Old 10-07-11, 08:45 AM
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I went thru the same thing on my Windsor Tourist and maybe what I found out might save you some searching. The Windsor came with 52,42,30 chainrings and 11-32 cassette 9 sp. Needing a lower granny gear for loaded climbing and not understanding much of this I found this web site that allows you to compare different gearing setup's at different cadences and outputs speeds and (gear inch) information. I knew I wanted to be below 20 gear inch for a granny and had no need for more than 100 gear inch as a tall gear. The best web site I found for comparing this is linked below.


After reading a lot I did the normal change out of the small chain ring to a 26t and was advised if I went smaller the drop from 42t would be pushing the limits. I also at that time added a chain minder to help over shooting the 26t. That was a great improvement and stuck with that for a year wanting a little bit lower granny still and having excessive tall gears I never used. I was debating over a mtn bike crank transplant and something no one was suggesting changing the cassette. After finding a cassette that was 12-36 and putting it in the gear calculator I liked how it dropped my low to a 19 gear inch and also lowered my top gear to something like 106 still a little high but lots better. So I did that and Totally fell in love with the ranges for me. I did have to add one link to the chain even though I would never cross chain the two big rings it could happen by mistake and I didn’t want to break something.

I kept thinking about the top gear still and a friend had a brand new 44,32,22 mtn bike crankset with the sq BB mounting and for $18 bucks I thought let's give it a try. This time I removed the link I added plus one more. Below are the before and after photos. I did drop the FD even though the photo was taken before. I ran the numbers and came up with a ridicules low gear of about 16 gear inches I think but thought who know maybe you can't go to low and I have some super steep climbs around here maybe I would use that range, and looking at the tall gear it was perfect for what I wanted I thought. So I changed it out. When I first jumped on the bike I tried the tall gear and it was great, right at my upper limit. I rode to the steepest hill I have around and spun up it so slow in the granny I was winded at the top just due to RPM needed to keep the bike going fast enough to not tip over, but the resistance was great almost zero. I started riding it around more and soon began to hate the mtn bike crank and for a totally different reason than I would have thought. What I hated is that the middle chain ring no longer covered the wide range of where I like to ride. I was constantly jumping around between the 44 and 32 in funny shift patterns as I didn’t like cross chaining off the 44 to the extent I was. What I found was for me the 42 on my original crank matched up with the 12-36 perfectly for my riding style. Once that light came on I couldn’t change back to my old crank set fast enough.

So am I done tweaking yet? Maybe not. I'm not totally happy having a chain that’s one link longer for replacement on the road, but that’s not a big enough reason to change anything. The way I use this bike I'm finding is 70% a commuter 30% touring. When I bought it I had planned to just keep it for touring and I have other road bikes and grocery getters to use for the rest. But the things that make it a comfortable touring bike also appeal to me to ride it just about any time any place. It’s a bit heavy but I don’t race and its stable and easy to adapt to whatever I'm doing. Unloaded from touring with the big ring a 48t I think I would ride a lot in the 6 smallest on the cassette 12-24. So I might just loose the 52t for a 48t.

Sorry for a longish post and I'm not trying to hijack your thread or persuade you to use the gearing I used. Rather don’t overlook the middle chain ring size where you do most of your riding and figure out where your personal sweet spot is in that regard. In my case I had to make changes both front and back to get to where I needed to be.
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