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  1. #1
    Humvee of bikes =Worksman Nightshade's Avatar
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    I'm cornfused....how many gears do you really NEED for general use??

    With all bikes that have gears now coming with a wide choice
    in gearing,internal hub & derailer, it's tough to know just
    what's needed for average town, commuting and light touring.

    Sure , I know a race or mountain bike needs a wide range of
    gearing,but gee whizz do you really need 21 speeds for normal
    riding? I've seen many riders ,in town, stand up to pedal
    rather than deal with the confusion of shifting a derailer!!
    That tells me that on most bikes the gears are window
    dressing to sell bikes as they will serve no real purpose.

    So for those that actully use gears......

    What type of gearing is best for all round use?

    Internal hub and how many gears...3..5..7..8..14??

    Derailers.....5..6...7..what?

  2. #2
    more ape than man timmhaan's Avatar
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    for everyday completely normal riding, i never need to move to the larger chainring. that being said, i pretty much just use the middle 4 gears.

    however, i use almost all of them when i'm training or on a course which has subtantial hills - so they do come in handy and if you start to do any serious riding you'll definitly need them.

  3. #3
    Lotion/Basket/Hose Doctor Who's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tightwad

    Sure , I know a race or mountain bike needs a wide range of
    gearing,but gee whizz do you really need 21 speeds for normal
    riding? I've seen many riders ,in town, stand up to pedal
    rather than deal with the confusion of shifting a derailer!!
    If those people are standing up and powering their way up a hill, in lieu of shifting, then they're not riding their bike correctly. The only time I ever stand up, is when I'm going up a long, steep hill and my energy level is starting to drop. 99% of the time I'm seated in the saddle.
    That tells me that on most bikes the gears are window
    dressing to sell bikes as they will serve no real purpose.
    Would you buy a car that only had one gear? Humans are like engines. We have a "torque peak", at which we are most efficient. Gearing allows one to take advantage of that efficiency level, and much like a multi-gear transmission allows a car to drive at high speeds at low RPMs, a bicycle transmission allows a rider to maintain a correct cadence while maintaining a variety of speeds.
    So for those that actully use gears......

    What type of gearing is best for all round use?

    Internal hub and how many gears...3..5..7..8..14??

    Derailers.....5..6...7..what?
    I use every single of the 27 gears on my Allez. And I'm constantly shifting as I match my energy level to that of the terrain and speed I want to maintain. Certainly, you can get away with having a 21, 14, or whatever speed bike, but if you're at all serious about riding a MTB or road bike, then you're going to have to get used to shifting.

    I'll bet your car is an automatic, right?

  4. #4
    DEADBEEF khuon's Avatar
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    If you ask the late Henry Degrange, you only need to have one gear combination... two at most and you must flip the wheel to change the gears. And that's for racing.

    BTW, even an automatic tranny has multiple gear ratios.
    1999 K2 OzM 2001 Aegis Aro Svelte OCP Club Member
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  5. #5
    Bicycle Luge Racer khackney's Avatar
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    I don't think there is a "right" answer for this. It depends more on you than anything. If you are comfortable with the technology of STI shifting and learning the techniques to make it work, then go for the most you can get. If not internal hub could be good. I ride with guys that have 3 speed internals that work fine for the purpose you defined. Internal hubs shift when stopped are reasonably weather proof. But, they are heavier and can be more expensive. Many manufacturers have internal bikes for the European market. They just don't sell very well here in the states.

    I personally have 27 speed STI and use all of them at different times. I have yet to drop a chain and like the flexability it offers for the terrain I ride. That said, I also ride a fixed gear bike a lot as well. No gears at all can be a refreshing change and also make you a stronger rider. I also have a 10 speed old school bike that I have had for 25 years. I ride and use all of the gears on it as well. Different bike have their own unique characters. If I could only have one I would have to pick the modern 27 speed click shift wonder. I can go anywhere and never worry about how steep the hill may get.

  6. #6
    Bicycle Luge Racer khackney's Avatar
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    Let me add that saying "we" use all the gears can be a little misleading. We use all of the gears on the bike in different combinations. There are combinations that don't really work all that well because of the chain alignement issues. A bike with a theoretical combination of 27 gears probably has a real usable range of 20 or so. It's all part of learning derailiers and the particular drivetrain you have....

  7. #7
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    Depends on your terrain, and how much of a load you carry. When I had to carry a shopping load up a 20% grade, then low gears were not a luxury.
    I probably use about 9 of my 21 combinations, and never use the top gear.
    For flatlanders, a 1x8 makes sense. It's used by couriers, but rarely on shop or factory bikes.

  8. #8
    DEADBEEF khuon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by khackney
    I also ride a fixed gear bike a lot as well. No gears at all can be a refreshing change and also make you a stronger rider.
    Wouldn't that fall into the realm of a unicycle or a tricycle/Big Wheel?
    1999 K2 OzM 2001 Aegis Aro Svelte OCP Club Member
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  9. #9
    Bicycle Luge Racer khackney's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by khuon
    Wouldn't that fall into the realm of a unicycle or a tricycle/Big Wheel?
    LOL

    I see your point. I concede to having one gear on my fixie... 42/16. Funny you mentioned unicycle, one of my buddies just ordered one. I may try it out just for laughs and skinned knees.

  10. #10
    Tiocfáidh ár Lá jfmckenna's Avatar
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    Definatly depends on what your doing. I commute in relatively flat terrain 5 miles each way on a fixed gear bike. I live on a high plain of sorts in the mountains so if I lived in the valleys I could'nt commute w/ a fixie. I have a 9-speed road bike with a double so in theory it is an 18 speed bike. I am consistantly shifting to adjust to the terrain and maintain cadence. of the 18 gears there are 2 that never get used, they are the extreem cross over gears ie big ring / big cog , small ring / small cog. In fact rarely will I go small ring to the first 3 or 4 small cogs, I just find it easier to go to the big ring somewhere in the center. Just because you have all those gears its not marketing hype or whatever. you will use some cogs just to get you over to other cogs. For normal riding an old style 10-speed should be fine, that is a double 53/39 or 42 with 5 cogs in the back.

  11. #11
    Humvee of bikes =Worksman Nightshade's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelW
    Depends on your terrain, and how much of a load you carry. When I had to carry a shopping load up a 20% grade, then low gears were not a luxury.
    I probably use about 9 of my 21 combinations, and never use the top gear.
    For flatlanders, a 1x8 makes sense. It's used by couriers, but rarely on shop or factory bikes.

    Hmmmm.....From this response it sounds like ,at minimum,
    5 speeds would be enough with 7 or 8 a bit of a luxury for
    general purpose riding. I know that a 3 speed hub is fine
    for town only riding ,but, I'm considering building/buying
    a "better" bike so I want the gearing to be actually useful
    and not a brain test as to which gear of 21 to be in at any
    given moment. My first impression is that an internal hub
    is best but ,price wise, derailers are more common.

    Bikes are supposed to be both useful and fun. The issue of
    which gear to be in muddies to water for me a bit.

  12. #12
    My own worst nightmare
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doctor Who
    I use every single of the 27 gears on my Allez.
    Then you're misusing and, in all likelihood, damaging it. At the very least, to avoid extreme chain angles that wear the driveline, you should not use the smallest two cogs while on the smallest chainring, or the largest two cogs while on the largest chainrings. Some purists would say "three" instead of "two" in the statement above. Others would say you shouldn't use the smallest or largest (or smallest or largest two) cogs while on the middle chainring.

    In addition, you're probably using gear combinations that are virtually indistinguishable. If you count the teeth on your cogs and chainrings and do the math, you'll find remarkably close gear ratios. Still, it may be appropriate to use them based on what gear you're coming from. It's more a function of ease of finding the gear than having the exact right ratio.

  13. #13
    One knee is enough SchreiberBike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tightwad
    Hmmmm.....From this response it sounds like ,at minimum,
    5 speeds would be enough with 7 or 8 a bit of a luxury for
    general purpose riding. I know that a 3 speed hub is fine
    for town only riding ,but, I'm considering building/buying
    a "better" bike so I want the gearing to be actually useful
    and not a brain test as to which gear of 21 to be in at any
    given moment. My first impression is that an internal hub
    is best but ,price wise, derailers are more common.

    Bikes are supposed to be both useful and fun. The issue of
    which gear to be in muddies to water for me a bit.
    There's no such thing as general purpose riding, different people have different needs. If shifting gears is too complex, either give it some more concentration and benefit from learning a useful skill, or choose a bike which doesn't need to shift gears and accept the limitations.

    Most people who ride recreationally for short distances over moderate terrain would probably do better with an internal hub three speed, but when people buy bicycles (and many other things), they are not making a decision based on what is practical.

    Many many people use their bicycles in more extreme ways. In riding a series of steep hills and valleys not too long ago, I went from the lowest gear to the highest gear again and again and used every cog on the back and all three chain-wheels in the front.

    I almost always ride a single speed now (for specific reasons). It works very well for me, but it requires skills that most recreational riders never develop and limits my riding to moderate hills and winds.
    "The more you tighten your grip . . . the more star systems will slip through your fingers."

  14. #14
    pluralis majestatis redfooj's Avatar
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    some people can go with just ONE... so think about that

    for hills i figure i can do about with THREE... 60" for uphill, 70" for flats, and 80" for downhills

    if you add gears between those 3 then you have a total of FIVE which I think would be plenty for ANY condition


    makes you realize how wasted these new fancy pantsy 10 speed rears are now... in actuality most of the gear ranges overlap, anyways, so you dont have that many unique gear ratios... theyre just there to prevent cross-chaining (or whatever you call it)

  15. #15
    Senior Member Don Cook's Avatar
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    Based on a cadence range of between 75 and 85 (most avid cyclist fall in this area), my cassette of 12,13,14,15,17,19,21,23,25, and my 52 chainring I'd say the number 15 through 23 rear cogs are those I'd use almost constantly. This would provide a speed range from 13 mph to 23 mph.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tightwad
    What type of gearing is best for all round use?

    Internal hub and how many gears...3..5..7..8..14??

    Derailers.....5..6...7..what?
    A 3 Speed Sturmey Archer - If this is what you have, all you would really need is 1st and 2nd grear.

    A 7/8 Speed Nexus hub - If this is what you have, all you would really need are 1st thru 5th gears.

    Is there any bike in production that uses a 5 speed hub? It would make no sense to build a 5 speed as the Nexus 8/Sram 7 cost almost as much as the 5 speed hub!

    Forget about getting the Rohloff becuase it's way too expensive and all you really need are the bottom 8 grears. The 1st gear on the Rohloff is almost the same as the Nexus 8.

    What I'm trying to say is that while the high gears are a luxury for around the town cruising, the low gears are not. They are necessary. If you're using a 21 speed bike the small chain ring and the bottom 4 cogs on the cassette are necessary.

    In fact, those are really the only gears I use on my hybrid. If I see a big hill, I'll drop to the bottom chainring. Simple as that. If it's a small rolling hill, I'll only use the last four cogs and drop gears as I go up.

  17. #17
    Senior Member geebee's Avatar
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    Where I live is very hilly so a wide range is needed and AND WHO SAYS YOU DON'T NEED REALLY TALL GEARS IN TOWN It's a blast pulling away from cars in 50/60k zones luckily the cops don't seem to worry about bikes exceeding the speed limit.
    I use every acceptable gear combination on all my bikes. I have also ridden in a single speed when out with the kids and it is fine (and very relaxing) if you don't want a high topend or steep hill climbing ability that is.
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  18. #18
    Lotion/Basket/Hose Doctor Who's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by madpogue
    Then you're misusing and, in all likelihood, damaging it. At the very least, to avoid extreme chain angles that wear the driveline, you should not use the smallest two cogs while on the smallest chainring, or the largest two cogs while on the largest chainrings. Some purists would say "three" instead of "two" in the statement above. Others would say you shouldn't use the smallest or largest (or smallest or largest two) cogs while on the middle chainring.

    In addition, you're probably using gear combinations that are virtually indistinguishable. If you count the teeth on your cogs and chainrings and do the math, you'll find remarkably close gear ratios. Still, it may be appropriate to use them based on what gear you're coming from. It's more a function of ease of finding the gear than having the exact right ratio.
    I don't "cross-chain" my bike, i.e run with extreme chain angles. I was merely trying to say that I take advantage of the fact that my bike has a derailler system, and that I shift often according to conditions.

    And yes, I know that some of the gear ratios are similar from chainring to chainring.

  19. #19
    The Red Lantern Rev.Chuck's Avatar
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    I have a 2x9 road bike and a fixed with a 42-17. I could get by with just the fixed, but I do like the gears when I have not ridden in a while. My mountian bikes both get by with a 32x12-28
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  20. #20
    I drink your MILKSHAKE Raiyn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rev.Chuck
    <snip>. My mountian bikes both get by with a 32x12-28
    That's pretty impressive considering your location. I'd have thought that you'd be a proponent of 32's and 34's

  21. #21
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    I shift like in a car, so its pretty much instinct to me (except for those frame levers, still getting used to those) and I find every gear useful in the back. I usually leave the front alone unless absolutely necessary (like cruis'n in normal or racin' in OD). I don't see the efficiency in placing your bike in 50th gear and trying to run uphill. I once raced someone who had a fixed gear stunt bike and I beat him by a margin, thanks to my shifting gears! And this is flat terrain mind you...

    Funny thing is, why do some people that live in the metro area and commute three blocks to work use a 600-speed $5000 full off-road mountain bike?

    OOH I NEED A MOUNTAIN BIKE I MIGHT HIT A PUDDLE!!!

  22. #22
    Senior Member miamijim's Avatar
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    I use 4 or 5 of my Mtn. bikes 27 gears. It never comes out of the middle ring.

    I dont buy into the extreme angle of cross shifting as much as I did in the past. If you have a triple with a 9-speed rear and use all 9 cogs with your middle ring how much more of an angle are you going to get if you drop down into the small ring up front and still use all 9 out back? Now shifting up into the big ring out front and using all 9 is much more of a problem becuase of all the added tension as the chain tightens up.

    My golden rude, well maybe silver, of shifting......if it doesnt fell good in your legs.....SHIFT!!!!
    WWW.CYCLESPEUGEOT.COM 2005 Pinarello Dogma; 1991 Paramount PDG 70 Mtb; 1976? AD Vent Noir; 1989 LeMond Maillot Juane F&F; 1993? Basso GAP F&F; 1989 Terry Symmetry; 2003 Trek 4700 Mtb; 1983 Vitus 979

  23. #23
    05 Roubaix Comp Double
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doctor Who
    If those people are standing up and powering their way up a hill, in lieu of shifting, then they're not riding their bike correctly. The only time I ever stand up, is when I'm going up a long, steep hill and my energy level is starting to drop. 99% of the time I'm seated in the saddle.

    Would you buy a car that only had one gear? Humans are like engines. We have a "torque peak", at which we are most efficient. Gearing allows one to take advantage of that efficiency level, and much like a multi-gear transmission allows a car to drive at high speeds at low RPMs, a bicycle transmission allows a rider to maintain a correct cadence while maintaining a variety of speeds.


    I use every single of the 27 gears on my Allez. And I'm constantly shifting as I match my energy level to that of the terrain and speed I want to maintain. Certainly, you can get away with having a 21, 14, or whatever speed bike, but if you're at all serious about riding a MTB or road bike, then you're going to have to get used to shifting.

    I'll bet your car is an automatic, right?
    Your car will be in one gear for a long time on the freeway but we are talking about bikes. I shift to 39/15-17 and ride around that for 70% of my ride. If your shifting all the time,that doesnt quite seem right unless its hill after hill after hill. Dont you maintain any kind of cadence or speed?
    Touch every 3rd person and you'll find an idiot.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tightwad
    With all bikes that have gears now coming with a wide choice
    in gearing,internal hub & derailer, it's tough to know just
    what's needed for average town, commuting and light touring.

    Sure , I know a race or mountain bike needs a wide range of
    gearing,but gee whizz do you really need 21 speeds for normal
    riding? I've seen many riders ,in town, stand up to pedal
    rather than deal with the confusion of shifting a derailer!!
    That tells me that on most bikes the gears are window
    dressing to sell bikes as they will serve no real purpose.

    So for those that actully use gears......

    What type of gearing is best for all round use?

    Internal hub and how many gears...3..5..7..8..14??

    Derailers.....5..6...7..what?
    Usually just one bigger or one smaller than I have!
    "My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."

  25. #25
    Lotion/Basket/Hose Doctor Who's Avatar
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    N/M...
    Last edited by Doctor Who; 06-05-04 at 08:12 AM.

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