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Long Distance Competition/Ultracycling, Randonneuring and Endurance Cycling Do you enjoy centuries, double centuries, brevets, randonnees, and 24-hour time trials? Share ride reports, and exchange training, equipment, and nutrition information specific to long distance cycling. This isn't for tours, this is for endurance events cycling

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Old 08-20-09, 11:33 AM   #1
alhanson
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Subject beaten to death but still lost… gearing!

I am in the process of getting the parts together for my 520 rando build. I have searched for four days… I have dug, I have turned stones, I have studied gearing ratios (thanks Sheldon.) I am an engineer and I have to say I just don’t know what I am looking for. I understand the ratios, I understand the math, I understand some of the reasoning but… I am LOST when it comes to the gearing I want to put on the bike.

I know this is a subject that is deeply personal but I need some help. I am 85% sure I would like to have a triple on the front. I am thinking 48-36-26 range (one I am looking at is on the velo-orange site as they are just down the road for me and an excuse to visit the shop… don’t tell the wife…) but what to put on the rear I just don’t know. 8 or 9? 12-27? 11-25? Don’t know. I am even fighting myself over down tube shifters or bar ends AGH. This is what they call analysis to paralysis I suppose.

Some back ground:
The frame was stripped bare so I have nothing but some handlebars and the brakes. I am going to put my brooks on for the saddle outside of that I have budgeted for a build. I know it is expensive so let me stop some there. The two bike shops kept trying to sell me the new Masi instead telling me it was the greatest deal. Maybe but just not my bag. I am currently living in the DC region so I am sure the triple is overkill but I plan on attending grad school in Troy Ny in Fall 2010 (campus has some killer grades…) and cycling all over in general and don’t want to switch stuff out all the time.

I am sorry to ask but I am in some serious need of guidance!
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Old 08-20-09, 11:51 AM   #2
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The gearing you use really depends on your condition and the type of riding you are doing. You hit the nail on the head when you said it is a "deeply personal" decision. Nobody here know what kind of condition your condition is in so it's difficult for us to find the correct gearing for you. We'd be guessing based on our personal experience!

What I do is have a wide variety of cassettes and chainrings lying around and I throw the ones on that I'm going to need for the up coming ride/race. I currently have 11-23, 11-25 and 11-28 cassettes (I like tight clusters) and chainrings from 24T to 60T (on a triple). That gets me everywhere I want to be. Between 8/9 I'd go 9 but that's just me. If you go 9 it makes it a little easier to go to 10speed if you should ever want to do that.
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Old 08-20-09, 11:54 AM   #3
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I would go with 9 speed. 8 speed equipment will be more difficult to find in the future, it's obsolete except for low end bikes. You have the choice of STI “brifters”, Bar-end shifters or MTB shifters with 9 speed systems. A wide range of gear ranges are available for 9 speed cassettes.

I would follow your preference for a triple. Install a 12-27 cassette, if you are fit and not planning on loaded touring. If you’re not sure of your fitness or plans, get a 12-34 rear cassette and you will fear no hill.

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Old 08-20-09, 12:05 PM   #4
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I am a little bigger but have no problem riding or keeping up with a group of the fast-uns. I do commute around 160 miles a week and average around 16-19 mph depending on how I am feeling on the c-cross that I converted into a commuter/light touring. I can stand to loose some weight for sure but it just isn't happening.. food and beverage are good friends I suppose.

Thanks for the help guys!
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Old 08-20-09, 12:12 PM   #5
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I am a little bigger but have no problem riding or keeping up with a group of the fast-uns. I do commute around 160 miles a week and average around 16-19 mph depending on how I am feeling on the c-cross that I converted into a commuter/light touring. I can stand to loose some weight for sure but it just isn't happening.. food and beverage are good friends I suppose.

Thanks for the help guys!
You should be fine with a 12-27 & a Sugino triple w/ 48, 36 & 26t from Velo.
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Old 08-20-09, 12:20 PM   #6
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IMO, you are making way more out of this than you need to. Most of us change out cassettes for different locations or whatever. I usually run a 12-27 (double, on my road bike) but sometimes as big as an 11-32 (on my Cross bike). As long as your rear der can handle it, just pick up a 12-25 and see what you need from there. It is only another $30 or so to make a change. I swap cassettes a few times a year, depending on where I am headed or how I am feeling.

IME, gearing is something that just needs to get you close to optimal, not necessarily to the PERFECT gear inch every time.

I agree with the suggestion that you try to go with a rear gear # that is as modern as possible. YOu don't want to end up being one of those poor suckers who are desperately bidding up 8 speed components on ebay because they have no choice (supply versus demand).

Last edited by Sawtooth; 08-20-09 at 12:24 PM.
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Old 08-20-09, 12:59 PM   #7
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I think Sugino might even make a 48-38-26 crank. I more of a fan of the 38 middle since that is where I spend most of the time. Even a 39 ring should be easy to come by since most compact double road cranks come with 39 tooth "small" ring.
12-27, or 11-27 should be good with the rear. You don't get quite the range as you would with a 12-32 or 12-34 cassette, but you still have that small ring in the front. Depends on the hills (length and incline).
Have you ever thought of a compact double up front (50-39) with a 12-32 cassette on back? Not sure how the ratios look with that, but the idea is interesting. You may just want to stick with the granny up front; you might not need it much, but when you do it is for a good reason.
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Old 08-20-09, 12:59 PM   #8
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But is it's still a good idea for the rando/tour/long-distance rider to have a triple instead of a compact double?
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Old 08-20-09, 01:18 PM   #9
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I'm about the same. Stock road triple and 12-27. Yes, I think triple is better. More gears, more closely spaced, simpler shifting. The extra ring doesn't weigh anything. Though on a heavier bike, I'd consider bar-ends to save weight and make room for a bar bag. Brifters are reliable too, and maybe easier when you're tired. I have a bike with each.
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Old 08-20-09, 01:19 PM   #10
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On my ti bike I have a 24 inner with an Nstop to keep the chain from dropping off the inside. This was added to an Ultegra groupset with a triple.
For my new Roubaix there is no place for an Nstop. Found a cassette at Harris Cyclery for the Ultegra groupo that goes to 34 teeth which I will use with the 52? 39? 30 triple.
That may go lower than many want, but at 62 with rides around here from 8-19% gradient I want bailout gears.
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Old 08-20-09, 01:21 PM   #11
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With a 48, 38, 28 front, and a 9 spd 11-32 or 34. You have everything covered. You will be able to ride right up a wall if you can get traction, and decend a big hill at 40 MPH. With this big of a spread, you can always find the right gear, even loaded, uphill.
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Old 08-20-09, 01:34 PM   #12
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Gearing for distance freaks is a personal affair.
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Old 08-20-09, 02:41 PM   #13
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But is it's still a good idea for the rando/tour/long-distance rider to have a triple instead of a compact double?
I don't find it necessary because instead of a triple up front, I went with an MTB configuration in the rear:

34/48 compact crankset
11 - 32 cassette and Deore rd
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Old 08-20-09, 04:28 PM   #14
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But is it's still a good idea for the rando/tour/long-distance rider to have a triple instead of a compact double?
It all depends on terrain, fitness, and weight. A few years ago I rode a hilly brevet series with a regular double (53x39) and a 13-21 and then put on a 13-28 for PBP. But then I'm pretty light (~140lbs) went minimalist on gear with just a large 470ci seat pack. For an loaded alpine tour earlier this year (about 30lbs of gear), I used a compact double (44x34) with an 11-34 and that was just low enough to let me get over the passes.

If you don't know your gearing needs or want the most flexibility, play it safe and get a triple.
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Old 08-20-09, 04:53 PM   #15
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I've got a different shifter set-up on each of my five bikes: down-tube, bar-end in drop bars, bar-end in aero-bars, and brifters (and grip shift on the MTB )

I don't recommend DT unless you've used them before and know what they are like.

I also recommend 9-speed. 12-27 should do fine unless you find yourself jonesin' for a 16 cog in which case you'd need to go with a 12-23. Or if you have a lot of big downhills that you like to pedal, you may want to get an 11-23 (I don't think there is an 11-25). I find I need a tight 12-23 cassette only when racing (triathlon or TT) and use a 12-27 for training.
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Old 08-20-09, 09:10 PM   #16
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I'm afraid the real problem/answer is that you don't know what you don't know. Anything you put onto the bike right now will almost certainly be changed after you have some more experience.

In your shoes I would just put on something common and relatively inexpensive. As you gain experience you will have a better idea of what you really want/need.
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Old 08-20-09, 11:19 PM   #17
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I don't find it necessary because instead of a triple up front, I went with an MTB configuration in the rear:

34/48 compact crankset
11 - 32 cassette and Deore rd
I'm heading backwards - the 30-40-50 with the 9 speed 11-26 on the LHT is ok, but the bike isn't what I want for a rando ride. I've tried 34-40 with a 14-32 six speed freewheel, and I'm reasonably happy with it. Good range, and enough intermediate gear ratios to remain comfortable.
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