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LOW gearing

Old 09-01-14, 01:58 PM
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LOW gearing

This past spring I injured my knee. It sucks. PCL tear lvl 2 and some issues with my patella tendon. I completed about 6 weeks of physical therapy and now feel much better.

Prior to my injury I was able to climb 18% grades in 22t/34t gearing with a 175mm crank and 622-40 wheel. I weigh about 220 lbs (tall male), bike is 35 lbs, and load was approx 25-45 lbs depending on how much water/food I'm hauling. I never really had issues. This was in the Rocky mtns summer 2013.

This year I toured upstate NY via the Erie canal and then linked up to the Adirondack Park loop. I had to bail out on the mountains pretty dang early because my damn knee couldn't handle the exact same configuration as before. My knee gets better daily but before my next mountain tour I am going to need some help. Or, at the very least, an EXCELLENT bail out option. I can and have balanced my bike climbing up these mega grades at 2 MPH or so. I would love to spin @ 80 RPM at these speeds.

So, who else is running some superbly low gearing? 20t/42t? Longer cranks (I am 6'4" with a 33.5" inseam)? Smaller wheels? I've got a White Industries MI6 rear hub so I'm not TOO concerned about torquing it to death. This hub comes standard spec'd on many tandems.

Oh, and walking hurts about 1000x more than cycling up big hills. So don't even mention the option 'walk up the hill.' It really aggravates my knee to walk up steep grades, pushing a loaded bike, for more than a few steps. I would rather go at a crawl on my bike.
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Old 09-01-14, 02:07 PM
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I went out for 222km on the weekend and was testing out the bike under extreme loading conditions (45kg) and was packing some extra comfort gear and colder weather gear... my bike has a 16 gear inch low and I have one leg that does not work at 100% and this was sufficient for me to climb some long grades of varying degree with relative ease and handle some bad roads, gravel and trails we took on the route.

My expedition bike has a 20/32/44 with a 12-32 block... I have been dealing with this for quite a long time.

A friend met us at the overnight location and humped all our gear back in his car so I was running at 21 kg on the way back... average speed on the way out was 16kmh (102km) and we and we averaged 24kmh on the way back which was good after the previous day.

I also don't walk well because of the back injury that affects my left leg... there is no walking up hills for me either.

Would seriously suggest Biopace chainwheels as they really do lower the stress on the knees... they are no longer in production but they are not hard to find.
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Old 09-01-14, 02:07 PM
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Ultralight touring would also be something to consider... my next little road trip will be all of that with minimal gear.
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Old 09-01-14, 03:53 PM
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Tadpole trike Triple crank + a SRAM Dual drive internal 3 speed + a cassette .. the low will be in the 12" range.

but there you need 3 wheels so you dont fall over going that slow.

you can write your name in chalk on the road at that rate.
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Old 09-01-14, 04:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Sixty Fiver
I

Would seriously suggest Biopace chainwheels as they really do lower the stress on the knees... they are no longer in production but they are not hard to find.
Unfortunately I usually find them in the trash. Really agree that they reduce some knee stress. I am looking for one in 24-28 tooth for my granny, old one wore out and I am running a regular cog now.
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Old 09-01-14, 04:13 PM
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Smallest biopace was 28t .. it was a on a 74 bolt circle after all ..

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Old 09-01-14, 05:45 PM
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Mountain Tamer could get below 20 for the granny, I think that only works with a 74mm BCD triple crank however. It would be a complicated installation, new crankset, maybe new bottom bracket. But with the existing rear wheel and 34t big cog, a 17t granny on the Mountain Tamer could result in about 13.8 gear inches (approximate).
Mountain Tamer Triple adapter - LOWER GEARS for bikes of all kinds

If you try this, carry a few spare quick links in case you start snapping chains, that would be a LOT of tension on the chain. If it was me, I would be nervous about getting my shoe cleats out of the pedals fast enough if I snapped a chain on a steep uphill at less than 3 mph speed. Snap a chain and you might be going backwards in less than a second.

I hate steep hills.

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Old 09-02-14, 08:09 AM
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One of the benefits to touring on a trike is you can gear as low as you want and not have to balance at such slow speeds. You can also stop and start as needed to rest without the same hassles as an upright bike.

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Old 09-02-14, 09:15 AM
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Lots..and lots...and lots...of people will tell you that it is "impossible" to ride a bike at 3 mph. Just because they lack the skill to ride at that speed doesn't mean that it is impossible. I completed a mountain bikepacking trip last week over 3 tough passes that included lots and lots of riding at less than 3 mph while negotiating rocky jeep roads with a loaded bike. It's not easy. It's not even necessarily fun but it is doable.

I also have to agree that walking a bike...especially up a steep rocky jeep road...is far worse than riding it. Because of the terrain and trail conditions and altitude, I ended up walking about about 8 miles of the route. Anytime I could pedal, even when the road was barely passable and my heart was about to jump out of my mouth and my lungs were screaming for air, was far better than pushing the damned bike.

A 20 tooth chainwheel is pretty easy to get for a mountain bike crank (104/64). You can find them on Fleabay. You can also find 36 and 38 tooth cassette cogs to replace your 34 on a 9 speed cassette. The jump from the 30 tooth cog to a 36 tooth or 38 tooth cog isn't all that large nor difficult. A 20 tooth ring will give you a 16" gear (20/34), a 15" gear (20/36) or a 14" gear (20/38) depending on what cog you use. At 60 rpm, that's 2.8mph, 2.7 mph or 2.5 mph, respectively.
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Old 09-02-14, 09:49 AM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute
Lots..and lots...and lots...of people will tell you that it is "impossible" to ride a bike at 3 mph. Just because they lack the skill to ride at that speed doesn't mean that it is impossible.
+1

As an experiment I tried to see how slow I could go while still pedaling on level ground. Apparently my Cateye computer won't tell you if you are going less than two MPH!!! I was still upright and pedaling with no fear of falling over.
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Old 09-02-14, 10:20 AM
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try restarting on a steep hill, in a super low gear. the momentum goes away so soon you dont have enough time to clip in the other foot.

BTW I Have a Mountain Tamer Quad Kit to sell a 26 16 combination , used briefly to experiment with 25 years ago . 74 BCD Mount on crank.
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Old 09-02-14, 11:30 AM
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Originally Posted by fietsbob
try restarting on a steep hill, in a super low gear. the momentum goes away so soon you dont have enough time to clip in the other foot.
It's difficult but not impossible to start on a steep hill in a very low gear. There are tricks to learning how to do it is all. One method is to hold the front brake on with your dominate foot at about the 2 o'clock position. Push down on the pedal, hop up on the saddle and release the brake all at the same time. It's a little complicated but possible. Clipless pedals help since you can pull up with your rear foot to add some oomph to the pedal stroke.

If you have a rock or curb handy, you can put one foot on the curb (or rock), put pressure on the front pedal, hold the front brake and then push on the pedal and release the brake at the same time. No need to hop up in the saddle.

If you have a tree handy, you can put both feet in the pedals, hold the tree with one hand and the brake with the other, then just release the brake, release the tree and pedal. Easy peasy.

These are all things that mountain bike riders do on a regular basis on trails that are about 20 feet narrower, much steeper and much rockier than you'll find in normal touring. An afternoon of mountain biking will teach you all these skills...slow speed riding, slow speed starting and how to start on an impossibly steep hill...in about 3 hours. You'll even learn how to ride at 3 mph while climbing over rocks which is not something you encounter on most bicycle tours.
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Old 09-02-14, 11:34 AM
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I just cross the street/road then turn down hill, then turn around .

this was more about 'I can ride slow on the flat' , so I said.. what about hills ?

when you need that low gear and will be slow because of the work load.
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Old 09-02-14, 03:08 PM
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Originally Posted by fietsbob
try restarting on a steep hill, in a super low gear. the momentum goes away so soon you dont have enough time to clip in the other foot.
In this case, get off the bike and shift it into a higher gear. Then downshift again.

(Starting on steep slopes is even more difficult on a FWD recumbent... )

I routinely ride at under 3 mph. I'm grated down to 17" and if go lower if I could without screwing up my top end our the spacing.

All that said, a recumbent true for touring is a brilliant idea.
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Old 09-02-14, 04:26 PM
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I need 3.5 mph to remain upright, those of you that can balance at very low speeds have skills that I do not have.

I have trouble starting on a hill if it is steeper than about 5 or 6 percent with a full load of touring/camping gear. My last tour, several hills were 8 percent.
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Old 09-02-14, 07:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN
I need 3.5 mph to remain upright, those of you that can balance at very low speeds have skills that I do not have.

I have trouble starting on a hill if it is steeper than about 5 or 6 percent with a full load of touring/camping gear. My last tour, several hills were 8 percent.
Do you fall over every time you come to a stop? If so, I feel sorry for you with all those scrapes and bruises. You probably should learn how to stop without falling over. It's effective but those bandaid bills must be getting out of hand

If not, you have the skills to ride at speeds lower than 3.5 mph. It's just stopping without really actually hitting 0 speed.

On the hills issue, what did you do, build a cabin? You got home so, obviously, you got started some how. Honestly, the techniques I laid out above are pretty easy to master. My last tour (last Sunday) had grades of over 15% with rocks and I could still get started by doing exactly what I described. I couldn't keep going all the time but I could get started.
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Old 09-03-14, 08:47 AM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute
Do you fall over every time you come to a stop? If so, I feel sorry for you with all those scrapes and bruises. You probably should learn how to stop without falling over. It's effective but those bandaid bills must be getting out of hand
...
Why would I fall over?
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Old 09-03-14, 09:01 AM
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Cyccocommute is a lover of Red Herrings, puts them in often.
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Old 09-03-14, 10:22 AM
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I need about 3.5 mph too in order to maintain my balance when not going the trivial distance required to start/stop. I can ride at some slower speeds but I don't choose to for any extended time because it requires constant concentration - not what I'm out for while on tour.
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Old 09-03-14, 10:23 AM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN
Why would I fall over?
How do you stop your bike? You said that you have to be above 3.5 mph to "stay upright". That implies that you fall over below 3.5 mph. I can take you at your word that you can't stay upright at 3.5 mph but I fail to see how you can deal with stopping the bike if that is your standard. Stopping a bike implies hitting 0 mph at some point which says to me that you don't fall over when you hit 3.5 mph so you have the skills necessary to ride slower than that speed and just need to work on them. I suspect your "3.5 mph" standard is more a psychological limit than a physical one.

No red herrings, just common sense.
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Old 09-03-14, 10:37 AM
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Originally Posted by fietsbob
try restarting on a steep hill, in a super low gear. the momentum goes away so soon you dont have enough time to clip in the other foot.

BTW I Have a Mountain Tamer Quad Kit to sell a 26 16 combination , used briefly to experiment with 25 years ago . 74 BCD Mount on crank.
If the road is quiet and I can see traffic approaching from both directions, I'll start perpendicular to the center line. I'll then loop downhill for 20 feet and form a 20 foot diameter 270 degree loop that will soon have me going uphill with a little momentum and both feet clipped in.

I only do this a few times a year when the road is 10% or more.
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Old 09-03-14, 03:45 PM
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Originally Posted by fietsbob
Cyccocommute is a lover of Red Herrings, puts them in often.
I think he is serious. Reminds me of the the type of question I might have heard from a sophmore engineering student years ago.
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Old 09-03-14, 05:47 PM
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ANYWAYS.....

I am dealing with a similar knee issue. I toured Texas-NY State with 22/34 as a granny, worked fine most of the way until New York State. I now have two 20 tooth chainrings on hand from the guy who makes 'em in California (be aware they arrive in an envelope regular mail so there will be no tracking numbers or parcel delivery). I'm gonna have to machine down the heads of the mounting bolts (as instructions suggest) before they will not hit the chain on this tiny chainring.

My plain ol' friction levers on the downtube should allow me to transition to 9 speed (no problems with the original derailleurs going from a 7 speed freewheel on a 27" wheel to an 8 speed cassette on a 700c) so I also have an 11-36 tooth 9 speed cassette inbound as we speak. Should lower my gear inches from my present 17" to around 15". I'm pretty I'd need a new derailleur also to clear a 42 tooth cog.

I was spinniing at 4.5-5 mph with the 22/34 set up, I'll keep folk informed on how the 20/36 works.

Mike

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Old 09-04-14, 08:51 AM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN
I think he is serious. Reminds me of the the type of question I might have heard from a sophmore engineering student years ago.
Yes, I am serious. You reach zero speed on a bike when you stop and you start from zero speed. If you can start and stop a bike from a standstill, you won't fall over on your bike below 3.5 mph. Have you ever ridden your bike next to someone who is walking? Slowed down to go around a pedestrian on a trail? Slowed down at a stoplight and almost put your foot down but the light changed and you could pedal away? If you have you've ridden a bike at less than 3.5 mph. All it takes is a bit of practice and you can do that anytime you like. It's a skill that comes in really handy for lots of applications, not the least of which is climbing a hill in an incredibly low gear.

Originally Posted by Sharpshin
ANYWAYS.....

I am dealing with a similar knee issue. I toured Texas-NY State with 22/34 as a granny, worked fine most of the way until New York State. I now have two 20 tooth chainrings on hand from the guy who makes 'em in California (be aware they arrive in an envelope regular mail so there will be no tracking numbers or parcel delivery). I'm gonna have to machine down the heads of the mounting bolts (as instructions suggest) before they will not hit the chain on this tiny chainring.

My plain ol' friction levers on the downtube should allow me to transition to 9 speed (no problems with the original derailleurs going from a 7 speed freewheel on a 27" wheel to an 8 speed cassette on a 700c) so I also have an 11-36 tooth 9 speed cassette inbound as we speak. Should lower my gear inches from my present 17" to around 15". I'm pretty I'd need a new derailleur also to clear a 42 tooth cog.

I was spinniing at 4.5-5 mph with the 22/34 set up, I'll keep folk informed on how the 20/36 works.

Mike
I have the 20 tooth rings on a couple of bikes and there is no need to do anything other than install them. I've not had any contact issues with the bolt heads nor the arm that cause significant problems.
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Old 09-04-14, 11:11 AM
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CLB, If I remember correctly a patella tendon is sensitive to range of motion (?). If so, you may want to consider a shorter crank arm. Your therapist can help on this point.

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