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Easier gearing for a gravel bike for a youth

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Easier gearing for a gravel bike for a youth

Old 06-17-19, 05:03 PM
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Chinghis
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Easier gearing for a gravel bike for a youth

Hi, folks. I'm not sure if this should go into the Cyclocross and Gravelbiking, but I figured I'd start here.

I picked up a very slightly used Pure Cycles Gravel Adventure Bike (catchy names they have!) for my son, for a song. He enjoys cycling and going out with me on rides, but I think he needs some better gearing. We live at the top of a 600' climb, and I don't wanna drive down the hill all the time to get him More to the point, I don't want him to get frustrated and give up cycling because he ends up walking up hills.

Anyway, the specs for this bike are largely the same as for the 2019 model. Chainring is an "FSA Tempo Adventure, 48/32t Chainrings." Freewheel is a Sunrace 8-spd 11-34t cassette. Front derailleur is a Claris.

My initial thought is to make it a triple. I know how to do gear ratios and so on, and I'm not sure this is going to give him the gears he needs in the arrangement he needs. When we rode home up the hill the first time, he made it a fair distance before I offered him back his old bike for the rest of the climb. (That's an old Gary Fisher Hoo-koo-e-koo mountain bike, 21-speeds.) Part of that was an exercise in demonstrating to him that he can ride up the hill, with the right equipment.

He's 14, soon to be 15, and about the same height as me. So, this bike should last him at least a couple of years, depending how fast and how much he grows.

And, yeah, it's probably just a matter of him getting the right lungs and muscles, but I'd like to make that transition easier for him. Just looking for some input on how best to accomplish this. Thanks, folks!
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Old 06-17-19, 05:35 PM
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The problem you're having with your son's new bike is the main reason I like lots of gears, despite the trend being single range or dual range. The 32T up front with the 34T on the cassette is equivalent to my mid-range on one of my mountain bikes and it definitely isn't low enough for serious hill climbing, which it sounds like you need just to get home. If you can switch it up to include a 22T or 24T on the front you'll have the right gearing for him to climb that hill with ease. That 48T is pretty extreme unless you have some huge thighs and/or a good tail wind. If you can change out the front to something like 22/32/42T I think you'll be much happier all the way around, and your son too. I gotta ask, why not just let him ride the Fisher? If you were my dad, I'd be fighting you for it haha.
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Old 06-17-19, 06:06 PM
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Heh, the Fisher was mom's bike (which she never rode a whole lot). It's already been used by his older sister, too. So, he deserves his own bike! But more than anything he's about to outgrow the Fisher. It's like a 14.5" frame or however they measured frames back then. I was riding it instead of my bike because I had a feeling the gears would be too steep for him up the hill.

Yeah, the gravel roads (and trails!) that we'll be riding will almost always have some elevation here in Southern Cal. So, change out all three rings in the front. I'll look into that, too. Thanks!
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Old 06-17-19, 08:25 PM
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- Does your son ride a lot? If not- that's most likely the actual answer to all this. Experience and practice builds muscle and ability.

- How steep is this 600' climb and how long is it? 600' of straight climb is nothing to scoff at, but if its 10mi long thats a lot different than if its 4mi long.
600' of straight climb though...thats tough. Its especially tough on gravel/dirt.

- If you change to 3x, then you need new shifters too. Also a new front derailleur and maybe a new rear derailleur(depending on what model is on there).
Not cheap.
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Old 06-17-19, 10:41 PM
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$$$$$ or Cheap?
Cheap way. Get a generic roadlink off ebay for $3 and a Sunrace 11-40 8 8 speed cassette for $35 and yes they do make those. If your RD can't handle the 11-40 with the roadlink pick up a really cheap 7/8/9 speed mountain bike RD.
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Old 06-17-19, 11:12 PM
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smaller chainrings or bigger cassette big rings or both ... its ratio math...
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Old 06-18-19, 03:22 AM
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You answered your own question.
Match the chain rings to the terrain , move the lower ring to the out side first , then add smaller ring .
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Old 06-18-19, 03:40 AM
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Look for a Sunrace 8 speed 11-40 cassette and an 8 or 9 speed Shimano Altus or Alivio rear derailleur with a total capacity of 45 teeth. You can check the exact derailleur model name on the Shimano information portal.

The existing 8 speed shifters should work just fine with the new derailleur, but check to see if they're Shimano before you go spending any money. Also remember to get a new chain to go with the new cassette so the old elongated one doesn't skip over the new cassette teeth.
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Old 06-18-19, 05:10 AM
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Bicycle Gear Calculator The link is for a mini-program that graphically shows the effect of changes in gearing in gear inches. For example, my bike is a triple with a small chain ring in front of 26T. The cassette has a largest gear of 30T. This produces gear inches of about 22. It is very easy, in the program, to slide various gears and chain rings around to get the right combination. He will get stronger and eventually you will be back asking about gear changes for yourself.
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Old 06-18-19, 10:55 AM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
- Does your son ride a lot? If not- that's most likely the actual answer to all this. Experience and practice builds muscle and ability.

- How steep is this 600' climb and how long is it? 600' of straight climb is nothing to scoff at, but if its 10mi long thats a lot different than if its 4mi long.
600' of straight climb though...thats tough. Its especially tough on gravel/dirt.

- If you change to 3x, then you need new shifters too. Also a new front derailleur and maybe a new rear derailleur(depending on what model is on there).
Not cheap.
Last year, as he gained his independence or something, he started riding to school (about 4 miles). I think he will ride to school next year, and I hope to do some bike camping with him. So, he's ramping up a bit. I think he mainly wants to be able to ride down the hill and get tacos. The 600' climb may be more like 400', in about 1.5 miles.

Originally Posted by PDKL45 View Post
Look for a Sunrace 8 speed 11-40 cassette and an 8 or 9 speed Shimano Altus or Alivio rear derailleur with a total capacity of 45 teeth. You can check the exact derailleur model name on the Shimano information portal.

The existing 8 speed shifters should work just fine with the new derailleur, but check to see if they're Shimano before you go spending any money. Also remember to get a new chain to go with the new cassette so the old elongated one doesn't skip over the new cassette teeth.
Good stuff, thanks. The shifters are Claris, I believe, but I will have to check.

Originally Posted by berner View Post
Bicycle Gear Calculator The link is for a mini-program that graphically shows the effect of changes in gearing in gear inches. For example, my bike is a triple with a small chain ring in front of 26T. The cassette has a largest gear of 30T. This produces gear inches of about 22. It is very easy, in the program, to slide various gears and chain rings around to get the right combination. He will get stronger and eventually you will be back asking about gear changes for yourself.
Thanks! I need to graduate from the tattered piece of paper I have in my tools.

In general, a Claris FD should handle this, correct?
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Old 06-18-19, 11:12 AM
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If it's 400 feet in 1.5 miles that's a 5% grade. To maintain a 70 RPM pace with a 32x34 I'd be going about 5.3 mph. At my current weight (200 lbs) I'd need to maintain 138 watts. Adjust accordingly for your son's weight.

EDIT: At 120 lbs you only need 90 Watts.

I don't think a 5% grade is too steep to need to adjust the bike.

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Old 06-18-19, 11:35 AM
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Originally Posted by Canker View Post
$$$$$ or Cheap?
Cheap way. Get a generic roadlink off ebay for $3 and a Sunrace 11-40 8 8 speed cassette for $35 and yes they do make those. If your RD can't handle the 11-40 with the roadlink pick up a really cheap 7/8/9 speed mountain bike RD.
+1. This is the cheapest way to get significantly lower gearing.
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Old 06-18-19, 11:47 AM
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Originally Posted by Chinghis View Post
Last year, as he gained his independence or something, he started riding to school (about 4 miles). I think he will ride to school next year, and I hope to do some bike camping with him. So, he's ramping up a bit. I think he mainly wants to be able to ride down the hill and get tacos. The 600' climb may be more like 400', in about 1.5 miles.
So 5% grade if its 400' over 1.5mi. Thats a long steady climb and would get a lot of cyclists sweating if they are pushing hard. But its also not so impossible that its insurmountable on a 32/34 gearing or something a bit easier. This assumes your son is in reasonable health/condition. I ride with a lot of teens a few times a week and most have 3x7 gearing, though probably 1/3 of them have compact road bikes with 34/32 bailout gearing...and its rarely used. Even the heavier kids dont use that frequently. But at the same time, they ride 1500mi in about 4 month's time which I consider to be a lot for teens, and so they may be conditioned for it a bit more.

Anyways, if an 11-36 came in 8 speed, I would suggest that. But since it doesnt(pretty sure?), perhaps a bigger cassette will get your son the bailout gearing he needs for now. A new rear derailleur may be needed if your current one cant handle the chainwrap. A new chain is needed for sure. And a wolftooth roadlink may be needed to give more clearance for the rear derailleur to not touch the largest cog on the cassette.


Originally Posted by Chinghis View Post
Good stuff, thanks. The shifters are Claris, I believe, but I will have to check.
In general, a Claris FD should handle this, correct?
If you switch to a triple crank, you should get a triple front derailleur. The design is totally different from a double and is meant to handle both a more compact large ring(vs a double) and handle 3 rings instead of 2.
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Old 06-18-19, 12:05 PM
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@Chinghis you might tell your son that it's ok to stop part way up the hill and rest, then continue.
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Old 06-18-19, 03:55 PM
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I just checked out the Wolf Road Links (also Goat Links). Now I'm thinking maybe I need to do some regearing... Taller front sprocket, larger rear cassette, hmm. What are the limits of practicality here? More gears grunt grunt huck.
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Old 08-28-19, 10:35 AM
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An update: I ended up switching out the cassette for an 11-42, and an extender. Kind of an adventure, since I've never done much with cassettes, etc. It was a good learning experience for both of us. The 11-40 didn't seem to offer enough variation, and at this point in his riding, he needs the lower gears. I think. We'll see today, as he rode to school for the first time, so we'll see how he does coming up the hill.

In any case, many thanks for the advice.

A second update: He made it up the hill coming back from school! Said that he stopped and walked it at one or two steep spots, but in general said the gearing worked for him. Now, to start working on the idea of bike touring ...

Last edited by Chinghis; 08-30-19 at 10:43 AM.
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