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  1. #1
    Senior Member bryroth's Avatar
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    What is the point of having less gears?

    Why do cyclocross bikes have a double instead of a triple? In fact, why don't all bikes just come with 30 gears? It seems like all it could do is help. Unless you are doing a fixed gear for crazy fitness reasons. But then again I've seen a lot of used, hand-made, $1000, fixed-gear cyclocross bikes out there. Why? I don't get it.

  2. #2
    blithering idiot jhota's Avatar
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    less weight, less stuff to break.

  3. #3
    Senior Member bryroth's Avatar
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    Then why buy a bike at all, why not just walk? That's a ridiculous thing for me to say, but really it seems like buying an Ultegra single or whatever to me is just a waste because you're missing out on more options for gears. There has to be something else.

  4. #4
    POWERCRANK addict markhr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bryroth View Post
    Then why buy a bike at all, why not just walk? That's a ridiculous thing for me to say, but really it seems like buying an Ultegra single or whatever to me is just a waste because you're missing out on more options for gears. There has to be something else.
    Ok, I'll bite. Why?
    shameless POWERCRANK plug
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  5. #5
    Run What 'Ya Brung bonechilling's Avatar
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    Triples suck. They're heavy, difficult to tune and they usually end up providing a bunch of gears that are nearly worthless or over-lapping gears that you could get with a regular double.

    I don't know of any Ultegra singles out there, they only make a double and a triple. The people I know with singles are all people who ride fixed or single-speed, and they have their own reasons for that.

    If you're asking why one would ride a 1x9 or such, the reason is because they usually feel that the nine speeds provided is enough for racing, and because riding without a second or third chainring greatly reduces the risk that you'll drop your chain, which is easy to do when you throw your bike around like you do in CX.
    Quote Originally Posted by doofo View Post
    the main cause of fit problems is riding your bike

    you should have just stopped riding so you could focus on color coordination

  6. #6
    Senior Member bryroth's Avatar
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    I suddenly feel like I am attacking the bike community, which was not my intention! I'm just coming back to biking and realized how much I don't know, so I'm asking a bunch of questions.

    Your point is well taken, people buy bikes for different reasons: fitness, commuting, racing, etc. And then there are the freaky purists. I guess my reason is touring and commuting so it makes sense for me to have a bunch of gears. I've never raced, so racing probably is all about being in the highest gear for most of the time. Apologies jhota! And thanks to both of you for the replies!

  7. #7
    Senior Member bryroth's Avatar
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    Even better, thanks bonechilling.

  8. #8
    Senior Member zoeglassjd's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bonechilling View Post
    Triples suck. They're heavy, difficult to tune and they usually end up providing a bunch of gears that are nearly worthless or over-lapping gears that you could get with a regular double.
    +1 Triples are a PITA. If I ever went back to a triple I would only do it with a barcon or other friction shifter. Also, the compact double gets a close range while eliminating some redundancy.

  9. #9
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    Between the overlap and the unusable gear combinations, a so-called 30-speed bike does not really have 30 gear options. I raced cyclocross with a 1x8 drive train and probably only used 5 of my gear options, though were I in better shape I probably could have used a few more. Keeping things simple is lighter, cleaner, and more reliable.

    I ride fixed gear and single speeds too. There are definitely times when I would like to be able to shift, but having just the one gear is really quite liberating. It's hard to describe, so I will leave it to those more eloquent then myself. If you are at all curious, I highly recommend giving it a try.

  10. #10
    Body By Nintendo Psydotek's Avatar
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    I'm building a fixed/ss CX bike later this summer because i'm hoping the single speed race catergory won't be as competitive...

    Quote Originally Posted by jsharr View Post
    A girl once asked me to give her twelve inches and make it hurt. I had to make love to her 3 times and then punch her in the nose.

  11. #11
    Senior Member bryroth's Avatar
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    Well tomorrow morning I go to look at a used 2005 Kona Jake. One of the reasons I was interested was because it has a triple, as opposed to the much more expensive (and new) Redline, which has a double. Now I'm wondering if I should even get a triple. Hmmm, you guys have got me thinking again, which is something I try to avoid doing as much as possible.

    I want a cross so that I can have one bike to go lose road races, sprint triathlons, and cyclocross races as well as commute and get around for fitness. But I certainly don't want a tank.

    This decision keeps getting more difficult. If I get it and decide to go more simple with a double or single, how much is a "middle-of-the-road" gearset or whatever you would call it? I know that I should be able to just look online, but I honestly don't know what the gears are called.

    Can you tell I'm new to this?

  12. #12
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    Triples are a pain to tune, and offer redundant gears. My 46/36 compact chainrings with a 12-25 cassette gives me from the mid 30's to over 100 gear inches, which is plenty of range, and I don't find myself wishing I had a finer selection. Maybe if I was doing some heavily loaded touring, somewhere outside of Florida where there are things called "mountains", I might want something lower, but I'd just put a wider range cassette or 34t chainring in there for that.
    David in fla
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  13. #13
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    First off, triples don't suck. If properly adjusted, they work fine. I've had quite a few bikes with triples and they worked fine. Just as good as the doubles I've had. That being said, I think it depends more on the terrain you're planning on riding. Got some good 6% grades you want to ride? You'll love that triple. Live in a place like Florida, skip the triple. If you have a bike that you really like and it has a triple, get it. Learn how to adjust the gearing and you'll have no issues with that setup.
    The thing with having one bike to do all those things is you'll have to be that much better in order to be competitive. A cross bike that is not a race oriented bike will be ok to good at all types of riding, but not great at any.

    This is what I did. I got rid of my road only bike and got a Tricross Sport. It's got a triple and works fine. It won't win any races, but it'll get me places. As I've once heard, "it's not about the bike".

  14. #14
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    yeah, a cross bike setup with a triple will be good but not great at anything. if adjusted right the shifting will be good, but not lighting fast. I live in the san francisco bay area with lots of hills and with a compact double, I pretty much have all the gearing I need. I'm not going out looking for the steepest hills and I'm not going to carry 50lbs of cargo...I don't race, but I just don't want everyone riding away while I shift into the right gear.
    fogriderlooking for sun

  15. #15
    Average Guy CrankyMonkey's Avatar
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    I just switched from a triple to a 1x9. (42x11-34, yup its pretty wide.) Why? Several reason, one because I wanted something a little more durable and something I wouldn't have to hassle with. Another reason is I got bored with the triple. I noticed that when i was riding I would keep shifting till I was comfortable. I wanted something that would be a little more challenging and force me to get stronger, the 1x9 seems like it's doing the trick.. Since the spacing is so wide I really have to choose a gear and stick with it (similar to a single speed but with more options).

    I'm riding this bike everywhere... Trails, Road, Commuting, etc. It's a freaking blast! I will probably switch to single speed one of these days (once I get tougher!). The logical choice would be to choose a setup that gives you more options not less, but Logic != Fun! (For racing I will probably change the rear cassette to something like a 12-26 or around that since I really won't need the 34.)

    Now for the geeky stuff... Here are the gear inches between my old triple and the new 1x9 setup.



    Now if you look at the triple you will see that all three sets of gears (30-42-50) overlap quite a bit and there are a bunch of redundant gears. Do I really need all that redundancy? Nope, but the trade off is the difference between each shift is bigger. When I shift into the lower gears that doesn't seem to bother me cause I'm usually looking for some relief (climbing a hill) but when I shift into a higher gear it means I need to work a bit harder to get it up to speed (my way of getting stronger). Another trade off is I loose a few of the top gears which makes my max speed slower. I notice that I start spinning out around 25+ mph (descending down hills).
    Last edited by CrankyMonkey; 04-25-08 at 11:38 AM. Reason: Though of something else...

  16. #16
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    Part of the bicycle's beauty is its simplicity and elegance of design. Every added gadget diminishes this aesthetic. An added gadget that serves no useful purpose or that serves an intellectual preference rather than an applied purpose is just ugly and wrong. In my world the question "why not a triple?" might as well be why not spoke protectors or handlebar tassels? Then I see a true 'cross bike as a very specific thing, one intended for contesting cyclocross races.

    Cross bikes don't need triples. Most mountain bikes don't need triples for that matter, not for racing anyway. Why have overlapping gears, or gears that you'll never use. I see the burden of proof falling on the guy who wants to add something, not the one who is simplifying.

    Triples make sense for some people and terrains. Not me where I live. And not on a "proper" cyclocross bike.

    Part of this 'cross bike confusion and controversy results from the scarcity of proper road frames in recent years. People have been buying cross bikes in reaction to the weird idea that a road bike should be built like a road race or criterium bike. In the real world it makes sense to ride 28 - 38mm tires with a geometry that's stable and comfortable. Too many road bikes are stupid light, high strung thoroughbreds that have no business under the butts of ordinary riders in ordinary terrain. So those ordinary riders go shopping and end up with a cross bike and wonder why it doesn't have a triple the way a real-world road bike probably should.

    Only ostentatious idiots would drive a modern race car through traffic. Almost as dumb is being a middle aged pedal twiddler riding paved park trails on a Madone. The 'cross bike, properly, is itself a fairly specialized racing machine - just specialized for a broad range of surfaces and terrains. This makes it much more suitable than a road race bike for ordinary riding. Still, if you want a triple on it, or suspension or other doodad, it isn't really a cross bike you're looking for. Feel free to use any bike for anything that is fun or beneficial to you. And it makes a lot of sense to press a cross bike into service in this world where sport-touring bikes are nearly extinct. But like the many people who buy comfort bikes instead of roadsters you're really making do with something because it is more available or more in keeping with current fashion.

    My cross bike used to be a 1x8 and only got two chainrings to accommodate long downwind training runs of which there were never really enough to justify it, but it was fun blasting along even faster when it did happen. It then went to 2x9 to accept modern parts replacing the old worn stuff.

    I say keep it practical and suit the bike to what you actually do with it. I'm currently building up a single speed cross-like bike for fun riding on and off road. Why a single, because the mechanical overhead of a derailleur bike doesn't make sense for the 3 gears I'll actually use. Down the road I'm going to look into an internal shifting system for that bike. That will probably make a great deal of sense. We'll see.

    Anyway, the answer for the OP is that a lot of us have no use for triples, so there's no reason to add it. Your mileage will vary. Enjoy the riding and the shopping and bike building too. All of it's fun as long as it is all done to serve your riding and you are suiting the bike to what you do with it rather than some other idea.

  17. #17
    Senior Member
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    +1 to CrankyMonkey's post.
    I'm a long time advocate of the 1x9 set up, it is simple and effective.
    Before I went to the 1x9, took a look at the gear ratios I actually used.
    Two were most often used, mid 30s and mid 60s gear in. Rarely used
    anything above 80s, live in a very hilly area- used ratios in the 20s often.
    So for me the 1x9 set up with 34 t chain ring and 11-34 cassette optimally
    fit my needs; gives me a range of 28 to 86 gear in. Now after a few thousand
    km with that set up, still use the ratio that is 36 and 63 most often. I'm a FOG,
    so once in a while I'd like a lower ratio for going up the hills- down hill I coast.
    What is the downside to a 1x9 ? More stress and wear on the chain and RD,
    however riding conditions probably are more of a factor. Both are fairly
    inexpensive to replace when worn, no FD is a real plus.
    Have as many gear ratios as you want or need, nine are the most pragmatic for me.
    Last edited by martianone; 04-26-08 at 05:22 AM.

  18. #18
    Senior Member bryroth's Avatar
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    And big thanks to Ronsonic for the thoughtful answer. That was exactly what I did not get; now I do.

    Another thing- does anyone have a suggestion as to where I can learn some basics on gear ratios? I was an English major and everything you have each said about the gears has been over my head, especially that chart.

  19. #19
    Average Guy CrankyMonkey's Avatar
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    The GOD of all things cycling... Sheldon Brown

    http://sheldonbrown.com/gearing/index.html

    (I used his online calculator to create those charts... RIP Sheldon!)

  20. #20
    Senior Member bryroth's Avatar
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    Thanks I think I kind of understand. The yellow numbers are the number of gear teeth. What are the white numbers? The gear ratio?

    If that is the case then it looks like the only thing you lose is 10.5 of whatever the white number is when going up a steep hill, and 2.2 when going downhill.

    Pretty cool. So the bottom line is that going 1x9 gives you the same RANGE but the jumps between gears are larger. Correct?

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by bryroth View Post
    Thanks I think I kind of understand. The yellow numbers are the number of gear teeth. What are the white numbers? The gear ratio?

    If that is the case then it looks like the only thing you lose is 10.5 of whatever the white number is when going up a steep hill, and 2.2 when going downhill.

    Pretty cool. So the bottom line is that going 1x9 gives you the same RANGE but the jumps between gears are larger. Correct?
    The white numbers are the gear inches, which is the number of inches the bike moves with one revolution of the cranks.

    You're correct on the bottom line. Same range, bigger jumps.

  22. #22
    Senior Member bryroth's Avatar
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    I see the light.

  23. #23
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    Ahem, fewer gears, English major.

    I'll throw my hat in the ring on this topic.

    Road compact and triples exist because the standard road racing gearing (53/39 11-23) isn't low enough for the steepest hills, especially for non-pros or someone carrying bags. They've even been used by pros for the gnarliest, steepest mountain stages.

    Neither solution is perfect. The triple adds (a slight bit of) weight and makes shifting a bit more fidgety, especially with integrated shifters. The compact double gives a really big jump between the two chainrings, 47% change compared with 36% change for standard double, so shifting between rings almost always requires changing your sprocket, which is not the case with standard double.

    IMO the triple is the better solution. You basically have a standard road double, plus the granny ring when you need or want it. Even if you only use the granny ring once in a ride, you're happy that you have it.

    There is, however, a macho thing that road cyclists have about triples. It implies Freditude.

    For cyclocross racing, on the other hand, I think a single chainring is the best way to go, given the nature of the beast. If you can't get up a climb, you just hop off and run.

  24. #24
    Senior Member bryroth's Avatar
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    Ok, ok, fewer... jeez. Although actually I could argue against it. From Websters:

    "Even though less has been used before plural nouns (less words; less men) since the time of King Alfred, many modern usage guides say that only fewer can be used in such contexts. Less, they say, should modify singular mass nouns (less sugar; less money) and singular abstract nouns (less honesty; less love). It should modify plural nouns only when they suggest combination into a unit, group, or aggregation: less than $50 (a sum of money); less than three miles (a unit of distance). With plural nouns specifying individuals or readily distinguishable units, the guides say that fewer is the only proper choice: fewer words; fewer men; no fewer than 31 of the 50 states.

    Modern standard English practice does not reflect this distinction. When followed by than, less occurs at least as often as fewer in modifying plural nouns that are not units or groups, and the use of less in this construction is increasing in all varieties of English: less than eight million people; no less than 31 of the 50 states. When not followed by than, fewer is more frequent only in formal written English, and in this construction also the use of less is increasing: This year we have had less crimes, less accidents, and less fires than in any of the last five years."


    Also, thanks for the thoughts on the gears. I'll try and stay away from the Granny and see how it feels. Maybe one day I'll go for the double. When I go pro I'll beat everyone on the single gear.

  25. #25
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    I've been aware that the less/fewer distinction is not universally held, but "less gears" still rings not quite literate to me.

    Regarding gears, interesting article about today's Brasstown Bald stage at TdG:
    http://velonews.com/article/75386/
    No triples, but lots of big sprockets.

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