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Gearing (way) down

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Gearing (way) down

Old 05-24-19, 05:49 PM
  #1  
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Gearing (way) down

As much as I don't want to admit it, I'm not as young as I used to be. I'm finding it more and more difficult to push gears that used to give me no trouble at all.

Recently, I've alternated rides between one of my road bikes (with 52-42-26 gearing) and my gravel bike (48-36-26). More and more, I'm leaning toward the gravel bike because -- well, it hurts a lot less to turn over a 36T middle ring than it does to turn over a 42T.

Today I went to the bike shop and had the proprietor order a mountain bike crankset, an MTB front derailleur and a 12-36 cassette. That setup, on my 9-speed bike, will be even easier to turn over (especially on the short, steep hills we have here in West Virginia) than my current setups.

I still plan to keep 52-42-26 gearing on my go-fast bike (a Waterford), but will probably only use it on rides with flattish profiles.

Pushing the bigger gears seems to get more and more painful as time goes on. I'm hoping that easier gearing will allow me to take longer rides and spend more time on the bike. At my age (63), fitness and recreation are the overriding goals. And who knows? Maybe if I get fit enough, I'll want to spend more time on the Waterford.

Has anyone else made similar concessions to advancing age?
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Old 05-24-19, 08:53 PM
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Several of my road bikes have a compact chainring and a wide-ratio cassette. 50/34 on the front and 11-32 on the rear. Ultegra. Requires the long-cage rear derailleur, but shifts smooth and the wide ratios have not been a problem, (I don't race). Seems to handle pretty much all the terrain over which I ride.

On my cross bike, I took a standard cross chainring, (46/36), and swapped out the 36 for a 34. With the 11-32 cassette, it has worked well enough on the gravel roads I've ridden. Again, Ultegra components.
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Old 05-25-19, 12:05 AM
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Originally Posted by PhoenixBiker View Post
As much as I don't want to admit it, I'm not as young as I used to be. I'm finding it more and more difficult to push gears that used to give me no trouble at all.

Recently, I've alternated rides between one of my road bikes (with 52-42-26 gearing) and my gravel bike (48-36-26). More and more, I'm leaning toward the gravel bike because -- well, it hurts a lot less to turn over a 36T middle ring than it does to turn over a 42T.

Today I went to the bike shop and had the proprietor order a mountain bike crankset, an MTB front derailleur and a 12-36 cassette. That setup, on my 9-speed bike, will be even easier to turn over (especially on the short, steep hills we have here in West Virginia) than my current setups.

I still plan to keep 52-42-26 gearing on my go-fast bike (a Waterford), but will probably only use it on rides with flattish profiles.

Pushing the bigger gears seems to get more and more painful as time goes on. I'm hoping that easier gearing will allow me to take longer rides and spend more time on the bike. At my age (63), fitness and recreation are the overriding goals. And who knows? Maybe if I get fit enough, I'll want to spend more time on the Waterford.

Has anyone else made similar concessions to advancing age?
My rear cluster is a 13-28 6-speed. The front usta' be 32-42-52. The rear is the same but the front is now 26-42-50. I need the low-end gearing now and not so much the taller gears. The change from the 32 to the 26 was probably the best thing I've done to the ol' gal in the 35 years I've had her, and I bought her new. Just for the record, I'm 64 yo.
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Old 05-25-19, 04:56 AM
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I haven’t geared down on my solo bikes yet, but I have on our tandem and also added e-assist to it. We are together 157 years young!
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Old 05-25-19, 05:11 AM
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I am soon to be 67. I have mounted smaller chain rings on 3 of my 4 bikes. 50/34 to 46/34, 50/36 to48/34, 53/42 to 50/38. I also have a few cassettes with different gear numbers that I can switch when needed. The lower gearing is much easier/less stressful on my old legs/knees.
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Old 05-25-19, 06:27 AM
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Just went from a 11-32 9sp to a 11-36 9sp on my Quick 3 and for all the same reasons as stated above. 70 year old knees just don't want to here it on some rides so the lower end really helps take the strain off. My crank is a 50-34 so that is the next step if needed. I also have a Quick 7 that is a triple crank, 48-38-28, with an 11-32 8sp cog set so that is easy on the hills but the bike is heavy with a cromoly fork that is not kind to my arthritis riddle hands. It is used mostly as a back-up or a companion rider.
I am very happy I swapped out the cogs as it has made the rides here a lot more fun. Still working out a proper seat.
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Old 05-25-19, 06:45 AM
  #7  
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A common theme in this thread is that most of us don't need a 52 or 53T outer ring. With most derailleurs, even a slightly smaller outer ring will enable you to go to a lower bottom gear, as well, because of a combination of front derailleur cage shape and rear derailleur chain wrap capacity. I run 48-40-24 on my mountain bike, which is currently my only triple; the road bikes have 50-42 and 49-45 with 14T high gear cogs, and 46-38 and 45-42 with 13T high gear cogs, giving me perfectly adequate top gears in the low-to-mid 90 gear-inch range. I was also able to obtain an "impossibly" low bottom gear with a short-cage SunTour Cyclone II rear derailleur and 1980 Simplex road double front by putting a 48-45-34 triple up front, coupled with a 13-24 6-speed in back. I could probably have dropped to something like 46-42-30 and still had an adequately tall top gear.
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Old 05-25-19, 08:12 AM
  #8  
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At the requuest of my knees, I mash less and spin more these days.

I'm "only" 57, but over the last year I lowered the gearing on my main commuter, and my roadbike. Well, I kept the high gearing the same but added a wider spread to give me lower gearing for the hills here in Colorado Springs.

HOw different than back in 1997, when I bought a mountain bike for commuting but had them put the largest front chain ring that would fit up front (53). However, thanks to the triple up front that bike also has my lowest gears by far.
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Old 05-25-19, 08:51 AM
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I'm riding my vintage bikes a lot. Smallest cog on many of the freewheels is a 14. Easier to push than an 11 or 12 tooth cog.
My off-roader with CX tires has a 46/30 chainring.
Most of my crank arms are now shorter than 175mm.
I don't seek out the mountains as much as I used to.

At 68yo, speed is (generally speaking) not my friend.

Oh yeah - Most of my tires have gotten plumper - 25s/28s/30mm, only a couple of roadies with 22/23mm, none are 19/20mm any longer.



Compromises keep my outdoor activities fun. No whitewater kayaks, no 50lb backpacking expeditions, hikes are now 6mi or less.
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Old 05-25-19, 01:41 PM
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Oh yeah, aging sucks, doesn't it? The trick is to age without getting old. Part of that is feeling free to change things as you go. "Old" = being stuck. I work out in the gym more now and spin smaller gears at higher RPM. My road bike is a 9-speed with 53-39-26 and 11-30 in the back. Our tandem is 10 speed, same in the front, 11-40 in the back. If you go to a 39 middle ring, it'll be 10-speed but work fine with the 9-speed brifter and FD. However the 39T middle demands the 53T outer ring that's normally used on a 53-39 double. Makes sense.

On the 26-40 rig, I couldn't set the chain for big-big. I made it 2 links shorter and am just careful. My wife's single has a MTB triple crankset. That works fine too, and eliminates the big-big issue.
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Old 05-26-19, 08:59 AM
  #11  
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Originally Posted by Wildwood View Post
I'm riding my vintage bikes a lot. Smallest cog on many of the freewheels is a 14. Easier to push than an 11 or 12 tooth cog.
My off-roader with CX tires has a 46/30 chainring.

At 68yo, speed is (generally speaking) not my friend.

Oh yeah - Most of my tires have gotten plumper - 25s/28s/30mm, only a couple of roadies with 22/23mm, none are 19/20mm any longer.

I am you age (turning 69 this summer). I agree with you on the wider tires, which is why I am building up my project bikes with wider rims that can take 32 or even 35mm tires. You do not lose much efficiency (peak efficiency rolling efficiency reportedly comes at about 15 percent vertical deflection), although the increased rotational inertia does compromise your acceleration.
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Old 05-26-19, 09:32 AM
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Originally Posted by PhoenixBiker View Post

Has anyone else made similar concessions to advancing age?
Yep. Just installed a 44/32/22 mountain crank on my gravel bike.
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Old 05-26-19, 10:39 AM
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Originally Posted by John E View Post
I am you age (turning 69 this summer). I agree with you on the wider tires, which is why I am building up my project bikes with wider rims that can take 32 or even 35mm tires. You do not lose much efficiency (peak efficiency rolling efficiency reportedly comes at about 15 percent vertical deflection), although the increased rotational inertia does compromise your acceleration.
There is a trade-off between larger tires adding some comfort with the corresponding weight detracting. My solution (for pavement rides) is 25/28mm tubulars with supple sidewalls. Off-road goes 30mm for packed gravel, 32s with small knobs for softer conditions (all tubulars). If conditions require wider than 32mm, the rigid mtn bike gets the call to duty over any of my roadies.



Back on the topic of gearing and aging --
If a person is going to cycle late into life, some compromises are inevitable.
It's a matter of how you deal with it based on your individual situation, lot's of alternatives available.
From easier or shorter rides, to taking more breaks on harder rides, to lower gearing, to.....e-bikes.
Aging happens - gracefully or fitfully - deal with it.
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Old 05-26-19, 10:57 AM
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Originally Posted by John E View Post
I am you age (turning 69 this summer). I agree with you on the wider tires, which is why I am building up my project bikes with wider rims that can take 32 or even 35mm tires. You do not lose much efficiency (peak efficiency rolling efficiency reportedly comes at about 15 percent vertical deflection), although the increased rotational inertia does compromise your acceleration.
There is a trade-off between larger tires adding some comfort with the corresponding weight minimally detracting from my enjoyment. My solution (for pavement rides) is 25/28mm tubulars with supple sidewalls. Off-road goes 30mm for packed gravel, 32s with small knobs for softer conditions (all tubulars). If conditions require wider than 32mm, the rigid mtn bike gets the call to duty over any of my roadies.



Back on the topic of gearing and aging --
If a person is going to cycle late into life, some compromises are inevitable.
It's a matter of how you deal with it based on your individual situation, lot's of alternatives available.
From easier or shorter rides, to taking more breaks on harder rides, to lower gearing, slower speeds, to...…..e-bikes.
All better than giving up a good aerobic sport, that's relatively gentle on the joints.
Aging happens - gracefully or fitfully - deal with it.
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Old 05-26-19, 02:49 PM
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I'm installing 46 & 30 Absolute Black oval chainrings on my "climber" road bike. It has an 11-32 eleven speed cassette.

My gravel bike has a 46 & 33 chainring set with a 11-36 eleven speed cassette. It's sufficient on steep hills with soft gravel.

I have one bike with a 52 & 39 chaining set with a nine speed 13-26 cassette and another features 53 & 49 with a 14-26 freewheel. These only are used on shorter rides with short hills. These vintage gearsets are useless if my legs are toast at the end of a long, hard ride unless the remaining route is totally flat.

At the other end of the spectrum is this 48, 36 & 22 chainring set. I used this with both a 12-27 or 11-32 nine speed cassette. It could climb a tree;


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Old 05-26-19, 03:34 PM
  #16  
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Just like the way in which the bike industry is 'discovering' that larger volume tires are more fun and more forgiving - something that many riders have known for years - I think that in the next few years the industry will also 'discover' more sensible gearing for all types of bikes - especially now that do-it-all bikes are catching-on. A 50-34 'compact' just doesn't do it for many people. 46-30 is starting to appear more, but I prefer rings a little bit below that.

I have a vintage sport bike that, like you are doing, I put a 39-26 MTB double crank and a nice 11-32 10 speed cassette on. I gear combos with the 39T ring really agree with me and the 26T ring is for the steeps. And, some very nice MTB doubles are affordable.

I also replaced a 50-39-30 crank (with 9 speed rear) on a gravel bike with a MTB triple 42-32-24 which I like better.

Sensible gearing for all!! Especially in hill country like where you live.
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Old 05-26-19, 04:56 PM
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Once your knees are buggered, that's it, pretty well. Life gets a lot more sucky. So go low to go long. I have a touch over 13" on my 26" touring bike, to be sure, to be sure, but with 826% range so I still don't miss out on the higher gears. Even with derailleurs with a little work you can still get 700+% from 13" with almost perfect function.
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Old 05-26-19, 09:21 PM
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2 feet is my bail out low gear..
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Old 05-27-19, 12:28 AM
  #19  
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Yeah, I've made some concessions to aging. My road bikes have some minor gearing changes:
  • One, from 52/42 to 50/39 chainrings, and 13-25 freewheel rather than the original 13-24. Helps a bit. I'm about to try a 13-26 freewheel.
  • The other, 52/42 Biopace chainrings (seem to help a bit on climbs) and 14-28 freewheel. I'm about to switch to a 13-28 freewheel. I may end up replacing that 42T Biopace with a smaller Biopace, if I can find one. Otherwise, probably another 39T or 38T Vuelta round chainring. The asymetric chainrings are interesting but I don't see myself spending much money for the fancy Black Oval or Osymetric rings.
FWIW, there's an interesting video from the past year with Miguel Indurain riding with Davide Cassini, with both chattering in Italian and Spanish about switching to compact chainrings and bigger cogs. It's an infomercial for a sports drink/snack company, but the product placements are fairly unobtrusive. It's mostly the two cyclists chatting as they ride up a mountain that would leave me too breathless to do more than grunt and wheeze.

But my dead-legs and casual ride bike is a hybridized 1990s Univega mountain bike-lite, converted to albatross bar and fatter tires. The original 30/40/50 triple and 13-28 7-speed cassette were good, but a few months ago I switched the rear wheel to 8-speed 11-32 cassette. Much better for days when my legs are dead and I still plan to ride some roller coaster routes with lots of short, steep climbs. Instead of punching up those climbs with out of the saddle sprints like I do on the road bikes, I'll sit and spin like I'm churning butter. Nice change of pace. It's become my "recovery ride" bike, which I was incapable of doing on my road bikes. Every ride turned into a workout, so my legs weren't recovering. But the casual bike nudges me to relax and spin.
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Old 05-27-19, 07:56 AM
  #20  
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I think nearly every triple chainring bike on this thread goes low enough even for those over 60 to cover 90% of our riding. But if the idea is to keep on the middle ring for most of our riding, It's effectiveness will depend on the cassette. The OP's 42 middle chainring might be fine with a cassette's 38 - 42 sprocket for the lowest gear. However...

My X-Trail bike has a 48/38/28 triple chainring with a 14 - 34 7 speed cassette. So the range is fine for this 62 year old recreational rider 90% of the time. The problem is the 10 tooth jump from 24 - 34 on the cassette. If I want anything close to reasonable changes in ratio's, I'm limited to the 14 - 24 cassette sprockets. That still OK because I don't have any long enough rides up moderate hills, But If I had some longer hills, Or soft gravel to ride on I would need lower gears.

I see many new Hybrid/Road bikes come with a 48/38/28 or 48/36/26 chainring. That should be fine with a 8+ speed cassette with evenly spaced sprockets to 32T.
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Old 05-27-19, 08:43 AM
  #21  
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Last year I moved from a place where my riding was relatively flat, to a place where it's hard to go 5 miles without 1000' of climbing. (At both ends of my road are 16-20% grades that have to be dealt with before you can even begin to start riding the other more gentle climbs.) I "everested" in 300 miles last summer! I learned I'm a terrible climber, and 58 year-old knees don't like grinding. .

The first thing I did was put an 11-40 on the rear with a wolfstooth. That was better, but wasn't enough with the compact in the front. So I also switch out to the Absoluteblack subcompacts 46/30. Better, yes, but I still find myself doing 4mph up those grades at the end of my road.
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Old 05-27-19, 08:50 AM
  #22  
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I ride vintage racers with almost all Campagnolo NR/SR equip. Unfortunately , the 144BCD crank arms don't give us older guys much room for low(small) front chain wheels. I found a NOS Avocet 41 that I mounted on my ItalVega and had a Regina 14-28 freewheel that I mounted on the bike and that helps a bit. A lot less walking now , but I would still like to knock it down a bit. I had to back off the axle stops to get the NR derailleur to shift right , but it works well. I have often thought about a tripler thingy but I don't want to have to change the bottom bracket spindle. Joe
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Old 05-27-19, 11:03 AM
  #23  
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@ some point you move such a short distance, because of the super low gear ratio, with every pedal stroke,

that you cannot go fast enough to not fall over , Unless you are riding a 3 wheeler ..
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Old 05-27-19, 01:44 PM
  #24  
Carbonfiberboy 
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Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
@ some point you move such a short distance, because of the super low gear ratio, with every pedal stroke,

that you cannot go fast enough to not fall over , Unless you are riding a 3 wheeler ..
Tee-hee. Besides gearing down, another concession I've made to aging is getting used to spinning faster. I used to have to climb at 78 rpm. It finally occurred to me that I could fix that simply by riding lower gears. Now I climb at 85 when I'm fresh, 90 when my legs get tired, 93-96 on the flat. I'm loving it. I'm climbing faster, too. 13 PRs on the Sunday group ride, not without trying though . . . Turned out I could still hit Z5 after 60 miles and 4000'. Spinning's good.

I did have some serious mental issues buying and installing those lower gears. It hurt my self-image. Screw that. Turned out it improved my self-image. Hey, I'm flexible, I can learn! Yee-Haw!
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Old 05-27-19, 03:00 PM
  #25  
xroadcharlie
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Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
@ some point you move such a short distance, because of the super low gear ratio, with every pedal stroke,

that you cannot go fast enough to not fall over , Unless you are riding a 3 wheeler ..
+1

My bike's lowest gear is 21.3 gear inches (28/34 - 25.9" tires), About 6 kph @59 rpm. If a situation ever arises I need less gear inches then that, Then this 62 year old man has no business being there. Moderately steep hills with soft gravel and loose stone are quite doable with this gear with moderate effort.

5 kph @60 rpm needs about 17.5 gear inches, and as it turns out is what might be offered on mountain bikes. That IMO almost qualifies as too low. Although perhaps powering a 2.3" tire through muck on a grade might be taxing enough to need it.
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