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Utility Cycling Want to haul groceries, beer, maybe even your kids? You don't have to live car free to put your bike to use as a workhorse. Here's the place to share and learn about the bicycle as a utility vehicle.

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Old 05-19-14, 08:08 AM   #1
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Cargo Bicycle Gearing

So I put different, slightly longer cranks on my Yuba Mundo, but have not decided what gearing I want. The original chainrings were 22, 34, and 44 teeth (although I see that the current crank comes with 22, 32, and 42 tooth rings). I can't simply move the rings, because the bolt pattern is different. The seven speed freewheel is 13-28, although I see that the Yuba website now sells a 13-34 freewheel.

I frequently carry my youngest two children (about 30 and 40 lbs.), and it is not unusual for me to carry 50 lbs. or more of groceries at the same time (I buy 25 lb. bags of carrots), although I will sometimes ride the bicycle unloaded. At the moment, at least, I live in fairly flat Columbus OH. Before I switched cranks, I occasionally used my highest gear (around 89"), and rarely used the smallest chainring. The new cranks have a 24 tooth small ring (which is the smallest they fit), but I'm not sure what larger rings to use. Given that I don't plan to change the freewheel, what size chainrings do you recommend? What sorts of gearing have you used on cargo bicycles?
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Old 05-21-14, 02:31 PM   #2
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I say ride the new crank as it is and see if you need to tweak it. You might not need to.

fietsbob, your response is incoherent to me.
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Old 05-22-14, 10:17 AM   #3
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I like the 34 tooth ring, but am not using the 44 tooth. That's why I asked for thoughts. I don't need lower gears, just ideas about what size chainrings or what higher gearing might work.
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Old 05-22-14, 11:00 AM   #4
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Sheldon Brown's Bicycle Gear Calculator math is not an Opinion.
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Old 05-23-14, 09:02 AM   #5
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What? I don't need help with calculation, but rather advice based on experience with different cargo bicycle gearings.
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Old 05-23-14, 10:46 AM   #6
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So, what do you Haul and over what terrain? kid in a trailer over flat city streets ?, pianos over mountains?



I haul stuff on my bike, and tow a Cargo Trailer , with a Rohloff 14 speed Internal gear hub
right at the lower range of its recommended .. chainring : cog ratio.

with a 26" wheel ... 38:16 my 20" wheel bike is geared higher because the wheel is smaller . 53:16,
the resulting gear range is about the same..

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Old 05-24-14, 12:17 PM   #7
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"I see that the Yuba website now sells a 13-34 freewheel"

For a slow speed heavily loaded bike the new Yuba set is ideal on urban roads with few hills. IMO no bike set up for heavy loads should never have a 44t ring due to the excessive pedel loading on the rider just to move the bike when loaded. A 44t ring is for speed and speed is NEVER needed on a loaded bike of any kind....to easy to over shoot the brakes!!
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Old 05-24-14, 12:46 PM   #8
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"I see that the Yuba website now sells a 13-34 freewheel"

For a slow speed heavily loaded bike the new Yuba set is ideal on urban roads with few hills. IMO no bike set up for heavy loads should never have a 44t ring due to the excessive pedel loading on the rider just to move the bike when loaded. A 44t ring is for speed and speed is NEVER needed on a loaded bike of any kind....to easy to over shoot the brakes!!
I beg to differ.



Crank is a 28/38/48 mated to an 11-34 8 speed cassette and the 48 tooth ring had to be added some years ago as the bike needed a higher top gear and a gear for tailwinds and descents.

Thing about cargo bikes is that they are not always loaded and I like to race roadies.

Wrapping the chain around the 48 and a middle 21 tooth cog also puts me in a 60 inch gear which is great for cruising and allows for maximum chain engagement which is more efficient than using a smaller chainwheel / cog combination.

The lowest gear is 21 gear inches, top gear is 112.

The brakes also work just fine at any speed I happen to be travelling.
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Old 05-25-14, 12:38 PM   #9
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"Crank is a 28/38/48 mated to an 11-34 8 speed cassette"

Not apples to apples with my opinion, mate.
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Old 06-01-14, 08:07 AM   #10
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On a cargo bike with triple chain rings up front on the crank. I like to set-up the chain ring sizes so that:

----- the smallest inboard chain ring is as small as I can possibly have it and everything still fits together and works together; usually a 22t or 24t.
----- the largest outboard chain ring is big enough so that running light without any load I can go as fast as I can pedal on the flat and still have an extra gear or two to shift up to on the rear derailer for if I get a strong tail-wind or am going down-hill. Sometimes a 48t is just barely big enough for this depending on what tooth counts I've got on the rear and how well the bike rolls unloaded.
----- the middle chain ring is just the right size (this is the most important one to get right in my mind) so that when carrying a normal size load I can leave the chain on the middle chain ring and the lowest rear derailer gear is low enough to climb a small hill without having to shift down to the smallest inboard chain ring and the higest rear derailer gear is high enough to get some decent but not reckless speed on the flat when hauling a normal size load.


Thus I generally ride around on the middle chain ring most of the time and it gets the most wear and is the most critical to size correctly. Smallest inboard chain ring is for climbing big hills and for hauling really big loads and the smaller the better so long as it fits and bolts up and still shifts correctly. Largest outboard chain ring is for maximum speed running light with no load to get wherever I'm going to pick up the load as fast as possible especially if I'm cutting it close. There have been many times where I've shown up hot and sweaty after a long hard ride of nearly ten miles at the big farm supply co-op like just ten minutes before it closes which is just enough time to grab what I need before they closed and if I didn't have that big chain wheel for my high gears to "haul @$$" getting there when unloaded I wouldn't have made it there before they closed.
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Old 06-01-14, 08:24 AM   #11
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Both Sixty Fiver and Nightshade have legitimate points in turn.

I totally agree with what 65er said about having high top end gears for when your not carrying a load and the ability to annoy roadies by how fast you can make your totally-not-a-weight-weenie-aero-weenie-road-bike move. He also has an excellent point about using the big chain ring with a larger size middle cog on the rear sprocket spool to get more chain engagement with the same gearing ratio with just two bigger sprockets rather then two smaller sprockets. Better for the chain and better for the sprockets spreading the torque and stress over more teeth and putting the chain under less tension.

On the other hand Nightshade has an excellent point about not being tempted to go too fast when hauling a load and overshoot your braking distance and ability. It's one thing to "haul @$$" when running light unloaded. It's entirely different to do so when hauling a load, especially watch it on the downhill sections especially if you have a heavy trailer where it isn't just how long it takes to brake to a stop but there are also jack-knifing issues that start cropping up if you try to brake too much too soon where your own trailer can try to run you down from behind. Unless you have trailer brakes, but very, very, very, very few people equip their bicycle cargo trailers with trailer brakes much less ones that are good enough and strong enough to be fully effective against such a problem.

So if you don't have the self control to keep from going too fast with a load then limiting your top end gearing is one method of keeping yourself from going too fast at least on everything but some steep downhill sections. But those are where you can get yourself in the most trouble anyway so just learning some self control to take it easy and not try to go too fast when hauling a big load is a better plan yet, at least IME.
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Old 07-03-14, 09:29 AM   #12
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Not being very strong, even when doing good training mileage, for me low end is everything. I would pretty much echo turbo1889. Light, I'm middle mostly and some upper if at speed downhill. Heavy, I live in the middle and use the grannies to get the torque to start up. In my area, I also have some nasty steep hills that light or heavy, granny and just cranking it is the only way up. Top end means nothing to me as I cannot compete with any cyclist for speed. I just want utility.
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Old 07-03-14, 11:08 AM   #13
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Both Sixty Fiver and Nightshade have legitimate points in turn.

I totally agree with what 65er said about having high top end gears for when your not carrying a load and the ability to annoy roadies by how fast you can make your totally-not-a-weight-weenie-aero-weenie-road-bike move. He also has an excellent point about using the big chain ring with a larger size middle cog on the rear sprocket spool to get more chain engagement with the same gearing ratio with just two bigger sprockets rather then two smaller sprockets. Better for the chain and better for the sprockets spreading the torque and stress over more teeth and putting the chain under less tension.

On the other hand Nightshade has an excellent point about not being tempted to go too fast when hauling a load and overshoot your braking distance and ability. It's one thing to "haul @$$" when running light unloaded. It's entirely different to do so when hauling a load, especially watch it on the downhill sections especially if you have a heavy trailer where it isn't just how long it takes to brake to a stop but there are also jack-knifing issues that start cropping up if you try to brake too much too soon where your own trailer can try to run you down from behind. Unless you have trailer brakes, but very, very, very, very few people equip their bicycle cargo trailers with trailer brakes much less ones that are good enough and strong enough to be fully effective against such a problem.

So if you don't have the self control to keep from going too fast with a load then limiting your top end gearing is one method of keeping yourself from going too fast at least on everything but some steep downhill sections. But those are where you can get yourself in the most trouble anyway so just learning some self control to take it easy and not try to go too fast when hauling a big load is a better plan yet, at least IME.
It is common sense to not over drive the brakes on any vehicle and to pay attention to the conditions and when I am loaded down with what could be well over 100 extra pounds I am not racing anyone.

I use my P20 as a tow vehicle fairly often and will cruise along at 30-35 kmh on the flats with the mobile shop... the brakes are more than up to stopping me in a hurry as they also need to stop the bike when it is running at much higher speeds.

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Old 07-14-14, 06:05 PM   #14
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I'm going to throw my two cents in here....I ride a Big Dummy mostly loaded and a Surly Pugsley with 29+ Krampus wheels (for the summer) in and around the Denver area.....I have yet to use the "Big" ring on either. I have also toyed with the idea of dropping both triples down to 42x32x22. Not sure it'll help much. I may just treat the "Big" ring as a ugly chain guard!

Later
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Old 07-22-14, 09:23 AM   #15
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@storckm, what did you end up doing, and are you happy with it?
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Old 07-22-14, 11:56 AM   #16
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"Crank is a 28/38/48 mated to an 11-34 8 speed cassette"

Not apples to apples with my opinion, mate.
It is pretty close...

44 < 48
13 < 11

The 44:13 on the Yuba is 103 gear inches, the 48:11 on my Extrabike is 112 although the 11 gets used with the 38 middle more for it's 89 gear inches.

As said, having a larger chainwheel does not mean you are going to use it to top out the bike but to maximize the drive's capabilities my mating the big ring to larger cogs which reduces friction and wear.
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Old 07-23-14, 07:33 AM   #17
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At the moment, I have the stock crank back on. I think I wouldn't want a smaller large ring.
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Old 07-23-14, 09:37 AM   #18
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Question for you SixtyFiver, is your trailer connected via frame or through hub bolt?
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Old 07-23-14, 09:47 AM   #19
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Question for you Sixty Fiver, is your trailer connected via frame or through hub bolt?
The Burley has a frame mount... my other trailer has an axle mount.
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Old 07-23-14, 09:58 AM   #20
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It is pretty close...

44 < 48
13 < 11

The 44:13 on the Yuba is 103 gear inches, the 48:11 on my Extrabike is 112 although the 11 gets used with the 38 middle more for it's 89 gear inches.

As said, having a larger chainwheel does not mean you are going to use it to top out the bike but to maximize the drive's capabilities my mating the big ring to larger cogs which reduces friction and wear.
Don't you find that cogs with so few teeth wear quickly? That's the conventional wisdom, but is it true? I use them sparingly. My Volpe has 26/36/46 chainrings or thereabouts. I use the biggest ring I can at any given moment so I can use as big a cog as I can, to minimize wear. I use the 11t cog only when careening downhill at irresponsible speeds.
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Old 07-23-14, 12:36 PM   #21
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Don't you find that cogs with so few teeth wear quickly? That's the conventional wisdom, but is it true? I use them sparingly. My Volpe has 26/36/46 chainrings or thereabouts. I use the biggest ring I can at any given moment so I can use as big a cog as I can, to minimize wear. I use the 11t cog only when careening downhill at irresponsible speeds.
It is physics.

Efficiency drops noticeably when your smallest cog has less than 13 teeth and engaging as many teeth as possible to get a given gear improves efficiency and reduces wear.

In riding a fixed gear I have always run the largest chainwheel / cog combination possible for a given gear and it does make a difference in the smoothness of the drivetrain and extends it's lifespan and when you reduce drag / friction you also become more efficient.

The same applies to geared bicycles where people should learn to use the largest chainwheel / cog combination as long as it does not cause excessive cross chaining.

The example I gave of running the 48:21 on my cargo bike is apt as although I could get that same gearing with the 38:16 that is a difference of 15 total teeth that are being engaged.

One can usually feel this with a new cassette where the 11 tooth cog feels rougher than than the adjacent cog which is often a 13... it is because you are only engaging half of those 11 teeth and putting a lot of torque into a small area of contact.

You may have seen bikes where the rear 11 tooth cogs have not worn but have chipped because of the force they are under.
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Old 07-23-14, 01:25 PM   #22
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I totally agree with what 65er said about having high top end gears for when your not carrying a load and the ability to annoy roadies by how fast you can make your totally-not-a-weight-weenie-aero-weenie-road-bike move.
You ride your bike to annoy other road users? Wow.
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Old 07-23-14, 03:01 PM   #23
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You ride your bike to annoy other road users? Wow.
If he had said "show up" instead of "annoy," what would your response be?
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Old 08-24-14, 02:43 PM   #24
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@storckm, what did you end up doing, and are you happy with it?
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At the moment, I have the stock crank back on. I think I wouldn't want a smaller large ring.
I read most of the posts and it seems as though they were mostly trying to say that bigger was better and were missing your question. I'd say if you don't use the 44 and you do use the 34, see if you can find a 42 or 40. I like the closer ratio stuff, but you may want to calculate all of them to see how much you are duplicating. The smaller the outside ring the more you ratios you are likely to duplicate.
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Old 08-25-14, 02:17 PM   #25
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Schlumpf Mountain Drive - Haberstock Mobility..

2,5:1 reduction gear crankset.. turns my 3 speed into a mountain climber.. they have a Heavy duty cargo version..

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