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gravel bike gearing

Old 06-26-14, 07:42 PM
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gravel bike gearing

I live in IA and I've been thinking of building up a gravel grinder for a while. I'm building up a 93 bridgestone xo-2 as a gravel grinder. I'm going with 8 speed gearing, 8 spd brifters, and a triple crank mainly because that's what I have in my parts bin.

I'm currently have an older ritchey mtb crank with 44-32-22 rings and I'm thinking of running a 12-23 8 spd in the rear. It's a nice crank but I'm a little concerned that the rings are a bit too small.

I have a different triple I could run with a 46-36-26 and a 12-28 on the rear. Not a huge difference between the 2 triples on the top and bottom but the middle ring is where I'll spend a fair amount of time and I'm thinking I'll be happier in a 36 than a 32.

I'm curious what kind of gearing people are running.
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Old 06-26-14, 08:01 PM
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The compact triple and tight spacing on the 12-23 makes for some nice shifting and offers the same low gearing and nearly the same top gear... I ran a 22/32/44 with an 11-27 road block which was good for pretty much any terrain and really good for speed.
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Old 06-26-14, 10:00 PM
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I've got a Deore 44-32-22 crankset with an HG50 11-32 cassette. It's all my long cage RD can handle but the gearing is outstanding on gravel roads over sawtooth hills and dirt singletrack. Some people tell me I should go with a bigger chainring like a 48 or 52 but according to Sheldon Brown, the 44 x 11 gear on my 700c bike should give me over 32 mph at 100 rpm. I just don't see wanting to go over 30 mph on a gravel downhill, so I'm good with what I've got. On a road bike it'd be different, but on gravel 30 mph is plenty for me. On the gravel rides I've done so far, I average 12-14 mph with top speeds in the low 20s on rolling to sawtooth hills. No long, straight downhills around here. When the time comes to change cassettes, I'll probably go 11-28.
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Old 06-27-14, 12:08 AM
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Question:
Are Triples pretty much a necessity for gravel grinding?

Reason I ask is because I've been thinking about cold setting my stays on my '86 Trek 500 someday and going to a cassette setup (for better axle support) and making a gravel grinder out of it. If I did decide to go that way I'd rather keep my current modified drivetrain with a short cage derailleur and a 46/36 x 14-28 (That's my freewheel now and I'd build my own cassette with the same range).

That's only 34.4 gear inches at the low end. I could put on the 34 tooth ring for 32.5 gear inches but is that even a low enough bottom end for relatively flat land or only moderately hilly gravel grinding?

Last edited by Zinger; 06-27-14 at 02:37 AM.
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Old 06-27-14, 05:41 AM
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I am riding a Surly Straggler with 46-36 and a 11-32. It seems to do fine on crushed rock bike paths and rolling gravel roads. It really depends on the roads and the condition of the gravel. Bottom line -triples are not a necessity but helpful at certain times

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Old 06-27-14, 06:02 AM
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Originally Posted by Sixty Fiver
The compact triple and tight spacing on the 12-23 makes for some nice shifting and offers the same low gearing and nearly the same top gear... I ran a 22/32/44 with an 11-27 road block which was good for pretty much any terrain and really good for speed.
I'd have to buy the 12-23 8 speed cassette. That said, I'm tempted by this set up. Assuming the low gear works for the application, a tighter range in the rear is a plus. A 23 running on a 22 is a pretty low gear with 26 inch rear wheels gives me a 24 inch low gear which isn't bad.
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Old 06-27-14, 06:04 AM
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Originally Posted by GravelMN
I've got a Deore 44-32-22 crankset with an HG50 11-32 cassette. It's all my long cage RD can handle but the gearing is outstanding on gravel roads over sawtooth hills and dirt singletrack. Some people tell me I should go with a bigger chainring like a 48 or 52 but according to Sheldon Brown, the 44 x 11 gear on my 700c bike should give me over 32 mph at 100 rpm. I just don't see wanting to go over 30 mph on a gravel downhill, so I'm good with what I've got. On a road bike it'd be different, but on gravel 30 mph is plenty for me. On the gravel rides I've done so far, I average 12-14 mph with top speeds in the low 20s on rolling to sawtooth hills. No long, straight downhills around here. When the time comes to change cassettes, I'll probably go 11-28.
That's good to know that you like it. A gravel bike is an in-betweener so I was thinking a 44-32-22 might make sense. My guess is that most folks are running either compact cranks or triples with somewhat larger chainrings more like a road bike might have.
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Old 06-27-14, 06:07 AM
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Originally Posted by Zinger
Question:
Are Triples pretty much a necessity for gravel grinding?

Reason I ask is because I've been thinking about cold setting my stays on my '86 Trek 500 someday and going to a cassette setup (for better axle support) and making a gravel grinder out of it. If I did decide to go that way I'd rather keep my current modified drivetrain with a short cage derailleur and a 46/36 x 14-28 (That's my freewheel now and I'd build my own cassette with the same range).

That's only 34.4 gear inches at the low end. I could put on the 34 tooth ring for 32.5 gear inches but is that even a low enough bottom end for relatively flat land or only moderately hilly gravel grinding?
Given the type of roads we are talking about and the kind of terrain one is likely to find, I would think a good low is a real plus but you can obviously get a pretty good low with a compact as well.
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Old 06-27-14, 06:20 AM
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Originally Posted by Zinger
Question:
Are Triples pretty much a necessity for gravel grinding?

Reason I ask is because I've been thinking about cold setting my stays on my '86 Trek 500 someday and going to a cassette setup and making a gravel grinder out of it. If I did decide to go that way I'd rather keep my current modified drivetrain with a short cage derailleur and a 46/36 x 14-28.

That's only 34.4 gear inches at the low end. I could put on the 34 tooth ring for 32.5 gear inches but is that even a low enough bottom end for relatively flat land or only moderately hilly gravel grinding?
It all depends on your terrain, road conditions, and personal strengths. I'm a 50 year old Clyde who is a recreational/fitness rider so I'm not as worried about speed as I am about having low bail-out gears when things get steep and soft. The bike I started with came with a 9x3 so it was easy to just swap to the wider cassette and smaller chainrings/crankset. I intentionally maxed out my long-cage LX RD to have the most range possible.

On the flip side, I have recently gone to a compact double 10x2 on my newer road bike and can see how with the proper selection of gearing, a similar setup could work just fine for gravel grinding.

As to whether or not you have low enough gearing, it depends on how steep the hills are and how strong a rider you are. There are some of the younger guys half my age and 40 pounds lighter who fly by me pushing gears way higher than what I'm spinning.

To make a long story short (I know . . . too late) triples aren't a necessity but wide range gearing with some low range is. I know there are a few guys who will ride gravel on single-speeds or fixies, but there is just something wrong with them

Last edited by GravelMN; 06-27-14 at 06:23 AM.
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Old 06-27-14, 08:19 AM
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I'm no speed demon by any means, but riding gravel I rarely get out of my 32 tooth middle ring, so I am actually considering going to a 1x8...
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Old 06-27-14, 08:23 AM
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I ride gravel on my road bike with a compact 50/34 12/27.
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Old 06-27-14, 09:03 AM
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Originally Posted by Zinger
Question:
Are Triples pretty much a necessity for gravel grinding? ...
Two questions: 1) Can you get the low gear you want with a double, which probably implies an inner chaining with at least 34 teeth?
2) Given the low and high gears you want, how many different gear ratios do you want to fill out the range? I like about a 6 or 7 percent ratio progression, which generally requires a lot of gears.
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Old 06-27-14, 09:05 AM
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think you need higher than 4:1 gear?
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Old 06-27-14, 09:22 AM
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My current all-roads rig is equipped with 34/50 chainrings and an 11-32 cassette. The 50t chainring is overkill for dirt/gravel, but otherwise the gearing works well for mixed-terrain riding.
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Old 06-27-14, 09:25 AM
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I live in the mountains and my gravel bike has a 42/11 high gear. I think it's fine. I find myself spinning a little more than is comfortable sometimes, but that is good for me and I've been trying to up my cadence a little.
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Old 06-27-14, 09:42 AM
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The new Salsa Vaya Road/Touring/Gravel I recently purchased has Shimano Sora components. It came with a 30/42/52t crankset and an 11-32 9speed cassette.

I suspect the wide range of gears on this bike has a lot to do with it's intended multiple functions. The geometry is set-up to perform adequately loaded or un-loaded.

With its 700 40c tires it feels sweet on gravel and so far I'm very happy with the gearing.
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Old 06-27-14, 11:36 AM
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Originally Posted by Little Darwin
I'm no speed demon by any means, but riding gravel I rarely get out of my 32 tooth middle ring, so I am actually considering going to a 1x8...
25-81 gear inches with a 1 by 8 on my Diamondback works great... and it eats gravel for breakfast.



The rolling resistance on those 2.3's is also very low so it is no trouble to spin it out on the road.
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Old 06-27-14, 11:52 AM
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46-36 and 12-27. No problems in hilly south east Iowa
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Old 06-27-14, 11:55 AM
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Originally Posted by crazyb
46-36 and 12-27. No problems in hilly south east Iowa
Yeah I'd prefer a compact but I don't have one lying around. I do have a 44-32-22 triple in my parts bin as well as shimano brifters for a triple so that's why I was asking. In any case, I suspect I'd need a lower low than you do for those hills!
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Old 06-27-14, 12:55 PM
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Originally Posted by bikemig
Yeah I'd prefer a compact but I don't have one lying around. I do have a 44-32-22 triple in my parts bin as well as shimano brifters for a triple so that's why I was asking. In any case, I suspect I'd need a lower low than you do for those hills!
a triple would certainly work, but I'm saving that for my 70's
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Old 06-27-14, 01:38 PM
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Many people use CX bikes to race gravel, not that you said you'd be racing. I have a Cannondale SuperX with 46/36 and 11-26 gearing. It's fine for gravel and fine for climbing pavement, but under geared for big, paved downhills out west where it lives. The new ones have disc brakes, which I wish I had. I have used a road bike with fenders on gravel, and that was a big mistake - gravel would get caught between the wheel and the rim. Not good.
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Old 06-27-14, 01:54 PM
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Originally Posted by bikemig
Given the type of roads we are talking about and the kind of terrain one is likely to find, I would think a good low is a real plus but you can obviously get a pretty good low with a compact as well.
Originally Posted by John E
Two questions: 1) Can you get the low gear you want with a double, which probably implies an inner chaining with at least 34 teeth?
2) Given the low and high gears you want, how many different gear ratios do you want to fill out the range? I like about a 6 or 7 percent ratio progression, which generally requires a lot of gears.
Originally Posted by GravelMN
It all depends on your terrain, road conditions, and personal strengths. I'm a 50 year old Clyde who is a recreational/fitness rider so I'm not as worried about speed as I am about having low bail-out gears when things get steep and soft. The bike I started with came with a 9x3 so it was easy to just swap to the wider cassette and smaller chainrings/crankset. I intentionally maxed out my long-cage LX RD to have the most range possible.

On the flip side, I have recently gone to a compact double 10x2 on my newer road bike and can see how with the proper selection of gearing, a similar setup could work just fine for gravel grinding.

As to whether or not you have low enough gearing, it depends on how steep the hills are and how strong a rider you are. There are some of the younger guys half my age and 40 pounds lighter who fly by me pushing gears way higher than what I'm spinning.

To make a long story short (I know . . . too late) triples aren't a necessity but wide range gearing with some low range is. I know there are a few guys who will ride gravel on single-speeds or fixies, but there is just something wrong with them
OK thanks guys ! Great information and sorry to the OP for hijacking this very useful thread.

If I go this way and if I do find I need a lower range I'd just have to swap the derailleur out for a long or medium cage and go with a wider range cassette. I actually came up with this setup for some optimum mid range road gearing on my distance bike with just a little bit more bailout for hills than what I used to have and am pretty happy with my current mid range.....which is why I didn't want to change it.

Originally Posted by fietsbob
think you need higher than 4:1 gear?
I personally don't even use more than that on the road anymore on this bike. I sort of modified it to take advantage of some better mid ranges that I'm most comfortable with by sacrificing my top end. So 46-14 & 88 gear inches is as fast as this one gets. Even before that I'd been topping out at 95 gear inches with a 50-14 anyway (and rarely used that)........Which is about what my other dedicated road bike will have in the way of a top end.

It'll be another excuse for getting dropped should some cat 6 thing ever come up anymore.
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Old 06-27-14, 02:34 PM
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I have two gravel rigs with different gearing reflecting their different roles.
The steel monstercrosser has a 30-39-50 triple and a 12-36 10 speed cassette. With fat tires (currently 29x1.8 Renegades), sturdy frame and wheels, extra low gearing and potential for carrying heavier loads, this is the bike I would choose for long rides in hilly areas, for more casual rides where comfort and ease are desired and in the future for overnight trips hauling camping, fishing and maybe cooking gear.

The carbon Crux has a 34-50 double and a 12-32 10 speed cassette. With a very lightweight build and more aggressive geometry, this bike is more for fast rides with minimal loads.

There is a lot of overlap of the roles of the two bikes. They have equivalent high gears which I find very useful for maintaining speed when mild rollers follow big downhills. I would find the wider range of the OP's second gearing option more suitable for the terrain here which ranges mostly from mildly rolling to frequent short and steep hills.
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Old 06-28-14, 05:18 AM
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I'm using triples on all three of my Cyclocross bikes. The 36t middle chainring on a triple is ideal. A 22t granny ring is not needed except for loaded touring bikes, IMO.

My vintage Simoncini has a 48, 36 & 26 triple crankset with a 13-24 seven speed freewheel. It's really perfect with tight spacing between the cogs and the ability to pedal at speeds up to 30 mph. Climbing the 15% rural roads in southwestern Wisconsin is very do-able.



My Monstercross has a 48, 36 & 22 with a 12-27 nine speed cassette. It also has a great range with tight cog spacing. The 22 granny gear is overkill, but the bike is set-up for loaded touring.



My carbon fiber Cyclocross bike has a 50, 39 & 26 crankset with a 12-30 ten speed cassette. This bike can be used while on faster group rides and has a very wide range. I have installed an 11-32 cassette on this bike, but I didn't like the gaps in the 11, 12, 13, 15, 17... spacing. I do like having ...13, 14, 15, 17... cogs on all my bikes.

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Old 06-29-14, 07:15 PM
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My "gravel" bike runs on 42x622 marathons with 36 t chainring and 12-36 t cassette.
live on gravel, 5-8 km to some sort of pavement, this combination of gearing and tire
has worked well for me.
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