I live in Australia but in a relative hilly level. We have some local climbs about 15 to 25 minute in duration. These climbs are categorized by pinches from 10 to 15 % with peak gradients of up to 22 %. Then they flatten out onto ramps. There are usually 4-6 pinches in each climb. I am 56 FTP 215 to 225 and i weigh 76 kgs. Inventively I will slow down to 7 km/hr on these pinches. In group rides on climbs of 2-5 minutes with gradients of up to 7 % I can stick pretty close to the fast guys in the group as I can maintain my speed and cadence but these steeper pinches kill me with cadence dropping down to 50 on a compact crank with 32 cassette. The experience is horrible.My optimal cadence for power output with a low heart rate is around 80. To achieve this I would need mountain bike gearing with a 50 Cassette on the back! Should I do it with the risk of pissing people off in the group!
I can relate to all you said…I also live in Australia and we have some pretty sharp climbs around here as well. I’m nearly 66 and my heart rate just goes into the red zone PLUS on these climbs that I now try to avoid them if possible which I don’t want to do but they are becoming too hard…I have a 32 cassette as well and have inquired about a different cog but was told my bike’s gearing doesn’t support it because the derailleur needs to hang lower or something and the chain would be stretched too much.
Going slower, down to 7-8kph isn’t an option as I would feel I would fall off the bike. I usually going up 14%plus climbs around 9-11kph but standing up which is why I probably start to blow up.
Does TR have any workouts which could improve (older) riders on steep climbs?
Do whatever you need to in order to ride at the cadence you want. Don’t worry what others say. There’s always going to be someone stronger than you. Just as there will always be someone out there stronger than the strongest in your group. I have a 11-40 cassette on my gravel setup, with 50-34 cranks. Works great on long, steep, rough climbs allowing me to spin 80rpm + instead of grind at 60.
It’s all about power to weight ratio and then the gears to handle it.
I think a 1x could be handy. The eThriteen cassettes go 9-46. You could put a 42 on the front and have pretty good range!
I’ve used this gearing combo during a trip to Hawaii and I really appreciated it for the steep climbs.
You can get a longer cage derailleur, a longer chain, and one of these to drop the derailleur lower.
This will allow you to run bigger than 32 in the rear. A good bike shop will be able to set your bike up with the max range your bike can handle.
I got a 46 rear cassette on my Gravel bike used wolf tooth Tanpan with a mountain bike rear detailer worked a charm.
The R8000 (Ultegra) and R7000 (105) series GS (ie. mid cage) RD’s now support up to a 34t cassette (officially - and more unofficially). New mechanical RD’s aren’t that expensive (the smarts are in the shifters, not the RD).
In terms of training, perhaps look at the Climbing Road Race, as this includes some over-threshold work that would allow you to go into the red on the pinches, and recover as the gradient drops back to something reasonable.
And you may be able to get smaller chainrings at the front.
If you don’t mind oval rings then absolute black go down to 46-30.
FSA/Praxis/Rotor all have 46-30 offerings.
For a trip with my dad to the alps we messed with gears there are several options that we found and tried. This Was all with r8000.
Absolute black do oval rings that can be put on ultrgra crank that are 30-46.
The r8000 rear cassette works fine with 11-40 mtb cassette with a road link we even got a sunrace 11-46 to shift fine with loads of b screw left.
Obviously the cassette options mean bigger gaps but I think that’s better than avoiding routes.
Forgot to say I did the 11-40 cassette no road link, dad did oval cranks and an 11-46 cassette. He always had two gears to spare even going up the steeper sections.
This^ plus it’s possible your current derailleur may fit a larger cog with the b screw at max (there are some basic how tos online, essentially you need to avoid cross-chaining). My Ultegra short cage isn’t supposed to fit a 32 at the back but it does comfortably.
Just an update. Fitted a wolf link to my ultegra di 2 derailer and am running a 42/11. Works well no gapping issues can ride in a bunch on the flat feels no different then a 32. Only slight issue I am getting is if I do a stomp on the pedals for a sprint the gears can jump. (not a deal breaker)
I strongly recommend that you choose your gearing according to your climbing needs, spinning out on descents is much less painful than grinding up steep climbs in a tall gear. Don’t be embarrassed that you need to use such small gearing. Chris Froome used a 34/32 in the Tour de France, too, and last I heard he is quite quick.
I would recommend that you try replace your 11-32 cassette with a 11-40 cassette mountain bike and perhaps also get 46/30 chainrings in the front. Compared to the 11-42 cassette, the gears in the middle are more closely spaced — and I assume these are the gears you will spend the majority of your time in. You should be able to fit this if you add an adapter such as the one already mentioned made by Wolftooth. If you do both modifications, chain ring and cassette, then your cadence (at equal speed) should rise from 50 rpm by 42 % = 1 - (40/30)/(32/34) to 71 rpm. This way you should be in the green again cadence-wise.