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6 Speed Freewheel - Why?

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Old 02-26-06, 08:04 AM
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fritz1255
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6 Speed Freewheel - Why?

Don't know if this is the right forum for this question, but it applies to a "vintage" bike, and has historical context, so here goes: I recently bought an early-80's 12-speed bike. The freewheel has 6 gears, from 14 to 28 teeth. Same overall range as a standard 5-speed freewheel, no extension of range at all. Was it REALLY necessary to add another gear in between, or was this simply a marketing ploy?
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Old 02-26-06, 09:04 AM
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If you look at the modern 10 speed clusters, you will notice that the ranges haven't increased very much (11- 14 gears are pretty much useless in most cases other than racing))

The highs and lows are not changed in most cases for 8 speed to 10 speed, and the argument is that there are a wider variety of gears available between the extremes. It makes it easier to find that "perfect" gear for each situation, and isn't necessarily about the high and low.

But, yes... I do think that an element of each change in bicycle technology is marketing hype.
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Old 02-26-06, 09:17 AM
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It was probably marketing in part, but there are definite real-world advantages to having more closely spaced gears under certain conditions. Especially if you ride on the flat and you're trying to keep your cadence fairly constant, for example to keep your heart rate in your chosen training zone. On the smaller cogs, one tooth can make a huge difference.
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Old 02-27-06, 12:30 AM
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Here's a distinct advantage for more gears as you get older. In college, when I first changed from 5-speed to 6-speed, I kept a 13-21 "corncob" but simply had more closely spaced gears, which was really nice. As I got older and rode less, I switched to a 13-24 6-speed. Thus, I gained a helpful uphill gear for my arthritic knees. (I guess one day, I will have to get a touring bike with triple front chainrings. Oh well, maybe it will match my bifocals.)
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Old 02-28-06, 11:29 PM
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Originally Posted by dgregory57
If you look at the modern 10 speed clusters, you will notice that the ranges haven't increased very much (11- 14 gears are pretty much useless in most cases other than racing))

The highs and lows are not changed in most cases for 8 speed to 10 speed, and the argument is that there are a wider variety of gears available between the extremes. It makes it easier to find that "perfect" gear for each situation, and isn't necessarily about the high and low.

But, yes... I do think that an element of each change in bicycle technology is marketing hype.
Ditto on that. But personally, I ride a 7-speed - I just don't see any substantial advantages in adding more gears but see several problems. Thinner chains tend to break more, and the terrible compatability problems if you want index shifting. Just pick your freewheel right - get several gears 1 tooth apart around the gear you ride in most of the time. There are lots of 7-speeds freewheels on ebay - from staright blocks to wide ratio.
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Old 03-01-06, 12:04 AM
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I love my 6 speed freewheel. But I'd likely be just as happy with 5 in the back.

I think 8-9-10 are all overkill but for the non-poseur few.
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Old 03-01-06, 08:25 AM
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It's all a matter of degree. They asked this question when they went from 3 to 4 cogs and 4 to 5. I think there are those of us of a certain age that think a 5 cog freewheel is somehow the correct number, because we grew up riding 10 speeds.
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Old 03-01-06, 09:14 AM
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Originally Posted by silversmith
I think 8-9-10 are all overkill but for the non-poseur few.

Gon't get me wrong - I love the old stuff, too. But having 9-10 closely spaced gears is da bomb for long distance riding. Being able to select just the right gear for the terrain you're on is very, very handy.

More is better, especially if you have lots of hills.
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Old 03-01-06, 04:53 PM
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As I have explained in other threads, I favor a tight 6 or 7 percent progression in my gear ratios, because this makes, to me, a noticeable change in cadence and pedal effort. The number of usable (excludes cross-chains) and unique/non-redundant gear ratios is then dictated by the range I wish to cover, somewhere between 2:1 and 2.5:1 for a road bike, up to 4:1 for a mountain bike.

With half-step gearing, I find I need at least a 2x6 setup to accomplish my objectives, viz:
12-speed:
1970 Peugeot: 45-42 / 13-15-17-20-23-26 (7% spacing and just enough range)
10-speed:
1960 Capo: 49-45 / 14-16-19-23-26 (works, but with 9% instead of 7% spacing)

For 1.5-step gearing, I lean toward 2-tooth cogset progressions; for a decent range, such as 13-26, this requires 7 cogs, e.g.:
1981 Bianchi: 50-42 / 13-15-17-19-21-23-26
1988 Schwinn: 48-40-24 / 13-15-17-19-22-24-26

I have been having a blast with my new and unusual 1.5-step / half-step 18-speed gearing:
1959 Capo: 50-42-39 / 13-15-17-19-21-23 (plan to replace 23 with 24)
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Old 03-05-06, 05:16 AM
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If you guys rode and raced as much as you talked, you'd know that there's never going to be a "perfect' gear--just use the one you're in when you're in a bind. Riding is like life: either plan ahead, or you have to take what you given yourself. Really, I'm a newby to these forums, and I don't think I like you folks much. Quit thinking about your precious bikes and go ride them.
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Old 03-05-06, 07:50 AM
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Originally Posted by sunday driver
If you guys rode and raced as much as you talked, you'd know that there's never going to be a "perfect' gear--just use the one you're in when you're in a bind. Riding is like life: either plan ahead, or you have to take what you given yourself. Really, I'm a newby to these forums, and I don't think I like you folks much. Quit thinking about your precious bikes and go ride them.
Since Shimano invented STI and Hyperglide there's no reason to be in a bind or wrong gear, as the right gear is always at your fingertips. And selection of the proper chainrings and cassette/freewheel based on a pre-event assessment of the course is standard procedure for the knowledgeable tourist or racer.
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Old 03-05-06, 08:06 AM
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@sunday driver: welcome to the forums! I think you made your first steps to a long, bonding, warm and helpfull relation with our classic&vintage section.

A lot of people don't seem to understand that filling forums with texts doesn't bite biking. Perhaps we can do both...
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Old 03-05-06, 08:55 AM
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Originally Posted by fritz1255
...Was it REALLY necessary to add another gear in between, or was this simply a marketing ploy?
Marketing.

The 8-speed gears on my 1990's bike are way thinner than the 5-speed gears on my old 1970's bike. I'm a little worried about durability with the thinner gears.
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Old 03-05-06, 09:22 AM
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Originally Posted by sunday driver
If you guys rode and raced as much as you talked, you'd know that there's never going to be a "perfect' gear--just use the one you're in when you're in a bind. Riding is like life: either plan ahead, or you have to take what you given yourself. Really, I'm a newby to these forums, and I don't think I like you folks much. Quit thinking about your precious bikes and go ride them.
One would have to wonder why you decided to wander into Classic & Vintage which is likely to be populated by folks who appreciate bicycles for the artistic and mechanical marvels they are. Folks who like to talk to others about them and most significantly, people who are likely not racing their bikes.

You have, with this post, gone a long way to making yourself well liked and accepted by the residents in this community.
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Old 03-05-06, 09:29 AM
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Originally Posted by sunday driver
If you guys rode and raced as much as you talked, you'd know that there's never going to be a "perfect' gear--just use the one you're in when you're in a bind. Riding is like life: either plan ahead, or you have to take what you given yourself. Really, I'm a newby to these forums, and I don't think I like you folks much. Quit thinking about your precious bikes and go ride them.
dang, who p*ssed in your cereal this morning?

obviously didn't consider that the discussion of gearing was planning ahead. plus, if they/we didn't ride, we wouldn't care about gearing. sheesh.
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Old 03-05-06, 09:34 AM
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Originally Posted by sunday driver
Quit thinking about your precious bikes and go ride them.
You go, boy -- riding without thinking! We count on guys like you to keep us supplied with restoration projects and parts bikes.
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Old 03-05-06, 10:15 AM
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today is sunday, isn't it? sunday driver should be doing more driving & less yappin today i think...some of us read the forum because its freezing outside!
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Old 03-05-06, 10:49 AM
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Well, even here in sunny southern CA, I have been guilty of writing more than riding lately. I guess I have been slapped back into my senses. Really. As soon as it warms up a bit more, I'll go for a ride.

Back to the discussion at hand: I have no preference between 5 or 6 speed. I have them both and really don't think about it too much.
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Old 03-05-06, 11:16 AM
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Originally Posted by bikemeister
Ditto on that. But personally, I ride a 7-speed - I just don't see any substantial advantages in adding more gears but see several problems. Thinner chains tend to break more, and the terrible compatability problems if you want index shifting. Just pick your freewheel right - get several gears 1 tooth apart around the gear you ride in most of the time. There are lots of 7-speeds freewheels on ebay - from staright blocks to wide ratio.
IMO, everything after 8 speeds is just duplicating. Chart out your gears, and if a gear is within 3% or so of another, take one of them out. You'll probably find that with a 9 or 10 speed with a triple, all you really get is more duplicates. All this with thinner chains and more dish on the rear wheel.
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Old 03-05-06, 11:41 AM
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Originally Posted by mswantak
You go, boy -- riding without thinking! We count on guys like you to keep us supplied with restoration projects and parts bikes.
Right on!

P.S.: My favorite freewheels for riding are corncob-geared 6 speeds with a double up front. Of course, there aren't many hills here in South Florida - and I don't mind pedaling out of the saddle.

-Kurt
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Old 03-05-06, 11:50 AM
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Sunday Driver,I found that as I got older,weaker,slower,I found I had more time to look at what I was riding. Now I like to play with the bike( eyeballing it,wrenching,modifying,breaking(sometimes)-unbreaking) as much as I like to ride it.Thanks.Charlie
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Old 03-05-06, 01:17 PM
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Originally Posted by mswantak
You go, boy -- riding without thinking! We count on guys like you to keep us supplied with restoration projects and parts bikes.

Yeah - but try not to bleed too much on the parts we're gonna get. It pits the chrome and stains the paint.
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Old 03-05-06, 07:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Rabid Koala
Well, even here in sunny southern CA, I have been guilty of writing more than riding lately. I guess I have been slapped back into my senses. Really. As soon as it warms up a bit more, I'll go for a ride.
Go for the inland ride, it's nice and warm without being too hot. I wore a LS jersey and shorts this morning. It was cold until we got about 10 miles from the coast.

I have a 6 speed freewheel and a 9 speed cassette. I only use 3-4 on each of them.
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Old 03-05-06, 07:42 PM
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Originally Posted by sunday driver
If you guys rode and raced as much as you talked, you'd know that there's never going to be a "perfect' gear--just use the one you're in when you're in a bind. ... Really, I'm a newby to these forums, and I don't think I like you folks much. Quit thinking about your precious bikes and go ride them.
Welcome to the forums, sunday driver. I always appreciate good satire.
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Old 03-06-06, 12:03 AM
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I must have hit a nerve with some of you. At 49, I've put a heck of a lot of miles on alot of bikes. Training, racing, touring, commuting, in a lot of states, provinces and countries. Used a 53-42in front, and 12-17 in back for criteriums. But hey! maybe I worked too hard. And I do agree with you tinkerers: it's just as much fun on these rainy windy dark gloomy NW days to tinker with bikes, to see what I can do with it, make it better, slicker, whatever. And I've busted some stuff too, (including alot of bones.) Growing up in ELA, Ididn't have much money, upgraded one part at a time. made a lot of my own tools, still have some of them. Those were actually some of the funnest times I've had with bikes. Really appreciated what I had, couldn't wait to ride one. And all you multi-gear heads: try a 40 pound one speed in the hot summers and snowy winters in China.
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