For all those expecting something else, sorry, this is about me getting old. I keep a spreadsheet of my rides (yes, I'm on Garmin Connect and Strava but rarely actually use them). Several years ago, 2011 to be precise, I started a new sheet and sorta lost track of the old one. On the new sheet I have a page (Jester) dedicated to the rides I call my "hill route." I've posted several times about this route, in that I use this get my HR up to maximum. The last ramp up Courtyard never (hardly ever) fails to bring out the top rate of the ride, and when I'm feeling particularly energetic, my overall max. I use this to set my zones. But I digress, this post is about gearing.
I came across my pre-2011 spreadsheet and transferred the Jester data. And thus begins me gear tale. Apparently I first began doing this route in 2008, at age 65. At that time my road bike (custom titanium Roark) had a 53-39 chain ring and 12-27 cogs (as best I remember). I struggled up Courtyard and Jester (and Rain Creek and Bluegrass) but accomplished the circuit in one hour and twenty minutes on average. For the next two years I mostly stayed under 1:25.
The next year I experienced real difficulties on Courtyard, to the extent of having to walk the last ramp. The ego took a big hit on that day. I had to face the reality of not having the oomph to push the gear. I swallowed hard and switched to a compact crank. Interestingly enough, my times stayed the same. But then a different reality set in. In racing Walburg I found myself spinning out and losing ground on the downhill, and quickly finding myself alone on the road. So I moved on to a triple.
Now, in 2012, my times stayed in the low 1:20's and I reeled myself up Courtyard and Jester a record 25 times. But 2013 had me struggling again. I switched to a 28 cog which was enough to keep me in the saddle. I hung on for another two years, but in 2016 jumped to a 32. I've had my fun remarking about people who have dinner plates for cog sets, so I'm now getting my comeuppance. Most of my times moved to being under 1:35. For the first four rides in 2017 I stayed at 1:35. But then I needed new shifters, which turned into also a new crank set and derailleurs.
Surprise! The new crank set had a granny gear of 30 and my 28 no longer matched up so couldn't be transferred. My fear was that I'd lost at least one gear and wouldn't make it up Courtyard. As it turns out, I made it up Courtyard just fine, and in the fastest time for the circuit in three years. I then did a check on Sheldon Brown's Gear Calculator and it looks like I only lost half a gear.
The older you get the harder you have to work to maintain fitness. I'd love to be able to push that 39-53 everywhere, but it is a fact of life, when the road turns up, I need bigger gears. I recently emailed Marty Jemison that if I ever took his signature tour in Spain I'd need an Ebike. But I'll keep pedaling as long as I can.