1911: Everyone was a grinder

I am in talks with a group of Montanans about a 10-day Alps tour they are eager to do next year and my proposal would probably take them over the Col du Galibier. I knew that Galibier had been climbed for the first time in 1911, but I didn’t know the route they took. After pulling out my trusty TDF history book (yes, a ‘book’), I found this photo – seemingly the only one that exists of Gustave Garrigou (winner that year) on the climb.

What really caught my eye, though, was the caption under the photo, which reads “…riding on a bike equipped with a freewheel and one gear, developing 4.2 meters per turn of the pedal“.

That distance is equivalent to a 50/24 or 34/17, if you are riding a compact, like most people these days. I’ve climbed Galibier in a 34/25, I think, but I never once thought that shifting to the big ring would have been a good idea. No wonder the guy is walking.

My New Year’s Resolution is to stop wishing for that extra gear and just be content with what I have – after buy an 11-34 for Christmas!

6 thoughts on “1911: Everyone was a grinder

  1. The one mountain that stands above the others which made me a legend in my own mind. I have such fond memories of that climb and especially with the snow banks on the side as you get to the top. The only other climb that gave me as much satisfaction was my first climb of Ventoux with John after only a few days back from that iconic etape in 2012.

    • I have similar memories of my ‘first Galibier’, too. I think I did that from Briancon and I felt like I sprinted up the last 8km. Oh to have that jump in the pedals back!

    • Well done on the gearing, Fossil! I know many (many!) riders a lot younger than you who demand a 34 for our tours these days. It’s a good gear to have.

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