Author Topic: Gearing for Touring Bike  (Read 9989 times)

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Offline big blue cat

Gearing for Touring Bike
« on: June 18, 2015, 01:59:50 pm »
Looking for some insight from the experts. i have a 32 tooth rear cassette on the back of my touring bike. i am not that strong of a climber. I used this gearing in Canada on the Iceberg Parkway & had a hard time. The climbs with the elevation got me. Is it worth the expense to move up to a different cassette, if so to what, or do i need to just suck it up? This year i will be looping around Montana so there will me plenty of hills.
Any help will be great.
Thanks
Scott

Offline RussSeaton

Re: Gearing for Touring Bike
« Reply #1 on: June 18, 2015, 03:21:43 pm »
Its very helpful to know what your crankset is, in addition to the cassette.  I use a 11-32 ten speed cassette on my touring bike and it works fine.  But I also have a triple crankset with a 20 tooth inner chainring.  A 20x32 low gear is very low.  I have not ridden in Montana but guessing its Rocky Mountains are similar to Colorado.  The Rocky Mountains are not very steep.  Long, but not steep.  So you don't need a super low gear.  But if you already had problems in Canada, maybe you do need some extra low gearing.

You can get lower gears two ways.  Make the cassette bigger or make the crankset smaller.  You have a 32 tooth cassette now.  More than likely you can accommodate a 34 tooth cassette.  But if you try to use a 36 tooth cassette, then maybe the rear derailleur hanger will not be long enough to allow the rear derailleur to get underneath the biggest cog.  May or may not have problems with getting a long road derailleur to clear a very big cog.  Mountain derailleurs will generally clear big cogs.  So changing the cassette may or may not be an easy thing.  Have to try it to know if it works.

Not sure what crankset you have now since you did not provide that crucial information.  Lets assume its one of those road triple that only takes down to a 30 tooth inner chainring.  Getting a mountain crankset that takes a 22 tooth inner chainring will be pretty easy.  Making a big change on your inner chainring helps your gearing much more than a small change in the cassette.  And changing the inner chainring leaves the outer and middle rings alone, and these are the ones you use most of the time.  The inner chainring is really only used to climb mountains and hills.  Otherwise its never ever used.

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Gearing for Touring Bike
« Reply #2 on: June 18, 2015, 03:25:08 pm »
As a general rule of thumb, I shoot for a low of 20 gear inches on a touring bike.  (It's basically mountain bike gearing on a sturdy road bike.)  A 32 rear cassette is a third of the information needed to calculate your gearing.  The other two are wheel size and crank.  Assuming something close to 27" (27 1/4", 700C, or 26" tires), you need a 24 small crank to get there with your 32.  If you've got typical road triple gearing, you may currently have a 30 crank, giving you a 25".

The last I heard, the biggest cassette cog you can get is a 36; if paired with a 30 small crank, that only gives you a 22.5" gear.  It's a couple more gears on the low side (given a nominal 10% difference between gears, about typical for mountain or tour gearing).   I wouldn't bother with a new cassette if you're dealing with a 30 (or larger) crank, go for a new crank instead.

You may end up with the two-foot gear (put one foot in front of the other).  No matter how low you go, you'll eventually find a hill that you have to walk.  Build up the clogs on your shoes with Shoe Goo before you go, that will help keep the soles from wearing out.

Offline big blue cat

Re: Gearing for Touring Bike
« Reply #3 on: June 19, 2015, 02:11:42 pm »
Thanks for the info. I have 26" wheels, 26x32 is my lowest gear. Would it be best to go with a 22" in the front?

Offline RonK

Re: Gearing for Touring Bike
« Reply #4 on: June 19, 2015, 08:00:53 pm »

Thanks for the info. I have 26" wheels, 26x32 is my lowest gear. Would it be best to go with a 22" in the front?
That's what I use. After touring through a very hilly region I switched to a 44/33/22 MTB crankset.
My knees are very grateful.
Cycle touring blog and tour journals: whispering wheels...

Offline staehpj1

Re: Gearing for Touring Bike
« Reply #5 on: June 20, 2015, 07:34:04 am »
There are lots of factors to consider and no one size fits all solutions.  How heavy you pack, what kind or terrain, what kind or RPM you prefer to spin, and at what point you would rather walk all should be factored in.  The gearing you have would be adequate for me on a pretty wide range of touring conditions and packing styles, but YMMV.

Offline Venchka

Re: Gearing for Touring Bike
« Reply #6 on: June 20, 2015, 07:29:50 pm »
A 30 mph headwind on flat ground is as bad or worse than a difficult hill.

Wayne


Sent from somewhere around here.
Wayne
Deep in the darkest heart of the East Texas Rain Forest.
Quote
You've come far pilgrim...Feels like far...Were it worth the trouble?...Huh? What trouble?

Offline RussSeaton

Re: Gearing for Touring Bike
« Reply #7 on: July 07, 2015, 05:17:13 pm »
I have 26" wheels, 26x32 is my lowest gear. Would it be best to go with a 22" in the front?

26" wheels kind of implies you are using a mountain bike for touring.  Fine.  If you have a triple crankset and 26 teeth is the inner chainring, then that implies a mountain bike crankset too.  Mountain bikes come with triple cranks that use 64mm bolt circle diameter inner chainrings that sometimes use 28 or 26 or 24 or 22 tooth inner chainrings.  Your easiest way to get lower gears is to replace the 26 tooth inner chainring with a 22 tooth inner chainring.  Assume its 64mm bolt circle diameter.  A low gear of 22x32 should be low enough for about any climbing.  And it should be pretty easy to replace the inner chainring.  And your middle and outer rings should stay the same and these are the ones you use 99% of the time.  The inner chainring is rarely ever used so changing it is fine.

This is a 22 tooth inner chainring with 64mm bcd.  Should fit your crankset.  If you have any doubts, then take the bike to a bike shop and have them change the chainring.  Should take a 22 tooth.
http://www.nashbar.com/bikes/CategoryDisplay?catalogId=10052&storeId=10053&langId=-1&categoryId=204711&facet=xf_cas_f21_ntk_cs%253A22&metaData=&pageSize=&orderBy=&searchTerm=

Offline PeteJack

Re: Gearing for Touring Bike
« Reply #8 on: July 10, 2015, 12:10:10 am »
I've just done the Icefields Parkway with bike and paniers weighing 80 lbs (I know this because it got weighed at the ACA HQ) My gearing was and still is 51-38-24 on the front with an 11-32 cassette & 700C wheels. One thing that makes theses climbs hard work is not shifting to your smallest front ring soon enough. It's all too easy to find yourself mashing up long climbs. The Parkway has a lot of climbs with gradients that if they were shorter (like on your day rides at home) you wouldn't shift into a low gear to get up them. The trick is to start spinning in a low gear from the very start of a climb and not wait to shift down when you are half / two-thirds the way up; by that time you've expended a lot of energy. By all means go to the smallest front ring you can fit but think about technique and don't be in too much of a hurry.

Offline zerodish

Re: Gearing for Touring Bike
« Reply #9 on: July 11, 2015, 08:22:20 pm »
I'm using a 20 34 42 front and a 12 13 15 17 20 24 30 39 rear. This allows my normal top speed of 28 mph with an optimal cadence and a 2.4 mph low speed with an OK cadence. Below 2.4 mph it becomes problematical to maintain a straight line. At this point you get off and push. I would use a lower gear if it was feasible. I tend to spin at 90 rpm on the lesser hills. Really try to find and old Sugino Impel and use a 36 tooth on the rear. I still have tendon damage in my arms from the oil well fields 30 years ago. My knees are fine after 100000 miles because I spin higher rpms.

Offline pptouring

Re: Gearing for Touring Bike
« Reply #10 on: July 12, 2015, 09:10:11 am »
I have 26" wheels, 26x32 is my lowest gear. Would it be best to go with a 22" in the front?

26" wheels kind of implies you are using a mountain bike for touring.  Fine. 


No the OP could be the owner of Surly LHT or a Co-Motion Pangea, they both come in 26".  As for gearing, we found that a 38 front and 17 rear seem to work just perfect giving you plenty of range for flats and the most demanding climbs.  :)  8)  :o

Offline RussSeaton

Re: Gearing for Touring Bike
« Reply #11 on: July 12, 2015, 07:26:35 pm »
No the OP could be the owner of Surly LHT or a Co-Motion Pangea, they both come in 26".  As for gearing, we found that a 38 front and 17 rear seem to work just perfect giving you plenty of range for flats and the most demanding climbs.  :)  8)  :o

There have probably been 10 million more 26 inch mountain bikes sold than Surly or Co-Motion bikes sold.  Kind of implies the person is using a 26" mountain bike for touring.

You recommend a 38 tooth front chainring and a 17 tooth rear cog for climbing mountains on a touring bike.  Professional Tour de France riders use easier gears than that for climbing mountains.  And they don't carry panniers and gear on their bikes.  38x17 low gear.  Sure.

Offline pptouring

Re: Gearing for Touring Bike
« Reply #12 on: July 14, 2015, 09:45:25 am »

You recommend a 38 tooth front chainring and a 17 tooth rear cog for climbing mountains on a touring bike.  Professional Tour de France riders use easier gears than that for climbing mountains.  And they don't carry panniers and gear on their bikes.  38x17 low gear.  Sure.


I guess we are pretty darn tuff then aren't we? Yup, we started out with a 44x16 combo but that was a bit rough on the knees, so we changed our gearing to 38x17 and that seems to be a nice spot for us. We did met a Dutch fella that was cycling with a 40x21 and he seemed real pleased with that.  8)


Here we are crossing Brenner Pass, Austrian and Italian Border. Made it with a 38x17 on my 26" Co-Motion Pangea Rohloff. ;-)

« Last Edit: July 14, 2015, 10:09:17 am by pptouring »

Offline DaveB

Re: Gearing for Touring Bike
« Reply #13 on: July 14, 2015, 05:26:28 pm »
Here we are crossing Brenner Pass, Austrian and Italian Border. Made it with a 38x17 on my 26" Co-Motion Pangea Rohloff.....
Seem you left that word out of your earlier posting.

Offline pptouring

Re: Gearing for Touring Bike
« Reply #14 on: July 15, 2015, 07:25:54 pm »
Seem you left that word out of your earlier posting.

Yeah I did that intentionally. It was suppose to be more of a silly (not to taken seriously) response. Everyone else is listing measurements or 44,32,22 X 11-44 combos, so I thought I would just throw out our simple combo of 38x17 out there. However, I did not expect the... "Tour de France guys can't do it, then no one can..." blah blah blah comment! Hence my follow up being even more sarcastic. Whatever! I try to occasionally come on here and offer up some of the things that have worked for us in real world touring experiences and not what is spoon fed to me via magazine articles and I also like to have a little fun.