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Touring Bike Gearing advice

Old 10-12-11, 01:19 PM
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Touring Bike Gearing advice

I've got a question. I'm not a tourer... yet. But my weight pretty much means I share similar characteristics to a fully loaded tourist. For my next bike (going to order it up next month) I'm going with a Surly LHT on the recommendation of my LBS. I'm having issues trying to figure out what would be a good gearing setup for it though.

I want to go with 10 speed, because even low-end groupsets are now going to 10-speed, so I've pretty much acquiesced to the fact that it's the future. I would also like to go with a road triple crankset; right now on my hybrid I have a mountain triple: 44/32/22. I like it, spend most of my time in 32. On relatively flat terrain I definitely feel the 32 is too low however, have to switch to 44 and down to 32 often, so many times when I'm lazy I end up just hanging out in 32/12, and not really going as fast as I could be going. I figure for cruising, a 36 or 39 may be more appropriate for my "general use" gear.

The 22 I rarely use, but when I do use it, I am VERY glad that it exists. I find myself switching down to 22/27 on the toughest hills I've run across. Occasionally I wish it was lower, so for my next bike I aim to rectify this.

The 44 I use on flats and tailwinds, as noted above, as well as downhills. In fact, on many downhills the 44 clearly isn't big enough and I end up spinning out. For the big gear on my road triple I think a 50 would probably be big enough.

So looking at Shimano's Tiagra triple, it appears they offer it in 50/39/30. The 30 is clearly not low enough for me, so I think I would swap that out with a 24, which I believe is the lowest you can go on a 130/74 crank, right? Is that wise, going with 50/39/24? Is the jump too high, or would I be better served with a 50/36/24? Or heck, what if I dump the idea of a road crank and go with another mountain crank, say 48/36/22? Only issue with the mountain crank is that I'm not sure if I can use STI shifters with it. I'm not really interested in using downtube or bar end shifters at this point in time, and I don't think flat bar shifters will work either, since I'll have road drop bars.


So then taking a look at cassettes; I've got a 12-27 right now. I love the spacing, but as I stated before the low gear of 22/27 leaves something to be desired on really steep climbs. That's a GI of 21.4, so I would definitely be aiming to have something lower. But the question is "how much lower"? I see most road bikes have significantly HIGHER low gears so I understand that I'm probably asking for a weird combination. I see an 11-32 cassette will end up giving me 19.7GI at 24/32, which is a few percent lower than my current 21.4 low. Will that be a significant difference? The spacing of 11-32 is annoying too though, I'm wondering if I could get away with the new Tiagra 12-30 cassette. To be honest I have no use for the 11t cog, so a tighter range would definitely be worthwhile to me in terms of comfort (I'm a compulsive gear changer). So 30t will end up giving me a low GI of 21.0 at 24/30... which I bet is not a noticeable difference. Argh!

I can't make up my mind. Basically I want to have reasonably tight gearing *and* the ability to have a gear range that will let me basically go anywhere without being afraid of killing myself while ascending. Is 21.0 an abnormally high low GI for a touring bike? Or am I right in aiming for closer to 19GI?
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Old 10-12-11, 01:46 PM
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I am an old guy. I can no longer ride as hard as I could when I was younger. For that reason I have been pretty concerned about the gearing on my bikes. For touring I have gotten 94/58 crank sets from ebay that permit a 20 as the small cog. That is probably smaller than I need, but with 8, 9 and 10 spd. clusters, I can get gears spaced as close as I want and still have the range from high to low that I want. My 700c touring bike has 20-32-42 rings with a 12-36 9 spd. cluster. The 20-36 is really for the end of a long hard day with a big load on a steep hill and a very tired rider. It gets very little use, but it is nice to have it available. My 26” bike has the same rings but a 12-34 spd. cluster. They provide me with a 95 or 91in. top gear. That is plenty for me. I tend to coast down hills anyway. For people who haven’t reached their 60s yet, a 22-32-44 chain set is probably fine and a lot easier to find.
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Old 10-12-11, 01:49 PM
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My low gear is around 18.5 inches. I wouldn't mind a bit lower, but anyway I make plenty use of that low gear! If I were lugging any kind of load, whew! I still need to get a lot stronger!

Here's my little ride today:

https://www.mapmyride.com/routes/view/51584600

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Old 10-12-11, 01:58 PM
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I just finished my LHT. I got the stock complete bike and changed the crankset to a 42-32-24(22t is coming). If your heavy or plan on touring it would make $$$ sence to set it up now. If not the Sram Apex is something to look at if your not doing loaded touring. Depends on what you want the bike to do. My Cannondale Synapse has a Campy Record compact 50/34T with a 13-29 for the big "hills" of New Hampshire. My normal cassette is a 13-26. I'm no light weight and a bit older now so I like the lower gears. I use that for my Century bike. Now that I have the LHT I might try using it next year on a century ride!

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Old 10-12-11, 02:39 PM
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Originally Posted by campylover
I just finished my LHT. I got the stock complete bike and changed the crankset to a 42-32-24(22t is coming). If your heavy or plan on touring it would make $$$ sence to set it up now.
Ditto. Hate to break it to you, OP, but you may have to give up on that nice road triple -- it's just too big. The jump from 30-24 would be difficult to adjust the derailer for. Very difficult. Go ahead and put a mountain triple on the front, and realize that there may be times even then when you have to get off and push.
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Old 10-12-11, 02:59 PM
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I tune my gearing to two things. The middle ring must get me through 80% of unloaded riding and the little ring satisfy. x grade over y distance with z weight.

36 is my happy place on 700c wheels while 38 works for 26in. A 32 in the middle would just cause a lot of unnecessary shifting.

I pretty much live in in 36x(17 or 15) spinning along at 90rpm for my daily rides and 36x(19 or 21) at 65 or so for touring.

The main gears are right in the middle of the 7sp freewheel which makes me happy.
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Old 10-12-11, 03:58 PM
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I've combined a 50, 39 & 26 Crankset with the 10 speed Tiagra 12-30 cassette. The 39t middle chainring is good to 25 mph at a 100 rpm cadence. The 26t small chainring and 30t rear cog combination can crawl up a 20% slope at 4 mph with a 60 rpm cadence.

Of flatter routes, I'll stay on the middle ring while in the 12 to 25 mph speed range, using a 88 to 100 rpm cadence. This covers 80% of my cycling.



You could do this with a road bike drivetrain. The chain-wrap limit of the Tiagra/105/Ultegra GS, according to Shimano, is 37. I'm operating safely, with every gear combination, using a chain-wrap value of 42. It is also possible to exceed the 27t Cog size capacity and use a 32t.

The practical chain-wrap capacity, with a correct length chain, of the road "GS" RD allows the big-big combination of 50t front Chainring & 30t rear cog with a little safety margin and also allows the small-small combination of 26t & 12t without any slack in the chain.

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Old 10-12-11, 04:03 PM
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Originally Posted by pdlamb
Ditto. Hate to break it to you, OP, but you may have to give up on that nice road triple -- it's just too big. The jump from 30-24 would be difficult to adjust the derailer for. Very difficult. Go ahead and put a mountain triple on the front, and realize that there may be times even then when you have to get off and push.
I'm ok with a mountain triple. After all a 48t is not that much lower than a 50t. The more I think about it, 48/36/22 seems to be optimal.

The only concern I have with a MTN triple however is can I use STI shifters with it? I am worried about pull ratio incompatibilities and there doesn't seem to be any solid source of compatibility information out there.
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Old 10-12-11, 04:23 PM
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an IGH convert, I have a 26" wheel bike . 16t cog on the Rohloff, 38 or 39 t chainring.

Recent buy, with another R'off, same 16t cog, but since it's a 20" wheel,
chainring is a 53t.

low is about 18", high is sufficient, in the 90 range.


Got 20 years + on my venerable touring bike, 50,40,24 a 10/10/16t differences
6 speed 13-34t freewheel , friction bar end shifters . it's about a 19" gear..

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Old 10-12-11, 10:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Mithrandir
The only concern I have with a MTN triple however is can I use STI shifters with it? I am worried about pull ratio incompatibilities and there doesn't seem to be any solid source of compatibility information out there.
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STI works fine with the mountain triple. Here's the setup I run on my Nashbar Touring: Sugino Impel 42-32-20 up front with a 10-speed Ultegra 11-28 on the rear wheel. Ultegra STI brifters. You will need a road FD. I use a Dura Ace triple F-derailler (FD-7703). Complete drivetrain is smooth as silk.............GoTour!

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Old 10-13-11, 09:37 AM
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If you ask 10 people an opinion on this forum about gearing you will get about 11 different opinions.

My opinion is that you want the low gears for when you really NEED the low gears. But, otherwise you want lots of closely spaced gears in the range where you spend the most time. I spend the most time in the 60 to 90 gear inch range unladen, with a load I am in the 50 to 80 gear inch range the vast majority of time. I like to have about 5 (or more) closely spaced gears in these ranges for different windage or slight variation in grade. I also like a really high gear or two for long slight downhill rides.

I have toured with a 52/42/24 front and eight speed Sram 11/32 (11/12/14/16/18/21/26/32) rear as shown in photo. That has one and a half step gearing and I only use the 24t chainring when I really need it.



Future tours I plan to use a 46t instead of the 52t chainring, that would give me half step gearing and the front would then be 46/42/24. But, I am keeping the road crankset, only changing one ring. Around town I will keep using the 52t ring, the 46t would only be for touring.

The upshift from the 24t to the 42t chainring is a bit slow but it works, usually in a distance of less than 50 feet. But, I use a friction shifter and I think an indexed shifter would not work for this setup.

You mention that you use drop bars and don't want to use bar end shifters. There are a couple options that can put bar end shifters elsewhere on the bars, one is Kelley Take Offs and one is Paul Thumbies. I have used neither so I have no opinion, I only mention these options as an FYI.
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Old 10-13-11, 01:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Mithrandir
The only concern I have with a MTN triple however is can I use STI shifters with it? I am worried about pull ratio incompatibilities and there doesn't seem to be any solid source of compatibility information out there.
It's possible to set up, for example, Shimano Tiagra front derailer and brifters to satisfy about 95% of riders. The other one in 20 complains about chain rub, slow shifting, dropped downshifts, or something. (Maybe a piece of pine pollen on their saddle?) It'll probably work for you.
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Old 10-13-11, 01:19 PM
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Originally Posted by pdlamb
Ditto. Hate to break it to you, OP, but you may have to give up on that nice road triple -- it's just too big. The jump from 30-24 would be difficult to adjust the derailer for. Very difficult. Go ahead and put a mountain triple on the front, and realize that there may be times even then when you have to get off and push.
I run a triple 50-39-24 with No Problems. 11-34 cassette.



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Old 10-13-11, 01:21 PM
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Originally Posted by 10 Wheels
I run a triple 50-39-24 with No Problems. 11-34 cassette.



I run 42-32-20 with 12-32 9 spd. with no problems using Shimano indexed barcons.
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Old 10-13-11, 01:36 PM
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half step gearing with a modern as you say (11/12/14/16/18/21/26/32) cassette is not as practical
as it was when there were less cogs, and the difference between then was larger,
28/44/48.,(13/15/17/20/24/30) perhaps.. [my 80's specialized expedition came with that setup].
but with an 11 or 12 t top cog you hardly need a 52t,
so for that reason the 46t chainring is a reasonable change..

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Old 10-13-11, 02:57 PM
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Originally Posted by pdlamb
It's possible to set up, for example, Shimano Tiagra front derailer and brifters to satisfy about 95% of riders. The other one in 20 complains about chain rub, slow shifting, dropped downshifts, or something. (Maybe a piece of pine pollen on their saddle?) It'll probably work for you.
Well, except for the LHT being set up for canti or v-brakes, not road brakes. ;-)
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Old 10-13-11, 06:10 PM
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Originally Posted by mulveyr
Well, except for the LHT being set up for canti or v-brakes, not road brakes. ;-)
So will that be a problem? I'm probably going to run 28mm to 40mm tires on it (probably start with 40mm and work my way down as I lose weight) and want to keep the option of fenders open. Though since I no longer plan on commuting with this bike (office is closing, going to work from home), I'll have more freedom in choosing when and where to ride it, so I probably won't use them initially.

On my Hybrid I use V-brakes. I originally had top-pull canti's but I hated them, I could never get them adjusted properly. V-brakes are easier to adjust and I feel like they offer me more braking power. I haven't even begun to think what brakes to put on the LHT yet, I suppose that was an afterthought :\

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Old 10-13-11, 06:16 PM
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Originally Posted by Mithrandir
So will that be a problem? I'm probably going to run 28mm to 38mm tires on it (probably start with 38mm and work my way down as I lose weight) and want to keep the option of fenders open. Though since I no longer plan on commuting with this bike (office is closing, going to work from home), I'll have more freedom in choosing when and where to ride it, so I probably won't use them initially.

On my Hybrid I use V-brakes. I originally had top-pull canti's but I hated them, I could never get them adjusted properly. V-brakes are easier to adjust and I feel like they offer me more braking power. I haven't even begun to think what brakes to put on the LHT yet, I suppose that was an afterthought :\
The problem is that the road brake levers that you get in brifters pull a different amount of cable than cantis or v-brakes, so they don't work well together.

There are kludgy solutions - there's a product called a "Travel agent", for example, which you can put inline that will allow you to mix and match short-pull and long-pull brakes with the opposite kind of lever. But they add complexity and friction.
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Old 10-13-11, 06:40 PM
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Originally Posted by fietsbob
half step gearing with a modern as you say (11/12/14/16/18/21/26/32) cassette is not as practical
as it was when there were less cogs, and the difference between then was larger,
28/44/48.,(13/15/17/20/24/30) perhaps.. [my 80's specialized expedition came with that setup].
but with an 11 or 12 t top cog you hardly need a 52t,
so for that reason the 46t chainring is a reasonable change..
Since I currently have one and a half step gearing, to change to the next gear for a slight change in wind or grade, I am shifting one shifter up and the other down. Half step would allow half of those shifts to be made with one shifter, not both.

The main reason that I would be changing from a 52t to 46t is that I would gain a gear of 56.5 inches in between my 51.6 and 60.1 inch gears, based on my 26X2.0 Dureme tire diameter. There have been a lot of miles where I wished I had a gear in that range.

Yeah, years ago when you probably had a five or six speed cluster in the rear, half step gearing was more important than now, but that does not mean that half step is no longer worth having. I have a 1961 vintage Italian bike with half step on the five speed cluster and double front.

Sometimes a high gear can be very nice to have. A couple years ago, I used my highest gear of about 130.6 gear inches for about 40 continuous miles one day where there was a constant one and a half percent downhill grade. That is why I am keeping the 52t for around town use, I use it and use my highest gear on several downhill routes.
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Old 10-14-11, 05:19 AM
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It will depend a little on whether you plan on loaded, self-sufficient touring or credit card touring where you just have a set of clothes and toothbrush. In my own case, I haven't found a low gear I didn't like, and would definitely favor the small mountain triple you mentioned. Anything above 48T is a chainguard. My Cannondale is currently set up with a 24/36/46, and I have no need for anything bigger.
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Old 10-14-11, 06:24 AM
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Originally Posted by mulveyr
The problem is that the road brake levers that you get in brifters pull a different amount of cable than cantis or v-brakes, so they don't work well together.
Cantis and caliper (road brakes) are short pull, v-brakes and most discs long-pull (there are a couple short-pull disc brakes, but I digress). Set up with cantis, and you are good to go without the travel agencts. Or, go with the new disc LHT and use the Avid BB7 road version discs, which are short pull (the mountain version of the bb7 is long pull, so make sure to get the correct version).
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Old 10-14-11, 06:28 AM
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Originally Posted by fotooutdoors
Cantis and caliper (road brakes) are short pull, v-brakes and most discs long-pull (there are a couple short-pull disc brakes, but I digress). Set up with cantis, and you are good to go without the travel agencts. Or, go with the new disc LHT and use the Avid BB7 road version discs, which are short pull (the mountain version of the bb7 is long pull, so make sure to get the correct version).
Doh! Brain fart - yes, canti's are short pulls. Though personally, after dealing with cantis on my wife's LHT and linears on my kids' bikes, I find the linears much easier to adjust.
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Old 10-14-11, 06:30 AM
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Originally Posted by mobilemail
It will depend a little on whether you plan on loaded, self-sufficient touring or credit card touring where you just have a set of clothes and toothbrush. In my own case, I haven't found a low gear I didn't like, and would definitely favor the small mountain triple you mentioned. Anything above 48T is a chainguard. My Cannondale is currently set up with a 24/36/46, and I have no need for anything bigger.
I don't think the OP is planning to do any loaded, self-sufficient touring.
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Old 10-14-11, 06:45 AM
  #24  
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Here are my thoughts. First off I think it very wise for heavier riders to look for assistance in the touring forum, a lot of the same things apply from the heavier built frames and wheels to gearing issues. When it comes to gearing I agree with most of what I have read here. I'm also a believer in the triple chain ring and starting the quest for one's personal setup with the center ring covering the widest percentage of the duty. Here is the one place larger riders may differ from touring riders IMO. and that is cadence vs torque. A 175 lbs in shape tour rider loaded with 75 lbs of gear may well be able to spin at 100 RPM with relative ease. Be it with higher gearing making speed or low gearing climbing. The 250 lbs rider without any extra cargo has larger heavier legs and slower muscles conditioned by years of walking around with the extra weight. Once you get above 250 or 300 lbs of body weight you are in a area even most tour riders don’t see on tour. The solution for such riders could be to just avoid all hills above a certain grade or do their analysis based around where their bodies most productive output is at. The only factor left that’s a variable is "time".

Age and weight have similar adverse effects on what gearing is optimal. We have to take into account cadence and gears at the same time and I like to view it in a program like this one.
https://home.earthlink.net/~mike.sherman/index-shift.html
In my case age has robbed me of a little and weight a little more. I realistically input my cadence in at 60 to 90 RPM. I have found out that spinning too light for prolonged times will wind me more than a lesser cadence (still spinning) but with more of a torque input. For me it's not mashing if on a slight downhill or with a tail wind I'm in a tall gear like someone mentioned above say 110 GI and only using a cadence of 30 to just add a little speed and to keep legs warmed up.

My bike came 52,42,30 11-32 9sp change one was 52,42,26 change two was 12-36 change three was 44,32,22 Hated 32 as a middle gear and was switching 44,32 all the time. change four was back to the 52,42,26 and that’s where I am now. Change five if there is one will be 48,42,26 and maybe try a 24. The STI has had no problem with any of the first 4 changes by the way. I never cross chain past the midpoint on the cassette but if you do the trim on the STI works well if needed.

My main point I guess is with my liking of slightly lower cadence slightly higher torque The solution for me was the 42 as a middle chain ring and a overall larger cassette. When in the 42 center position doing 70 RPM my speed range is 6.5 to 19.5 MPH That covers a lot of my riding needs. The 26/36 combo gives me 19.4 GI or 4 MPH at 70 rpm.
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Old 10-14-11, 07:02 AM
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Mithrandir, As far as a gearing range, 20-100 GI was the most often recommended to me when I built my first touring bike. This seems, so far, to work out pretty well. I haven't needed either extreme yet, but they're there if I do and I prefer to have as close a ratio as possible for the most used GI in the middle. I find it's nice to have multiple cassettes in the parts bin, or on other bikes to borrow from, for tailoring the gearing to a specific route.

I've used Travel Agents on my Santana to allow linear pull brakes to work with integrated shifters and they worked perfectly.

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