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  1. #1
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    how low is your low?

    gearing up for my first tour in two weeks. Unfortunately, I haven't had a chance to "train" as much as I was planning to so now I'm getting kind of nervous. My lowest gear is 26x32 which according to Sheldon's calculator is a 22" gear. Does that sound low enough or should I pop a 24" ring on my triple instead of the 26" ring and give myself something closer to 20"? any thoughts?

  2. #2
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Mine is 26x34 ... I rarely use it, but it's nice to know it's there.

  3. #3
    Caffeinated. Camel's Avatar
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    My lowest was 22x32, and I would have liked a 34 sprocket instead of the 32 at times. I still ended up walking some bits of climbs, likely due to poor nutrition and altitude. Think of walking & pushing your bike as crosstraining
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    For loaded touring with camping gear, I throw on the 22x32. There have been times when I was so worn out that a fast walker could have beaten me up the hill, but that nice low gear kept me moving.

  5. #5
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    A 26X32 was just low enough for me to do everything on the TA, but the 24X32 I fitted since then is a bit better.

  6. #6
    Senior Member xilios's Avatar
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    22X32 is good enough for most climbs. Still had to walk about 30m of a 16% hill in France at the end of a long day, just didn't have enough energy left.

  7. #7
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    My low is 18". Goin' nowhere fast...

  8. #8
    Senior Member lighthorse's Avatar
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    It is hard to know if that gear is okay for you. Where are you headed? How big is your load? How far do you plan to travel each day? How much of an aversion do you have about walking your bike?
    The 26/32 is a great combination for me. On my last crosscountry I only walked on two hills. Neither of those were mountains, just short STEEP hills. Both times I found myself daydreaming and suddenly finding myself at the beginning of a steep hill with no momentum and really no desire, so I just got off and walked. It was beautiful countryside at the time. Works for me.
    Good luck with your ride.
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  9. #9
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    22/34 used on a fairly regular basis for ridiculously long periods of time...not even necessarily in Colorado! One of the worst climb I've ever done was Alpowa Summit outside of Clarkston, WA. 2000 feet in 12 miles! The only thing that makes Colorado climbs worse is the altitude. Laboring up a pass at over 11,000 feet with a 50 lb camping load is something that you have to experience to really appreciate
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    I don't think I will have any serious climbs on this bike tour (which is through the state of MA). I was just wondering what a good set up is to handle most of what you'd encounter on typical non-mountainous terrain. I also won't be carrying tons of gear. just wanted to be fairly well prepared to make it through 50 mi days. thanks!

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    Senior Member gregw's Avatar
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    22/34 or 17.7" gear, has served me well.

    Unless you are like staehpj1 who enjoys pedaling down big hills instead of just coasting with your feet in the air yelling WEEEEEEEE (that's what I do) , I see no downside to having lower gears.

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    Quote Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
    2000 feet in 12 miles!
    Hmm. On day 5 of our forthcoming tour we're facing an ascent of 2,000m (6,600ft) in about 18miles, fully laden. I'll be glad when that's out of the way...

  13. #13
    Forever CLYDE ! cyberpep's Avatar
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    Mine is 26x34, anything lower for me isn't worth it. I am not bashfull about getting off the bike and pushing it up really steep hills.
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  14. #14
    Senior Member freemti's Avatar
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    34x34 is my lowest. I was (is) in triple denial mode and converted my campy bike to a SRAM/campy hybrid with a IRD 11-34 cassette, a SRAM X-9 long cage derailleur and Shifmate to make the conversion. I found that it worked well for 85% of the hills I came across, but there many that I just could not handle - partially because of PA's notorious steep inclines and partly because my gearing was a tad shy of the low end gear inches to make it possible for my 47 year old legs.

    If I do loaded touring again as opposed to credit card style, I would have to think again about my low gear options and either get a dedicated bike (preferred) or put a triple on my Club Racer which frankly belongs in the "llight touring" category anyway and does not feel happy with a heavy load. So far my thoughts is to stay with my light touring double setup.
    Last edited by freemti; 08-01-08 at 08:06 AM.
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  15. #15
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
    22/34 used on a fairly regular basis for ridiculously long periods of time...not even necessarily in Colorado! One of the worst climb I've ever done was Alpowa Summit outside of Clarkston, WA. 2000 feet in 12 miles! The only thing that makes Colorado climbs worse is the altitude. Laboring up a pass at over 11,000 feet with a 50 lb camping load is something that you have to experience to really appreciate
    Yes the altitude in Colorado can be tough. I know when I was there I was a little dizzy and definitely felt kind of weak at the higher altitudes.

    That said 2000 feet in 12 miles isn't very steep by Eastern standards. Brasstown Bald http://webmhcc.org/profiles/brasstown.htm for example is 1743 in three miles and there are lots of climbs of similar steepness in the East.

    Many of the climbs up to the Blue Ridge parkway are 1-3k feet and 2-4 miles.

    We don't have climbs in the East that are as long as some in Colorado, but they are long enough and plenty steep. I know that I came the closest to a personal meltdown in Virginia of anywhere on the TA, and since it was near the end of the trip I should have been in top shape by then.

    FWIW: I had a 26X32 on the TA and a few places in the East were the only places I wished for lower.

    I loved the parts of western Colorado we saw on the TA and really want to go back for more touring there. The parts of Eastern Colorado we saw were pure tedium terrain wise though.

  16. #16
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Al Downie View Post
    Hmm. On day 5 of our forthcoming tour we're facing an ascent of 2,000m (6,600ft) in about 18miles, fully laden. I'll be glad when that's out of the way...
    OUCH, where is that?

  17. #17
    Senior Member Nigeyy's Avatar
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    Mine's a 26x34 on a 26" wheelset. I'm happy to have it -should be more than adequate for me -if I can't pedal that it'll be pretty much as fast to get off the bike and walk.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
    OUCH, where is that?
    From Leh (3,500m) in the Indian Himalayas, north into the Nubra Valley, crossing the highest motorable road in the world - the Khardung La Pass (5,640m). The closer it comes, the more daunted I am by it!

    It's actually the first day of cycling - the four days prior to that will be nothing but acclimatization. Never been that high before, but it seems that there's no way to predict any individual's susceptibility to altitude sickness. We'll see how it goes. After a few days in the Nubra Valley, we turn round and head (back over the same pass!) south again to Manali, over a few more 5,000m passes. Might arrange for a truck to take up back over the Khardung La on the return journey...

  19. #19
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gregw View Post
    22/34 or 17.7" gear, has served me well.

    Unless you are like staehpj1 who enjoys pedaling down big hills instead of just coasting with your feet in the air yelling WEEEEEEEE (that's what I do) , I see no downside to having lower gears.
    Within some limits there is no reason you can't have both. A 24, 36, 46 with an 11-32 gives good numbers at both ends. But yeah most people could get along without big gears. Still I think I used my biggest gear at least a bit on almost everyday of the TA and a lot on some days.

    Times I liked the big gear:
    1. When drafting my powerhouse daughter on the flats.
    2. When there was a tailwind and we could make really good time.
    3. When there was a long gradual downhill that allowed sustained fairly high speeds with some effort.
    4. When there was a steep downhill where my legs felt better pushing lightly against some resistance without having to spin like mad.
    5. When for any reason I am able to go fast, but don't feel like spinning. Just because I can spin at 120 rpms doesn't mean sometimes I don't want to do 50 rpms with for a change of pace.

  20. #20
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Al Downie View Post
    From Leh (3,500m) in the Indian Himalayas, north into the Nubra Valley, crossing the highest motorable road in the world - the Khardung La Pass (5,640m). The closer it comes, the more daunted I am by it!

    It's actually the first day of cycling - the four days prior to that will be nothing but acclimatization. Never been that high before, but it seems that there's no way to predict any individual's susceptibility to altitude sickness. We'll see how it goes. After a few days in the Nubra Valley, we turn round and head (back over the same pass!) south again to Manali, over a few more 5,000m passes. Might arrange for a truck to take up back over the Khardung La on the return journey...
    Wow, good luck with that. I don't know if I could handle that altitude, not to mention the climbing.

    It will be a trip to remember for sure. Hope you have a great time.

  21. #21
    Punk Rock Lives Roughstuff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by erbfarm View Post
    gearing up for my first tour in two weeks. Unfortunately, I haven't had a chance to "train" as much as I was planning to so now I'm getting kind of nervous. My lowest gear is 26x32 which according to Sheldon's calculator is a 22" gear. Does that sound low enough or should I pop a 24" ring on my triple instead of the 26" ring and give myself something closer to 20"? any thoughts?

    I have 26-36. I use that because walking a bike is less efficient and more of a stress on the knees than riding it, on steep grades (including downhill!). On this summer's tour my steepest grades were Smugglers Notch in Vermont (A fairly brief, but agonizing stretch thru the boulders, and North Mountain in Pennsylvania. The latter is marked at 18% for two miles, but i think thats an exaggeration. Still...very very steep.

    Nothing in the west has ever phased me.

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  22. #22
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    24/34 and I use it.

  23. #23
    Ready to go anywhere Csson's Avatar
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    Still 28/28.. It got me over Umbrail/Stelvio (1400m in 19k) and Timmelsjoch (1500m in 21k) last week fully loaded. Last year I climbed Wurzenpass (with 0.8k @ 18%) with it. My next bike will definitely have a lighter gear (probably 26/32 or something like that).

    I discovered this year that I am comfortable with 28/24 at 3-4% (up to 5 or possibly 6% while fresh), and the 28/28 at 6-7%. Above that it gets hard.

    Short and steep climbs are not to be under-estimated, and does not rarely require lower gears than the big climbs. So basically, if your route includes more than a tiny amount of 8-10+ per cent climbing get as low a gear as you can.

  24. #24
    Senior Member gregw's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
    Within some limits there is no reason you can't have both. A 24, 36, 46 with an 11-32 gives good numbers at both ends. But yeah most people could get along without big gears. Still I think I used my biggest gear at least a bit on almost everyday of the TA and a lot on some days.

    Times I liked the big gear:
    1. When drafting my powerhouse daughter on the flats.
    2. When there was a tailwind and we could make really good time.
    3. When there was a long gradual downhill that allowed sustained fairly high speeds with some effort.
    4. When there was a steep downhill where my legs felt better pushing lightly against some resistance without having to spin like mad.
    5. When for any reason I am able to go fast, but don't feel like spinning. Just because I can spin at 120 rpms doesn't mean sometimes I don't want to do 50 rpms with for a change of pace.
    My 22/32/44 x 11-34 mega-range gives me Great Granny 22/34 @ 4.2mph @ 80rpm and 25.9mph in my 44/11, same rpm. 26mph is more than fast enough for me. Greater than 26mph would have to be down a decent sized hill or one heck of a tail wind!

  25. #25
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gregw View Post
    My 22/32/44 x 11-34 mega-range gives me Great Granny 22/34 @ 4.2mph @ 80rpm and 25.9mph in my 44/11, same rpm. 26mph is more than fast enough for me. Greater than 26mph would have to be down a decent sized hill or one heck of a tail wind!
    My high gear isn't all that much higher than yours (112.9 vs 108 or 4.5% if I have the numbers right). FWIW: I could live with a lower top gear, but I do find that I use it a lot and would miss it at least a little. There aren't many days if any that I don't use it at all.

    While I wouldn't be without it, there are lots of days that I don't use the little ring at all. Most of the climbs I saw in the West I "could" climb in the middle ring if I had to, in the Appalachians not so much.

    All in all I find the 24-36-46 X 11-32 pretty much ideal for me for a wide range of conditions. Since you carry a bit more gear it makes sense that you would like a bit lower gearing.
    Last edited by staehpj1; 08-05-08 at 07:45 AM.

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