Haute Route Bike setup: Gears

With only 12 weeks to go until the start of my 2013 challenge, it is time to decide on the bike setup.  I will use my race bike — Canondale SuperSix Hi-Mod with SRAM red gruppo.  This will be the first time I take this bike on a plane; typically I take my Ritchey BreakAway bike on flights (no additional charges and small travel box).  I don’t anticipate flying often with my race bike so would prefer to rent/buy a used travel bag/box (suggestions welcome!).

Living in the flatlands of Chicago I have a standard 53-39 crankset with Quark powermeter but my wife Shannon has compact 34-50 with Quark.  (My cross race bike also has SRAM BB30’s so we can interchange drive trains; hey, I teach about the merits of common components!) Questions to decide: what gearing and wheels to use?  This blog is on the gearing; next one will be on the wheels.

Coming home from work this Friday a package from SRAM was awaiting me on the dinner table:

New SRAM Red XGlide 1090 11-26 cassette

New SRAM Red XGlide 1090 11-26 cassette

The coincidence with Gerry’s new pacha order on this same day is eery.  Gerry Paterson, who lives in Nîmes, France, is also embarking on the same Haute Route challenge.  His blog has been very insightful, including on the choice of crankset and gearing–do read the comments too!  At one point I was considering keeping my standard crank but the suggestions on Gerry’s blog to “think about how you will feel in day 5″ and “to have a backup gear” convince me to go with Shannon’s compact.  Definitely a 34 on the little ring, but I may still consider a 51 IF I have to buy a new chainring to replace the 50 (which does have an issue).

For the rear, I have decided to start with an 11-26 cassette–the beauty above!  The 11-50 (or 51) should be sufficient for the descents and the unlikely flat stages where I can draft :).  And the 34-26 should be sufficient for the steepest sections during the first few days.  I climbed Bedouin-Ventoux solo with a 28 but can’t recall using the 28.  Never climbed big hills during a race but my buddy Neal said “you have no idea how much faster you will climb during a race.”  (Indeed I have no idea–I just hope I can hang onto a good group!)  Anyway, I’d rather have the tighter spacing of the 26 but will bring an 11-28 as my “back-up” solution for when I get tired or have overestimated myself.  (A cassette is easy to swap and I just bring a few tools.)

So, with the drivetrain settled, my next blog will be about what wheels to bring (we can only bring one set).

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11 Responses to Haute Route Bike setup: Gears

  1. andrew j. spatz says:

    Put the 28 on to start and switch the other way. If you don’t have a bail out gear, you will be miserable. MY OPINION.

    I will only bring my 28 to Italy.


    andrew spatz (adas/spatz properties)

    1216 main street, evanston, IL 60202

    (O) 847.864.3100 (C) 847.971.3290 (F) 847.869.5647 (e-mail) aspatz122@aol.com (website) Click here: adas spatz properties

    • You make a good point Andy. The difference between 26 and 28 is still almost 10% in rpm, which is substantial once you hit 60rpm or below.
      I need to check the gradients–from what I remember: most is below 9%.

  2. Gerry says:

    Sounds like a wise choice, Jan. There’s really nothing that compares to experience with these things, so I’ll be doing a Ventoux ‘training camp’ of some sort next month, where I’ll climb it multiple times daily for 4 or 5 days, I think. I’ll do this with the 25 and see if I can survive.

    And nice t-shirt. Campagnolo never sends me t-shirts with my gear!

  3. Darrell says:

    Jan: I vote for the compact. The risk of not have a sufficiently big gear is not nearly as high as the risk of being over-geared on a bad day. The compact also sacrifices a little bit of efficiency (even in mid-range gears), but unless your group descends like demons there is not much risk of getting dropped from being “pedaled out” in your 50-11.

  4. StevO says:

    Hi Jan. Love your blog. I have a power meter and tried to work out TSS and all that stuff.Easy to put on paper, but training day in day out on big hills and mountains just wears you out. RECOVERY, it is so so hard. Exhaustion just gets to you. I am in the Haute Route this year as well. My ideal race weight i hope to have around 61KG. I train a lot on the Tourmalet and surrounding mountains. Some days climbing 2500m+ a day, for me it is recovery, I wish I could ride the big ones every day at a steady pace but sometimes the body just says NO. The real killer is the heat. It just zaps you when climbing for hours on end. I had a training plan but now as time is moving on I just listen to what my body and muscles say. Fingers crossed, that August will bless all of us, rewards on this monster challenge.

    • Thanks Steve. You have the experience and the mountains for training and acclimatization, so you are in much better position. Training for Haute Route in the flatlands of Chicago is tough — hopefully the TSS goals are a reasonable reflection of the true demands.

      Did you do the Haute Route before with you power meter? If so, what were the true TSS per day if I may ask?

      Recovery is the big unknown. I should be ok on day 1, probably day 2, but have no idea to what extent the body will deteriorate / recover (aside from my TSB projections–but those are just numbers). Any recovery recommendations?

      Hope to meet you in August! Tomorrow is my first test day: Horribly Hilly Hundred in Wisconsin: 200km, 10,000ft. Let’s see…

      • StevO says:

        Hi Jan. No this is my first Haute Route. Only had the power meter for a year. It is very hard to gauge your power as a constant for the haute route. My FTP is 277 I weight 61 Kg. So you would think keeping a steady 220-240 watts on hight mountain cols is easy. Its not. I can keep my power high for say one col, but then fatigue starts to show its head on the next col. Then by the time you are home your legs are well fatigued from hours of climbing. For me I just set a nice pace and listen to my body. Being in your mid 50s is a real pain. recovery takes time. Nothing you can do about it. Except rest. Love to get out there day in day out but my body just does not respond. A bit of rest then I am ok. Its a tough call on what sort of training to finish the next eight weeks. For me its just riding up the big mountains when I can. If you are a good descender you can make up a bit of time on what you loose going uphill. I also practise going down as fast as I can. Its a fine balance act. I use Golden Cheetah and my long term and short term stress are so far apart. I wonder if I will ever feel fresh for the big hop in August. In the end we are all different. We all respond different to loads put on our bodies. The seven days in the Alps will tell us all how well we trained. Good luck with all your training. Keep in touch, look me up on Strava. StevO Whybrow.

      • Steve: 277W and 61kg is very sharp–I won’t be able to keep that wheel unless I loose another 3kg and that isn’t going to happen (I am hoping for 1kg:). You will do great!

        No worries about sort term fatigue (ATL >> CTL: it means you are in building mode. I just finished my rest week and did not ride for three days: this reversed ATL<CTL and will do similar before HR.

        While I will try to add some strength, I believe it is mostly about building endurance for HR. to keep it up for 7 days…

  5. StevO says:

    Oh I forgot to say about recovery. I eat 70 grams of high GI cereal straight after my ride, The high sugar stuff. A full can of coke and a protein shake. maybe a handful of jelly Babies. It works for me. The start of my long rides porridge porridge porridge. On rides over 100km a strawberry jam sandwich white bread mid way during ride. I have been using these food stuff for years and works for me. May not work for everybody. Let me know what you eat.
    Chat soon


    • I am with you, Steve: oatmeal and banana for breakfast + a sandwich with jam or Nutella. On a 2hr+ ride, I eat a sandwich (jam, Nutella, or spekuloos :). I like real food–always have some bars and jells for emergency.
      I need to think about recovery food when we don’t have our kitchen. Will prepare a bottle with whey protein and some fruit. And a good French dinner 🙂

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