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Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

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Old 05-21-13, 08:00 AM   #26
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I apologize if it seemed like I was saying that you weren't switching due to your "manliness", I was just stating that it had an effect on me. I was younger and dumber than I am now, hard to believe the latter is possible.


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Old 05-21-13, 08:00 AM   #27
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Just here to soak up the info, I have no compact cranks. Just very high geared road doubles, and a couple interesting triples.
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Old 05-21-13, 08:01 AM   #28
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Holy crap that's a high cadence!!!
I know. But my knees are a disaster. If I don't keep my cadence up, I can't ride at all due to the pain. And I like hills. So gearing had to be chosen appropriately.

Last time I was in for a fit, the fitter had to video my pedal stroke so he could slow it down to see what was going on. :-/
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Old 05-21-13, 08:06 AM   #29
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50/34 AKA defered success gearing, makes you weaker. When I do early season rides, the compact crowd is faster, but when the pace picks up in summer I am blowing the group away.
Gearing is gearing. I suspect your observation has more to do with the people in question than their gearing. And observation bias.

I run a 50/36. I used to do 50/34, but got stronger, and wanted nicer front shifting. With a 12-27, I spent most of my time in the 50t and only use the 36t on the serious climbs.
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Old 05-21-13, 08:08 AM   #30
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Thanks for all the great advice guys. Good conversation. A brief point in response to top end gearing. I am not racing or trying to speed too fast down hill. The reason is pretty simple. To me riding much above 30 mph in bike traffic on road I don't know is Russian roulette...my opinion. I am in no hurry to crash. That is why a compact makes the most sense to me in spite of small ring flexibility with 110 BCD. With 50/12 I have all the speed I need if I spin the crank fast which I can downhill in particular. In a paceline in particular I want to see pot holes when flying down the hill. Kinda dangerous to ride over 30 mph in these circumstances. Solo or riding abreast on a know track...no problem. But don't need to go faster than 35 mph for a good rush and start to the next hill.
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Old 05-21-13, 08:09 AM   #31
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So do you guys feel 42/52 is too high of gearing for chain rings?
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Old 05-21-13, 08:11 AM   #32
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So do you guys feel 42/52 is too high of gearing for chain rings?
This is 2/3 of the triples I use. 'Round these parts, the 30t is nice to have as well unless one is a weight weenie.
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Old 05-21-13, 08:12 AM   #33
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Gearing is gearing. I suspect your observation has more to do with the people in question than their gearing. And observation bias.

I run a 50/36. I used to do 50/34, but got stronger, and wanted nicer front shifting. With a 12-27, I spent most of my time in the 50t and only use the 36t on the serious climbs.
Bah...right with you. Thought about picking up a 36t inner ring but decided on going back to the 34t instead. Simple really. Believe the 36t is a bit of no man's land....not a lot better than full size but yes directionally correct and good for shifting. But if needing the short inches...good to have a 34t to get up the steep stuff after mile 75. The downside for me with a 50/34 is the big shifting gear inch gap of 16t...that's a lot. It basically calculates to a full 1/2 of the rear cassette if speed matching.
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Old 05-21-13, 08:16 AM   #34
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50/34 - 12/27 works well for me but then I don't race and have nothing to prove. More efficient than a triple.
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Old 05-21-13, 08:20 AM   #35
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50/34 - 12/27 works well for me but then I don't race and have nothing to prove. More efficient than a triple.
my setup as well, works for me for the same reasons.
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Old 05-21-13, 08:25 AM   #36
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Standard is all I've known before until recently I decided to put on a compact just to experiment and to my suprise, I love the the sucker. With the low cadence (in the 60s) going up a steep hill with a standard, my legs takes much longer to recover or don't recover completely at all. But witht a compact, the cadence can stay at least above mid 70s and the legs can just keep going and going. Yes, you shift more with the front but I don't know what the big deal is. It's there for a reason.
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Old 05-21-13, 08:52 AM   #37
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So do you guys feel 42/52 is too high of gearing for chain rings?
I don't feel that there is a right or wrong answer. Different chainrings work for different people in different areas. We have a lot of 20% - 25+% in my area (plus I'm fat). Compact works for me. I am regularly passed by riders with easier gearing that I have and harder gearing than I have. Who am I to tell them what they should be riding.
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Old 05-21-13, 08:54 AM   #38
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I don't feel that there is a right or wrong answer. Different chainrings work for different people in different areas. We have a lot of 20% - 25+% in my area (plus I'm fat). Compact works for me. I am regularly passed by riders with easier gearing that I have and harder gearing than I have. Who am I to tell them what they should be riding.
Oh I'm not looking for "advice" I'm just curious about personal interpretations of chainring sizes.
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Old 05-21-13, 08:55 AM   #39
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I don't feel that there is a right or wrong answer. Different chainrings work for different people in different areas. We have a lot of 20% - 25+% in my area (plus I'm fat). Compact works for me. I am regularly passed by riders with easier gearing that I have and harder gearing than I have. Who am I to tell them what they should be riding.
yup, best thing that could happen for my cycling performance would be to cut about 40+lbs off my body weight (working on that, slowly it seems)
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Old 05-21-13, 09:25 AM   #40
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I don't feel that there is a right or wrong answer. Different chain rings work for different people in different areas.
^^^^^^This! However, I really like my 50/34. But, I'm 50 years old, and I live in the mountains (not hills).

View from a regular ride.


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Old 05-21-13, 09:42 AM   #41
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I REALLY LIKE MY 50/34 and 11-25 set up, seems to work for me. I often think a standard crank set would be a great set up as well. I just hate triples. Good for some, just not my cup of tea.
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Old 05-21-13, 09:47 AM   #42
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I like 50-34 on a friction shifted bike, where you spend most of your time on the 50, and only drop to the 34 in a significant climb.

I like 53-39 on an index shifting crank, because the shifting is crisper (14 tooth vs 16 tooth jump). It, IMO, makes the front crisp and fast, with less overlap and less reluctance to use it.

I liked a 50-36 crank I had, to get the crisp shift between rings, but ended up using the 36 so rarely that I went to a single 46 tooth chainring, and loved the 1x9.

Mostly I ride a single speed now, 47x16, and have done all of the same rides that I did with 9, 18, or 20 gear combinations with 1. So I guess that I am gear agnostic.

So, long story short, I don't think anyone can recommend gearing for anyone else, at least in a meaningful manner.
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Old 05-21-13, 09:51 AM   #43
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I'll be buying all my future road bikes with 50/34 as long as I live in Southern California. It seems like the perfect gear combo for hilly and mountainous areas. The 50/11 combo has higher topend than the old tried and true 53/12 that was the de facto standard not very long ago, and the 34/28 combo is nearly mandatory on some of the climbs around here. I never see the small chainring on flat or lightly hilly rides, the range I get with the 50 up front seems perfect for the flats, but 53 would probably be fine too.
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Old 05-21-13, 10:12 AM   #44
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I don't think anyone can recommend gearing for anyone else.
Me neither. I just know riding around here with a standard crank was painful. 52x36 was a huge improvement, as was going from 12-26 to 11-28 but there were still enough nasty hills near my house that I felt the need to go to a compact up front. YMMV. I went riding up a local mountain road a few weeks ago with a pal who has a standard crank and what may have been something along the lines of an 11-25 and he pretty much torched me up the road, so I guess rider strength and preference plays a huge role in gear selection.
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Old 05-21-13, 10:15 AM   #45
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I don't know about your assertion relative to the cassette being even more widely spaced...I guess a matter of philosophy...as I like as small and tight a rear cassette as possible to tune cadence...but an astute point about increase gear overlap between large chainring spacing of a compact.
Consider these cassettes:

12-25: 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19, 21, 23, 25
12-27: 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19, 21, 24, 27

Note that they are exactly the same except the last two cogs which you should only be using when you're in the small ring. Chances are that if you want the 25, you want the 27. So you suffer no penalty for getting a lower gear.

11-23: 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19, 21, 23
11-25: 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 17, 19, 21, 23, 25
11-26: 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 17, 19, 21, 23, 26

With the 11-25 and 11-26, you lose the 16 which is useful but you'll notice that the width really only comes at the bottom of the range which shouldn't get used that often.

11-28: 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 17, 19, 22, 25, 28

If your rings allow you to use the mid and upper ranges of your cassette, everything is still one tooth apart. In the cassettes above, we see that riders that predominantly use their top 5 cogs won't notice any difference from the 11-23 and those that predominantly use the top 6 won't notice a difference from the 11-25. This is still definitely a hill cassette but wider spacing is not as much of an issue at the low end when you're grinding up a hill.

Of course, maximum selectivity would be with a triple and a corn cob. You'd have tight ratios anywhere you wanted them.
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Old 05-21-13, 10:18 AM   #46
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50/34, 11-25 good.

I live in a hilly area, don't race anymore, do challenging 30 - 45 mile rides at 14-15 mph avg for fun and personal fitness, no longer ride just to hang with fast groups, and, as someone already said, don't have anything to prove to anybody else anymore.
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Old 05-21-13, 10:31 AM   #47
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I ride 50/34 11-28. I'm 27. My knees/legs/back are in great condition. I only bring the latter two points up because I don't really understand why people have to justify their gearing combination with their age/condition.

Coming of standard gearing, it took me a handful of rides to get to know what I was working with but I have come to love this combo in Southern San Diego.
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Old 05-21-13, 10:33 AM   #48
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50/34, 11-25 good.

I live in a hilly area, don't race anymore, do challenging 30 - 45 mile rides at 14-15 mph avg for fun and personal fitness, no longer ride just to hang with fast groups, and, as someone already said, don't have anything to prove to anybody else anymore.
Awesome attitude. Pretty much the boat i'm in but still participate in fast group rides with no issue.

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Old 05-21-13, 10:48 AM   #49
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I ride a 50/34 and either an 11-32 or 11-28 in the back. If there's stuff that's more than 7% for any stretch I'll go with the 11-32, but for say a long climb that is pretty constant grade (like mt hamilton) I'll use an 11-28 and be fine. I don't like killing my knees grinding up 10%+ grades even if it's for a short time. With an 11-32 I can downshift to stand on really steep stuff. Living next to the Santa Cruz mountains you end up climbing a lot, so you don't see many people riding standards out here.

I'll ride the inner for a lot of riding and if I need to just use the smaller part of the cassette. I find myself in the big ring at the top of a hill. I didn't like shifting between rings because you get that weird gap you have to cover with 2-3 shifts in the back but with electronic shifting it's pretty fast to pull that off.
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Old 05-21-13, 11:07 AM   #50
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Consider these cassettes:

12-25: 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19, 21, 23, 25
12-27: 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19, 21, 24, 27

Note that they are exactly the same except the last two cogs which you should only be using when you're in the small ring. Chances are that if you want the 25, you want the 27. So you suffer no penalty for getting a lower gear.

11-23: 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19, 21, 23
11-25: 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 17, 19, 21, 23, 25
11-26: 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 17, 19, 21, 23, 26

With the 11-25 and 11-26, you lose the 16 which is useful but you'll notice that the width really only comes at the bottom of the range which shouldn't get used that often.

11-28: 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 17, 19, 22, 25, 28

If your rings allow you to use the mid and upper ranges of your cassette, everything is still one tooth apart. In the cassettes above, we see that riders that predominantly use their top 5 cogs won't notice any difference from the 11-23 and those that predominantly use the top 6 won't notice a difference from the 11-25. This is still definitely a hill cassette but wider spacing is not as much of an issue at the low end when you're grinding up a hill.

Of course, maximum selectivity would be with a triple and a corn cob. You'd have tight ratios anywhere you wanted them.
Really good post...thanks. Insightful because you explain that the principle part of cassettes generally have the same cog content. Typically its the larger cogs that differ the most and what you need if you need bail out on tough climbs. So provided derailleur cage length can accommodate the cog range, then all good versus changing the front ring combo creating a bigger gap in front. Thanks again.
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