Matt’s Pro Tip: Gear Selection

Matt Tanner on March 26, 2018

Learning the hard way

Years ago, I did a lot of training in Southern Indiana, and I thought I knew the area quite well. Enter the Indiana State Road Race in Brown County State Park. I showed up as a Cat4 ready to dominate with my custom titanium bike, aero wheels, and a carbon fiber crankset. My gear selection was the same that I rode back in Hamilton County – a 53×39 set up with an 11×23 cassette.

plan ahead for the terrain, intensity and duration of your ride

The road race used the southern portion of the 8×8 course but ran in the opposite direction with one significant climb and plenty of rolly stuff all around. By the second lap (of 4), I was well off the back and wondering if I could even finish! My legs were spinning up the climb at 50RPM, which is not an efficient cadence and something I really had never trained to endure.

The moral of this story is plan ahead for the terrain, intensity, and duration of your ride.

The Course

The 8×8 is nearly 100 miles long. The climbs are steep and punchy, and repetitive loops that will take a toll on all riders. Last year, we saw Cat1 racers collapse in exhaustion (and satisfaction) at the finish.

Proper Gears

I recommend that riders participating in the 8×8 Challenge bring a compact crankset if possible. If not, you should at a minimum, go to the local bike shop and have them install an 11×29 to 11×32 cassette and take it on a couple of test rides to make sure it’s dialed in. There is nothing more frustrating than having another gear to shift into, but your derailleur just won’t reach it!

bring a compact crankset and an 11×32 cassette

Next week, we’ll talk about how to use those gears efficiently to make your day at the 8×8 a successful one!

Feel free to ask questions or leave a comment below.

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