Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Mid Willamette Valley, Orygun
Bikes: 86 RockHopper,2008 Specialized Globe. Both upgraded to 9 speeds.
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There's a lot of variables!
Are you comparing similar bikes with similar tires?
Lets assume, for purposes of discussion two "identical" MB's.
Same size BIG Ring.
10 speed equipped with 14-17-20-24-28
21 speed equipped with 14-16-18-20-22-24-28.
The 14T will be equally difficult to pedal.
What you will find is that you have a better chance of finding a usable gear BETWEEN the 14 & 24.
IME, the 14 is a bit too hard to pedal, (my heavy old MB with knobby tires) but the 17 is too easy and I "spin out".
The 16T works better for me as the "next to the highest gear".
It's not so much how many gears you have, but how many USABLE gears you have.
THERE ARE other combinations available on the 7 speed cogsets.