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Please school me on gearing

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Please school me on gearing

Old 05-19-15, 07:38 AM
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ScotchMan
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Please school me on gearing

Hey all, just getting back into biking over the last month or so. Picked up a hybrid bike for myself and my girlfriend and we are closing on 200 miles this season, with a 26 + 20 mile record this past weekend. I am already starting to think about road bikes.

My hybrid is a Specialized Sirrus Sport with 3x9 gearing. I was looking at the Specialized Secteur, and had a question about gearing. Basically, what options are better for what scenarios? I noticed the Secteur comes in 4 trims, and only one of them has 3 chainrings, the others, including the top of the line, are all doubles. Looking at the top one, Specialized Bicycle Components, it is a 2x10. I would have thought that more gearing combinations would be present on road bikes, and fewer on mountain bikes, but this is making me think the opposite might be true?

What do you take into consideration when choosing what gearing combinations you want? My experience riding so far is that I use all three front chainrings, but primarily am in the middle one on hills and the big one on flats. Is there a benefit with regards to cross-chaining (ie, more combinations can actually be used vs a triple?)
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Old 05-19-15, 07:46 AM
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Well, since each ring in a double corresponds to half of the available cogs (three and one third each for a triple) it's less shifting up front usually for a double. Sometimes people say that the two largest rings on a triple are just like those of a double, but have the littles ring as a backup if you need it. I'm not actually too solid on this part.
I also apologize for how convoluted those sentences were.

If you've been biking for a while, you're most probably best to go with the doubles. They are still geared to give you some easy combinations, but the census on triples is that they're for people just breaking into the sport who are especially worried about getting up hills. It sounds to me like you're both plenty strong enough to manage doubles. Plus. manufacturers tend to put make better systems with doubles than triples.

TL;DR: Get the doubles!

Hope this helps!

Last edited by PiLigand; 05-19-15 at 08:02 AM. Reason: clarification
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Old 05-19-15, 07:58 AM
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There is so much overlap on the triple that it's not worth the extra hassle of trying to get it to shift smoothly. I would much rather have a double (compact double in my case).
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Old 05-19-15, 08:02 AM
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Interesting. Is it feasible to use extreme combinations without crosschaining on a double? For example, 2nd ring in the front and 1st sprocket on the rear? Doing this on my bike (3 and 1) would probably not be advisable.
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Old 05-19-15, 08:51 AM
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It's still not advisable, but it's far less extreme.
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Old 05-19-15, 09:02 AM
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Originally Posted by PiLigand View Post
If you've been biking for a while, you're most probably best to go with the doubles. They are still geared to give you some easy combinations, but the census on triples is that they're for people just breaking into the sport who are especially worried about getting up hills.
The move to compact cranks and away from triple cranks is mostly a marketing move. The attitude expressed above is exactly what marketers want people to believe so that they'll ditch their older triple crank bikes to get a compact crank. In a few more years you'll see a single crank front (the higher end bikes already have them). Then people will want to move to single cranks to show that they are "serious" bikers. Don't want to sound cynical but the quoted comment is highly condescending and echoes marketing image more than anything else.
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Old 05-19-15, 09:02 AM
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I cross chain all the time because I'm a rebel.
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Old 05-19-15, 09:23 AM
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Originally Posted by practical View Post
The move to compact cranks and away from triple cranks is mostly a marketing move. The attitude expressed above is exactly what marketers want people to believe so that they'll ditch their older triple crank bikes to get a compact crank. In a few more years you'll see a single crank front (the higher end bikes already have them). Then people will want to move to single cranks to show that they are "serious" bikers. Don't want to sound cynical but the quoted comment is highly condescending and echoes marketing image more than anything else.
Okay. I'm not immune to commercialism. I just thought that doubles were easier to handle and that the OP didn't necessarily need a triple. My comment was meant to reflect my assumptions on the community, not to be condescending. Do you actually think the triple is a better choice for some reason? Bearing in mind that the OP is looking to buy a new bike (and presumably crank) regardless of triple vs double.

I can say that I prefer doubles at least.
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Old 05-19-15, 09:33 AM
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Originally Posted by practical View Post
The move to compact cranks and away from triple cranks is mostly a marketing move. The attitude expressed above is exactly what marketers want people to believe so that they'll ditch their older triple crank bikes to get a compact crank. In a few more years you'll see a single crank front (the higher end bikes already have them). Then people will want to move to single cranks to show that they are "serious" bikers. Don't want to sound cynical but the quoted comment is highly condescending and echoes marketing image more than anything else.
I don't know... I came to the conclusion that I would rather have a double over the triple before I ever allowed myself to be engulfed in bicycle advertising. I was riding with a triple and it had this stupid middle ring that never got used and I was getting tired of having to shift through it to get to the gears I wanted.
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Old 05-19-15, 09:55 AM
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Originally Posted by PiLigand View Post
Okay. I'm not immune to commercialism. I just thought that doubles were easier to handle and that the OP didn't necessarily need a triple. My comment was meant to reflect my assumptions on the community, not to be condescending. Do you actually think the triple is a better choice for some reason? Bearing in mind that the OP is looking to buy a new bike (and presumably crank) regardless of triple vs double.

I can say that I prefer doubles at least.
I like triples because I gotta have a 1:1 low gear (or thereabouts) but dislike the gaps even in a 13-34, let alone an 11-34 cassette.

So 50/40/26 up front and 11-26 in back = best gearing ever! (for me.)
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Old 05-19-15, 09:57 AM
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Originally Posted by ScotchMan View Post
Looking at the top one, Specialized Bicycle Components, it is a 2x10. I would have thought that more gearing combinations would be present on road bikes, and fewer on mountain bikes, but this is making me think the opposite might be true?
Even MTBs are getting away from triples. Plenty of high end MTBs with 2x and 1x setups these days.

11-42 cassettes are widely available and there's even an aftermarket 45T big cog, so a big range is doable on a 1x setup.
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Old 05-19-15, 10:29 AM
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I've ridden racing doubles, compact doubles, touring triples and MTB triples as well as one-speed bikes. They're all great for their intended purpose.

I recently swapped out my front chainrings on my utility bike to 48/39T (sort of like cyclocross gearing). This bike has a 13-30T rear, which makes for some really nice combinations. I don't miss anything higher than the 48-13T combination at all. Anyway, I like the idea of the cyclocross double for an all-around bike.
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Old 05-19-15, 12:28 PM
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Originally Posted by ScotchMan View Post
Interesting. Is it feasible to use extreme combinations without crosschaining on a double? For example, 2nd ring in the front and 1st sprocket on the rear? Doing this on my bike (3 and 1) would probably not be advisable.
Feasible, but not necessary and generally not the best idea -- if you need to go down one more, your only option is to switch rings which makes too big a change.

What you get with a triple is the ability to have range and gear selectivity. The cogs can be close together, but you'll still have low gears for steep hills and tall gears for downhill and tailwinds. With a double, you need to set up gearing for the riding you actually do. If you ride steep hills, you'll want a wide cassette since you'll need low gears going up and tall gears going down but not much in the middle. If you ride mostly flats, you'll want a tighter cassette so the gears aren't far apart. If you sometimes ride hills and sometimes ride flats, it's generally easiest to get multiple cassettes (or if you just get one, get a compromise like a 12/27 which gives reasonable low end, overlap, and gear selectivity for all around riding)

Doubles shift better in my experience and cross chaining is less of an issue. But triples have their advantages too.

Most people way overthink this. Get whichever speaks to you -- you'll be able to make either work.

Originally Posted by LesterOfPuppets View Post
Even MTBs are getting away from triples. Plenty of high end MTBs with 2x and 1x setups these days.

11-42 cassettes are widely available and there's even an aftermarket 45T big cog, so a big range is doable on a 1x setup.
This is true, but it's also nuts. Triples are a great way to get range and selectivity. When people want pie plates increasing numbers of cogs, it's a sign a triple would have been a good way to go. No need to have 40+ teeth when you can just get a smaller ring.
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Old 05-19-15, 01:10 PM
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Originally Posted by ScotchMan View Post
What do you take into consideration when choosing what gearing combinations you want?
Power to weight ratios at the duration and intensity combinations of interest, terrain, avoiding front derailleur shifts (with compensating rear shifts) that are too frequent, and feelings on acceptable cadence ranges.

Personally I consider any cassette with more than a one tooth jump through the 19 cog unacceptable for road riding. Any setup with a second ring big gear smaller than 39x14 (or 34x12, or 36x13 implying a starting cog one tooth smaller when eschewing fully cross-chained combinations on a double) is also unacceptable. 3 rings instead of 2 or a larger starting cog are fine.

My experience riding so far is that I use all three front chainrings, but primarily am in the middle one on hills and the big one on flats.
That's not abnormal, although you might switch to a tighter cassette (since you don't usually need the lowest gear for hills, and might prefer more in the middle).

Is there a benefit with regards to cross-chaining (ie, more combinations can actually be used vs a triple?)
No.

The triple's only big disadvantage is to the bike industry, which makes less profit when they must sell more variations to customers. More bikes, more crank sets, more front deraillieurs, often more shifters .

Last edited by Drew Eckhardt; 05-19-15 at 02:13 PM.
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Old 05-19-15, 01:24 PM
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Originally Posted by PiLigand View Post
Well, since each ring in a double corresponds to half of the available cogs (three and one third each for a triple) it's less shifting up front usually for a double.
Nope.

I made the horrible mistake of switching from 50-40-30 x 13-14-15-16-17-18-19-21 eight cogs to 50-34x13-23 9 cogs because it was the same spacing, same range, and two rings are better than three.

WRONG.

I shifted the front derailleur 10X more. Any time I sped up over 18-19 MPH in 34x14 for more than a brief small-ring spring I shifted five cogs to 50x19. Any time I slowed down below about 16 MPH in 50x21 I shifted five cogs the other way to 34x15.

Sometimes people say that the two largest rings on a triple are just like those of a double, but have the littles ring as a backup if you need it. I'm not actually too solid on this part.
They're close with a 39-42 middle ring, although the middle ring splits the chainline between the double rings so all cogs are usable on it.

If you've been biking for a while, you're most probably best to go with the doubles.
It depends. If you can spin 39x21, 23, or 25 up the majority of your hills and manage the rest (depending on cog count and preferred starting cog - acceptable road cassettes are 11-21, 12-23, and 13-25/26 10 cogs; and 11-23 / 12-25 11) they're great.

Speaking from experience, as a 5'10" climber who weighs 135-140 pounds with 220-250W you can do great in the Colorado Rockies with low gears like that.

OTOH as the same guy with 50-70 pounds of middle age spread and no training plan you won't.

They are still geared to give you some easy combinations,
With at least one big jump in your flat-land cruising range.

but the census on triples is that they're for people just breaking into the sport who are especially worried about getting up hills.
They're bad for manufacturers' profits due to the extra SKUs.

TL;DR: Get the doubles!
If you need to ask get the triple.

Last edited by Drew Eckhardt; 05-19-15 at 02:13 PM.
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Old 05-19-15, 01:45 PM
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Jesus Quincy Adams, I had no idea shifting was so difficult. Here I am, like a dingus, not shifting five gears at a time, riding an assortment of doubles over moderate hills.
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Old 05-19-15, 02:08 PM
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I have a triple on my hybrid. I have a double on the other bikes, compact double on the road bike and cx double on the cx bike 46/36.
I've had cassettes on the doubles 11-28, 12-30, 12-27, plus others when I had a 9 speed. Look at the cassette specs. You will notice that to get a wide range cassette you lose one cog in the middle for 10 speed.

Triples if 7,8,or 9 speed are less money to maintain than 10 or 11 speed doubles. if you are mostly using the middle and big ring now you may prefer a double. It is likely you will adapt to whatever you buy.
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Old 05-19-15, 02:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Black wallnut View Post
Triples if 7,8,or 9 speed are less money to maintain than 10 or 11 speed doubles. if you are mostly using the middle and big ring now you may prefer a double. It is likely you will adapt to whatever you buy.
Or just a smaller cassette.
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Old 05-19-15, 02:30 PM
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My assumption is that with 10-11 speed cogs, it led to wider range in the back which made doubles more practical for average recreational riders. On my old touring I run a 14-28 7 cog freewheel with half-step and granny triple (50x45x28). It results in a lot of front shifting between the 50 and 45. I guess if you don't like shifting the front it isn't for you. As it happens for other reasons I swapped cranks for a 53x39 double that I couldn't get the chainline right so couldn't shift into the 53. It wasn't ideal but it worked, so I can see that the CX-style single ring can be functional for general recreational riding. After all "5 speeds" were widely sold back in the day.

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Old 05-19-15, 02:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Drew Eckhardt View Post
I shifted the front derailleur 10X more. Any time I sped up over 18-19 MPH in 34x14 for more than a brief small-ring spring I shifted five cogs to 50x19. Any time I slowed down below about 16 MPH in 50x21 I shifted five cogs the other way to 34x15.
You were doing it WRONG.
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Old 05-19-15, 02:47 PM
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Originally Posted by Drew Eckhardt View Post
Nope.

I made the horrible mistake of switching from 50-40-30 x 13-14-15-16-17-18-19-21 eight cogs to 50-34x13-23 9 cogs because it was the same spacing, same range, and two rings are better than three.

WRONG.
The problem is that you have the wrong cassette. 13-23 with 50/34 gives you no overlap at all. Your normal speed just happens to be at the very top of the range for your small ring and the very bottom of your big ring which is why you had the problems you did. For 9 speed, you really need a 12-27 or a 11-28 with that 50/34. These cassettes would give you greater range and overlap than what you have now.

In your case, I'd take it a step further -- get the 12-27 or 11-28 and change the big ring to a 48 or better yet, a 46. Based on your description, your big ring is a little too big for your cycling habits so bringing it down a notch will make it more useful. Sure, you may spin out a little sooner on descents, but who cares? 46/12 spins out at 37mph which is a speed where aero tuck is way more important than power on the cranks anyway.
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