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Old 11-27-10, 07:41 AM   #1
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why get suspension and do higher gears give you a *much* faster ride?

Thanks to this amazing forum, I purchased my first bike in 15 years in July. But my downtime nova was recently stolen . (I was totally heartbroken.) I loved my nova -- I had replaced the wheels with 1.75 tires (nothing special I don't think) b/c I got flats pretty easily in nyc and I found the ride a little bumpy. Other than that, the only small problem I had with the bike is that I wasn't getting a ton of speed which was a problem when biking on faster moving city streets.

I am about to buy a new bike and am tempted to upgrade to the Downtube FS or the front suspension. Both have 9 gears.

I realize this might be kind of a stupid question but I'm wondering (1) is paying for suspension worth it? or would you just get better tires? (2) will two additional speeds be noticeable? (3) does anyone have any general recs on the pricier downtubes?
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Old 11-27-10, 09:31 AM   #2
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1: user preference, but proper tire choice is enough for city riding.
2: the two additional speeds actually don't give you a higher gear. They just give you a better selection of gears. If you want a higher gear, then one option is to change out the front chainring to something larger than what the stock has.
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Old 11-27-10, 09:38 AM   #3
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What is the state of the roads where you are? Suspension helps compensate for the smaller wheels when you hit bumps making it more comfortable. You may however lose some of your pedalling power which I find noticable when going up hills on my suspension bike. In most cases some big tyres and a sprung saddle will be enough.
With gears, the important thing isn't how many its whether you have the right ratios for what you're doing. Having more gears just means you're more likely to have the ratios you need in there somewhere. You don't want to be pedalling frantically on the flat and you don't want to struggle on hills. Some people manage this criteria on a fixed speed, others have lots of gears.
Ask someone with a 30 speed bike how many gears they actually use regularly and the answer is going to be 4-5. I have 7 speeds on my full suspension folder and realistically use 3 of them. I have a 3 speed fold-it which has a 3 speed hub and tbh its better on hills and generally just as fast on the flat.
If you plan to do any touring on your bike, then extra gears are worth it as you will encounter differing terrain. Otherwise save some cash and just adjust your gear ratios by changing chain ring and sprocket sizes to suit you best.
Also bear in mind that a bike with lots of gears may look better to bike thieves.
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Old 11-27-10, 01:57 PM   #4
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Good suspension is worth the money, in my (admittedly somewhat limited) experience. However, good suspension is also expensive, so you'd need to decide if it's worth that much to you.
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Old 11-27-10, 06:48 PM   #5
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Lowgrad2020, gear 'speeds' are measure in GI (gear inch) which is proportional to the forward advance of the bike per one pedal revolution.

You can find a popular GI calculator here (make sure to change the units to gear inch).

When you want to compare two gearing options you can compare the GI of each of the 'speeds' (lowest, highest and the intervals in between). For a given bike, you can increase or decrease the GI of all gears by changing the size of the chainring. You can also change the GI intervals by changing the rear cassette.

If you evaluate new bike, you can ask the vendors what is the GI range of the bike.

If at top gear you still feel that you would like a higher gear than a higher top GI will help you. Sometimes it comes at the cost of increasing the GI of the lowest gear (harder to pedal on steep hills) or increasing the GI interval between gears.

Hope it helps.

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Old 11-28-10, 12:11 AM   #6
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To ease the discussion, I've punched the Downtube FS numbers into Sheldon's gear calculator. Numbers from:

And also attached the gear calculations for my Dahon Mu P8, whose gearing I really like:

Downtube FS:

Dahon Mu P8:

My own experience (having owned 2 (not Downtubes)) is that low-end cheap folders tend to have incredibly low gearing. I have no idea why. Incredibly frustrating. I got rid of my low end folder before knowing anything about gearing calculation. Now, I realise, it's just a matter of changing the chainring (or the whole crank if it's attached). Kicking myself for that. Moral: do the calculations before buying a bicycle; don't assume the gearing will be correct for you.

You would think that climbing hills in a bicycle with very low gearing would be pleasant: but it wasn't. The whole thing was so flimsy that it seemed to struggle with the effort more than I was.

(NB: this is not to imply that the Downtube gearing is low, or that the Downtube is a cheap folder. I'm just making a comment based on my general experience with other folders).

(NB2: from eyeballing the numbers above, it would seem the Downtube & MuP8 have the same smallest and largest rear sprocket. But that the MuP8 has a 53T chainring, while the Downtube has 48, which explains the Downtube having a lower gear range. )

NB3: No idea on the Downtube Nova rear cassette, but this thread suggests the high gear inch is 61+.,981#msg-981

Last edited by havm66z; 11-28-10 at 08:07 AM. Reason: Added Downtube Nova information
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Old 11-28-10, 12:31 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by lawgrad2010 View Post
I realize this might be kind of a stupid question but I'm wondering (1) is paying for suspension worth it? or would you just get better tires? (2) will two additional speeds be noticeable? (3) does anyone have any general recs on the pricier downtubes?
(1) For city riding, typically suspension is not worth it. Although some paths are in rough shape and if you ride during dark hours, then it could be helpful if you ride at a brisk pace. Regardless, life is too short to ride with anything but good tires.

(2) For what? Casual riding ... probably not. If you're trying to ride fast, it might.

(3) Does it have a mount for a front derailer? If so, I would seriously consider putting on a front derailer and going with a road double. Although if you keep your bike in places where the probably of it being stolen is high, I would not put a lot of effort into modifying it for better performance.
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