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Clydesdales/Athenas (200+ lb / 91+ kg) Looking to lose that spare tire? Ideal weight 200+? Frustrated being a large cyclist in a sport geared for the ultra-light? Learn about the bikes and parts that can take the abuse of a heavier cyclist, how to keep your body going while losing the weight, and get support from others who've been successful.

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Old 03-29-10, 11:38 AM   #1
tardman91
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What Gears Do You Usually Ride In?

I usually start off on the largest gear up front, and the smallest gear out back (Is that the lowest or highest gear?) then move up to a larger gear out back as I get a little more tired. There are barely any hills (if they can even be called that) here near Tampa, so I usually just switch between the smallest 4 or 5 gears on the back and never move the front. I was just wondering if I'm going about things wrong here or what. I'm planning on doing the 50 mile MS Ride this year and it's out in Central Florida where they have a lot hills (for FL anyway) and don't want to be totally clueless on how to handle them. I know for the most part I should do what work for me, but I'm just curious.
What do you guys do?
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Old 03-29-10, 11:48 AM   #2
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Find a few friends and ride with them - ideally friends that are decent riders. Mimic their use of gears. In the absence of friends - Youtube videos of cycling. You legs should be moving reasonably quickly.
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Old 03-29-10, 12:15 PM   #3
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What type of bike, racing bikes have different gears than a mountain bike or hybrid.

Either way, you are starting out in the highest gear. You will fatigue sooner. Start in a medium to lower gear, warm up then increase effort.

On a roadbike riding flat terrain, I never use my big ring up front. Not until I hit 22mph that I have to use the big ring. But I'm a spinner (ride high rpm's).
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Old 03-29-10, 12:51 PM   #4
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I have 2 main road bikes with different drive trains so I'll keep my answer general:

I like middle of the gear range. I rarely use the big ring up front
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Old 03-29-10, 01:23 PM   #5
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Whatever gear is comfortable for me, depending on the terrain and how tired I am. Sometimes I'll hammer a 10% grade in a 48/18 combo, sometimes I'll drop to my 34/28 gear to spin up a wimpy 5% grade.
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Old 03-29-10, 01:47 PM   #6
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Yes, if you are starting in your largest gear, I think there's a good chance you're doing it wrong.

What you're looking to do is find a gear that is easy enough--no matter what terrain you're on!--that you can pedal 80, 90, 100+ rpms. This is called cadence: how many revolutions per minute your feet make. If you're pedaling too slow: your gear is too big. Change it so it becomes easier. If you're pedaling wildly fast: your gear is too small. Change it so it becomes a little harder.

We've gone over this before. While there is no "magic" number (85 or 92), spinning at a higher cadence will make your cycling more efficient and allow you to enjoy your riding more. You'll also minimize the chances of damage to the tendons and ligaments of your knees and ankles. You'll also minimize fatigue and be able to ride much farther than currently.
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Old 03-29-10, 02:02 PM   #7
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I usually start in a middling gear and then adjust according to the circumstances.
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Old 03-29-10, 02:07 PM   #8
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I'm nowhere near experienced, so take a little and leave a little, but when I started to ride I used gears that were too high. This was on my old Peugeot, so I was riding around my local streets using the 48T cog in front and the 14T cog in the rear. I read a little here and there, and decided I was being stupid, so I started to experiment with lower gears, eventually settling on my 38T front cog and middle cogs in the back... 17T, 20T. I also got a cheap cycling computer ($10 @ BassPro on clearance) with a cadence sensor and started to watch my cadence. But as I gained stamina and strength, I returned to the higher gears.

Now, I don't bother with a cadence sensor, I just ride so that I feel right. I am not taking a new route every ride, so I have learned what gears work for certain routes, and I don't make too many changes. One of the guys I ride with on Fridays told me "if your lungs hurt, you're pedaling too fast, and if your legs hurt you're pedaling too hard." I think this is good advice.

I have a 1983 road bike with a 42/52 up front and a seven-speed freewheel in the rear (13-27T). For most local rides on flat ground, I usually ride 52T in front and 17T in the rear. This works for me. I usually spin at about 80 rpm on level ground. It feels right.
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Old 03-29-10, 02:11 PM   #9
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if your legs hurt more than your lungs, go down a gear. If your lungs hurt more than your legs, go up a gear.
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Old 03-29-10, 02:14 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Mr. Beanz View Post
What type of bike, racing bikes have different gears than a mountain bike or hybrid.
Right on. To give you a rough idea, on flat ground with little/no wind, I'll normally be in a 50/19 @ 90-100 RPM:

50/19 @ 90 = 18.7 mph
50/19 @ 95 = 19.7
50/19 @ 100 = 20.7

Note the 2 mph change with only a 10 rpm difference. (Also note that flat ground with no wind never happens)

Lower RPM requires more leg strength, higher RPM requires more breathing/cardio/aerobic fitness.
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Old 03-29-10, 02:20 PM   #11
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Right on. To give you a rough idea, on flat ground with little/no wind, I'll normally be in a 50/19 @ 90-100 RPM:

50/19 @ 90 = 18.7 mph
50/19 @ 95 = 19.7
50/19 @ 100 = 20.7

Note the 2 mph change with only a 10 rpm difference. (Also note that flat ground with no wind never happens)

Lower RPM requires more leg strength, higher RPM requires more breathing/cardio/aerobic fitness.
On flat 40 mile rides, I'm holding 19-21 in my 39/14 combo.

17-18 mph, I'll go up one cog ( 39/15 or 16).
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Old 03-29-10, 03:51 PM   #12
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What type of bike, racing bikes have different gears than a mountain bike or hybrid.
It's a road bike.
I guess from reading everyones replies I should give it a shot with the middle gears. I start off on the middle front gear next time and see how that works out for me. I just feel odd pedaling so fast and not moving as quick, but I'll see how it works for me.
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Old 03-29-10, 04:02 PM   #13
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It's a road bike.
I guess from reading everyones replies I should give it a shot with the middle gears. I start off on the middle front gear next time and see how that works out for me. I just feel odd pedaling so fast and not moving as quick, but I'll see how it works for me.
What speeds are you holding? I ask cause you say "odd pedaling fast and not moving as quick". I takes time to get used to spinning but I wouldn't say you aren't moving as quick.I'm holding 21 mph in the 39 ring. Now if you've gota tailwind or in a pack at 25, then yes the big ring. I've seen to omany guys doing 15 in the big ring!

Again, like the micsonception that a compact crank can't keep up with a stadard double on a flat trail cause of the smaller chainring up front. I've had guys say,"I can't keep up with you because I have a 50 big ring and you have a 53.!

I've often had to point out that I am ridng a 39 and they a 50, who is in a bigger gear?
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Old 03-29-10, 04:15 PM   #14
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On my hybrid with a triple, I ride 90% in the middle ring, including taking off on level ground. Only need the big ring for going downhill.

On my one week old road bike I have been riding too much to post pictures of yet, I have a 34/50 and have been taking off with the 50-19 gear. If there is a head wind or a slight incline, I bump up to the 21 in the back. That seems to be the best, to use the 34 taking off then requires a shift to the big ring very soon after taking off.
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Old 03-29-10, 04:29 PM   #15
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I'm usually averaging between 15-18mph. I'll have to see how I do trying the middle gears. I guess I just feel like the more power I put into pedaling, the faster I'll be going. I guess I have to get out of that mindset from all the years I spent as a kid riding a single speed.
And all these numbers you guys are spouting off... number of teeth on the gear? I just looked up my gears. 3 on the crank (that makes it a triple, right?) 30, 42, 52, and 8 out back - 12-26 according to the website.
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Old 03-29-10, 04:36 PM   #16
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Yup, I have a triple and a double, the middle ring on the triple is a 39 as well as the small ring on the double. I used to have a 42 in the middle before swapping the crank on the triple. I like the 42 ring on the original crank. I could ride flat rides all day and never hit the big or small rings.
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Old 03-29-10, 04:40 PM   #17
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I have a compact set on my road bike. I usually start in the middle gears with the small ring up front. usually not in the big ring unless I am riding with a fast group ride (riders generally faster than me!)
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Old 03-29-10, 05:58 PM   #18
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I ride both a compact and a standard. One group I ride with I spend almost all my time in the small and 14 or 15. Other groups its the exact opposite but in the 19,21 or 23 on the back. I stay in the big ring as you never know when the hammer is going down!
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Old 03-29-10, 08:07 PM   #19
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Find a few friends and ride with them - ideally friends that are decent riders.
This is very good advice, but you need to make sure your level and theirs is not too different.

I find that riding with another person or a group just makes everything so much more enjoyable. I started riding with a group last year, and even though I only ride with them once per week, on the average, it's really good. The accountability of a group is a great thing.
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Old 03-30-10, 05:34 AM   #20
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Yes, if you are starting in your largest gear, I think there's a good chance you're doing it wrong.

What you're looking to do is find a gear that is easy enough--no matter what terrain you're on!--that you can pedal 80, 90, 100+ rpms. This is called cadence: how many revolutions per minute your feet make. If you're pedaling too slow: your gear is too big.
My legs just don't like going that fast! It's not a matter of resistance, or having the gearing too high. Even if I'm just walking, I tend to "stroll" (or even "mosey") when other people walk.

That said, I've got a hybrid; I tend to ride with the front in its middle of 3 gears, and adjust the rear to match the terrain. When I change to spending most of my time in the big gear up front, it'll be time to think about n+1!
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Old 03-30-10, 06:45 AM   #21
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I'm usually averaging between 15-18mph. I'll have to see how I do trying the middle gears. I guess I just feel like the more power I put into pedaling, the faster I'll be going. I guess I have to get out of that mindset from all the years I spent as a kid riding a single speed.
And all these numbers you guys are spouting off... number of teeth on the gear? I just looked up my gears. 3 on the crank (that makes it a triple, right?) 30, 42, 52, and 8 out back - 12-26 according to the website.
Ok, it's time to meet St. Sheldon's gear calculator. It will let you learn all kinds of neat stuff about the gears on your bike. You can figure out how fast you're going if you pedal at a particular rate, what gear inches/meters development/gain ratio you're using so you can compare two different sets of gearing... all kinds of neat tools.

I took your gearing and plugged it in. You're probably pedaling in the 50-60 rpm range, which gives you an absolute top speed of 20mph. If you were going at 80 rpm, you could go as fast as 27mph on the same bike. Someone working on racing (and very fit!) could drive your top gear at 100 rpm, and be going 34mph.

I'm not a very strong rider . I've got a lot of arthritis trouble with my leg joints, and I spent the last year recovering from a knee injury. Pedaling fast lets me use gears that don't hurt, and still go 10-12 mph. Your big gear is 117 gear inches. Mine is about 80... and if I'm using it, I'm going about 18mph . Mostly I stay in the lungs hurt zone, since if I get anywhere near the legs hurting zone, my joints will be very upset with me for days afterwards. My lungs are sooo much less pissy.

So... you're not working very hard. Bikes are deceptive that way .
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Old 03-30-10, 04:10 PM   #22
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32 X17.......Been riding single speed on and off road for a couple years. Not sure if I will ever go back to gears.
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Old 03-30-10, 05:15 PM   #23
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Again, like the micsonception that a compact crank can't keep up with a stadard double on a flat trail cause of the smaller chainring up front. I've had guys say,"I can't keep up with you because I have a 50 big ring and you have a 53.!
That is flat-out (sorry for the pun) hilarious. Yeah Fred, that's why you're so slow...it's because of that 50t big ring...you should go back to a 53t, or maybe see if you can find something custom in like a 56t or even bigger! Then you'll be able to go really fast!

Anyone who has ever put their gearing into a gear calculator such as http://sheldonbrown.com/gears/ will quickly realize that the 53t is for really fit, fast guys who can sustain 20+mph or those strange animals known as crankers who don't mind slogging it out for long periods of time at 50rpm.

Even if you prefer to maintain a gentlemanly cadence of 60RPM you can still keep 21mph in 50x11t. Bump it up to 80RPM which is still not too hard to sustain even for longish periods of time, and in the same gearing you're at 28mph or 26 if you have 50x12t. Going faster than that? Stop pedalling, silly; you're on a downhill.
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Old 03-30-10, 07:24 PM   #24
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if your legs hurt more than your lungs, go down a gear. If your lungs hurt more than your legs, go up a gear.
Perfect advice. Just know where to shift chainrings at.
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Old 03-30-10, 07:53 PM   #25
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...Again, like the micsonception that a compact crank can't keep up with a stadard double on a flat trail cause of the smaller chainring up front. I've had guys say,"I can't keep up with you because I have a 50 big ring and you have a 53.!...
I've personally experienced getting dumped off the back of a paceline because I couldn't spin fast enough (around 30mph) with my compact. There is a lot more to it than just the inch gear. If you spin at 110rpm your max top speed is a lot higher than if you spin at 70rpm.

Regarding the OP I have two bikes with 30 gears, two bikes with 20 gears (one standard and one compact double) and there is no gear I'm in most, I use all of the gears I have available...
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