Hillclimb Gear Choice

Dear everyone,

This year I will be participating in the Mount Washington hillclimb. I want to make the most of this race. Besides optimizing my form I am also looking at my gear. Here my current setup:

  • canyon cf slx from 2015 with SRAM red mechanical
  • schmolke 45 mm wheels
  • favero assioma pedals
  • chain (Shimano dura ace) will be waxed
  • casette: Shimano Ultegra 11-28
  • current tires conti gp 5000 with latex tubes
  • Weight including pedals: 6.8 kg

Where can I improve weight, aerodynamics and rolling resistance? What is worth the investment? Things I am considering (do not have yet):

A few facts about my self:

  • targeted race weight: 64kg
  • targeted watts for approx 1 hour: 330-335

Does anyone have experience with this hillclimb? How bad are road conditions?




Just a few things from the top of my head:
Fit tires to the conditions and the gradient. If the climb is super steep (and Mt. Washington is very steep) and may be wet or have poor surface, I wider, lower pressure rear tire can be a blessing. At Last years‘ British nationals, the winner ran a Pirelli 4S winter tire on the rear, which slipped significantly less than the others on their super narrow 120psi tubs.

Calculate your gearing in advance. Don’t save weight on a cassette that is too small, and then be forced to ride out of the saddle at suboptimal cadence for 90% of the climb.

Make sure you wax the chain properly, it has to be degreased, properly broken into, and the wax has to properly penetrate the rollers.

The out and out fastest (and probably lightest) tire is the Veloflex Record. I run that on good surface for TT. Idk if the surface on MtW is good enough though.

Look at wind in advance, to know where the wind is head on and when you are likely to get a tail wind. On climbs with switchbacks I focus on staying seated and being low on the hw sexontions, and Power hard out of the saddle on the tail wind sections.

A good way to save is also to look at rider and bike and see what you really need (how much water and fuel, spares? Bar tape? A second bottle cage?)

Skin suit will be your biggest aero gain. Much more sensible than aero socks. Although you will be going slow, it will save you time, especially on head wind sections.

These are just a few things that came to mind.


I was a driver for 2 racers last year and will be doing the race myself this year. From driving up the mountain the road surface looked good except that there is a 1 mile stretch that is not paved, it is a dirt road that looked well maintained. My partner has done the race several times and said the dirt section isn’t bad but he did get a flat in that section one year. We’ve never seen the road in rainy conditions.

Definitely research your gearing choice, I’m running a single 26 or 28 chainring and 11x34 cassette but I’m only trying to hold 180W up the mountain. Check out this discussion on gearing from the FB group “How I train for the MWARBH” (you may have to join the group to view): Redirecting...

Not specific to your climb, the British hill climb scene is on much shorter hills but this might give you some ideas: 2021 National Hill Climb Championships tech gallery | 6 weird and wonderful lightweight bikes - BikeRadar

Things to consider, single chain ring, super light saddle, lightweight inner tubes, cutting your bars and basically removing everything on the bike that doesn’t need to be there!

Wheels for Hill Climb

Here’s the thread for this topic for the 2019 Mt Washington Hill Climb. Lots of good stuff :slight_smile:

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For hill event gearing I run a single ring up front (30t) and 12-32 or 12-36 cassette. 10s rear mech using a SRAM Red shifter and an XX mtn bike rear mech. Older parts kit as my hill bike is ten years old but rides great so not messing with it.

With your watts and weight you’ll do a good time !!


has a w/kg to time estimator and cadence estimator so you can play with gear ratio’s and required RPM based on your time.

at your stated numbers you’re looking at sub 55 minutes, which on any given year puts you in fighting position for top 3. Given you want to get the most out of the race, I’d take some risks on your setup. Weight is going to be the biggest factor, at 12% grade, rolling resistance and aero are less impactful, rough estimate is each pound = 20 seconds.

Go single speed 28t up front (also shortens chain)
Remove rear brake (rules require 1)
Remove most bar tape, could even buy a cheapish pair of bars and saw the drops off.
Aerosuit for sure given how there made these days I’d be surprised if one actually saved weight.

Tires are a bit sketchy, that dirt road section can be nasty, you’re going slow so it’s less likely to pinch flat, but it’s still dirt and rocky so an aggressively light / low rolling resistance tire might not handle it. Risk : reward seems off on that one to me, I’d hedge and stick on something like a GP 5000 and run a pair of tubolito’s.

1 final consideration, the weather is going to be a crapshoot, and is notoriously hard to predict. It could be snowing or you could have hot and humid weather. Best advice I can give is do some heat / humidity acclimation work. Last year’s race was mid 70’s with 90%+ humidity, and below treeline there’s no wind, so the only cooling you get is your own 8-9mph pace.

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Wow, thanks everyone for your great advice and linking to the other websites / previous forum discussions. My conclusions this far:

  1. Continue training to maximize wattage and then weight (as they always say on the podcast)
  2. I will get a skinsuit. Anyone have experience with the pactimo skinsuit?
  3. I will definitely remove the rear brake, second bottle cage and some of the bar tape. Handlebars are already super light as the are schmolke 38cm. Too expensive and not worth shortening
  4. I am seriously considering dropping the front mech and going 1x. Anyone have experience with such a conversion.
  5. For tires I will stick with the Conti gp 5000 and latex tubes.
  6. I will make sure to wax the chain properly.

Would you bother carrying a half full water bottle or stick with one or two SiS gels? Water bottle seems to be an easy win. Are you allowed to toss the water bottle or can someone hand you a bottle half way?

Thanks again for your help,



On 1x setup: If you’ve got sram red 22, which uses a 130 bcd inner/outer setup it’s a little tricky because that bolt pattern is pretty big so you’re limited in how small of a front ring you can get. I’d recommend going for it because it’ll save so much weight, and there’s really no downside. There’s a 200ft run-in to the base of the climb but it hits 12% and stays there. For reference on weight, my regular climbing setup is a hollowgram SiSL2 52/36 that I swap out for an AbsoluteBlack 30t 1x setup saving 280 grams, and probably another 20g on the chain.

Bottle: I suppose you could have someone part of the way up to give / take a bottle, but they’d have to hike up. I’m fairly certain that your support driver has to go directly to the top. That said, a lot of people don’t bother, just extra weight, and you don’t really need to drink, but having something might be better than nothing. Can find a 4oz bottle and fill it just to have a little something.

On training and prep, Mt Ascuntey is a very good prep ride, it’s half the distance of washington, but 12%, and has a similar ‘wall’ at the end, and serves as a pretty good benchmark climb. There’s an organized hillclimb 2 weeks prior, but the road is open to bikers at all times and you can ride back down the autoroad. If you can, get out there and treat it like race day and do 2 laps, and that’ll give you a ton of data on your setup so it’s not all new coming into washington.