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I have a 2020 Specalized Allez that came with Shimano Claris, but since I live in a very hilly area, I feel as if I need more gears. I have been biking for a while now, but I don't know if I need to train more or need more gears. The inclines that I find myself needing more gears on are over 10%. I am wondering if I can just put in a 105 rear and front derailleur, and keep my original brakes. I am also wondering if I have to get new rims to compensate for the extra 3 gears I am putting in, or if I can just put a more narrow spacer in the back.

Thanks for reading!

Edit: For those of you wondering, I have the base claris gearing system, so an 11-32 cassete in the back and 34-56 in the front. Thank you all for your help. When going up 5-12% inclines, I don't need to shift all the way down, its usually in-between 13-25% inclines that I find myself using my smallest gear. I will probably train more for the next month or two and then see if I still need to upgrade! Thanks everyone.

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    To climb hills you need lower gears, not more gears. More gears are very nice in that the spacing gets smaller and you have the right one, but the lowest gear is set by the ratio of your small chain ring to your large cog on the back. What do you have now? The website shows the small chainring as 34, but doesn't say what the large cog in the rear is. Dec 29 '20 at 5:48
  • Yea Specialized did not say what cassette the bike comes with. Dec 29 '20 at 8:57
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    It appears that at least in the US, the stock configuration was 50/34 chainrings with an 11-32, 8s Sunrace cassette. specialized.com/us/en/allez/p/…
    – Weiwen Ng
    Dec 29 '20 at 12:51
  • So 11-34 could be an option and probably the only one I would do based on the cost of the bike. I would ride the wheels off of it and then look to purchase an entry level carbon bike that has 105 vs. trying to upgrade it to 105. Again to each is their own and if you really would like to go all out and upgrade thing it is after all your money and bike. Dec 29 '20 at 14:02
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To go to 105 you would have to do the following:

  • Front + Rear Derailleur
  • Cassette, Chain Rings
  • Chain
  • STI Lever (at least the right one) - This alone is like $150 per lever if I recall correctly.
  • Possibly new rear wheel

Overall most people will not make a jump from Claris to 105 because the costs usually end up being almost the same price as 50% or more of the value of the bike.

Now 105 to Ultegra/Dura-Ace is more common and cost effective (e.g. As I wear out components in the drivetrain I am replacing them to Ultegra).

What you can do or at least what I would do is this:

Check your current number of teeth on your largest gear on your cassette and count the teeth on your chain ring. If you are struggling on climbs I would try the follow in this order:

  • If your cassette is not 11-34 Claris I would spend the $20 or so and try that: Link
  • If you are still struggling on climbs replace your chain ringings to 46-34T. This will not necessarily make the climb easier because you still have a 34 T chain ring and max 34 T cog in the back, but it will make flatter portions feel easier, which can make the climb feel more doable: Claris Chain Ring
  • Save the money you would have otherwise spent on a 105 upgrade and use it towards a full carbon bike with 105 or Ultegra (e.g. Trek Domane SL5 and I think Specialized Roubaix not sure of which trim though).

Here is the important thing to realize though it will not get easier even with 105 or another bike (assuming both bikes are of equal weight/aero/etc.) if your cassette already is 11-34. The reason being is that 34T is the max size rear gear you can get whether it is 105 or claris and the smallest inner chain ring on both sets is 34T.

Also, are you sure the gradient is 20%. That is pretty steep for a bike - Link. Many cyclist will have to walk that:

Here is what 7% or so looks like as a reference near the end:

In that clip, I am in a 34 T chain ring and the 4th cog of a 105 11-34 cassette. So to your other point with training climbing 7-10% is possible even for an amateur.

Hope that helps.

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    @TudeProductions thanks for the help! The majority of incline in my rides is under 10% (I miss typed, and said 20), but some of the steepest parts in my rides even go up to 25%. Dec 29 '20 at 4:33
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    @ÁngelCáceresLicona It is definitely possible. 8s and 11s don’t require any different frame spacing. 11 speed road requires a wider freehub body, but most road bikes nowadays come with that wide FH body and use a 1.85mm spacer to make up for the difference when using a 8/9/10s cassette.
    – MaplePanda
    Dec 29 '20 at 7:29
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    The 46-34 crankset will not help at all. The small chainring is still the same as on a 50-34 compact. It is for people wanting smaller top gear, not smaller granny gear.
    – Vladimir F
    Dec 29 '20 at 10:40
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    @JamesJordan For your next bike consider gravel gearing or other subcompact crankset. An 46-34 won't help. You need the 34 to go to 32 or even 30. So you want 46-30.
    – Vladimir F
    Dec 29 '20 at 10:55
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    I disagree that road bikes can be converted to gravel bikes. This may just be semantics, but while many current generation endurance bikes can take 32-35mm tires, current generation gravel bikes can take over 40mm tires. 32mm can suffice in many places, but I think most observers wouldn’t consider it a true gravel width tire.
    – Weiwen Ng
    Dec 29 '20 at 18:24
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You could get a 33 teeth small chainring and a 11–34 teeth cassette. Compared to your currently installed 34t chainring and 11–32t cassette it would make things 8% easier.

One thing which took me a long time to realize: It’s possible to pedal quite slow. Usually you should pedal at about 90rpm, but when going up steep hills it can be necessary to drop down to ~70rpm. Do so early enough, otherwise you’ll run out of steam in the middle of the hill. Just try to take it slow and easy. When you go out of the saddle you can pedal even slower, like 60rpm. Quite often it’s even necessary to shift one gear up before you go out of the saddle, to have the right amount of resistance.

That being said, I do think that it’s a good idea to have easy enough gears, especially for (easy) training rides or long rides (possibly with luggage). There is also no shame in dismounting and pushing the bike uphill, it’s not much slower than riding at ~9km/h (though can be hard in cycling shoes).

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