Gearing questions

November 7, 2017 Posted by Lenore Koch

My bike has 26/36/48 on the front and 12-30 on the rear (10 speed). I don’t find myself using all of the rear unless I’m 100 miles in and feeling like I got my ass kicked by mother nature, but I’m glad it’s there. The 36 and 48 rings are perfect for me, with the 36 offering enough speed for all but the most windless flat terrain and a good overlap with the top of my 48 tooth ring. If I’m near the bottom of the 36, I can almost always find a gear a few gears up on the 48 where I’m comfortable at a similar speed.

I don’t think a 50/34 with an 11-32 would be comfortable for me. It would require me to give up my top two climbing gears, which when I’m tired, I’m glad they’re there if the grade gets steep. The 50 ring would put me near the top of that cassette in the flats, where I’d be either in or too near the big/big combo or between rings, which is annoying. My ladyfriend who rides with me has 48/32, which I would find much more useful than 50/34 (especially since she has a 36 tooth cog in the back to bail her out if it’s rough).

Having always had triples on every bike I’ve built/rode, I could probably find a double that would work for me, if I had to, I’ve just never had to make that compromise, so I never had to try to figure out where I’d be comfortable. The triple allows me to do probably 80% of my riding time in the middle ring, gives me the small ring when I need to slow down to keep my heart rate/intensity under control, and gives me a big ring for descending and for the nice sunny days when the wind is at my back. If you can find a way to duplicate that feeling with the right double, go for it!

Triples are heavier and my three ranges overlap each other quite a bit, so I am not unpersuaded that I could find a double setup that’d work for me, I’ve just never had to, because the triple gives me the ability to have whatever overall range I want with closer steps between gears, in compromise for the increased weight and complexity of the triple (having to trim the front d in certain gears, and it’s probably more of a pain to get dialed in exactly right to be able to use all 30 gears). It’s worth it for me, but the trend is definitely NOT toward the kinda setup I’m running, so take my advice with a grain of salt.

50/34 with 32 teeth in the rear was designed for road bikes with a rider and a seat bag. Once you add weight to that bike, you’re going to want more gear than that, unless you live in Nebraska.

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