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Gear Inches, biggest gap below 36t chainring?

Old 04-28-14, 08:03 PM
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Gear Inches, biggest gap below 36t chainring?

I am going through gearing and thinking of going for a lower end gear ratio for better hill tackling. Right now my bike has 700x42 tires and the biggest cassette gear is 32t and the smallest chainring is 26t with a 175mm crank. That should be right about 22.5 gear inches. The middle size chainring is 36t. So my question is how small can I go on the chainring sizing and still have OK shifting ability back up to the 36?

My other question is what would be a noticeable drop in gear inches for the bottom end? I think I have plenty of gears above to cover the bottom range of the 36t chainring gearing so if I have to drop to the (smaller than 26t chainring) I have plenty of gears to choose from in the hills. I'd rather have too low of a gear and never use it than to have a bottom end that is still too high to stay on the bike.
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Old 04-29-14, 05:59 AM
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Originally Posted by KC8QVO
I am going through gearing and thinking of going for a lower end gear ratio for better hill tackling. Right now my bike has 700x42 tires and the biggest cassette gear is 32t and the smallest chainring is 26t with a 175mm crank. That should be right about 22.5 gear inches. The middle size chainring is 36t. So my question is how small can I go on the chainring sizing and still have OK shifting ability back up to the 36?

My other question is what would be a noticeable drop in gear inches for the bottom end? I think I have plenty of gears above to cover the bottom range of the 36t chainring gearing so if I have to drop to the (smaller than 26t chainring) I have plenty of gears to choose from in the hills. I'd rather have too low of a gear and never use it than to have a bottom end that is still too high to stay on the bike.
My touring bike has no problems shifting from a 36 tooth middle to a 20 tooth inner and back. The 16" gear that I get from a 20 tooth inner and a 34 tooth low comes in real handy when hauling a touring load up a mountain. I may be pedaling at 3 to 4 mph but it beats pushing the bike at the same speed.
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Old 04-29-14, 06:57 AM
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If you can't climb everything you need to with a 26/32 ratio, there is something wrong. That wouldn't be hills, that would be wall climbing. At 90 RPM that would be around 6 miles/hour. If you slowed the cadence down to a still respectable 60 RPM, that would be 4 MPH. If you put anything smaller on the front, you will be moving so slowly even at normal cadence, it will be like standing still. I admit to not being that good of a bike handler, but at speeds like that I could not keep the bike upright very well. I think you should work on something else instead.
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Old 04-29-14, 08:23 AM
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I like spinning and use a 24/34 (~19.5gi) on my touring bike and I don't even ride up mountains around here. I'd get a bigger rear cassette or smaller inner ring if I were hitting the mountains. I have a 36T middle ring and don't have any shifting problems with this combination.
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Old 04-29-14, 08:28 AM
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Go for the 24t small ring unless your crank will take a 20.
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Old 04-29-14, 08:35 AM
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Originally Posted by rpenmanparker
If you can't climb everything you need to with a 26/32 ratio, there is something wrong. That wouldn't be hills, that would be wall climbing. At 90 RPM that would be around 6 miles/hour. If you slowed the cadence down to a still respectable 60 RPM, that would be 4 MPH. If you put anything smaller on the front, you will be moving so slowly even at normal cadence, it will be like standing still. I admit to not being that good of a bike handler, but at speeds like that I could not keep the bike upright very well. I think you should work on something else instead.
That's just not true. First, how low a gear someone needs depends on the person and the application. A world class bicycle racer may be able to climb to the top of Alpe d'Huez in a 42/24 but more normal humans are going to struggle with a 26/32. I've been up many, many hills in a 20/34 with a 700C wheel at 3 mph. It beats the hell out of walking and pushing the bike. When you are staring at this



in the distance on a bike with a 40 lb load of touring gear, being able to pedal up it even at this kind of speed



is something that I appreciate. You can go ahead and ride up hills in any gear you want but you can't decide for anyone but yourself the lowest gear possible.

I assume that KC8QVO has tried climbing in his current gear and finds it lacking. He asked if it is possible to go to a smaller chainring. Yes, it is entirely possible to go to a much smaller inner ring, KC8QVO
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Old 04-29-14, 08:39 AM
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It's most about the terrain where you make that shift.. do it while starting down the hill after reaching the summit.
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Old 04-29-14, 09:22 AM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute
That's just not true. First, how low a gear someone needs depends on the person and the application. A world class bicycle racer may be able to climb to the top of Alpe d'Huez in a 42/24 but more normal humans are going to struggle with a 26/32. I've been up many, many hills in a 20/34 with a 700C wheel at 3 mph. It beats the hell out of walking and pushing the bike. When you are staring at this



in the distance on a bike with a 40 lb load of touring gear, being able to pedal up it even at this kind of speed



is something that I appreciate. You can go ahead and ride up hills in any gear you want but you can't decide for anyone but yourself the lowest gear possible.

I assume that KC8QVO has tried climbing in his current gear and finds it lacking. He asked if it is possible to go to a smaller chainring. Yes, it is entirely possible to go to a much smaller inner ring, KC8QVO
No doubt, but 3 mph is awfully close to 0, and that is known as a track stand. I can't ride at 3 mph for more than startup time on the flat, much less on a steep hill. Just talking about keeping the bike upright. I salute you. With a load too. You must be a hell of a bike handler. I know I am not. And if you have to stop, how can you ever get started again? That is a type of cycling that is not for normal mortals. I'm glad you enjoy it.
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Old 04-29-14, 09:46 AM
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I never tell people how low is low enough. Everybody is different, and hauls different loads. The only guideline I ever offer is that roughly 14" is a 1:1 gearing and the effort and speed will approximate walking. Under those conditions bike handling can be difficult, but not impossible, and as Cycommute points out, riding still beats walking.

As far as shifting goes, I don't worry too much about the granny to middle shift because it's not something you do all that often. You can also exceed RD take up capacity with a chain too long because you won't be using the granny with the smaller cassette sprockets.
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Old 04-29-14, 09:59 AM
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KC8QVO, A noticeable difference depends on the situation. A couple of GIs can make a noticeable difference on the flats while riding into a head wind or conversely along with a calm breeze. Ten percent difference is often touted as "noticeable" in most discussions I've read. It also may not be enough difference to satisfy a need.

Here is a chart with some granny gearing options:

[TABLE]
[TR]
[TD][TABLE]
[TR]
[TD][/TD]
[TH="bgcolor: yellow"]20[/TH]
[TD="align: center"]10.0 %[/TD]
[TH="bgcolor: yellow"]22[/TH]
[TD="align: center"]18.2 %[/TD]
[TH="bgcolor: yellow"]26[/TH]
[/TR]
[TR]
[TH="bgcolor: yellow"]32[/TH]
[TH="bgcolor: white"]17.4[/TH]
[TD][/TD]
[TH="bgcolor: white"]19.2[/TH]
[TD][/TD]
[TH="bgcolor: white"]22.6[/TH]
[/TR]
[TR]
[TD="align: center"]12.5 %[/TD]
[/TR]
[TR]
[TH="bgcolor: yellow"]36[/TH]
[TH="bgcolor: white"]15.5[/TH]
[TD][/TD]
[TH="bgcolor: white"]17.0[/TH]
[TD][/TD]
[TH="bgcolor: white"]20.1
[/TH]
[/TR]
[/TABLE]
[/TD]
[/TR]
[/TABLE]

Brad

PS I used a 44 mm tire size so the data isn't an exact match to yours.

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Old 04-29-14, 10:10 AM
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1. What are you using for a shifter? STI's may get a little "iffy" but I wouldn't worry at all with a friction bar end shifter.

2. I wouldn't worry about the gear gap either. You only use your granny gear while climbing big hills. Once you crest the hill, you generally shift back into the middle ring.
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Old 04-29-14, 10:21 AM
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How much lower do you need?
IF you are just barely making it over the hills, just a bit lower gearing will make a world of difference.

Another approach is smaller tires. Not only do you shed weight, you gear down slightly because of the smaller diameter.
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Old 04-29-14, 10:32 AM
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Originally Posted by FBinNY
I never tell people how low is low enough. Everybody is different, and hauls different loads. The only guideline I ever offer is that roughly 14" is a 1:1 gearing and the effort and speed will approximate walking. Under those conditions bike handling can be difficult, but not impossible, and as Cycommute points out, riding still beats walking.

As far as shifting goes, I don't worry too much about the granny to middle shift because it's not something you do all that often. You can also exceed RD take up capacity with a chain too long because you won't be using the granny with the smaller cassette sprockets.
I am a little confused. When you say 14", you mean gear inches, right? And 1:1 gearing means the same number of teeth on the chain ring and rear cog, yes? Wouldn't that make about 28" (depending upon the wheel type/size) equal to 1:1 gearing, not 14"? Were you thinking 1:2 gearing or maybe radius instead of diameter, or have I misunderstood one of the terms?
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Old 04-29-14, 11:42 AM
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Originally Posted by rpenmanparker
I am a little confused. When you say 14", you mean gear inches, right? And 1:1 gearing means the same number of teeth on the chain ring and rear cog, yes? Wouldn't that make about 28" (depending upon the wheel type/size) equal to 1:1 gearing, not 14"? Were you thinking 1:2 gearing or maybe radius instead of diameter, or have I misunderstood one of the terms?
Yes, I noticed that too and think FB made a typo. 1:1 gearing on a typical 700c wheel is nominally 27 gear-inches. 1:1 at 14 gear-inches would require a 14" rear wheel.

As to maintaining control at very low speed, 3 mph is pretty controllable in my experience.
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Old 04-29-14, 11:55 AM
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Originally Posted by HillRider
Yes, I noticed that too and think FB made a typo. 1:1 gearing on a typical 700c wheel is nominally 27 gear-inches. 1:1 at 14 gear-inches would require a 14" rear wheel.

As to maintaining control at very low speed, 3 mph is pretty controllable in my experience.
Sorry, I should have been clearer, but it wasn't a typo.

I meant 1:1 in the sense that a 14" gear implies an effective wheel diameter of 14" or the same diameter as the crank. That means that it's like walking since if you push the foot down 1", the bicycle mover forward the same amount. While pedaling isn't exactly like walking, the strength required to push the bike forward in a 14" gear is very close to what would be required walking.

Obviously if we're talking super low gearing, we're talking very steep hills. In all likelihood you couldn't walk them at a sustained 3mph unless you were in decent shape, so odds are you'll be riding at speeds as low as 2mph or so, not easy but doable. I've ridden walls like this, and prefer not to ride them at speeds that low, so I push bigger gears (still low) and slalom to lower the grade. That lets me climb at a rolling speed o4mph or more, while actually moving at sub 2mph net. IME, where it's possible, the slalom technique makes it easier than a super low gear, but you still need a low enough gear to do that.

BTW- for a frame of reference 20 front, 36 rear on a 700c wheel is roughly a 15" gear, which is a practical floor, both mechanically and in rideability.
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Old 04-29-14, 12:10 PM
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Originally Posted by FBinNY
Sorry, I should have been clearer, but it wasn't a typo.

I meant 1:1 in the sense that a 14" gear implies an effective wheel diameter of 14" or the same diameter as the crank. That means that it's like walking since if you push the foot down 1", the bicycle mover forward the same amount. While pedaling isn't exactly like walking, the strength required to push the bike forward in a 14" gear is very close to what would be required walking.

Obviously if we're talking super low gearing, we're talking very steep hills. In all likelihood you couldn't walk them at a sustained 3mph unless you were in decent shape, so odds are you'll be riding at speeds as low as 2mph or so, not easy but doable. I've ridden walls like this, and prefer not to ride them at speeds that low, so I push bigger gears (still low) and slalom to lower the grade. That lets me climb at a rolling speed o4mph or more, while actually moving at sub 2mph net. IME, where it's possible, the slalom technique makes it easier than a super low gear, but you still need a low enough gear to do that.

BTW- for a frame of reference 20 front, 36 rear on a 700c wheel is roughly a 15" gear, which is a practical floor, both mechanically and in rideability.
Thanks. Never thought of it that way with regard to the walking equivalence. Always learning. I certainly agree with you about the slalom technique. Due to medication and cardiovascular disease I am surely climbing challenged, and on more than one occasion going back and forth across the road has saved me. As you imply, the ability to ride at a faster ground speed helps with the bike handling while criss-crossing the road provides a reasonable climbing rate relative to one's cardiovascular capability.
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Old 04-29-14, 03:22 PM
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Originally Posted by FBinNY
Obviously if we're talking super low gearing, we're talking very steep hills. In all likelihood you couldn't walk them at a sustained 3mph unless you were in decent shape, so odds are you'll be riding at speeds as low as 2mph or so, not easy but doable. I've ridden walls like this, and prefer not to ride them at speeds that low, so I push bigger gears (still low) and slalom to lower the grade. That lets me climb at a rolling speed o4mph or more, while actually moving at sub 2mph net. IME, where it's possible, the slalom technique makes it easier than a super low gear, but you still need a low enough gear to do that.
Hills that require this kind of gearing aren't really something that you can walk up any faster than you can ride a bike up them. 3 mph up a hill on a bike that has a 15" gear is far easier than walking up the same hill. That's the advantage of the efficiency of the bicycle. Riding a bike at 3 mph really isn't all that hard. I've done it for hours in the Appalachia region. I've also walked mountain passes here in Colorado where the issue isn't the steepness of the road (7% is steep out here) but the altitude. I still rather ride the bike.

I'll add that the slalom technique only works if you have the space to do it. I've seldom run across a road with low enough traffic to allow me to do that practice. It's also not a practical technique for narrow mountain bike trails. It's a good idea to learn how to go ups something steep on the fall line at a slow speed just in case you don't have the room to slalom back and forth.

Originally Posted by FBinNY
BTW- for a frame of reference 20 front, 36 rear on a 700c wheel is roughly a 15" gear, which is a practical floor, both mechanically and in rideability.
Not really. The old Mountain Tamer Quad allowed for a 16/34 or even a 16/38 during the Suntour ARX years. That's a 12.2" and a 10.9" on a 26" mountain bike wheel, respectively. I know I've used the 16/34 At 40 rpm...which is a respectable mountain bike cadence...that's 1.5 and 1.3 mph. You have to use a gear that low in short bursts to get up and over obstacles and it wasn't a gear you'd use for long periods of time but it did come in handy.
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Old 04-29-14, 07:37 PM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute
That's just not true. First, how low a gear someone needs depends on the person and the application. A world class bicycle racer may be able to climb to the top of Alpe d'Huez in a 42/24 but more normal humans are going to struggle with a 26/32. I've been up many, many hills in a 20/34 with a 700C wheel at 3 mph. It beats the hell out of walking and pushing the bike. When you are staring at this



in the distance on a bike with a 40 lb load of touring gear, being able to pedal up it even at this kind of speed



is something that I appreciate. You can go ahead and ride up hills in any gear you want but you can't decide for anyone but yourself the lowest gear possible.

I assume that KC8QVO has tried climbing in his current gear and finds it lacking. He asked if it is possible to go to a smaller chainring. Yes, it is entirely possible to go to a much smaller inner ring, KC8QVO
THANKS!! That is exactly what I was looking for.

On some of my day tours there are a few climbs that have max'ed out my drive train, although short durations it really has me thinking about steeper gearing for some bigger trips. On relatively flat terrain I am OK now to climb the occasional hill, but I am also loading light (compared to a self-supported multi-day trek). I don't want to get in to a situation and not have enough gears to drop down to, and after riding a bit I can see that situation very easily.

I ride about 98% on the 36t chain ring so if I don't change much there I'll be just fine. Honestly, I don't use my 48t chain ring except for running down hills, and even still I get going so fast I slow down anyway. So maybe even a change in chain rings down a notch would be something to look at. If I can shift from a 20 to a 36 OK, though, that should work.

If I swap out the 32t cassette with a 34t that will get me some more gear inches too. Though, in doing so I may goof up the 36t range. Maybe if I bump the bigger 2 cassettes up a few t that will balance out the gap so it isn't as big of a jump to the 34? Or maybe go up to 36 and bump up the second one to bridge it?
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Old 04-29-14, 07:51 PM
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Originally Posted by KC8QVO
........I ride about 98% on the 36t chain ring so if I don't change much there I'll be just fine. Honestly, I don't use my 48t chain ring except for running down hills, and even still I get going so fast I slow down anyway. ......
Maybe just go to a 22-32-44 "mountain" crank.
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Old 04-29-14, 08:17 PM
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Originally Posted by FBinNY
.... so I push bigger gears (still low) and slalom to lower the grade. That lets me climb at a rolling speed o4mph or more, while actually moving at sub 2mph net. IME, where it's possible, the slalom technique makes it easier than a super low gear, but you still need a low enough gear to do that.
When I was a kid we used to call that "Newsboying" since that's the way most of the local news boys (and the rest of us) had to climb given the almost universal prevalence of heavy single speed balloon tire bikes and lots of hills. Slaloming was the only way we were going to ride up those hills.

Cyccommute is right that it takes the full width of a two lane road to do it effectively and we had to watch carefully for oncoming cars. Our parents weren't real happy with the technique.
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Old 04-29-14, 08:21 PM
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Originally Posted by KC8QVO
THANKS!! That is exactly what I was looking for.

...I ride about 98% on the 36t chain ring so if I don't change much there I'll be just fine. Honestly, I don't use my 48t chain ring except for running down hills, and even still I get going so fast I slow down anyway. So maybe even a change in chain rings down a notch would be something to look at. If I can shift from a 20 to a 36 OK, though, that should work...
Now that we have more info to work with, I agree with, Bill K. No sense having a chain ring option that's very seldom used.

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Old 04-29-14, 10:25 PM
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As tempting as it is to say HTFU, I have 24x32 on the cargo bike and use it when returning home with a load of groceries . . .

I think a mountain crank might be helpful.
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Old 04-30-14, 06:31 AM
  #23  
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Where did my post go?

I thought I put a post on here with a chart and comparing the gear inches between the different chain rings and cassettes (the stock 26/36 vs a 20 and then throwing on a 34 cassette on top of the 32/in place of)? When I was working on it I dozed off and tried to post it then it made me log back in as the site timed out. I am pretty sure the post made it on the thread but now I don't see it. Am I loosing it? Or did it disappear?
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Old 04-30-14, 08:14 PM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by rpenmanparker
If you can't climb everything you need to with a 26/32 ratio, there is something wrong. That wouldn't be hills, that would be wall climbing. At 90 RPM that would be around 6 miles/hour. If you slowed the cadence down to a still respectable 60 RPM, that would be 4 MPH. If you put anything smaller on the front, you will be moving so slowly even at normal cadence, it will be like standing still. I admit to not being that good of a bike handler, but at speeds like that I could not keep the bike upright very well. I think you should work on something else instead.
I want to second to say that your answer is "misinformed", and shows an inexperience of touring loaded in very steep terrain. I too have spent hours climbing at 6, 7, 8 kph, not miles per hour. 6kph is about 4 mph, 8k is 5mph. Its rather easy to do and is in fact much easier than pushing a heavy bike up a hill.

For 25 years I have heard this sort of attitude in bike stores from employees who have never toured, and from roadies who poo-poo low gearing but who ride bikes that weigh the same as one of my rear panniers.

I respond to this so that the fellow who asked the question gets informed answers.
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Old 04-30-14, 08:27 PM
  #25  
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To answer the original question: my bike has a 24-42-52 triple crank. The jump from the 24-tooth to 42-tooth is a little picky, but it's never failed to shift. The rear cassette is 11-34.

I don't use that low gear often, but when I need it, I need it. On this route: Day 10: Lillooet to Pemberton - A bike ride in British Columbia the second 3 miles climb 1600 feet, averaging about 10% with a maximum pitch of around 15%. Hauling my oversize carcass up that was a long grind. The descent back to the bottom was fun until my rim strip melted and the tube blew out. It's the only time I've had to be sagged in.

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