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Long Distance Competition/Ultracycling, Randonneuring and Endurance Cycling Do you enjoy centuries, double centuries, brevets, randonnees, and 24-hour time trials? Share ride reports, and exchange training, equipment, and nutrition information specific to long distance cycling. This isn't for tours, this is for endurance events cycling

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Old 11-06-17, 07:09 PM   #1
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Gearing questions

Those who have bikes set up specifically for long distance riding, perhaps heavier framed bikes, maybe with some gear, racks and panniers, touring, randonneuring, etc. Do they typically run a "normal" rode bike gearing like a 50/34 up front and 11/32 in rear? Or do they usually use more 3 x 9 gearing with a triple in front for more lower climbing gears?
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Old 11-06-17, 07:21 PM   #2
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I run a 50, 39 & 26 chaining set on a Shimano 105 triple crankset with an 12-27 ten speed cassette. The cassette provides 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19, 21, 24, 27 cogs. I use Ultegra triple derailleurs.

It's a versatile drivetrain with a deeper range than a 50 & 34 with an 11-32 cassette. I also like that the 39 chainring covers the 8 to 26mph range with 10 well spaced gears. A 50 & 34 chaining set requires some cross-chain combinations in that important speed range.
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Old 11-06-17, 08:12 PM   #3
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I just built a long haul trucker for my age/performance/riding habits.
I figured I'd go pretty low and see how it went , and I like it very much.
A HG50 9 speed cassette with 11-30 , and a M-361 Shimano 22-32-42 for the front.
This is the first setup I've run where I actually use all the gears , most of the time.
I rarely ride over 17 mph so the high end is good for me.
The low gearing is usefull if not comical to use.
I can spin pretty fast at 3 mph with the 22/30 combo when I'm pooped or the hill is just aweful.
I have run bikes with 11-34 rear and 28-38-48 front and it was just too high on both ends for me.
I use the middle front ring 90% of the time and it's just about perfect for my 10-13 mph cruise riding.
Had to try it and liked it very much so far.
The wheels are 700c and tires are 700x40 to be specific for comparison.
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Old 11-06-17, 08:57 PM   #4
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I'm guessing there won't be a consensus here. Ride with a gear range that suits your ability, the terrain, and the load you're carrying. Lower gears can really save your legs on a long ride.
Most of my randonneuring has been on fixed gear (42x15 w/ 700x30mm tire) or tandem (53/42/28 x 11-34 9-speed with 700 x 35mm tire). Talk about extremes! My single bike that was built for rando uses 50/34 x 11-32 10-speed normally, but I'll swap the cassette (higher or lower) for special events.
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Old 11-06-17, 09:11 PM   #5
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I'm guessing there won't be a consensus here. Ride with a gear range that suits your ability, the terrain, and the load you're carrying. Lower gears can really save your legs on a long ride.
+1. Everyone's needs are different. Some folks ride all of their brevets on fixed-gear, others have the widest gearing ranges possible.

@WNCGoater, just ride some brevets and take notes. Do you find yourself wishing for lower gears? Higher ones? Or do some gears end up going unused? That's how I determined the right gearing for my bike.
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Old 11-06-17, 09:55 PM   #6
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most randonneurs don't use heavy bikes. Contra to what my signature says, I don't really think that randonneuring and touring are very similar.

I think most of us use lower gearing. It's one thing to tough out a climb on a 2-3 hour ride, and a totally different thing if that ride is going to continue for another 12 hours. If not for reasons of avoiding fatigue, lower gearing means you don't have to eat as often. The trend is towards wide-range doubles. I'm perfectly happy with my 46/34 chainrings and 11-36 cassette. I have ridden with a 11-32 in the past, probably will again. But I have had trouble with cramping, and the 36 beats out the 32 in that situation every time.
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Old 11-06-17, 10:32 PM   #7
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My bike has 26/36/48 on the front and 12-30 on the rear (10 speed). I don't find myself using all of the rear unless I'm 100 miles in and feeling like I got my ass kicked by mother nature, but I'm glad it's there. The 36 and 48 rings are perfect for me, with the 36 offering enough speed for all but the most windless flat terrain and a good overlap with the top of my 48 tooth ring. If I'm near the bottom of the 36, I can almost always find a gear a few gears up on the 48 where I'm comfortable at a similar speed.

I don't think a 50/34 with an 11-32 would be comfortable for me. It would require me to give up my top two climbing gears, which when I'm tired, I'm glad they're there if the grade gets steep. The 50 ring would put me near the top of that cassette in the flats, where I'd be either in or too near the big/big combo or between rings, which is annoying. My ladyfriend who rides with me has 48/32, which I would find much more useful than 50/34 (especially since she has a 36 tooth cog in the back to bail her out if it's rough).

Having always had triples on every bike I've built/rode, I could probably find a double that would work for me, if I had to, I've just never had to make that compromise, so I never had to try to figure out where I'd be comfortable. The triple allows me to do probably 80% of my riding time in the middle ring, gives me the small ring when I need to slow down to keep my heart rate/intensity under control, and gives me a big ring for descending and for the nice sunny days when the wind is at my back. If you can find a way to duplicate that feeling with the right double, go for it!

Triples are heavier and my three ranges overlap each other quite a bit, so I am not unpersuaded that I could find a double setup that'd work for me, I've just never had to, because the triple gives me the ability to have whatever overall range I want with closer steps between gears, in compromise for the increased weight and complexity of the triple (having to trim the front d in certain gears, and it's probably more of a pain to get dialed in exactly right to be able to use all 30 gears). It's worth it for me, but the trend is definitely NOT toward the kinda setup I'm running, so take my advice with a grain of salt.

50/34 with 32 teeth in the rear was designed for road bikes with a rider and a seat bag. Once you add weight to that bike, you're going to want more gear than that, unless you live in Nebraska.
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Old 11-06-17, 10:43 PM   #8
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Those who have bikes set up specifically for long distance riding, perhaps heavier framed bikes, maybe with some gear, racks and panniers, touring, randonneuring, etc. Do they typically run a "normal" rode bike gearing like a 50/34 up front and 11/32 in rear? Or do they usually use more 3 x 9 gearing with a triple in front for more lower climbing gears?
I like 50-39-30 x 13-14-15-16-17-18-19-21-23-26. Close gears for plains rides. Low enough gears to get over the Santa Cruz and Diablo mountains (ex - Mt. Hamilton then Mt. Diablo) in California usually maintaining an endurance pace. 4% smaller big gear than Eddy Merckx used to dominate the pro peloton.

Your mileage will vary based on power output over various durations, your sensitivity to low cadence, how climbing with various power/cadence combinations fatigues you, all-up weight for long rides, how steep your grades are, how high your climbs are, how metronomic you like your cadence, etc.

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Old 11-06-17, 11:19 PM   #9
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Actually most long distance riders ride ordinary road bikes, more likely endurance models. Carbon frames are very common, panniers very uncommon. Everyone pretty much tries to keep the weight down and frame compliance up. That said, there are still gearing differences in that one wants to be able to easily spin up most long grades on a particular brevet. Keeping leg effort down is a key objective.

You can figure what low gears would work for you personally by doing a little research. First thing, take a possible bike out and ride a long grade on it, riding at an effort that you could keep up for a couple hours. Note your speed. Then go to an online gearing calculator and see what gearing you'd need to be able to spin your most comfortable cadence at that speed and add one cog below that for bail-out. There you are.

There is no answer as to what's best, only for what works for you within your budget.

My personal preference is for 3 X 9 or 3 X 10, 26T small ring, paired with a cassette which gives me the gear-inches which I need at the bottom. That gives me the closest possible gears in the low end, which I've found to be helpful for me on long pass climbs, the key sections of a long distance ride. Anything works well on the flat. Other people have different priorities and the answer will also vary with gearing availability on a candidate bike.
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Old 11-07-17, 08:09 AM   #10
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Oh wow thanks for all the good replies. I realize there are no easy answers or one correct answer, too many variables involved.

I'm kind of interested in a more "comfort" set-up for longer rides. My current bike is good for metrics and I have ridden a couple centuries on it, but the older I get, the harder the distance is & I'm more interested in comfort. I experimented with some 28mm tires (even though this bike really doesn't have the capacity for them, virtually no clearance) and was pleasantly surprised at the difference. I've got a stem riser I'm going to try to move me a bit more upright.

I ride a typical 50/34 - 12/30 setup. I recently acquired a bike with 11/28 in back. I was surprised at the difference and it just isn't low enough for some of the grades around here. Otherwise, the current setup has gotten me up every hill without too much difficulty but there are a few routes I avoid!

So I'm thinking of acquiring and setting up something a little more comfort oriented, maybe a steel frame & definitely larger tires, maybe some gravel riding with the possibility of future multi-day touring, maybe a cross state ride though that would never be more than likely a one time deal.
But right now, it would be a day-use only.

So, if one had a typical 11 speed 50/34 x 11/32, that would give me one more climbing gear but IF terrain for the day was such, could I simply switch out the crankset with something like a 46/36? Or change the cassette out?
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Old 11-07-17, 08:30 AM   #11
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A 46/30 is a pretty common randonneuring crankset, but I don't know of any that are compatible with 11 speed chains. 46/36 is a cyclocross crankset and won't help with the low end, which I think is what you are looking for.
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Old 11-07-17, 10:42 AM   #12
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My brevet bike is 50/34 with an 11-36, because I'm fat and like to both have gears to winch myself slowly up big hills AND be able to keep pedaling downhill. And late in a long ride I start often alternating between mashing and spinning to let some muscles rest -- I think part of the reason I cramped up a bit this year on a 400k was that I snapped my front derailleur cable 90 miles in and just did the rest on the small ring; I did a lot more quick spinning on the flats and downhills than I usually do.

34f/36r is plenty of low end because at that point I'm only going slightly faster than walking (and on a long brevet if I'm in that gear for more than just a tiny steep bit on a longer hill I likely AM going to get off and walk; stretches things out nicely without costing much speed).

I just splurged and bought a touring bike, and I'm glad it comes with a triple; I'm sure I'll use those gears when either loaded down or when trying to keep a lower effort level so I can look around at the scenery. Or when on loose gravel, because it'll be my new gravel grinder when lightly loaded -- my brevet bike did OK on gravel but occasionally 28mm tires was not as much as I wanted under me.
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Old 11-07-17, 11:31 AM   #13
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I ride a 44/28 up front with 10spd 11-32 out back. Gets out and up and over just about anything at a good speed.
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Old 11-07-17, 12:40 PM   #14
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44/27 with 11-32 9 speed for me.
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Old 11-07-17, 12:45 PM   #15
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Oh wow thanks for all the good replies. I realize there are no easy answers or one correct answer, too many variables involved.

I'm kind of interested in a more "comfort" set-up for longer rides. My current bike is good for metrics and I have ridden a couple centuries on it, but the older I get, the harder the distance is & I'm more interested in comfort. I experimented with some 28mm tires (even though this bike really doesn't have the capacity for them, virtually no clearance) and was pleasantly surprised at the difference. I've got a stem riser I'm going to try to move me a bit more upright.

<snip>

So I'm thinking of acquiring and setting up something a little more comfort oriented, maybe a steel frame & definitely larger tires, maybe some gravel riding with the possibility of future multi-day touring, maybe a cross state ride though that would never be more than likely a one time deal.
But right now, it would be a day-use only.

So, if one had a typical 11 speed 50/34 x 11/32, that would give me one more climbing gear but IF terrain for the day was such, could I simply switch out the crankset with something like a 46/36? Or change the cassette out?
I'm planning on a new "comfort" road bike for the longer rides on chipseal roads in my area. I'm considering the Black Mountain Road bike frame. It fits a 700x33 tire but accepts caliper brakes. See: Road Frames - Black Mountain Cycles

I'll fit a Tiagra triple drivetrain. These components require an extensive online search, but components can be found. See: https://www.ribblecycles.co.uk/shima...a&utm_content=

I may also transfer a Campagnolo 3x10 Chorus with 53, 42 & 30 and a 13-29 cassette from another bike in my fleet.
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Old 11-07-17, 02:47 PM   #16
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Wow, everybody has very low gearing on their bikes. I run 10 speed Campy 50/34 in front and 12-27 or 13-29 in rear or 12-32 on another wheelset if the ride involves lots of climbing.
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Old 11-07-17, 05:06 PM   #17
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Wow, everybody has very low gearing on their bikes.
I think most road bikes are just geared unreasonably high. Lots of cyclists are running gearing configurations sometimes used by pros who have double or better their power-to-weight ratios. Having super-low climbing gears available and unused doesn't cost much, but needing a lower gear on a steep climb is a big problem.
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Old 11-07-17, 11:13 PM   #18
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A 46/30 is a pretty common randonneuring crankset, but I don't know of any that are compatible with 11 speed chains. 46/36 is a cyclocross crankset and won't help with the low end, which I think is what you are looking for.
I'm running an 8 speed triple crankset I paid $40 for with a 10 speed chain. It's been on there for thousands of miles. Should I start worrying about the specs now?

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I think most road bikes are just geared unreasonably high. Lots of cyclists are running gearing configurations sometimes used by pros who have double or better their power-to-weight ratios. Having super-low climbing gears available and unused doesn't cost much, but needing a lower gear on a steep climb is a big problem.
Couldn't have said it better myself. If you think my gears are too low, come watch me choke up some huge climbs around here. I might live at 4,000 feet and enjoy me some climbing sometimes, but everyone has their breaking point and even on my 30+ pound bike, I bet I can help you find yours!
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Old 11-07-17, 11:28 PM   #19
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46/36 is a cyclocross crankset and won't help with the low end, which I think is what you are looking for.
I changed the 36 on my CX 70 crank to a 34. Inner chainrings are cheap. I feel like the 34-36 is small enough gear for almost everything, but if I really want something lower, my rear derailleur can handle it. It's a SRAM mountain bike derailleur. I was hoping to find a sub-compact that I liked, but the CX-70 is really nice.
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Old 11-08-17, 07:59 AM   #20
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If I ever get around to building a randonneuring bike it will have a 46/30 crankset and capacity for a 36T cassette.
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Old 11-08-17, 10:11 AM   #21
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How's that saying go, you need to have in your gears what you don't have in your legs?


Personally I take a bike with a mountain-geared triple every time I head to the mountains of western North Carolina, but YMMV.
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Old 11-08-17, 02:26 PM   #22
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How's that saying go, you need to have in your gears what you don't have in your legs?


Personally I take a bike with a mountain-geared triple every time I head to the mountains of western North Carolina, but YMMV.
Okay this is curious and sort of the basis for my question. I currently ride a 50/34-12/30 typical road bike. I very rarely run out of gears around my county with a few climbs being the exception. I CAN say there are a few climbs that I'm pretty much at the limit with my current low range. So I kind of thought an 11/32 would give one more climbing gear with that 32 cog.

Being in search of a more comfortable, upright, larger tire, touring type bike, I find a LOT of Touring specific bikes have a triple on front and 9 on back. My question with that is, typically they come with Shimano Deore or Sora and I kind of thought that was low end, entry level. Which would need to be upgraded in a couple thousand miles.

And what are those bar end micro shifters all about? (Remove cable interference with front rack or bag?)

So I'm thinking just stick with what I know, typical road bike gearing but an upright, bigger framed, larger tired, steel framed comfort bike, and go ride....

but I keep coming back to the triple up front and the advocates of them in this thread and wonder if I'm missing something. ???

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Old 11-08-17, 02:30 PM   #23
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@pdlamb Tell me about that Fuji Touring bike (Nashbar has the same bike) been looking at it in the mix.
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Old 11-08-17, 02:40 PM   #24
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That your "typical road bike" came with 50/34 and 12-30 speaks to how much more reasonable road bike gearing is these days than it used to be.

The bike I started my randonneuring journey on came from the factory with a 52/42 crank and a 14-28 freewheel, being an entry-level model in its time. (The fancier ones came with a 14-24.) I was glad to have put on a 39T inner ring before that first 200k brevet!

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So I'm thinking just stick with what I know, typical road bike gearing but an upright, bigger framed, larger tired, steel framed comfort bike, and go ride....
Now we're talkin'. Skip the analysis paralysis and just find out what works. What's the worst that could happen, you have to walk a hill or two?
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Old 11-08-17, 03:10 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by WNCGoater View Post
My question with that is, typically they come with Shimano Deore and I kind of thought that was low end, entry level. Which would need to be upgraded in a couple thousand miles.
Deore isn't fancy, but it's not "low end." Nearly everything Shimano makes is durable and functions smoothly. You can certainly shave some weight and add 1 or 2 speeds in back by upgrading, but the bike will still work fine if you don't.

Quote:
And what are those bar end micro shifters all about?
In the days when most road bikes used downtube shifters, bar-end shifters allowed you to shift with both hands on the bars. A lot of people preferred this for stability while riding a loaded touring bike.

That argument has become considerably less strong since the early 90s, since brifters also let you shift with a stable 2-handed grip on the bars. The reasons that some people still prefer them on touring bikes are:
1-Same reason that Gevenalle "brifters" exist and get marketed at cyclocross. They're a much simpler mechanism than modern brifters, and the theory is that they're less likely to clog up and/or fail.
2-They often support a friction mode. So if anything whacky happens to your drivetrain - like a bent derailleur hanger, or you need new chainrings or cogs but the only available options that'll fit on your bike are "incompatible" with your drivetrain - you can make it work.
3-Tradition, sticking with what worked before.

Quote:
So I'm thinking just stick with what I know, typical road bike gearing but an upright, bigger framed, larger tired, steel framed comfort bike, and go ride....

but I keep coming back to the triple up front and the advocates of them in this thread and wonder if I'm missing something. ???
1x vs 2x vs 3x doesn't mean a whole lot without considering what the cogs in back are... and the rider, and the ride.

Use what works for you.

Last edited by HTupolev; 11-08-17 at 03:15 PM.
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