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Low Gear Salvation

Old 02-17-12, 06:06 AM
  #1  
kouletsi
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Low Gear Salvation


I'm in the 60+ group and interested in economical options that will make it easier to climb many of the long grade, and steep, hills where I live. I have used a Compact Ultegra drive train (50/34, 11/28) for years and am considering switching everything to an Ultegra triple to benefit from the realization that the engine ain't getting any stronger, I need that small ring salvation. On the other hand I would consider a MB rear derailleur (32 or 34) and keeping my Ultegra Compact intact. Has anyone found the latter option an effectiive solution over the Triple?

I ride about 3-5 Centuries a year and am planning a 150 one day ride in 4 months.

Any help appreciated.

kgk
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Old 02-17-12, 08:06 AM
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ks1g
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With your current setup, your lowest gear ratio is 34/28=1.21. With a triple (assuming your front shifter is triple-compatible), lowest gear is 30/28=1.07. Keep compact and replace rear derailluer with a long-cage Ultegra or (better) compatible MTB unit and you can get down to 34/32=1.06 or 34/34=1.00. (Of course, assuming the derailluer can handle the range, 30/32=0.94 and you can probably climb walls and pull stumps!). The web site of the late (and sainted) Sheldon Brown has an excellent gear calculator if you want more info, think in gear-inches, or want to see what your pedal rpm would be at those low gear ratios.

I've done what you're thinking of doing. I swapped a 9 speed 11-32 MTB cassette on my old road bike (Ultegra 53/39 double) and it worked OK - you also must lengthen the chain or remember to absolutely NEVER go near any big-big gear combos (don't ask!). In my case, a long-cage Ultegra derailluer had sufficient range (still outside Shimano's specifications) to work on the rides I wanted it (mostly hilly centuries). I have not found a workable solution on 10-speed Shimano using their road long-cage derailluer. Have not tried with an MTB derailluer. On my other bike (SRAM, compact 50/34 road double), a SRAM Apex long-cage derailluer and 11-32 cassette and longer chain worked quite well (it's designed for this) and is a very quick swap. There is one noticable annoyance for me using the 11-32 cassette - there are spots in the shift pattern where the jumps are larger than I'd like. I just deal with it as easier and cheaper than replacing my front brifter and cranks for a couple of big rides.

You can also still work on the engine - I'm 57, and between losing some weight on the motor and working on my hill climbing, I've noticably improved. Hope this helps.
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Old 02-17-12, 09:38 AM
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Don't assume that you cant run an 11-32 with your short cage Ultegra. I use one all the time on long rides where I'll be doing some climbing and have had no problems at all with it. It's worth a try before buying a rear derailleur.
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Old 02-17-12, 10:31 AM
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... but do get a longer chain if your current chain isn't long enough. If you run too short a chain it will only take one flubbed shift to pull your derailer apart.

Last edited by mander; 02-17-12 at 10:35 AM.
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Old 02-17-12, 10:49 AM
  #5  
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I have a light climbing bike with 52-39-26 in the front and a 12-25 10 speed in the back. That gives me a lot of gears close together, which is really nice for serious pass climbing, and with no RD issues. My wife and I have a tandem with that same front ring combo and a 12-34 in the back with an XTR RD. We've pedaled up 19% grades, loaded. When we're not climbing, we mostly run in the big ring. The big gaps aren't such a big deal on a tandem because the speed range is so crazy. With close gears, we'd wear out our shifters! I run chain stops on both those bikes.

On rando-length rides, I've found it important to have my cadence determined by me, and not by my equipment. Lower gears, and plenty of them, are better for me. Also, I've found I dislike riding in rolling terrain with folks running compacts. Picky of me, I know.
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Old 02-18-12, 01:04 AM
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Also consider how tolerant you are to using a wide range of cadences. With the wide-range cassettes (e.g., 11-32) you have to live with some larger gaps between gears, and so will be between gears more often, pedaling at a cadence that might not be ideal for you. If you're happy riding at a broad range of cadences, then this will be no problem; if like me you prefer to stay within a tighter cadence range, then the wide-range cassette is not for you and a triple crankset would be a better option. Also note that by using the middle ring of the triple, you'll be able to stay in the same ring for a long time, with a large range of usable gears in the rear; whereas with a compact you may be cross-chaining and making double-shifts (shifting on the front and rear) a whole lot more.
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Old 02-22-12, 10:58 AM
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I run a 50/34 12-32 with a mid-range SRAM RD. I find the gear jumps on the 12-32 to be not that bad. It'd be nice if it had the 16t cog that SRAM claims, but I knew it didn't before I bought it (Competitive Cyclist has the correct info).
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Old 02-25-12, 08:13 PM
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I would just swap rear derailers and cassette, if you want to go really low you can even run a 36 tooth cassette on the rear. Personally I like to spin fairly quick and always found the lower gear to be nice. Swapping cranks will get very expensive, the only thing you loose is the tight spacing between gears, it bothers some people but most wont think twice about it.
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Old 03-07-12, 02:58 PM
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I just swapped out my Ultegra RD with a Deore Shadow and an 11-36 Cassette. I know that's low, but after tackling (trying) some of Colorado's passes last summer I knew I needed the gearing change. I can always get an 11-32 or 34 if the 36 is too low, but it's an easy change and also easy to "go back" if necessary.

For some reason I just can't do the triple crankset anymore. However, if it's OK with you, then do it.
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Old 03-07-12, 03:15 PM
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I also like the tighter gear spacing of a road triple. This graph tells the tale;



I have a 12-30 ten speed cassette with a 50, 39 & 26t triple for a really deep range;

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Old 01-08-13, 11:11 PM
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Great graphs!
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Old 01-08-13, 11:30 PM
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I prefer the triple to the compact myself because I like the tight gearing. The only real downside to switching to a triple is the expense. If money is an issue, stick the the compact and mtb cassette if it's not I'd switch to a triple.
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Old 01-10-13, 11:33 AM
  #13  
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
Also, I've found I dislike riding in rolling terrain with folks running compacts. Picky of me, I know.
I saw this back when you posted it, and I meant to ask about it then... but I never got around to asking: What is it about this that bothers you? I get thrown off and lured out of my preferred cadence range by people who ride a huge range of cadences if I'm not paying attention to my own cadence... so I can understand your dislike of compact riders in that way.

It annoys me sometimes too, and I'm just curious as to why it bothers you.
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Old 01-11-13, 11:50 AM
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Several years ago I broke my compact (34-50) front derailleur right before I was traveling with my bike. I had a triple setup that I put on and I've never gone back. I don't understand (well, I do I guess) the animus towards triples. While I like and use the low gears on my triple (30-29 currently) what I really like is how I spend most of my time in the middle ring. With the compact rings I frequently had to shift the front to maintain my preferred cadence.
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Old 01-11-13, 06:25 PM
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Originally Posted by Hydrated View Post
I saw this back when you posted it, and I meant to ask about it then... but I never got around to asking: What is it about this that bothers you? I get thrown off and lured out of my preferred cadence range by people who ride a huge range of cadences if I'm not paying attention to my own cadence... so I can understand your dislike of compact riders in that way.

It annoys me sometimes too, and I'm just curious as to why it bothers you.
Oh, because they have to double shift so frequently. I'll come into a little riser behind someone running a compact and they shift the front, then have to shift the back a couple of times, meanwhile they're sagging back onto my wheel. I'm out of the saddle and off looking for someone running what I'm running, which is a triple. A double rider would be fine too, because a triple is just a double with a cheater. And what do they save? 70g? What do they lose? Close ratio gearing and easy of shifting. I don't see the point. I almost never need the granny ring except for long grinds and then I'm in it for a long time. Otherwise, a triple rider doesn't need to bother with the big ring most of the time with a modern 9 or 10 speed cassette as long as they are running a closely spaced cassette, which is easy to do with a triple. I run a 26T granny in front now, so I can run a 12-25 in back.
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Old 01-12-13, 04:16 PM
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Originally Posted by dwmckee View Post
Great graphs!
It was put together by one of my mad-scientist Minneapolitain bike mechanic friens, Karl Stoerz. You can use it at http://www.kstoerz.com/gearcalc/compare/

I don't do much super-long-distance riding-- a big day for me is 80-90 miles-- but I have a very strong preference for 8-speed half-step plus bailout:



19 out of 24 discrete gears with no duplication, good chainline and sensible progression. If you want to stay in the middle ring, you have good gearing; reasonable high, stump-pulling low, with nice tight steps on the low end, loosening up slightly as your speed increases; 5 gears between 60 and 80 gear inches where most of us do most of our riding with very good chainline. This may or may not work for anyone else; but it works well enough for me that I have 3 different bikes set up with this same gearing.

Last edited by Captain Blight; 01-12-13 at 04:27 PM.
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Old 01-13-13, 01:14 AM
  #17  
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Also, if you want to get the most absolute stump-pulling/wall-climbing gearing, a road triple will allow you to mount a 24T granny. I'm somewhat proud to say I have a 24/34 gear on my recumbent for the steepest of hills. At 70'ish rpm that is good for ~4mph, and sometimes a necessity on the recumbent where I can't stand on the pedals and mash.

I use an XT long cage derailleur on the rear, though even it doesn't take up all the slack in the granny and smallest gears on the cassette (I just avoid using the granny with anything smaller than 24T'ish on the back). I don't get real crisp shifting off the granny, and because I don't use a chain keeper need to be careful shifting on to it, but when the hills got steep and long, it's really nice to have such a low gear that'll let me keep my cadence up.
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Old 01-13-13, 09:49 AM
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Original post is a year old, so hopefully the OP solved his problems.

I my ultegra 11-32 works ok most of the time, it does have problems in the 34/11 cross-chaining situation, so I don't use that gear.
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Old 01-28-13, 01:19 PM
  #19  
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+100 on the last several posts. 52-39 or similar is sweet, but when some combination of age, steep terrain, etc. comes into play that third chainring is a leg-saver. I was running a compact on my Volagi with an 11-32. I could climb just fine, but wanted closer spacing; now running 52-39-30 (did I say I love the 39) and a 12-30 cassette. I can do a big climb comfortably, have reasonably close spacing and can pop on an 11-36t in back if an epic ride is in the offing.

Strong riders like my son do just fine with a regular double. His climbing cassette is a 12-28. I just found the shifting on a compact to be very annoying.
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Old 03-03-13, 12:32 AM
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One thing to watch for if you change out rear setup to use a 12-36 cassette is the spaces between gears gets so big you find you often want to be between two gears for most efficient pedaling. I am in my mid 50s and have found this problem more lately as my comfortable cadence range has shrunk. Another easy option might be just to drop your two front chain ring sizes to something like 48 and 30 teeth on your current setup. Just slide the derailleur down a bit to keep shifting smooth. This will help lower gearing while keeping spacing between gears more comfortable. It is also easy to do mechanically and is pretty cheap at maybe $25 - $30 per front chain ring and be done with it. You lose some top end gears, but do you often use them now? I hardly do myself, though I am an active rider...
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