Get The Right Gears For The Mountains

Lee Parish, 9th April 2015

Make sure you get the most out of your trip and enjoy the challenges of the mountains, both climbing and descending. A little preparation and tweaking of your bike in advance of your visit will ensure that you do not suffer unduly because of a bad set-up.

bike gears

The standard 39/ 53 tooth chainring with 11-23 cassette is great for racing or where hills last no more than a few minutes. In the mountains, where climbs can be 15km long with percentages hovering around 10% (approximately up to 90 minutes worth of cycling uphill), you should consider swapping either the chainset, cassette or both for a lower gear ratio. It's much better to have too many gears than not enough so that you can give yourself the choice when climbing mountain hills.

You can find out what your gear ratio is of your current set-up using an online gear ratio calculator. You can speculate and compare this ratio to other sized chainrings or cassettes.

Some recommended options

For the average club rider or age group athlete (especially those who do long distance), we would recommend one of the following:

  • Compact Chainset 36/50T with 12-28T cassette
  • Standard Chainset 39/53T with 12-32T cassette
  • Triple Chainset 30/42/52T with 12-25 cassette

The most cost effective and easiest change to improve the ratio for climbing would be to buy a 11-27 or 29T cassette. However, everyone is different with different existing set-ups to start with and you must consider what ratio is best for you.

bike gears

Avoid expensive last minute upgrades

A little forward planning and maintenance on your bike before you arrive can make all the difference between having an enjoyable and exhilarating experience in the mountains or fighting the gradients each ride (potentially leading to some shorter recovery rides) or an expensive and time consuming trip to a French bike shop.