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Touring, Gearing for Loaded vs. Unloaded (9-Speed)

Old 06-13-12, 07:42 AM
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Cheers4Gears
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Touring, Gearing for Loaded vs. Unloaded (9-Speed)

Hi everyone,

I know there are lots of discussions out there concerning gearing for loaded touring. I don't want to repeat what's already been said, so I'd like to approach the topic from a different perspective and perhaps get some helpful suggestions.

Here is my situation: I do a few sporadic, loaded tours each season, for which relatively low-gearing is needed. However, I also want to use the bike for unloaded recreational riding during the balance of the year. For this I want much higher gearing. Therefore I need an easy, elegant(=no duct tape!) way to convert the drivetrain back-and-forth between low- and high-gearing, as needed.

For loaded touring, combining a 24/36/48T triple with either an 11-32T or 12-34T cassette would produce a low-end of below 20 gear inches, which is low enough for what I need. But for unloaded recreation riding, I would prefer a low-end of about 25 gear inches, which could be achieved by swapping the inner and middle rings to create a 32/40/48T. Simple conversion, right?


Here's where I ask for your kind suggestions:

Considering availability of replacement chainrings, what type of crankset should I get? A standard 104/64 mountain triple or a 110/74 touring triple? Is there something in the $150-or-less price range?

Where can I find a reasonably priced 32T inner and a ramped & pinned 40T middle? Is there something in the $25 to $35 range?

Would it make better sense to opt for a double crankset instead of a triple? If so, what type is available in 9-speed?



Thanks in advance for reading. Looking forward to replies!

C4G

Last edited by Cheers4Gears; 06-13-12 at 07:47 AM.
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Old 06-13-12, 07:55 AM
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Making this change is not as easy is it might first appear. The front derailleur would have to be repositioned whenever you change out the middle chainring. This is not difficult, but it is a consideration. Also, the shifting quality of the front chainrings will suffer. The parallelogram is designed for a certain ramp or arc. It is designed to follow the standard chainrings provided by Shimano. The new set-ups will not match that arc.

I would just change the rear cassette to a 11-23 when not touring and use the MTB cassettes when touring.

I run a Shimano MTB 48-36 & 22t crankset with a 12-27 when not touring and a 11-32 when touring. I like the tighter spacing of the 12-27 while on fitness rides and I stay in the 36 and 48t chainrings unless I come across a 10% or greater hill.

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Old 06-13-12, 08:01 AM
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I too would just swap the cassette and not bother with the rings. That said I never found a need to move the FD unless changing the size of the big ring.

Edit: To be clear... I too would probably ride it as is for both touring and around town, but if you must do something the cassette would be what I would be inclined to swap.
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Old 06-13-12, 08:05 AM
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Originally Posted by Cheers4Gears View Post
Hi everyone,

I know there are lots of discussions out there concerning gearing for loaded touring. I don't want to repeat what's already been said, so I'd like to approach the topic from a different perspective and perhaps get some helpful suggestions.

Here is my situation: I do a few sporadic, loaded tours each season, for which relatively low-gearing is needed. However, I also want to use the bike for unloaded recreational riding during the balance of the year. For this I want much higher gearing. Therefore I need an easy, elegant(=no duct tape!) way to convert the drivetrain back-and-forth between low- and high-gearing, as needed.

For loaded touring, combining a 24/36/48T triple with either an 11-32T or 12-34T cassette would produce a low-end of below 20 gear inches, which is low enough for what I need. But for unloaded recreation riding, I would prefer a low-end of about 25 gear inches, which could be achieved by swapping the inner and middle rings to create a 32/40/48T. Simple conversion, right?


Here's where I ask for your kind suggestions:

Considering availability of replacement chainrings, what type of crankset should I get? A standard 104/64 mountain triple or a 110/74 touring triple? Is there something in the $150-or-less price range?

Where can I find a reasonably priced 32T inner and a ramped & pinned 40T middle? Is there something in the $25 to $35 range?

Would it make better sense to opt for a double crankset instead of a triple? If so, what type is available in 9-speed?



Thanks in advance for reading. Looking forward to replies!

C4G
Wouldn't changing the rear cassette to a 9 speed 12-25 and having a dedicated chain for that be an easier solution for unloaded touring for less money? Plus you get the benefit of tighter steps shifting compared to the mega range cassette like the 11-32 or 12-34. I don't know about you but with a 30" gear, I could make up a 22% grade with some effort, but anything lower than 16% is fine with anything close to a 30" unloaded.
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Old 06-13-12, 08:20 AM
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Or, just leave it with the wider range touring gearing for your recreational riding. What are you after for your recreational riding? Switching to a narrower range cassette will get you smaller steps between shift points, is that what you are after? In your example of switching chainrings, you aren't upping the high range, just creating smaller steps. So do you really need that or would just keeping the wide range touring gearing work. I could see doing the change if you were spinning out on the 48 chainring, but that doesn't appear to be the case.
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Old 06-13-12, 09:01 AM
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I concur that you can just use the bike with the lower gearing for non-loaded riding.

Ignore the granny gear, and just ride in the middle & big ring. I do that all the time. It's definitely the cheapest and easiest solution.
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Old 06-13-12, 09:10 AM
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48/11x26 is a 113" gear what kind of knees do you wish to keep,
pedaling a gear that High?
at 108" the 48/12 is plenty hard to turn.

Aftermarket Retail ramped and pinned 40/42-110 might be hard to find,
in quality alloy, at $25.. new.

ask at the LBS maybe someone crashed and there are dead parts
in the basement.

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Old 06-13-12, 09:33 AM
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Originally Posted by Bacciagalupe View Post
I concur that you can just use the bike with the lower gearing for non-loaded riding.

Ignore the granny gear, and just ride in the middle & big ring. I do that all the time. It's definitely the cheapest and easiest solution.
Agree. 48-11 @ 100rpm = 35mph. Once I hit that speed, regardless of which bike I'm riding, I'm perfectly happy coasting if there aren't any larger gears available. Even if there are, I'll generally soft-pedal rather than trying to go even faster. If you need to go faster, a dedicated race bike might be appropriate...
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Old 06-13-12, 09:37 AM
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absolutely agree on changing stuff at the rear only. Changing chainrings isnt hard, but it still entails taking off the cranks, mucking with the bolts holding on the rings, putting crank back on-I would get tired of doing it, even a few times a year, and it always could result in not tightening something enough and problems that would come with that (expensive if the crank)

changing a cassette is easier, but then, in the end, if you are really into it, a diff wheel and chain would be the easiest route. Although I can see from a cost pt of view, a diff cassette and chain would be the cheapest route and fairly quick to change out.

To put things in perspective, my Tricross has a 50/39/30 and 11-32. I've hummed and hawed about doing something similar, but frankly I just never got around to it and ride it as is. Yes, a tighter cassette would be nice, but my regular rides have steep stuff, so its ok as-is, especially as I can one day have nothing on the bike, then the next have a pannier with 20lbs in it, so I just leave it.
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Old 06-13-12, 09:42 AM
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I'm confused--you do realize that since you do have gears, you're not limited to smallest/biggest, right? If you want to use a 25 gear inch ratio, don't drop to smallest/biggest, drop to smallest/second or third from the biggest.

You didn't mention anything about the top end, but unless you're really serious about road riding, or riding on dead-flat terrain, 48x11 is a pretty nice gear.
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Old 06-13-12, 09:55 AM
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First determine the range you want when loaded and the range you want unloaded. It may well be, like others have said, that with a 9 X 3 set up, you can accommodate both ranges without changing the system at all. You simply won't use your top gears when touring or your low gears when not touring.

For my part, I have a very wide range in my rear gearing, thanks to my IGH. It's wide enough that I seldom moved between the two chainrings on my compact double up front. I ended up removing the front derailer entirely. When I load the bike up for a trip, I manually move the chain down to the smaller ring. When I come back, I move it back to the big ring. It's effectively two sets of gearing, one for loaded riding and one for unloaded, but it requires no swapping of chainrings or gear clusters.

With a 9 X 3 set up, I would think you could get a wide enough overall range that you could accomplish the same thing just by staying off the big chainring when touring and staying off the small one when not touring. Just think of it as two, separate, 9 X 2 set ups. You can even play with the limit screws on your front derailer if you want to lock yourself out of the upper/lower ends of range, but that seems like more trouble than it's worth. But then by not having a front derailer on my bike, I find that by locking myself out of my lowest gears when unloaded, I have an easier transition to loaded with lower gears when I do go on a trip.
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Old 06-13-12, 10:59 AM
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Originally Posted by sstorkel View Post
Agree. 48-11 @ 100rpm = 35mph. Once I hit that speed, regardless of which bike I'm riding, I'm perfectly happy coasting if there aren't any larger gears available. Even if there are, I'll generally soft-pedal rather than trying to go even faster. If you need to go faster, a dedicated race bike might be appropriate...
It's fun playing with Sheldon Brown's online gear calculator as you'll get the equivalent speed for the respective gear combination. While it's technically possible to go 35mph on the flats, is it realistic in the real touring world? What's really important is to determine the correct gearing to maintain adequate pedal pressure to keep our posture on the bike from sinking into the saddle or the hoods because it's our feet that bears most of our body weight when riding. With a load, you can maintain enough pedal pressure with the cadence to maintain a certain forward momentum. Unfortunately, the same bike without a load makes pedaling too easy which requires the OP to spin faster or slower than need be to maintain correct pedal pressure. Due to the wider gearing inherent with the mega range, every jump is so wide that OP either has to pedal like mad or so slow to maintain correct pedal pressure that it makes riding inefficient and you would tire easily. The most efficient way to deal with this is to use small steps cassette which then provide all 3 chain rings a tighter jump so his cadence even if it's off a bit will not be so drastic and float within less than 10% deviation. The only exception is that, if you've been touring with a 20 lbs or less camping load, then gear changes wouldn't make much sense. In fact, the OP would probably be using higher tighter gear ranges.

Hope this helps.
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Old 06-13-12, 12:28 PM
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At my age, I feel I deserve the gearing I want, without fear of being called a wimp. I like 94/58 cranks because I can set them up with 20-32-42 rings. I now use a 9 spd cluster 12-36. A 95Ē top gear seems just fine for me. If I am running out of pedaling rpm, I should be coasting anyway. Most of the time I am climbing pretty steep hills in the 32-36 combo, but when it is hot toward the end of the day and I am bonked out, and I am loaded up with too much gear, there is no substitute for the 20-36. When I am not touring and not loaded down, I find the spacing of the gears on the 9 spd cluster close enough and high enough that I donít feel the need to change anything.
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Old 06-13-12, 01:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Cheers4Gears View Post

Considering availability of replacement chainrings, what type of crankset should I get? A standard 104/64 mountain triple or a 110/74 touring triple? Is there something in the $150-or-less price range?

Where can I find a reasonably priced 32T inner and a ramped & pinned 40T middle? Is there something in the $25 to $35 range?

C4G
The 110/74 vs 104/64 question.

I'm starting to see those $100 Deore 48-36-26 (104/64) on more bikes. Finding 110 5 bolt middle rings ramped and pinned in certain sizes can be rough unless you spend the $$$ on TA. (Raceface and FSA discontinued production.)

As for changing out the middle rings, I just shift the front rings more unloaded. I try to setup my gears so my favoite 100+ mile gear w/o load is middle down one which means I'll tend to ride in middle-middle loaded -> happy chain line.


My touring bikes setup: 110/74 48-36-24 (700c)and 48-38-24 (26in) with 13-28 on the back. Honestly 48 is a bit big for me on a 700c bike.

If you really want different gearing buy a "go fast" rear wheel with a nice tight race cassette.
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Old 06-13-12, 05:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Cheers4Gears View Post

Considering availability of replacement chainrings, what type of crankset should I get? A standard 104/64 mountain triple or a 110/74 touring triple? Is there something in the $150-or-less price range?


Would it make better sense to opt for a double crankset instead of a triple? If so, what type is available in 9-speed?

C4G
I like the 94/58 5 pin cranks. My favorite crank is the old Deore XT. Now that it is long gone, I have gotten spare cranks from ebay for about $25. More normal people probably would be better served with the standard 104/64 4 pin mountain bike cranks. A 22 should be small enough for most people. 22-32-42 or 44 would work well with a 11 or 12 to whatever.
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Old 06-13-12, 05:21 PM
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OP, here... Thanks for all the great replies!


Originally Posted by Barrettscv View Post
The front derailleur would have to be repositioned whenever you change out the middle chainring.
Isn't the derailleur set to the big, outer chainring, irrespective of the middle and inner? I'm considering using a road front derailleur such as an IRD.


Originally Posted by Barrettscv View Post
I would just change the rear cassette to a 11-23 when not touring and use the MTB cassettes when touring.
I've thought about that, but wouldn't I need to buy a road derailleur due to the parallelogram difference?

Originally Posted by pacificcyclist View Post
I don't know about you but with a 30" gear, I could make up a 22% grade with some effort, but anything lower than 16% is fine with anything close to a 30" unloaded.
Yes, I agree. For me, a 28" or 30" gear is the lowest possible gear for standing on the pedals on an unloaded bike. For anything lower, it becomes too tedious to keep the bike upright. So, I walk.

But for loaded touring, over multiple days or weeks, I need a sit-down-and-pedal gear of about 17.6". Or lower, if touring in a mountainous region with long ascents.

Originally Posted by VT_Speed_TR View Post
What are you after for your recreational riding? Switching to a narrower range cassette will get you smaller steps between shift points, is that what you are after?
I'm not concerned about tight spacing. But I am concerned about even gear inch spacing and recovery shifts between rings. That's why I picked those particular gear combinations (see my original post). My loaded touring set requires 2 recovery shifts for each front shift, whereas my unloaded set only requires 1 recovery shift for each front shift. Perfect!

I'm also concerned about chainline. Consider that the inner chainring lines up between the third and fourth cog of the cassette. That means, the second, third, fourth, and fifth cogs offer the best chainline. For unloaded recreational riding I can stand-and-pedal in those gears without compromising chainline. That's 4-solid gears for standing, before I need to switch chainrings! With a 32T inner ring, my second cog produces about 28.4", which is the lowest I need for standing in any given case. (I can use the first cog to sit-and pedal on lesser inclines.)

Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
48/11x26 is a 113" gear what kind of knees do you wish to keep,
pedaling a gear that High?
For 48/11x26, I calculated 108.5" using Sheldon Brown's calculator. For 48/12x26 I got 99.5. Did I do it wrong?

The 48/12 gearing is more in line with what I want, if the above number is correct. For that matter, a 46/12x26 @ 95.3" would also suit me just fine, but I might need to adjust the middle and inner sizes.


Thanks to everyone!
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Old 06-13-12, 05:39 PM
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Cheers4gears, I just leave my touring gears in place when using the touring bike unloaded. My gear inch range is 20-108 and that is fine for recreational riding.

Brad
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Old 06-13-12, 07:35 PM
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Originally Posted by bradtx View Post
Cheers4gears, I just leave my touring gears in place when using the touring bike unloaded. My gear inch range is 20-108 and that is fine for recreational riding.

Brad
This is what I do, but I am geared a bit lower. IIRC my bottom is around 18" with a top around 100".

Aaron
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Old 06-13-12, 08:12 PM
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Originally Posted by bradtx View Post
Cheers4gears, I just leave my touring gears in place when using the touring bike unloaded. My gear inch range is 20-108 and that is fine for recreational riding.
If I were to live in FlatAsAPancake, Texas then I'd probably opt for a 3-speed Sturmey Archer hub and forget about all this messy derailleur gearing stuff

But, unfortunately, my surroundings are very hilly so I need to plan my gearing very carefully. A 20-108 range seems to imply a 26/36/48 combined with an 11-32 cassette. For me, that equates to a mere 2-usable stand-and-pedal gears for the inner chainring -- the fourth and fifth cogs @ 31" and 36", respectively. To go higher I need to double shift (i.e., from inner to middle ring + recovery shift on the cassette). In hilly territory, that's a LOT of double shifting.

Here's an example of what I need. It's from another bike I own. The drivetrain is a 3x6, with perfect gearing for my hilly rides. Great on flats and downhills, too. It looks like this (according to Sheldon Brown's gear calculator):
Code:
         28          38          48
14    54.6        74.2        93.7
.
.
.
.
28    27.3        37.1        46.8
I haven't counted teeth on all the intermediate cogs, yet. But these are the low and high points. I'm ALWAYS in the right gear with this setup, with minimum chainring shifts and no cross chaining. I want to approximate it for my 3x9 touring bike.

Last edited by Cheers4Gears; 06-13-12 at 08:33 PM.
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Old 06-13-12, 08:44 PM
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Originally Posted by pacificcyclist View Post
It's fun playing with Sheldon Brown's online gear calculator as you'll get the equivalent speed for the respective gear combination. While it's technically possible to go 35mph on the flats, is it realistic in the real touring world?
I routinely ride my touring bike, without a load, down hills where speeds of 40-50mph are possible... if you have the right gearing. I don't, but I can hit 35mph pretty easily. Since the OP wants a single, do-it-all bicycle, and specifically mentions unloaded use, I would think that both ends of the gear range are important to him.
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Old 06-13-12, 09:54 PM
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Cheers4Gears, My gearing works well for me in the Texas Hill Country also. Seems a cassette swap using a 12-25 9S cassette will get you close to what I think you're looking for. A plus is the closer ratios between the cogs.

Brad
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Old 06-13-12, 10:16 PM
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Originally Posted by Cheers4Gears View Post
If I were to live in FlatAsAPancake, Texas then I'd probably opt for a 3-speed Sturmey Archer hub and forget about all this messy derailleur gearing stuff

But, unfortunately, my surroundings are very hilly so I need to plan my gearing very carefully. A 20-108 range seems to imply a 26/36/48 combined with an 11-32 cassette. For me, that equates to a mere 2-usable stand-and-pedal gears for the inner chainring -- the fourth and fifth cogs @ 31" and 36", respectively. To go higher I need to double shift (i.e., from inner to middle ring + recovery shift on the cassette). In hilly territory, that's a LOT of double shifting.

Here's an example of what I need. It's from another bike I own. The drivetrain is a 3x6, with perfect gearing for my hilly rides. Great on flats and downhills, too. It looks like this (according to Sheldon Brown's gear calculator):
Code:
         28          38          48
14    54.6        74.2        93.7
.
.
.
.
28    27.3        37.1        46.8
I haven't counted teeth on all the intermediate cogs, yet. But these are the low and high points. I'm ALWAYS in the right gear with this setup, with minimum chainring shifts and no cross chaining. I want to approximate it for my 3x9 touring bike.
Heh Cheers4Gears, with a 12-25 and your 24T, you'll get 54" to a 26" and with your 36T you'll get 81" then 74.8" all the way down to 38.9". This is assuming you are running a 170mm crank and 700x32c tires. However, it's difficult to compare both bikes unless they both SHARE the same geometries and riding style. You need to keep in mind that in a 27 geared bike, there are a lot of redundant gear ratios to yield a working 14 gears, hence the Rohloff hub. The Shimano Alfine 11 speed hub is basically a 24 speed normal drivetrain with gear redundancies removed. What you are proposing is adding more redundancies to get your working range. Whereas, if you remove them and organize them in a series of working chain rings, then you'll get a better setup.

Which is why a compact double on a cross bike with a 10 speed 12-30 can give you an equivalent gearing of a triple road bike 53/39/30 with a 11-26 at the rear to get you that low 30" gear. In fact, the Salsa Fargo uses the new compact MTB double crankset 40T/27T and a 12-36 10 speed to get roughly 20-90" gearing.

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Old 06-14-12, 04:41 AM
  #23  
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Here is a chart of two drivetrains, one for touring, the other for fitness riding;



The only change is from the 11-32 touring cassette to an 11-23 racing cassette.

The touring gear range is 635% and can be used at higher speeds but can also climb a steep hill with a 40 rpm cadence at 2.2mph. The steps between the gears can require a 16% change in cadence.

The fitness gear range is tighter at 456% and can be used at higher speeds but can also climb a steep hill with a 40 rpm cadence at 3mph. The steps between the gears require only a 8% change in cadence. The middle range can be used at speeds up to 24 mph with tight gear spacing down to 15mph.
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Old 06-14-12, 05:20 AM
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Originally Posted by Cheers4Gears View Post
OP, here... Thanks for all the great replies!

Isn't the derailleur set to the big, outer chainring, irrespective of the middle and inner? I'm considering using a road front derailleur such as an IRD.

I've thought about that, but wouldn't I need to buy a road derailleur due to the parallelogram difference?

Thanks to everyone!
The nine speed Shimano Tiagra front derailleur is ideal for the 48, 36 & 26 (or 22t) crankset. It will work perfectly with both brifters and bar end shifters. If you install a 40 middle ring the derailleur cage might not clear the middle chainring and still be correctly positioned for the bigger and smaller chainrings. You might find a compromised position that is tight when in the middle position but still shifts well on the other chainrings.

Any rear derailleur that shifts an 11-32 correctly will also shift an 11-23.
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Old 06-14-12, 06:13 AM
  #25  
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Another vote for simplicity here. You have a big range of ratios, we've established that you don't need more at the top end, and there is no disadvantage to having low gears that you don't always use. So if I were you, I'd change nothing. If closer ratios when unloaded is what is required, swap the cassette. Anything more complicated is a waste of time and money.
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