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  1. #1
    R88
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    20 speed vs. 30 speed

    It's been a long time since I've been in the market for a new bike. I'm seeing some nice road bikes with 2 chain rings instead of the 3 chain rings I'm used to. I can see where this would be an unremarkable difference if you ride on primarily flat terrain but if you live in a moutainous region I would think there would be an advantage to having more gear choices. I am not a high performance rider, looking mainly to get from point A to point B with as much fun and perhaps a couple of donuts along the way. I was wondering what others think of this trend and what their thoughts are of 20 speed bikes.

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    Senior Member mprelaw's Avatar
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    There are several different double cranksets available on road bikes. The most common, especially on entry level bikes and most "endurance" geometry ones, are compact doubles, which have a 50 tooth big ring, and a 34 tooth small ring. With a 10 speed rear cogset (called a cassette on modern bikes), they offer a wide range of options. You can get a SRAM Apex group that has a 32 tooth cog as its largest rear gear (called a "granny" or bail-out gear). This set up allows climbing almost as easily as most triple cranksets, and is easier to keep tuned than the less expensive triples. Probably the most common rear cassette on bikes with a compact crank is an 11-28 tooth. Your 34 front/28 rear combo should get you all but the most challenging climbs. Higher end race geometry bikes may have a "standard" double crankset up front. Today's standard double uses a 53/39 big/small ring combo. Obviously, for climbing, it'll be harder to use a 39 front 28 rear combo to get up those bigger hills, but many riders do it. Racers may use something like a 11-25 or even an 11-23 cassette on the back with a standard double. In between the compact and the standard, there's a "mid-compact" crankset with a 52/36 big/small ring combination.

    If you go with a double up front, you should look at the 50/34 compact. If you even think that you need a triple to handle your hills, you won't be happy with a standard or mid-compact crank.

    Test ride a compact double before deciding, and take on what you think a typical hill is for your area. If it doesn't cut it, and you think you need a triple, go with the triple.

  3. #3
    PatronSaintOfDiscBrakes dynaryder's Avatar
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    Sheldon's excellent gear calculator:
    http://sheldonbrown.com/gears/

    Plug in the numbers for your current bike,then plug in the numbers for a bike you're looking at. Then you can see how they compare.

    C'dale BBU('05 and '09)/Super Six/Hooligan8and 3,Kona Dew Deluxe,Novara Buzz/Safari,Surly Big Dummy,Marin Pt Reyes,Giant Defy 1,Schwinn DBX SuperSport/Qualifier,Dahon Speed Pro TT,Brompton S6L

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    Quote Originally Posted by dynaryder View Post
    Sheldon's excellent gear calculator:
    http://sheldonbrown.com/gears/

    Plug in the numbers for your current bike,then plug in the numbers for a bike you're looking at. Then you can see how they compare.
    +1

  5. #5
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    If you have any doubt whatever in your mind, get the triple.

    "Almost" means "isn't".
    "allows climbing almost as easily" means .....

    Oh, and triples are harder to keep tuned is baloney.

  6. #6
    rugged individualist wphamilton's Avatar
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    I have two road bikes, one is a triple and one single, so I don't have an informed opinion about maintenance on a double. But I have no particular reason for the triple; it's what came on the bike and is just extra weight as far as I'm concerned. The best approach is to look at the terrain you'll be riding, figure out the minimum gear inches you'll be happy with, then compare that to the charts of various configurations. Then keep in mind that the advantage of the smaller ranges in cassettes are the closer spacing of gear ratios between shifts.

    The very top gear - 52x11, 48x13 or whatever - is more a "specialty" gear than anything else. If you want to push your speed downhill, have the best possible sprint, keep up in the draft of a really fast rider. So to answer your question about the trend and 20 speed bikes, there's a good reason for all of the configurations. Personally I'm a bit of an iconoclast that I'd rather have an 8 speed cassette, for the better durability and cheaper maintenance. I have a 1x8 on my commuter road bike, perfect for my commute but more challenging on our hills.

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    Senior Member Looigi's Avatar
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    What's important is the total range of gearing and the spacing between adjacent gears. Usually, the number of gears is more than necessary as there is a lot of overlap and redundancy.

  8. #8
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    I have both a double and a triple. In my case the low gears are just about the same. The double is actually marginally lower by about 2 gear inches. What the triple gives are more choices in the intermediate gears making it easier to tune your gear to the conditions.
    We have met the enemy and they is us.

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  9. #9
    Senior Member Ozonation's Avatar
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    I still remember when 10 speeds were all the rage, and - gasp - the buzz around a - wait for it - a 12 speed!

    I have a six speed internal hub on my Brompton with reduced gearing for hills and I can tell you that it is more than adequate for the type of riding you're describing. My only wish is that it could go a little faster, but I can tell you it can go plenty fast.

    I think that so long as the gearing range covers most of the types of riding you're considering, you'll get a bigger bang-for-the-buck looking at other details: higher end components, better seat, racks and panniers, etc.
    Rivendell Sam Hillborne and Hunqapillar; Brompton M6R Sage Green; Salsa Mukluk 3 FAT Bike; Nerdy Academic; Nikonian; Wing Chun; and a Patridge in a Pear Tree.

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    Maybe someone should design a cvt/cvs transmission for a bike.
    No gears

  11. #11
    7-speed doomsday prepper ThermionicScott's Avatar
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    I've been gravitating toward 14-speed setups as of late. That is, on the bikes that have more than one speed.

    Quote Originally Posted by bobn View Post
    Maybe someone should design a cvt/cvs transmission for a bike.
    No gears
    They've been trying for eons -- check out the NuVinci.
    Quote Originally Posted by chandltp View Post
    There's no such thing as too far.. just lack of time
    RUSA #7498

  12. #12
    Rogue Cyclist RaleighSport's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ThermionicScott View Post
    I've been gravitating toward 14-speed setups as of late. That is, on the bikes that have more than one speed.



    They've been trying for eons -- check out the NuVinci.
    Throw on a triple and you'll have 21 and still can claim it's a 7 drivetrain at least that's what I did.
    "Seriously is what I want to be, so I put on spandex and show off my gear, my junk, my thing, yes my ding-a-ling."

  13. #13
    7-speed doomsday prepper ThermionicScott's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RaleighSport View Post
    Throw on a triple and you'll have 21 and still can claim it's a 7 drivetrain at least that's what I did.
    After all this work I did to wean myself off granny gears?
    Quote Originally Posted by chandltp View Post
    There's no such thing as too far.. just lack of time
    RUSA #7498

  14. #14
    Rogue Cyclist RaleighSport's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ThermionicScott View Post
    After all this work I did to wean myself off granny gears?
    Buy one of those quad converters, put a 16 on the inside and claim you never ever ever ever touch your granny gears!
    "Seriously is what I want to be, so I put on spandex and show off my gear, my junk, my thing, yes my ding-a-ling."

  15. #15
    R88
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    Thank you for all your replies, this gives me much needed informtion. Thanks especially to Dynaryder for the link to Sheldon's gear calculator, that should give me a clear idea how a double crank will compare to my current triple crank set. I also agree that I've never had a problem with tuning a triple crank. My biggest concern is the 10 sped cog bumping up the costs of replacement chains and cogs well over my current 7 speed cogset. Thank you all again for your time & sharing your knowledge.

  16. #16
    Rogue Cyclist RaleighSport's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by R88 View Post
    Thank you for all your replies, this gives me much needed informtion. Thanks especially to Dynaryder for the link to Sheldon's gear calculator, that should give me a clear idea how a double crank will compare to my current triple crank set. I also agree that I've never had a problem with tuning a triple crank. My biggest concern is the 10 sped cog bumping up the costs of replacement chains and cogs well over my current 7 speed cogset. Thank you all again for your time & sharing your knowledge.
    I don't know if this was mentioned previously but I don't recall seeing it, 7 speed chains are also more durable than 10 speed chains. Yet another fact to consider.
    "Seriously is what I want to be, so I put on spandex and show off my gear, my junk, my thing, yes my ding-a-ling."

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by wphamilton View Post
    I have two road bikes, one is a triple and one single, so I don't have an informed opinion about maintenance on a double. But I have no particular reason for the triple; it's what came on the bike and is just extra weight as far as I'm concerned. The best approach is to look at the terrain you'll be riding, figure out the minimum gear inches you'll be happy with, then compare that to the charts of various configurations. Then keep in mind that the advantage of the smaller ranges in cassettes are the closer spacing of gear ratios between shifts.

    The very top gear - 52x11, 48x13 or whatever - is more a "specialty" gear than anything else. If you want to push your speed downhill, have the best possible sprint, keep up in the draft of a really fast rider. So to answer your question about the trend and 20 speed bikes, there's a good reason for all of the configurations. Personally I'm a bit of an iconoclast that I'd rather have an 8 speed cassette, for the better durability and cheaper maintenance. I have a 1x8 on my commuter road bike, perfect for my commute but more challenging on our hills.
    That's exactly what I did last month!
    My bike used to have two chainrings. I figured out that I'd never use the larger chainring in urban area, so I removed that and the front derailleur. The routine maintenance is much easier now, as I only need to adjust H-L bolts at the rear without worrying about chain rubbing the front derailleur. 1x6 speed is good enough for urban area, honestly, and that I'm still biking faster than most mountain bikes on the paved trail.

  18. #18
    PatronSaintOfDiscBrakes dynaryder's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by R88 View Post
    My biggest concern is the 10 sped cog bumping up the costs of replacement chains and cogs well over my current 7 speed cogset.
    This is the heart of my 10spd rant;10spd is fine for racers in competition,but for regular people 9 and even 8spd works just as well for much less money. Unfortunately,Shimano really wants the world to go 10spd.

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  19. #19
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    I have both 9 speed and 7 speed bikes. The high and low ratoos are identical so its only the spacing that really changes. I don't feel that the 9 speed gives mea better ride than the 7 speed other than being a bit more crisp in the shifts due to nicer compenents.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Retro Grouch View Post
    If you have any doubt whatever in your mind, get the triple.
    "Almost" means "isn't".
    "allows climbing almost as easily" means .....
    Oh, and triples are harder to keep tuned is baloney.
    This. Emphatically this. I live in the Sierra, with 7000-9000 foot passes all around my home at 4900 feet. I suffered for about two decades because I thought triples were for sissies or were too hard to maintain. Finally I gave in, and I wish I'd done it in 1980. If you don't need the granny, you don't have to use it, but it's really nice to have it when you do. I've done 12,000 miles on two bikes with triples, and I've found NO disadvantages.

  21. #21
    GT4
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    My mountain bike has 3 chainrings. Shifting the FD is so frustrating, I usually end up shifting from the smallest chainring to the biggest chainring when I want to shift to the middle, it pisses me off; I'm looking into the 1x10 or 1x11 drivetrains. Things change for a reason, so using my logic and past experience, I will tell you that 2 chainrings is better than 3. My roadie only has 2 chainrings and I still ONLY use the small chainring when going up this 40* hill, which I am sure is not in many places.

  22. #22
    Insane Bicycle Mechanic Jeff Wills's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GT4 View Post
    My mountain bike has 3 chainrings. Shifting the FD is so frustrating, I usually end up shifting from the smallest chainring to the biggest chainring when I want to shift to the middle, it pisses me off; I'm looking into the 1x10 or 1x11 drivetrains. Things change for a reason, so using my logic and past experience, I will tell you that 2 chainrings is better than 3. My roadie only has 2 chainrings and I still ONLY use the small chainring when going up this 40* hill, which I am sure is not in many places.
    Then something is out of adjustment. My triple chainring bikes shift cleanly up and down, 1-2-3 and 3-2-1. No muss, no fuss. The road bike's rings jump from a 24 tooth granny to 42 tooth middle, which is well outside of the recommended range of the derailleur.
    Jeff Wills

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  23. #23
    The Recumbent Quant cplager's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Velo Dog View Post
    This. Emphatically this. I live in the Sierra, with 7000-9000 foot passes all around my home at 4900 feet. I suffered for about two decades because I thought triples were for sissies or were too hard to maintain. Finally I gave in, and I wish I'd done it in 1980. If you don't need the granny, you don't have to use it, but it's really nice to have it when you do. I've done 12,000 miles on two bikes with triples, and I've found NO disadvantages.
    If you were leaning towards a double, I might try to convince you to try a triple. Since you are leaning towards triple, do that. The disadvantages are quite small (slightly heavier, slightly bigger Q factor (pedals wider)) but these pale in comparison of wanting lower gears and not finding it.

    Cheers,
    Charles
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    http://RecumbentQuant.blogspot.com

  24. #24
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    I only actually use about 9 of my 24 gears.....A triple is nice for hilly areas (such as where I live)...but you can often get as low or lower gearing with a compact double, with an 28, 30 or 32 cog in the rear.

    I may be buying an older bike.....so on my last ride, I figgered I wouldn't use any gear lower than the middle chain ring(40) and the 23 cog- to simulate what it would be like to ride a bike with a standard 39/23 combo as the lowest available gear. You know...it actually HELPED my cycling- and on that 15 mile ride, I never used the lower gears, even on the hills....except for the very worst hill on the last 2 miles of my ride. And that ride was my best time ever...and made me feel really good! My point: Sometimes low gearing, although necessary (especially for weak noobs, like myself) can be a crutch and a handicap, and can be an obstacle to progress. (Although, I'm glad I didn't go with an older, standard geared bike as my first bike...as I NEVER would have been able to ride it!)

  25. #25
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Dear Marketing Victim, speeds Is a hardware count.. Gear Ratios is what actually turns the wheel..
    think about the range of ratios, not the Parts colunt.

    a nice triple crank 9 speed saves a pile of $.. and works fine..


    my triple : 50, 40, 24t.. i found a 95" gear high enough.. 50:14
    low , the 24:34 turning a 700- 32 tire ,took me many thousands of touring KM..
    bringing camping gear ..

    With out, gear aboard the 24:28 worked fine.. climbing mountains..
    Last edited by fietsbob; 02-04-13 at 12:46 PM.

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