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

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

Old 03-29-20, 09:26 AM
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jdishner
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What gearing changes should I make to my Tarmac for better climbing in Maine?

Hello, I recently moved to Maine from Illinois and there is a lot more elevation here. I was already advised to go with a smaller front ring in Illinois but I was ok with powering along at a slightly lower cadence, however one ride here has convinced me that I need to make a change. I have a 2016 Specialized Tarmac Sport (specs on bikeradar here) with a stock 52/36 up front and 11/28 in the rear. Suggestions?
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Old 03-29-20, 09:42 AM
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I recently swapped out my 14T cassette for one with a 13T high gear on my RB and it made all the difference for me. I notice the taller gears when climbing, but I love them on the flats. You have the exact opposite dilemma so it boils down to either adding more teeth in the rear or fewer up front. I would probably look for a cassette with 32T on the low end. Something like a 12/32 cassette. Just my 2 cents worth. Good luck. Moving from Il to Maine has to be quite an adjustment in itself.
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Old 03-29-20, 10:12 AM
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So you have hills where the 36/28 is inadequate? If so, an 11-32 cassette would help, providing that your RD has an extra 4T of wrap capacity. You might have to look up the exact RD model to be sure. The next step would be a 50/34 or 48/32 crank. Those don't require more wrap capacity. FSA isn't good at listing the chain ring bolt circles, so it's hard to say whether just new chain rings could be purchased or a whole new crank required. With a 48/32 you also have to be sure that the FD can drop low enough.
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Old 03-29-20, 10:24 AM
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Most likely the smallest ring you can get on there is a 34t. That is not much different form a 36t. > Most bang for buck is a 11-34 cassette, a new chain and a GS rear DR. Replace the gear wire while you are at it.
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Old 03-29-20, 11:06 AM
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I think an 11-32 or 34 your less expensive option. I assume it's 11 cogs on the back so all the talk about needing gears with tooth counts close together is left over from the days of 5 speed's...... IMHO of course <grin>. 11 on the back give you plenty of close gearing for the normal range of cycling and leaves you with a couple to use as bail-out gears.

A new shimano 105 cassette only cost me about 30 bucks. You might be SOL though if you have the short cage DR. But a new 105 5800 GS rear DR or newer probably can be found for 34 bucks or less. Changing the chainwheels on might be more expensive if you can find some that fit that crank.
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Old 03-29-20, 11:57 AM
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I usually recommend the Roadlink & bigger cassette, but 52/34 is a lot of chain to take up.

Consider biting the bullet and change the whole thing- chainrings to 50/34 or 48/34 (what non-pro needs 52/11?)

11/34 cassette, mid-cage RD, and chain.

I run this on my (older) Tarmac. The 48/34 works very well with less double shifting and more time in the big ring.
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Old 03-29-20, 12:15 PM
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Old fart here who raced the Maine hills between Jackman and Waterville twice. As a very fit animal that loved to climb, I did it on a 42-19. Second time was also the hardest thing I have ever done. Now, I wold ride those hills on a triple, 50-38-24. (I;m late 60s.) After racing I took my 53-42 racing crankset and turned it into a 53-42-28 triple that I used for decades with the freewheel/cassette going cog by cog from a 13-19 5-speed to a 12-23,25 or 28 9-speed.

I am totally sold on triples. Now, the new bikes and crankset options are making them harder to do. Once this 1X fad plays out, I'm guessing there will be a new breakthrough in gearing. Smaller, lighter, better shifting cogs with much smaller and better looking rear derailleurs, all enabled by a new system of three chainrings in front that allow big gearing changes with one shift. (Very, very useful for the radical grade changes of the Maine landscape.)

We will see. Ben
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Old 03-29-20, 12:16 PM
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Originally Posted by jdishner View Post
Hello, I recently moved to Maine from Illinois and there is a lot more elevation here. I was already advised to go with a smaller front ring in Illinois but I was ok with powering along at a slightly lower cadence, however one ride here has convinced me that I need to make a change. I have a 2016 Specialized Tarmac Sport (specs on bikeradar here) with a stock 52/36 up front and 11/28 in the rear. Suggestions?
I went from 11x32 34/50 to 11x30 36/52 last summer (new whip) and I immediately noticed the difference. Faster, but clearly harder.

Perhaps a new 11x30 or 11x32 cassette would help?
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Old 03-29-20, 12:23 PM
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The shimano 11-32 has decent spacing, but for some reason they put wide spacing of 11-13-15-17... on the 11-34. I wouldn't care for that.
My Campy 12 setup has a closely spaced 11-34 with a 48/32 crank. It's a straight block up to the 17, then 19-22-25-29-34.
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Old 03-29-20, 01:14 PM
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Originally Posted by DaveSSS View Post
The shimano 11-32 has decent spacing, but for some reason they put wide spacing of 11-13-15-17... on the 11-34. I wouldn't care for that.
My Campy 12 setup has a closely spaced 11-34 with a 48/32 crank. It's a straight block up to the 17, then 19-22-25-29-34.
Depends how fast you are going. Im using a 11-34 for commuting and I never notice the missing 14t and 12t compared to a 11-28. 50/15 is plenty for 25 mph and the 11-34 allows me to stay in the big ring for longer. I quite like it. Less wasted (too) tall gears in exchange for a more useful lower gears.

Last edited by Racing Dan; 03-29-20 at 01:20 PM.
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Old 03-29-20, 01:54 PM
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If you have a short cage 105 rear derailer, by the time you change that and a cassette, it might be near the price of a Shimano GRX 48/31 crank. Might need a new b-bracket with it. Do some research on the crank spacing to make sure it works with the current 105 front derailer and b-bracket.
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Old 03-29-20, 05:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Bigbus View Post
I recently swapped out my 14T cassette for one with a 13T high gear on my RB and it made all the difference for me. I notice the taller gears when climbing, but I love them on the flats. You have the exact opposite dilemma so it boils down to either adding more teeth in the rear or fewer up front. I would probably look for a cassette with 32T on the low end. Something like a 12/32 cassette. Just my 2 cents worth. Good luck. Moving from Il to Maine has to be quite an adjustment in itself.
Thanks for the input - it was nearly all flat in Illinois with lots of wind, on the lake it would be 13-20mph nearly every day. After I moved to the burbs it was less windy but out in the cornfields it was still open. I rode in a lot of groups and the slower cadence was noticeable, I would be working either too hard or not enough to ride in the paceline smoothly, but I stayed with it because I could smash my way through and in steady riding it would work. I had been advised to change to something smaller but it wasn't bad enough to spend the money on it. One ride here and I knew I had to change. I grew up here in Maine so Chicago was a lot for me, the lack of terrain, the millions of people, and the non-stop ambient noise and electro-magnetic fields were really getting to me after over 20 years. Very glad to be back, especially with the Corona thing going on...
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Old 03-29-20, 06:01 PM
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Originally Posted by DaveSSS View Post
So you have hills where the 36/28 is inadequate? If so, an 11-32 cassette would help, providing that your RD has an extra 4T of wrap capacity. You might have to look up the exact RD model to be sure. The next step would be a 50/34 or 48/32 crank. Those don't require more wrap capacity. FSA isn't good at listing the chain ring bolt circles, so it's hard to say whether just new chain rings could be purchased or a whole new crank required. With a 48/32 you also have to be sure that the FD can drop low enough.
Great question, thanks for your response. The 36/28 is probably adequate except for my current lack of fitness and not being accustomed to riding up mountains. Really what I am looking for (and I didn't realize it fully until reading the replies in this thread) is a way to stay in the big ring more. I like the idea that Woodcraft suggested of changing everything: 48/34 up front, 11/34 in the back. I have a little money to invest in this project but I'm just learning what all of this means as I didn't need to address this before I moved. I'm moving away from the mindset of going into the LBS and paying them to do every little thing for me, and learning how to do some things on my own. That is requiring me to start learning from scratch, so I really appreciate your input. I may just upgrade to a new crank/chainring set depending on how much they cost.
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Old 03-29-20, 06:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Racing Dan View Post
Most likely the smallest ring you can get on there is a 34t. That is not much different form a 36t. > Most bang for buck is a 11-34 cassette, a new chain and a GS rear DR. Replace the gear wire while you are at it.
Thank you for the reply - I'm not sure if my 105 RD would work, I'll have to look into that - is the GS a significant upgrade other than knowing for sure that it will fit the 11/34?
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Old 03-29-20, 06:19 PM
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Originally Posted by Iride01 View Post
I think an 11-32 or 34 your less expensive option. I assume it's 11 cogs on the back so all the talk about needing gears with tooth counts close together is left over from the days of 5 speed's...... IMHO of course <grin>. 11 on the back give you plenty of close gearing for the normal range of cycling and leaves you with a couple to use as bail-out gears.

A new shimano 105 cassette only cost me about 30 bucks. You might be SOL though if you have the short cage DR. But a new 105 5800 GS rear DR or newer probably can be found for 34 bucks or less. Changing the chainwheels on might be more expensive if you can find some that fit that crank.
Everything seems pretty cheap if you look around online enough so I may upgrade all the way around if I can find the right person/deal to install it.
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Old 03-29-20, 06:35 PM
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Originally Posted by woodcraft View Post
I usually recommend the Roadlink & bigger cassette, but 52/34 is a lot of chain to take up.

Consider biting the bullet and change the whole thing- chainrings to 50/34 or 48/34 (what non-pro needs 52/11?)

11/34 cassette, mid-cage RD, and chain.

I run this on my (older) Tarmac. The 48/34 works very well with less double shifting and more time in the big ring.
You helped me realize what I was actually asking for - not just easier climbing, because that will come in time as my form returns, but also more time in the big chainring. More useable gears and yes, some lower ones for the really steep climbs, but more that I can use on the false flats and the not as steeps climbs. There isn't enough flat or slight downhills that I can use the full range on the harder end. I'm not familiar with the Roadlink - can you describe or post a link? Also, what do you mean by mid-cage RD? I'm new to doing things like this more "on my own" instead of just going to a LBS and paying them. I've seen two other mentions here of the GS rear DR so at this point that is making the most sense to me. Thank you very much for your response and for helping me better understand what I'm looking to do.
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Old 03-29-20, 06:38 PM
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Originally Posted by 79pmooney View Post
Old fart here who raced the Maine hills between Jackman and Waterville twice. As a very fit animal that loved to climb, I did it on a 42-19. Second time was also the hardest thing I have ever done. Now, I wold ride those hills on a triple, 50-38-24. (I;m late 60s.) After racing I took my 53-42 racing crankset and turned it into a 53-42-28 triple that I used for decades with the freewheel/cassette going cog by cog from a 13-19 5-speed to a 12-23,25 or 28 9-speed.

I am totally sold on triples. Now, the new bikes and crankset options are making them harder to do. Once this 1X fad plays out, I'm guessing there will be a new breakthrough in gearing. Smaller, lighter, better shifting cogs with much smaller and better looking rear derailleurs, all enabled by a new system of three chainrings in front that allow big gearing changes with one shift. (Very, very useful for the radical grade changes of the Maine landscape.)

We will see. Ben
Hi Ben, thanks for your input - I'm stuck on two chainrings at this point, I can't imagine a triple on my Tarmac, although on my other bike a cruiser that is what I have. It certainly felt a little bit like it was either up or down, and I would have to change a lot of gears when hitting the bottom of a new climb after a long descent.
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Old 03-29-20, 06:40 PM
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Originally Posted by eduskator View Post
I went from 11x32 34/50 to 11x30 36/52 last summer (new whip) and I immediately noticed the difference. Faster, but clearly harder.

Perhaps a new 11x30 or 11x32 cassette would help?
It would help, but I am also looking at changing the chainrings and/or the crank as well. The 36/52 is harder so in some ways it's training you to be faster than all the other people with smaller chainrings that you're riding with, but in the elevation I'm at now I won't be able to efficiently use all of the gears, and that's not smooth.
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Old 03-29-20, 06:45 PM
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Originally Posted by DaveSSS View Post
The shimano 11-32 has decent spacing, but for some reason they put wide spacing of 11-13-15-17... on the 11-34. I wouldn't care for that.
My Campy 12 setup has a closely spaced 11-34 with a 48/32 crank. It's a straight block up to the 17, then 19-22-25-29-34.
I've only had two road bikes - a Schwinn with down shifters from the mid-90's and this one, so I have almost nothing to use as context. I will have to look at my current cassette settings and see if I like/dislike how they feel and try to use that to compare to what I'm looking at for a replacement. I do know I'm not spending Campy money - either 105 which I have now or maybe Ultegra, depending at the deal I can find and the research I have yet to do on whether it's worth the upgrade.
Thank you for your input, it is helping me decide.
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Old 03-29-20, 06:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Racing Dan View Post
Depends how fast you are going. Im using a 11-34 for commuting and I never notice the missing 14t and 12t compared to a 11-28. 50/15 is plenty for 25 mph and the 11-34 allows me to stay in the big ring for longer. I quite like it. Less wasted (too) tall gears in exchange for a more useful lower gears.
Do you think I am I cutting off too much top end by going with 48/34 & 11/34? I would probably need to replace the crank which I'm contemplating anyways. I'm not using this as a commuter, I'm riding to be as fast as possible. My normal adviser sent me to sheldon's gearing website, but I am not fully understanding all the data. You may not have the information you need to answer that, but any help is appreciated.
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Old 03-29-20, 07:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Steve B. View Post
If you have a short cage 105 rear derailer, by the time you change that and a cassette, it might be near the price of a Shimano GRX 48/31 crank. Might need a new b-bracket with it. Do some research on the crank spacing to make sure it works with the current 105 front derailer and b-bracket.
Thank you, that's interesting. So if I get a GRX I wouldn't need to change the rear cassette, but possibly the b-bracket. I'll look into the GRX, any particular reason you suggest it other than that it would work with my current RD?
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Old 03-29-20, 08:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Steve B. View Post
If you have a short cage 105 rear derailer, by the time you change that and a cassette, it might be near the price of a Shimano GRX 48/31 crank. Might need a new b-bracket with it. Do some research on the crank spacing to make sure it works with the current 105 front derailer and b-bracket.
A 200 dollar crank vs 30 dollar cassette + 34 dollar 105 5800 DR + 30 dollar chain........ I don't think so. Unless you know somewhere to get cranks cheap. Those are new prices. Personally, I wouldn't buy any used.

edit... yeah I'm probably being a little harsh, and the OP should consider if they need the low gearing that would give.
For myself, I just think it might be too low a gearing, depending on what part of Maine the OP is riding in. As well, when going downhill, I like to pedal and have a little resistance even though I might not be adding to the speed of just coasting.

Last edited by Iride01; 03-29-20 at 08:19 PM.
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Old 03-29-20, 08:25 PM
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Originally Posted by jdishner View Post
Do you think I am I cutting off too much top end
Depends on how much top-end you need.
How fast do you ride, and what cadence range do you prefer to ride at?
How strong are the groups you ride in: when they're going tempo on the flats in calm conditions, what sorts of speeds are you looking at?

48/34 & 11/34

The 11-34 cassette doesn't cut off any top-end compared with an 11-28 cassette, because highest cog on both cassettes is 11-tooth.

52T is about 8% bigger than 48T. So, at any given speed, when you're in your highest gear, you'll be spinning your legs about 8% faster with a 48T.
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Old 03-29-20, 08:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Iride01 View Post
A 200 dollar crank vs 30 dollar cassette + 34 dollar 105 5800 DR + 30 dollar chain........ I don't think so. Unless you know somewhere to get cranks cheap. Those are new prices. Personally, I wouldn't buy any used.

edit... yeah I'm probably being a little harsh, and the OP should consider if they need the low gearing that would give.
For myself, I just think it might be too low a gearing, depending on what part of Maine the OP is riding in. As well, when going downhill, I like to pedal and have a little resistance even though I might not be adding to the speed of just coasting.
Yeah, I thought I had seen the GRX at around $149 or so, it’s up around $225 As well, a 105 level 11spd. Cassette is nearer to $50, F derailer also near $50-$60 on a few Google look ups, chain around $20. But the OP indicates he wants speed so maybe going to a 48 isn’t the solution. I was thinking that a low of 30/31 ring would help deal with the hills.
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Old 03-29-20, 08:40 PM
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Originally Posted by Steve B. View Post
But the OP indicates he wants speed so maybe going to a 48 isn’t the solution.
Depends on what "speed" means and whether they actually need anything close to the current 52-11 top-end.

A couple years ago I had a friend who put together a 1x road drivetrain, 50T chainring and 11-32 cassette. He was badly bottomed-out on the hills. He didn't want to go to a wider-spaced cassette. I pointed out that his top several cogs were literally like-new sparkling clean, and that he was basically never putting power down at speeds above 30mph, so there'd be no problem with dropping the chainring down to at least the low 40s. He looked at me like I was crazy, and insisted that any big ring of less than 50T is obviously too small and "slow" for a road bike.
He did finally try the change a few months later. Unsurprisingly, he noticed no drawbacks.
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