Climbing makes you a more confident and stronger rider. The more hills you climb, the more capable you are when you meet the next one.
I rented a road bike when visiting Maui earlier this year. It was equipped with a “compact” crankset and an 11-25 cogset. A compact setup has smaller chainrings, usually 50 and 34 teeth. This setup made easy work of the climbing necessary on the West Maui Loop. I wanted to set my road bike up the same way but discovered it was an expensive ($800) proposition. I chose instead to install the largest cog set supported by my Dura-Ace 7900 rear derailleur – the 11-28 cassette pictured above.
The 11-28 gives me a lower gear making the steeper and longer climbs more manageable. But the setup is not nearly as effective as the Compact. My utility bike has smaller chainrings and I have noticed it is much easier, albeit slower, to climb with.
Roberto Contador is the quintessential climber. Much of this is attributable to his physique. His small frame and low BMI enable him to dance on his pedals, stand while climbing, as if he were running. He also uses low gears and a high cadence – 32 cogs at the back and a 34 tooth chainring at the front.
The following YouTube video illustrates why Contador is such a great climber. I would need to lose 30 or more pounds to have a BMI in the 19-20 range. I guess I won’t be dancing on my pedals any time soon. But it is a lessons for us all. Weight matters when climbing and the first place to look is at yourself not the bike you are riding. A lighter frame or components make a difference but nothing like being at your optimum weight, whatever that might be.