear wheel over roots and stuff. Being in the middle ring also leaves me towards the lower end of my "power band," so I can rev that gear without having to upshift, if I need a little burst of speed to clear something tricky.

I think a lot of people gear down more than they really need to. If I'm in a group ride heading for a set of switchbacks, I like to either go first, or be 30 seconds off the back so they have time to get out of my way after someone stalls and takes everyone else with them.

Another benefit to not downshifting to granny: no chance for your chain to suck or fall off :) and no sudden drop in momentum.

Disclaimer: if I were on an endurance ride, 4-8 hours, then it might be time to use that 22T ring for some mid-climb recovery. Most of my rides are no more than 2 hours.
 

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It all depends. 32 ring/34 cog combo is the same as a 22/23. So it all depends on how far up the cogset on the granny that you go. I'll use the granny (24 tooth on my 29er) quite often , even when racing. I'd rather not run out of gear when the trail gets clogged or steep. It just takes a bit of discipline and understanding of what granny gears are equivalent to you middle ring gears to stay in those gears unless you really need a cog above the 23.

G
 

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Interesting thread. I appreciate the comments re aerobic-vs-anaerobic and cadences. I'll have to think about that..

I often see younger riders spinning (I'm 57). Sometimes they pass me, sometimes I'm passing them, so it's not all about being faster. I've wondered if it isn't because they see the pros spinning. I think the pros spin because they have to to get the speeds they're maintaining. To go 30+ MPH, you gotta spin. ;)

My setup? 44-32-26 rings, and a 14-25T cluster. Sounds limited, until you crunch the numbers. A 26 granny + 25T sprocket is a very short gear. The 44-14 combo sounds short, but I don't ride on pavement, nor race downhill. Maybe I'd want a 12 or 13 if I still raced..

The OEM cluster was 11-34T. I guess the 22 granny + 34T was for pulling up stumps. :skep: I never used the 22 granny. The 26 granny is very useful and makes a better chainline than the 32 ring + 25T combo on my Epic.

Is there some reason why the OEM cassettes are so huge? I just don't get it.

jeff
 

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I don't really have to deal with any super long climbs (no mountains around) so the middle ring works for me.
 

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I prefer granny. I've learned that, for me, pedaling faster up the hill helps not only with my energy output over the course of the ride, but also gives me a bit more momentum to help get over rocks or other obstacles during the climb.
 

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noodletips said:
Interesting thread. I appreciate the comments re aerobic-vs-anaerobic and cadences. I'll have to think about that..

I often see younger riders spinning (I'm 57). Sometimes they pass me, sometimes I'm passing them, so it's not all about being faster. I've wondered if it isn't because they see the pros spinning. I think the pros spin because they have to to get the speeds they're maintaining. To go 30+ MPH, you gotta spin. ;)

My setup? 44-32-26 rings, and a 14-25T cluster. Sounds limited, until you crunch the numbers. A 26 granny + 25T sprocket is a very short gear. The 44-14 combo sounds short, but I don't ride on pavement, nor race downhill. Maybe I'd want a 12 or 13 if I still raced..

The OEM cluster was 11-34T. I guess the 22 granny + 34T was for pulling up stumps. :skep: I never used the 22 granny. The 26 granny is very useful and makes a better chainline than the 32 ring + 25T combo on my Epic.

Is there some reason why the OEM cassettes are so huge? I just don't get it.

jeff
Where in California do you ride?
 
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