Gearing up for Mt. Washington

Some guys get really into their rig for mountain climb races. Since I have no delusions of winning Mt. Washington this year it didn’t make sense for me to spend a day moving my entire Shimano XP mountain bike drivetrain over to my road bike, nor to spend a boatload of money buying a new crankset/cogset/etc.

Much like a skydiver doesn’t go jumping without his parachute, I could not send myself off to attack the mountain with a 53-39 crankset.

So I started hunting for the cheapest way to add some low hill-climbing gearing to my bike, and to my surprise, found everything I needed in our apartment.

My wife has a bike with a similar (and perfectly maintained, of course) drivetrain: 10 speed Shimano 105 (vs my 10 speed Shimano Dura Ace). The key difference being hers has an FSA triple crankset which I discovered is compatible with my Chris King Bottom Bracket. Done deal.

Next challenge was to work out a cadence sensor. While I *could* port the one over from my crankset, it would be a pain to move due to the double-sided tape and zip-tie mess. Additionally, the gossamer cranks sit a little further away from my frame so I’d have to find something else.

After experimenting with three different magnets I settled on a stack of three plain refrigerator magnets, affixed using a roll of gaffer tape. Gaffer tape, by the way, is one of the greatest things ever. Technically designed for movie sets and the like to temporarily hold cables to the floor/walls/whatever, it’s good for so much more. It’s a cloth based tape that has some stretch so that it can bend around objects that are not perfectly flat. It has a fairly strong stick like a duct tape, and is torn along the x or y axis with just a pinch and pull. You should get a roll for yourself. Now.

So with all of the parts in place all I had to do was make a few turns to the front derailleur to adjust it to the new bailout gear and we’re set to go.

Problem: 53-39 crankset way too big to push up Mt. Washington. Cheap solution: FSA Gossamer triple crankset, refrigerator magnets and gaffer tape

Problem: 53-39 crankset way too big to push up Mt. Washington. Cheap solution: FSA Gossamer triple crankset, refrigerator magnets and gaffer tape


A stack of 3 refrigerator magnets were taped to the left crank arm for use with the existing cadence sensor. Tape is ok as this only needs to stay on for one ride.


With the chain in the smallest front chainring the short-throw derailleur in the rear barely has enough clearance to let the chain by. As a matter of fact, ONLY the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th sprocket can be used in this small gear. If setting up your bike in a similar way make a mental note that the granny gear is ONLY to be used in emergencies!

Will post an update some time after the race to put the stamp of “worked” on this method in the case that you find yourself in a similar situation where you need to climb one of the tallest mountains in your region and don’t have the budget or time to switch drivetrains.

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Aaron Deutsch

About Aaron Deutsch

Aaron has always felt a passion for, if not a gravitational pull from, racing. Since being lured from the basketball court onto the track in 1993 he set 7 track & field records and medaled six times at the state level of competition.

He moved to the mountain bike in the late 1990s and won the Penn Cycle Buck Hill race series in 2000 in the sport class. He also placed 4th in the Subaru Cup XC race that year.

After moving to New York Aaron took up road racing and rode unattached for the first year and medaled in 2 races including a 1st place finish in the Kissena Race Series in 2007. In 2008 the Brooklyn Arches Cycling Club was formed and the results were immediate and consistent including winning the Cadence Cup Race Series in Brooklyn. He currently races with the Major Taylor Iron Riders Development Team

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