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Old 05-10-04, 09:14 PM   #1
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gearing concerns on Pacific Coast trip (hills)

My daughter, who will be 14 at the time, and I plan to ride our tandem bike (fully loaded), possibly with trailer from Canada to Mexico (see, via the Pacific Coast in summer ’05. I have some concerns that our bike is geared properly. It has a stock triple 30/42/52 and a 9 speed rear 11-32.

Any thoughts and/or experience with this gearing… good or bad?

I am considering making some changes, if practical. Any comments would be appreciated.


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Old 05-10-04, 09:52 PM   #2
Michel Gagnon
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Use whatever you are comfortable with -- a few loaded practice runs would help you decide.

However, my preference is always for lower gears. You have three options:

1. The least expensive, if you are fairly comfortable with what you have: Change the small ring for a 26... which probably would work with the 52-42 pair. However, the transition will be a bit much and you'll still have quite a few ultra-high gears you won't use.

2. Change all 3 rings for 48-38-24. The largest 2 exist as a ramped and pinned set (from FSA amongst others), so they would work with STI. I know such a combo works fine with bar-end shifters and I heard quite a few who say it works with STI, though you might prefer to add something like the N-Gear jump stop to prevent the chain from falling inside.

3. New compact cranskset? $$$

BTW, if you stay on the coast, hills are not that steep, but there are quite a few long ones. It's if you veer off that road that you'll see the steepest hills. But then, as a person from Seattle, you should have some experience with real hills.

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Old 05-11-04, 05:41 PM   #3
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A couple of thoughts.

1. Load up the tandem with enough dunnage to replicate what you think you'll be carrying on your tandem and/or pulling behind it in the trailer and search out some 11% - 12% grades near your home.

2. Take on the hills with your existing gearing and see how it goes.

3. If it's barely do-able, beg - borrow - steal an 11x34t cassette and see if that makes much of a difference. In reality, it's only a minor reduction in gear inches but sometimes a little is all it takes.

4. If it's still a bit goey, consider packing a little bit less. Folks who take on trans-whatever rides for the first time often times find they have packed more than they need or want to load and unload each day and search out a UPS / Mailboxes Etc. store to ship home the excess baggage.

5. If after putting on the 34t cassette and optimizing your total tandem weight those hills are still a bit too challenging give a 28t or 26t granny ring a try if your Tamb. will take a timing ring that small. I don't recall what the spacing is on the TruVative cranks that Burley uses for your particular tandem which is why I'm being tentative here.

We did a portion of this ride in '02 -- San Francisco to San Diego -- and while there were some steep grades they were usually short and steep with few exceptions. I believe some of the terrain along the Oregon Coast may actually be a bit more challenging that PCH was so my suggestion to use 12% grade may or may not be the worst you'll encounter. I seem to recall that it was about the worst that we saw on the planned route. We took a side trip that may have been a bit more daunting that that but the heat had a lot to do with it.

FWIW: We used a 54/44/30t x 11/32t cassette on our West Coast trip and I only recall using the 30x32 gear once, just south of Pismo Beach. However, we were fully sag'd and had only our middle-aged bodies to drag up the hills and we waited until Sept. when the weather was a bit cooler further down the Calif. coast.

Good Luck. It sounds like a great adventure.
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Old 05-11-04, 07:59 PM   #4
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Howdy from Tucson!
Lighten your load as much as possible. You can wash out cycling clothes daily in camp/motel/laundromat.
Skip the heavy electric razor and carry some cheapo plastic disposable safety razors. Pack some multi-use clothing, good for on/off bike. If you do need anything 'extra' you can usually buy it along the route.
Do some practice runs/climbs with gear a bit heavier than you anticipate to carry. We used to practice climbing with loads of books/encylopedias in panniers!
On gearing, it depends on the individuals; but better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it! Err on the side of grannier gearing.
You are planning well ahead; enjoy the adventure!
Rudy & Kay/Zona tandem
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