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Help with chainring size selction

Old 04-08-15, 01:59 PM
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Help with chainring size selction

I need to replace the crank on my Cannondale T500 to something more reasonable. It came with a Sugino 30-42-52 crankset (square taper) and I have a 9 speed 11-32 cassette with Shimano 105 brifters, a Deore XT RD and an Ultegra triple FD. One reason I am replacing it is because I stripped the threads on the drive side trying to remove the darn thing – it was really stuck. The other is I need a much lower low gear. I have found several stock chainring combinations on various cranks – typically 22-32-44, 24-36-50, 26-36-46 and 26-36-48. I don’t want to buy a new crank then pay more to replace chainrings so I want to stick with stock sizes if possible.

I know this question has come up before and I have searched for optimal chainring sizes on the forum but did not find what I was looking for so have a few specific questions:

1. I’d like a really low gear just in case but I wonder if I go with the 22-32-44, will the 44 be big enough? I did look at Sheldon Brown’s gear calculator and it seems a 44 would still give 25 mph at 80 rpm which should be high enough but I wanted some real world feedback. I also wonder if there will be a compatability issue with my FD if the largest chainring is too small.
2. I thought either a 46 or 48 for the largest chainring would fit the bike better, but will a 26 not be low enough?
3. Do I need to be using the Shimano ramped/pinned chainrings or will the plain ones such as on the Sugino SD600 cranks be okay?

Finally, If you have a recommendation on a reasonably priced crank I'd love to hear it.

Thanks in advance for your help,
Mike
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Old 04-08-15, 02:03 PM
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All you need is to change the 30T chain ring to a 24T.
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Old 04-08-15, 02:12 PM
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For me, a 44 for the high would not be enough, and 52 is too large. My touring setup has 26,36,46 front with a 30t out back. 26 -30 is pretty low, this tends to very personal depending on weight of bike and rider as well as terrain.
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Old 04-08-15, 02:16 PM
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Originally Posted by mrveloman
1. I’d like a really low gear just in case but I wonder if I go with the 22-32-44, will the 44 be big enough? I did look at Sheldon Brown’s gear calculator and it seems a 44 would still give 25 mph at 80 rpm which should be high enough but I wanted some real world feedback. I also wonder if there will be a compatability issue with my FD if the largest chainring is too small.

2. I thought either a 46 or 48 for the largest chainring would fit the bike better, but will a 26 not be low enough?
Mike
1. My first touring bike (Cannondale T700) had a similar ()if not exact) chain ring combination. Not sure if my small cog in the rear was an 11 or 12. In any event, I only spun out the flats only once. I did a sustained speed of 32.5 mph with a killer tailwind on the High Line in central Montana. I probably would not have spun out except my drivetrain was gunked up and I could not shift into my smallest cog. There is a drivetrain article in the current issue of "Adventure Cyclist." I think it's someone from Co-Motion who opines that the low gear is what's really important, nothing that on descents, you can always coast. In short, I don't think a 44 up front will pose much of a problem, if any.

2. My LHT has a 26 small ring and large cog of 34. I am a big guy (6' 2" and about 205-210 lbs. when I am at my fighting weight.) I don't go lite, but I don't carry a huge load. During a trip across PA last summer there were some hills where I wished I had a 24 or even a 22 in the back instead of the 26. Personally, I would not ride a 26x32 low gear, but you might be able to. It all depends on how strong you are.
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Old 04-08-15, 02:22 PM
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My touring bike has a 50 chain ring and it's plenty big enough. If I'm spun out on my 50-12 combo, I'm probably going down a steep hill and be better off coasting anyway.

My granny gear is a 30-32 combo. I don't know if anything lower than a 26-32 would be worth pedaling anymore. Walking could be faster.
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Old 04-08-15, 02:44 PM
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https://www.benscycle.com/p-915-sugi...-crankset.aspx It was on sale for only $85 a few days ago.
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Old 04-08-15, 02:58 PM
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Thanks for the quick responses!

I thought of just keeping my old crank and replacing the chainrings but even if I can fit a 24 on it, I'd have to replace the 42 to something like a 34 and then the 52 is too big and I'd still have the stripped removal threads.

I agree a 52 tooth chainring is more than I'll need. I am more than happy to coast at 25 mph when touring. Sounds like a 46 would be a good size for the large ring. Maybe I can find a 24-34-46 or a 24-36-46.

Unfortunately, I too am a big guy, just a little short for my weight though at 5'9" and 210 lbs So I'm thinking I should try for a 24t chainring to get a 24-32 low gear at 20.3 inches. Like Jerry said, anything lower might be easier to just walk.
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Old 04-08-15, 03:32 PM
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I am not sure what was stripped, the threads that you thread the crank puller into? If so, sounds like you need a new crank arm. I bought a Vuelta compact double a couple years ago off of Amazon. Although it was very very cheap, it was good enough quality for me. If they make a square taper triple, that might be a good buy.

Originally Posted by 10 Wheels
All you need is to change the 30T chain ring to a 24T.
That is what I did. Photo shows my 52/42/24. The upshift from the 24 to 42 is not a very smooth shift but otherwise I am pretty happy with it.

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Old 04-08-15, 06:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN
That is what I did. Photo shows my 52/42/24. The upshift from the 24 to 42 is not a very smooth shift but otherwise I am pretty happy with it.

Haha that looks hilarious, they should call that a baby gear not a granny gear
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Old 04-08-15, 07:53 PM
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Originally Posted by shibbyman23
Haha that looks hilarious, they should call that a baby gear not a granny gear
It certainly looks like it skipped a generation!
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Old 04-08-15, 08:12 PM
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Mike, I'm running a 22-32-44T in combination with an 11-30T 8S on my primary touring bike and it has pretty much covered any terrain imaginable, both loaded and unloaded, without any complaint from me. If I commonly had some long down hill runs I might have opted for a larger chain ring than a 44T, but as is, I'll coast if I come across one.

The most often suggested GI range is 20-100 for touring. I have a 19.8-108 GI range. My back-up touring bike has a 23.4-104.3 GI range and it too works well over all.

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Old 04-08-15, 08:22 PM
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Originally Posted by mrveloman
...will the 44 be big enough?
Assuming a relatively small cog in the back (11 or 12), a 44 in the front would probably serve me 80% of the time. However, I like to pedal out of the saddle a lot and the 44 would not allow me to maintain a proper cadence for more than a few hundred feet. It all depends on your style I guess. I like to ride out of the saddle for long stretches (miles at a time in the flats) and of course for climbing but others hate it. Something to consider for your style?

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Old 04-08-15, 08:49 PM
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Originally Posted by JerrySTL
My touring bike has a 50 chain ring and it's plenty big enough. If I'm spun out on my 50-12 combo, I'm probably going down a steep hill and be better off coasting anyway.

My granny gear is a 30-32 combo. I don't know if anything lower than a 26-32 would be worth pedaling anymore. Walking could be faster.
OP, you see this sort of opinion from people who 90% of the time havent schlepped a bike weighing 70lbs or more up a steep bugger of a hill, after a long day, with headwinds, after not sleeping well or eating enough that day.....you get my drift.

and it is not that hard to ride a heavy bike up a super steep hill at 5, 6, 7 kph, especially when you are pushing out a lot of power because the hill is 20% or whatever--and pushing in my experience is a lot harder than pedalling up with a reasonable cadence that saves your knees.


Now, to your question--it really comes down to how much your bike weighs and the steepness of the terrain. The "20-100" gear inches recommendation is pretty good most of the time, although I have ridden in places where 19 was just low enough and if I had had front panniers on, and extra food and water, I would have needed lower. That said, the 20-100 has worked well for me in nearly all situations, but a bit lower does not in any way diminish your manhood or anything like that.

One of my bikes has a 42/32/22 and I wouldnt hesitate using this bike for terrain that has numerous 15-25% grades. The 42-11 combo spins out at about 50kph or 30mph but that doesnt happen very often. I have often thought that the 46/36/26 or 24 makes a great all around crankset, especially when you have some weight on the bike, as the 36 mid ring has a nice wide range of speeds (lets say up to 30kph) that we tend to ride in for the vast majority of the time.
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Old 04-08-15, 09:44 PM
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Wow, you all have certainly given me a lot to think about. I've spent some more time trying to research my question and thought I would go to a 24-36-48 which seemed to provide a nice range and should be easy to shift but now I'm not sure. I certainly would prefer to have a low gear that is too low than one which is not low enough so maybe I need to have a 22 small ring (after all in my case it is probably more about how much I weigh than the bike).

I found a relatively inexpensive Shimano Acera M391 with 22-32-44 rings and am thinking about trying it out. However djb's comment regarding having a 36 middle ring for the bulk of the time makes sense and maybe the 32 is too small. I've also found another Acera with 26-36-48 rings that I could get and change the smallest to a 22 or 24. Too many choices! Oh well it does give me something to work on.

thanks again

mike
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Old 04-08-15, 10:03 PM
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Originally Posted by JerrySTL
My touring bike has a 50 chain ring and it's plenty big enough. If I'm spun out on my 50-12 combo, I'm probably going down a steep hill and be better off coasting anyway.

My granny gear is a 30-32 combo. I don't know if anything lower than a 26-32 would be worth pedaling anymore. Walking could be faster.

You would have to get down to a cadence of 45 rpm to equal about 3.7 mph with that gear ratio. Most people could not push a loaded bike uphill faster than 2 mph. You would have a cadence of about 27 rpm at 2.0 mph. Low cadence at low speeds is not usually a good combination for smooth bike handling.

I can maintain 70 rpm on my 22-34 combination, and spin up a hill at 3.7 mph, which I have done a lot. most people can't walk that fast on flat ground, much less pushing a loaded bike uphill .

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Old 04-08-15, 10:24 PM
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Originally Posted by mrveloman

I found a relatively inexpensive Shimano Acera M391 with 22-32-44 rings and am thinking about trying it out. However djb's comment regarding having a 36 middle ring for the bulk of the time makes sense and maybe the 32 is too small. I've also found another Acera with 26-36-48 rings that I could get and change the smallest to a 22 or 24. Too many choices! Oh well it does give me something to work on.

Mike, you may want to check the present chainline on your bike compared to the chinline with the new crankset. Usually a road crankset, which you probably have, has a 45-46mm chainline. A mountain bike crank uses a 50mm chainline. The switch to a mountian crank may require a shorter bottom bracket. Just something to think about.

A lot depends on what type of shifters you are using. I run a 44/32/22 with an 11-34 rear cassette, using Tiagra STI shifters, Tiagra front derailleur, and LX rear derailleurs; on several of our family's touring bikes. This combination has worked well for me. At 90 rpm cadence, I reach 28 mph, which is plenty fast under most touring conditions. I tend to ride at a higher cadence than most folks, about 80-90 rpm, and the 32 middle chainring works well for me. I may shift more between the large and the middle chainrings than some other combinations, but that is what those shift levers are for

I even have one of my road bikes set up for hill climbing with a 48/36/24 crank and an 11-34 cassette. I keep up on club rides, and can climb anything that we have around here.

Last edited by Doug64; 04-08-15 at 10:55 PM.
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Old 04-09-15, 07:18 AM
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Originally Posted by djb
OP, you see this sort of opinion from people who 90% of the time havent schlepped a bike weighing 70lbs or more up a steep bugger of a hill, after a long day, with headwinds, after not sleeping well or eating enough that day.....you get my drift.

and it is not that hard to ride a heavy bike up a super steep hill at 5, 6, 7 kph, especially when you are pushing out a lot of power because the hill is 20% or whatever--and pushing in my experience is a lot harder than pedalling up with a reasonable cadence that saves your knees.


Now, to your question--it really comes down to how much your bike weighs and the steepness of the terrain. The "20-100" gear inches recommendation is pretty good most of the time, although I have ridden in places where 19 was just low enough and if I had had front panniers on, and extra food and water, I would have needed lower. That said, the 20-100 has worked well for me in nearly all situations, but a bit lower does not in any way diminish your manhood or anything like that.

One of my bikes has a 42/32/22 and I wouldnt hesitate using this bike for terrain that has numerous 15-25% grades. The 42-11 combo spins out at about 50kph or 30mph but that doesnt happen very often. I have often thought that the 46/36/26 or 24 makes a great all around crankset, especially when you have some weight on the bike, as the 36 mid ring has a nice wide range of speeds (lets say up to 30kph) that we tend to ride in for the vast majority of the time.
I wish I had your knees. I usually walk the bike if the slope gets above about 10 percent or more. I have trouble steering if I get below about 3.5 mph, and if I try to pedal fast enough to have good steering on the really steep hills, my knees will fail. And walking uses different muscles, so when I get to the crest of the hill and get back on the bike I usually find that I am not exhausted, but instead am refreshed and ready to pedal - and there have been a few occasions when I pedaled past another exhausted cyclist that had pedaled passed me while I was walking my bike.

Bad knees are not that fun, I used a cane last spring when I backpacked in Grand Canyon to help protect my knees.

My derailleur touring bikes (two) have ranges from 20.7 to 131 gear inches and 19.3 to 122 gear inches. The highest two gears are only used for long steady downhills or with strong tailwinds. Although I almost never use those highest gears, when I have a 20 mile long downhill I am very grateful that I have them. I still remember how fun it was to pedal downhill on Going to the Sun road for mile after mile in a very high gear, or pedal downhill for miles from the continental divide on the GAP trail.
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Old 04-09-15, 08:03 AM
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Doug64 - good suggestion to check chainline. I have a cheap Sugino 22-32-42 crank so I put it on this morning and chainline is way off. I would need to change the bottom bracket to make it work. So I guess I can either get new chainrings for my current crank with 24t as my smallest, get a new Sugino XD600 crank again with a 24t as smallest or I suppose I could get a new bottom bracket. Maybe I'll go visit my favorite bike mechanic today

Mike
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Old 04-09-15, 08:21 AM
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Mrvelo, the last time I put a new square taper bb in a bike a few years ago, a good quality shimano one (UN-55?) cost about $30 I think.

re new chainrings, you will see that there is a big range of prices for individual rings, at stores over the years it seems to me that Ive been told its roughly a dollar per tooth, but you can find cheaper ones usually--I mention this just to emphasize that three new rings may end up being more than a good price on a new crank completely--but happenstance (sales, what stock a store has laying around etc) can play a big part in finding much cheaper stuff than what is on the books.

others on this web site have suggested online places with good prices for chainrings but I cant remember the specifics.

Another factor in the "mtn crank vs road crank" debate is really how often you will ride the bike loaded up (and again, how much weight, terrain etc etc) versus riding the bike with minimal stuff or nothing. If nearly always unloaded then the 48/36/24 or whatever is a nice compromise even with stuff on the bike; but that said, a mtn crank if your bike is loaded really is nice to have--like I have said here before, when touring we probably spend 80% of the time going between 15-25kph and a mtn crank works great in that rough range.

As I ride a 42/32/22 a lot, the only change I would do is have a 34 instead of a 32 , and maybe a 44 for a bit longer gearing for extended downhills (which realistically dont happen that much though)

good luck getting some prices as I'm sure you will find quite a range depending on where you ask and happenstance.
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Old 04-09-15, 08:38 AM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN
I wish I had your knees. I usually walk the bike if the slope gets above about 10 percent or more. I have trouble steering if I get below about 3.5 mph, and if I try to pedal fast enough to have good steering on the really steep hills, my knees will fail. And walking uses different muscles, so when I get to the crest of the hill and get back on the bike I usually find that I am not exhausted, but instead am refreshed and ready to pedal - and there have been a few occasions when I pedaled past another exhausted cyclist that had pedaled passed me while I was walking my bike.

Bad knees are not that fun, I used a cane last spring when I backpacked in Grand Canyon to help protect my knees.

My derailleur touring bikes (two) have ranges from 20.7 to 131 gear inches and 19.3 to 122 gear inches. The highest two gears are only used for long steady downhills or with strong tailwinds. Although I almost never use those highest gears, when I have a 20 mile long downhill I am very grateful that I have them. I still remember how fun it was to pedal downhill on Going to the Sun road for mile after mile in a very high gear, or pedal downhill for miles from the continental divide on the GAP trail.
Tourist, first of all this touches on the whole issue of what works for diff people, the "you gotta ride your own ride" thing, and what works for you works for you. I guess its a diff body type we have, I personally find pushing much more tiring than riding, especially with gears that allow me to have a reasonable cadence that puts a lot less pressure on the knees.

I actually feel I dont have strong knees, and so its really important to have lower gearing so that its easier on them. Now in my fifties I listen to my knees even more than when younger and gear down and down til they are happy, I very much believe this is a big factor for being easier on ones knees throughout your riding life, to reduce knee issues as we get older.
As you say, bad knees are no fun. The low speed riding thing is easy for me, but not any more so than anyone else who grew up goofing around on bikes I figure (and later motorcycles) but really slow going at 5, 6 kph (4mph) usually doesnt last that long anyway and usually in a min or two you are back up to 7, 8, 9, 10 kph.

I have a feeling that we have discussed this back and forth before, but I'm sure being a skinny light guy helps me a lot with climbing, but at the same time, my knees are skinny too so I dont have a lot of torque, so I rely on a good range of low gearing to make up for not a lot of power, but if I can keep a good cadence the knees are good to go (touch wood).

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Old 04-09-15, 08:49 AM
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I recently bought a Deore 590 crankset from Chain Reaction for $65. You have a choice between 46-32-22 or 48-36-26 (I opted for this one). Coupled with my 8 speed rear cassette 12-32 it give me a range of 22 - 109 which is good for me. The other size the range is 19 - 100. A nice thing about this crankset is the BB is external so you can adjust the chainline by moving the spacers from one side to the other.

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Old 04-09-15, 11:17 AM
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Originally Posted by mrveloman
Doug64 - good suggestion to check chainline. I have a cheap Sugino 22-32-42 crank so I put it on this morning and chainline is way off. I would need to change the bottom bracket to make it work. So I guess I can either get new chainrings for my current crank with 24t as my smallest, get a new Sugino XD600 crank again with a 24t as smallest or I suppose I could get a new bottom bracket. Maybe I'll go visit my favorite bike mechanic today

Mike
I just went through the same thing... choosing a crankset to replace my 30/42/52 for lower gearing. I went with a 22/32/42 mountain set. Chainline has been mentioned already, but let me add that I achieved proper chainline by going from a 113mm BB to a 103MM BB, bringing the chainline back from 50mm to the original 45mm. I am 14-32 in the back now (custom cassette - see below).

I ended up building the custom cassette because the lower geared crankset moved me to higher gears for the same speed. In the bigger cogs the jumps between are more (more tooth difference). So finding an ideal gear is challenging, and thre is a fair amount of shifting between the big and middle ring.

I believe that if I had to do it again, I would go with a bigger middle and big ring. I believe that a 24/36/48 or 46 would be ideal. I may still change to a Sugino 26/36/46 and purchase a 24T little ring to go with it.
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Old 04-09-15, 11:20 AM
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My touring bike had a 22/32/44 triple with 11-32 cassette. I eventually replaced it with a 26/36/48 because I'd often spin out on descents and I really never used the 22-32 combination anyway. I love the new configuration. The 36 is just perfect most of the time. For me, it makes a much better middle ring than the 32.
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Old 04-09-15, 02:16 PM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by JerrySTL
My touring bike has a 50 chain ring and it's plenty big enough. If I'm spun out on my 50-12 combo, I'm probably going down a steep hill and be better off coasting anyway.

My granny gear is a 30-32 combo. I don't know if anything lower than a 26-32 would be worth pedaling anymore. Walking could be faster.
Walking might be faster but pushing a loaded bike and walking isn't. Nor is it easier.

Frankly a 30/32 combination is a extraordinarily high gear in my opinion. But I use a 20/34. And, yes, you can ride a bike at 3 mph...some times for hours on end and it does beat pushing.

Originally Posted by djb
OP, you see this sort of opinion from people who 90% of the time havent schlepped a bike weighing 70lbs or more up a steep bugger of a hill, after a long day, with headwinds, after not sleeping well or eating enough that day.....you get my drift.

and it is not that hard to ride a heavy bike up a super steep hill at 5, 6, 7 kph, especially when you are pushing out a lot of power because the hill is 20% or whatever--and pushing in my experience is a lot harder than pedalling up with a reasonable cadence that saves your knees.
Sometimes I look on these kinds of comments as saying that anyone who uses low gears are weak. I'm not weak but I'm not dumb either. Energy-wise, a person walking on level ground at 5 kph uses the same energy as someone riding a bicycle at the same power output riding at 15kph. When the road isn't flat, the energy requirements remain proportional so riding the bike is still more efficient.

Originally Posted by djb
Now, to your question--it really comes down to how much your bike weighs and the steepness of the terrain. The "20-100" gear inches recommendation is pretty good most of the time, although I have ridden in places where 19 was just low enough and if I had had front panniers on, and extra food and water, I would have needed lower. That said, the 20-100 has worked well for me in nearly all situations, but a bit lower does not in any way diminish your manhood or anything like that.

One of my bikes has a 42/32/22 and I wouldnt hesitate using this bike for terrain that has numerous 15-25% grades. The 42-11 combo spins out at about 50kph or 30mph but that doesnt happen very often. I have often thought that the 46/36/26 or 24 makes a great all around crankset, especially when you have some weight on the bike, as the 36 mid ring has a nice wide range of speeds (lets say up to 30kph) that we tend to ride in for the vast majority of the time.
I go a lot lower (15 gear inches) and a bit higher (112 gi) mostly because I can. A 15" gear comes in handy in a lot of places, however. On the other end, I hate spinning out at 30 mph. I just find it frustrating to coast too much.
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Old 04-09-15, 04:04 PM
  #25  
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I agree on both accounts, (low and high) but will forego the high if I have to choose (your area has its own topography so I know what you mean and I'd be the same)

Working a gear that's too high really takes it out of my knees, and I always figure it's good on a forum like this for less experienced tourers can get multiple "pro low gears" comments to counter stuff they hear.
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