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What gearing changes should I make to my Tarmac for better climbing in Maine?

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Road Cycling ďIt is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.Ē -- Ernest Hemingway

What gearing changes should I make to my Tarmac for better climbing in Maine?

Old 04-03-20, 12:36 PM
  #101  
HTupolev
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Originally Posted by Racing Dan View Post
You are completely missing the point of the post you are replying to.
I know what your point is, and I am saying that this...

All im saying is that within the usual speed range of many a recreational cyclist, the 11-34 is better spaced than the 11-28 when combined with a 50/34
...is, for some people, wrong.

The only place the 11-34 is better-spaced is on the 25-27-30 progression versus the 25-28 at the bottom-end of the 11-28. Otherwise the spacing is either the same or worse.

Here's the 15-20mph speed range on a 700x25 50-34 at 90rpm, comparing 11-28 (left) with 11-34 (right):



The straight block in the small ring on the 11-28 is way denser in that range than any other combination of chainring and cassette being discussed. At 90rpm there's some missing occupancy toward the 15mph side, but most cyclists are doing less than 90rpm when they're cruising at 15mph (the purple lines would move upward for a lower cadence), so for many people this issue doesn't exist.

If you absolutely must have 1t spacing in the midrange speeds, get a triple, a really small big ring
Right, that's the point kingston is making. He thinks that subcompacts are a good solution and should be more available, especially since a lot of people don't need the top-end provided by most road cranks coupled with an 11-tooth small cog.

Originally Posted by DaveSSS View Post
No I am not. There is more than one way to figure the percentage of change. 19/17 = 1.12, or 12%. 17/19 = .895. 1-.895 =.105 or 10.5%. Both are legitimate calculations and neither involves rollout, which would mean a change in tire diameter. Gear inches is a meaningless number that is just the gear ratio times 27. A 48/19 is a decent gear ratio for 15 mph riding.
When I said you were juggling rollouts, I wasn't complaining about the fact that you were representing gears in gear inches versus percentages. I was trying to suggest that you were making assumptions that made it sound like gears are closer than they are. If his 48-18 is 70 inches (it would be 70.2 if you plugged a 700x23 tire into the BikeCalc gear calculator, for instance), then his 48-19 is not 68 inches, but rather about 66.5 inches.

Last edited by HTupolev; 04-03-20 at 01:01 PM.
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Old 04-03-20, 12:40 PM
  #102  
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Originally Posted by kingston View Post
I can ride anything, but my preference is to have a top gear of around 100" narrow spacing around 70" and a low of around 30" or lower. It's not difficult to put that together. It's just not standard, which I've never understood because it doesn't seem like it's that unique of a preference.
To get that type of setup definitely requires a triple crank and triples are nearly a thing of the past with very few, currently available shifters that will shift a triple FD. I used a 53/39/28 Campy triple with a 12-25 10 speed up to 2008, but even that setup didn't have an 18T. It would have required a 13-26, which Campy still makes. When 11 speed came out, late in 2008 (for us Campy users), I made the switch to a 50/34 with a 12-27 for the Colorado mountains. There's no 18T there either. That gearing is not low enough for a guy my age, riding 12% grades, but the 48/32 with the 11-34 does the trick. Finding the right gear for 15 mph is the least of my problems. It's making it up the 12% grades at 5-6 mph that's tough.
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Old 04-03-20, 01:07 PM
  #103  
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Originally Posted by DaveSSS View Post
To get that type of setup definitely requires a triple crank and triples are nearly a thing of the past...
I know. A lot of my bikes have triples and the ones that don't have a sub-compact double and a jr. cassette which close enough. Normal compact cranks don't work as well for me, and big-boy cranks are a distant memory. That's kind of my point. I feel like I'm just an average fitness person, but I have to go to great lengths to find gearing that works well for me. Seems odd.
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Old 04-03-20, 01:13 PM
  #104  
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Originally Posted by woodcraft View Post
I marvel at how folks can be so picky about two tooth gaps, but also ride a fixed gear, or something like this:



My guess these are rarely the same people.

I'm not speed obsessed and ride recumbents and trikes as well as road bikes. But I'd quit forever if I had to ride a cruiser and wouldn't ride fixed for anything other than short hops.
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Old 04-03-20, 01:15 PM
  #105  
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Originally Posted by banerjek View Post
My guess these are rarely the same people.

I'm not speed obsessed and ride recumbents and trikes as well as road bikes. But I'd quit forever if I had to ride a cruiser and wouldn't ride fixed for anything other than short hops.
It's the same person. That's my commuter. I ride it one mile to the train station.
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Old 04-03-20, 01:55 PM
  #106  
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Originally Posted by kingston View Post
It's the same person. That's my commuter. I ride it one mile to the train station.
One mile makes sense -- a real bike for that purpose is like using a chainsaw to cut butter.

But riding distances like that are more of a substitute for walking than actual cycling.
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Old 04-03-20, 01:57 PM
  #107  
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Originally Posted by kingston View Post
Yes, randonneurs have been using these setups for years for good reason, but there have been very few standard options until the recent gravel craze. It's just always puzzled me that I'm sort of an average recreational cyclists, not too fast or too slow, I ride my bike a few hundred miles a week in the summer, but I still don't have enough power to push a compact crank and a narrow cassette without cross-chaining most of the time and mashing up hills in a too-high low gear. I've just always thought that was odd. I've come to the conclusion that most people don't care about narrow spacing and have no problem using a wide-ratio cassette to get low gears.
I think the vast majority of people simply donít ride hills. I say this because on Zwift, the heaviest used courses are the flatter ones.
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Old 04-03-20, 02:39 PM
  #108  
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Originally Posted by colnago62 View Post
I think the vast majority of people simply don’t ride hills. I say this because on Zwift, the heaviest used courses are the flatter ones.
Most people probably don't have reasonable access to this type of riding. None of this stuff is relevant until there's enough pitch and vertical gain -- the type of setup that's great for extended steep climbs would be ridiculous on flats and rollers.

You tend to learn to like what you have -- I enjoy riding in cold rain. Though I can't imagine ever learning to like wind.
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Old 04-03-20, 03:37 PM
  #109  
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Originally Posted by colnago62 View Post
I think the vast majority of people simply donít ride hills. I say this because on Zwift, the heaviest used courses are the flatter ones.
If you limit it to bike enthusiasts, racers, whatever, hills come back as important. For most people riding self powered vehicles, they won't be happy if you tell them you know a great route and then ride anything pointed up.
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Old 04-03-20, 04:42 PM
  #110  
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Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
If you limit it to bike enthusiasts, racers, whatever, hills come back as important. For most people riding self powered vehicles, they won't be happy if you tell them you know a great route and then ride anything pointed up.
In Portland, even people who present themselves as bike enthusiasts (to the point that they'd ban driving if they could) howl at the prospect of climbing even 50' and think climbing minor hills in town is some kind of physical feat -- seriously.
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Old 04-05-20, 12:17 AM
  #111  
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Originally Posted by kingston View Post
Yes, randonneurs have been using these setups for years for good reason, but there have been very few standard options until the recent gravel craze. It's just always puzzled me that I'm sort of an average recreational cyclists, not too fast or too slow, I ride my bike a few hundred miles a week in the summer, but I still don't have enough power to push a compact crank and a narrow cassette without cross-chaining most of the time and mashing up hills in a too-high low gear. I've just always thought that was odd. I've come to the conclusion that most people don't care about narrow spacing and have no problem using a wide-ratio cassette to get low gears.
It's largely a consequence of how accepted gearing on "racing" bikes developed over time, and how modern fashion is for recreational road bikes to derive from what the professional racers are using. This latter point is a non-hypothetical to an absurd degree. Read Grant Petersen's 2005 interview with Kozo Shimano from Rivendell Reader 34: Kozo Shimano agrees that much smaller chainrings would be probably better for a lot of cyclists - including himself - but literally goes on to claim that people wouldn't buy road bikes with compact cranks because it wouldn't visually look like what Lance Armstrong rides.

Part of the issue is that having a solid understanding of gearing requires some amount of mathematical and physics understanding, and the vast majority of people have no real background there. They have only traditional and the marketing to go on. And the marketing is kind of nonsense: it labels chainring combinations by the style of the use case, without consideration to the regional terrain or to the cyclist, or even to the cogs on the cassette. So 53-39 is a "standard road racing" crankset, 50-34 is a "compact road racing" crankset, 46-30 is an "adventure"/"gravel" "sub-compact" crankset, etc. For people who don't understand what the numbers mean, this implies that for someone who wants to ride hard on the road, a 50T big ring is the absolute smallest to go.

I had a friend get trapped in this boat a couple years ago. He's a similar rider to me in a lot of ways: we fit nigh-identically, our self-selected cadences are similar, and we ride in the same region over the same hills. But I'm far stronger than he is.
He's always had trouble with front shifting for some reason, so he was putting together a 1x road dream bike of sorts. In most respects it was absolutely awesome. It was built from an Argon18 Jelly Belly frameset and looked amazing, and it was about twelve pounds ready-to-ride. I tried it out when he first put it together, and it felt awesome. The one thing that didn't feel tight and snappy to me was the sluggish shifting on the SRAM eTap drivetrain, but he didn't mind it and it's his bike, so whatever.
BUT
It had a 50-tooth chainring, and because he dislikes wide-spaced cassettes, he wasn't willing to go wider than 11-32 on the cassette. So his bottom gear was 50-32. This is much too high for me to use optimally on our local hills, so I knew it was going to become a problem for him.
A little while later, we had just finished a group ride. I had been riding with the faster group, him with the slower group. He was complaining that the low-end was way too high on the climbs. I pointed out that he was basically never putting out power above 30mph, and that the top few cogs on his cassette were literally clean untouched silver, so he could probably drop the chainring down to the at least low-40s without giving anything up. He was incredulous, replying that any chainring less than 50T would obviously be too slow for road riding, although he couldn't articulate what exactly he meant by this. Now, on this particular day, I had been riding my 1979 Fuji America on this group ride, which presently* has a top-end ratio of 52-14. I pointed out to him that my top-end ratio is roughly equivalent to 41-11, and that even though I had been riding with a much faster group than him, I had not been tangibly hindered by spinning it out. He still didn't understand.
A few months later he finally tried out a smaller ring (I think a 42 or a 44, but can't recall off the top of my head). As I predicted, he reported no drawbacks.

A big extra factor here is that racing drivetrains started out very narrow-range, and racers have typically been pretty conservative about changing.
When derailleurs were becoming accepted in racing in the 1930s, a lot of people were concerned about the "s-bend" that the chain made through the pulley cage on what were, at the time, "touring" derailleurs. Even though these parts had been around for decades, racers were worried that they might introduce excessive chain friction. The earliest racing derailleurs sought to minimize the chain bends, usually by using just 1 pulley, or even zero pulleys (like in the case of the famously bizarre Campagnolo Cambio Corsa). Here's an example of a Simplex derailleur from that era:


In the case of this particular derailleur, because it doesn't have a jockey wheel close to the cogs, it uses long metal plates on the cage to help push the chain from cog to cog. There were a lot of similarly esoteric designs sold to racers at the time. Their shifting was usually either baulky or otherwise weird, and more problematically, they could usually only wrap maybe 8-10 teeth of chain.
Even after Campagnolo's Gran Sport (1951) popularized two-pulley parallelogram derailleurs among racers, racing derailleurs mostly used short cages and geometries that didn't play nicely with wide gear ranges. Things have been incrementally, very slowly, getting wider ever since.

As we've gotten more cogs and the range has gotten wider, a lot has been added to the top-end. Eddy Merckx won a lot of races with a top gear of around 52-13; with an 11-tooth small cog, that's equivalent to a 44-tooth chainring. Most people don't have much use for gears higher than that, but the world still looks to Merckx's 52T big ring and thinks it needs a 50+ tooth big ring regardless of context.

//===============================================

tldr: It's mostly fashion and marketing, and stock road bike gearing arrangements have often had nothing to do with what makes sense for the majority of people on road bikes.
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Old 04-05-20, 01:23 AM
  #112  
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Originally Posted by HTupolev View Post
Part of the issue is that having a solid understanding of gearing requires some amount of mathematical and physics understanding, and the vast majority of people have no real background there.
Understanding and calculating gear ratios requires nothing beyond grade school mathematics, i.e. multiplication and division.
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Old 04-05-20, 01:43 AM
  #113  
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Originally Posted by tomato coupe View Post
Understanding and calculating gear ratios requires nothing beyond grade school mathematics, i.e. multiplication and division.
Understanding the implications of gear ratios, and having a good sense of how to predict what you have use for, is greatly aided by a decent sense for kinematics.

Sure, any idiot can figure out how many gear inches result from a gear combo and a wheel diameter, and how fast that'll go at some cadence. But that doesn't mean that that person will understand what they need to perform optimally in the terrain they ride in, and why. And the why is important, in terms of people pulling the trigger on changes.

Last edited by HTupolev; 04-05-20 at 01:53 AM.
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Old 04-05-20, 06:14 AM
  #114  
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Originally Posted by tomato coupe View Post
Understanding and calculating gear ratios requires nothing beyond grade school mathematics, i.e. multiplication and division.
Correct.

In a completely unrelated note, I know people who work on designing CPUs who struggle with gearing.
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Old 04-05-20, 07:46 AM
  #115  
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Originally Posted by HTupolev View Post
tldr: It's mostly fashion and marketing, and stock road bike gearing arrangements have often had nothing to do with what makes sense for the majority of people on road bikes.
It's always fashion and marketing.

Grant asks about Shimano making a high-end group geared for average recreational cyclists...
Kozo Shimano: Sure, but there are two things, two hurdles. One is being able to see the potential for selling that, and the other is, can we sell it without cannibalizing sales from an existing group, such as Ultegra or Dura-Ace?...
I'm grateful for the gravel boom because now Shimano can make high end groups with gears for normal people without cannibalizing their road groups. I've started seeing a more gravel bikes on brevets in the last couple of seasons because it's an easy way to get a bike with wide tires and lower gearing without having to build it from scratch.
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Old 04-05-20, 08:40 AM
  #116  
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Originally Posted by kingston View Post



I'm grateful for the gravel boom because now Shimano can make high end groups with gears for normal people without cannibalizing their road groups..
What kind of gears do normal people need? Wouldn't the needs of these people depend on where they live?
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Old 04-05-20, 09:22 AM
  #117  
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Originally Posted by noodle soup View Post
What kind of gears do normal people need?
Seems like you haven't been following the thread. I consider myself to be a normal person, I don't race but do a lot of long distance and my preference is a top gear of around 100" narrow spacing around 70" and a low of around 30" or lower, which I can't achieve with any standard or compact road chainset.

Originally Posted by noodle soup View Post
Wouldn't the needs of these people depend on where they live?
If people ride a lot of steep and long hills they may want a lower low gear, but I would argue that has more to do with fitness than terrain. I'm not an especially strong climber and can get up anything with 30". Lower is easier obviously. Could be someone who likes to go really fast down big hills would want a top end bigger than 100".
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Old 04-05-20, 09:30 AM
  #118  
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Originally Posted by kingston View Post
Seems like you haven't been following the thread.
I've been following this thread since day 1, and it's gone off the rails,
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Old 04-05-20, 09:34 AM
  #119  
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Originally Posted by kingston View Post
I consider myself to be a normal person, I don't race but do a lot of long distance and my preference is a top gear of around 100" narrow spacing around 70" and a low of around 30" or lower, which I can't achieve with any standard or compact road chainset.
You think you are normal, but I don't think it's "normal" to ride long distances.

What is "long distance" to you?
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Old 04-05-20, 09:35 AM
  #120  
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Originally Posted by kingston View Post
Seems like you haven't been following the thread. I consider myself to be a normal person, I don't race but do a lot of long distance and my preference is a top gear of around 100" narrow spacing around 70" and a low of around 30" or lower, which I can't achieve with any standard or compact road chainset.

If people ride a lot of steep and long hills they may want a lower low gear, but I would argue that has more to do with fitness than terrain. I'm not an especially strong climber and can get up anything with 30". Lower is easier obviously. Could be someone who likes to go really fast down big hills would want a top end bigger than 100".
So what you're saying is that gearing is set too high for you and needs to be lowered, but anyone who wants lower gearing than your preference needs more fitness? What would you say if people literally answered your first line with your second line?
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Old 04-05-20, 09:45 AM
  #121  
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Originally Posted by noodle soup View Post
You think you are normal, but I don't think it's "normal" to ride long distances.

What is "long distance" to you?
100 miles is the beginning of long-distance to me.

Originally Posted by Bah Humbug View Post
So what you're saying is that gearing is set too high for you and needs to be lowered, but anyone who wants lower gearing than your preference needs more fitness? What would you say if people literally answered your first line with your second line?
Standard gearing is too high for me. If people have less fitness than I do, they need lower gearing not more fitness. That's been my point the whole time. Standard road gearing is designed for people who are a lot stronger than I am, and even I am stronger than some people who need even lower gearing than that.
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Old 04-05-20, 09:45 AM
  #122  
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Originally Posted by kingston View Post
If people ride a lot of steep and long hills they may want a lower low gear, but I would argue that has more to do with fitness than terrain. I'm not an especially strong climber and can get up anything with 30". Lower is easier obviously. Could be someone who likes to go really fast down big hills would want a top end bigger than 100".
I think I'm a "normal" cyclist but my gears range from 112.5" - 36.7". and 96..4" - 32.8" depending on which cassette I use( 50/34 crankset and 12-25 or 14-28 cassette).
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Old 04-05-20, 09:49 AM
  #123  
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What's a "normal" cyclist? Is it the 24-year-old who ran track in college or the 65-year-old cruising around the neighborhood?

I think both of those are more "normal" than people who call a century "the beginning of long-distance".
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Old 04-05-20, 09:49 AM
  #124  
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Originally Posted by kingston View Post
100 miles is the beginning of long-distance to me.
I would agree, but that's not "normal".

Originally Posted by kingston View Post
Standard gearing is too high for me. If people have less fitness than I do, they need lower gearing not more fitness. That's been my point the whole time. Standard road gearing is designed for people who are a lot stronger than I am,
Maybe you aren't particularly strong, or as strong as "normal" cyclists


What is "normal"?

That's been my point the whole time.
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Old 04-05-20, 09:58 AM
  #125  
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Originally Posted by Bah Humbug View Post
What's a "normal" cyclist? Is it the 24-year-old who ran track in college or the 65-year-old cruising around the neighborhood?

I think both of those are more "normal" than people who call a century "the beginning of long-distance".
Originally Posted by noodle soup View Post
I would agree, but that's not "normal".

Maybe you aren't particularly strong, or as strong as "normal" cyclists


What is "normal"?

That's been my point the whole time.
Excellent points. Mentally replace everywhere I say "normal" for "weak". I don't normally think of myself as a weak cyclist, but the facts speak for themselves, so there you go.
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