This weekend during our long ride (91 miles woooah!), we had just left the first pit stop and a man started riding next to me. He said, “do you do your own bike maintenance?” I said, “no” (I do wash my bike and have lubed and cleaned the chain myself but really I was in auto pilot and wondering why this man was asking me such a bizarre question). Then he said “Your cluster is really clean.”
It took me a second to realize what he was saying then realized that he was complimenting my shiny new cassette that I had just had installed on my bike last Thursday. “Ohhh,” I said, “it’s new.I just got it.” He proceeded to tell me that he also doesn’t work on his own bike (was he bragging that he could afford to pay someone to do it or was he ashamed that he wasn’t manly enough to do it himself, I’ll never know). With that, he rode off.
An Easy (and fairly affordable) Way To Make Riding Hills Easier
In case you didn’t hear the breaking news, I did in fact buy a new cassette. For those of you that don’t know what a cassette is (as I didn’t just a few months ago), it is the stack of gears on the rear wheel of your bike that allow you to shift and make pedaling harder or easier. The cassette is part of the drive train, which consists of your pedals, crank arms, chain and sprockets. The way the chain moves from one gear to the next is by way of your rear deraileur (another fun word that I couldn’t define until I wrote this blog).
So why did I need a new one? Well since the cassette helps you shift to different gears, different cassettes allow you more or less gears to shift into. I had noticed on some of our particularly hilly routes that I lack the ability to spin up hills. Since the beginning of my cycling career (i.e. last June) all I’ve been hearing is that you need to spin up hills, nice and easy, high cadence, so that you don’t waste precious energy and blow out your legs while doing it. However, my P2 was apparently built for men with leg strength that I can’t quite match, and I find that up most hills (ie over 2.5% grade) there is no spinning. The motion is more like grinding.
Oceanside 70.3 was really what made me realize that I need to get a new cassette. There were a few brutally steep hills where my cadence was down in the 50s. Knowing that CdA was not only twice as long but had twice as many hills per loop (including a 5.2% grade) it was obvious that something needed to change. Luckily I have a knowledgeable boyfriend who knew exactly what that change needed to be – a shiny (and clean) new cassette.
The standard P2 cassette is a 12-25 Shimano Ultegra. My new cassette is a 11-28 Shimano Ultegra. What does this mean? It basically means my easiest gear is even easier and I will be able to use a higher cadence when scaling hills. If you want more information on bicycle gearing, check out this wiki site: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bicycle_gearing#Gearing_range . Gearing does not interest me enough to do extensive research! The wiki article is full of lingo that I don’t understand and honestly don’t care to!
Testing Out The New Gears
As I mentioned in my weekly recap, I felt great on my long ride this week. I’m not sure if it’s correlation or causation but I also used my new cassette for the first time. Since we did a route that I had ridden several times before, it was easy to feel the difference that the cassette made. Immediately I noticed that I was able to maintain a higher RPM on hills and therefore a lower heart rate. Since spikes in heart rate cause the use of additional carbohydrates by the body for fuel rather than fat, it is possible that keeping my heart rate a bit lower and spinning up these hills is the reason for my sustained energy levels throughout the ride (and on less fuel than the previous week). I was disappointed to find that I still wasn’t able to “spin” up all the hills – but my cadence definitely improved. On hills where I was previously maintain a cadence of as low as 65 rpm, I was able to get up to 75-80. I also noticed that there were several hills that I would previously have had to shift the front ring for that now I didn’t have to.
Finishing a 91 mile ride with the equivalent feet of climbing per mile to CdA and feeling GOOD was a big confidence booster! I am starting to really feel ready for this race. I can pretty confidently say that if the race were in 3 weeks, I could begin taper now and complete it. However, I have one last big training cycle to get through before taper and I know that those extra weeks will only make me a more confident, stronger triathlete and future Ironman!
Have you ever changed out your cassette? Did it make a big difference for you? Have you ever had a stranger compliment your clean bike components?