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Big Ring or Small Ring for Flats?

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Big Ring or Small Ring for Flats?

Old 08-02-15, 10:43 PM
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sam_cyclist
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Big Ring or Small Ring for Flats?

Back in the day, I used to putter along in the 42 (small)/17 or 42/19 a lot on slight uphills/flats.

There was really no use for the big (53) on anything except for downhills.

Now, with a smaller, and therefore more useful big (50) on compacts, along with a wider gear range on 10 speed cassettes, I am using both the big and small to an almost equal degree on flats, and small rolling hills.

I do find myself double shifting quite a bit, probably because both the big ring is more useful and also because STI makes a lot of shifting a lot easier.

So, I'm using the 50 a lot with the 5 lower gears, and the 34 a lot with the 5 higher gears. I find myself 'experimenting' a lot looking for the 'best' gear on flats.

Do you have a preferred or favorite gear on flats/slight uphills?

Do any of you consider a triple with a 39 middle ring a better solution for gearing than compact?
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Old 08-02-15, 10:49 PM
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I love 52/17 most of the time on the flats. I've always been really comfortable there.
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Old 08-02-15, 11:28 PM
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I would argue it is more about where you ride on the cassette. If you are down in the 12's on the small chain ring you probably need to be sitting on the 50 or 52 large ring. I like having a gear or two up and down free while riding flats to give the pulling gear, the sprint gear and catchup gear. For me, I usually ride on a 50/15 for the flats depending on conditions.
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Old 08-03-15, 04:56 AM
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I've gotten to where I can stay on the big ring over rolling terrain without cross-chaining, but when riding alone, I often get lazy and will keep it on the small ring after a long climb (even 34/11) until coming to a serious descent.

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Old 08-03-15, 06:08 AM
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I live in Florida so no big climbs around here and I almost never switch to the small ring up front, if I do I'm exhausted and going over an overpass. I've never concerned myself with cross chaining, not sure what the big deal is? I'm a big guy that rides hard and have never had an issue as a result of that, maybe it was more of an issue with a triple up front? My bike has a 53/39 with a 12/25 cassette but if I had it my way, a single 50 up front with an 11-28 rear would be perfect and no need for a front derailleur at all. Unless I move to Colorado?
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Old 08-03-15, 07:08 AM
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I saw an article once where it was talking about a study related to loss of watts regarding cross chaining. The conclusion was that basically you lose less watts staying in the big ring and larger cogs in back than shifting to the small ring and riding the small cogs in back. So, stay in the big ring if you can was the general consensus.

I tend to stay in the big ring and will only switch to the little ring on climbs.
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Old 08-03-15, 07:16 AM
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Originally Posted by RJM View Post
I saw an article once where it was talking about a study related to loss of watts regarding cross chaining. The conclusion was that basically you lose less watts staying in the big ring and larger cogs in back than shifting to the small ring and riding the small cogs in back. So, stay in the big ring if you can was the general consensus.

I tend to stay in the big ring and will only switch to the little ring on climbs.

Kinda sorta....The most efficient gear (as far as power loss) is the one with the straightest chainline. In the most basic terms, when you "cross chain" your putting some of your power into a side load on the chain, therefore a percentage of your power is lost.
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Old 08-03-15, 07:21 AM
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I have compact chainsets (with 11-28 cassettes) on all my bikes and stay in the big ring on most terrain. Only on getting to the bigger climbs with degrees of 5 or higher do I start to make the move to the smaller ring to keep the cadence up.
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Old 08-03-15, 07:29 AM
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On flats using a 50/34 I could be on either. I'll get up moderate climbs on the 50. Plus shifting is easy enough with STI that I can drop down to 34 in mid climb if need be.

Using 52/39 with DT shifters, however, I will anticipate what's coming up and get into favoured ring, and then the favoured cog. I won't change gears in mid climb, and especially not in mid descent with DT shifting.
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Old 08-03-15, 07:40 AM
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WUT? How could no one have said this yet? The correct answer to this question depends almost entirely upon the rider's preferred cadence when cruising on flat ground. The answer for someone who spins at 100 rpm is surely different than for someone who pedals at 60 rpm. I pedal at 90-100 rpm except when climbing so I spend most of my "flats" time on the small ring. If I pedaled at 65 rpm, I would be on the large ring instead.
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Old 08-03-15, 07:41 AM
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Most flats & rolling hills = middle ring. :-)

Long descents, and group rides while drafting at high speeds = big ring

Long or very steep climbs = small ring.

I really Think I would miss my tripple...my next bike will also have a tripple.
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Old 08-03-15, 07:43 AM
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The above post is the final word. Efficient cadence trumps wattage lost via cross chaining.

That said, I stay in the little ring on our weekly rides until I get out of the hilly portion and off onto the flatter areas. Partially because I want to ease my legs into the effort and partially because I don't like to shift chainrings often. Once we get out of town and into the country I move into the big ring as our speeds come up. My cadence is still the most important consideration.
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Old 08-03-15, 07:52 AM
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53-12 all the time. HTFU.
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Old 08-03-15, 07:57 AM
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What ring is dictated by upcoming terrain, desired speed & cadence.
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Old 08-03-15, 08:02 AM
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I've never considered compact, because with a 53/39 and an 11spd 11-25, I run the full spread of the cassette on a typical ride over my local, rolling terrain, off the 53 chainring. Cruising usually finds me about in the middle of the cassette, probably literally the 15t often (or one either way) which I can power comfortably across a wide RPM range. There are a couple of short, steep climbs that are best handled in the 39 chainring, but for the common 5-7% average grade half-milers, the big ring and the 23t and 25t work fine.

I don't consider gearing often, so am I thinking right that the standard is a good fit for me? I mean, if I wasn't eating up the whole cassette off the 53 ring, and had a couple of smaller cogs to spare, that might suggest compact right? And certainly I'd like one if I had more climbing to do, no doubt about that. As a clyde, I go through some pretty wild speed swings; slow goin' up, fast comin' down!
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Old 08-03-15, 08:07 AM
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Originally Posted by dvdslw View Post
I live in Florida so no big climbs around here and I almost never switch to the small ring up front, if I do I'm exhausted and going over an overpass. I've never concerned myself with cross chaining, not sure what the big deal is? I'm a big guy that rides hard and have never had an issue as a result of that, maybe it was more of an issue with a triple up front? My bike has a 53/39 with a 12/25 cassette but if I had it my way, a single 50 up front with an 11-28 rear would be perfect and no need for a front derailleur at all. Unless I move to Colorado?
I too live in Florida and I never use the small ring on the front. My left shifter is essentially an expensive decoration or an exercise in asthetic balance. There are no hills in N Florida with the exception of the overpasses or bridges. I don't ride near any bridges so our overpasses are probably considered speed bumps by Northerners.
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Old 08-03-15, 08:10 AM
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Originally Posted by rpenmanparker View Post
WUT? How could no one have said this yet? The correct answer to this question depends almost entirely upon the rider's preferred cadence when cruising on flat ground. The answer for someone who spins at 100 rpm is surely different than for someone who pedals at 60 rpm. I pedal at 90-100 rpm except when climbing so I spend most of my "flats" time on the small ring. If I pedaled at 65 rpm, I would be on the large ring instead.
Well, there's a power component, too; I can spin my 53t/15 at 90-95rpm on the flat, no problem.
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Old 08-03-15, 08:13 AM
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Originally Posted by UnfilteredDregs View Post
What ring is dictated by upcoming terrain, desired speed & cadence.
100%
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Old 08-03-15, 08:35 AM
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Big ring always, little ring is for steep or long climbs.
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Old 08-03-15, 08:36 AM
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Originally Posted by chaadster View Post
Well, there's a power component, too; I can spin my 53t/15 at 90-95rpm on the flat, no problem.
No doubt, but at about 28 mph that sounds like fast paceline, group ride stuff or some really hard solo work. I got the impression we were talking about moderate riding. I don't see how the question of what ring to ride on the flats even has any relevance if you are talking about near-time trial efforts. I mean that's large ring stuff automatically, right?

Not too many folks claim average speeds for their riding of over 18 mph. Let's say the climbs hurt more than the descents help, so assume the flats make up the difference and run at about 20 mph. That would put you solidly on the 39/15 right in the middle of your one-tooth jumps on the rear 11-25, 11-speed cassette. I would much rather be riding there than on the 53/21 in the middle of the 2-tooth jumps. And interestingly, if I wanted to fall in with you when you were passing me on one of your power efforts, all I would have to do would be to shift the front.
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Old 08-03-15, 08:37 AM
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Originally Posted by SpeshulEd View Post
Big ring always, little ring is for steep or long climbs.
Depends on the wind and how fresh your legs are. Not just terrain.

If you're deep into a century and the wind picks up and is a typical Great Plains headwind...you're not going to be using that big ring. AAMOF, odds are you'll be looking for your granny gear. I was doing an 80 mile ride out in a farming valley that acted as wind tunnel with no air brakes...barely able to spin a 39/25 on a pan flat road due to the 30MPH sustained headwind.
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Old 08-03-15, 08:48 AM
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Originally Posted by sam_cyclist View Post
Back in the day, I used to putter along in the 42 (small)/17 or 42/19 a lot on slight uphills/flats.

There was really no use for the big (53) on anything except for downhills.

Now, with a smaller, and therefore more useful big (50) on compacts, along with a wider gear range on 10 speed cassettes, I am using both the big and small to an almost equal degree on flats, and small rolling hills.

I do find myself double shifting quite a bit, probably because both the big ring is more useful and also because STI makes a lot of shifting a lot easier.

So, I'm using the 50 a lot with the 5 lower gears, and the 34 a lot with the 5 higher gears. I find myself 'experimenting' a lot looking for the 'best' gear on flats.

Do you have a preferred or favorite gear on flats/slight uphills?

Do any of you consider a triple with a 39 middle ring a better solution for gearing than compact?
No, although replacing the 34 with a 36 is a great combination for all but mountainous terrain.

I run 36/50 with the 11-25 and that gets me up everything around Austin and the surrounding hill country without a problem.

I usually ride rolling flat terrain on the 50 and 3-4 middle cogs. Depends on the wind.
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Old 08-03-15, 08:51 AM
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Originally Posted by Reality33 View Post
I have compact chainsets (with 11-28 cassettes) on all my bikes and stay in the big ring on most terrain. Only on getting to the bigger climbs with degrees of 5 or higher do I start to make the move to the smaller ring to keep the cadence up.
Same unless I'm fatigued, it is exceptionally windy, or I am on a longer ride that I want to conserve energy.
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Old 08-03-15, 08:57 AM
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Originally Posted by rpenmanparker View Post
No doubt, but at about 28 mph that sounds like fast paceline, group ride stuff or some really hard solo work. I got the impression we were talking about moderate riding. I don't see how the question of what ring to ride on the flats even has any relevance if you are talking about near-time trial efforts. I mean that's large ring stuff automatically, right?

Not too many folks claim average speeds for their riding of over 18 mph. Let's say the climbs hurt more than the descents help, so assume the flats make up the difference and run at about 20 mph. That would put you solidly on the 39/15 right in the middle of your one-tooth jumps on the rear 11-25, 11-speed cassette. I would much rather be riding there than on the 53/21 in the middle of the 2-tooth jumps. And interestingly, if I wanted to fall in with you when you were passing me on one of your power efforts, all I would have to do would be to shift the front.
I don't think I'm getting 28mph out of my 53/15 very often, but 24mph sounds about right. And no, I wasn't talking about just cruisin' along, but rather doing some work, so yeah, I guess if that's what you call "near time trial efforts", then that's what I was talking about. And yes, I'm often on group rides and do pace line, so that's a good point which I'd not given consideration to. But in any case, I'm *never* in the small ring (solo, cruising, or whatever) on the flat, only the 53. And yes, I can reel off many miles north of 18mph.

EDIT: I don't want to be a braggart, but I really don't want to be seen as a trash talking keyboard jockey, so here's Saturday's ride file. Cut out the in-town portions (which dragged the average speed down to 17.6mph over the 54mi), and we're looking at an average of more than 19mph for more than 40mi. Only 1.27k feet of climbing, so flat to rolling, and the whole back half of that I pulled a flailing club mate as I was riding sweep that day. Never even thought about touching the small ring.

https://www.strava.com/activities/35...ysis/2002/9233

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Old 08-03-15, 09:14 AM
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Originally Posted by Marcus_Ti View Post
Depends on the wind and how fresh your legs are. Not just terrain.

If you're deep into a century and the wind picks up and is a typical Great Plains headwind...you're not going to be using that big ring. AAMOF, odds are you'll be looking for your granny gear. I was doing an 80 mile ride out in a farming valley that acted as wind tunnel with no air brakes...barely able to spin a 39/25 on a pan flat road due to the 30MPH sustained headwind.
That's fair, I've dropped to the small ring for similar reasons. We've had wind this year, but nothing I couldn't push my way through, but I remember having to drop in past years.
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