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How often do you use the big chainring?

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How often do you use the big chainring?

Old 10-04-22, 09:37 PM
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How often do you use the big chainring?

Be honest. How much do you use it? How useful is it? Mainly the doubles where the large chainring is 50+ teeth.

I've started looking at pictures of people riding their vintage bikes and the chain is on the smaller chainring 95%+ of the time. I hardly ever use it and am probably just going to remove it off all my cranksets.
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Old 10-04-22, 09:51 PM
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Most of the time unless I'm riding up a hill >=5% gradient.

I find it very useful to propel the bike forward.

50T chainring with 13-26 cassette.
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Old 10-04-22, 10:00 PM
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I've always used the iinner/middle chainring most of the time (raced a 53/42 X 13-19 a million years ago) but I keep the big ring for control on fast descents and the nice choice of gears on those magic days with big tailwinds. Older now so the calm wind race-pace rides don't happen but I also live just outside Portland and there are some very fast descents.
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Old 10-04-22, 10:10 PM
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Not often enough, that being said, when I need it I want it.

Hauling azz down a long hill or trying to fly across a long flat with a tail wind or when I can actually push it, again, not often enough.

AND as with so many other things, C+V don't look proper without it.
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Old 10-04-22, 10:10 PM
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On the road it's 95% of riding in the big ring. 50/34 rings and 11-28t cassettes.
On my gravel bike it's 80% of riding in the big ring. 48/32 rings and 1136t cassette.

Paved roads are rarely over 8% here and when they are it's for a couple hundred yards at most.
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Old 10-04-22, 10:22 PM
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About 15% of the time, on my normal 40 mi ride.
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Old 10-04-22, 10:28 PM
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One bike is a Cannondale Topstone, comes with a 30/46 crank. I have a 12-25 cassette on the road wheels, so pretty much live in the 46.
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Old 10-04-22, 10:30 PM
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The 50t front ring with an 11-32t cassette gets used the majority of the time on my solo riding, probably 85-90% of the time on average. I will drop down to the 34t ring for steeper climbs that are sustained long enough to keep me in the saddle.
I have completed plenty of fairly hilly rides without shifting out of the 50t at all, though. Depends on how fast I am riding and how spry I am feeling that day.
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Old 10-04-22, 11:08 PM
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Consider half-step gearing before you go 1X#
I don't do: disks, tubeless, e-shifting, or bead head nymphs.
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Old 10-04-22, 11:13 PM
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Chicago is flat, so I'm always in the big ring around here. Only use two gears typically: 52-16, or 52-20. Anyplace with hills and I'll half step through most of the gears I got.
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Old 10-04-22, 11:17 PM
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On my 2x road bikes probably 85-90% in the big one. On bikes with 3x, it is about 85% in the middle ring and the rest split between granny and big cog based on terrain.

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Old 10-04-22, 11:29 PM
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80 percent in the 52/53t. Only in the 42/39t when climbing.

40-50 percent for my grocery getter.
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Old 10-05-22, 12:37 AM
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100% unless traveling out of flatlandia
most 52's, three 53's & one 50

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Old 10-05-22, 01:23 AM
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90% in 52 or 53, most of my FW’s are 14/28 five speed. I use 41 or 42 small chain ring for climbing.
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Old 10-05-22, 01:27 AM
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I'm usually in whatever gives me around-abouts ~70-76 gear inches. About 19-21mph. So, I'm in the 50 tooth about 95% of the time. As far as cogs that means mostly 18,19,20,21,23-ish cog based on terrain & if I feel I want to mash or spin.

If it's beyond the 25 cog, then I'll switch to the 34 tooth ring, sit & spin, and just accept that I'm getting my a kicked by a tough hill.

Vintage bikes had big rings because the 14 tooth on the freewheel was as fast as was possible based on freewheel design constraints. A low of around 40 gear inches was about the limit owing to derailleur design at the time. Having a triple helped. Thankfully design since then has improved & bikes have a range not 170% but more often than not 350-500% or more.
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Old 10-05-22, 02:42 AM
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You should look at the BIG CHAINRING in context, combined with some selection from the rear!

Its only gearing and that is all, why should I ride the way that I do...................didn't John Lennon sing that on one of the outtakes from the Help album in 1965?

For example having 54 in the front on the BIG RING, and having the chain on the 22 teeth rear cog GIVES YOU (65 GEAR)

For example having 39 in the front (Smaller Front RING) and having the chain on the 16 teeth rear cog GIVES YOU (66 GEAR)

For example having 52 in the front on the BIG RING, and having the chain on the 21 teeth rear cog GIVES YOU (67 GEAR)

FOR EXAMPLE having 52 in front on the BIG RING and having the chain on the 24 teeth rear cog GIVES YOU (58 GEAR)

FOR EXAMPLE having 36 in front(Smaller Front RING) and having the chain on the 17 teeth rear cog GIVES YOU (57 GEAR)

FOR EXAMPLE having 49 in front as your BIG RING and having the chain on the 24 teeth rear cog GIVES YOU (55 GEAR)

Hey, its all related to the COMBINATION of what the front & rear are. The whole point of added gears are TO GIVE YOU OPTIONS.
Many people, during the 1970's bike boom and still today, find a TEN SPEED to be confusing with too many gears, BECAUSE THEY NEVER BOTHERED TO, OR NOBODY EVER SHOWED THEM HOW TO EFFECTIVELY & EFFICIENTLY UTILIZE THEIR GEAR SELECTORS.
This is the reason that you see so many folks ALWAYS RIDING ON THE SMALLER FRONT CHAINRING.
They have mastered the GEAR SELECTOR that controls the REAR DERAILLEUR and thus changes between the five rear cogs (or six, or on more modern, seven...)
These folks don't like the left side GEAR SELECTOR LEVER which ONLY controls the front derailleur, changing only between the SMALLfront & BIGfront on a 10 speed
THEY DON'T LIKE IT PROBABLY BECAUSE IT ONLY DOES THAT (changes small to big OR big to small, DEPENDING ON WHICH WAY THAT YOU MANIPULATE THE LEVER CONTROL (it is so simple, but in their minds it doesn't do anything, WHERE THE OTHER right side Lever GOES THRU 5 gears)
So they LIKE TO LEAVE THE Front Chainring "essentially fixed to usually the smaller of the two" and THEN NOT WORRY ABOUT THE left side Gear Selector.
************Yeah, I know that this sounds, dimwitted and stupid, to everyone who already understands what the gears and gear selectors are there for and how to use them. So essentially, you have folks that UNDERSTAND COMPLETELY how to ride a single speed coaster brake cruiser type bike, or even a 3 speed , or even a 5 speed BECAUSE THEY ARE SO FAMILIAR WITH HAVING JUST one front chainring, THAT IT BLOWS THEIR MIND THAT THERE MIGHT BE two (or three..) THAT THEY CONVINCE THEMSELVES THAT THE BEST THING TO DO IS JUST to Set It On The One Chainring and just Use That, Because It makes for Less hassles, and for less things to go wrong, and it makes for no need to hopefully, ever operate the Left Shift Lever.
*** You all probably think that I am joking, but I have rebuilt and donated a number of ten speeds, just during the past 12 months. Yeah, all of them, I have converted to upright tourist riders, all with 7881 Schwinn handlebars and Weinmann-Diacompe tourist hand brake levers and stem shifters if not so equipped, with new tires, innertubes, brake pads, cables if needed, new or used seats,handlebar grips as needed, fully lubed, greased and adjusted, always with decent Shimano or Suntour rear derailleurs, so nothing goes out with Simplex or Campagnolo junk, or even a halfway decent Huret Allvit. The point is to build a decent, almost indestructible 10 speed as these are all given away to very needy less fortunate inner city residents that can really use these for everyday transportation.
Yes, you can argue that the cost to rebuilt said bikes probably exceeds their market resale value, but I don't care, as I am footing the bill and I can afford to.
Its fun for me to take apart and completely rebuild old basic 10 speeds, preferrably those with the ashtabula one piece crank & stem shift levers, because they are simple and unbreakable and supremely reliable for basic transportation for those who otherwise have to walk or rely on the city bus schedule.
I've had to teach and explain about ten people that received bikes just this year, what the gears are for and how to use them.
I do sometimes convert some of these ancient ten speeds to five speeds because it makes for simpler & easier to understand, particularly for folks in their sixties and seventies. Ideally though you have to have the GEARING, if you live in a normal area with hills. For Example: THE 1970-1977 Schwinn Collegiate 5 speed HAS A SLIGHTLY BETTER HILL CLIMBING ABILITY THAN THE mid sixties through 1982 VARSITY, Continental 10 SPEEDS. Yes it does!
The 46 front and 32 rear Lowest gear of the 1970-1977 COLLEGIATE FIVE SPEED with 26(597mm) wheels IS SLIGHTLY BETTER in Hill Climbing THAN the 39 smallest front and 28 rear Lowest gear of the mid sixties thru 1982 VARSITY-CONTINENTAL TEN SPEED with 27(630mm) wheels.
The 1964-1969 COLLEGIATE is NOT as it has the same 28 rear Lowest gear as the mid sixties thru 1982 VARSITY-Conti does.

Know your gearing. Know your gears. Use them to benefit you. If they don't, then change them! (EITHER WITH THE GEAR LEVERS ON THE BICYCLE, or if need be, make physical changes to the rear cogs( freewheel ), or the front (chainring or chainrings), BUT NEVER DO THE LATTER UNLESS YOU FULLY UNDERSTAND Gear Numbers & comparative Gear Charts, and fully know how and why said gearing would be beneficial to YOU!! Don't be an idiot and just go by what Lance or somebody that is among the best of the best in the world can do,.......you gotta do what is appropriate for YOU. Gears simply make life easier, whether on equipment, machinery, engines, transmissions, rear-end differentials, or on bicycles. Gears allow you to not have to work as hard, and if you learn to work your gears most efficiently for you, by shifting into another gear when is most efficient & beneficial for you, you'll see that your rides will become less labored and more pleasant and fun.
Now, certainly some folks like to really be a speed demon and go as fast as their feet can fly, up around the bend, down the hill, but many folks aren't comfortable reaching 35 mph + on downhill stretches.
There has always been significant debate as to what is the best size of the Large front chainring (**THE NUMBER OF TEETH on it**).
Heck, on ancient single speed beach cruisers from the 1930's thru the 1970's, even with the single front chainring, many were all over the "map" so to speak with various models having any where from 42TEETH to 52TEETH (......some bicycles with (42), (43), (44), (46), (48), (50), (52)........)
Actually very many fifities and early sixties boys single speed cruiser coaster brake bicycles have (52T) front chainring.
IT STILL ALL BOILS DOWN TO WHAT THE REAR COG is in combination with that front chainring.
Most people don't realize this but it is fairly simple to change most any ancient coaster brake single speed cruiser's rear gear cog and swap it for a different gear size, typically most often you'll find replacement cogs in (16), (17), (18), (19), (20), (21), (22) for the single speed coaster brake cruiser bicycles. The replacement cogs are typically very inexpensive at about $20 new. As you can see, even the lowly, often ignored, single speed beach cruiser can be BETTER TAILORED to a GEARING that suits either Fast Freddy with the powerful leg muscles or Bee Boppin' Bobby who at 74 years old and at 5'-10" and 175 pounds, just wants to enjoy slow riding to stay physically fit and active, when he's not on the tennis court.

Here is a cave-man simple WAY TO CALCULATE Gear Numbers that are meaningful and completely relevant and comparative between similar bicycles:



So here is an EXAMPLE: You've got a bicycle with 700C wheels and you've got front sprocket of 45, and you've got rear sprocket of 15 teeth

45 divided by 15 = 3

so your "result" was 3

Take that "result" of 3 and MULTIPLY IT BY 27 (******we ALWAYS USE 27 for any 27"(630mm) -OR- for any 700C (622mm) WHEELS*****)

so 3 X 27 = 81 GEAR

Do this same caveman simple computation for each gear combination.

REMEMBER that you USE (27) for the wheel diameter IF THE BICYCLE HAS 700C(622mm) wheels -OR- IF THE BIKE HAS 27"(630mm) wheels.

You would USE (26) for the wheel diameter IF THE BICYCLE HAS 26 x 1 3/8 tires ( both Schwinn 597mm and Ordinary 590mm), and any 559mm, 584mm, 571mm,599mm, and any 650, 650a, 650b, 650c bicycle tire size.

******CERTAINLY THERE ARE PRACTICAL LIMITS AS TO HOW WIDE a range of gearing BUT my guess is that somewhere within the 31 GEAR to 100 GEAR range is probably most practical on old 10 speed. ****YOU WOULD NEED A SUNTOUR or SHIMANO freewheel with a 34 TEETH low gear Cog, IF YOU WANTED TO GET as low as (31 GEAR) with a 39 TEETH small front Chainring. ******YOU WOULD ALSO NEED a SUNTOUR or SHIMANO rear derailleur that is capable of shifting a 34 teeth rear (1st gear) cog.***** The Europeans: Campagnolo, Simplex, and Huret, could never ever do that reliably!!!
So for example if your TEN SPEED has a freewheel that has a 32 TEETH low gear Cog and you've got 39T on the small Front Chainring, that would give you (33 GEAR).................******You would still require a SUNTOUR or SHIMANO rear derailleur that is capable of shifting a 32 teeth rear (1st gear)cog***** The Europeans can't get the job done reliably on anything with 32 or 34 teeth.
So for example what if your TEN SPEED has 28 teeth in the rear(1st gear)cog and it has 39T as the small front Chainring, well that gives you (38 GEAR).

Now the 1970-1977 Schwinn Collegiate FIVE SPEED with its 597mm wheel and 46 teeth front chainring and 32 teeth (1st gear) rear cog calculates to (37 GEAR).
Now the 1964-1969 Schwinn Collegiate FIVE SPEED with its 597mm wheel and 46 teeth front chainring and 28 teeth (1st gear)rear cog calculates to (43 GEAR).
**************************OBVIOUSLY THE LOWER gear numbers ARE INDICATIVE OF BETTER HILL CLIMBING ABILITY***********obviously practical limits do come into play, beyond a certain point, but certainly something around the (28 GEAR) might still be very practical & useful for HILL CLIMBING.
Same thing applies with respect to Top-End Speed Potential, because you as a HUMAN must turn the pedals with your human legs. There will be practical limits there as well. Some very fit (think professional athlete, or olympic athletes, IRONMAN triathlon winners or tour de france participants) athletes can utilize top end gearing which average physically fit cyclists cannot. Most production bicycles do account for this, although through the years, bike manufacturers have sometimes produced certain models which cater to those most capable, best of the best, but Joe Blow with a boatload of money in tow is gonna have it, even it kills him to ride it as it is all about bragging rights as Joe Blow isn't ever gonna come close to winning any triathlon, as he's never competed in one as of yet, and as for cycling events, well his achievement glory is pacing the weekly Tuesday night 25 mile ride from Jurgens' Bike Shop.
You've got to realistically know what gearing is better suited for YOU. MOST ANCIENT TEN SPEEDS WILL BENEFIT GREATLY FROM an upgrade to a SUNTOUR or SHIMANO freewheel with either a 32 T low gear cog , or the version with the biggie 34T cog. IF YOU'RE RIDING ONE OF THOSE ANCIENT EUROPEAN BIKES WITH THE CORN COB FREEWHEELS or ANYTHING WITH JUST ONLY a 26T cog, YOU HAD BETTER BE IN DAMN GOOD SHAPE, IF YOU HAVE ANY HILLS IN THE AREA IN WHICH YOU RIDE. 28T low gear cog was the most common on BASIC Ten Speeds during the 1968 - 1984 era.
Many European bikes retained 26 T and didn't approach 28T until maybe 1975, although 28T was common among basic inexpensive Euro models by 1970-1971 if not prior.

*****GEARS help you do what You Cannot Do Without Them.
Having them is a real asset. Now, the argument is always been, how many?
Average, an ordinary bicycle rider don't need that many if whatcha do have is tailored to you (THE RIDER of that bicycle) and the geographic location, hills, terrain, etc where you ride. An enthusiastic, physically fit, cyclist with the need for speed and an urge to cover as many miles as he or she can during daylight hours after work and on the weekends, may choose something more sporty that isn't at all the typical grocery getter. Shifting gears and traveling at an average pace of 20 mph or more is what those avid physically fit enthusiastic cyclists want. More gears can assist one in maintaining that 20mph and above average speed.

Not everybody's BIG CHAINRING has a (52) , or (53) , or (54). My '71 schwinn Sports Tourer has a 54 biggie front and a real small 36 small front.
It also has a freewheel with 34-28-22-17-14 ..................the gear range on the '71 Sports Tourer is from 28 GEAR to 104 GEAR and that was one of the widest gear ranges on any production TEN SPEED during the Seventies. Schwinn changed the '72 model as it no longer had the 36 small front, making the small front chainring larger, thus limiting the range where it didn't go down to a 28 GEAR any more.
My 1971 Sports Tourer has been ridden in at least six Sprint Triathlons. Though, it is ancient and not any where close to a 21st century tri bike, it is still a very capable machine, assuming you're an oustanding swimmer, runner, and transitionalist and the competition in said Sprint triathlon event isn't that stellar. Youtr 22 mile bike portion time won't be so bad on that thing.

Become more of a gearhead and learn enough about gearing such that you can better enjoy what your bicycle has to offer.
Ride Often, Ride On, Have Fun, and let the gears do most of the work, so you can cruise or fly on down the road (whatever speed suits you).
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Old 10-05-22, 03:30 AM
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Probably 90% of my time on bikes is spent in the big ring. I live in flatland, usually in the small ring only when riding into a strong headwind, or with a load on a bike. The bike I use for that, Lemond Poprad, has a 46-38 up front and a 11-34 in the back. The small ring with big cogs rarely get used. However, if traveling with this bike, I can go pretty much anywhere with that gearing, or change the small ring to 36 or 34 tooth.

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Old 10-05-22, 03:39 AM
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I am on the big ring most of the time. I use the small ring to accelerate from a stop or on climbs. In town, I ride mostly as a two-speed, only using the front derailleur. With only two chainrings it is as convenient as indexed shifting.
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Old 10-05-22, 04:34 AM
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Big ringer here until it gets too steep. I fall in to the psychological camp that with identical gear inches, the big ring combo feels faster than the small ring combo.
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Old 10-05-22, 04:57 AM
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Originally Posted by plonz View Post
Big ringer here until it gets too steep. I fall in to the psychological camp that with identical gear inches, the big ring combo feels faster than the small ring combo.
The ring combo *may* actually be a bit more efficient at times on account of reduced tension & reduced amount of turn each link must do to conform to the larger radius. Meaning lower frictional losses.

Larger gears also mean more teeth engaged assuring each tooth and each chain link shares a smaller amount of load. It stands to reason your components would also last longer.

Last edited by base2; 10-05-22 at 05:01 AM.
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Old 10-05-22, 04:59 AM
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Originally Posted by AdventureManCO View Post
Be honest. How much do you use it? How useful is it? Mainly the doubles where the large chainring is 50+ teeth.
Almost all the time. But then I live in the Chicago area.
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Old 10-05-22, 06:03 AM
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On the flat with good weather and no clutter I'd be 90 +/- 5 gear inches, i.e., 48-13/15, 51-14/16 and 55-15/17. It is good to have a higher gear or two (e.g., 112" with 11, 12 or 13 t sprockets) for tailwinds and slight downhills. My shortest gears are decided on what I need to get up 25% when a bit tired and likely a headwind. 30-34 gives 24" on 3x6 and 3x7 road (sealed surface) bikes. With some clutter and/or rough-stuff conditions 24-40 gives about 15" on a 3x10 ATB. It's fun to design gearing to your fitness, cycling terrain, typical weather, load carried etc. I guess my answer is not much of the time because I don't ride much flat road, maybe 80% middle ring and 10% each large and small rings.
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Old 10-05-22, 06:11 AM
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Half-step + granny setup here, and the big ring is 46t, so not in the OP's specifications, but... It's very hilly where I live and I like to maintain a fairly consistent (& high-ish) cadence, so I definitely get use out of all the rings. I'd guess I'm on the middle ring 40% of the time and the rest split between the big and the small. I love the half-step setup- it means more shifting, but with the right rings/cogs you can get a very evenly spaced spread of ratios and pretty much always be in the 'right' gear.
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Old 10-05-22, 06:25 AM
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Old 10-05-22, 06:29 AM
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A much better question would be what gear inches do you ride most of the time. I have bikes with big rings ranging from 53t to 42t.
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