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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 06-28-10, 09:33 AM   #1
jet16lg
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Time for different gearing?

I am a 315lb clyde that is getting back into cycling for weight loss. Thanks to some solid advise on this board, I've stopped mashing a high gear and I've been trying to spin in a lower gear. This has mad it much easier to add miles to my rides (longest has been 27 miles-yes, I'm fairly new to this). I ride a Centurian LaMans and it has a 52/42 chainrings. When I put on some new wheels I installed a wider range cassette in the back (8speed 11-30) to help out with hills. However, since I'm spinning more, I'm finding that I rarely use my large chain ring. Even on downhills I find that if I focus on fast feet or just glide, I do not need to use the 52 chainring. However, I do find that I run out of room when I need help with steady hills-especially into the damn wind-when I get farther into the longer rides that I've been pushing myself to do.

So, I've been wondering if I should just HTFU and keep riding-things will get easier. Or, maybe I should get a triple to help on the harder hills/end of ride energy-that 3rd ring would be nice. Or, maybe I should get a compact double to help out-this would allow me me to use my current front derailleur. What do most of you clydes use? Triple, compact double, standard double in what chainring combo?

Thanks for your advise/comments
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Old 06-28-10, 09:45 AM   #2
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HTFU is by far the cheapest option. Compact double the next cost effective, as you only need a crankset and time. A triple would require a new shifter, bottom bracket, front dérailleur, rear dérailleur, and possibly chain and shift cable.

From what you described, you just need to refine your form, not your bike.
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Old 06-28-10, 11:04 AM   #3
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...So, I've been wondering if I should just HTFU and keep riding-things will get easier...
"It never gets easier. You just go faster." -- Greg Lemond

1st - Use your large chainring every once in a while. It will help develop your leg strength. Spinning helps your endurance. You need both in riding.

2nd - Yes, riding longer and longer rides will make subsequent attempts to ride farther, easier.

3rd - Unless you're hitting some long, steep ascents, I think you're probably fine with your 42x30. It equates out to a 39x28 or so. I only use my 39x27 on the steepest & longest of ascents (10% or more). I use a 39x25 for routes with hills & non-steep climbs (~8% or less), and I usually use my 39x23 on courses that only have rolling hills or only very short hills (1/4-mile long or less). Of course, everybody is different.
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Old 06-28-10, 12:03 PM   #4
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I use a compact double (34/48) and a wide-range MTB setup in back (11 - 32). For tackling mountain passes, or 18 - 21% grades I like to have that 34/32 bailout gear.
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Old 06-28-10, 01:07 PM   #5
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11-30 in the rear? You should change the 42 to a 39. This should be enough for most anything until you start ridfing mtn passes. Like the other dude said, your form/fitness will do more for you at this point.
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Old 06-28-10, 02:08 PM   #6
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I would look at compact gearing at 50x34 or cyclocross cranks with 48/34 gearing.. This will allow you to use a tighter gear config while still having a low end with a 34x25 or 27 cassette

A 12-25 or 12-27 cassette would be ideal with a compact crankset..
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Old 06-28-10, 05:41 PM   #7
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I am a 315lb clyde that is getting back into cycling for weight loss. Thanks to some solid advise on this board, I've stopped mashing a high gear and I've been trying to spin in a lower gear. This has mad it much easier to add miles to my rides (longest has been 27 miles-yes, I'm fairly new to this). I ride a Centurian LaMans and it has a 52/42 chainrings. When I put on some new wheels I installed a wider range cassette in the back (8speed 11-30) to help out with hills. However, since I'm spinning more, I'm finding that I rarely use my large chain ring. Even on downhills I find that if I focus on fast feet or just glide, I do not need to use the 52 chainring. However, I do find that I run out of room when I need help with steady hills-especially into the damn wind-when I get farther into the longer rides that I've been pushing myself to do.

So, I've been wondering if I should just HTFU and keep riding-things will get easier. Or, maybe I should get a triple to help on the harder hills/end of ride energy-that 3rd ring would be nice. Or, maybe I should get a compact double to help out-this would allow me me to use my current front derailleur. What do most of you clydes use? Triple, compact double, standard double in what chainring combo?

Thanks for your advise/comments
I'm just getting back to riding a road bike (after nearly 30 years of not having one), and yeah, when you first get back to it, you don't use the big ring that much. What I find a good tool is a bike computer with cadence, helps to decide when to shift, until you get used to it again. What works for me, is to upshift around 95RPM and to downshift around 75RPM, and try to stay somewhere in the 80's. You will probably find it a little different for yourself. Today when I was riding we had a steady 20km/h wind, and never got out of the small ring, it happens sometimes, after a hiatus it's expected. The best way to deal with hills is rather simple, and inexpensive:

Find a hill you can't get all the way up in low gear, one that is just out of range, so maybe you can get 90% of the way up. Everyday you ride, you make sure your route includes that hill, somewhere, so every day you ride up that hill.

First time: Ah the Second Avenue Hill,
After 1st Month: Hey I made it, without walking
After 2nd Month: Time for celebration, I made it without needing my lowest gear.
After 3rd Month: Your not even thinking about gears for this hill
After 4th Month: What Hill?

This is called hill training, and it's important to do some, head winds can augment your hill training.
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Old 06-28-10, 06:16 PM   #8
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HTFU is by far the cheapest option. Compact double the next cost effective, as you only need a crankset and time. A triple would require a new shifter, bottom bracket, front dérailleur, rear dérailleur, and possibly chain and shift cable.
I think you forgot a new frame, saddle and handlebar tape!

Seriously, though: I don't think you'd need nearly this much stuff just to switch from a standard double to a triple. Definitely need a new FD and shifter in addition to the triple crank itself. Possibly a new bottom bracket, depending on the requirements of the crank. Can't see any reason you'd need a new RD or chain, though. The chain rings on the triple will be the same size or smaller than on the standard double, so the RD and chain should be fine.

To the OP: I use a compact double (50/34) with an 11-28 cassette on my primary bike. I have a road triple (52/39/30) and 12-27 on my touring/commuting bike. Low-end gearing is similar enough that anything I can climb with one setup I can climb with the other. For touring, I switch to a trekking crank (48/38/26) so I have a bit more low-end for tackling extended climbs with a bunch of extra weight. The one I use is a 9-speed MTB crank, but with a bit of futzing it works fine with my 10-speed Ultegra triple drivetrain.
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Old 06-28-10, 07:12 PM   #9
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I think you forgot a new frame, saddle and handlebar tape!

Seriously, though: I don't think you'd need nearly this much stuff just to switch from a standard double to a triple. Definitely need a new FD and shifter in addition to the triple crank itself. Possibly a new bottom bracket, depending on the requirements of the crank. Can't see any reason you'd need a new RD or chain, though. The chain rings on the triple will be the same size or smaller than on the standard double, so the RD and chain should be fine..
Since the OP didn't tell us how old the bike is, we don't know what he needs. He may well just need a derailleur and a crankset. (and a shfit cable, and maybe a bit of housing, but that's easy and cheap). Most fricition DT or bar end shifters can shift either a triple or a double. What might be the cheapest thing to do is to replace the chainrings on the existing crankset, assuming it's possible to do so. 52/42 is a pretty lousy combination for someone who isn't superman. 52/40, which was more common in the 70s and 80s is better, but still pretty tall. 52X11 is 125 gear inches, and works out to about 37 miles an hour at 100 rpm. Most people don't need that tall a gear, a 38/48 or something like that would give you plenty of high end, and a much nicer lower end, and should be doable for 40 or 50 bucks, depending on the bolt pattern on the cranks.
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Old 06-28-10, 11:49 PM   #10
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True, I did not give a lot of info on my current bike. I believe it's around a early 80's Centurian LaMans bike (bought it used off craigslist). I"m currently running it in friction mode on both the front and rear derailure. Also, my bottom bracket is a square taper with the Biospace chainrings. I'm starting to think I'll just stay as it is for now or maybe keep a eye out for a 39T chainring to replace the 42T with and maybe even replace the 52T ring. Right now my motto has been to not change out to much on the bike, ride until I get in better shape, then decide if I want to do a larger drivetrain upgrade or buy a newer bike and make this one the beater. I do know that things will get easier the more I ride and I'm already starting to see it.

Thank you for your advise!
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Old 06-29-10, 12:05 AM   #11
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True, I did not give a lot of info on my current bike. I believe it's around a early 80's Centurian LaMans bike (bought it used off craigslist).

Pretty easy one to figure out though since you mentioned this in the OP, that you don't want to spend alot of money on an older bike (new cranks, compacts, derailleurs etc). That's why I said go for the 39 ring earlier. Now that you mention biopace, maybe a good thing to replace the big chainring too. Since it's that odd shaped oblong ring. Don't have experience with mixing the two but a mechanical thought would say the chain transition between differently shaped rings would not be a smooth one!


Keep the bike, new one if you stick with cycling then use it as a beater.
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Old 06-29-10, 11:06 AM   #12
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Pretty easy one to figure out though since you mentioned this in the OP, that you don't want to spend alot of money on an older bike (new cranks, compacts, derailleurs etc). That's why I said go for the 39 ring earlier. Now that you mention biopace, maybe a good thing to replace the big chainring too. Since it's that odd shaped oblong ring. Don't have experience with mixing the two but a mechanical thought would say the chain transition between differently shaped rings would not be a smooth one!)
Works fine, actually.

If you do replace the chainrings, don't toss the biopace stuff, if it's in usable shape. There are people who want it, and who will pay for it.
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Old 06-29-10, 11:12 AM   #13
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Works fine, actually.

If you do replace the chainrings, don't toss the biopace stuff, if it's in usable shape. There are people who want it, and who will pay for it.

Wow, I'm shocked. But like I said, I've never use the combo, don't think I would either!
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Old 06-29-10, 11:56 AM   #14
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Wow, I'm shocked. But like I said, I've never use the combo, don't think I would either!
I had a bike with 600 biopace stuff, and well, I could tell I was riding it if I were blindfolded, but couldn't tell it made any difference in speed, efficiency, or anything else, except pedal feel. The little chainring broke (clear casting defect, huge void), and replaced it with a round one. worked fine, though it's possible the up shift was a tad slower.

But there are people who like it, even if we don't know why.
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Old 06-30-10, 07:05 PM   #15
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I think you forgot a new frame, saddle and handlebar tape!

Seriously, though: I don't think you'd need nearly this much stuff just to switch from a standard double to a triple. Definitely need a new FD and shifter in addition to the triple crank itself. Possibly a new bottom bracket, depending on the requirements of the crank. Can't see any reason you'd need a new RD or chain, though. The chain rings on the triple will be the same size or smaller than on the standard double, so the RD and chain should be fine.
Triples usually require a long cage rear dérailleur to accommodate the extra length required to use a triple crank, which is the reason for a new chain as I am not a fan of adding chain links. I'm also recommending doing it right, not shade tree kuge.
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Old 06-30-10, 07:43 PM   #16
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Are you aware that you shouldn't spend a lot of time "cross-chaining"? In other words, you shouldn't be in the small cog and small ring at the same time, as it will wear your components more quickly? Just asking, in case you hadn't heard of it.

Edited: See posts 19 and 20

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Old 06-30-10, 08:26 PM   #17
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Triples usually require a long cage rear dérailleur to accommodate the extra length required to use a triple crank, which is the reason for a new chain as I am not a fan of adding chain links. I'm also recommending doing it right, not shade tree kuge.
The only reason to lengthen the chain is if you increase the size of the largest chainring and/or the largest cassette cog. I supposed the OP could buy a triple crank with a chainring that was 1-tooth larger than his current 52/42 crank. Honestly, I don't think that a one-tooth difference is going to require installing a new chain, though it probably doesn't hurt.

I'll concede that he may need a long-cage rear derailleur to take up the increased chain slack caused by the smaller ring on the triple crank... if he doesn't already have one. I suppose it's possible he's running a short-cage road RD with an 11-30 cassette, though I would assume that a medium- or long-cage setup is a bit more likely.
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Old 06-30-10, 08:49 PM   #18
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...I'm starting to think I'll just stay as it is for now or maybe keep a eye out for a 39T chainring to replace the 42T with and maybe even replace the 52T ring.
Leaving things as-is is a good idea until you've settled a few thoughts. It isn't clear what your real goal is. Do you need a lower low, or are you bothered by the fact that you have gears you don't use (the 52) so that you would be better served by something more useful? They are both worthy goals, but not the same and not necessarily connected.

The lower low is necessary when it is necessary. Maybe you can get that at the rear instead of the front. Do whatever is easier or cheaper. But for what it's worth, the chain sees less tension when the rings are bigger. Even though 40/32 and 30/24 combinations are the same ratio, the 40/32 stresses the chain less. Maybe modern chains don't wear out like they used to, but it still might make a different a year or two from now.

Now, what about the 52? As z90 said, you should avoid small/small. It puts the chain on a sharper angle. It also requires that your RD take up more chain, so it had better be set up well and with the proper chain length. And as I said above, the chain tension is higher with small/small combinations. So for your non-uphill cruising cultivate the habit of riding the 52 with a large rear cog. You should be okay with the largest 3 or 4. And if not now, then soon! Though maybe avoid the 30 because big/big combination puts the chain at a steep angle just like the small/small, and expects the RD to make that many links available.

Still, the 52 is rather large. I almost never use my 48/14 on the roads around here and wouldn't know what to do with a 52/11! Eventually you can pick a replacement for the 52, but it isn't essential just yet. Even if you never use it, that just shows that it isn't something you need now (how's that for a tautology?) and therefore don't need to "fix". But changing it won't help your low gear.

Just my me-too cents. And a very disjoint rambling note it is.
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Old 06-30-10, 08:54 PM   #19
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Are you aware that you shouldn't spend a lot of time "cross-chaining"? In other words, you shouldn't be in the large cog and small ring at the same time, as it will wear your components more quickly? Just asking, in case you hadn't heard of it.
Actually, large cog/small ring would be a pretty straight chain line. You want to avoid small cog/small ring and large cog/large ring.
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Old 06-30-10, 08:56 PM   #20
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Uh, yes, that is what I meant to say. Oops.
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Old 06-30-10, 09:01 PM   #21
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Old 07-07-10, 12:45 AM   #22
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There is some very good info on here and I appreciate everyone posting. I do have a long cage rear derailure-I'm using a pretty new Deore that I had installed on my mountain bike. Also, I do understand that I should not run in Big/Big chain combo's due to some reading I've done on the web. I'm usually on the 42 chainring and I use that for the 30t cog up to the 15T cog-I usually jump up to the 52t chainring when I need to get much faster. So, about the only time I'm using the 11/13 cog is when i'm going downhill in the 52T chainring and I'm never using the 30/26T cog while I'm on the 52T chainring.

So, I guess my issue is not that I'm not using my 52T chainring, I actually do use it, just, not a lot. I've found lately that I can do the majority of my riding in the 42/15 42/17 42/20. What I'm looking for is something that will allow me a little bit more range when I find myself going up a long hill into the wind at the end of a long ride (which right now for me is 2hrs, it keeps increasing). I know things will get easier, and, they have been. But, it still seems like it would be more beneficial to have a few more lower end gears when I need it rather then the excess high end gears that I don't use as much.

I did find myself a compact crankset for pretty cheap (20$) and I think i'm going to give that a go just to see how it is. I'll have to report back my findings!
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Old 07-08-10, 07:39 AM   #23
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As a clyde who is down to 265 from 345, I have found that I like compact cranksets of 22-32-42 with 12-32 8spd clusters. They get me up the hills without knee strain and provide enough high end gearing for the occasional tailwind.
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Old 07-12-10, 08:45 AM   #24
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As a clyde who is down to 265 from 345, I have found that I like compact cranksets of 22-32-42 with 12-32 8spd clusters. They get me up the hills without knee strain and provide enough high end gearing for the occasional tailwind.
Not sure if you meant to call a "triple" crank a "compact" crank, but you did.

A "compact" is a double chainring crank, where the small ring is smaller than standard inner ring of a double crank ... giving the rider a wider range of gearing without adding the "granny" gear.

Correct me if I'm wrong, and there is a trend to call any crank of less than typical gearing a "compact".
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Old 07-12-10, 10:10 AM   #25
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Correct me if I'm wrong, and there is a trend to call any crank of less than typical gearing a "compact".
Actually there is a "Compact Triple" it uses a 94/58 bcd. It has become more commonly referred to as an "MTB triple" these days.

See Sheldon for more info
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