Tag Archives: Racing

Compact vs standard

Moving to a standard chainset seems like a rite of passage for a cyclist. No pro would be seen astride a compact. But hang on a minute… I’m still riding compact.

So, what am I doing? Well, my winter bike is my old bike, bought some 7 years ago when I rode a bit less. Standard wasn’t even a question then. My summer bike is newer, but I wanted to spec it to ride in the mountains. My usual Essex and Regents Park training routes don’t include the sort of climbs that demand fewer teeth than a standard 53/39. That bike is for the mountains too and I didn’t want to be switching chainsets around. So compact is good enough.

Only recently when racing could I really have done with some extra gears at the top end (although perhaps that was me more than the bike). Now I find myself riding a 11-25 cassette to get the most out of my compact chainset.

In two weeks I’ll be in the Alps. Stage three of this year’s Haute Route Alps takes in Col de la Madeleine, Col du Glandon and the ascent to Alpe d’Huez. One thing I know, is I’m not yet ready to take on its 4,600m of elevation gain on a standard.

That’s the difference between me and them.

Proscore: 3/10

For even more on gear ratios – CyclingTips have a great post here: Beyond the big ring

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Race Day

I have only dabbled with racing before. If you can call racing one crit a dabble. Prospects of crash carnage had always put me off. And the one Hillingdon cat 4 crit I have done only stoked my nerves. Riders careering all over the place and crashes everywhere; it was all I could do to stay out of trouble.

But some riding buddies talked me into it and a few of the guys from the shop are seasoned racers. So I thought I should give it a go. The East London Velo summer series at Hog Hill seemed like a good one to go for. Still, I was nervous. The words of José Been, commentating on the recent Women’s Tour of Britain, stuck in my head: it’s going to be gruesome! (I’m thinking blood and guts everywhere.)

The format was simple. One race for cat 3/4s, with a 30-second handicap for the 3s. Starting pace was pretty high, leaving me wondering for the first few laps how I was going to survive an hour and fifteen minutes of it. Especially up the ‘Hoggenberg’… a decent climb for a crit circuit, positioned just before the line. The group would bunch up at the bottom, holding a reasonable pace until the steepest part of the climb, where the mash fest began as others sprinted up to get a good position for the tricky sweeping left-hander that followed. It seemed like wasted energy to me, as each lap it came back together again a couple of corners later. I had good advice ringing in my ears… “don’t be a hero, spin up the climb early on”.

After a few laps the 3s and 4s came together; one bunch. And a break of four went away – but I can’t really recall how or quite when! The pace up the Hoggenberg eased off a bit too. A couple of guys went down after grounding pedals on one hairpin, but luckily didn’t take anyone with them. I think there was a crash in the bunch too, but I didn’t risk looking back. And in the final I pushed from the bottom of the last climb to take something like 5th or 6th place, first of the bunch to cross the line.

There’s nothing like a race to push you hard. This was a pretty hard effort, which is no doubt good training. Having said that, coming into the race my priorities were to 1) not crash and 2) finish (in that order). So I was really happy to get points and left excited about the next week… when I’m sure the pre-race nerves and images of blood baths will make another unwelcome appearance!

Pro score: 3/10 (racing it is, some way to go for a contract)

See my ride on strava: http://www.strava.com/activities/141575959

Hog Hill view back to London