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    What kind of gearing works best for those hills?  

For info on how to evaluate your gearing and possibly look into some changes look at the Gearing 101 Tutorial.

You should invest in some reasonable gearing. It seems that the more money one spends on a bike, the more impractical is the gearing for a long hilly tour. Just because you have the budget of a Tour de France professional does not mean that you have his or her leg muscles ...

When I was young and fit and carried my own camping gear, I thought that a 29" bottom gear was reasonable. Now that I'm old and crusty and my tent rides in an 18 wheeler ... I'm down to 26". That's 3O T on the front ring and 32 T on the rear sprocket.

Andrew Black


Since I just became a Grandpa last November I now can justify having a Grandpa Gear, I LOVE IT.

No joking, though. I have had a good 'ol LOW sweet gear for a while now and have NEVER been sorry. While a lot of Cycle Oregon riders were whining on the last day in the Coastal Mountains, I was having a terrific time in my Grandpa Gear. Arrived at the top with a wonderful attitude and false summits are no longer a big disappointment. YES, dear riders, you too can climb like a 4X4 and descend as fast as your nerves will allow.

I think they call that having your cake and eating it too!

Capt. Dink ~

Here we go miss Nanci - -

The difference in your granny gear and my grandpa gear is probably about 1 or 2 teeth on the large cog on the rear. Most 21 speed bikes are set up with 28 or 30 tooth low gear on the rear, while mine is 32.

The front low gear, small chain ring is usually 26 or 28, mine is 24 with the option of going 22. Keep in mind this is not unusual if you self-contain tour any. I need the "extra low" to pull those hills with 65 lbs. of gear. When I'm not loaded it's not hard to climb a "Bear Camp" and maintain a 155 on my heart monitor.

In summary Grandma gears are probably 26X30 and Grandpa gears are 24X32.

Confide with your favorite bike technician and HE will MAKE IT SO !

Keep in mind also you can keep your spin "cadence" up easier, if you have lower gear options.

Capt Dink ~

I just wanted to say a triple is great and I highly recommend it for most riders. I'm a fairly strong rider, just competing the qualifiers for Paris-Brest-Paris. I discovered that when I hit the 250 mile mark of a 370 mile single day ride; my legs wouldn't respond to even small hills on my old Dura Ace 39/26. The new triple's a blessing.....I'll miss this years CO, riding in Paris; 1,200 km in less than 84 hours....I wish everyone a great CO and may you all catch a strong tailwind....


If you have to stop to "suck wind", then you are working too hard, at least for your fitness level. The solution to this is LOWER GEARS. Most stock bikes come with gears that are great for the top competitive riders to race with ... but not for the rest of us to climb 8 or 10 mile hills. Remember, you should aim to maintain a cadence (crank revolutions per minute) between 70 and 80, or else your body is not working efficiently. Most hill climbing problems can be blamed on trying to push too large a gear too slowly.

My bottom gear is 25 inches -- that's a 30 tooth front ring and a 32 tooth rear sprocket, with 27 inch wheels. In contrast, the Trek 5500, top of the line carbon fiber bike has a bottom gear of 45 inches (39 T front / 23 T rear * 27") -- a difference of 80 per cent!! (For that you would pay over $3000). A really fit competitive athlete in a race situation will benefit from the higher gears and closer ratios on that Trek bike. An old codger like me wanting to ride 500 miles in a week and still have fun in the evenings will benefit from the lower gears on a true touring set up, and will never need a gear over 100 inches.

Fortunately, the craze for mountain biking now means that you can buy a stock wide ration hyperglide "cassette" -- the cluster of gears on the axle of the rear wheel. Mine is 14-16-18-21-24-28-32 if I remember correctly. To go with this you may need a rear changer with a longer arm to take up all of that extra chain. This is a good investment, I believe.

Of course, you still have to train! The other important key to hill climbing is using your ankles as well as your legs. Clipless pedals or secure clips and straps help a lot here.

Andrew Black

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Here's a website that will calculate gear inches for you:

If the calculator screen doesn't show up at first, click on "Harris Cyclery" and then click on Sheldon Brown's cycling articles and go to the gears section. You may want to do this anyway for a description of what this stuff means.

Tom Spille

To quote my handy-dandy little sheet o' facts from Bicycling Mag: "A common misconception is that gear inches equal the distance traveled in one crankarm revolution. Not so. To get that figure, multiply the gear inches by pi (3.14)."

The result (pi X gear inches) is referred to as "development".

The web page noted is really cool, though. Very handy for determining which of your gear combinations are actually useful and which are redundant.

>From the page, my top gear-inch measurement is 116.2 (53 X 12, 700C X 23)... multiply that by 3.14 and you get 364.86" or 30.406'. Being inherently skeptical (and not caring what the neighbors think), I did a little rollout down the sidewalk and measured it. Very, very close... 30', 5". The error (.011') is more than likely mine.

Scott Saulsbury

Earlier, I tried to clear up what gear-inches are NOT, but I was still a bit puzzled about what exactly the measurement represents. The web page that Greg cited had the answer, but I blazed right past it the first time around. Here's the quote, thanks to Scott Chilcote: "To understand the gear-inch measurement of a gear, imagine pedaling a single wheel of the same size, with the pedals joined directly at the axle. A forty-inch wheel would be much easier to turn, but slower, than a 100 inch wheel!"

I equate it to visualizing different sizes of "Penny Farthing" bikes... the old high-wheel suicide machines used before the advent of chain drive. The larger the wheel, the faster the bike at a given cadence.

Scott Saulsbury

Exactly as Scott says: the gear in inches is the diameter of the wheel that you would be pedaling on a "Penny Farthing".

You get it by multiplying the actual diameter of your rear wheel (27" for both nominal 27" and 700C wheels -- the actual difference between 27" and 700C is too small to worry about for these purposes) by the number of teeth on the front chain ring, and dividing by the number of teeth on the rear cog. Pretty obviously, a 50T ring and a 25T cog will give you the same gear as a 42T ring and 21T cog, and so on. Similarly, a small wheeled bike with a 13" rear wheel will need a chainring twice as big to have the same gear as a 26" wheeled mountain bike. Gear inches reduces all of these differences to a single number.

Here is some math that you may find interesting, or pointless. How slow do you plan to be on the Larch Mountain ascent? If you have my bottom gear of 25", and plan on a cadence of 70 revs per minute, then in an hour you will travel 25 x pi x 70 x 60 inches. Divide by 63360 to get miles -- you have 5.2 miles/hour. That's a pretty fast walk or a slow run. If you think that you would like to ride _slower_ than that, either you must let your cadence drop below 70 (and loose efficiency) or you will need an even lower gear.

One thing that "gear inches" misses out on, by the way, is the length of the crank. Elementary physics will tell you that the longer the crank arm, the less hard you have to push the pedals to archive a given force at the rear wheel -- in other words, the lower the effective gear. There is a proposal to express cycle gearing as a pure ratio -- the gear in inches divided by the crank length in inches, or equivalently the gear in centimeters divided by the crank arm in centimeters. I forget what this ratio is called. The advantages are that it takes into account all of the relevant variables, and it is a pure ratio, with no units. The disadvantage is that it's new, and that us old codgers have no intuition for what the numbers mean.

End of lecture :-) I avoided all of this before because I just wanted to make the point that low gears are necessary for climbing hills, if you don't want to strain your "engine"! You don't need to be a mathematician to understand that-- but it probably helps to have driven a car with a stick shift.

Andrew Black

Gear - Inches is nothing more than a measure that many cyclists and cycling pro's use as an indicator gear ratios. It is an index and nothing else. For better or worse, it is what we use to talk about our gear combinations.

The smaller the number, the slower and more powerful a specific combination is; the higher the number the faster the combination is. Small gear-inch numbers are an advantage for hill climbing; large gear-inch numbers are an advantage for speed. Such is the trade-off for various chain ring size - cassette cog size combinations.

The formula is: gear-inches = (number of teeth in the chain ring times rear wheel diameter in inches) / (number of teeth in the cog)

So, if you have a 24 tooth chain ring, a 700c rear wheel (700mm = 700 / 25.4 = 27.56 in) and a 34 tooth cog in the rear, like I do on my recumbent, you have a gear-inch number of 19.45 or (24 * 27.56) / 34. This gear combination is suitable for pulling stumps with your bike.

To be very accurate, your tire should be measured as Scott has done in another email, and actually measure the circumference as follows:

FIRST, make sure your tire is pumped to the pressure you normally ride at.

SECOND, enlist a friend or significant other to steady you while you "ride" the bike along a straight line, noting one complete revolution of the tire - beginning and end. Use the valve as an indicator of a full revolution of the tire. This takes some doing - balancing, eyeballing, and pavement marking, along with a steady handlebar hand to insure a straight track along the line. It is important that you ride your bike with nobody supporting your weight. Your friend is there to help you balance at less than a crawl speed.

It helps if your friend has long arms and two sufficiently separated heads - one to help you remain vertical on your bike, and the other to mark the full revolution of the tire on the floor.

THIRD, divide the circumference just obtained by pi (3.14 will do for our purposes - 3.1415926 . . . if you are really into accuracy) to get the diameter.

FOURTH, plug the number into the formula above and VOILA!! Gear-inches for your bike with what ever cog combination you wish to use.

Curt Coleman

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TO JANICE NELSON: In your latest diary you said: "After talking gear ratios with the men at [name deleted] Bicycles, I decided to ride with the gears that came standard on the bike to see how well they work for me. I have a 52-42-30 front chain ring system and 12-25 on the rear hub. They did their best to convince me that this will be low enough for me to climb the Cycle Oregon hills. We'll see!"

MY EXPERIENCE AND RECOMMENDATIONS: Certainly you should ride your new bike and decide if the gear ratios are appropriate for you, or not. {For a test ride, drive to Government Camp and ride your new bike up to Timberline Lodge (6 miles). If you can do it without stopping for a rest, then I will back off my advice, and say great going Janice! If you find it difficult, or very difficult, then I stand firm on my opinion. There will be many segments of roads on Cycle Oregon more difficult than the 6 miles I just mentioned.}

In my opinion, the stock gears on your new bike will NOT be right for you, at least not on Cycle Oregon. (FYI - I base this opinion on 5 Cycle Oregons, familiarity with this year's route, and my understanding of your level of experience, and cycling strength. I know you have lots of great motivation and determination, which will serve you well, but some different gears will serve you even better.)

If the men at [name deleted] Bicycles really believed those gears would work for you on Cycle Oregon, then they gave you bad advice. Either they have never ridden on Cycle Oregon; and/or they are strong riders and those gears would work okay for them and they weren't really thinking about you; and/or they just wanted to make a sale; and/or (from a more optimistic perspective) they really meant to say that you should just try out the bike and then come back and tell them how much it didn't work for you so they can figure out what might work better.

Don't hesitate. After riding it on some long, steep hills (and up to Timberline Lodge), I would certainly take the bike back and talk to them about updating some of your gears. You should have at least a 27 or 28 on the back, and preferably a 30, to match the 30 on the front chain ring. Or see if they can put on a smaller front chainring than the 30. The gear sizes available on your chainring and your hub will vary depending upon your deraileurs' capabilities.

I don't mean to alarm you, just to encourage you to upgrade your gears while your bike is new. The bike store should do it all for free. If the bike won't accommodate any better gearing, then you should look for a different bike, and maybe a new bike shop.


I would most certainly agree with Dave!!

Running the gear inches, brings up over 119 on the top end, and over 33 on the low end. A low end number of THIRTY-THREE is suitable for a very strong rider - ONLY. My opinion is that this is not an appropriate low end for the Janice I rode with in May. She is probably much stronger now, but I would recommend some serious hill climbing tests as Dave suggests. I too, would question the advice she has received.

Janice, if you read this, recall the ride we did when I was very new on my recumbent. As you know, I was very very slow that day. (I am still slow but have since done the same ride about 3 mph faster, and have climbed the same hill without stopping or walking) The low end gear-inch # I had on that day in May was about 22. Today I am running with a low end of 19.5 gear-inches. I may stop on long hills, but I get up them - slowly - but I do it.

My belief is that a low-end gear-inch number for anybody except the stronger riders should be in the 20 to 24 range. Perhaps I am too wimpy when it comes to low end gearing, but such gearing allows _me_ to ride hills I would not otherwise be able to do.

Curt Coleman

Last year just before Reach the Beach I changed from a low end of 28 gear inches down to 19 and kept the top the same at 103. Bob followed suit a couple of months later. (For the technical minded - I went from half steps to full steps.) It gives me 3 new lower gears and the difference in comfort is just incredible. A couple of nights ago as we climbed up to Skyline comfortably spinning away we were passed by a lady toughing it up the hill. She was certainly climbing a lot faster than us, but she looked like she was pushing herself very hard. The impression I got was that she was in her lowest gear and had no choice. While pushing yourself is a part of training, I would not like to have to do endless miles riding as hard as she was while on CO. Last year [CO 11] even with 19 gear inches there were parts that I had to stop and rest at fairly often (such as the climb on the first half of Day 2). I expect the same this year. As I look back though, there is no way I could have made some of those climbs if I had shifted up to where 28 gear inches now lies on my gearing. I don't use that lowest gear a lot (never even needed it on Reach the Beach) but for a good steep hill it is wonderful. The west hills of Portland have some spots that I use it on.

It seems to give my knees a break, too.

The other big advantage is that changing the back gear cluster to have this low gear also lowered the bottom of the range that the front chain rings cover. This means that I don't have to shift chain rings nearly as often when riding on hills (especially rollers). I always slow down a little when I shift the front chain rings on a hill.

Rox Heath

Your comment on the "endless miles riding as hard" is very noteworthy here.

If any of you have hill climbing doubts, or difficulties, I would highly suggest you look into lower gearing options. In training we typically do a big day then a not so big day, then maybe a day off. On CO they will all seem like big days . This will be seven days in a row (unless you bask in camp during the layover days) You won't get quite the same level of sleep and the temp extremes will not aid in the process either.

You *do get stronger* as the tour progresses, but the constant miles and frequent climbs can wear on you. Anything you can do to make the climbing easier on yourself is a worthy investment. Even if you don't have to use your lowest gear, its nice to have the piece of mind of knowing you could if the going got tougher.

Don "Don't wait till you see the elevation graphs in the tourbook" Bolton

<Will try Larch mountain this week-end and I am a little nervous.>

Why be nervous? Sounds like you are doing some pretty serious hills already. Try Larch Mountain. It is not straight up. If you can do it without serious struggling your gearing should be adequate for CO. If you can't make it, turn around and look for some lower gears.

The gearing suggested on this list serve lately has been quite low. Many a rider has done CO on a double chainring bike. Thirty years ago the smallest Campy chain ring you could fit to a Nouvo Record crank was a fourty two tooth! I have seen a rider do CO on a fixed gear, ie a one speed track bike. You pedal the bike goes, the bike goes, the pedals turn. The point is it is the rider not the bike. If you need mountain bike gearing by all means get it and use it and enjoy it. If you are a strong rider it is not absolutely necessary. Ride some hills, I should say mountain passes, and see what your abilities are.

Triples are great, I wouldn't buy a new bike without one, just see what happens.


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Regarding the issue of gearing. I have done Cycle Oregon 7 times and I only used a triple crank the one time I rode it on a tandem. The first time I rode on my single bike my lowest gear was a 42 tooth front chainring and a 21 tooth rear cog. I have gotten older and fatter and now I ride a 42/28. There is no magic to the numbers. The only thing that the lower gears allow is for you to go slower with less leg/knee strain. If you get sore knees, that may be very important. If you can climb out of the saddle for long periods and have strong legs/knees, then higher gearing is really no problem.

I would also add that while the lower gears are easier on your knees, they take a toll on your butt. Sitting in the saddle all day long with low pressure on your legs and knees puts all of that pressure on your butt. Pain one way or another.

Frank Conner

Larch really isn't all that steep as I have (finally) began to realize this year. It is enough to make you work and a good CO simulation as it is a fairly long and consistent grade.

It's really up to how you feel riding it. If Larch is an undue struggle in your granny then consideration of lower gearing may be in order. (note*** for me last year and the several before. Larch *was* an undue struggle for me in my next to granny (30/23). I would make it but barely. Despite that I was able to do CO 9 - 11 without sagging).

Now I ride up it in my 39 front to a 23 rear and on the last 4 mile stretch I find myself tempted to grab the 26 rear in places. However as I'm able to maintain a speed/cadence (without rupturing the veins in my forehead) :-) I'm able to hold the ratio over the top.

What I'm attempting to point out here is that hills are work regardless. As you get better you can push higher gears and go faster, but hurt just as much. :-)

Don't be doubtful of your ability, just go to enjoy the scenery (there is no shortage of serene forest imagery here). Before you know it, you'll be up top in the parking lot preparing for a real downhill blast.

Don "downhill, it's the paycheck for the work of getting there" Bolton

My wife is experiencing considerable knee pain after long rides. She attributes this primarily to the pressure exerted on her knees when climbing hills. Even going 3-5mph up gradual hills doesn't seem to lessen her discomfort at the end of a ride.

I seem to recall a similar post sometime ago that indicated a triple might alleviate some knee problems. Can anyone share their thoughts on this again? We are also planning on getting her fitted as well.


A triple will help the rider to take care of their knees. This (as you have already noted) presumes that fit is correct, seat at correct height, etc). I have long used a triple chainring setup. In my case, more to prevent knee problems from occurring rather than to alleviate them.

What the triple gives you is a few more low gears that will allow you to combine less pedal pressure with a somewhat higher pedal rpm. The triple would allow her to go up a hill at the pace noted with less stress on the knees. 3-5 mph in a double chainring translates into a very slow rpm and a lot of pressure on the knees.

Craig Martinelli

What ever contributes to a higher cadence will help. A cadence in the neighborhood of 90 rpm or more should be the target. That is not a natural skill, so some training will be required to "make it second nature"

In most cases, a small granny will do it. But in other cases, it might be advisable to increase the size of the largest cog in the cogset as well. The objective is to get gear sizes that result in gear-inch indexes in the very low 20's or even down in the teens. I have operated for years with a low gear-inch index of 19.6 on both my touring and recumbent bikes. No knee problems for me.

Also, it is important in the extreme to have the bike fitted to your wife and her riding style/habits/etc.

Hammering the hills with a low cadence can do bad things to knees.

Curt Coleman

Also, a consideration should be given to the overall gear ratios at that time as well. A Shimano road triple still only goes to a 27 tooth low on the rear cassette. With a 30 front granny this is in the area of a 30 gear inch low which is quite low, however depending on the individual, not low enough.

Touring bikes have long pieced together drivetrains from the mountain side of the house to the road side. Since you will be swapping the rear derailer to suit the triple, consider using a mountain bike equivalent. Shimano road Ultegra = mountain XT or road 105 = LX. With a mountain derailer you can get a cassette with a 34 tooth low.

It will shift great, but have bigger gaps between gears when you shift. Given that the road gearing duplicates its ratios frequently between the rings this solution actually gets you a broader spread of closer spaced gears if one is willing to pop rings back and fourth and sweep the cassette 2 or three cogs for each shift. Not a racers dream but a good set up if used proper for us day warriors.

Definitely consider the triple but in addition consider your abilities, goals, and the terrain you'll be traversing. It may work out better to mix and match and have an even lower range at your disposal.

Don "rediscovering granny of late" Bolton

I agree with what I have seen here, but would like to add one more thought.

The standard configuration for a Shimano Triple has a 30 tooth inner ring, and a 39 tooth middle ring. The outer ring is 50 or 52.

I would argue strongly to replace that 30 inner with a 26 or even a 24. After all, the reason that you spending all this money o the triple is to get lower gears, right? So go for it! The smaller ring will be lighter too :-).

The same argument applies to the middle ring, but here the bolt circle pattern used my Shimano means that it is not possible to use a ring smaller than 38 teeth. You may decide that saving one tooth in 39 (2.6%) is not worth the cost of a chainring.

Is there a disadvantage to using smaller rings? Possibly. The overall capacity of the front derailleur is limited, although it is often larger than the specs would have you believe. If you go to a 24 t inner ring, you may not have the capacity to use that 52 t outer ring. In that case, my preference would be to switch to a 48 t outer ring. Perhaps some of the recumbent riders, who like both low gears and high gears, will chime in and tell us how far this can be pushed?

Andrew Black

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I think the standard Shimano triple is now 52/42/30 - at least that is the configuration for all of the Shimano triples specked in the current Trek catalogue.

John Carr

My 1997-era Shimano triple is 52-42-30, also... Love that 30. With my "ultra-bailout" 26 rear cog, I may climb slow, but my knees <and lungs> are happy, happy, happy! :-) <My old C-dale touring bike was a 42-32-22 with a 12-28 rear cassette. That baby could climb WALLS!>

Susan Otcenas

Yeah, let's see you hold a 30+ MPH crank with that 42! (Well, maybe you can, but I'm not comfortable holding a 90+ cadence for very long.)

Point well taken. This was not the bike for high speed pedaling. I often "ran out" of gears on fast descents and had to settle for coasting. But then again, that's not really what the bike was intended for. I used this bike for fully loaded touring and got much more use out of those little bitty granny gears than I ever would have gotten out of having a bigger gear to use on descents. Granted, I almost NEVER got into the 22-28 combo. BUT, I remember touring down the California coast... the bike route for the Golden Gate Bridge takes you under the bridge and then up this incredibly steep slope to get up to the deck. (At least, that's the way I remember it. Maybe I was just tired. :-) ) Fully loaded, at the end of a long day of riding, I popped my bike into that gear and managed to ride all the way up. Way cool.

Susan Otcenas

A word of caution about going beyond the Shimano standard sizing for chainring gears. They've engineered it pretty tightly, as a module it works great, swapping components in the module with other specs can be tricky.

It may or may not shift to your satisfaction. It may require some coercion via overshifting and its inner adjustment may be fussy for dropping onto instead of over.

IF you have some budget to spend, consider getting the other option of leaving the rings alone and swapping the rear derailer and cassette. Shifting remains positive throughout the useable range.

I've attempted the mismatch on chainrings and didn't like the results. It worked, but it was effort to swap rings. I gave up and upgraded the whole drivetrain and have been happy with the result. (and no, I don't have the road/mountain combination I'm suggesting. I went all road gearing, but I have a project bike just dying for such an upgrade)

The great thing about gearing is that it’s easily changeable and once you've a framework that can run the limits of what you need, you can always set up your bike to suit the trip you'll be doing.

Don "money fixes some of it, seat time the rest" Bolton

After my fiasco with Herr Bolton in March, I did some re-gearing:

Went to 26-42-52 Shimano on front of my Trek 2300 and went from 12-25 to 12-27 on rear. Put a Shimano chain back on as the Sax did not shift right. I really enjoy what I can do in the granny and spend a lot of time in the middle ring climbing. Trade off: I can go down without any problem, but going back up into the middle ring requires a lot of delicacy. I do not shift until I have crested the hill and have started down, and then I get into the middle low gears before I try to shift into the middle ring up front. I am really good now at making certain which gear I want to be in when I start a climb, etc. I guess what the message is: If you re-gear, make certain that you can live with what you are doing. Some still say I should replace my 26 with a 28 up front. Shimano Book says you should not do it, the Shimano Tech I called said, "yes," but be gentle with the shifting. He was right!

Donald Lockridge

If you have the option, you might want to shy away from the 11T on the rear. The 12T in combination with the 52 is generally a high enough ratio for most of us, and the smaller the number of teeth, the quicker they wear out. The 11T is a good match for the Mountain ring gears, where the large ring is quite a bit smaller than 52T. Even though the 52X11 will get very little if any usage, the middle 42T ring will be used with whatever is the smallest cog on the back.

I would think 12-32 or 12-34 would be good choices if they are available.

Don Gross

The 11 tooth cog is a separate piece that can be replaced individually if it wears out. That being said I agree that it will see little use, probably even in the middle ring. Shimano doesn't make a 12-32 nine speed cassette, at least not that I've seen. I agree that the 12-34 also would have been a good choice and resulted in a plenty low gear! I think we'll see how the 11-32 works out for now.

Ken Finch

This sounds interesting, and something I'd not heard of. Is this something Shimano offers, or is it an after-market add-on? Something like that may have saved me some money on my hybrid, since I wore out the 11T cog while the others were still in pretty good shape. Is this a way to use an 8-speed cassette on a 9-speed bike? I thought the cog spacing was less on a 9-speed than an 8-speed - is that true, or did was the change between 7-speed and 8-speed?

Actually, now that I think about it, I think I saw that some of Shimano's shifters can be set up to work with either 8-speed or 9-speed cassettes. So ... can one add to the other end, and add a lower gear (larger cog) instead of the 11T?

Don "hmmmm..." Gross

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Speaking from my experience on with Ultegra 9 speed cassette...

The largest three cogs and the middle three cogs are consolidated units. The bottom three cogs consist of individual cogs and spacers. So, I find it extremely plausible that you can replace the smallest cogs individually, but not so the larger ones. When I went from a 12-25 to a 12-27 recently (which was _well_ worth the effort, BTW, even on my double), I had to buy a whole new cogset, even though only the piece that is different between them is the 27-24-21 instead of my old 25-23-21.

Ya want completely individual cogs, can ya say Campagnolo? <grin>

Jason Penney

If I recall correctly, the 11 tooth cog requires a special "Compact" freehub. There is so little metal on the 11 t cog, that if the spline went all of the way through the cog, it would fall apart! So the spline goes only half way through, and the special "Hyperdrive-C" freehub has a matching spine that stops 1mm or so before the end. Also, the lockring for a

[something missing here]

The Shimano XT and XTR (titanium) cassettes are 12-34

There is more information about this, of course, at the Sheldon-Brown website:

Andrew Black

I made a phone call and this does indeed seem to be the case. The 11 tooth sprocket does take a special free hub body, a "Hyperdrive C". However, as Sheldon Brown points out on his website, this is easily negated by adding a small spacer to the freehub.

I will be stopping by the bike shop on my way home today to pick one of these spacers up.

Thank you for pointing this out, no doubt saving me an evening of frustration. It's amazing what you can learn by posting (and reading) to this group!

Ken Finch

I have run an 11x32 XT for 2 yrs now, approx. 6500 miles. I had it checked by a professional mechanic just the other day and he said it's in excellent condition. I just bought another "on sale" for one of my spare/touring wheels as a back up. The 11 tooth cog wearing-out that was mentioned in previous threads doesn't look like it's going to be a problem on my Easy Racer recumbent. Even if it were to be a problem, it isn't that expensive to replace. In my research when converting to the nine speed, I did some reading, then asked numerous questions about the XT cog set in general. I found the failures came when used in aggressive mountain bike applications where the cog set had been generally bashed around quite severely. Contrair to belief, the 11-tooth cog is not the weak spot in this set of cogs - it's the 32/34 tooth cog. Because of the weight saving design, they are fragile when hit laterally on objects in a crash or just falling over on a rock or some other solid object that has a firm contact of the large cog from the side. This and the high torque pressure of continuous shifting simultaneously in MTB conditions will sometimes cause a failure. My experience with using the 11x32 (and 11x34 when I do self-supported touring) is that IT IS the best of both worlds. I have a reliable "bale out" gear when needed and a nice high speed cog for getting some serious downhill speed. I sometimes use it just to maintain a soft cadence while going downhill to work out the lactose. When the cog set is used in a reasonable performance envelope, it's plenty strong and has lots of mileage in it.

My nine speed cog collection
11x21 - track racing
11x32 - general use
11x34 - self supported touring

Lonnie "Capt. Dink" Morse

I have always had a triple, but many friends who have converted from double to triple say it made a big difference on strain. They say God invented the triple for a reason and that was to be used and enjoyed. It's the best. You don't have to use it, but is great when you need it.

Candace Reed

Down here in the Bay Area, there are a lot of 10 percent and more grades - I use my granny a LOT. It's not just an infrequent aid to tired knees, but a necessity for someone my age, no matter what condition you're in.

John Carr

*tries to think of when he hasn't used Granny gear*

Nope.... Use that gear a lot! Mostly to keep from ripping the locking mechanism in the rear rim apart when doing grades.

So much weight, too much torque and my rear sprocket slips like hell.

Learned early on to love Granny gear and gradual accelerations.

Matthew Rivard

As another CA Bay Area rider, I would not only like to add my two cents worth in support of John's note, but add that judicious use of the 'granny' early in a ride can also save your legs for that finishing effort on longer rides

Craig Martinelli

I would kill for a 39 tooth middle ring! I tried a double's 39 tooth ring, but it was a hassle overshifting to get aboard and it didn't release easily to the granny ring either. "Gimme a 53/39/26 road triple."

Don Bolton

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For a triple to shift properly, the difference in the number of teeth between the middle and small rings must be greater than between the large and middle rings. If not, the chain wants to bypass the center ring entirely to the big or small ring. The center ring is, in effect, in the 'shadow' of the other two rings.

So, while your 53/39/26 combination won't shift to the center ring comfortably(14T and 13T differences, respectively) a 52/39/24 just might, and a 22T granny for sure (if your crank can accept the small ring and your rear derailleur handles the chain wrap).

There are some aftermarket ring suppliers that offer 38/39/40/41T center rings for Shimano. So, a 52/40/24 chainring combo is possible without changing your gearing too much. A 52/40/26 may's close, being a 12 and 14T spacing.

Mark Ramsby

I have never heard of this before, but it may explain a lot. My set-up (48 - 38 - 26) obeys this rule, but by chance, and because it isn't possible to get a smaller middle ring than 38 on a Shimano road triple.

Mark, could you explain a bit more why this should be so? After all, when I am changing from, say, the outer to the middle rings, the chain does not touch the inner ring so why should the size of that inner ring have any effect? Ditto going from the inner to the middle.

The word of wisdom that I was given years ago about making front changers (called at that time "double clangers" as a term of derision by the "real men" who rode a single ring) work well, was this. Buy the best REAR derailleur that you can find, where best refers to its ability to keep the chain tensioned, not the price. This is still true, because it is the tension applied by the rear derailleur that keeps your chain from having an argument with the bottom bracket housing when you change down at the front.

Andrew Black

I've read this in multiple places, and heard it from mechanics as well. One of the Rivendell Readers from a couple of years ago had an article on building triples with this rule included. But no one ever explained (or I don't remember) why.

I believe that it has to do with chain line angle. It's not a two-dimensional relationship, it's a three-dimensional relationship between the rings, the cog and the chain. When attempting a shift from big ring to center, most often the rear is on a larger (inner) cog. Due to the chain line, the center ring is in the 'shadow' formed between the large ring, the small ring and the chain. The first ring that the chain 'sees' is the small ring.

Likewise, when attempting a shift from small ring to center, usually the rear is on a smaller (outer) cog. Again, due to the chain line, the center ring is in the 'shadow' formed between the large ring, the small ring and their relationship to the chain.

It would be interesting to know if, when the relationships are close (as in Don's case) if you could reverse the 'normal' shifting sequence and , say, attempt a shift from big ring to center ring, with the rear on a smaller (outer) cog. I think it would shift reliably in that relationship because you have removed the 'shadow'.

This is my theory, and it seems to make sense to me. It would be great to have someone confirm it, or set it straight.

Mark 'more questions than answers' Ramsby

I went back to square one. Put my 30 tooth ring back on front (took off the 26 I had put on.) I put an 11-34 on the rear of my Trek 2300 and also replaced the derailleur as there was not enough space. I have now made five good rides which entailed a lot of long climbs. I can tell all of you that is makes one big difference. It is so much more fun to be able to drop down and just spin yourself to the top and not have to worry about the knees. I am also riding longer and faster than I was before. Well worth the money I spent on the parts. Of course, my pile of used parts just grew larger. Anybody interested in some good gears and other things? I am tired of making chimes out of them. ;~}

Donald Lockridge

Hmm: I see you finally got around to my initial suggestion;-)

Now you can climb walls, shift without thought, and save your knees. Glad to hear it works well.

As one who messed with the rings on a triple myself I have nothing good to say about that option. The indexed shifting, rings, and derailer are all part of a single component. Changing ring sizes or shapes out of original spec makes for poor shifting.

Don "see you again real soon" Bolton

What makes STI so superior to Rapid Fire?

I ask this is out of true ignorance, having never had a bike with Rapid Fire shifters. I have STI (and grip-shift). I have a co-worker who swears by her RF's on her mountain bike, but she has never ridden a bike with STI's (to my knowledge).

Having ridden a bike briefly with bar-end shifters, I do have to say I never want a bike with those things.

I have nothing against my STI's, but what makes them so superior to Rapid Fire?

Don "STP-bound" Gross

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STI and RapidFire systems are meant for different purposes... STI is a road system meant for drop bars, RapidFire is for MTBs and hybrids with flat or slight rise bars. Both being made by Shimano, they were never meant to compete with one another.

STI's major competition (if you can call it that) is Campangolo's Ergo-Power. It's a system that I like a lot, but Shimano so thoroughly dominates the market in the US that most folks don't have a choice these days.

As far as MTB systems go, I really like GripShifts. I have them on my (older) Fisher and love the simplicity. My son had RF's on his bike, again, because by the time we got it, the Shimano juggernaught had steamrolled everything else. I think he'd be a lot less confused about shifting if he just had to twist a grip. I know a few adult beginners who were in the same boat.

Scott Saulsbury

Campy equipment is generally excellent and should be definitely considered by any serious road bike rider. The parts are built to last and, when they do wear out etc., are rebuildable from readily available parts. I am still running 8 speed Campy ergo power from 1996 and have put thousands of miles on this equipment. Parts including the levers have been rebuilt and subjected to normal maintenance. If you run a combination of Racing Triple and Record 9 speed parts, you will have a really excellent long-lasting triple crankset system. And, BTW, there is something very special about running on traditional Italian bicycle equipment. You feel like singing an aria as you smoke down the road.

Glenn Walling

You don't have to sell me! I, too, have older 8-speed Ergo-Power stuff on my roadie, though I run the 53/38 (39?, I forget) double in front. I've got about 12,000 miles on this group.

My biggest problem with Campy's current gear is that it seems like overkill... why do we need 10 cogs? Making that jump makes even their 9-speed gear obsolete. I recently had a new set of wheels made up, and finding a rear hub that I KNEW would work with my 8-speed cluster wasn't that easy. Mechs that I've talked to are questioning the wisdom of 10 cogs, too.

You're right, though... riding the traditional Italian stuff and paying homage to Uncle Tullio (the father of the quick release!) is something that I'd wanted to do since I was a kid, and the stuff really works!

I keep thinking about the parallel in Formula-1 racing. Ferarri is the traditional favorite, if for no other reason than the decades of history, and Honda is the ambitious, hard-charging upstart producing quality equipment that you somehow feel lacks "soul".

Scott Saulsbury

I treat gearing the way I buy pants. My wife always complains that I buy pants too baggy. My logic is that in the summer when I ride a lot they will be baggy. In the winter when the holidays show up and I ride less they will fit just right.

I do the same thing with gearing. When I'm out of shape the gearing seems too high, but in the summer it seems too low. I do not change it. I just know that eventually it will be just right.

You could adapt Don Bolton's way which I call bike golfing. Using this method you would have many bikes with different gearing depending on how you felt and the type of ride. You would start a ride and when the terrain changed or your mood changed you would flag the swag truck to give you another bike.

Lonnie 'just shut up and ride' Wormley

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  Page Last Updated: Jan. 20, 2003  
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