His 32 was clean as a whistle

Some of you will recognize the title of this short post from the best bit of fiction ever written on cycling – The Rider, by Tim Krabbe. It refers to ‘the rider’, climbing a real mountain in a fictional race, in which he refuses to use the last ring on his cassette (because shifting is a form of pain relief). This was in the 70s, so the actual quote was ‘my 20 was still as clean as a whistle’ (FORTY THREE / 20!).

I have at least one friend who will not go to his 32, no matter how steep the climb is. I have other friends who see a bump in the road and start shifting up the cassette. It’s a curious and stark difference in attitude, and probably one that translates into other aspects of these friends’ lives. But that’s way too philosophical for a hot Saturday afternoon.

Which rider are you, dear reader? I’m somewhere in the middle and it’s one big reason that I put off going to a bigger cassette every time they come out with more rings. My Bianchi has 34/27 and the Colnago has 34/29, which I can still manage, but I do have to admit that a 32 sounds good when the roads gets over 12% or so.

11 thoughts on “His 32 was clean as a whistle

  1. They put those gears there for a reason. It seems a waste (and a little irrational) not to use them. Pushing hard for training purposes is one thing, but pain for pain’s sake is best left to the monks, in my view.

    • See, that’s why you and I aren’t pro cyclists, Steve!

      But there are actually rational reasons to not go ‘up the cassette’; namely speed. Climbing Alpe d’Huez (notice I didn’t say ‘Ventoux’!) in a 25 will usually be faster than in a 32, if you have the power-to-weight to do it.

  2. I have a Rohloff hub and since I am a grandpa, I have no hesitation in using the equivalent of the Granny Ring. One replacement knee is quite enough. My power to weight ratio is no power to a lot of weight.

  3. I have the “granny gear” on my bikes (one 36/32T the other 34/30T, roughly the same ratio). While I don’t use that bottom gear very often, I’m sure glad it’s there when I need it! In fact I don’t like to admit this, but my 11T is probably cleaner than my 32T cog… 😵

  4. I haven’t been riding as much this year but I thought I’d challenge myself and see how long I’d stay out of the 32. Don’t think I even made it out of town without getting into it. If I could have I would have stopped to check if I actually had the 32 on. 10-12% and me don’t get along.

  5. LOL, I am a bit different, I use all the rear cassette 11×32 BUT I have a “triple” chain wheel set up and it’s the smallest “granny” gear that I NEVER use unless the uphill is so severe I can’t hardly keep the bike going forward!! I’m always telling myself “SAVE the granny gear”! Kinda silly but that’s just ME. 😉

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