for something completely different, i gotta ask you: how do you fight the desire to gear down when riding more compact setup?
i never take anything different into the hills ( maybe not 20% but some 10-15% few-km climbs) than my standard 39x23, sometimes 25, because every time i tried compact cranks or 25+ cogs i couldnt help myself to use them in the critical situations = go slower. i know it may not look as charming, but it sure does work for me training-wise
This is a bit of a mystery to me also.
On a steep climb, I almost always end up just gearing down until I am in my lowest gear and struggle up with that at about 40 rpm.
But by time, power, and comparison with other (better) climbers it is clear that staying in a higher gear is better, even though I will end up slogging at 40 rpm in that gear also.
It is probably a matter of training, but I try mightily to train to go to higher powers while spinning a lower gear, but it hasn't had any beneficial effect. So I limit my low gear by simply estimating what I must push to get up the hill at a decent rate, and then don't take any bigger cassette sprockets with me on the ride. In other words, I have no bailout gear and not even a low gear that I think I can really "handle". But the times come out faster.
This is for a race only. I often take lower gears to train on. (34-28)