Creeping into the Big Ring


There’s a lot of cyclists who strive for more time in the big ring.  For those that don’t know what I’m talking about, I mean to get out and ride in the big chainring (the set of chain rings affixed to your crank). The pedalling may be tougher in the big ring, but the speeds reached can be much higher.

Whether you have a compact or any other configuration of chainrings, there’s just something about grinding out a ride totally in the big ring.


Okay, before going any further with this….let me just go on record as saying that getting out on a bike is the most important thing of all.  It really doesn’t matter what chainring you’re riding in, as long as you’re getting out there and enjoying your ride.  But, for those who are fixated on life in the big ring…..this one’s for you.

When I lived in Canada, I was located in the city of Saskatoon….one of the flattest places on earth. Seriously.  I’d have to search very hard to find a hill greater than 6% grade.  So while we were living there, it was pretty easy to live life in the Big Ring.

Then we moved to Austin.  Still nothing compared to the hills and elevations found in Colorado and other mountainous areas….but for a guy who had just come from Saskatchewan, it was more than hilly enough for me.  Plus, we were living in west Austin and close to the hill country so my rides involved much more climbing than you’d find in other parts of the city.

When we first arrived, I was no longer able to live in the Big Ring.  I could be in it for parts of each ride, but never the whole thing.  I can’t remember exactly how long it took, but one day things clicked and I found myself riding an entire route in the big ring.  I think it also had something to do with a pep talk by my friend Ian, but all of a sudden I had found myself confident and strong enough to stay in the ring.

From that day, until we left Austin in November 2012 I consistently rode each ride totally in the big ring.

Then came Grenada.  Yes, a whole new terrain and a whole bunch more hills to climb.  All of a sudden, those climbs in the Austin hill country were looking pretty flat.  Once again, I found myself able to get into the Big Ring for certain portions of each ride but never even close to being there full time.

Then it happened…..again.  Last Friday, after being in Grenada for just about 3 months…..I completed a full ride in the big ring.  I had found myself spending more and more time there for the past few weeks, but this was the first time I had spent the whole ride there.

I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to live in the big ring here on this mountainous island, but I know I can do it in some segments and I know I’ll be spending more and more time there each ride.  It feels great.

So how about you?  Is this something you’ve been striving for?  If so, I say to just keep on pedalling and you’ll find yourself slowly creeping into more time in the big ring.   Build your strength and build your confidence….and before long you’ll find yourself there.

Note: After seeing a few of the comments from this post, I came to realize that I didn’t do a great job at explaining things very well this time.  Going into the big gears should only be done when you’re strong enough to no sacrifice technique or efficiency.  When I talk about spending time in the big ring, I was referring to effectively pedalling there.


Enjoy Your Ride

Tags: , ,

Pin It

Featured on these top sites

Check Out These Sites

Cycling 360 Podcast


Sugar Alternatives for Energy and Hydration

Question: I am using the homebrew sugar formulations (sometimes added to green tea).  I am also trying to wean myself off 1/2 dose adrenalean “lip tonic delivery system” (biorhythm brand- caffeine, hoodia g, synephrine, yohimbe) capsule for energy.

My question is other than juice, can you suggest modifications in lieu of table sugar for energy and hydration.


Both raw/organic honey or agave can work great in the homebrew (substitute in the same quantities for the sugar, or to taste), but you do have to shake well in order to make sure they don’t settle out.  Have you tried either of these?  Also, make sure to use at least the minimum amount of salt recommended in the homebrew as the temps rise, you need the sodium replacement if you’re sweating.

Sports Drink Homebrew

Please send us your questions for our Expert Sports Nutritionist, Kelli Jennings to “Ask the Sports Nutritionist“. Kelli Jennings is a Registered Dietitian with a passion for healthy eating, wellness, & sports nutrition. For more information go to

Nutrition Tips