Advice on chain ring size for aging climber

  • Ride factory 3T Strada mech 1x11 SRAM Force with 50T chainring - love the bike despite its idiosyncrasies :slight_smile:
  • 43 years old
  • 3.5 w/kg - FTP 235; weigh 148 lbs
  • On Low Volume Climbing Race plan
  • 95% of outside rides in Raleigh, NC/Wake Co area
  • Once a year may go climb a mountain like Pilot Mountain, NC
  • Former triathlete now pure biker with good fitness and endurance for my age - my Garmin says my Vo2Max is top 5% :man_shrugging:
  • Goals: Don’t race, just want to be fit and enjoy my outside rides, and keep up with my other fit bike buddies - most are younger than me.

Earlier this year I tried climbing Pilot Mountain with my Strada and could not do it. I burned my legs out. Cardio I didn’t feel was my problem - but sustaining 300+ watts for the climb destroyed my legs. While riding out in the Raleigh/Wake Co area (it has some decent hills but nothing crazy) I sometimes find that I want more big gears in the back - especially when I am tired at the end of long rides. I never find that I need smaller/faster gears - even when speeding downhill. In fact I can’t ever remember using the smallest rear gear.

I want to go to a smaller front ring - perhaps 46T (8% change) - to make climbing easier.

My question:

Should I go smaller front ring?
Is 46T small enough - or should I go smaller? I’m 43 years old and will not get be getting stronger or fitter.

Any advice would greatly appreciated.

I know it’s not what you’re asking, but why not run a conventional 2x 50x34 up front? From my perspective, if you can’t climb the grades you want at the cadence you want, your gearing’s not right.

I hope 43 isn’t aging or I am decrepit and I am getting destroyed by folk past decrepit :hushed: Its pretty flat here so I run a 52/36 but when I have went to the mountains I have dropped that to the conventional compact 50/34 and widened my cassette to the most my derailleur allowed (12-29 on my Campagnolo bike and 11-28 on my Shimano bike).

You need to change your mindset,I’m 55, been riding / racing for 30+ years and I am probably the strongest I have ever been on the bike.

As to your question, the chainring is just one part of the equation. Since you are on the Strava and limited to 1x, you need to look at the whole drivetrain.

I know I have run a 36T rear cog with my old Rival RD and one of the guys I ride with is using a 42t rear cog on his Force. Assuming you have the long-cage option, I’d run as big a rear cassette as you could and then drop down to a 46t chainring. If that is still not small enough, then try a 44 or 42t chainring, but I’d think you’d be giving up too much flat / downhill speed with either of those.


Hi gshotts - My bike only allows 1x. 2x is not an option unless I go to a completely new frame.

Thank you Power. I will give this a shot. Regarding the age comment - I know 43 isn’t old, just mentally acknowledging my gains may not come as easily as when I was younger, especially when being time-constrained with life commitments I didn’t have in my younger days :slight_smile:

Thank you so much. What a great community.

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What size cassette are you currently running? Any option to go bigger on that in addition to the chain ring change? And, do you use the 12-11-10t cogs with the 50?

I just moved to Carrboro in June and had / have been riding 1x11 in MD for 2.5 years with a couple of multi-day trips to Shenandoah National Park. I started with a 46x11-36 and found that fine for all around riding and no issues with sustained climbs on the trips. I ended up bumping to a 48 after feeling a little spun out on descents on Skyline Drive and a couple of short / steep descents on group rides. Personally, when I ran 2x I rarely used the 13-12t cogs with the 50 as it was tuck time at that point, but I’m a spinner.

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If you are running a tight cassette, I would definitely change that first.

Second, as you get older, you end up with more free time to train. Your kids grow up and move out. All the fastest guys in my local racing scene are around 50.

Also, “commitments” is a cop out. If you want to be fit, that is a commitment too.