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Gearing for tandem racing

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Gearing for tandem racing

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Old 06-02-18, 02:24 PM
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john.c.ehrhardt
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Gearing for tandem racing

Looking for insight on gearing choices for racing and fast group riding on a road tandem.....

About 8 months ago, my wife and I bought a lightly-used Co-Motion Supremo on a whim. Iím 5í10Ē/158lbs., and sheís 5í8Ē/130lbs. Weíre both fit all-arounder-type riders and do some racing on single bikes. We have good power-to-weight for a mixed tandem team. After a couple of months working on skills (like climbing while standing), we started doing fast group rides on the tandem. We discovered that we are able to stay at the ďpointy endĒ of the harder group rides in the area. Itís great, because now I donít have to choose between doing my own thing (trading punches with the guys) or helping my wife stay in the testosterone-fueled front group of males (which can be a struggle even for strong ladies). Group rides are a game: the good climbers attack the tandem on the ascents, and we pull them back on the descents and punish them on the flats. Sometimes we hit 45-50 mph on descents, which arenít long here. Weíre looking to build on this fun and maybe try some tandem road racing, too.

The bike came set up with Shimano Dura Ace 3x10 mechanical shifters/derailleurs, an 11-28 cassette, and FSA SL-K triple cranks (130/74 bcd) in 53x39x30 configuration. When we are riding hard, I stay on the 53t chainring about 90% of the time. I only use the middle ring (39) for steep climbs, or if weíre just piddling on a coffee ride. The 30t granny ring never gets used here in central Oklahoma (though I could see using it in places where the hills are much tougher). To hit 45-50mph, we have to spin the 53x11 up to 120-130rpm, which gets tiring, especially for my wife, whoís not a ďspinner.Ē Our local descents arenít really long enough to make tucking/coasting super attractive. Iím wanting higher gears for the top end. Iíd like to avoid a total drivetrain replacement at this early stage (though itís something I might do later if we keep tandeming).

Iím thinking of installing FSA Kronos TT outer and middle rings, 42t middle and 54t or 55t outer. If I do so, Iíll probably put a 32t or 34t granny ring on to keep the spread manageable. (Shimano gives the range of the Dura Ace 7800 triple front derailleur as 22t.)

Wondering if any of you have experience with similar setups and situations. In particular, do you think a 55t outer is overkill? Should I expect front shifting problems with a big TT ring? What kind of low gears do strong mixed teams need for serious climbing? (We donít have real mountains in the OKC area, but we are within a dayís drive of the Texas Hill Country, Arkansas, Colorado, and New Mexico and have been to these places with our single bikes. For perspective, we comfortably run 52x36/11-28 setups on our road singles, unless weíre facing altitudes above 8000 ft or sustained grades in 15-20% range, and then Iíll sometimes fit 50x34 compact rings.)

Hope this isnít too much info.....Just looking for some insight, as we are really new to the tandem thing. Thanks.

Last edited by john.c.ehrhardt; 06-02-18 at 02:59 PM.
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Old 06-02-18, 03:36 PM
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I don't know. There is racing and there is racing. A 53T should be plenty. Spin faster. But, if it isn't, then there you are. Get the 55T and see how it goes. I personally wouldn't waste the time (and money) to go up by just one tooth! And I would leave the 30T granny alone. And the 39T as well. Plenty of overlap in there to find very similar gears to those on a 42T. But if you insist, keep your powder dry and maybe we can do a swap. No maybe not, the 42 we want to get rid of is steel. You probably don't want that. But we might be interested in your 39T.
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Old 06-03-18, 02:57 AM
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We run a 39/56(DA 7800). Shifting is a little slower than a 53 but still ok.
I like the extra high gear for helping to put the hurt or even get a gap on the solo riders in the faster sections.
Especially if you crest a hill behind them and then slingshot past so they can't get on your wheel.
This of coarse only applies if you are trying to do that sort of thing rather than riding with the group nicely.
We also use an 11-32 rear. Helps reduce the number of front shifts required. Would just change to a tighter cassette for a flat TT.

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Old 06-03-18, 09:02 AM
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We have used a 55x42x32 front combo in the past, but changed to 55x39 with an 11x32 rear when we went to 11 speed. No hills around here (MD/DC/VA) that are big enough to cause us problems with the 39x32. When we go really mountain climbing I'll go to 53x39x30. I find the 55 doesn't make much difference on big descents because it's pretty much all just tuck and go anyway. I find no problems shifting with the front 55x39, but we don't use indexed front shifting. I changed it to a bar end for the front, which may give a little more finesse to the shift. I do like the slightly bigger gear that the 55 gives, but wouldn't think the 1 tooth jump to a 54 would be worth the trouble. Once you have the high and low gears that you need, how you fill in the gears between is really up to you and your riding style, there reallly isn't a "right" answer to the question.
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Old 06-03-18, 01:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Dean V View Post
We run a 39/56(DA 7800). Shifting is a little slower than a 53 but still ok.
I like the extra high gear for helping to put the hurt or even get a gap on the solo riders in the faster sections.
Especially if you crest a hill behind them and then slingshot past so they can't get on your wheel.
This of coarse only applies if you are trying to do that sort of thing rather than riding with the group nicely.
We also use an 11-32 rear. Helps reduce the number of front shifts required. Would just change to a tighter cassette for a flat TT.
Thanks for the info. The group rides we do are definitely not Ďnice.í If we stick it to the singles on a downhill or flat section, theyíve surely earned it by attacking us on a climb. My favorite tandem trick is to gutterball the whole lot of Ďem on the flat when thereís a viscous crosswind
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Old 06-03-18, 03:49 PM
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How about 42, 52, 60 chainrings. I have had similar issues with gearing. It didn't work as I ended having a hard time getting the 42 to clear the chain stay.
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Old 06-03-18, 03:56 PM
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Here is a ramped and pinned 58T ring:
https://www.ebay.com/itm/Driveline-A....c100005.m1851

53 to 55 is less than a 2% change. Let's say you are making 47.7mph with a 53T ring, and you have plenty of power, but not more rpm, with a 55T you'll make 49.5mph, and 52.2mph with a 58T ring.
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Old 06-03-18, 04:30 PM
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Something that comes to mind...
I'm not up-to-date with 10T cassettes and tandem wheels. If anyone knows, would this be a viable option? I am thinking about this, because it would give a higher percentage of change than going from 53 to 55 in the front.
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Old 06-03-18, 07:18 PM
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Originally Posted by alias5000 View Post
Something that comes to mind...
I'm not up-to-date with 10T cassettes and tandem wheels. If anyone knows, would this be a viable option? I am thinking about this, because it would give a higher percentage of change than going from 53 to 55 in the front.
Yeah, I thought of that. A 53x10 is a pretty big gear. SRAMís 11-Speed mountain cassettes have a 10t cog. However, the wheel has to have the special SRAM XD driver to use the cassette ó mine doesnító and of course Iíd have to change the drivetrain to an 11-speed setup that can handle the 42t big cog. I think a hybrid Shimano Di2 system with road STI levers and an XTR rear changer is possible, but Iím not ready to go that far just yet. I donít know if anyone makes a 10t cog to fit on a standard Shimano/SRAM cassette body. If so, Iíve not seen it. For now may just have to try a bigger chainring or chainrings and see if it works. But a wide-range 2x11 setup definitely would be cool for future. I donít think a triple is necessary, especially if the bike is mainly used for hard rides.

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Old 06-03-18, 07:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Brian25 View Post
How about 42, 52, 60 chainrings. I have had similar issues with gearing. It didn't work as I ended having a hard time getting the 42 to clear the chain stay.
Those are some giant rings!
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Old 06-03-18, 07:54 PM
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Youíre right nfmisdo: 55 is not a huge difference. I may need to treat this like a TT bike - 56x44, and forget the granny, lol
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