Hi all,

A mate has persuaded me to aim for the three peaks ride in 2016 and warm up by doing the Audax Alpine Classic 140km next Jan. As a clydesdale (currently 93Kg future planned riding weight lean 85ish) I'll need all the help I can get. I'm planning to buy a new bike later in the year and current preference is to get one that comes with a mid-compact crankset (52/36)..

In the past I've only ever ridden a standard 53/39. I figure that most of my riding doesn't require a true compact. I can wear all the local climbs with a standard - but they aren't alpine length. I'd really like to keep a spin and avoid the nightmare scenarios of pulsing/walking in the high alps.

The current plan is for the mid compact and just try it out with its 11/25 cassette on local hills like Otford Wall and Arden St Coogee. I'm thinking I'll need more but don't want to waste cash changing to true compact unnecessarily.

I found the roll outs listed at http://www.bikecentermid.com/compact.htm make interesting reading.

36 at the front on a 27 at the back gives a 36 inch roll out. That's better than compact on a standard cassette's 25 at the back, which is 37 inches. So I'm thinking I may end up 52/36 at the front and 11/27 or 11/28 at the back.

I'm still researching but one potential annoyance could be 3 to 4 tooth jumps on a cassette with a wider spread. I believe for instance the 11/28  jumps from a 24 straight up to a largest sprocket of 28. Reckon I'd hate that when the grade calls for something in between.

Curious about any thoughts on gearing for hills? Most websites seem to focus on either cranksets or cassettes. Can't find much about combos of them.

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Personally, I change over to compacts for events like the Alpine Classic and then back to standards for the rest of the time. 

The reason to have compacts or an easy gear isn't because the rides are steep.  There are only one or two steep pinches on Hotham (if the 140km goes up there) and that's not your main concern.  So riding up Otford Wall or Arden Street won't give you any useful feedback.*

The reason you want easier gears is because the climbs are all long.  Very long and much longer than anything you will find in Sydney.  Average gradients are about 6-6.5% from memory.

Having done Fitz's 200 on compacts and then (stupidly on the spur of the moment) done the 260 on standards a year later when I was considerably fitter and stronger - the 260 was WAY harder because of the gearing.  It's much less fatiguing to have the choice to spin.

When looking at combos of gears, the point isn't the highest gear you can possibly get up a hill with.  It's about gear ratios that allow you to spin more easily.  Grinding away for 20km hurts.  Quite a lot.  Use the lowest gear you have that allows you to spin at about 70rpm and you won't have to get off and walk.  As a friend realised last year as she spun her way up Ventoux on a triple.

NB: You may discount my advice however, as I ride 650s which drops my gearing, I'm nearly 40kgs lighter than you and probably a lot older. 


*Just remembered you want to do 3 Peaks.  There's a stretch called the "Back of Falls"  Think of going up a slightly longer Otford Wall ... and then riding 5km of 14% ... with 200km in your legs.   It's the 5km that is the hardest.   I highly recommend compacts for that.  

Hugely useful. Thanks for that. Yeah I haven't looked at specific climb details much yet, but I know the Audax Alpine 140 has one that's 20km - I make that about 5 bobbin heads. And yes, 3 peaks and Audax 250 throw in some killer gradients.

No the 140km does not go up Hotham.  I did the 140km in 2013 but the route was changed to two ascents of Buffalo due to the bush fires.  However, earlier in the week I had ridden the 140km (Bright - Mt Beauty -Falls Creek and return) and as EMT knows, I am not the fittest person in the world.  

I have a 28 on my cassette and would recommend that for comfort (I always ride with a compact on the front).  It is not about steep pinches as EMT says, it is just that the Alpine Classic routes are steady grinding ascents and personally I think the lower gearing is more comfortable on a stinking hot day (and it is likely to be so ) over such long distances.  (Don't forget EMT is super fit and light).

I think your estimation of 5 Bobbin Heads is very much under the actual.  Tawonga Gap in two directions is about 6 Bobbin Heads and that is without Falls Creek.  

Definitely NOT trying to put you off but gearing is only the first thing you need to think about.  The Audax is all about endurance.

The 140 profile is here. I agree with the guesstimate of 11 Bobbins or so total. Mt Buffalo looks to count for 5 or 6 of them in one go. I've no problem staying on the bike all day, but with my body type I reckon the 'challenge'  becomes something like also doing a 50km time trial and 2 x 20km ones thrown in the middle. I'm now at a minimum thinking mid-compact cranks with a 27 or 28 on back, and rising, possibly to full compacts and a 28 or mid compacts and a 30. Though I've heard a chain change is highly recommended if going to 30 and I'd like to get away with the same cranks all the time and max two cassettes to swap between for all riding.

Compact is the new standard. 

For your weight and the intended type of riding, I reckon a 50/34 no question.

I was kind of holding out for something bigger than 50, but it's not like I need the 52 ring for competitive descending I suppose.

I'm wondering if there's any chance an LBS would swap out a standard or mid compact that comes with a bike you buy for free or at a discount, like they might with wheels.

These days you'll probably find the majority of the bikes in the shops are fitted with compacts from the get-go.

I guess your other option if you're getting into really hilly stuff is the new(ish) WiFli rear cassettes from Sram. These run really wide gear ranges such as 11-32 like you find on an MTB.


The only time I have ever "needed" a bigger ring is in a sprint on the flat.  Usually trying to win something.  Compacts are a bit rubbish for the final sprint unless you are able to generate a lot of power at a high cadence (like those tiny kids who insist on beating me at the track). 

Mind you, lately, my legs have given out before I reached max RPM anyway so possibly a moot point ;-)

I am no sprinter, but I have never spun out my 53/11 all the same. As 50/11 is a bigger gear than 53/12, most riders (the likes of Kittel, Cav & Greipel et al excluded) can sleep at night knowing a compact crank set isn't going to be their downfall, when like you mention, they're not aiming for the kind of top speed 53/11 is going to give them (at max cadence).

The other advantage of say running a 50-34 + 12-25 - which should be sufficient for much of the common inclined stuff  within riding distance of Sydney - is that it gives you a wider spread of gear ratios; i.e. you've got more options to choose from.

However tackling something like 3 Peaks is a different kettle of fish again. At least if you go with a compact up front from the get-go - and there is little argument for most riders not - you only have to worry about swapping your cassette on the back (and possibly a longer chain as well). This is generally a much easier job (with the right tools).

In saying that, I am no monster climber and currently run a 53-39 up front and 11-25 down the back, although from now on will switch to 12-25 as I seldom use the 11, and I quite like the idea of having an 18 in the middle of the usable and busy part of the cassette. I also have a compact crankset (50-34) but have never used it - yet. It would have been handy in NZ earlier this year, which featured a number of climbs that were regularly 8-10% and often more, and up to 500+m. But even then, I managed without. However you need to account for the steepest part of your ride, not the average of your ride. There is not much point in being able to ride 95% of your 100km ride if you can't get up and over the 5% that's at 16%!

However you need to account for the steepest part of your ride, not the average of your ride. There is not much point in being able to ride 95% of your 100km ride if you can't get up and over the 5% that's at 16%!

I sort of agree with that.  However I do note that when I go up the Back of Falls I don't see people walking up the steepest bit that is only about 600m or something.  But people can't sustain the next 5km and that's where they walk. 

Yes but he is not proposing to do the three peaks or the back of Falls - just the 140km.  A great idea for the first attempt IMO.

And I'm guessing that because pushing a bike while walking is inherently less mechanically efficient than riding a bike, the solution to the problem just makes the problem worse...


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