I was taking it easy this weekend after the 200km Grand Slam last week and thought I would try something different. Someone had suggested riding up Norton Summit in the big ring only, so I tried it this morning.
To my surprise, I was only a tad slower than normal taking 22mins and was fresh as a daisy at the top.
Never got out of breath once and was flying past No 169.
Anyone else tried this?
I have done it many times 52x19. It is only Norton Summitt. Its not that hard. I am stunned that Nortons has this holy grail status. Can anyone explain why? Its not that long or steep. Montactute, Corkscrew, Lofty even old belair are more challenging climbs and I cant climb to save myself!
I think a lot people have Norton Summit on a pedestal and it just puzzles me. You are dead right that it is a gateway to some good riding as is Greenhill rd, montacute, old belair.
Big Ring Theory
So I've been thinking about this big ring climbing thing a bit this week. As others have said, perhaps the big ring theory works better if you actually ride in a harder gear. Riding the same gear inches as a small chain ring may (or may not...I'm confused about levers now) provide a better mechanical advantage. But several people pointed out the obvious flaw - chain alignment on a 53/25 is pretty ordinary and you risk doing some damage to your chain if you ride like this consistently. So what about riding in the big chain ring and keeping a semi-ok chain alignment?
Theory vs Practice
So this morning I decided to put theory to the test and rode up Norton Summit in the big chain ring (53). Ive got a 12-27 cassette and I was using the cog 3rd or 4th down from the 27, so either a 53/19 or 53/21 combo (can't remember which one it was now). In short, I knocked 2 minutes off my previous fastest time. In long, riding a harder gear made for a really tough climb (not surprisingly). To keep my cadence up I was out of the saddle almost the whole way, and my heart rate was pretty much locked on 180bpm (which is about 90% of max HR for me). As you can see from the graph below my cadence was still pretty low (between 50-75 most of the time). But knowing that if I wanted to stay in the big ring I couldn't really change down gears I did manage to knock a whole lot of minutes off the climb. Of course if I was riding in the small ring there is no real mental block to stop you just clicking down the gears, and spin. My glutes were killing me by the time I got to the top too.
Interesting though if you consider how much further you go per pedal stroke though. Up to 20 inches difference between a 52x19 compared to a 34x19. That is a lot of catching up to do. I use 19 as my reference because back "in my day" 19 was a big as most pople went. (I put a 21 tooth on and got ripped into for being soft, I use a 25 these days and even a have a bike with compact so I guess I have become a complete pillow!). Might give it a crack for old times sake tom morning if i can be bothered. Doesnt seem to bother my knees but i do a lot of riding on singlespeeds so you do develop a "technique" rather then sit/stand and grind.
Ultimately, if you push, there is no reason that riding in a bigger gear at a lower cadance won't result in the same time/speed as you would attain by riding a higher cadance in a lighter gear.
So the question is - why do it???? I was given some training advice for my time trialling, which basically said find a hill, pop it in a big gear and ride, pushing a cadance of about 40. I have been doing this up Waterfall Gully quite a bit, riding all the way in the 53/11 gear combo. The result is kind of like weight training while on the bike. The legs get stronger; and as you have said, I have found the glutes are burning the most at the end of it. When you go back to spinning in a lighter gear at a higher cadance, it suddenly seems a hell of a lot easier.
Weight training is a good way to describe it? Bit like a rowing machine. I could never do that gear. I used to do 52x19 nortons 30 seconds seated 30 seconds standing until the top ( the actual top not the hillclimbr top ). Had no good reason for doing it. Just like that it put me in the box really quickly.
Yep, I think that's the best answer- Building strength.
I did the bollards in the Big dog twice a week for a month or so, and have no doubt it added strength to my legs. It didn't make me a super climber- at 190cm/ 90kg gravity is still my big enemy- but it when I dropped back to spinning normally, I'm sure I'd improved.
The down side is I went on to have several chain snapping episodes, which I attribute to the 'crossing' and wear and tear I did to the chain on those climbs