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View Poll Results: Your prefered gear inch for light touring.

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  • 27 gear inc or less

    6 13.95%
  • 25 gear inch or less

    7 16.28%
  • 23 gear inch or less

    4 9.30%
  • 21 gear inch or less

    6 13.95%
  • 20 gear inch

    20 46.51%
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  1. #1
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    What is your prefered lowest gear inch for light touring across the US. ?

    I created this poll to help me decide what gearing I 'd need for my new light touring bike. The bike should be capable of light touring across the US, so I figure a 28c road tyres should be adequate. The load with rack and panniers inclusive should be <20lbs. On most routes where I cycle, a 34t front and 25tsprocket is all I need to climb hills. But touring with a 20lbs pound load is a different environment. My road bike weighs 7.9kg, while my cyclocross bike weighs 10.9kg without rack. If you need more information to cast your vote, please let me know. Thanks.

  2. #2
    Senior Member yote223's Avatar
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    My 1x10 Cx/Hybrid runs a 40T front with a 11-36 in the rear. I find it quite useful over-all. That gives me a range of 1.11 - 3.63 to 1 ratios. Your current low would be a 1.36 to 1 low. Gear-Inch has never clicked well with me. Ratios work better. Less confusing. Just my .02 worth.
    Last edited by yote223; 08-20-14 at 01:11 AM.
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  3. #3
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    To help you recall your favourite low gear inch, I've made up a table of gear inches fro you.
    low gear inch1.png
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by wheelinthai; 08-21-14 at 03:20 PM.

  4. #4
    Travelling hopefully chasm54's Avatar
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    Were I building a light tourer I'd put a triple on it, probably a 48/36/24 or thereabouts, and runa 12-28 cassette. So that's what, about 23 gear inches? You can get a similar effect with a compact double and a huge cassette, of course, but personally I like to keep the closer ratios at the back.

    You might want to go even lower. There are few disadvantages to having the extra low gear, and on a long climb at the end of an even longer day, even the strongest can find it a relief.
    There have been many days when I haven't felt like riding, but there has never been a day when I was sorry I rode.

  5. #5
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    Thanks fchasm54 for your in put. I'm all ears, even though I've been thinking about 46/30 crankset and 12-32 10 speed cog set. That's is why I created this poll. Keep them coming. Also thanks for all who cast votes

  6. #6
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    Depends on WHERE the light touring occurs. We have some extremely steep grades in the Appalachian mountains, sub 20" was the best bet. In the Rockies the grades weren't as steep, but a lot longer plus the altitude, 20-23" worked better there. Then there were the 40 mph headwinds from the east when we went across Nebraska...

    My low gear on a touring bike is typically around 18", I really don't need a top gear of 112" so I lower the entire range.

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  7. #7
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    I have used a variety of setups and packed a variety of weights. For the weight you describe or a bit less I used 25" gear on the Southern tier and was happy with it, so I voted 25" or less.

    That said depending on some other route I might have wanted lower. If you will be doing something with a lot of crazy steep climbs you may want lower. Also it will vary with the rider, so what works for me may not work for you.

    In the Appalachians with a heavy-ish load 40-45 lbs I was pretty happy a 20" gear.

    I have met folks happily using much higher and much lower gearing, so I suspect it is almost as much about the riders preference as the load and terrain.
    Last edited by staehpj1; 08-20-14 at 06:59 AM.

  8. #8
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    I'm on a trip right now running single speed the entire trip using a 53x19. I've ridden from west central NH to Plattsburgh, NY to Annapolis, MD(watch the finish of RAAM before picking up the RAAM course and taking it backwards to Cumberland, MD and then continuing to follow US40 to the Ohio River. I rode on up to NW Ohio before heading out and riding through a big chunk of the northern part of IL, including Galena Hill Country. I picked up the RAAM course just on the west side of the Mississippi and brought it back into western OH(Yes, both west and east side of IN can have some real nice climbing/descending...hit 40 mph both days in IN). I then rode up to Toledo before heading down to Zanesville and not I'm working my way through the rest of the NY counties I haven't been in yet on the bike in the past two years. Currently in flat stretch just east of Niagara Falls.

    Plenty of climbing and I'm riding with 40 pounds, roughly 33 in the backpack and another 7 in the handlebar bag. I was shocked when I weighed the handlebar bag at my mom's house. I figured it was 3-4 pounds...OOPS

    Everybody is going to be different but I figured I would throw in my setup. I've had no trouble with it and I can climb any of the hills/mountains I've seen thus far. I wouldn't be a bit worried about using it for anything out west. The mountains out west are typically shallower pitched...they are just much longer climbs.

  9. #9
    Senior Member mdilthey's Avatar
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    I prefer a 50/34 double chainring and a big mountain bike cassette, personally. I really have come to rely on my Shimano XT derailleur, so I'd rather have the bulk of my gearing in the back and keep the front simple. I end up spending 80% of my time on the larger chainring anyways; I've worn through my second and will soon be on to my third, but my small ring is still fine.
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  10. #10
    nun
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    I use a 46/34 crank with an 11/36 cassette so I voted 25" or less.

  11. #11
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    staehpj1 Thanks for your comments. The poll verifies your view. Different strokes for different folks. BTW I must confess that I'm leaning to your recommendation for 25 gear inch.
    bikenh You are exceptionally strong.
    Quote Originally Posted by mdilthey View Post
    I prefer a 50/34 double chainring and a big mountain bike cassette, personally. I really have come to rely on my Shimano XT derailleur, so I'd rather have the bulk of my gearing in the back and keep the front simple. I end up spending 80% of my time on the larger chainring anyways; I've worn through my second and will soon be on to my third, but my small ring is still fine.
    Thank you mdilthey 34x36 with 28c tyre would make 25.1 gear inch. Just what staehpj1 recommends. Very interesting indeed. That should make two votes for 25 gear inch.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by nun View Post
    I use a 46/34 crank with an 11/36 cassette so I voted 25" or less.
    So that makes 3 replies favouring 25 gear inch. Amazing. Please keep them coming.

  13. #13
    Senior Member mdilthey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wheelinthai View Post

    Thank you mdilthey 34x36 with 28c tyre would make 25.1 gear inch. Just what staehpj1 recommends. Very interesting indeed. That should make two votes for 25 gear inch.
    Thank you for teaching me what gear inch my bike has! I will admit, my gear ratio chose me, not the other way around.
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  14. #14
    Garlic
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    Less than 20 pounds is a pretty light load. Many cyclists carry that much in body fat and don't think twice about it on the bike.

    I recently reduced my touring load from over 40 to under 20 (part of that was getting rid of the handlebar bag!). I found I really don't need a triple chain ring any more. My recent X-C tour on the Northern Tier route, I used the small ring only a few times, mainly on gravel or dirt campground access roads which I could easily have walked in minutes. And I used 25mm tires. So I think my next touring bike won't be a touring bike--it'll be lighter. I like the 1x10 idea--one less shifter and derailleur to worry about.

    My vote would be 27 or more. I'm not hard-core enough to go single speed--that's amazing.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by andrewclaus View Post
    I found I really don't need a triple chain ring any more. So I think my next touring bike won't be a touring bike--it'll be lighter. I like the 1x10 idea--one less shifter and derailleur to worry about.

    My vote would be 27 or more. I'm not hard-core enough to go single speed--that's amazing.
    Thanks for taking time to give your view. More power to you for >27 gear inch.

  16. #16
    Senior Member GP's Avatar
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    Pretty sure my lowest gear is 26/32 with a 700x35 tire so 21 1/2.

  17. #17
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    people arrive on the coast on all sorts of bikes from the other side of the country . example.. stock 30t and a 32t cassette low ..

    I had a 700c-35 tire rig 14-34t 6 speed and 50-40-24t crank, tackeled some hills I had to get off and push, . but still enjoyed the tour-trips


    now my tour rig is a Bike Friday .. R'off 16t 53t chainring .. hub creates the low double reduction gear, + the 20" wheel benefit.

    [NB: poll doesn't go to 17" or 18" , so none of the above]
    Last edited by fietsbob; 08-22-14 at 10:59 AM.

  18. #18
    djb
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    Quote Originally Posted by GP View Post
    Pretty sure my lowest gear is 26/32 with a 700x35 tire so 21 1/2.
    yup, a 50/39/26 with a nine speed 11-32 on 28 slicks gives me about the same, 21 gear inches something.

    with a tighter 12-27 its about 25-26 gear inches. If you go 10 speed there is a 12-30 ten speed cassette with exactly the same cogs except with the 30 added on. This with a triple, either stock or put on a 26t and you have a great touring setup, and with 20lbs it would be perfect.
    With 20lbs instead of 40lbs, you'll be able to ride faster, and even then you will use the 39t a lot, and take advantage of the 12-13-14-15-17-19 spread a lot.

    I'm sure you have read here many times that there really isnt a down side to having low gearing, when you dont need it you dont use it, you plonk along at 15-30kph for the vast majority, which is right in the 39t range perfectly--especially nice with close gears, ie 1-2 tooth jumps

    and as for high speed, a 50-12 still allows you to pedal at over 60kph, that doesnt happen often, and in any case, how fast you go down a big downhill or down a curvy downhill road will ultimately depend on your road handling skills, your coordination and being comfortable at speed--basically experience.

    Bottom line here is that you need to decide what works for you, put 25lbs on your bike and ride on all kind of terrain. Use the answers here as a reference but listen to what you feel is best for you, THAT is the really only important answer.

  19. #19
    nun
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    Quote Originally Posted by mdilthey View Post
    I will admit, my gear ratio chose me, not the other way around.
    Sometimes it's just too much hassle to change your gearing just to get a couple of gear inches lower...do I really need a triple or do I really need to go to a bigger cassette and a long cage rear derailleur? For me I decided that changing my crank and front derailleur was too much, I just reduced the big ring from 50 to 46. Then I toured on an 11/25 rear cassette for a couple of years and found it to be good for the hills in NY and western MA. However, as I plan to do some longer tours I decided to go to an 11/36 and my choice of RD was dictated by that and my 46/34 front rings.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by chasm54 View Post
    Were I building a light tourer I'd put a triple on it, probably a 48/36/24 or thereabouts, and runa 12-28 cassette. So that's what, about 23 gear inches?
    Very similar to my setup: 26/36/48 crank and 12-28 cassette. The 26-28 combo is 25.1 gear-inches according to Sheldon Brown's calculator.

    This setup works well for me on routes that have at most 5000-5500 feet of elevation gain per day with bike weights similar to what the OP describes. If I were less fit, had to do more climbing, or do extended climbing of 12+% grades I'd be looking for a low gear of around 20 gear-inches.

  21. #21
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    My choices are for loaded touring hauling a camping gear load up steep hills.

    My derailleur touring bikes have road triple cranksets with a 74mm BCD, thus a 24t is the smallest granny gear practical. I use a 11/32 rear cassette on those bikes. Thus, lowest gears on those bikes range from 19.6 to 20.7 gear inches depending on tire choice. That said, sometimes I wished I had lower.

    On my Rohloff equipped bike 16.3 to 16.5 gear inches.

    If you are curious about my gear selection on my Rohloff bike, I had to decide what chainring to fit to the 16t (standard) Rohloff rear cog. For that, I wanted to calculate what the lowest gear would be that I would find practical. I pedeled up a steep hill and took careful note of my slowest comfortable speed where I could maintain balance pretty well. My bike computer rounds off speed to a half mph which was not precise enough so I measured my cadence at that speed. I then back calculated what my speed was at that cadence using that wheel circumference and gear ratio. (I am an engineer, this is the type of thing that engineers do, so yes maybe I over-analyzed it a bit.) I then decided based on past riding that I would like to have a cadence of 72 rpm at my lowest speed for slowly cranking up tall steep hills, so I calculated what size sprocket I needed for that cadence at that speed in my lowest gear. That calculation yielded 16.3 to 16.5 gear inches (range depending on tire selection) for my lowest gear to result in the slowest I can maintain balance at my desired cadence of 72 rpm. So this is my "preferred" low gear.
    Last edited by Tourist in MSN; 08-20-14 at 10:40 AM.

  22. #22
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    My new Rohloff is 46/15.
    23 to 122 GI. Works great for me, especially for dips.
    I use the high far more than the low.
    The gears 6, 8, 10, 12, 14 are pretty close to what my SA 5w had. The Rohloff is stiffer and slower than the SA.
    Last edited by GamblerGORD53; 08-21-14 at 11:47 PM.

  23. #23
    nun
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    I really think too much is made of gearing. I'm not that fit and I've found that with a 20lb load I don't need really low gears to get up steep gradients, just patience. I've happily ridden in western MA with a 36" lowest gear and rode the length of England without derailleurs using two gears of 68" and 37". There's nothing wrong in having lower gears, but they are not necessarily required to successfully tour, particularly if you have a lightweight set up. For me the biggest joy of a lightweight setup is not being restricted to a traditional touring bike or gear ratios. Once freed from heavy bikes and gear, touring becomes so much easier.
    Last edited by nun; 08-20-14 at 02:00 PM.

  24. #24
    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    Thinking more in terms of the potential for a high, knee saving spin rate up grades. So, I like having 18 gear inches for that when needed. Talking DF here, not the pictured bent(I gotta change that picture.)
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  25. #25
    nun
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    Quote Originally Posted by mdilthey View Post
    I prefer a 50/34 double chainring and a big mountain bike cassette, personally. I really have come to rely on my Shimano XT derailleur, so I'd rather have the bulk of my gearing in the back and keep the front simple. I end up spending 80% of my time on the larger chainring anyways; I've worn through my second and will soon be on to my third, but my small ring is still fine.
    This is how I feel too, but you have to be careful not to cross chain too much. I use a compact crank and I've replaced the 50t ring with a 46t to better match my all day riding needs on the flat and in rolling hills. I find that a 46t with an 11/36 cassette works for most situations and I only use the 34t ring for really steep or long stuff.

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