The Col Collective


Hi Mike, you make climbing look effortless. What kind of cadence do you try and keep when you are seated and when standing? Your videos are inspiring! Thanks, Leon

Hi Leon,

Thanks for the message. So happy to hear that you’re enjoying the videos.

When it comes to climbing I really work on feel. I’ve always been better turning a smaller gear at a higher cadence. The key for me is to have a low enough gear (e.g. 34 x 25 or 28) so that I can keep the legs spinning more. If I can keep a cadence of around 85rpm then that’s good for me.

We’re all different so it’s best to experiment and see what feels comfortable for you. Don’t be afraid to fit a lower gear if you need to. I swear by my compact gearing!

Stay well and ride safe.


Topic: Gearing, Technique

Hi I am riding the Haute route Alps this year. I have just come back from Tenerife where I was riding a compact 28x11. I found that this was too high a gear for me. My threshold power is around 3.6 watts. I was hoping that you would be able to recommend a better gear. My feeling is that I should go to a 32x11 but I don't want to have the jump from 32 to 28 that most cassettes have.  Any advice would be most welcome, Niall

Hi Niall,

Great to hear from you. It may be that through the spring and summer your fitness will improve meaning that the 28t could be ok.

Obviously you don’t want to be under geared come the Haute Route. If you’re on a 34t front chainring then depending on what make groups you have (Campag, Shimano or SRAM) the options would be to go 29 (might mot be enough) 30, 32 or even 36 on the rear (note that you’ll need to have a long cage rear derailleur and extend your chain if you go above 30t). If you really need it then I’d go for it, having a low enough gear really will help save your legs.

I hope that helps. Best of luck!!


Mike, Thank you for your fantastic Col Collective series! I am an older rider (63) who is coming back after a long layoff from serious cycling. I would like to tackle some big climbs, but do not yet feel ready for climbs line the Galibier or Stelvio, for example. Do you have suggestions for climbs that do not have such a steady diet of 10% plus gradients? Also, any tips on setup would be welcomed. Thank you, again!

Hi Ralph,

Super happy to hear you are enjoying The Col Collective.

Great to hear you’re thinking of tackling some cols. I’d say that the best region to look at would be the Pyrenees, in general the climbs are more mellow and slightly lower altitude.

We’ll be releasing more videos from the Pyrenees in the coming weeks. Maybe have a look at climbs out of Bagneres de Luchon (Peyresourde, Superbagneres, Port de Bales) and also the Col d’Aspin (from Sainte Marie de Campan) If you do end up there and feel up to it then you can also tackle the Tourmalet which, although it’s the highest road pass in the Pyrenees, with the right set-up could be possible as it’s not super steep and allows you to get into a good rhythm. Speaking of set-up, I would recommend a 34 tooth chainring and up to a 32 tooth sprocket on the rear. The great thing is there is no time limit on the climbs, just find your own pace and enjoy the moment.

I hope that helps.

Best of luck!


Just wanted to get your thoughts on the rising popularity of mid-compact chainsets. I'm currently using a 50/34 compact for the steep stuff but wondered if a 52/36, combined with an 11-28 cassette, be a decent option for the Alps aswell as training in more varied terrain? Thanks, Rich

Hi Rich,

Thanks for getting in touch. Sounds like I use a similar set-up to you in terms of gear ratios. In the big mountains I personally still like to keep my 34 tooth chainring in hand but then I do prefer to use a higher cadence if possible. Having said that, I reckon the 52/36 ratio is the absolute business if you’re riding in varied terrain and you don’t want to switch between a compact and standard chainset each time. I’d say that for most riders this mid-compact set-up would be a great option.

Ride safe and thanks again for the message.


Topic: Bike tech, Gearing

We are planning to cycle the Col du Galibier while on holiday next year. This will be our first year cycling in the Alps and wondered if you had any advice regarding gearing? Thanks. Heather

Hi Heather, You are in for a real treat next year, the Galibier is an absolute beaut!

We are planning a series of articles for the “Learn” section that we hope will be of great help to cyclists now and in the future. Gearing will be covered here. Of course, we don’t want to keep you in suspense until then! If it’s your first time in the Alps then you don’t want to get caught out by being under geared. Pacing will be absolutely essential, it’s not a race so take your time and enjoy the experience as best you can. I’d look at trying a 34 tooth front chain ring with a 32 tooth sprocket on the rear. If you can try this sized gear out in advance then that will give you an idea of how it feels. Another little note to consider is that Alpine climbs feel very different to shorter more punchy ascents. I actually find shorter more undulating climbs in the UK where I’m from harder than the longer, more consistent, climbs as you’re not able to get into a rhythm.

I hope that helps. Make sure to post your photo when you’re at the top with #ColCollector. We want to see you here

Topic: Alps, Climbs, Gearing

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