Wheels for Hill Climb

I’m gonna be doing the Mt. Washington hill climb (7 miles, 12% avg, 3600+ ft elevation) and am looking for some advice on my wheels! I’ve got an aeroad that came with Renyolds Strike 62mm rims. I’m curious about the following:

1: I’m a little worried about the depth of the rims being a problem in a windy situation, especially on a climb where I’m going to be hovering between 5 and 6 mph, and Mt. Washington is always windy!

2: The wheelset comes in around 1800 grams for the pair (no tire / tube / cassette / rotors) which seems ok in the < $1.5k world, looks like most other rim setups in that space are between 1500 and 1700 grams.

So, given my concerns, I’m looking for opinions on if I’d benefit (in a meaningful way) from upgrading to a more hill climb oriented set of wheels. I haven’t done a major hill climb like this before, so not really sure how measurable the benefits of a better wheel setup would be. (AKA someone convince me to spend money on wheels!!! :stuck_out_tongue: )

If I were you, I’d pick up a set of capable yet cheap (maybe secondhand) alloy wheels for the race. My winter/training wheels are a pair of Fulcrum Racing 3’s that I got for $370 new on Chain Reaction last year and they have been great. Come in around 1550g.

Unless you’re looking for an excuse to buy some nicer carbon climbing wheels in which case power to ya. (I hear the Zipp 202 and Enve 2.2’s are nice!)

Also, were you the same chap whose question they answered (re: pacing) in last week’s podcast? :smiley:

I’ve been giving these a look as a road wheelset for my gravel bike:

$479 and under 1500g, not too shabby. I’d probably throw on 30 or 32 wide tires, but you could go skinnier and lighter for a hill climb.

2 Likes

Not the same guy as the question asker the other week, but a very poignant question as they’re a similar build to me and I was going to spend a lot of time figuring out the pacing / gearing, and thanks to them I didn’t have to!

It seems a bit crazy to spend the $3200 on the top spec enve 2.2 setup, those Hunt’s are speaking more my language! They’re priced nicely and shaving a little bit of weight off my current setup is kinda nice but stability in windy conditions is my main concern.

Sorta interested in these, they’re on sale (woo!) and seem pretty competitive for the price point.

Shame chain reaction’s filtering is garbage, makes it really hard to find wheels!

The Reynold’s look nice, on sale still about 2X the price of the Hunt wheels at the same weight. I’m no wheel expert , but if price isn’t an issue and they check all your boxes, the Renynolds look like a nice solution. Paying over $2,000 for a wheelset just doesn’t make sense to me, but I’m just pack fodder.

Think I’d only go carbon (and pay more) if I wanted/needed a deeper rim, but that’s the opposite of what you’re looking for per your original post.

If I’m being very honest - I wouldn’t bother paying for a lighter wheelset. The Aeroad is a heavy bike, and I doubt very much if you’ll see much of a difference. If you’re planning spending that kind of money and you want to make a difference on a hill climb, buy something like a stock Trek Emonda SL6 which will be probably over 1kg lighter than your current set up.

The Aeroad weight in at a beefy 7.2 kg, a full 400 g more than the UCI minimum weight, whereas the Emonda is a svelte 7.2 kg. (Depending on exact model, naturally.)

Edit: looks like the current Emonda SL 6 is 7.5 kg.

My apologies. Where did you see the Canyon with Reynolds strike disc brakes is 7.2kg? Depending on the reviews I’ve read it seems to vary from 7.8kg to a shade over 8kg. And depending on what you read about the Trek, it’s quoted as 7.4kg. For a hill climb, I’d still favour the GC bike over the aero bike.

Depends on the model. 7.2 kg is a typical weight for the current production Aeroads (there is both lighter and heavier), so that one can compare with a typical weight for the Trek. If he has last year’s CF SLX 8.0 Disc (one of the ones that comes with Strikes), it probably is 7.8 kg, though probably 300-400 g of that is the added wheel weight that he’s planning on taking off. :slight_smile:

The Aeroad is a pretty light bike for an aero bike, which is surprising. (It’s typically a hair lighter than Canyon’s Ultimate.) Moderately light, non-aero wheels could be useful for it, since the Strikes are not super fun in a crosswind.

I wouldn’t feel ill-equipped doing a hill climb on an Aeroad, but it’s not going to be nearly as comfortable as the Emonda. Its aggressive position is counterproductive. Plus, I don’t know about you, but I’d want 34/32 gearing.

1 Like

I’ve done the race twice, both times on my SuperX cross bike. I ran a single 33T ring up front and an 11-34 in the back. I wish i had an 11-36. As for wheels, I used some old Zipp 202’s. You can find them cheap on eBay. I would never run them except for Mt. Washington. Let me know if I can help in any other ways. Good luck!

2 Likes

@Droopy the Renyolds are twice the price as the Hunt’s, but they’re not available for order until the third week in July, and that’s cutting it close (race is August 17th) to make sure all my equipment is dialed in.

Weighed the bike in this morning and it came out at 7.53kg/16.6lbs in an XL/59cm. :open_mouth:

Crosswind protection is definitely the major concern from a practical stand point, but from a mental stand point, I can very easily see myself cursing my ‘heavy rims’ for my poor performance and hatred of the climb. I’ll keep my eyes peeled, but I think something around the 1500-1600 gram range that’s a more box section would be helpful.

Also call me crazy, I love the aggressive position on the bike, even for hills. I’m a 98% sit climber, and like to pump out a higher cadence (not ideal for washington i know, :man_shrugging:) but find the aggressive position helps keep me more engaged.

As for gearing, I’m gonna shoot for a 52/36 and 11/42 sunrace in the back, which will have a 32/36/42 progression. I’m terrified I’m not gonna have a low enough gear to go at a comfortable cadence (I HATE grinding) so the 42 is my bail out. Gonna look real wild having a 42 on an aero bike!

1 Like

Hi - I did Mount Washington last year and will do it again this year (including the practice ride Sunday - see you there?). I run a pair of Mavic Ksyrium SLs that have been dynamite for this purpose. They are light and don’t have that deep section for the wind to grab because its does get blustery at the top of the climb. I paid $300 for my wheels used, and I think that’s about the going price. I’ll save 100 grams by running latex tubes. TBH though, don’t overthink the wheels. The best weight you can lose between now and then is probably on your body somewhere.

As for pacing and gearing, I’ll be running a 1:1 ratio as my lowest gear. My Wilier has Ultegra, so I am using an 11-34 cassette and pairing it with the small ring. Last year I had a sub 1:1 option but I am stronger and lighter this year, plus I know from experience that whatever my lowest gear is I will use it almost exclusively. I don’t run a power meter, so I’ll go by RPE (9 out of 10, until the finish which will be 10/10). My HR will sit between 170 and 176 against my max HR of 180 for the duration. In TR terms, it will feel like a threshold effort sustained for 80-90 minutes.

I actually ride quite a bit with the guy who sent the question in for the podcast. He was achingly close to the “Top Notch” cutoff time last year. I think he’ll get it this year but he is tall so that’s working against him.

If you are new to the Rockpile, I’ll share a couple other things I learned last year and that I’ll try to refine for my approach this year. I am hoping to cut a full 15 minutes off my time.

  1. The race permits earbuds/headphones on course. I wish I’d known that last year because it can really help with pacing and lowering perceived exertion. Obviously the usual caveats about situational awareness and not riding like a tool still apply.

  2. Don’t sweat the dirt section - it’s better than some of the asphalt, surface wise. It’ll break your heart though when you see that long Ridgeline at mile 5 because you can see a long way and still not see the top.

  3. Speaking of which, don’t look for the top. Treat this climb like you treat long threshold intervals on Trainer Road. Break it down into pieces and handle the pieces one after another. The feeling – the elation – is not when you see the top. It’s when you hear the cowbells, and when you hear the cowbells you are almost home.

  4. I don’t know anybody who has done this more than once who takes up more than half a bottle of water. I carried up a full bottle last year and seven miles in I dumped most of it. I carried it for nothing.

  5. The wall in the last few hundred yards is serious business – take the hairpin wide. People who try to take the inside line literally fall over every year. If you are like me, adrenaline will carry you up the wall and to the finish, out of the saddle, with energy you had no idea was still in your body.

  6. The adage is that every pound of extra weight is equal to 27-30 seconds of time. If it can be stripped off your body or your bike, strip it. I’ll be removing bottle cages, my rear brake, lights, cadence and speed sensors, seat bag, etc. I’ll allow myself the luxury of bar tape but you’ll see bikes without that too. I won’t carry supplies for a flat - if I flat, my day is done. I won’t wear gloves or glasses for this ride. I’ll carry one gel and the half bottle of water. For tires, I’ll be running Conti GP4000s.

  7. Tuckerman Brewing Company “Rock Pile IPA” – a great celebration beer when you’ve conquered one of the most difficult climbs in the world.

Good luck!

3 Likes

Thanks for all the advice! I’ve been super fortunate to run into a lot of people who’ve done the rockpile before, and conveniently echoed similar things.

My 2 big concerns are the gearing and my deep section wheels getting blown around.

Balancing the mental battle of knowing i have a bailout gear vs not, this is my second year on the road, and first competition, and never done any sort of sustained power ride like this before so I’m more comfortable trying to tackle something like this knowing that if I really capitulate I have an option. Plus I’ve found that I operate pretty well under the ‘you can do anything for 30 more seconds’ attitude, and that’ll treat me better than not having a bail out (or having the bail out be walking).

Some extra weight off the wheels would be nice, but yea, there are definitely other spots where I can shave weight, my bike’s a canyon cf slx so I could go with a lighter frame. Might do that next year depending on how I like the hill climbs :wink: . I think what i’m going to do is rent a pair of wheels, belmont wheelworks does wheel rentals, and they fit your cassette and essentially do a free tuneup before and after, so seems like a good deal.

Also, I’m really not expecting to smash the 1:20 mark, I’m going into it hoping to finish, under 2 hours would be awesome, and a stretch goal of between 1:30 and 1:45 which based off my fitness I think is achievable. Once I get that first edition under my belt, and want to come back to it next year, is when I’ll go full out and really go for the 1:20!

Unfortunately probably not going to make the practice ride, got work stuff going on but there’s still a chance!

Btw, are you Bryce who rides with John Lanoue?

I am. He is the one who talked me into Mt. Washington last year. Not knowing what to expect I set a target of 1:45:00 but ended up going 1:33:20. Was thrilled. You can get a fair estimate on your time window by using the Northeast Hillclimb Estimator online. Just Google that and you will find it.

Which wave are you going out in? I go with the 40s group. Yellow bibs.

1 Like

Nice! I ride with him on monday / thursday group rides and he convinced me to do washington too! He was cursing trainerroad because of how fast you and i were to start the season.

I’m gonna be out in the blue bib group, you’ll probably fly by me at some point though ;)! Gonna go do some repeats on ascutney and pack monadnock to make sure my gear’s all up to snuff and get a feel for what climbing at that grade and low cadence for an extended period is like!

1 Like

LOL - I’ll be “flying” at somewhere between 5 and 6 mph. Pack Monadnock is a good training hill and also has a steep wall just as you hit the top. Just be careful on the descents. The road is sun dappled and the frost heaves are hard to see. I have never climbed Ascutney but I am registered for the race there a couple weeks before Washington. My understanding is that it’s sort of a half-Washington. Just as steep but not as long.

I think your gearing is going to be spot on - you’ve got all the options you could want, and I think you are going to surprise yourself with how strong of a ride you have.

I have nothing of value to add, just that several of my local cycling colleagues are doing Washington as well, one of which did an hour on the trainer at a cadence of 59rpm, which in hindsight I wish I had done for a different event I did last year.

2 Likes

Here’s to hoping!!! I’m gonna try and go have fun (type 2 fun of course) and not sweat over the time, and then really attack it next year once I have some experience under my belt.

@hubcyclist I’ve been doing a lot of 2hr 70-75 rpm sweet spot sessions in prep for this specifically for that reason, hoping it works for me!

Wow.
Bryce, thanks for all of that excellent info.
I’m coming to Mount Washington this year for my first attempt, and that was very helpful.

If you, or anyone else here on the thread, knows of someone who might have space in a vehicle for the ride down at the practice ride this weekend, I’m searching for an opening, and am happy to pay someone’s costs. It sure would save me some logistical and homelife struggles if I could line up that solution. Those 4 wheels are probably more influential in a successful weekend for me than the pair on the bike! :grinning:

As for the bike, my biggest preparation effort has been in getting a 24t chainring and 34t cog onto the bike without losing my crank-based power meter. I had to give up some q-factor with the chosen crank, but I’ve had to do so earlier this year as well for Whiteface, and it was OK. One other thing that I haven’t yet changed, but hope to change before the August events, is to switch to a fork with higher offset. Standard commercially-available road bikes aren’t really optimized for travelling 5mph, and my suspicions were confirmed at Whiteface - people weave like mad, and I consider steering the bike back under my body to be wasted watts and focus. I’ll also replace the GP4000sII on my rear wheel, as I’ve worn that sucker flat on the trainer.

Thanks again for the 4-1-1, and I’m in your age group…see you there!

How did you do at Whiteface? I rode that one as well - was pleased with my outcome and pacing. I kept my gearing standard for that climb, but definitely can’t for Washington. Just too much gradient. I had never thought about the fork but I am seeing my bike fitter tomorrow to get a shorter/raised stem. I’ve had some back troubles this year and, since aero is not a factor in this race I’d like a more upright position for climbing.

I wish I could help you on the ride down but my car is a 4-seater and all four have occupants. Hopefully you’ll be able to find someone who can assist. I definitely would if I had a seatbelt for you.