Despite being at this game since 1995, I still can't help but want to tweak with gear in the hope that there might be some 'holy grail' of equipment / setup that I've missed out on.
I've gleaned lots of valuable knowledge in the numerous events I've ridden - like anyone who does the race a few times. The early ones were more experimental and gradually you work your way into knowing what works for you. The problem this year is that I seemed to have forgotten that and started reinventing my particular three peaks wheel.
This time, it was the gears. I've acquired a Mountain bike this year after a gap from MTBs for a few years. It goes well and I love the setup. So being a three peaks junkie I inevitably started to ask myself if there was anything I could learn from this year's MTB riding. Mistake number 1... I'll explain why:
Having decided that - being in the lucky position of having three cross bikes - I was going to radically adapt my 'Ingleborough and Penyghent' bike. Given how hard the Penyghent climb is after a good dowsing in Ingleborough and Whernside, I seem to struggle on gearing, not being able to turn over the rather small 34-27 bottom gear I've used there for the last two editions of the race. So the 'logic' is to build up a bike with an easier gear. Given that I'm on 10 speed - and hence limited to 27 on the back - my only real option was to look at a smaller front chainring. Out comes the MTB triple chainset. I was starting to get quite chuffed about my choice of gears... it made sense... on paper. 28-27 would really help in those dire moments on Penyghent... wouldn't it?
Well... no, actually. You see, I've been here before. If there was a medal for riding as much of the course as possible, maybe I'd look into gears as the solution, but yesterday on a long, hard, off road day out, experimenting with my new luxurious gear, it came back to me very quickly. Having a smaller gear just makes you travel slower. The three peaks is a race. Damn. I recalled Penyghent last year, and also recalled a battle with Philip Hinchliffe who eventually finished one place ahead of me. We hit the start of Penyghent together and I was envious of his triple chainset - but by the summit - despite his riding where I could only walk - we crested within 20 seconds of each other. That's just it really - his more ride-able gear took him up the hill no faster than my walk / jog / push / carry approach.
That's the hardest bit about coming to terms with this equipment experimentation - I know in my heart of hearts that the training is what's required. That requires time - not money or technical know-how. Hey ho. The bike now has it's standard gear on and it's back to the training. Until the next bright idea.