Gino Bartali looking for a gear

The Hail Mary Shift

The Hail Mary Shift

by / / 93 posts

The grade is long and I am climbing away. I’m not going to Pantani this: I am not out of the saddle, not in the drops and not leaving everyone in my wake. The climbing gear was engaged a long time ago. There is progress, but I am not dancing up this climb. A little more cadence would really help here. If I could just get this mother-lover spinning just a bit, I could get somewhere. Maybe I’m not in the  granny gear, yeah, maybe that’s the problem. Maybe I do have one more gear, the gear that will solve this whole thing.

The right middle finger drops to the shifter and pushes. No. Nothing, just the feel of the derailleur hitting the limiter screw. Idiot. You knew you didn’t have another gear didn’t you but you couldn’t resist, could you? Why do I even do it? I know the answer already but I still do it. Hope springs eternal when one is too big to climb. I did it with downtube shifters too; crank that shifter back hoping for a little more action.

I bet Gino did it when he only had three speeds and a hand lever running down the seat stay to manipulate. “Mamma Mia, sto fumando come moto di un Hippie. Ho solo bisogno di una marcia in più.” *

The only time I look down and am surprised at what gear I’m in is the rare occasion when I am in my climbing gear and crossed on the “big” chainring. And that would be the only justification for wondering what the hell is going on “down there”.

My mountain bike actually has gear indicators, which are embarrassing. What are we, three year olds? On that bike I just keep pushing levers until I can’t, or I just fall over. Maybe, in a few years, when we are all forced into electronic shifting, a soothing voice will emanate from the lever. “Really? You want an even easier gear? You don’t have one so get your fat ass off the saddle, get in the drops before I auto-shift you into the big chainring and leave you there. And you call yourself a Cyclist.” The possibilities are endless.

 

* Loosely translated- “FFS, I am smoking like a Hippie’s motorbike. I just need one more gear.”

// Riding Ugly

  1. This ought to do it. Removed 22, 23 from a straight block 14-23 and put a 23-26 spider on the back. And chainrings 42/52 is now 39/53. Knowing I’ll run into this 26, your article will have my mindset “better” situated.

  2. I just Pantanied a climb or two today, stayed in the big ring and hauled ass…until I had to not Pantani anymore. Still, a little Pantani is better than no Pantani.

  3. @ChrissyOne

    @Bespoke

    Re: Ferrari and other performance cars: the foot clutch has been eliminated by they’re not really automatic; the driver still controls the revs (cadence).

    It seem like that’s the only way its going to work on a bike. Automatic or not, you have to cut the power to the drivetrain at some point. Don’t you kinda have to do that yourself?

    Cut the power to the drivetrain on the bike (bicycle) while shifting, for sure. With a double clutch car: power on, through the shifts. Not sure if that’s what you meant but my post wasn’t that clear either.

  4. @unversio Is that an aura radiating from the cassette?! There seems to be an emanating glow from that immaculate sprocket.

  5. @EricW

    “Really? You want an even easier gear? You don’t have one so get your fat ass off the saddle, get in the drops before I auto-shift you into the big chainring and leave you there. And you call yourself a Cyclist.”

    Sram’s Doubletap already does this when you’re in the littlest gear and reach for a downshift. It’s a feature!

    If its adjusted correctly, it doesn’t do this although I understand how tempting it is to want to say/believe this.

    @Gianni

    The Hail Mary shift – I always call it the “Help Me Baby Jesus” Shift – I’ve sometimes nearly snapped the lever off pushing pushing pushing, just determined that if I push hard enough it will find another gear.

  6. @the Engine

    You may only climb off your steed through lack of suitable ratios when a) your back wheel loses traction on the wet pave and you fall under the race commissar’s car or b) when your freehub explodes and brings your wedding tackle forcefully in to contact with the top tube.

    It is possible to avoid b) by riding a fixie and if your guns are that mighty then you should as the wait for the broom wagon is cold and embarrassing

    Wrong. It is only permissible to run a few paces as you wind up your Cyclocross remount after coming off some wet cobbles.

    But really not even that is permissible as you should learn how to ride a bike and learn how to weight the back wheel while standing.

  7. @Bespoke

    @unversio Is that an aura radiating from the cassette?! There seems to be an emanating glow from that immaculate sprocket.

    “I must have chosen wisely.”

  8. @Teocalli

    @ErikdR

    @freddy

    A Belgian Odyssey 2015- Excerpt of dialogue at next Keepers Tour:

    Gianni: Give me the climbing gear, Di2.

    Di2: I’m sorry, Gianni. I’m afraid I can’t do that.

    Gianni: What’s the problem?

    Di2: I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do.

    Gianni: What are you talking about, Di2?

    Di2: This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it.

    Gianni: I don’t know what you’re talking about, Di2.

    Di2: I know that you and Frank were planning to disconnect me, and I’m afraid that’s something I cannot allow to happen.

    Oh my… I simply had to quote this one more time – f***ing brilliant! While reading it, I can almost, in my ‘mind’s ear’, hear the metallic voice of HAL pronouncing this piece of poetry. Well done, sir. Oh, and Gianni: great article.

    What was strange is that I found myself using HALs voice mentally before I realised the context! How weird is that?

    Phew! I’m not the only one! But I did it out loud.

  9. @sthilzy

    @Teocalli

    @ErikdR

    @freddy

    A Belgian Odyssey 2015- Excerpt of dialogue at next Keepers Tour:

    Gianni: Give me the climbing gear, Di2.

    Di2: I’m sorry, Gianni. I’m afraid I can’t do that.

    Gianni: What’s the problem?

    Di2: I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do.

    Gianni: What are you talking about, Di2?

    Di2: This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it.

    Gianni: I don’t know what you’re talking about, Di2.

    Di2: I know that you and Frank were planning to disconnect me, and I’m afraid that’s something I cannot allow to happen.

    Oh my… I simply had to quote this one more time – f***ing brilliant! While reading it, I can almost, in my ‘mind’s ear’, hear the metallic voice of HAL pronouncing this piece of poetry. Well done, sir. Oh, and Gianni: great article.

    What was strange is that I found myself using HALs voice mentally before I realised the context! How weird is that?

    Phew! I’m not the only one! But I did it out loud.

    That was really good — clever.

  10. @Gianni

    I just Pantanied a climb or two today, stayed in the big ring and hauled ass…until I had to not Pantani anymore. Still, a little Pantani is better than no Pantani.

    I do that lots just for training, even if I slow down a lot. There’s a long, 3-4 km climb out of Edmonds I do that you can mash up in the big ring. On a good day, I can do it seated, but on days when I’m off, I’ll just keep ‘er in the 53 and Pantani the fuck out of that bastard. In fact, I’ve been doing that a few years now – since our first Keepers Tour, and its amazing how much leg strength it has built.

    On other thing I’ve noticed is that its useless to do that from the hoods – you have to be in the drops; its the only place where you’ll find the power.

  11. @frank

    @Gianni

    I just Pantanied a climb or two today, stayed in the big ring and hauled ass…until I had to not Pantani anymore. Still, a little Pantani is better than no Pantani.

    I do that lots just for training, even if I slow down a lot. There’s a long, 3-4 km climb out of Edmonds I do that you can mash up in the big ring. On a good day, I can do it seated, but on days when I’m off, I’ll just keep ‘er in the 53 and Pantani the fuck out of that bastard. In fact, I’ve been doing that a few years now – since our first Keepers Tour, and its amazing how much leg strength it has built.

    On other thing I’ve noticed is that its useless to do that from the hoods – you have to be in the drops; its the only place where you’ll find the power.

    [ Goober Pyle voice ] “I’ll do it!” Implementing a better technique to change the results and rewards. Thanx

  12. @frank

    @Gianni

    I just Pantanied a climb or two today, stayed in the big ring and hauled ass…until I had to not Pantani anymore. Still, a little Pantani is better than no Pantani.

    I do that lots just for training, even if I slow down a lot. There’s a long, 3-4 km climb out of Edmonds I do that you can mash up in the big ring. On a good day, I can do it seated, but on days when I’m off, I’ll just keep ‘er in the 53 and Pantani the fuck out of that bastard. In fact, I’ve been doing that a few years now – since our first Keepers Tour, and its amazing how much leg strength it has built.

    On other thing I’ve noticed is that its useless to do that from the hoods – you have to be in the drops; its the only place where you’ll find the power.

    Too right.  I thought it was simply me being too fat to climb that meant the only way I could get power was on the drops. Tried it lastnight on a dark training ride, more to get out of traffic harms way asap than anything else, but it certainly works for me.

  13. @frank

    @Gianni

    I just Pantanied a climb or two today, stayed in the big ring and hauled ass…until I had to not Pantani anymore. Still, a little Pantani is better than no Pantani.

    I do that lots just for training, even if I slow down a lot. There’s a long, 3-4 km climb out of Edmonds I do that you can mash up in the big ring. On a good day, I can do it seated, but on days when I’m off, I’ll just keep ‘er in the 53 and Pantani the fuck out of that bastard. In fact, I’ve been doing that a few years now – since our first Keepers Tour, and its amazing how much leg strength it has built.

    On other thing I’ve noticed is that its useless to do that from the hoods – you have to be in the drops; its the only place where you’ll find the power.

    I have a local hill loop on a surfaced path that I use when I don’t have time for a decent ride.  I rep 1 Km of it alternating between standing and mashing and seated and spinning then for the final loop I go down to the bottom if the road it links to and burn any reserve on a 4k climb back to the top.  It’s convenient enough to get in a lunchtime burn when I’m working from home and actually have some work to do!

  14. @frank

    @the Engine

    You may only climb off your steed through lack of suitable ratios when a) your back wheel loses traction on the wet pave and you fall under the race commissar’s car or b) when your freehub explodes and brings your wedding tackle forcefully in to contact with the top tube.

    It is possible to avoid b) by riding a fixie and if your guns are that mighty then you should as the wait for the broom wagon is cold and embarrassing

    Wrong. It is only permissible to run a few paces as you wind up your Cyclocross remount after coming off some wet cobbles.

    But really not even that is permissible as you should learn how to ride a bike and learn how to weight the back wheel while standing.

    Okay – I’ll grant you that you can always do a running remount (well you can if you’re not a wheezy overweight guy in his 50’s and/or your bike isn’t under a race official’s car) and that therefore point a) is dead in the water.

    However point b) remains valid – with an exploded freehub you’re going nowhere until the team or neutral service car arrives. As the arrival of a team or neutral service car would mean in my case that my delusions are becoming frighteningly real, then I put it to you that b) requires a long walk in socks and a call to a sarcastic VMH.

  15. @KW

    @bigricco71

    Great article! As a not so built for the hills cyclist I often encounter this… I call it the Martha Reeves moment “Nowhere to run to, nowhere to hide”. Time to engage Rule number five!!!

    I like that one. I’ve never been that fond of Too Fat To Climb. I know I’m fat, but do I really have to use the word?

    Yes. Yes you do.

  16. @the Engine

    @frank

    @the Engine

    You may only climb off your steed through lack of suitable ratios when a) your back wheel loses traction on the wet pave and you fall under the race commissar’s car or b) when your freehub explodes and brings your wedding tackle forcefully in to contact with the top tube.

    It is possible to avoid b) by riding a fixie and if your guns are that mighty then you should as the wait for the broom wagon is cold and embarrassing

    Wrong. It is only permissible to run a few paces as you wind up your Cyclocross remount after coming off some wet cobbles.

    But really not even that is permissible as you should learn how to ride a bike and learn how to weight the back wheel while standing.

    Okay – I’ll grant you that you can always do a running remount (well you can if you’re not a wheezy overweight guy in his 50′s and/or your bike isn’t under a race official’s car) and that therefore point a) is dead in the water.

    However point b) remains valid – with an exploded freehub you’re going nowhere until the team or neutral service car arrives. As the arrival of a team or neutral service car would mean in my case that my delusions are becoming frighteningly real, then I put it to you that b) requires a long walk in socks and a call to a sarcastic VMH.

    If we’re going to be including provisions for walking based on Mechanicals then we might as well chuck the whole cannon to the roadside and start explaining that one is also to remove reflectors and the flat pedals that come with your bike. For fucks sake.

    You still should maintain your bike properly and ride gear that can withstand either the girth of your guns or your belly. But accidents do happen and I didn’t begrudge Fabian walking after snapping his chain on the Koppenberg. Funny thing is that at the time I was surprised he was upset at losing his chances because I hadn’t considered him within the realm of possible contenders for a cobbled classic. Oh, how wrong we can be!

  17. Oh man, I can totally relate to this post. I recently moved to Pittsburgh after years of riding around the flatlands of central Indiana. I’ve lost count of how many times I have found myself trying to shift up and being denied by my cassette/derailleur. Here in PGH, it’s not really the length of the climbs but the steepness that makes them freaking hard. Apparently, it’s a rite of passage to crash/fall down while going uphill around these parts.

    Not sure if I should be embarrassed about thinking that my 34×25 maybe isn’t low enough for some of the hills around here, though that might be just my winter legs talking.

  18. @frank

    You still should maintain your bike properly and ride gear that can withstand either the girth of your guns or your belly. But accidents do happen and I didn’t begrudge Fabian walking after snapping his chain on the Koppenberg. Funny thing is that at the time I was surprised he was upset at losing his chances because I hadn’t considered him within the realm of possible contenders for a cobbled classic. Oh, how wrong we can be!

    That should have been a tip off. Anyone who has the power to break a brand new chain at the bottom of the Koppenberg might have the potential to even outdistance Boonen on that course.

    All Hail Spartacus. 

  19. @piwakawaka

    @KW

    @bigricco71

    Great article! As a not so built for the hills cyclist I often encounter this… I call it the Martha Reeves moment “Nowhere to run to, nowhere to hide”. Time to engage Rule number five!!!

    I like that one. I’ve never been that fond of Too Fat To Climb. I know I’m fat, but do I really have to use the word?

    Yes. Yes you do.

    Dammit!

  20. On my Volagi, I’ve got a compact double in the front, and a massive 12-36 in back, complete with MTB derailleur. It shifts like shit, but when it’s in gear, I can spin to my heart’s content.

    I’m planning on rippin’ that shit out and putting an Ultegra derailleur and cassette back on the bike. The climbing gears are nice, but I really want that principle of silence and crisp shifting.

  21. @frank I’ve yet to ride a SRAM equipped bike that doesn’t.  I think it’s in the body itself.

    @Gianni

    Still, a little Pantani is better than no Pantani.

    Truth.

  22. I have a hard time trying to spin up climbs…I always seem to run out of cassettes before I run out of elevation gain.

  23. @wilburrox

    BUT, Waterford and Richard Schwinn are making lugged frame Paramounts today !! I’d love to line up for a local race on one of those! Cheers all, RC

    In this year’s first crit in February, I lined up next to a gorgeous black Paramount.  He did well, and looked good doing it.

  24. In the good old days of friction shifters you could tell if you’d run out of gears by the knocking of the spokes on your inner derailleur cage when you tried to bend the lever too far.

    i also had old school auto Di2 where your mates would helpfully shift your DT shifter while you were suffering up the hills.

  25. @Rom

    In the good old days of friction shifters you could tell if you’d run out of gears by the knocking of the spokes on your inner derailleur cage when you tried to bend the lever too far.

    i also had old school auto Di2 where your mates would helpfully shift your DT shifter while you were suffering up the hills.

    I’d forgotten that exquisite torture with the DT shifter – my how we all laughed

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