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  1. #1
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    Best Way To Gear Down My Cannondale ST500 (for the money)

    This is a spinoff from this thread. I thought it might be more organized to start a new one dedicated to this topic.



    Okay guys and girls, I just took my new (to me) bike for the first fairly long ride and found there is a serious issue I need to address and I need your advice on the best way to do that...

    My lowest gear is barely adequate for riding w/o any load (other than me). Once I get all my equipment, etc loaded on the bike and try to cross a mountain range...it simply isn't going to happen unless I get built up to being very very strong (which I plan on doing, but still, I need the proper gears). So here's my question--What is the least expensive, high quality, best way to gear down my bike? It has 27" wheels and the old SunTour friction hardware. As for the tooth count, I'm not sure. There are pictures on the thread mentioned above. But if you tell me exactly what to look for, I'll be glad to get that info for you.

    I know that is probably a loaded question, but I'd be much obliged to get your thoughts and detailed info on this so I can get over the mountains when I'm loaded. If you need any pictures, just go to this thread.

    Many thanks for your help!!!

  2. #2
    Senior Member tcmers's Avatar
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    It looks like you have a fairly wide spaced freewheel now. You may be able to gain some lower grearing by changing that out to a freewheel with a 34 tooth large cog. That should be less than $50 for parts & labor if you have it done, and you current derailleur will work. The other option is a new crank. May also need a new bottom bracket and derailleur depending on what you have now. That will cost significantly more, but should still be reasonable. Close up pics or details on your front & rear gearing would help.

  3. #3
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    What are your current numbers and where will you ride? How heavily will you be loaded?

    The cheapest and easiest change is usually to just change the inner chain ring.

    I find a 24t inner chain ring and 32t sprocket about ideal for me. That said, I rode across the US with a low of 26 front 32 rear and found it adequate. I only wished for lower a couple times in the Appalachians and never in the Cascades or Rockies.

    BTW: That is a great looking bike.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Nigeyy's Avatar
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    I second that. Another approach that may be very cheap or cheaper is to replace the crankset with an mtb crankset (I did this with a Nashbar mtb crankset I bought for $22 recently -alas they are now sold out -and had a bb I could use). Rather surprizingly, sometimes the cost of a chainring or two can be very close to the cost of a crankset. With an mtb crank you would lose a little on the top end of gearing, but to be honest spinning at 100rpm+ in my lowest gear on the mtb crank will still easily give me 20-25mph+ so that's no big deal for me.

    Though changing the rear freewheel to a larger cog (E.g. 34 t) will give you a lower gear, it really won't provide that much a difference -I think it's best to change the chainrings first (also, having a larger rear cog may be problematic for your rear derailleur -it does have a limit -e.g. Shimano 105/Ultegra rear derailleurs can usually only go to about 27-29t max before you get performance issues).

    As far as I know, there isn't a set in stone guideline for the difference in teeth between the largest chainring and smallest that works; you might have to experiment to see if it works (e.g. I had a Shimano 105 front derailleur that supposedly wouldn't handle a 52t front chainring and a 26t small chainring -but it did). Good luck!

    edit: forgot to say, nice bike too!

    Quote Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
    What are your current numbers and where will you ride? How heavily will you be loaded?

    The cheapest and easiest change is usually to just change the inner chain ring.

    I find a 24t inner chain ring and 32t sprocket about ideal for me. That said, I rode across the US with a low of 26 front 32 rear and found it adequate. I only wished for lower a couple times in the Appalachians and never in the Cascades or Rockies.

    BTW: That is a great looking bike.

  5. #5
    Senior Member tcmers's Avatar
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    The above two posts are right on. Thats what i get for a hasty answer at 6:30 A.M. Changing out a chainring would be quick, cheap and effective.

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    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nigeyy View Post
    Another approach that may be very cheap or cheaper is to replace the crankset with an mtb crankset (I did this with a Nashbar mtb crankset I bought for $22 recently -alas they are now sold out -and had a bb I could use). Rather surprizingly, sometimes the cost of a chainring or two can be very close to the cost of a crankset.
    Yes, but inner rings are usually not too bad. We installed some Nashbar 24t rings on our bikes at $12 each. I am not sure what rings your bike will take though, a lot of road triples only take down to 30t. In that case an inexpensive MTB crank might be a good choice. I have used the Sugino XD600 at about $80 it should fit your bottom bracket fine assuming it is a square taper.

  7. #7
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    Thanks so much for the good info. I will try to get some close-up picts of my gears and derailers (especially the front since that seems to be the main topic) and post them here.

    EDIT--See my next post below for correction. I got a little mixed up about large & small chain rings for the rest of this post--NM

    Let me make sure I understand something. So I will use simplistic descriptions to make sure I am on the same page as you guys. The chainring is the larger ring with more teeth and it is the on used for climbing a hill? Or is this called the sprocket? And the inner rings have fewer teeth and are used for flat or downhill? If that is the case, why would I not want to just change the larger ring since that is the one used for climbing. Then I would be able to still fly down hills when I'm not loaded. Or is there a good reason for changing the smaller ring(s).

    Many thanks for your help and I will get the pictures up ASAP.
    Last edited by nickm77; 07-24-08 at 11:01 AM.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Nigeyy's Avatar
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    Chainring(s) = the big front cog(s) or sprocket(s) where you pedal (from the picture looks like you have a triple chainring, meaning you have 3 up front where you pedal)

    Sprocket = generic term for any gear with teeth (see http://sheldonbrown.com/gloss_sp-ss.html#sprocket)

    Usually the rear sprockets at the back are referred to as rear sprockets or cogs, a cluster meaning multiple of them. Gearing:

    -For gearing, the smaller the rear sprocket and larger the front chainring will give you higher gearing (e.g. going down a steep downhill you'll still be able to pedal)

    -The larger the rear sprocket and the smaller the front chainring, you more likely you will be able to pedal up a very steep hill.

    Hence, small chainring at the front should enable you to better pedal uphills..... Hope this helps!

    edit: forgot to mention, and this is confusing -some people refer to the gearing that enables you to pedal up a hill as "low" gearing, whereas some people call it "high" gearing!
    Quote Originally Posted by nickm77 View Post
    Thanks so much for the good info. I will try to get some close-up picts of my gears and derailers (especially the front since that seems to be the main topic) and post them here.

    Let me make sure I understand something. So I will use simplistic descriptions to make sure I am on the same page as you guys. The chainring is the larger ring with more teeth and it is the on used for climbing a hill? Or is this called the sprocket? And the inner rings have fewer teeth and are used for flat or downhill? If that is the case, why would I not want to just change the larger ring since that is the one used for climbing. Then I would be able to still fly down hills when I'm not loaded. Or is there a good reason for changing the smaller ring(s).

    Many thanks for your help and I will get the pictures up ASAP.
    Last edited by Nigeyy; 07-24-08 at 10:31 AM.

  9. #9
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    Almost impossible to say without having a tooth count on the chainrings and on the largest rear cog... the biggest you'll find for the rear is about 34, the smallest you're likely to find for the front would be on a MTB crankset and would get you to about 22, I believe.

    Oh, and FWIW, the chain should be on the smallest ring in the front, and the biggest in the back for the easiest pedalling.

    Try that first, and you may not need to change anything at all... you seem to have the opposite idea in mind of how the front shifting works from how it actually is... on the front: big is fast, but on the back, big is slow and easy. Big front chainring = flat or downhill, small front chainring=uphill.
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    Thanks superslomo, Yes, I got mixed up while sitting here at the computer. Got to thinking about that after I posted...I did definitely did use my largest cog in the back and smallest chain ring int he front and it still was just barely sufficient for just me, let alone the rest of the load when touring. It is the small chain ring that is used for going up hills and the large one for downhill.

    Anyway, I as wondering if there is any advantage to changing the large chain ring also, or should I just change the small one since that is the one used for going up hills? And I assume I would leave the middle ring as is? Any other suggestions on how many teeth I should go with? And will any chain rings work, or is there a certain type of chain ring I need? Best place to look for one of these for my bike?

    Thanks
    Last edited by nickm77; 07-24-08 at 11:02 AM.

  11. #11
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    Okay, here are the numbers...

    Front Chain Rings: 30, 44, & 48

    Rear Cogs: 13, 15, 18, 21, 25, & 30

    And here are some pictures:






    Thanks!!
    Attached Images Attached Images

  12. #12
    Senior Member Nigeyy's Avatar
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    Obviously much depends on how much stuff you carry, how long and steep the hills are you go up, but pretty much I'd say those gears are too high for going up many hills with an average size load. There is a handy way of calculating gear ratios called gear inches (see http://www.sheldonbrown.com/gloss_g.html#gearinch for an explanation, and to calculate your own: http://www.sheldonbrown.com/gears/),

    e.g. from the sizes you gave, your gearing gives:
    uphill gear = 27 gear inches
    downhill gear = 99.7 gear inches

    Now, I've got to say, I like my touring gears to be about 18-20 gear inches for my uphill gear, so you can see you're quite a way off (though this is personal, and as I said depends on your fitness, weight of stuff, hills you go up, etc).

    So in summary, I think those gears (most certainly your uphill gear) will make you struggle. I'd recommend at most 22 gear inches, but again, depends on your situation. If you do choose the route of changing chainring gears, you might want to consider just changing the crankset rather than buying new chainrings -price this stuff out carefully (e.g. qbike.com, bestbikebuys.com, etc).

    e.g. an mtb crankset with 22-32-42 rings would give:
    uphill gear = 19.8 gear inches
    downhill gear = 87.2 gear inches

    Probably much more useful for touring in my opinion. Try nashbar.com, jensonusa.com, pricepoint.com, cambriabike.com for places to buy cranksets and chainrings from. Just one last bit of advice: if you do get a cheap crankset, do make sure the chainrings are replaceable -there is a Sugino crank at Jenson that looks like a good deal, but the chainrings are riveted on by the sounds of it.


    Quote Originally Posted by nickm77 View Post
    Okay, here are the numbers...

    Front Chain Rings: 30, 44, & 48
    Rear Cogs: 13, 15, 18, 21, 25, & 30

  13. #13
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    Obviously much depends on how much stuff you carry, how long and steep the hills are you go up
    Well, I am talking fairly loaded for self-sustained touring and as far as steepness, I will probably be mostly in the Rockies and Cascades, but I do sometimes find myself in the Appalachians.

    If you do choose the route of changing chainring gears, you might want to consider just changing the crankset rather than buying new chainrings
    I guess I am a little intimidated by the thought of changing out the whole crankset. Doesn't that mean the front derailer has to be changed as well? Is it as big a deal as it sounds? It just seemed like changing a chain ring or two would be a lot easier. Am I wrong? If I change out my small chain ring (currently 30t) for say a 24t (isn't that possible?) than that would give me between 21 and 22 gear inches. I really appreciate your estimate , Nigeyy, of 18-20 or maybe up to 22. That really helps me. Just so I can get a better idea of what to reasonably expect, it would be good to know what others have found to be good as far as gear inches. My concern about the mountain bike crankset is that I would be spinning away on the downhills or even slight downhills. And also, I use this bike as my normal riding bike. So I have to take that into account also. At least right now, this bike has to play double duty and be my touring bike and riding bike.

  14. #14
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    For the kind of riding you're talking about, you definitely need to get your low gear down around 20 inches.

    As for swapping out either the chain rings or the crank, a bike shop can do it for $30 or so (plus parts). You can learn to do it yourself, but the tools aren't cheap, and on a bike of this age you might find it more difficult than changing out parts on a new bike. I doubt they would need to change the FD, based on what I can make out from the foto.

    As for top speed -- don't worry.

    Look up an online gearing calculator that allows you to calculate top speed -- if you are on the biggest chainring on the crankset, the smallest cog on the rear, and pedaling along at 100 to 110 rpm, how fast will you be going? My guess (I don't have a gear/cadence/speed calculator handy) is that it's in the high 20mph / low 30mph range. I think your current setup yields a high gear of around 100 gear inches which is plenty high for a commuting/touring/around town bike.

    Do you really ride faster than that frequently? If so, coast!
    Last edited by BengeBoy; 07-24-08 at 02:57 PM.

  15. #15
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    So what would you say is the best I could get without having to change out my front or rear derailer? (I am assuming that going to a MTB crankset would necessitate changing my front derailer--correct my if wrong).

    Can I use a 24t front chain ring? Or 26t? How about a 34t rear cog? or 32? My bike currently has a 30t rear cog and I think it is stock because everything else seems to be stock. So woudn't it be able to handle a 34t or at least a 32t?

    Also, are all cogs and chain rings a standard size, or do I look for a particular size for this bike?

    One other thing...If I have my local bike shop do the work, am I better of finding a good deal on parts on the internet and having them install it, or do you think I would do better to get everything through them?

  16. #16
    apocryphal sobriquet J.C. Koto's Avatar
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    How much do you like and trust your shop?

    If I were in your position, I'd take the bike to the shop, tell them I'd like a 22 (or 24 or 26) and a 36 to replace the 30 and 44 tooth chainrings, and keep *everything* else unchanged if possible (you *should* be able to do this). I'd also let them sweat obtaining and installing the needed parts. At the very least, I'd just ride the bike down there to show it off, and say "Hey, so tell me about chainrings..."

  17. #17
    Senior Member Nigeyy's Avatar
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    Even with the gearing of an mtb crankset, I don't think I'd be too worried about spinning out -unless you really want to go much faster than 30mph down hills. By the time you spin yourself up the mountains fully loaded, you might well be happy to give your legs a break by then! Even on slight downhills, 20-25mph is a good speed to maintain -I personally wouldn't be worried about it at all, even if you use it as a commuting bike (maintaining anywhere past a 20mph average is pretty hard to do for most folks and normal human beings past 25mph average).

    Chainrings do have different sizes -checkout Sheldon Browns definition of BCD. A rear derailleur does have limitations -on the number of teeth in the largest sprocket at the back, as well as the range of gears (that's the difference between something that is a short cage and a long cage derailleur -the long cage takes up more chain slack). The nice thing about changing chainrings or crankset is probably it will be your best bet to obtain the gearing you need plus not require you to change the rear sprockets and derailleur.

    Yes, online shopping is cheaper, but I'm not sure how your LBS will like that -they may just up the price of installation to cover the costs. Personally, and unless the LBS will charge a heck of a lot more than the same component found online, I'd just go with the LBS component for convenience -plus it sounds like you will be the recipient of some help about which components to choose, and that's worth something. I almost always shop online -but that's because I install everything myself.

    I think the previous poster has the best idea -take it to a shop you trust and ask about what it will cost to change the gearing to ~20 inches keeping components as much as possible. I'd also ask for the prices on the options of changing the chainrings and a new crank and compare. Though I can't be 100% positive, I think it's likely that even if you go to the mtb crank or smaller chainrings, your front derailleur should be fine -but will require repositioning and re-tuning (again another nod to take it to your LBS -they'd probably include this in the price).

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    Good points Nigeyy. Thanks.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nigeyy View Post
    I think the previous poster has the best idea -take it to a shop you trust and ask about what it will cost to change the gearing to ~20 inches keeping components as much as possible. I'd also ask for the prices on the options of changing the chainrings and a new crank and compare. Though I can't be 100% positive, I think it's likely that even if you go to the mtb crank or smaller chainrings, your front derailleur should be fine -but will require repositioning and re-tuning (again another nod to take it to your LBS -they'd probably include this in the price).
    I think this is really good advice.

    I like to save money, too, but you got a great used bike and part of owning/maintaining a rig like that is developing a good relationship on whatever LBS in your area is sensitive to the care and feeding of used bikes. It's worth something to you to figure out who/where that is.

  20. #20
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    Nick,

    +1 for supporting your LBS

    +10 for learning how to make simple to moderate repairs to your own bike, you may need the skills if your on the road.

    As far is these upgrade I'd do the chain ring change myself (only special tool is a crank extractor, good to have anyway)

    I'd pay the LBS for the freewheel swap - See if they can get the freewheel you want or will install one you supply. BTW, I would not be at all surprised if they recommend replacing the whole wheel with a freehub model. In the long run it is a better setup, but I'd save my money until I was committed to touring (I'm saving for a 40 hole Phil). And don't let them talk you into a 32 spoke wheel - they are NOT as strong as a 36 and it does make a difference when touring.

    I've had no problems with shifting the front with the stock Cyclone front derailleur and a 26 tooth granny (with a 46 large gear - 20 tooth difference). If you go lower I would replace it with a newer derailleur, you get better shifting.

    Your SR Super Apex triple inner gear is 5 bolt 74mm bcd (diameter of the bolt pattern) the smallest gear I've seen for it is 24 teeth. (thats about 30% lower than your current gearing)

    Loose Screws http://www.loosescrews.com/index.cgi...id=62610213617

    Currently at ebay http://cgi.ebay.com/Sugino-CSE-2-Roa...QQcmdZViewItem

    If you want lower, best bet is to replace the whole crankset with a mountain bike setup.

    Universal Cycles has Shimano Deore FC-M442 Cranksets for square taper.
    http://www.universalcycles.com/shopp...41&category=64

    You MIGHT be able to use your existing bottom bracket, but I would replace it with a modern cartridge style. I'm partial to the Tange (looks like 110-113 length)
    http://www.biketoolsetc.com/index.cg...d=TA-LN3968113

    At the rear

    The mega range rears freewheels can be difficult to find

    Loose Screws has the Shimano HG 6 speed Freewheel 13-15-18-21-24-34 http://www.loosescrews.com/index.cgi...id=62610213617

    But I would get a 7 speed to help close up the big gap - They seem to be on back order everywhere but here's an ebay'er with a couple http://cgi.ebay.com/Shimano-7-Speed-...2em118Q2el1247

    I hate to spend your money but the Superbe Tech rear derailleur is probably living on borrowed time. They were wonderfully innovative but not well executed (Some call them the beginning of the end for Suntour) A $20 Deore SGS will allow you greatest range in gearing and shifts as well as the $100+ XTRs. They work fine for friction and will work on with SIS shifters when you upgrade. Ask advice on the front. You need a Shimano road compatible shifter to work with SIS and I think it you have to match Brifters and derailleur (Not an issue using Campy ERGOS, which are cheaper, upgradable and repairable)


    Good Luck

    Doug
    Last edited by dcullen; 07-24-08 at 03:59 PM.

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    Many thanks Doug for all the great info!

    My LBS said to steer clear of the newer Shimano Freewheels. They said to go with the older Uniglide freewheels if I couldn't afford an expensive one like a Phil. What do you guys think? Here is a 7 speed uniglide I can customize on up to 34 teeth. What do you think of it? And how does the Uniglde stack up against the Phil or comparable? I don't want to get stranded in the middle of nowhere. Is the Shimano that unreliable?

    And if I were to go with the Shimano Deore SGS rear derailer, is that something I need to special order and take to the LBS or are they pretty common and something they can easily get. Is that a good reliable derailer?

    Thanks

  22. #22
    Senior Member Nigeyy's Avatar
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    I've got to say, wait, do you know you need a new freewheel? Is the chain skipping? If not just ride it until it wears out -unless you really want a new component or you want to upgrade the number of gears.

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    Well, I am trying to get enough power to go up hills with a load. If it turns out that I go with a MTB crankset, than I suppose I might not need a new freewheel. But if I could keep as many of my current components as I can by simply changing a chainring to fewer teeth and the freewheel to more teeth, than I think I'd rather go that way. But there seems to be a good amount of support for going with an MTB crankset, so maybe I need to just bite the bullet and do that. I am just having a hard time swallowing putting an MTB crankset on my road bike that I will still be doing a lot of average riding on (in addition to touring).

    So thats where I'm coming from. But you guys are helping me to come around to this idea.

    Thanks.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nickm77 View Post
    Many thanks Doug for all the great info!

    My LBS said to steer clear of the newer Shimano Freewheels. They said to go with the older Uniglide freewheels if I couldn't afford an expensive one like a Phil. What do you guys think? Here is a 7 speed uniglide I can customize on up to 34 teeth. What do you think of it? And how does the Uniglde stack up against the Phil or comparable? I don't want to get stranded in the middle of nowhere. Is the Shimano that unreliable?

    And if I were to go with the Shimano Deore SGS rear derailer, is that something I need to special order and take to the LBS or are they pretty common and something they can easily get. Is that a good reliable derailer?

    Thanks
    Nick

    I've not used any of the newer freewheels, so I can't talk form experience but see what Sheldon Brown has to say about the Megarange freewheels. http://www.sheldonbrown.com/mega7/

    In short he says "To make this work, they had to completely redesign the venerable thread-on freewheel from the ground up. The solution they found is a technological tour de force, because the resulting freewheel is superior in several ways to all that came before. It is easier to service, freer turning and should prove to be more durable as well. This page is an attempt to explain this little known engineering feat. First, let's take a look at a more conventional design: "

    I read that as the Mega 7 freewheel representing the very pinnacle of freewheel design. I would avoid the Sunrace Knockoff. And the hyper-glide tooth profile shifts better than the older Uniglide

    I don't think the Deore (RD-M510 or RD-M531) is currently in production. Lots of places have it as NOS (New old stock, new parts that are no longer made but still on the shelf) and the market price seems to be around $20 (Jenson USA) The Deore LX is a step up in finish and goes for a bit under $50. Alivios seem to be taking up the basic tier these days at $15 - $20. You can easily spent $100+ but I wouldn't
    Spending more gets you fancier finish and the cachet of have the latest bling. I go for the best reliability and bang for the buck - the Deore or Deore LX.

    (And dont forget Ebay, you can get NOS or some nicer stuff from folks that gotta have the latest)

    And installing a derailleur falls into that catagory of stuff you can do yourself - only tools needed are some allen wrenches and a chain splitter. You want to have both when touring. Need help or instructions? Check out Park Tool http://www.parktool.com/repair/readhowto.asp?id=64

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    Senior Member Nigeyy's Avatar
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    If the freewheel works, leave it. You are just not going to get the change in gearing you're talking about by changing the freewheel. Put the numbers through the Sheldon Brown calculator and you'll see what I mean; 4 extra teeth at the rear just isn't going to do it for you. Even if you did, you'll still need to change the chainrings, so why not just save some money and get the chainrings (or crank) that will give you the gears you need when you do that without having to change the freewheel and incur extra expense?

    Also, if you are not convinced about the mtb crankset or the ratios they provide, go again to the gear calculator and work out the gears it will give you, including the speed it will give you if you are spinning at a fairly reasonable 100rpm (I think it's ~25mph at 100rpm for a 13/42 ratio). Really, most people go about with gears that are too high and rarely used anyway, so I don't think the mtb crank will give you any problems here. Here's a question: what's your average speed on a usual ride you do? If it's below 20-22mph, believe me, you don't have anything to worry about.

    On the other hand, if you aren't convinced, try looking up the Sugino touring crank or the Shimano LX touring crank -I think both have a 26 inner ring and a 48 outer which will definitely give you the high gear you'll need -unless you're extremely lightweight and fit and can maintain an average easily above 25mph.

    By the sounds of it, you don't have the tools needed to install a drivechain, so I still think the best thing to do is to go to your local bike store and explain what you want (be specific about the gearing you wish), and what pricing options they can provide.


    Quote Originally Posted by nickm77 View Post
    Well, I am trying to get enough power to go up hills with a load. If it turns out that I go with a MTB crankset, than I suppose I might not need a new freewheel. But if I could keep as many of my current components as I can by simply changing a chainring to fewer teeth and the freewheel to more teeth, than I think I'd rather go that way. But there seems to be a good amount of support for going with an MTB crankset, so maybe I need to just bite the bullet and do that. I am just having a hard time swallowing putting an MTB crankset on my road bike that I will still be doing a lot of average riding on (in addition to touring).

    So thats where I'm coming from. But you guys are helping me to come around to this idea.

    Thanks.

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