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50+'ers be honest : Large, Med. or Small Chain Ring Usage Selection

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Fifty Plus (50+) Share the victories, challenges, successes and special concerns of bicyclists 50 and older. Especially useful for those entering or reentering bicycling.

50+'ers be honest : Large, Med. or Small Chain Ring Usage Selection

Old 01-17-21, 10:36 AM
  #26  
Thomas15
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62 years. My primary road bike has a triple 52-42-30 with a 12/26 cassette. The past summer I used my 30 twice, the first time was the first ride of the season, the second time was mid-season on a 1 mile long, 9% grade after already pulling 2500 feet of climbing. I did a few group rides of 25 miles and 2000+ feet of climbing using only the 52 chainring. I did this mostly to amuse myself. I have been working diligently this winter on my trainer to increase my average cadence so I expect to use lower gears more this upcoming season. While I find it personally satisfying to pull a big hill using the big ring, I have to think it is hard on the joints.
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Old 01-17-21, 12:38 PM
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Single:
Back in my 50s, i rode 52-42-30 in front and 12-25 in back. Ah, those were the days! I almost never used the big ring. When I first got that bike, I had trouble with the left shifter and frequently couldn't get the big ring, but I could keep up just fine in the 42-12. In my 60s I went to a 12-27. In my late 60s I changed to a 26 granny and a 39 middle ring, and now in my 70s I use a 11-30 cassette. Still almost never use the big ring. A 39 X 13 combo gives 21 mph at 90 cadence. On substantial climbs, I'm in the granny ring.

Tandem:
Also running 53-39-26 in front, soon to become 53-38-24. Because we run a huge cassette, the majority of the time we're in the big ring. We use all but the last 2 cogs in the big ring. If we have to climb anything substantial, we're usually in the 26 granny. Middle ring doesn't see too much use.

Discussion:
If I had a less flexible ring set on my single, I might do the same as we do on our tandem: run a huge cassette and live in the big ring. It all depends on the choice of drivetrain. Personally, I very much dislike big cassettes with their big cadence gaps. I really like having my lowest gears to be close together. I feel lucky to have really nice older bikes with triples.
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Old 01-17-21, 01:32 PM
  #28  
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Right tool for the job. No longer have any standard/traditional big rings as pushing a 52 or 53 is relatively more work than it used to be.

Double cranks on my bikes are now all either 50/34 or 48/34; the only triple I have is a 48/36/24. Most of the bikes now owned have rear cogs in the 12-28 range, but two of them (touring, serious climbing, Eroica) have 11 or 12-34. I can get up pretty much anything with a 1:1 ring combination, even used a 50/28 and 12-28 the last time I rode in the Driftless Area.

Generally speaking, around here I can get by with only the big ring and occasional use of the 28 out back. But for touring or serious climbing, at almost 70 I don’t hesitate to use whatever gearing is available.
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Old 01-17-21, 06:07 PM
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I run 52-42-30 triple with an 11-28.

I stay in the middle ring on modest or short climbs and reserve the big ring for descents. For long climbs, I go right down to the 30t granny gear and keep it there, as it is possible to upshift quite a bit into the range covered by the middle chainring ... one of the reasons I like triples.
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Old 01-17-21, 07:34 PM
  #30  
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big ring always...7 gears on the rear is plenty (usually only use 5 of them)
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Old 01-17-21, 08:11 PM
  #31  
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Originally Posted by 5 mph View Post
However I don't want to be too humble. Everyone has a niche. In my case I have strong legs, so I never use my medium or small chain rings, even on hills, all my riding is on the large chain ring, even on steep hills.
Used to be like you, with exceptionally strong legs and lungs. So, once upon a time, there was no problem doing even hillier climbs with fairly tall gearing.

My "niche" is a problem to handle: old injuries greatly limit the power I can put down on one leg. So, for me, unless it's completely flat I'm going to be in one of the smaller chain rings.

Current build: refurb Trek 970 for an upright city bike; drive train with 2x11spd, 34/24T rings, and 11-42T cassette. Very low gearing, with a max top-end just under 20mph. Anything taller and I can't make it up a handful of hills I have to cope with, none of which are bad or long, but the lack of power makes it nasty in my case. Works for me, such low gearing, though it'd frustrate most folks to no end.

Once I get this one put together, I suspect I'll most frequently be on the large (34T) ring, but it'll be nice to have the small (24T) ring for once I'm off the flats and into even modest climbing. Ah, the things we cope with as we age.
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Old 01-17-21, 08:58 PM
  #32  
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My commute is a grand total of 100' drop from home to work over 12.5 miles. The biggest 'hills' that encounter enroute are RR and Interstate overpasses, so maybe 25'-30'? My normal flat-land gearing is ~75-90 gear-inches and my 90-100 cadence. Whichever chainring/rear gear combo gets me there. If the 52/17 or either of the 42/15 or 42/13 on the Miyata 710, or the 48/15, 48/17 or the 38/13 or 38/14 on my old 27"-tire Fuji...

https://www.gear-calculator.com/

That gearing/cadence puts me at somewhere between 20-25mph riding speed. I average 42-44 minutes for the door-to-door time when I include the time spent stopped at traffic lights. (42-44 minutes for the 12.5 miles works out to 17-18mph average speed) BTW, I'm 62 yrs old, 195 pounds, asthmatic, and ride 24-30-pound steel bikes when doing so!!
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Old 01-18-21, 08:33 AM
  #33  
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Originally Posted by reverborama View Post
During the summer I ride a gravel bike w/ SRAM Apex 1x. 40 tooth chainring, cassette is 11-42. Prior to that I rode a 50/34 paired with 12-26. Winter is mainly fatbike riding 36/22 11-36. A lot of guys here are pretty fast. I'm not terribly fast but I certainly enjoy myself.
I'm really just working my way back up after several years of not much riding. I was used to spinning 80 to 95 most of the time with a 50/34 in big/big or small/small combinations. At the moment I'm about 70 rpm using the 34 most of the time. The focus now is retraining my legs and building aerobic. I usually have a short burst up to 90 in a higher gear every few rides. It's one of the side benefits of a Wahoo Elemnt and Kickr, since they want to be recalibrated (pedal up to 23 mph and then coast down, it won't let you get away with zero HIIT.
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Old 01-18-21, 08:36 AM
  #34  
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LOL, well I guess I'm a total WHIMP here as I normally change out the stock triple on my bike for a MTB 22/32/44 set up as fast as possible!!!! We have a LOT of hills here in Colorado Springs, even the urban trails have some steep grades! With having reactive arthritis, etc. I NEED the extra help going up the hills and since I'm NOT a fast rider and by wife, Jo is even slower but she's still my main riding buddy I don't need a 50-52 tooth large chain wheel in the least. I have no problem being passed up on the flats by the wanabee racer types, Right now my current bike is a 18 speed but I'm wanting to convert it to a 30 speed, GIVE ME easy gears, LOL!! Lucky I'm too poor for a the E-assist systems so I LOVE my 22 tooth small chain ring and so do my KNEES!!
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Old 01-18-21, 08:42 AM
  #35  
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Originally Posted by Cougrrcj View Post
My commute is a grand total of 100' drop from home to work over 12.5 miles. The biggest 'hills' that encounter enroute are RR and Interstate overpasses, so maybe 25'-30'? My normal flat-land gearing is ~75-90 gear-inches and my 90-100 cadence. Whichever chainring/rear gear combo gets me there. If the 52/17 or either of the 42/15 or 42/13 on the Miyata 710, or the 48/15, 48/17 or the 38/13 or 38/14 on my old 27"-tire Fuji...

https://www.gear-calculator.com/

That gearing/cadence puts me at somewhere between 20-25mph riding speed. I average 42-44 minutes for the door-to-door time when I include the time spent stopped at traffic lights. (42-44 minutes for the 12.5 miles works out to 17-18mph average speed) BTW, I'm 62 yrs old, 195 pounds, asthmatic, and ride 24-30-pound steel bikes when doing so!!
Wow, I can't even image 90-100 rpm's. while riding outside, sure on the cycle trainer I can spin that up for couple of minutes but on a constant over 12 miles, YIKES!! :O I'm happy to maintain 70 rpms. We do have a LOT of hills and steeper grade trails here in Co. Springs, CO. BTW, I SO MISS my 1984 Univega Grand Turismo, that was the bike I restarted my love of riding with in 84 after years of not riding!!

Out on the plains of CO. on my Univega Grand Turismo!
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Old 01-18-21, 09:15 AM
  #36  
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I have 46/30 and 11/34 and I use all 22 of them. The only flat areas near me are the bottom and the top of the hills. My driveway isn't even flat so with my bad knees at 72 years I spin out at around 70 and try to keep the load off the knees so I can be back on the bike tomorrow. I ride alone and at my own pace so I have no issue with my style and setup on my bikes. I also have a Hybrid with a 50/34 crank and had the rear changed to a 11/36. What ever I need to keep me on a bike is what I will do. Not afraid to go to a 11/40 if need be to make it work.
Be safe all, Frank.
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Old 01-18-21, 11:07 AM
  #37  
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69 here. 1x11: 42 front; 11-42 cassette. 42x11 is way too big a gear for me and my old knees to be bothered with, even on descents. Mostly use middle range of cassette, with occasional forays on long/steep hills with the easiest three. I spin; I don't mash. Probably drop to a 38 chainring when I replace the stock boat-anchor crankset.
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Old 01-18-21, 11:49 AM
  #38  
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Since you have 3 chain rings why not use them? While many seem to do a lot of shifting, many of us look at the 3 chain rings as granny up hills, center most of our riding, and big ring for down hills and with the wind. We pick the chain ring for those three types of riding and just shift across the rear cassette as needed.

Also always using the large chain ring put a lot of strain on your feet and knees on hills, and causes high stress and wear on you drive train.
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Old 01-18-21, 01:42 PM
  #39  
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I have a compact 50-34 and basically live on the the large ring. I live in Illinois so that matters and we don't really have anything to climb at all. I could and have had a standard double but it meant that I was in the small ring more and one cog back on the large ring compared to compact.
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Old 01-18-21, 02:36 PM
  #40  
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Another rule one might think of sometime: chain wear is inversely proportional to the number of teeth the chain runs over. Thus your least wear will be in the big ring and the largest cog your RD is comfortable with. The most wear will be in the smallest ring and a small cog. Why? Chain tension. Chain tension in different gear combos at the same speed and cadence will be inversely proportional to the distance from the BB center to the chain on the crankset.
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Old 01-18-21, 07:12 PM
  #41  
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Originally Posted by bjjoondo View Post
BTW, I SO MISS my 1984 Univega Grand Turismo, that was the bike I restarted my love of riding with in 84 after years of not riding!!

Out on the plains of CO. on my Univega Grand Turismo!
My '84 Gran Tourismo - a 'before' pic...





No recent pic after putting on the stuff to make it 'mine'...







I was never happy with the way the brown cork tape and 'peanutbutter-color' housing looked, so I have since gone with red for both...
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Old 01-18-21, 08:22 PM
  #42  
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I did this today on a fixed gear single speed bike.44/16.
The tires are skinny and I only have one brake, so I am cautious going downhill and can't go too fast.
Going down hills I am apprehensive about hitting a branch or a pothole with those 22 mm tires.
Also when I did have some known smooth safe hills, pedaling has no effect.
The 1000' of hills really get you at 44 16. I think a geared bike would have really helped me go faster

Appreciate any feedback as to my physical condition.
I am 60 now. Am I least average or am I on bad shape?
Or should I go back to walking.

Last edited by 5 mph; 01-18-21 at 08:25 PM.
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Old 01-18-21, 09:22 PM
  #43  
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Originally Posted by 5 mph View Post
I did this today on a fixed gear single speed bike.44/16.
The tires are skinny and I only have one brake, so I am cautious going downhill and can't go too fast.
Going down hills I am apprehensive about hitting a branch or a pothole with those 22 mm tires.
Also when I did have some known smooth safe hills, pedaling has no effect.
The 1000' of hills really get you at 44 16. I think a geared bike would have really helped me go faster

Appreciate any feedback as to my physical condition.
I am 60 now. Am I least average or am I on bad shape?
Or should I go back to walking.
Fixed gear riders are a different breed. It's hard for a geared rider to compare ride times or speed in many cases. The standard answer if you are curious how you stack up against others is to find a fast club ride and see if you can hang on, but a fixed gear might not fit in, or be welcome.

I have a friend who rides fixed everywhere, including the Furnace Creek 508 twice and Paris Brest Paris twice. He's safe around geared bikes but at a disadvantage during fast sprints or descents.

I would say if you're climbing on a fixed gear bike you must be in some kind of shape! Do you feel good afterward? The way I feel after a ride tells me how my fitness is, at least to a certain extent.
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Old 01-18-21, 10:30 PM
  #44  
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[QUOTE=big john;21884140

I would say if you're climbing on a fixed gear bike you must be in some kind of shape! Do you feel good afterward? The way I feel after a ride tells me how my fitness is, at least to a certain extent.[/QUOTE]
Time for a Nap!
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Old 01-18-21, 11:43 PM
  #45  
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I love my naps.
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Old 01-19-21, 12:11 PM
  #46  
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My only functioning bike is a hardtail with 1x setup. And since the dirt and gravel trails near me have been extremely crowded I've been spending most of my time on rail trails, so I'm in the highest 11t cog nearly all the time. I spend most of the time in the top gear even on the trails I ride.

Which is a problem. I took my bike for a tune-up/going over in mid-December. The mechanic found a crack in the rear wheel, and I had to wait a bit for the replacement. In the meantime he replaced the chain and did a tune-up. When I went to pick up the bike and give it a test ride, however, it slipped badly in top gear. (The mechanic said he test rode it, but he's shorter than I and can't raise the seat to get proper leverage). Anyway, I'm awaiting a new cassette as you evidently can't just buy one gear. Bummer.

So my lesson: Mix up gear usage, even if cruising along a rail-trail (and don't worry about the Strava "trending faster").
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Old 01-19-21, 08:27 PM
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Back in the day, I rode a standard. Now my favorite bike has a 46/36 on it. I thought for sure I'd be spinning out a lot, but honestly I've grown use to it and it hasn't been a problem unless pedaling downhill
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Old 01-24-21, 11:11 AM
  #48  
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I normally ride in my big ring. Mid-Michigan is relatively flat at about 11-15 ft/mile and while grades can occasionally be 10%, it's never for long. I normally just power up in the middle of the cassette and save the lower gears for when I travel. Only one of my everyday recumbents has a granny ring. Of course, if I'm expecting 15-20% grades, that's the one I'll be on!

BTW, I used to be a 16 mph rider with occasional short group rides at 18 mph, until I got my first lowracer in 2001. With them, I've accumulated a collection of solo sub-5 imperial centuries. Getting Covid really set me back this year; spring training is going to be tough!
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Old 01-24-21, 12:31 PM
  #49  
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I, too, live in a flat part of Illinois. I rode a 49-46/14-26 6-speed half-step for several decades. From 2016-2019, I used 45-42/14-26. For the last year and a half, 45-42/14-28 7 speed. What I almost always use is the 42/20 combo. I got a new car 3 years ago, though, and I can now travel with my bike inside, so I can take my bike with me to RI and NY where I have to negotiate real hills. I've walked so far, but this year I'll be able to use 45-42-28/14-28. I'm really looking forward to it.

I've kept my 49T and 46T rings in the hope of getting back to them, but I'm in the process of letting them go.
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Old 01-24-21, 05:53 PM
  #50  
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Originally Posted by 5 mph View Post
I see lots of you zipping along at 20 mph for 30 miles. I 'm happy to see you do that, just please don't do it my area and embarrass me.
You guys are Fedex, I'm Ground delivery.. I'm just not a fast rider. Maybe the best I could manage is 17.5 mph for 17.5 miles but I do have. 1000' of hills to climb (and go down) no matter where I go around here.
However I don't want to be too humble. Everyone has a niche. In my case I have strong legs, so I never use my medium or small chain rings, even on hills, all my riding is on the large chain ring, even on steep hills.

Just wondering what Riding Style everyone is using out there?
all power all the time..
i ride like i am in a one day classics race...grind it out hands on top bar...big ring.
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