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Stock Gearing on "commuter" bikes may be too high.

Old 04-04-20, 10:49 PM
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speyfitter
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Stock Gearing on "commuter" bikes may be too high.

RANT
I feel that the front cranks sold on many bikes commonly promoted to commuter types are too large and that this is doing a disservice to commuter cyclists. For example many 8 speed commuter type bikes are sold with a 48-38-28 triple crank. If you shift with consideration for chain line management this means that the average commuter cyclist will seldom utilize the largest chainring for much of their city riding and the smallest 28 tooth chainring will at times, depending on the rear cassette (assume an 11-32 rear cassette), find on steeper hills the lowest gear won't be low enough requiring them to have to get off and push their bike or find the climb more gruelling and tiring then it needs to be, especially for newer riders and/or those carrying more weight. In this case, if the bike was sold with a 42-32-22 front crank instead the climbs on harder hills would be much easier, the likelihood of pushing bikes in these situations would be reduced, and the front crank set would see a more even use of all 3 gears on the front crankset and on the rear cassette. The reality is the average commuter cyclist can't push a 48-11 or 48-13 tooth combo except on downhills or if they somehow like extra low cadence.
END OF RANT
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Old 04-04-20, 11:08 PM
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My take is that derailleur bike commuters should be set up with 110-74 BCD triple cranksets. Then both scenarios you mention can be done. Commuters vary widely on speed and conditioning. I commuted as a racer and ex-racer (not owning a car). I would have gone nuts on the gearing you are proposing. My geared bikes were all variations of 54-42-28 until age (how did that happen?) has recently forced me to 50-38-24, running up to 28 in back (and never smaller than 12). That 110 BCD crankset, run on a narrower spindle works nicely if you want to simplify your commuter to a SS or fix gear,

I haven't looked at the commuters out there. I've been riding '80s steel bikes as commuters forever. If they disappear and I need another, I'll probably have custom built because they work so well. But I'm guessing the supply is going to last longer than I will. And a lot of 110-74 BCD triples got made. I see no issues there either.

Ben
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Old 04-04-20, 11:11 PM
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You are not the first with these observations and you will not be the last. However, the reality is you are not expected to push the 48/11 except on downhills. The 48/13 with a tailwind ... ... still have plenty more combinations to spin out. 1:1 (28/28) is your defacto low gear. Anything lower is bonus. 28/32 or 34 serves me well for a commuting granny. Get stronger? Seriously though, I usually fit a 24T granny to 52/42/30 road triples. 48/38/28 commuter triples I usually leave alone. First, they may be riveted, second, its not worth the trouble. More and more cassettes are turning up with 36 and even 40 big cogs. That's something innit?
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Old 04-04-20, 11:16 PM
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The chain rarely leaves the big ring on my commuters (46/30 on one, 48/36/24 on the other) even with full bags and hilly terrain. I don't think lower gearing would be beneficial, as the low gear on both of my bikes is plenty low for anything you would encounter on a normal commute. The 'standard' 48/38/28 crank is a very versatile setup that will work for a very wide range of riders, granted it might not be the ideal choice for many. I think that this vanilla triple setup is aimed at cyclists who are still cutting their teeth, and may not yet have any experience with choosing different gearing.
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Old 04-05-20, 12:32 AM
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I was just nattering about this over in C&V
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Old 04-05-20, 08:31 AM
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MTBs DO have these silly lows, BTW
If I was in such a place, there would be ZERO chance I would ride DeFaileurs anyway. LOL... Rohloff all the way.
Regardless, 48/38/28 has the MOST ever useless duplicates, like 11 or 12 so. LOL That is why they went to 50/39/30 that I had on a hybrid. I did find such hills in Vancouver BC, Calgary, Seattle, Tacoma on my tour, and SF. A bunch of these hills I wouldn't ride even on an empty bike and could only barely just push the loaded bike. Must have been 16 - 18%. WTF There are a few here too going up the 200 foot river cliffs. Expecting bike companies to cater to such extremes is laughable. . So is saying you can't push the TOP gear on FLAT land.... If I can't go 4 mph I likely PUSH.

Otherwise, 90% of cities only need a 3 speed. I took a 12,000 mile drive last summer with my 3 speed on top.
In Canada I only found 1 or 2 steep hills in each city, easily avoided. No problem in Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Quebec City. Any IGH 8 would do.
Look at any video of west Europe and you will maybe find 1% defailleurs. LOL

Actually on my tour with 21 to 115 GI Rohloff14, The top was used far more than 2nd, 3rd and 13th. And I DID use 14th on a flat freeway with a 20 mph tail wind. I was doing 27 to 30 mph.

Last edited by GamblerGORD53; 04-05-20 at 09:25 AM.
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Old 04-05-20, 11:39 AM
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Originally Posted by SalsaShark View Post
The chain rarely leaves the big ring on my commuters (46/30 on one, 48/36/24 on the other) even with full bags and hilly terrain. I don't think lower gearing would be beneficial, as the low gear on both of my bikes is plenty low for anything you would encounter on a normal commute. The 'standard' 48/38/28 crank is a very versatile setup that will work for a very wide range of riders, granted it might not be the ideal choice for many. I think that this vanilla triple setup is aimed at cyclists who are still cutting their teeth, and may not yet have any experience with choosing different gearing.
You have to consider what a “normal” commute for other people is. My “normal” commute includes 475 feet of climbing for one route...most of which occurs in the last 3 miles of riding. Another route includes 550 feet of climbing that also occurs in the last 3 miles of my route. I can struggle up that last 3 miles in a 50 tooth gear or put the bike into a 39 tooth gear (or lower) and ride it comfortable.

One of my pet peeves is people telling others that their gears are “low enough”. You can’t make that decision for anyone but yourself. I’m far past “cutting my teeth” when it comes to riding and I have no issues whatsoever with having gearing lower than even what speyfitter is asking about.
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Old 04-05-20, 11:44 AM
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Originally Posted by speyfitter View Post
RANT
I feel that the front cranks sold on many bikes commonly promoted to commuter types are too large and that this is doing a disservice to commuter cyclists. For example many 8 speed commuter type bikes are sold with a 48-38-28 triple crank. If you shift with consideration for chain line management this means that the average commuter cyclist will seldom utilize the largest chainring for much of their city riding and the smallest 28 tooth chainring will at times, depending on the rear cassette (assume an 11-32 rear cassette), find on steeper hills the lowest gear won't be low enough requiring them to have to get off and push their bike or find the climb more gruelling and tiring then it needs to be, especially for newer riders and/or those carrying more weight. In this case, if the bike was sold with a 42-32-22 front crank instead the climbs on harder hills would be much easier, the likelihood of pushing bikes in these situations would be reduced, and the front crank set would see a more even use of all 3 gears on the front crankset and on the rear cassette. The reality is the average commuter cyclist can't push a 48-11 or 48-13 tooth combo except on downhills or if they somehow like extra low cadence.
END OF RANT
While I agree that bikes tend to be overgeared on the low end, I don’t agree that the high gear is too high. I use my high gears all the time...see my post about that 550 foot climb which becomes a 3 mile 550 drop on the way home. I hate coasting at 20 to 25 because I’ve run out of top gear. That’s what I had to do back in the old days of mountain biking when we had a 44/13 gear combination, which was the highest we could go.
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Old 04-05-20, 12:24 PM
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Originally Posted by GamblerGORD53 View Post
MTBs DO have these silly lows, BTW
If I was in such a place, there would be ZERO chance I would ride DeFaileurs anyway. LOL... Rohloff all the way.
No, mountain bikes don’t have silly lows for what they are designed to do. In my opinion, they have too high low gears. The 1x craze makes for bikes that have gears that are low enough but force the rider to spend a lot of time coasting on downhills.

As for derailers, people tend to give up on them because they don’t understand them. They really are simple mechanisms that are fairly easy to work with as soon as you understand that the cable and cable tension is everything to making them work well.

Regardless, 48/38/28 has the MOST ever useless duplicates, like 11 or 12 so. LOL That is why they went to 50/39/30 that I had on a hybrid. I did find such hills in Vancouver BC, Calgary, Seattle, Tacoma on my tour, and SF. A bunch of these hills I wouldn't ride even on an empty bike and could only barely just push the loaded bike. Must have been 16 - 18%. WTF There are a few here too going up the 200 foot river cliffs. Expecting bike companies to cater to such extremes is laughable. . So is saying you can't push the TOP gear on FLAT land.... If I can't go 4 mph I likely PUSH.
I’m not sure what you are trying to say...”like 11 or 12 so...Huh?...but the 48/38/28 doesn’t have that many “useless duplicates” nor is the 50/39/30 any better. When you compare the two, there really isn’t that much “overlap” at all. It’s difficult to get all the gears but that’s not necessarily how gearing is supposed to work. To ride a close double...which is all a triple is with an extra low gear...you shouldn’t look on it as being a linear shifting system but as a way to transition from high range to low(er) range without huge jumps between. That’s the problem I have with wide range compact doubles which don’t have duplicates but do have shifting patterns that result in huge jumps between the ranges. If you play with the RPM part of those linked gearing, you’ll see that dropping from the outer ring to the inner ring results in the need to increase RPM to ridiculous levels to keep up with the change.

1x systems give you the choice of a high range or a low range but nothing in between. Yes you can go with more gears and have smaller steps but it’s still limited to the same choice. A very large cog on the cassette can give a lower low but the high still suffers. I can match or even exceed the range of a 1x with a higher high and a lower low with little effort. I have the exact gearing as in the last link on my touring bike as well as similar gearing on my mountain bike and they work flawlessly with derailers.

Otherwise, 90% of cities only need a 3 speed. I took a 12,000 mile drive last summer with my 3 speed on top.
In Canada I only found 1 or 2 steep hills in each city, easily avoided. No problem in Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Quebec City. Any IGH 8 would do.
Look at any video of west Europe and you will maybe find 1% defailleurs. LOL

Actually on my tour with 21 to 115 GI Rohloff14, The top was used far more than 2nd, 3rd and 13th. And I DID use 14th on a flat freeway with a 20 mph tail wind. I was doing 27 to 30 mph.
90%? Do you have data to back that up? Denver, Las Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Alburquerque, Santa Fe, Salt Lake City, etc. are examples against this “90% of cities being flat”. Canada and the northern central US aren’t exactly the best places to find hills. They kind of got ground down a few thousand years ago. Drive through the Inner Mountain West and see how many towns and cities have hills you can avoid.
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Old 04-05-20, 01:24 PM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
I can struggle up that last 3 miles in a 50 tooth gear or put the bike into a 39 tooth gear (or lower) and ride it comfortable.
Would you ever find you need a lower gear that a 28t crank paired with 32t cassette would provide? That is what the OP is going on about. Believe me that i ride plenty of hills, had almost 500000 of elevation gain over the last year. The only time i would find i need a lower gear is for heavy loaded touring up a steep hill, and then my low gear is 24/32. I am just trying to say that the 28/28/48t crank should be more than adequate for the majority of commute riding, which is why it is so prevailent in so many manufacturer's hybrid and commuting bikes.
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Old 04-05-20, 02:05 PM
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Originally Posted by SalsaShark View Post
Would you ever find you need a lower gear that a 28t crank paired with 32t cassette would provide?
Yes. Often. Try 23% grade at 12,000 feet

Untitled by Stuart Black, on Flickr

Maybe not for commuting but my bikes serve dual purposes. I have used my lowest gears on my commute when I take the ride over the mountain instead of the paved route.

That is what the OP is going on about. Believe me that i ride plenty of hills, had almost 500000 of elevation gain over the last year. The only time i would find i need a lower gear is for heavy loaded touring up a steep hill, and then my low gear is 24/32. I am just trying to say that the 28/28/48t crank should be more than adequate for the majority of commute riding, which is why it is so prevailent in so many manufacturer's hybrid and commuting bikes.
You. That’s all you can speak for. It isn’t weakness to use low gears nor is it wrong to have them. Grind up hills in whatever gear you want to but don’t tell people that they don’t need them. If you don’t want low gears, great for you. But if someone else wants low gears, I’ll go out of my way to help them attain that goal.

By the way, if someone doesn’t want higher gears like speyfitter, I’m not going to try to convince them that they have to have them. I find high gears and low gears useful and will provide my opinion but if he doesn’t want them, speyfitter doesn’t have to have them.
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Old 04-05-20, 04:33 PM
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Originally Posted by GamblerGORD53 View Post
MTBs DO have these silly lows, BTW
It's not silly, it a necessity for some people....MTBs are designed for off road use and they need to have very low gears, just like Jeeps have low range transfer case for off road use.
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Old 04-05-20, 06:14 PM
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Originally Posted by speyfitter View Post
RANT
I feel that the front cranks sold on many bikes commonly promoted to commuter types are too large and that this is doing a disservice to commuter cyclists. For example many 8 speed commuter type bikes are sold with a 48-38-28 triple crank. If you shift with consideration for chain line management this means that the average commuter cyclist will seldom utilize the largest chainring for much of their city riding and the smallest 28 tooth chainring will at times, depending on the rear cassette (assume an 11-32 rear cassette), find on steeper hills the lowest gear won't be low enough requiring them to have to get off and push their bike or find the climb more gruelling and tiring then it needs to be, especially for newer riders and/or those carrying more weight. In this case, if the bike was sold with a 42-32-22 front crank instead the climbs on harder hills would be much easier, the likstock comelihood of pushing bikes in these situations would be reduced, and the front crank set would see a more even use of all 3 gears on the front crankset and on the rear cassette. The reality is the average commuter cyclist can't push a 48-11 or 48-13 tooth combo except on downhills or if they somehow like extra low cadence.
END OF RANT
I would assume large bike manufacturers have marketing departments that determine which components go on which bikes based on the ultimate goal of profitability. A product may appeal to a larger pool of consumers if it targets the median desires of a defined group, and does so by hitting a certain price point. Sometimes those decisions have nothing to do with ride ability, durability or ergonomics, and everything to do with maximizing return on investment, using leftover components, and shooting for a percentage of a marketplace, rather than aiming at a smart, quality product.

Then there's the emotional appeal of a bike...how it looks, what it suggests it can do rather than what it actually can do. With the right look, graphics, and style, a low-information consumer can be persuaded to buy a bicycle that doesn't meet their needs, and with substandard components. That goes for how the gears look (including how many) rather than usability. Cheap, crappy disk brakes, instead of even cheaper, but adequate rim brakes. Look at the big-box store bikes (Like Wally World)...for extreme examples of marketing over quality or capability.

If you are a seasoned rider, and know what you want and need, you will customize components, etc. And if you are smart, you can buy a lower-price bike and modify it to fit your needs for less than a stock set-up that already does.

I've been a serious bike commuter since 1992, and in December 2014 I began looking for a new bike to fit my commuting needs. No bike I saw packaged as a "commuter" fit the bill. I ended up buying a bike and modifying it to fit my needs, just as I did in 1997 ...and in 1987, even though I wasn't as dedicated a commuter back then. In fact, when I acquired my 1984 Nishiki International in 2009, the first week I had it I changed the small front chain ring for $15 to give me a wider spread of gearing.

So, I agree with you in the sense that many bikes on the market seemingly defy logic as far as set-up and components, etc. But when you buy off the rack, you can't expect a custom fit.

On the other hand there is an astounding variety of new bikes out there with an amazing variety of configurations. Add some customization to the equation and the possibilities are infinite. Ignore the labels, look past the marketing, resist peer pressure, embrace a little customization...your near-perfect ride is out there.
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Old 04-05-20, 06:47 PM
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I think that agreement, with varying degrees of disagreement, is fine. The OP, and everyone else, is right as far as their applications....

For me: had the original triple, on a '95 Trek 800 Sport, with a 9 cassette post production. Almost never used 3rd ring, or 8 & 9. Got a front replacement 22-32-42 and, with the 11-34 cass, has everything I need for east Atlanta commuting. Having said that, I really don't need the granny if I was willing to get off my old arse to pedal. And, while not having to coast (co-worker followed me at 33mph one day), I am more regularly using 8 & 9. I could really go with a double, as granny-1st is the only gear not servicable otherwise. BUT, I will one day go touring with two racks and five bags! I have a feeling my gearing needs, in this case, will move in the granny's direction. Being 59 might have an effect also.

Buy it, try it, and modify... just keep rolling!

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Old 04-05-20, 10:01 PM
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Originally Posted by SalsaShark View Post
Would you ever find you need a lower gear that a 28t crank paired with 32t cassette would provide? That is what the OP is going on about. Believe me that i ride plenty of hills, had almost 500000 of elevation gain over the last year. The only time i would find i need a lower gear is for heavy loaded touring up a steep hill, and then my low gear is 24/32. I am just trying to say that the 28/28/48t crank should be more than adequate for the majority of commute riding, which is why it is so prevailent in so many manufacturer's hybrid and commuting bikes.
But remember people who come on cycling enthusiast websites who often live and die by the bike are not the norm. We're talking about the nurse, the teachers, the tech sector worker, the warehouse worker, who goes to the bike shop and buys what sounds reasonable to replace or offset using their car, to get some incidental exercise while getting to work etc. Many of them start out not knowing any different or understanding gearing other than how to shift, or knowing even, that there are other options. And many bike shops don't have people on the floor experienced enough to recognize this. Instead they get told to buy an e-bike. Or maybe consider clipless pedals and bike shoes which are not as user friendly and in some cases potentially dangerous. Well those are solutions, but the fact remains that most crank gears are not completely useable by your average cycle commuter on the higher end as has been discussed. A 48-38-28 (as an example - 8 speed) or even a 48-36-26 (9 speed)for that matter with an 11-32 rear cassette are relatively useable, but still have two gears on the 48 tooth chainring that most will never see or use but a 42-32-22 (8 speed) or 44-32-22 (9 speed) create much more useable crankset and gear ranges for the average cycle commuter and don't cost anymore money if they were equipped form the factory. A 48-38-28 and 42-32-22 crankset are often the same price aftermarket. My wife's Trek shift 2 as an example, 48-38-28 on 26" tires. There were hills she would have to push on. I had the crankset change to a 42-32-22 and she now cycles up the same hills and she says it's not as gruelling. Now I understand matching the gearing towards your intended riding. But remember when we are talking we are not the norm.
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Old 04-06-20, 09:00 AM
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Gearing adequacy really depends on where you live, what your commute is, and how fit you are. I used to have one "killer hill" on my commute that would often leave me dropping down into granny gear for the first year or tow -- then I got into better shape, and the middle ring was fine. I could probably ride my current (at least, before WFH) commute in the big ring.

It should be noted that I DON'T live on the north side of Seattle, or downtown San Francisco, or anyplace with hills like those.

So standard bike gearing is fine for my commute.

Weekends or vacations, when I want to ride up ridges or mountains? Darn those manufacturers, who don't give me a decent low gear on a road bike! or most touring bikes!
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Old 04-07-20, 12:03 PM
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Originally Posted by SalsaShark View Post
Would you ever find you need a lower gear that a 28t crank paired with 32t cassette would provide? That is what the OP is going on about. Believe me that i ride plenty of hills, had almost 500000 of elevation gain over the last year. The only time i would find i need a lower gear is for heavy loaded touring up a steep hill, and then my low gear is 24/32. I am just trying to say that the 28/28/48t crank should be more than adequate for the majority of commute riding, which is why it is so prevailent in so many manufacturer's hybrid and commuting bikes.
I can get to a 22% grade within a half mile of my house in the Pittsburgh area, and a few years ago while living temporarily in the Ozarks, I needed the lower gearing on my commute every day, and I was thankful I had it.
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Old 04-07-20, 09:31 PM
  #18  
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From a design standpoint, even if you suspect that most riders will use relatively few of their gears, you don't know which gears, especially if you're selling the same bike nationwide. And entry-level riders might not know either. So having an abundance of gears doesn't sound like such a bad idea.

But it's definitely a subjective thing. A colleague of mine and I commute along nearly the same route. He swore that he uses all 21 of his gears on the same route that I prefer to ride on a single-speed.
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Old 04-08-20, 08:06 AM
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Originally Posted by phughes View Post
I can get to a 22% grade within a half mile of my house in the Pittsburgh area, and a few years ago while living temporarily in the Ozarks, I needed the lower gearing on my commute every day, and I was thankful I had it.
Oof! I feel sorry for you! I rode through Pittsburgh in 2015 and went from downtown to the airport along Steuben Street. I should have known something was up when I went past the funiculars
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Old 04-08-20, 11:10 AM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
Oof! I feel sorry for you! I rode through Pittsburgh in 2015 and went from downtown to the airport along Steuben Street. I should have known something was up when I went past the funiculars
Ha! Yeah, Pittsburgh can be challenging. You could have tried Canton Avenue, it's only 1/10 mile long, but it is a 37% grade. https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/canton-avenueThen there are these: https://www.pennlive.com/life/2016/1...ittsburgh.html

Each year there is a race called, The Dirty Dozen, it is a 50 mile race including 13 of the steepest hills in Pittsburgh, including Canton Ave. https://www.bikepgh.org/2017/11/13/d...zen-challenge/
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Old 04-08-20, 05:26 PM
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Some people can't pedal very quickly and wouldn't buy a bike that's too slow pedaling at just 60 RPM.

A 48x12 or 44x11 gear is more than enough when you're not Eddy Merckx who used the equivalent 53x13 to dominate the pro peloton.

Eddy was one of four men to win the Tour de France five times.

With his first victory in 1969 he also won the green and polkadot jerseys. He'd have taken the white jersey for the best young rider if they awarded it in 1969.

Unfortunately, most people don't feel that way.
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Old 04-09-20, 02:55 PM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
You have to consider what a “normal” commute for other people is. My “normal” commute includes 475 feet of climbing for one route...most of which occurs in the last 3 miles of riding. Another route includes 550 feet of climbing that also occurs in the last 3 miles of my route. I can struggle up that last 3 miles in a 50 tooth gear or put the bike into a 39 tooth gear (or lower) and ride it comfortable.

One of my pet peeves is people telling others that their gears are “low enough”. You can’t make that decision for anyone but yourself. I’m far past “cutting my teeth” when it comes to riding and I have no issues whatsoever with having gearing lower than even what speyfitter is asking about.
I have a 30T front. with a 11-50T rear (really big tires though). I ONLY use the 3-4 tallest gears on my commute but in my local MTB park, which is on my commuting route and an optional detour, I really only use the 3 lowest gears (for steep climbing, descents I am usually focused on not dying so I forget to shift up, also I don't know all the trails either and have been caught in too high of a gear on a climb halfway down the hill, don't laugh). Before I got this setup I had a road bike setup at 65 gear inches (42x17 with 700x28) as a single speed and I loved that too.

So I guess, what I am trying to say is, +1 to different strokes for different folks.
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Old 04-09-20, 02:57 PM
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Originally Posted by phughes View Post
Ha! Yeah, Pittsburgh can be challenging. You could have tried Canton Avenue, it's only 1/10 mile long, but it is a 37% grade. https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/canton-avenueThen there are these: https://www.pennlive.com/life/2016/1...ittsburgh.html

Each year there is a race called, The Dirty Dozen, it is a 50 mile race including 13 of the steepest hills in Pittsburgh, including Canton Ave. https://www.bikepgh.org/2017/11/13/d...zen-challenge/
I heard a guy did the dirty dozen on a 37 lb bikeshare bike
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Old 04-09-20, 03:35 PM
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I like having high gears on a bike, along with the regular gears.

Occasionally you may see storm clouds coming your way. It is nice to flick it up a few gears and do a sprint to a place where you can get out of the rain.

I sometimes like to pedal at high speed going down hill, particularly if, it is followed by an up hill section. If you gain a lot of speed going down hill, you can get a long way up the hill without excessive effort.

Even when just approaching a hill. I like to get up to a high speed, which likewise makes it easy to get a long way up the hill without excessive effort.
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Old 04-10-20, 12:22 PM
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Originally Posted by davei1980 View Post
I heard a guy did the dirty dozen on a 37 lb bikeshare bike
Yeah, simply crazy, and a great effort. Here is the story: https://www.wesa.fm/post/why-would-s...-done#stream/0
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