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Alternatives to Cyclocross gearing

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Cyclocross and Gravelbiking (Recreational) This has to be the most physically intense sport ever invented. It's high speed bicycle racing on a short off road course or riding the off pavement rides on gravel like : "Unbound Gravel". We also have a dedicated Racing forum for the Cyclocross Hard Core Racers.

Alternatives to Cyclocross gearing

Old 11-14-16, 08:51 AM
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Alternatives to Cyclocross gearing

Cyclocross gearing usually consists of a 46 & 36 chainring set on a 110 bcd Compact Crankset. When combined with a 12-27 cassette, this provides a good gear range for 10-30 mph speeds from a gear inch range of 36 gear-inches to 105 gear-inches. Cyclocross races last about an hour and competitors will dismount and run up steeper hills. Gravel races can range from 3 hours for a 50 mile event to 13 hours or more for a 200 mile event. Running up hills is not much of an option for gravel rides that last more than 4 hours.


Gravel bikes have larger tires than Cyclocross race bike and average speeds are in the 14 to 16 mph range, depending on duration and conditions. These factors shift the needed gearing from 36 gear-inches to 105 gear-inches to a deeper 25 gear-inch to 105 gear-inch. This gear range would allow the gravel cyclist to climb steep grades at 5 mph with a 65rpm cadence. This help the cyclist stay seated and a seated cyclist can maintain climbing traction better than a standing cyclist.


What are the gearing options for a gravel bike that allow a 25, or lower, gear-inch? My solution is a 50, 39 & 26 chainring set on a triple crankset. Other solutions are listed here, see: Low Gear Range: Road Shifters & Gears For Easier Hill Climbing - CyclingAbout
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Old 11-14-16, 09:38 AM
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I have to agree with you, most stock gravel bikes come with gearing that is better suited to cyclocross racing than gravel or adventure riding.

My Niner RLT 9 came with 46/36 chainrings and a 11-32 cassette. I had to immediately change the 36 chainring to a 34, and the 11-32 cassette to a SRAM 11-36 and a Roadlink. Thats a good solution for a lot of bikes right there.

Another good option is the FSA 46/30 crankset, but they do not seem to be available to purchase yet.
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Old 11-14-16, 10:17 AM
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Originally Posted by Barrettscv
This gear range would allow the gravel cyclist to climb steep grades at 5 mph with a 65rpm cadence.
There's not enough info here to make a meaningful statement. I don't think you can ignore rider + bike weight like that. Not to mention the gravel type and condition plays a huge role as well. A 4% hill that is loose with coarse pebbles/cobbles (1.25"-5") is going to be exponentially tougher than a 10% hill of smooth dirt.

Anyway, on all but the steepest, loosest and longest gravel climbs I've been happy running a 46/36 11-34 9 speed set-up with 700x40 tires. Bike + rider weight of around 200 pounds.

I keep my triple on my drop bar hardtail, if I need a triple to get up a climb I'm definitely going to want a suspension fork on the way down. Around the north georgia area there are only a few courses that would need this so ymmv.

I used to say it was faster to stop and walk than use tiny gears but after testing this summer, for me, it's actually around 1+ mph faster to ride.
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Old 11-14-16, 10:22 AM
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Originally Posted by Spoonrobot
There's not enough info here to make a meaningful statement.
My statement is mechanically complete: A 25 gear-inch provides a 65rpm cadence at 5mph.
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Old 11-14-16, 10:53 AM
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Originally Posted by KonaRider125
I have to agree with you, most stock gravel bikes come with gearing that is better suited to cyclocross racing than gravel or adventure riding.

My Niner RLT 9 came with 46/36 chainrings and a 11-32 cassette. I had to immediately change the 36 chainring to a 34, and the 11-32 cassette to a SRAM 11-36 and a Roadlink. Thats a good solution for a lot of bikes right there.
Exactly what I have for gearing.
I wanted to try out 105 5800, so I made it work, but it is admittedly not ideal in all ways for my gravel riding.

I have a Shimano CX50 crank with 46t and 34t rings. The swap from 36t to 34t was helpful and only $14.
I have an 11speed SRAM 11-36t cassette and use a Wolftooth Roadlink to allow the 5800 RD to handle a 36t cassette.

This setup gives me 26GI for the steepest climbs. I still get out of the saddle at times and just lean back a bit when standing so the back wheel doesn’t spin out much. But with 26GI, I don’t need to get out of the saddle often and sometimes its just because I feel like it at that point.
This setup also gives me 115GI which is more than I need in all but the rarest of times. Its basically for any short part of a route that happens to be paved(which I try to avoid) and also downhill.



I could have slapped a 48-38-28 old Deore triple on the bike, but that wouldn’t have let me use the 105 components or get 11 speeds and I wanted to try both since I hadn’t before and this was a great time.

I do enjoy having only 2 rings on the crank. Shifting is much simpler as I have Gevenalle shifters and the front is friction. Its just a short throw left or right instead of the triple crank where there is more to think about(admittedly its not difficult by any means, just the difference between 0 thought and a little thought).



The perfect setups for me would be-
11 speed- 46-32 crank mated to a 13-36 cassette. This would mean a GI range of 24.5” to 97.3”. I would have a little tighter shift changes too since it effectively eliminates the 11T cog while keeping 11 speeds.

9 speed- 46-38-28 crank mated to an 11-32 cassette. This would mean a GI range of 24.2” to 115”, but I wouldn’t use the 115” and that 11t cog would be useful for when I am in the 38t chainring which equals 94.8GI.


The 11 speed setup would require a crank that is expensive compared to common FSA and Shimano cranks. It would also require a Wolftooth.

The 9 speed setup means using a triple crank which overall heavier and less simple. Also older/lower range tech is used. Perfectly fine for most people, but some do want the latest and greatest.
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Old 11-14-16, 11:13 AM
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Originally Posted by Barrettscv
My statement is mechanically complete: A 25 gear-inch provides a 65rpm cadence at 5mph.
Life's not gear-calculator.com

This gear range would allow the gravel cyclist to climb steep grades at 5 mph with a 65rpm cadence.
Who is this? Is it a rider that weighs 150 pounds or 200 pounds? Can they put out the power required to turn that gearing at that cadence?

What you said doesn't mean anything. We need bike + rider weight or a range, we need grade % range. It's great to show how gearing works but if you want to apply this to a "rider" you're going to need more. Right now it doesn't mean anything.

Good luck
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Old 11-14-16, 11:15 AM
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Originally Posted by Spoonrobot

Who is this? Is it a rider that weighs 150 pounds or 200 pounds? Can they put out the power required to turn that gearing at that cadence?

What you said doesn't mean anything. We need bike + rider weight or a range, we need grade % range. It's great to show how gearing works but if you want to apply this to a "rider" you're going to need more. Right now it doesn't mean anything.

Good luck
Power to weight ratio is an extraneous consideration, as it traction. 46 & 30ish cranksets with an 11-3x cassette will replace Cyclocross gearing on gravel bikes.
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Old 11-14-16, 11:19 AM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr
Exactly what I have for gearing.
I wanted to try out 105 5800, so I made it work, but it is admittedly not ideal in all ways for my gravel riding.

I have a Shimano CX50 crank with 46t and 34t rings. The swap from 36t to 34t was helpful and only $14.
I have an 11speed SRAM 11-36t cassette and use a Wolftooth Roadlink to allow the 5800 RD to handle a 36t cassette.

This setup gives me 26GI for the steepest climbs. I still get out of the saddle at times and just lean back a bit when standing so the back wheel doesn’t spin out much. But with 26GI, I don’t need to get out of the saddle often and sometimes its just because I feel like it at that point.
This setup also gives me 115GI which is more than I need in all but the rarest of times. Its basically for any short part of a route that happens to be paved(which I try to avoid) and also downhill.



I could have slapped a 48-38-28 old Deore triple on the bike, but that wouldn’t have let me use the 105 components or get 11 speeds and I wanted to try both since I hadn’t before and this was a great time.

I do enjoy having only 2 rings on the crank. Shifting is much simpler as I have Gevenalle shifters and the front is friction. Its just a short throw left or right instead of the triple crank where there is more to think about(admittedly its not difficult by any means, just the difference between 0 thought and a little thought).



The perfect setups for me would be-
11 speed- 46-32 crank mated to a 13-36 cassette. This would mean a GI range of 24.5” to 97.3”. I would have a little tighter shift changes too since it effectively eliminates the 11T cog while keeping 11 speeds.

9 speed- 46-38-28 crank mated to an 11-32 cassette. This would mean a GI range of 24.2” to 115”, but I wouldn’t use the 115” and that 11t cog would be useful for when I am in the 38t chainring which equals 94.8GI.


The 11 speed setup would require a crank that is expensive compared to common FSA and Shimano cranks. It would also require a Wolftooth.

The 9 speed setup means using a triple crank which overall heavier and less simple. Also older/lower range tech is used. Perfectly fine for most people, but some do want the latest and greatest.
+1 on all counts.

Most gravel cyclist will want a single or double chainring crankset, but triples have merit. Ultegra 6703 derailleurs combined with a 5603 crankset (using 50, 39 & 26 chainrings) is a reasonably light and modern set-up. It provides a 114 to 24 gear-inch range with a 12-27 cassette;

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Last edited by Barrettscv; 11-17-16 at 04:23 PM.
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Old 11-15-16, 01:11 PM
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Off the peg, OEM alternative to the 46-36 is the 50-34.

For the Present, free will applies to shopping at least..




I have similar triple crank gearing on 4 bikes 3_50-40-24, 1_52,42,26

My Winter MTB is a 48-36-22.



No Gravel races Here , unless You drive for a few Hours, Elsewhere..




...

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Old 11-15-16, 01:21 PM
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I guess I come from the other side of the spectrum. I currently run a 1X set up on my gravel bike that has 44 chain ring up front and 11-36 in rear. This gives a gear inch range of 33-108. Having just completed two 50 mile gravel races in Missouri (lots of Hills) I have found the gearing is just perfect for gravel in this part of the country. I also find that eliminating the front derailleur simplifies the shifting process tremendously and basically eliminates the reason for dropped chains ( I use sram force with clutch style derailleur)

I think a big part of this is your weight and conditioning also. Bigger guys sometimes need lower gearing to easily get up the gravel hills. I have found that the 44-36 combo gets me up any gravel hill with decent cadence. I think the trend is less front chain rings, as triples are very difficult to find any more. If I needed even lower gearing I could go to a 11-42 cassette, but would need a long rear derailleur or one of the wolf tooth adapters.
My early observation in gravel riding is that the bikes really get abused on most gravel roads and avoiding the front derailleur is one less thing to go wrong. In mechanical group sets the front shifting is always the most troublesome and the reason for most chain drops. My early gravel races (50 milers) have been successful with this combination.

For everybodies edification I am a medium sized rider 6' tall and weigh 180 lbs.
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Old 11-15-16, 01:42 PM
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I agree that a single chainring will gain in usage while very few or almost no gravel bikes will use triples. The only triple I've seen on a showroom stock gravel bike is the DIAMONDBACK’S 2017 27.5 HAANJO EXP Carbon touring bike. It's the exception and not the rule.

My original post suggests that Cyclocross drivetrains are being replaced with alternatives. I expect 2x11 speed drivetrains with 46 & 30 chainrings and 11-32 eleven speed cassettes. FSA is finding a market with this crankset: https://www.fullspeedahead.com/produc...ular-bb386evo/

Certainly gravel bikes are becoming it's own breed separate from Cyclocross models.
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Old 11-15-16, 03:38 PM
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A couple other gravel/adventure bikes that have triples-

Novara Mazama (soon to be renamed COOP something)
Masi Giramondo

They are few and far between, unfortunately.

Ill never get into the 1x as even though its really neat, its just not versatile enough. I have bikes with triples and will always have those bikes, but they are old tech. Reliable and trusty, but old tech.

Unfortunately, new tech is extremely segmented and limiting. The division of MTB and Road components within the upper half of each category has really inhibited the ability to use higher level components to make a well rounded gravel bike drivetrain.

Hopefully an affordable 46/32 or 46/30 crankset will come out that can handle 11sp. Affordable is the key part of that.
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Old 11-15-16, 04:19 PM
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I'm helping my girlfriend build up a Trek Crockett frame, and desired low gearing is the big decision point right now.

We're using 11-speed Shimano 105 5800 brifters
We already have a 50/34 crank, and I'm keeping an eye out for a 46t or 48t big ring.

Basically, the choices I see are thus:
105 GS RD + 11-32 cassette = 29 inch low gear
GS RD + Roadlink + 11-36 = 26 inch low gear
GS RD + Roadlink + 11-40 = 23 inch low gear

Or, we use the Wolftooth Tanpan to use an 11-speed Shadow+ RD (with clutch), and go with the 11-36 or 11-40 cassettes for 26 or 23 inch low gears, respectively.

My gravel and 'cross bike is a Foundry Auger, with SRAM 10 speed 50/34 crank and 11-34 cassette. The mid-cage (aka WiFli) RD clears the 34t cog, but not by much. The 27 inch low gear is enough for my use; I'm heavy and I ride short but steep gravel hills in rural IA.
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Old 11-15-16, 05:07 PM
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I'm getting 24 to 107 gear inches with a 46/30 Sugino OX601 crank and a 12-36 10 speed cassette using a SRAM GX mid cage RD and Force 10 speed levers on my AWOL. It has proven to be an ideal range for my gravel rides. I don't use the 30/36 combination often, but it is good to have when I'm tired and the hill is long. I use the 30/32 fairly often on my hilly rides.

To get your desired range with a 46/36 crank, you'd need an 11-40 cassette. That would give you a little more high end than you wanted. Might need to use a Goat Link.

For a 1X setup, a 42T ring with an 11-46 cassette would get you close. Again, a Goat Link would probably be necessary. Or a 38T ring with a 10-42 cassette and am XD driver.
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Old 11-15-16, 06:00 PM
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Right now for Cross Season I am building my bike up as a 1x10 with a 40t x 11-28. In March, I'll probably put a 50/34 on it for two gravel races (Belgian Waffle Ride, Strada Rossa). Those rides I'll have to be able to hold 25 mph on the roads, and have enough for the dirt climbs.

We'll see, I'm still really new to this stuff, but I'll definitely have to get 2 gears for the fondo type gravel stuff.
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Old 11-17-16, 03:29 PM
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She changed her mind and decided that 10-speed is OK, which will be simpler and save some money in the build.

So, I'm going to use 10-speed Shimano STI brifters and a 9-speed XT M772 RD to run an 11-36 cassette. 26 inch low gear should be good.

Originally Posted by Tim_Iowa
I'm helping my girlfriend build up a Trek Crockett frame, and desired low gearing is the big decision point right now.

We're using 11-speed Shimano 105 5800 brifters
We already have a 50/34 crank, and I'm keeping an eye out for a 46t or 48t big ring.

Basically, the choices I see are thus:
105 GS RD + 11-32 cassette = 29 inch low gear
GS RD + Roadlink + 11-36 = 26 inch low gear
GS RD + Roadlink + 11-40 = 23 inch low gear

Or, we use the Wolftooth Tanpan to use an 11-speed Shadow+ RD (with clutch), and go with the 11-36 or 11-40 cassettes for 26 or 23 inch low gears, respectively.

My gravel and 'cross bike is a Foundry Auger, with SRAM 10 speed 50/34 crank and 11-34 cassette. The mid-cage (aka WiFli) RD clears the 34t cog, but not by much. The 27 inch low gear is enough for my use; I'm heavy and I ride short but steep gravel hills in rural IA.
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Old 11-18-16, 03:35 PM
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50/34 and 11-32 10 speed for a couple years now. Good enough for me.

Controversial opinion: people are different.
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Old 11-22-16, 10:03 PM
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@Tim_Iowa, why not just use a 5700 105 long cage RD instead of the MT RD. I have been using a 5700 GS RD with a 11-36 Cassette for over a year and it works great.
I am running a 49-46 half step up front and gives me 20 usable gears with no overlap from 34.5GI to 121GI
I might drop down to a 42-45 which will give me a range of 31.7 to 111GI




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Old 11-25-16, 06:26 PM
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I really don't get the rejection of triples for this kind of bike. They are available and work well from both Shimano and Campagnolo, get the range that a lot of people need and still keep tight gaps in the rear cluster so you're not double shifting all the time to find the "right" gear. I'm in flat Florida so it's not a big thing for me. But if I were, I would rather run something like the "racing triple" or old-school 48-38-28 than look for a 40 tooth cog.
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Old 11-27-16, 07:37 PM
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53/39/26 & an 11-34 9 speed cassette on my gunnar crossroads. The 39 ring can happily run the whole cassette and is good enough for most situations. The granny is a godsend for climbing up walls, gravel walls, and wet gravel walls. I plan to take this bike touring on some mountains so i'll need it. A 50 or 48t big ring would be fine, but i went for a 53 so i could maybe splice 13-14-15 from a junior racing cassette onto the current 11-13-15- for good flatland gears. I really miss 1t gaps from my old setup and i wouldn't mind losing the 11. For road- trail riding or road riding having the top end is nice.

This crank originally had 53/39/30 campag rings and a campy fd on my moser road bike (great road hills gears with a 12-23 cassette). It shifted better with campy rings but the TA are ok.
I've been doing most of my riding recently on bikes with sti, 50/34 & 10 speed 11-28. I guess that's conventional road gearing. The shift pattern from a triple with it's huge overlap is an absolute wacky treat. I think it's pragmatic but it's also fun as hell.

Shifters are 9 speed dura ace DTs for ruggedness. I have some 8 speed record ergos that might go on one day.

On a pure cross racing bike i'd be pinching grams and a triple wouldn't be an option, but as is this bike rides fantastically, even though it's very heavy.


Last edited by Soody; 11-27-16 at 07:44 PM.
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Old 11-27-16, 07:50 PM
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Location, Location, Location, no?

I run a 1x11 setup of unknown sizes and have never wanted anymore or any less gears on my local gravel rides. At one point I had a 42/34 setup with a 11-27 ten speed cassette and never left the 42 ring. However, I'm in Illinois and our gravel roads/trails tend to be much flatter than our cyclocross courses.
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Old 11-27-16, 10:40 PM
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Originally Posted by thisisbenji
Location, Location, Location, no?
Yeah, basically.
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Old 11-28-16, 02:36 AM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr
Hopefully an affordable 46/32 or 46/30 crankset will come out that can handle 11sp. Affordable is the key part of that.
Aren't chainrings speed agnostic for the most part?
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Old 11-28-16, 09:22 AM
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Originally Posted by bwilli88
@Tim_Iowa, why not just use a 5700 105 long cage RD instead of the MT RD. I have been using a 5700 GS RD with a 11-36 Cassette for over a year and it works great.
I am running a 49-46 half step up front and gives me 20 usable gears with no overlap from 34.5GI to 121GI
I might drop down to a 42-45 which will give me a range of 31.7 to 111GI
I'm surprised that the RD-5700-GS works OK with the 36t cog, but I'm glad you got it to work.

I already have a RD-M772-SGS sitting on the bench, so I'll use that RD instead of buying another.
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Old 11-28-16, 09:39 AM
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This is highly location-specific and ride-specific. I've found 50-34 and 11-32 with a mid cage RD can handle any gravel situation I've encountered here in the Midwest. I've honestly never used the 34x32, that's a very, very low gear for this area. I spend the entire time in any race in the 50. I spend the vast majority of most of my training in the 50. YMMV obviously.
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