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What is YOUR preferred "hill" gearing?

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What is YOUR preferred "hill" gearing?

Old 02-26-14, 08:35 AM
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What is YOUR preferred "hill" gearing?

Without debating the weight or tubing or style of your bike ('cuz that is a circuitous journey I don't wish to travel), what is YOUR preferred low gear (or gear range) for riding the hills?

I'll start: Although 95% of my riding takes place in the 60 - 70 gear inch range, I like to have a bailout available to me in the upper 30's to low 40's for climbing or rolling hills. Any lower than that and I feel like I'm spinning like a hamster in a cage.

How about you?
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Old 02-26-14, 08:41 AM
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I am currently working on that. All I know is this 39/28 sucks. I will ultimately go with a compact 50/34 and 12-28 cassette. I battle steep hills too much for the knees.
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Old 02-26-14, 08:41 AM
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My lowest gear on all my bikes is just north of 12 inches (81 speed Cannondale Hybrid), and yes I use it and don't fall over. My normal road riding is a 30T or 28T granny coupled to a 32T-34T big cog, whether on a vintage freewheel or a modern cassette. So pretty low in the 20 to low 30 inch range. But I do live in the mountains and face TdF type categorized climbs on pretty much every outing.

DISCLAIMER: I am not a TdF caliper climber, not even like the ones who finish last up the hills!
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Old 02-26-14, 08:50 AM
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I'm with you. My old fat legs just don't spin well. I've tried lower gearing - I may spin a littler faster that way going up hills, but I don't go any faster. So most of my bikes end up with 39x25 or 27, 34x23, or something similar. That being said, I'm putting together a bike with a 28x24, giving me low 30's, to try again. But I'm just hill avoidant in general. Unfortunately, the terrain around here doesn't allow me to avoid them altogether.
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Old 02-26-14, 09:08 AM
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I assume you mean preferred low gear for going up hills, not down. You really don't say which.

My most common gearing is a compact double 48-34 paired to a standard 14-28 freewheel -> low of a bit under 33 inches.
The Masi has 42/34, for a bit over 33 inches.
I forget what the Centurion has but it is roughly the same.

I used to run a low of about 35in, but decided it wasn't enough for the hills here. As I've ridden more the hills have gotten steeper.
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Old 02-26-14, 09:18 AM
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Here in the foothills, we have to be able to handle occasional pitches up near 20%, and to be able to recover to finish the return ride.

So for me, I found that 42/28t = 39/26t = 36/24t.

This ratio gets the job done, and I can even squeeze a full range of gears into 7 sequential ratios using just a 5-speed freewheel (13-24t) with a 36-52t chainset.
When I shift to (or from) the big chainring, I simultaneously shift to (or from) the largest 24t cog, breaking the big chainring gearing gap down to be similar to just one shift in back. This results in a total of seven sequential ratios.

Used on a variety of bikes, some heavy, I hope to make it through my 50's with this lowest gear.
It helps that I am a lightweight who rides several times per week in this hilly area, and that our weather mostly allows this, year-round.

Last edited by dddd; 02-26-14 at 09:30 AM.
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Old 02-26-14, 09:22 AM
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With the exception of the Campy NR bike, every bike, (vintage or not) I have has a triple. Either 52/40/30 or 52/42/30. Then I change out the freewheels/cassettes depending on the ride. If it is a climbing ride then a 13 or 14-28 goes on back. Otherwise, it is usually a 13 or 14-21 or a 13 or 14-24 on back. The NR bike has a 14-26 on back. I prefer a triple up front and 5-8 gears in back over a modern 2 x 9, 10 or 11.

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Old 02-26-14, 09:54 AM
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For me it really depends on how I'm feeling or how hard the wind is blowing. Also a timely topic as I'll be doing RAMROD this year with 10,000 ft of climbing (thanks to Northbend). My gearing is all over:

A couple of bikes are at 52-42 and one has a 28t low gear while the other is usually a 24 or 26. A 30 would have been nice at Cino Heroica a couple of times last year.

My Spectrum is a 53-39 with a low 26t. The Nishiki is a 53-39 and 28t low in the rear. That one isn't really used for climbing much, though.

The Trek is equipped with a 50-36 and (for now) a 21t low out back.

The touring hybrid runs a triple set up.
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Old 02-26-14, 10:02 AM
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I'm riding bikes with triples- so they're pretty much 50-45-28 with something like 14-28 in the back. So my low is 28-28. That's about fine for me when carrying stuff. Not a whole lot of stuff, but stuff.
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Old 02-26-14, 10:11 AM
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My "fast" road bike has a compact double 50/34 and 12-25 10-sp cassette. (36~110 GI)
My "chill" road bike will have a compact double 46/32 and 12-29 11-sp cassette. (28~99 GI)

Last edited by whatwolf; 02-26-14 at 10:24 AM.
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Old 02-26-14, 10:16 AM
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I'm with seypat. My 'hilly' bike wears a triple - 48-38-28 and a choice of 13-21, 13-24 or 13-26 six-speed freewheel depending on expected terrain. I am on the middle chainring 99% of the time, using the big ring for tailwinds, and saving the small ring for hills.

My 'flatlander' bike has the ubiquitous 52-42 chainrings and a 13-21 six-speed freewheel.
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Old 02-26-14, 10:18 AM
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AZORCH, ~31 GI works for me and my bum knee on my roadie, ~20 GI for the touring bike (when loaded). ~44 GI puts too much strain on my knee, but used to be all that I needed. While I have yet to need the lowest gear on either the roadie or touring bike, they're nice to have available.

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Old 02-26-14, 10:24 AM
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Originally Posted by whatwolf View Post
My "fast" road bike has a compact double 50/34 and 12-15 10-sp cassette. (36~110 GI)
My "chill" road bike will have a compact double 46/32 and 12-29 11-sp cassette. (28~99 GI)
A 12-15 cassette? A 10sp? I'm missing something here.
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Old 02-26-14, 10:25 AM
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Originally Posted by OldsCOOL View Post
A 12-15 cassette? A 10sp? I'm missing something here.
Bah! Typo. 12-25
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Old 02-26-14, 10:29 AM
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39x26

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Old 02-26-14, 10:36 AM
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Gear ratios are the main reason I went modern-upgrade rather than period correct with my Ron Cooper restoration. 10-speed 50/34, 12-25 is soooo much more practical than 6-speed 52/42, 13-23. And it's not even about age; I'm fitter at 41 than I was at 16, but being able to tap out a nice rhythm in the saddle gets you up a 10-12% incline a lot quicker and easier than grinding away and swerving across the road.
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Old 02-26-14, 10:36 AM
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Favourite gears for hills? I always seem to end up at 34/34...
After that its the Size 12s...

In Bastrop Tx we have short steap hills - Very much fun cause if you do have to get off and use your Size 12 Ambulatory gear its not for long...

Even the Mountain Bike guys hang out at 34/34 so I don't feel so bad...

I love my home made compact crank at 34/52 and my Shimano 6 speed Tourney has a reasonable range - My only problem on the set up has been the need for a long cage derailuer and some front derailuers can have a hard time jumping between the 34/52 crank...
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Old 02-26-14, 10:37 AM
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Around here, I haven't used my biggest cog yet - but I probably would if I lived on this street!

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Old 02-26-14, 10:38 AM
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Originally Posted by OldsCOOL View Post
A 12-15 cassette? A 10sp? I'm missing something here.
It came in several variations.
The competition version
12-12-12-12-12-13-14-14-14-15

The sport version:
12-12-12-13-13-13-14-14-15-15

And for the hill-challenged:
12-13-14-15-15-15-15-15-15-15
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Old 02-26-14, 10:42 AM
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Originally Posted by AZORCH View Post
Without debating the weight or tubing or style of your bike ('cuz that is a circuitous journey I don't wish to travel), what is YOUR preferred low gear (or gear range) for riding the hills?

I'll start: Although 95% of my riding takes place in the 60 - 70 gear inch range, I like to have a bailout available to me in the upper 30's to low 40's for climbing or rolling hills. Any lower than that and I feel like I'm spinning like a hamster in a cage.

How about you?
I don't believe you can have this conversation without the discussion of type of bike, type of riding etc..

for example, if I am crossing a mountain pass with a water bottle and some energy bar I am perfectly happy to go over with my standard 39/53 and a 12-27 10 speed cassette on my 17 lb road bike once I am in riding shape of course.

Early season I ride a 12-27 with compact on my 20 some odd pound 531 sport frame with fenders and 25c tires...

on my loaded touring bike I had an 11-34 8speed cassette and a ritchey logic compact crank with a 24T small ring... nothing I can't ride over with that.

This summer I will switch my MTB to a single 30T racew face NW ring and try the one-up components conversion to an 11-42 rear 10s cassette. Pretty excited about this actually. I'll shave a bunch of weight and my bike will look sexy and with the clutch derailleur I hope to minimize chainslap.
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Old 02-26-14, 10:54 AM
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Originally Posted by jimmuller View Post
It came in several variations.
The competition version
12-12-12-12-12-13-14-14-14-15

The sport version:
12-12-12-13-13-13-14-14-15-15

And for the hill-challenged:
12-13-14-15-15-15-15-15-15-15
!!
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Old 02-26-14, 10:56 AM
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Originally Posted by whatwolf View Post
Bah! Typo. 12-25
You had me counting fingers for a quick moment.
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Old 02-26-14, 10:57 AM
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I just recently converted back to a 130 rear wheel instead of an older 126, so I went from a 14-28 to a 11-34 on the rear end, and I've been using a 50-34 in the front. I'm not really a gear-head, LOL, but from what I've read, that 34t in the front AND rear should be pretty sweet for hills, eh?
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Old 02-26-14, 10:57 AM
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It can get pretty hilly around here, but I can get up just about any of my hills with 1:1 gearing.
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Old 02-26-14, 11:22 AM
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8 speed would be a 12-19 straight block
10 speed would be a 12-21 straight block
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