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Help me choose crankset gears: 46/36 or 50/34

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Help me choose crankset gears: 46/36 or 50/34

Old 02-18-17, 04:46 PM
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Help me choose crankset gears: 46/36 or 50/34

I'll try to make this as brief as possible. Just got a full build from Competitive Cyclist. I ordered 46/36 crankset gears (on a Force 22 build). CC erroneously installed 50/34 gears. I can change them out at my LBS at CC's expense, but I'm wondering if I should simply keep the 50/34. Rear cassette is an 11-28.

I'm a 41 year old moderately athletic new rider that rides primarily flats with aspirations of doing some (not too intense) racing and some centuries. My thinking behind ordering the 46/36 was that I would very rarely ever use a 50, and the smaller gear spread would be more suitable to my riding flat terrain.

I've tried the 50/34. I'm sure I could live with it, but I'm wondering if the 46/36 would be better.

Also mildly concerned about the LBS botching the job although I realize this is unlikely.

Please chime in with your opinions on gears. Thanks in advance!

Last edited by gsindela; 02-18-17 at 05:12 PM.
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Old 02-18-17, 04:54 PM
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There is no racing that is not intense.

Thats all I have.


Carry on.
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Old 02-18-17, 05:01 PM
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Are they using the same bolt circle and it's just a chain ring change? . I would think that you would spin out the 46 and it is nice to have a bailout gear at 34. Especially for the years after 40
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Old 02-18-17, 05:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Secret Squirrel
Are they using the same bolt circle and it's just a chain ring change? . I would think that you would spin out the 46 and it is nice to have a bailout gear at 34. Especially for the years after 40
I'm not 100% certain, but I believe they are going to change out the entire crankset including crank arms.
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Old 02-18-17, 05:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Secret Squirrel
Are they using the same bolt circle and it's just a chain ring change? . I would think that you would spin out the 46 and it is nice to have a bailout gear at 34. Especially for the years after 40
I live in an area that is mostly flat, and a 50t big ring with a 12-25 cassette works great for me. I know I wouldn't be happy with a 46t big ring.
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Old 02-18-17, 05:39 PM
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Originally Posted by noodle soup
I live in an area that is mostly flat, and a 50t big ring with a 12-25 cassette works great for me. I know I wouldn't be happy with a 46t big ring.
46/11 is slightly more than 50/12, I doubt a "new rider" would outspin that on flat ground.
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Old 02-18-17, 05:43 PM
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46/36 is pretty unusual for road gearing.

On the other hand, plenty of road bikes are sold to middle aged new riders as well as experienced riders with 50/34. I'd stick with it.
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Old 02-18-17, 05:46 PM
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Originally Posted by Reynolds
46/11 is slightly more than 50/12, I doubt a "new rider" would outspin that on flat ground.
What you say is partly true, but a 12-25 cassette is a far better choice for a flatland rider than anything with an 11t cog, especially if that rider hopes to ride with fast groups.
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Old 02-18-17, 05:52 PM
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Originally Posted by noodle soup
What you say is partly true, but a 12-25 cassette is a far better choice for a flatland rider than anything with an 11t cog, especially if that rider hopes to ride with fast groups.
Agree, 11-28 is a poor choice for the flats IMO, but the OP has it already and didn't mention changing it.
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Old 02-18-17, 06:47 PM
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11-28 is way too wide a spread for someone who doesn't have hills to ride. Most people are never going to really Use the 11 (as in, spin it to max revs for any period of time) and 34x28 isn't likely to be needed on flat roads even on the worst of day.

For someone who professes to be seeking close rations for flat roads, the 12-25 packs a few more into that spread, while the 11-28 has only about eight.

As for the 50-34 chainrings ... I'd ride them a while and see. He won't really Need the highest gears unless he really plans to compete, but for the cost of swapping ... I don't think he'd gain much.

I run 48-38-28 with a 14-34 on my tourer, which yields a 90-inch top gear. If he runs 46-11 that is 110. Even with no load on flat roads it's okay. If he wants to go racing, he might need the 50-36.

On the other hand, that 36-tooth ring will take him right up to the top third of the 50 ring in terms of gear inches. if he just cruises a lot, he might find himself riding in the small ring most of the time.

I'd say, try it our and see before spending any money, and if you must spend, check the cost between moving to a 12-25 cassette versus buying a new crankset. I bet the cost is about a quarter and the labor similar--and you would get a lot more of those middle gears.
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Old 02-18-17, 07:25 PM
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Originally Posted by Maelochs
11-28 is way too wide a spread for someone who doesn't have hills to ride. Most people are never going to really Use the 11 (as in, spin it to max revs for any period of time) and 34x28 isn't likely to be needed on flat roads even on the worst of day.

For someone who professes to be seeking close rations for flat roads, the 12-25 packs a few more into that spread, while the 11-28 has only about eight.

As for the 50-34 chainrings ... I'd ride them a while and see. He won't really Need the highest gears unless he really plans to compete, but for the cost of swapping ... I don't think he'd gain much.

I run 48-38-28 with a 14-34 on my tourer, which yields a 90-inch top gear. If he runs 46-11 that is 110. Even with no load on flat roads it's okay. If he wants to go racing, he might need the 50-36.

On the other hand, that 36-tooth ring will take him right up to the top third of the 50 ring in terms of gear inches. if he just cruises a lot, he might find himself riding in the small ring most of the time.

I'd say, try it our and see before spending any money, and if you must spend, check the cost between moving to a 12-25 cassette versus buying a new crankset. I bet the cost is about a quarter and the labor similar--and you would get a lot more of those middle gears.
Good stuff. FYI I got the 11-28 for the occasional hill that I will see.
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Old 02-18-17, 07:35 PM
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Flatland riding only--You don't expect to ride any steep or long hills? Then you don't need low gears, you want close shifts in the speed ranges you'll ride.

Racing--even just competitive rides, not to mention real races where you pin on a number. What speed range is your max? For me, I'm trying to hang on to fast group rides with sustained flat road speeds in the low 20 mph range. I want close shifts at those speeds so I can use the optimal cadence, since I'm right at my limit.

Here's the Mike Sherman gear calculator for your 50/34 and 11-28, and then the 46/36 and 11-28 you ordered but didn't receive. These charts show typical efficient cadences for road riding. The big chain ring is in black.

The top chart of 50/34 has a wide range, but there are pretty large jumps between gears in the 20-25 mph range. This works pretty well for a lot of riders that have hills, though.

You can see that the bottom chart of 46/36 has a lot of overlap between the chainrings. And a higher top speed in the 36-12. (riders normally avoid being fully cross-chained to the 36-11) And the lowest gear is a little higher, too, of course.

I think that a 46/36 is more for cyclocross racing, where they want to avoid shifting the front rings, and don't hit very fast top speeds on the dirt.

I always thought that a 50-11 top gear was "marketing". But it does have two uses for me:
I can cross chain to a 34-12 and stay in the small chain ring up past 20 mph if the road ahead will be starting uphill soon.
I can soft pedal on the 50-11 to keep my legs moving on very long downhills. It helps.
Attached Images
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50-34 11-28.jpg (103.5 KB, 243 views)
File Type: jpg
46-36 and 11-28.jpg (102.6 KB, 241 views)

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Old 02-18-17, 07:39 PM
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The 28 cog is good on moderate to somewhat steep hills. I see you mentioned you will be doing hills occasionally.

For mostly flat ground, a 12-25 is really nice. (But hills will be harder!)

Here's a 50/34 and 12-25 in 11 speed. See that there are much closer shifts in the 15-25 mph range, but you lose the hill climbing gears, of course.

(It's easy to switch cassettes, you need a cassette tool and a chain whip. I swapped out my 12-29 for a 12-25 for my quite flat ride tomorrow.)
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Old 02-18-17, 09:30 PM
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On the flats, I'd want 52/36, so I suppose at very least, I'd keep the 50/34. I have 50/34 and love it, but around me, can't go 1/4 mile before hitting a hill. No mountains, but it's endless rolling hills. 50/34 w/ 12-25 served me really well. But with 5800 upgrade, it's 50/34 w/ 11-28. Maybe I'll go back to 12-25, but doubt it.
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Old 02-18-17, 09:42 PM
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Originally Posted by rm -rf
It's easy to switch cassettes, you need a cassette tool and a chain whip. I swapped out my 12-29 for a 12-25 for my quite flat ride tomorrow.
This. Cassette, $30, two tool, $30, and they will be useful for as long as you ride a bike.

Since you have the 11-28, no need to buy the 12-29. Just pick up the 12-25.

In fact, you could just ride what yo have and see how often you use the bottom two gears. A lot? Ride on. Almost never? get a second cassette and much better gearing for the flats.

Related fact: I ride a 50-34 with 11-28 on almost entirely flat terrain and it is fine. I might do the 12-25 myself, but likely unless you hit a lot of wind or want to ride with fast groups you are all set with what you have.
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Old 02-18-17, 11:34 PM
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1. moderately athletic new rider
2. rides primarily flats
3. aspirations of doing some racing
4. some centuries.

I think all 4 of the above shout 50/34, not 46/36.
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Old 02-19-17, 02:28 AM
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So does anyone ever use their 50/11 or 52/11? Dont think I ever used mine. Given the option I would have gone with 46/36 and replaced the 36 with a 34 and combined with 11-28 Shimano cassette.
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Old 02-19-17, 06:16 AM
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Originally Posted by Racing Dan
So does anyone ever use their 50/11 or 52/11? Dont think I ever used mine. Given the option I would have gone with 46/36 and replaced the 36 with a 34 and combined with 11-28 Shimano cassette.
Yes, on downhill, or slight downhill flats. I don't see a reason for 46 unless I'm doing CX or offroad.
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Old 02-19-17, 07:09 AM
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Yep, I have a 46 on my CX bike and use it for the road in winter and even my skinny ass spins out pretty quick. normally ride 50/34 around here with plenty of hills and still ride in my 50 most of the time

honestly i'd say leave it alone and ride it or get a 36 ring for 20$ to have options and a bit better shifting and keep the 34 if you go on a trip to a hillier area.
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Old 02-19-17, 08:31 AM
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I'm 58, a little overweight, and I ride a Competitive Cyclist Force 22 build with a 50/34 up front and 11/28 on the back.

I use the 50/11 on some longish light to moderate downhills here (my wife dos not like to hear how fast I was riding), and as far as the rest, I'm really happy with the gearing.

Are you always going to be riding flat terrain?

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Old 02-19-17, 08:42 AM
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Originally Posted by Jakedatc
Yep, I have a 46 on my CX bike and use it for the road in winter and even my skinny ass spins out pretty quick. normally ride 50/34 around here with plenty of hills and still ride in my 50 most of the time

honestly i'd say leave it alone and ride it or get a 36 ring for 20$ to have options and a bit better shifting and keep the 34 if you go on a trip to a hillier area.
Depends on tire size.

A 46x11 on a 700x35C CX tire is about equivalent to a 52x12 700x23C. A 50x11 700x35C is about equivalent to a 52x11 700x23C.
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Old 02-19-17, 09:00 AM
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Originally Posted by zymphad
Yes, on downhill, or slight downhill flats. I don't see a reason for 46 unless I'm doing CX or offroad.
For me, with the 46, Id rather have the equivalent of one more (low)gear before I need to switch to the little ring, than the 50/11, that I dont need at all. 46/11 is more than plenty, topping out at ~33 mph, down a few from the 50/11 at ~36mph.
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Old 02-19-17, 09:37 AM
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Originally Posted by Racing Dan
For me, with the 46, Id rather have the equivalent of one more (low)gear before I need to switch to the little ring, than the 50/11, that I dont need at all. 46/11 is more than plenty, topping out at ~33 mph, down a few from the 50/11 at ~36mph.
That's a good point, the 46 ring is still good down to 12-13 mph instead of 14-15 mph.

A bigger advantage: Looking at my charts posted above, the 46 ring moves the 14 and 15 cogs down into the 21-25 mph range instead of the 23-27 mph of a 50 ring. And the 17 cog at 95 rpm is right near 20 mph. That would be better for me.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sram 11-28 vs Shimano 11-28

I'll mention that Sram has different cogs in their 11-28, better at the faster speeds, but wider gaps at lower speeds. So a casual rider would probably like the Shimano gears, while a faster rider with a Sram would have closer shifts at 20 mph and above. (You can see the Sram 16 cog's speeds in my 12-25 chart above.)

Shimano:
11 12 13 14 15 17 19 21 23 25 28
Sram:
11 12 13 14 15 16 17 19 22 25 28



Originally Posted by Marcus_Ti
Depends on tire size.

A 46x11 on a 700x35C CX tire is about equivalent to a 52x12 700x23C. A 50x11 700x35C is about equivalent to a 52x11 700x23C.
A larger tire makes the wheel diameter larger, of course, it's approximately 3.5% bigger circumference.
And the 11 to 12 cog is about an 8% difference.
The 46 vs 52 chainrings are about 12% different, so that matches up with the 8% + 3.5%.

( A typical rear shift is anywhere from about 5% to about 12%, depending on the cog differences.)

MPH at 90 rpm cadence.

23c:
46-12 26.9 mph
46-11 29.4 mph

52-12 30.4
52-11 33.2

35c is about 1 mph faster on the high gears than a 23c. (1/29 is about 3.5%, so that makes sense.)
46-12 27.9
46-11 30.4 mph

52-12 31.5
52-11 34.4

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Old 02-19-17, 09:46 AM
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Originally Posted by Racing Dan
For me, with the 46, Id rather have the equivalent of one more (low)gear before I need to switch to the little ring, than the 50/11, that I dont need at all. 46/11 is more than plenty, topping out at ~33 mph, down a few from the 50/11 at ~36mph.
Right, but the question here is, should he spend some significant amount of money to get the crankset changed, or will his riding experience be just as enjoyable with the 50-34?

If he really does plan to race (which he suggests he might) then obviously he will want the higher gearing.

For just riding around, I agree, the 11 is a joke gear on most bikes.

However ... consider cost/benefit ration, would he be better off with a 46-36 or a 12-25? if he wants closer midrange rations and doesn't hit the hills ... If he buys the 12-25 and the two cheap tools he will need to do his own changes, he will be spending way less than swapping out the crankset and have more usable midrange gearing plus the climbing option.

Best option: ride the bike a while and then choose. In a world where money is not object ... get the crankset swap and get as custom cassette made ... or several ... and tailor the gearing to the day's ride.

In the real world: Ride.
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Old 02-19-17, 09:50 AM
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Originally Posted by Maelochs
Right, but the question here is, should he spend some significant amount of money to get the crankset changed, or will his riding experience be just as enjoyable with the 50-34?

If he really does plan to race (which he suggests he might) then obviously he will want the higher gearing.

For just riding around, I agree, the 11 is a joke gear on most bikes.

However ... consider cost/benefit ration, would he be better off with a 46-36 or a 12-25? if he wants closer midrange rations and doesn't hit the hills ... If he buys the 12-25 and the two cheap tools he will need to do his own changes, he will be spending way less than swapping out the crankset and have more usable midrange gearing plus the climbing option.

Best option: ride the bike a while and then choose. In a world where money is not object ... get the crankset swap and get as custom cassette made ... or several ... and tailor the gearing to the day's ride.

In the real world: Ride.
OP here: I won't be spending MY money if I change to 46/36, it will be on CC's dime.
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