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Riding hard is for those with some experience under their belt.When we go out for hard ride or a group ride or even a race, you must warm up the body before going to intense , or as we say "Hammering". Hammering is pushing a big gear,
Like 53-11 or 50 -11. The 53 means that your chainring front sprocket has lets say 2 rings on it. It is matched with a smaller chain ring like a 39 tooth, and the 53 is of course a 53 tooth chain ring. the bigger the chain ring is in the front the harder it is to push that gear. the rear sprocket or cassette or sometimes called the freewheel, is the opposite. The smallest ring is usually a 11 tooth, and it sometimes ramps up to the 12 tooth 13, 14 and so on. A typical rear clusster, which is another term used for rear srockets, is 11-25, which is very common on most bikes now days with 10 speed, and 11 speed.Some older bikes had 5 or even 6 speeds in the rear starting with a 13 or 14 tooth cog in the rear.
So now if i am riding up a hill or the escarpment, some grades of the road can be steep. For eg; if i ride Dewitt Rd, near my shop, actually directly south of my shop , that climb is a bit tricky, it starts easy but as it goes up before the plato it could be 5 to 6% grade, the section just before the train tracks, which is near the Bruce Trail, is 12 to 14% grade. When you cross over the tracks it becomes a little easier, but you will still feel the burn in your legs. .That is why we have all these gears to play with, but you must choose the one that works good for you.
When you want to climb easier choose the bigger sprockets at the back of the bike, the one closest to the spokes are very easy to push, rather than the small cogs at the back. So if you climb with 34 in the front and 25 in the rear its not bad to spin that gear, but if you had a 34 front and a 28 tooth in the back, that gives you 3 more teeth, which is much easier to push.