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Change of gearing to make a difference.

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Change of gearing to make a difference.

Old 04-22-12, 01:11 PM
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Time for a change.
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Change of gearing to make a difference.

Not the old controversy about Double V. Triple but it could almost be.

Where I live we have hills. Not long ones but about 600 ft height climb at anything between 8 and 12%. My bugbear is the 3 to 5% that goes on for a couple of miles with just a couple of steep bits in it and it just gets through to me.

I can normally do these hills on a compact 50/34 and 12/27 10 spd cassette although I am currently using a Triple 50/39/30 with a 12/25. However the Pinnie came with a compact and 12/25 cassette and this is the reason for using the triple on a hilly ride. I am not as fit as I would like and that lower gear works.

But I am fortunate in having bikes with a different gearing set up. Mick my riding partner is not. He has the one bike with a compact and 12/25 cassette. He has only been riding for a year and although fit- does not have bike fitness fully yet. Give him a hill and he will climb it. Give him two and he will struggle and 3 and he is gone. Well yesterday we fitted an 11/28 cassette so today was the day to find out if it works. Plenty of short sharp hills and I mean plenty. 200 ft height climbs at anything from 10 to 20% but luckily there was only one 20%. Some of these climbs followed on in quick succession aswell and 1/2 way through the ride we hit his bugbear. It is a 300ft height climb at around 8% and just at the end there is a 15% section round a hairpin. I kept him in front of me just to see when he was going to flag and he didn't.

On all of these hills he sat in the saddle and rode. He did not have to get out of the saddle and his cadence didn't drop too far. After about 15 miles we hit some flatter sections for a rest and I was still behind him. Struggling to stay with him aswell.

So that simple change of gearing has changed his ride manner completely. Having the 28t means that he no longer wears himself out whenever gravity goes the wrong way and his bug bear of a hill is no longer. The 11t has given him some top speed that he had before but has now improved. Today's ride involved 3,000ft of climb in short sharp chunks. I know that is easier than a long drawn out hill but have 4 or 5 of them in quick succession and you know you have done a ride. Mick felt that he could have gone further today so next week it will be hill time. Lets see how he gets on with the 16% I know how to walk that one if it gets too hard and Mick has Road shoes and cleats.
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Old 04-22-12, 01:18 PM
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Originally Posted by stapfam
So that simple change of gearing has changed his ride manner completely. Having the 28t means that he no longer wears himself out whenever gravity goes the wrong way and his bug bear of a hill is no longer. The 11t has given him some top speed that he had before but has now improved.
I'm so sorry for you that he figured out that gearing thing. Now he's going to be constantly badgering you to keep up.
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Old 04-22-12, 01:29 PM
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I know the feeling well of having the right gearing. Most of my riding area is quite flat with few hills which are no more than about 8% and almost nothing longer than one mile. I now have low enough gearing in addition to which my fitness level, ever so slowly, continues to increase. I know I can climb anything in my area and now look forward to trying longer climbs in New Hampshire mountains, 200 miles further north. Who sez you can't buy performance. That Lance guy said it's not about the bike. He is so wrong.

Last edited by berner; 04-22-12 at 01:32 PM. Reason: Clarification
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Old 04-22-12, 01:42 PM
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I picked up a bike with a compact double last fall and I'm still trying to adjust to the gearing. I'm a masher and I like a 53 up front, it's just such a wicked adjustment in my riding style.
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Old 04-22-12, 02:29 PM
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I went from an 11-31 on a triple to a 12 25 on a compact double to an 11 27 on the compact and I'm loving it. While I could get up anything here in Colorado on that triple that bike was just heavy as a car. When I got the compact double I lost some speed on the flats but I got it back when I switched over to the 11 27. Best move I ever made. I found a nice cadence in the 27 gear and it lets me mosey up most hills without killing my legs.
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Old 04-22-12, 03:00 PM
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I'm running a 12-30 Tiagra 10 speed cassette on my Roubaix now. Although the Ultegra RD is only rated for up to 28 teeth, it works flawlessly with no adjustments needed. The extra two teeth give just that little extra I had been wishing for on my steepest climbs and I don't miss the 11 at all.
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Old 04-22-12, 03:22 PM
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I've been thinking of making a cassette from an 11-28 and 12-27. I use the 11 gear less than 2% of the time so I could easily give it up for a 16 which I do miss much more often. The resulting gears would be 12-13-14-15-16-17-19-21-24-28.
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Old 04-22-12, 03:29 PM
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Originally Posted by BikeWNC
I've been thinking of making a cassette from an 11-28 and 12-27. I use the 11 gear less than 2% of the time so I could easily give it up for a 16 which I do miss much more often. The resulting gears would be 12-13-14-15-16-17-19-21-24-28.
Sram makes a 12-28 with 12,13,14,15,16,17,19,22,25,28: https://www.competitivecyclist.com/pr...36.1735.0.html
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Old 04-22-12, 03:54 PM
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I'm using an 11-32 cassette with my compact. We've got some big climbs, 2700' in 8 miles or less with some steep pitches. I'm finding with the 34-32 combination I can sit at 10% which is essential to get up these grades. Frankly, I'm thinking of an 11-36 if I'm doing a long ride with 2 or more long climbs; you can't be too proud when you're on the "wrong" side of 60
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Old 04-22-12, 03:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Barrettscv
Sram makes a 12-28 with 12,13,14,15,16,17,19,22,25,28: https://www.competitivecyclist.com/pr...36.1735.0.html
That would work too. I use SRAM cassettes because they cost a bit less than Shimano but I prefer Shimano. I'll look into this one though.
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Old 04-22-12, 04:37 PM
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Low gears mo' betta'
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Old 04-22-12, 05:13 PM
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Flat Fla does not provide much opportunity for climbs, but in mid-state there is an area around Claremont with lots of great hills, at least for FLA. Each summer we visit family in upstate NY and I bring my bike and do some nice rides up into the Heilderberg Mts.

My bike came with an 12-25 which worked well for me, but I struggled on many of those hills, and had to stop. When I got my new BWW BlackRace set, I put 11-23 on it, no help for the hills. Finally I got an 11-27 for the old wheels, and use them for the hills. Works great! Now I do hills with out stopping, and don't spin out on descents.

I also put an 11 -28 on the tandem when I got a spare set of wheels. Tandems don't climb very well. It helps.
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Old 04-22-12, 06:51 PM
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After starting to ride last May, it didn't take long to realize a compact 50/34 with a 12-25 cassette wasn't low enough for some hills I tried to climb. Thirty miles into a supported century ride, I was walking the steepest hills.

I changed to a Shimano 11-34 cassette and a MTB long cage rear derailleur. I still suck on hills, but at least I have gearing to ride them.
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Old 04-22-12, 10:59 PM
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This bike is one of my road bikes set up for one thing, climbing. It is equipped with a 12-34 cassette and a 48/36/26 triple. If I turn east on the main street of town, I start climbing toward a 4500 foot mountain pass. There is one 7 mile section that averages 6%.



The real hill climber. My touring bike with an 11-34 cassette and 44/32/22 crank. This one saw action in the Swiss Alps last summer. I just put the same setup on my cyclocross bike.


On my "fast" road bike I run an 11-27 cassette, but don't ride it as much as I do that Trek.

Last edited by Doug64; 04-23-12 at 08:33 PM.
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Old 04-22-12, 11:24 PM
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Just a warning to those with Tandems. I know we were offroad but 48/36/24 up front and 11/32 for the rear on 9 speed. We still need a lower gear so I put on an 11/34. First trip out and we bent the 34 ring. It just folded. Thought it was a weak one and so did the shop. FOC replacement and we bent that aswell. This was an XT cassette that are a bit lighter than the usual LX we used but the 34t ring is just a bit too "Exposed" and gets no support from the 28t next to it. We have gone back to the LX 32 and not bent another one--YET.

And for me- I like the sound of the Tiagra 12/30 for use with my triple. 5 years ago I went to Mont Ventoux and used 28/28 as my lowest gear on a triple and it worked. That 1 to 1 ratio has an appeal to me as I know it works.
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Old 04-23-12, 02:14 AM
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Originally Posted by stapfam

And for me- I like the sound of the Tiagra 12/30 for use with my triple. 5 years ago I went to Mont Ventoux and used 28/28 as my lowest gear on a triple and it worked. That 1 to 1 ratio has an appeal to me as I know it works.
I've combined a 50, 39 & 26 Crankset with the 10 speed Tiagra 12-30 cassette. The 26t small chainring and 30t rear cog combination can crawl up a 20% slope at 2.7 mph with a 40 rpm cadence.

The practical chain-wrap capacity, with a correct length chain, of the road "GS" RD allows the big-big combination of 50t front Chainring & 30t rear cog with a little safety margin and also allows the small-small combination of 26t & 12t without any slack in the chain.

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Last edited by Barrettscv; 04-24-12 at 10:31 AM.
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Old 04-23-12, 10:37 AM
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About a month ago I went on a ride where I would have normally taken my triple. Instead, I took my compact with a 12/28. As I was going up to the summit, I kept noticing 10% and 11% grades as I looked down at the computer. If I had know it was that steep, I would have taken the triple, (also with a 12/28). Didn't seriously consider turning back as there was plenty of daylight and I was in no hurry to get back ... and the fact that the summit was only a few miles more.

Even though I didn't get up very quickly, I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to pull a grade like that with only the compact. I haven't ridden the triple since, but might do so this next Sunday for my century because it is a bit more comfortable than the compact.

I had an 11/28 on for awhile, but really missed that 16t, so switched it back to a 12/28. 50/12 is fast enough for me now. I did the speed thing when I was much younger. Now, being safe to ride another day is more important.

That 12-30 Tiagra is intriguing. If it doesn't cost too much, I'll have to see if it will work with my D/A rear derailleur.
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Old 04-23-12, 12:13 PM
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I am elated I read this thread. The 12-28 sounds like the cassette I want. I am currently running the 11-28 and am missing a gear in there. I never use the 11, so I guess i will on on Competitive website soon.
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Old 04-23-12, 02:16 PM
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Up till this spring and after the winter layoff- I would have said a compact with 12/27 would have been enough for me but I have lost a lot over the winter. For that reason I am using the triple with 30/25 as my lowest gear. I also have wheels with 12/27 I could put on but so far I am OK. But there are a couple of rides coming up soon that with my current LOW fitness level I feel that I could just do with that lower gear. for me there would not be any betterment by going 11/28 as opposed to 12/27. In fact it may cause me a problem as the ratios on the 3 lowest on the 12/27 are too wide for me (Hence the preferred use of the 12/25) and the extra 2 teeth may cause a further problem. I will never use the 11t unless it is downhill and by that time I would be coasting. But the 12/30 Tiagra does sound the job for when I do get back to the really long steep hills. 30/30 on a triple will be enough for a few years and may even be OK with the compact.

I know gearing is down to personal fitness and the terrain you ride but it is not always down to just having a low gear. Wide spacing between the gear ratios can affect you in a different way that can be just as difficult.
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Old 04-23-12, 02:20 PM
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I always find these discussion puzzling. Not the gearing part but the naivety about gearing. Perhaps it's a misapprehension but I would have thought that many in in the 50+ forum have driven standard transmission vehicles. If the engine is lugging, shift to a lower gear, if it's not putting out power because it's revving too high, shift to a higher gear, right? 4x4s often had two ranges, high and low, low for particularly steep slow going. It used to be common to select rear-end ratios based on the application/situation/event. Cycling is no different, except that it's automatically and "painfully" obvious when the engine is out of it's power band. I mean seriously, duh.
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Old 04-23-12, 03:08 PM
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Originally Posted by BikeArkansas
I am elated I read this thread. The 12-28 sounds like the cassette I want. I am currently running the 11-28 and am missing a gear in there. I never use the 11, so I guess i will on on Competitive website soon.
Possibly a less expensive option, depending on the level and make of cluster you have, is to just purchase a 16t cog and a 12t lock ring. Remove your cluster from your wheel, tear it apart, clean it, re-assemble it with the 16t instead of the 11t, and use the new 12t lock ring. That's what I did with my Shimano D/A and Ultegra stuff. Just download the blow-apart PDF diagram, highlight the two parts you need, and go to your LBS and have them order the parts.
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Old 04-23-12, 05:03 PM
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Masher here.

My good bike is 53/39 front, 12-27 back.
My new bike (lesser quality) is 53/39 front, 11-28 back.

On my regular weeknight 1-hour training loop on the NEW bike :
* I am using the 53/11 for several minutes and I go faster before I run out of gears. I'm able to carry my momentum off downhills a little longer. I like it!!
* I only use the 39/28 on 3 short climbs and at all hard stops (9). Having the 28 means I can stay seated on one climb that I have to stand using the 39/27. It isn't as much help on the steepest climb since I still have to stand and the bike is at an unnatural angle pointed toward the sky.

I don't miss the gears they took out to give me the broader range. On undulating terrain I was typically shifting through several gears at once anyhow.

When I replace the good bike gearing, I'll look forward to getting an 11-28T on it also. Will have to swap out the derailleurs too.

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Old 04-23-12, 05:34 PM
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I find this thread fascinating because I'm new to biking, and don't really know what any of it means. I looked up the specs on my bike (Trek 1.5) and it has a 12-30 Shimano Tiagra cassette. Does this mean there are 12 teeth on the lowest gear and 30 on the highest? Forgive my ignorance. My front sprocket (probably the wrong word) is a FSA Vero 50-34 compact. What does compact mean. Is this good or bad? Do these gears sound OK for doing hills? DO lower or higher numbers mean easire gears for climbing?

If someone could give me an overview of what all this means and what I should look for, it would be appreciated. Right now, I'm riding 1-2x/wk, usually 10-20 miles. So far avoiding big hills. Thanks in advance for any help.
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Old 04-23-12, 05:54 PM
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Originally Posted by moppeddler
I find this thread fascinating because I'm new to biking, and don't really know what any of it means. I looked up the specs on my bike (Trek 1.5) and it has a 12-30 Shimano Tiagra cassette. Does this mean there are 12 teeth on the lowest gear and 30 on the highest? Forgive my ignorance. My front sprocket (probably the wrong word) is a FSA Vero 50-34 compact. What does compact mean. Is this good or bad? Do these gears sound OK for doing hills? DO lower or higher numbers mean easire gears for climbing?

If someone could give me an overview of what all this means and what I should look for, it would be appreciated. Right now, I'm riding 1-2x/wk, usually 10-20 miles. So far avoiding big hills. Thanks in advance for any help.
The things that go into the gear ratio for a bike are the size of the front Chainring that you are using (you have a choice between 50 teeth and 34) and the size of the rear sproket (you have a variety of choices between 12 and 30). There are other things that go into the equation like the size of your wheels and length of the cranks, but for most bikes, those are essentially fixed, so they can be ignored.

The bigger the ratio between the front teeth and back teeth the faster the bike will go, and the harder it will be to pedal. For us old folks, when we are going up hills, most of us look for the smallest possible front chainring and combine that with the biggest rear sproket.

It is realtively easy to change the cassette in the rear to get a different range, or to change the front chainrings, but there are limits to both the min/max sizes and the ratios.

In the olden days, the cranks had a limit to the smaller size chainring on a double crank which was 39 teeth, so if you had a double, the smallest you could get would be 39, and you would want very strong legs to climb mountains with that. The other option was to get a triple chainring with a smaller third gear - or 'granny gear'. Today 'Compact Cranks' are popular where the bolt circle to attach the smaller ring on a double is smaller than the standard, and as a result you can get ratios like your 50-34.

Keep on peddling, and if you start hitting those hills and wishing you could go to a lower gear, you might consider using a cassette with bigger gears - which will make it easier, and slower.
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Old 04-23-12, 07:53 PM
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I have a 12 - 36 cassette and a 22t granny up front. My only regret is that I couldn't find a 20t for up front that was reasonably priced.
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