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What's the best way for me to find an easier gear?

Old 03-29-14, 06:04 AM
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What's the best way for me to find an easier gear?

I ride a Surly Long Haul Disc.

In a couple weeks I'll be riding into the Appalachian mountains on a weekend trip. I've done a lot of riding up there over the years but this will be my first self supported touring ride up there. Aside from this specific ride, I just want to make my lowest gear a little better for steep climbs. It's not far off right now but I think I can improve it a little and make the really long steep climbs less demanding.

I'm not sure if I should change something out with the cassette or the chain rings. My (9 speed) cassette ranges from 34 - 11 teeth. My chain rings range from 26 - 48 teeth. With 26 inch tires, I calculate the lowest gear at 19.88 inches.

I have a cog in the rear that is worn out anyway. Last time I put a fresh chain on, I found that under a whole lot of load I could make it hop over the teeth occasionally. Then it settled down after a few days of riding on the new chain.

So what should I change to find a lower gear? If I put a smaller chainring in the front, will that make shifting up from that little chainring less smooth? It works great right now. Or should I swap out the cassette with another?

Last edited by Walter S; 03-29-14 at 07:47 AM. Reason: correct math
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Old 03-29-14, 07:44 AM
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That is a low enough gear that I personally probably wouldn't bother much, but a 24 T chain ring is an easy swap, can be about $12 or so, and will probably shift fine. It is only a small difference though. To go much lower on the front you probably would need to swap cranks for one with a smaller bolt circle on the inner position.

I don't know what your packing style is, but... In my experience, the biggest thing you can do for making climbing easier other than maintaining a good fitness level is to pack a lighter load possibly on a lighter bike. I found it liberating when I went to U/L gear on a lighter bike with a loaded weight less than a lot of folks bike weights with empty bags. You can get some benefit without going that extreme though.

The climbs in the Appalachians are crazy steep but never super long. Walking one once in a while wouldn't be the end of the world. I actually have found it a nice change of pace and sometimes do so when I wouldn't need to.

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Old 03-29-14, 08:05 AM
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Thanks for that advice. I might stick with what I have or go a little lower, to the 24. Good thoughts on packing. I'm a heavy packer most of the time, so I've got easy options there.

I agree on walking for sure. I recently went across north Alabama, which was very doable except for a handful of places. I walked for maybe 1/2 mile going across the state.
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Old 03-29-14, 08:06 AM
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That gearing sounds fine to me, but if you want lower you could swap in a 24T chainring like this.

Last edited by BigAura; 03-29-14 at 08:11 AM.
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Old 03-29-14, 08:27 AM
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Originally Posted by BigAura
That gearing sounds fine to me, but if you want lower you could swap in a 24T chainring like this.
I don't know anything at all really about how to choose the right chainring - like what questions to ask. But this one says it is for an 8 speed. Mine is 9 speed.
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Old 03-29-14, 08:33 AM
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Originally Posted by Walter S
I don't know anything at all really about how to choose the right chainring - like what questions to ask. But this one says it is for an 8 speed. Mine is 9 speed.
I'm quite sure that the ring is fine for 9 speed. I'd email Jenson just to verify.
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Old 03-29-14, 08:37 AM
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Walter S, There probably wouldn't be a problem, but just in case, two weeks from the start of a tour is a short period of time to work out any possible shifting issues with a 24T, or smaller granny. A 24T granny chain ring would only gain you about one gear inch anyhow.

I think second guessing the equipment is common, in many activities. If you really need a deeper granny this trip should be a good test. In the interim, enjoy the tour.

Brad
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Old 03-29-14, 09:30 AM
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Originally Posted by bradtx
Walter S, There probably wouldn't be a problem, but just in case, two weeks from the start of a tour is a short period of time to work out any possible shifting issues with a 24T, or smaller granny. A 24T granny chain ring would only gain you about one gear inch anyhow.
I'm not looking for a big change anyway. I would not be able to hold the bike up without constant attention. I'm just fine tuning.

Good point on making a late change though. But as I inspect, I see I've got a tooth on this chainring that is almost flat gone. Adjacent teeth are healthy. I don't know what that means. So maybe I should change it now?
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Old 03-29-14, 10:01 AM
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Originally Posted by Walter S
I'm not looking for a big change anyway. I would not be able to hold the bike up without constant attention. I'm just fine tuning.

Good point on making a late change though. But as I inspect, I see I've got a tooth on this chainring that is almost flat gone. Adjacent teeth are healthy. I don't know what that means. So maybe I should change it now?
This possibly is an intentional difference in shape to aid shifting.

Brad
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Old 03-29-14, 10:08 AM
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24t:34T should be fine , i wear shoes I can walk in for the really steep sections .

Fitting a Stainless steel 24t and the wear is Nil .. after many years ..

Other than that you replace the whole crankset say 42, 32, 22.. & matching compact MTB FD

then the granny gear bolt circle is smaller, allowing the low gear to have even fewer teeth..

Last edited by fietsbob; 03-29-14 at 10:15 AM.
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Old 03-29-14, 10:41 AM
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when discussing changes in GIs, i usually think in terms of the percentage of change rather the absolute change.

if i have a 10 Gis and reduce it by one, i've reduced it by 10 percent. if i have 100 GIs and reduced it by 1, i've reduced it by 1 percent. both have been reduced by 1 GI, but the percentage of reduction, which is what i believe i will notice, is ten-fold between them.

but i believe that what you have is low enough, any lower and people will be walking past you. and do you really want that?

Last edited by hueyhoolihan; 03-29-14 at 10:44 AM.
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Old 03-29-14, 11:19 AM
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I used 26x1.5 in the calculation and it gives 19.0 gi.
Changing to a 24 t granny gives 17.6 gi, thats a reasonable change and will feel probably like one lower gear.
A cheap easy change to do and won't affect your shifting, I'm positive you won't even have to adjust your front derailleur. I changed a 30t to a 26t and it was easy least, no FD adjustments at all, and yours would be only 2t difference.
Buy a crank puller and learn how to do it yourself. Or not.
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Old 03-29-14, 11:29 AM
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I changed the gearing on my daughter's 26" LHT before a tour last summer. I did exactly what Big Aura recommended and used a 24 tooth Sugino chainring I had in my parts box. That put her low gear (24-34) at 17.3 GI, the same as 22-34 on my 700 c bike. Shifting worked well on her bike with the 48/36/24 crank setup. This resulted in about an 8% difference from the 18.8 GI prior to the switch.

Sheldon Brown has a pretty good discussion about 8 speed/9 speed compatibility. He does not see it as an issue, and my experience bears that out. I agree with the folks about changing things this close to starting a tour, but it is an easy option when you return.

https://sheldonbrown.com/harris/chainrings.html

David, Sorry for essentially a repeat of your post. Our posts must have been in the "air" at the same time. Your post got here first.

Last edited by Doug64; 03-29-14 at 11:37 AM.
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Old 03-29-14, 12:01 PM
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Originally Posted by bradtx
This possibly is an intentional difference in shape to aid shifting.

Brad
Exactly. Thanks. I learned about these ramps last year. The lesson did not stick.
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Old 03-29-14, 12:20 PM
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Do note: If you do decide to change the ring yourself, you will need two special tools, square taper crank puller, and chainring nut wrench, along with a 5mm hex.
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Old 03-29-14, 12:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Doug64
I changed the gearing on my daughter's 26" LHT before a tour last summer. I did exactly what Big Aura recommended and used a 24 tooth Sugino chainring I had in my parts box. That put her low gear (24-34) at 17.3 GI, the same as 22-34 on my 700 c bike. Shifting worked well on her bike with the 48/36/24 crank setup. This resulted in about an 8% difference from the 18.8 GI prior to the switch.

Sheldon Brown has a pretty good discussion about 8 speed/9 speed compatibility. He does not see it as an issue, and my experience bears that out. I agree with the folks about changing things this close to starting a tour, but it is an easy option when you return.

Bicycle Chainrings (Chainwheels) from Harris Cyclery

David, Sorry for essentially a repeat of your post. Our posts must have been in the "air" at the same time. Your post got here first.
Thanks for all the info. How do you get 17.3 gi? I calculate 24 / 34 * 26 and get 18.35. Is my method wrong?
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Old 03-29-14, 12:32 PM
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If I put a smaller chainring in the front, will that make shifting up from that little chainring less smooth?
if you Upshift at the top of a climb while at the crest of the summit, and so no longer have a hard pull on the chain,

Then the climb of the chain from the smallest to middle chainring will go much better..

It is part of reading the terrain as you go, and planning your shifts as the terrain requires and allows.

GI= Front t '/, rear t x D (2x r) of wheel in Inches

Last edited by fietsbob; 03-29-14 at 12:37 PM.
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Old 03-29-14, 01:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Walter S
Thanks for all the info. How do you get 17.3 gi? I calculate 24 / 34 * 26 and get 18.35. Is my method wrong?
I used this with 26" x 1.5" tire:
Mike Sherman's Bicycle Gear Calculator
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Old 03-29-14, 02:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Walter S
Thanks for all the info. How do you get 17.3 gi? I calculate 24 / 34 * 26 and get 18.35. Is my method wrong?
You need to factor in tire size as well as wheel size, at Doug points out.
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Old 03-29-14, 04:26 PM
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not that most of us don't know...

calc for GI is as follows:

teeth in chainring divided by the teeth in cog times twice the radius of the rear wheel in inches. radius measured from ground to center of rear axle with tire fully inflated and rider sitting on bike.

IME, calcs on website calculators can be off by as much as 15%. although in comparisons, as long as the same calculator is used for all calculations, it's not all that important, after all, it's just a number.
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Old 03-29-14, 05:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Walter S
Thanks for all the info. How do you get 17.3 gi? I calculate 24 / 34 * 26 and get 18.35. Is my method wrong?
^^^ That's the correct method - gear ratio x wheel diameter. You can also factor in crankarm length ratio if you wish to compare drivetrains with varying crankarm lengths, in addition to different chainrings and cassette cogs.

26" is the approximate outer diameter of a 559mm BSD rim with ~26x2.0" tire mounted. You could measure the exact outer diameter of wheel (rim+tire compressed slightly under load of rider+cargo) if you want to to get it technically correct.

Sugino commonly labels their cranksets and chainrings as 7/8 speed compatible, but it is widely known in the touring community that these rings will work with 9 spd drivetrains too.
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Old 03-29-14, 05:38 PM
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Originally Posted by hueyhoolihan
after all, it's just a number
Exactly, I rode (not pushed!) my bike all over the Appalachian Mountains with 39 gear inches as a minimum and was just fine. Of course I was a 26 yo, in 1979, and that was the way I knew to go. More recently I rode all over the Appalachian Mountains at 54, in 2007, with 20 gear inches, and did just fine. Everything is relative.
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Old 03-29-14, 06:56 PM
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Aura, I'm not too sharp in math but I guess that means in 3 years you'll have to use a bike with 10 gi.........;-)
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Old 03-29-14, 07:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Doug64

David, Sorry for essentially a repeat of your post. Our posts must have been in the "air" at the same time. Your post got here first.
I'm trying to come up with a funny dumbass response about plagiarism or something, but its been a long day....
No worries, yours zinged over from the west and mine from the east, and hopefully they both helped the fellow here.
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Old 03-29-14, 07:11 PM
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Originally Posted by djb
Aura, I'm not too sharp in math but I guess that means in 3 years you'll have to use a bike with 10 gi.........;-)
Well my low gear is currently 19.3. I'm thinking of doing some of the Southern Appalachians this summer, at 61 yo, so we'll see how that goes.
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