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I don't have a problem of wanting to use lower gears unless I need them. I do almost all climbs on a cog in the middle of the cluster- only the most brutally steep get the big cog. I pick the gear that's appropriate for the level of effort I want to make. I bet you guys who feel compelled to shift to an easier gear on climbs don't do it on flat ground. There you pick the gear that's appropriate. Why one would change that when the road points up puzzles me. Perhaps it's because one can't coast on climbs and the incessant grinding along weakens the will.
To the OP: It sounds to me like your previous gearing range was higher than your preferred gearing range (and by "preferred" I mean the gears that you would naturally gravitate toward if given the option) . Having higher gearing than your "legs wanted" forced you to do what was effectively "on bike power training" or "force training", as advocated by Friel, Burke, and many other coaches. It is essentially a way to help the train the muscles to produce maximal force, in much the way that weight training would, but in a more bike specific context (and without the eccentric phase, but that is another topic altogether). You can read one of Friel's posts on it here ( http://www.joefrielsblog.com/2010/11/force-reps.html ) but it is basically doing short stretches of steep climbing while in a higher gear than is comfortable for you, which should in theory improve muscle fiber recruitment and ultimately max force production.
Once you had lower gears available to you, you stopped doing this type of training, and the lack of power that you now describe may be a direct consequence of that. I say, add this component back in, and see what happens. You may actually get better results than before, as before you weren't doing these workouts deliberately, and the structure was therefore left to chance. By adding some deliberate and regular "force reps" into your workouts, you may better even more benefit out of it than before.
As an aside, I think that it may be valuable to separate the discussion of gear selection for specific training purposes vs. racing, where only wattage and duration matters. In training, you may want to run higher than normal gears to train force production, as previously discussed, and then you may want to run lower gears than normal to train your muscular coordination and improve your "spin". Conversely, in racing, or even a hard, competitive, non racing situation, you might not ever actually use those gears, but that does not make their use for specific training purposes less valid.
As other posters have mentioned, many have found they can produce higher wattage numbers in a gear that feels uncomfortably high, which runs counter to the "spin to win" creedo. My take on this is that it is entirely dependent on the context. In longer events, maximizing time spent "spinning" can save your legs some wear and tear, but when the time comes to give it full gas, with nothing saved for later, then for some riders it may make sense to run a gear or so harder than their legs are asking for. To tell for sure, you would need to do some power based testing in a controlled environment (ideally the trainer) in different gears (and therefore cadences) to test not only outputs at different durations, but also ability to repeat the efforts for multiple reps. Then, assuming you find that spinning lowers power, you would need to consider if it is worth some specific training to raise your max power output while at higher cadences, as Rick mentioned doing earlier in the thread.
Lance found greatly increased success and equal or greater power output with lower gearing and a consequent increase in cadence, although it may be that other "enhancements" are required to make full use of that technique.
TheKaiser wrote:Lance found greatly increased success and equal or greater power output with lower gearing and a consequent increase in cadence, although it may be that other "enhancements" are required to make full use of that technique.
One of the last non-chemically-enhanced winners of the TdF (Lemond) once said something like (from memory) "Modern cycle racing is a power sport. Nobody spins anymore."
SalsaLover wrote:I had the same experience when I tried on a compact 50/34.
While it is true what russianbear says, that gear inches are gear inches no matter the gearing you have, the fact you have lower gearing leads you to use them and gradually lower your effort and go overall slower.
It's all on the head, not on the gearing....
And probably many will say they didn't experienced that, but well it was like that for me...
I did setup back the standard and my fitness went gradually back to "normal"
Same thing happened to me. I lived for years with a standard crank.
Then I got a 50-34 12/26 and thought it was awesome. Until I tried a big 120 km ride one day (with a Cat 1 climb) and my legs blew up. I had softened up a lot over the previous few months.
Once I instigated a rule that I only used the lowest gear for > 10% I recovered a lot of leg strength back.
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