Life from an outsider's perspective…

Climbing and gear ratios

Dear Dr. Brown,

I just read your exciting blog on climbing and thought I’d ask some advice.

I used to ride a Bianchi Torino but I moved on to a Kona PhD. The components of the Kona are far superior to the heavier Bianchi. Nevertheless, the heavier, inferior
bike climbs with vastly more ease than the Kona. When I have asked cycling experts, most of them spoke of cycling position or dismissed my claims as “in my mind.” I
would rather conclude the opposite: I expected the new sexy bike to make climbing a cinch. While it is subjective to a degree, I experimented using both bikes to climb
the same steep hills and found that the difference was phenomenal. I asked yet another cycling expert/friend and he concurred that it could be the gear ratios. So
naturally, I thought I’d show you the specs of my Kona and ask whether taking your advice and switching to a 53/39/30 chainring would make a significant difference.

Here are the specs:

Thanks in advance for your time.


Jerry Piven


It definitely makes a huge difference.
I’m a bit confused because the photo of the Kona already shows a triple… what gearing does your older bianchi have?

You could try installing an 11-28T cassette, which is easier because you won’t have to but a new crankset, front derailleur & possibly shiftlevers. 11-28T should work with a standard rear derailleur, if not, it’s still less investment than a triple setup (just a long cage rear derailleur is required, and possibly a longer chain. Then if that doesn’t make a difference, have a look at installing a compact crankset as well. Don’t do it the other way around, because changing the rear sprockets makes more of a difference than the front gears.

With all our bikes, we are moving in this direction: 34/50T or even 33/50T front chainrings, 12-27 or 11-28T cassette – merely because it’s the most flexible and economical setup.

Leslie | Pro bike hire | Precision braking & shifting

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