Author Topic: Gear Inches for the Northern Tier  (Read 5598 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline great_egret

Gear Inches for the Northern Tier
« on: April 02, 2016, 07:50:28 pm »
I've been doing quite a bit of research for my Northern tier tour this summer.  I have everything I need.  I'm even in the process of swapping out part of my drive train to get lower gear inches for the Cascade and the passes around Glacier NP. 

I have a 2016 Specialized AWOL base model with Sora groupset 3x9.  50-39-30 chainrings and 11-32 cassette.  This sets the lowest gear inch with my 29er X 1.75 tires at 26.3.  Way to high with full panniers.  The least expensive option for me was to swap out the crankset for a 44-32-22 and keep everything else.  This puts me at 19.3 gear inches on the low end.  I'm pretty confident this will help me get over the mountains along the Northern Tier, but since I've never been in these mountains on a bike fully loaded, it will be a wait and find out experience.

For those that have done the Northern Tier, what gear inches/drive trains have you run?   Did what you have work for you, why did or didn't it?  Are there passes that you wished you had one more low gear?  If so, where?

I'm pretty excited for the journey and this post may be a symptom of overthinking while planning, but that's part of the fun, right? 
« Last Edit: April 02, 2016, 07:54:03 pm by great_egret »

Offline RonK

Gear Inches for the Northern Tier
« Reply #1 on: April 02, 2016, 07:54:48 pm »
I can't comment about the Northern Tier, but 22x34 is my standard low gear, and is often used particularly once the grade exceeds 10%.

For my new bike project currently underway, I'm doing away with the big ring altogether, and instead will use a 36/22 chainset with an 11-36 cassette.
« Last Edit: April 02, 2016, 08:00:23 pm by RonK »
Cycle touring blog and tour journals: whispering wheels...

Offline Nyimbo

Re: Gear Inches for the Northern Tier
« Reply #2 on: April 02, 2016, 10:11:07 pm »
I wondered the same. My lowest gear is  the same as yours - 32/22. I dont know if it is worth the dollars to buy a new cassette to get lower to 34/22 or 36/22. I dont know without taking my bike in to a shop if the 36 will even work on my setup.

Offline great_egret

Re: Gear Inches for the Northern Tier
« Reply #3 on: April 02, 2016, 10:34:27 pm »
I would swap out my cassette for an 11-34 or 11-36 if it didn't mean swapping out the rear Sora derailleur too.  The cage isn't long enough to handle a cog larger then 32t.  I still might, but it'll be a lot more money then just swapping out the crankset as i did.

I just got the AWOL last October.  After I get a bit of use out of the Sora drive train (now with a Deore crankset) I'll do a complete overhaul with a White Industries 44-24 crankset and a 11-42 11 speed cassette. 

What shifters and rear derailleur do you have, Nyimbo?  I might be able to tell you if you can swap out your 11-32 with a 11-34 or 11-36 (or 12-34 or 12-36 depending on your groupset).
« Last Edit: April 02, 2016, 10:36:00 pm by great_egret »

Offline Nyimbo

Re: Gear Inches for the Northern Tier
« Reply #4 on: April 02, 2016, 10:43:22 pm »
My derailer says SRAM X7 10 speed

Offline great_egret

Re: Gear Inches for the Northern Tier
« Reply #5 on: April 02, 2016, 10:52:56 pm »
My derailer says SRAM X7 10 speed
You can go as high as a 36t cog with the X7.


Sent from my Nexus 6P using Tapatalk


Offline Nyimbo

Re: Gear Inches for the Northern Tier
« Reply #6 on: April 03, 2016, 12:08:31 am »
I just reread the post above - I missed the ques about shifters?  I didn't know what shifters I had but the paperwork in my bike folder it says I have SRAM TT. I am curious how the shifters impact the cassette size?

Offline great_egret

Re: Gear Inches for the Northern Tier
« Reply #7 on: April 03, 2016, 07:08:46 am »
Since you're using SRAM barend shifters, this really isn't an issue. We could talk for ages about this because it can get quite technical.  Mostly because there are so many options out there, many of which are not compatible. To simplify the answer:

There are not many options for low gears while using road STI shifters, or "brifters" as they are sometimes called.  This is especially true for bikes with Shimano 10 and 11-speed STI shifters.  Shimano doesn't make a road drivetrain with the low gears that are required for fully loaded touring. The solution has been to combine road STI shifters with MTB drivetrains.  However, when shimano came out with the 10-speed STI shifter, they were not comaptible with MTB derailleurs.  9-speed Shimano STI shifters still are.  SRAM STI shifters are still compatible with 10-speed MTB derailleurs.

If I wanted to swap out my 11-32 cassette for an 11-34 or 11-36, I would have to replace the rear Sora (road) derailleur for a Deore (MTB) derailleur.  Since I have 9-speed STI shifters, this is compatible.  If I had 10- or 11-speed Shimano STI shifters, I'd probably ditch the entire groupset and go with the White Industries crankset I mentioned above combined with SRAM derailleurs.


If you want a more detailed answer than I can give you here, the latest Adventure Cyclist (April 2016) has a good article on drive trains for cycling tourists:

https://www.adventurecycling.org/default/assets/File/AdventureCyclist/MagazinePDFs/20160401_AdventureCyclist(1).pdf

Also, Alee from cyclingabout.com has a good blog post about road shifters and drivetrains for getting up hills:

http://www.cyclingabout.com/wider-gear-range-road-shifters-gears-for-easier-hill-climbing/

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Gear Inches for the Northern Tier
« Reply #8 on: April 03, 2016, 01:25:21 pm »
You can usually stretch a Shimano derailer rating by at least a couple of inches, so a 34 should work with the existing Sora derailer.

I rode from Glacier west on the NT.  Most of WA 20 is limited to 6% grades, which is doable with 20 gear inches.  IIRC, there were a few steeper stretches on Loup Loup (which I didn't mind, as I was going downhill!), but they were fairly short.  Also, there's 3/4 mile of 8% going east of Tonasket that was aggravating because there was a school zone and stop sign right at the bottom -- nowhere to let it run out.  Grr.  All that climbing gone to waste.

But I digress.  You'll have to climb that, which will be easier early in the morning when you're fresh.  The rest of the Washington passes, and Idaho and western Montana, was not a major problem.  Though we had some 3,500 miles in our legs by the time we got to Glacier, which might have some bearing on my perception!  Also, if the NT is like the TransAm, the worst grades are in the east (Virginia, Kentucky, and Missouri on the TA).

Finally, don't be ashamed if you need to walk a few hundred yards.  It's still human powered travel.  And while road builders can build roads you may not be able to ride up, even when they truck the equipment and material around to the top so they can pave going down they can't pave a road you can't walk up!

Offline BikePacker

Re: Gear Inches for the Northern Tier
« Reply #9 on: April 03, 2016, 03:00:15 pm »
Did the N. Cascades Northern Tier w/ 17 chain inches.  I love extra low cause I prefer to carry more gear than most. 
Anyway going west to east w/ 17 worked out fine ... I would not have wanted less cause then I would have fallen over from going too slowly :- ).
- Wishing you a great tour.

Offline great_egret

Re: Gear Inches for the Northern Tier
« Reply #10 on: April 03, 2016, 07:00:01 pm »
Did the N. Cascades Northern Tier w/ 17 chain inches.  I love extra low cause I prefer to carry more gear than most. 
Anyway going west to east w/ 17 worked out fine ... I would not have wanted less cause then I would have fallen over from going too slowly :- ).
- Wishing you a great tour.

Thanks BikePacker.  I'm so excited for this tour.  What do you consider more gear then most, weight wise?  I'm thinking of carrying no more than 50 lbs, likely less and I'm on the lighter side at 140 lbs.

Offline great_egret

Re: Gear Inches for the Northern Tier
« Reply #11 on: April 03, 2016, 07:04:47 pm »
You can usually stretch a Shimano derailer rating by at least a couple of inches, so a 34 should work with the existing Sora derailer.

I can find an 11-34 cheaply. I might give it a try.  I'll have to really crank down on that B screw, or get a longer screw. The bigger issue might be the capacity of the Sora rear mech.  It's 41t and I'm already pushing that at 43t with 44-32-22 chainrings and 11-32 cassette.  If I go to an 11-34 it'll exceed the capacity by 4 at 45t.  It'll be fun to try it out before my tour, though.



I rode from Glacier west on the NT.  Most of WA 20 is limited to 6% grades, which is doable with 20 gear inches.  IIRC, there were a few steeper stretches on Loup Loup (which I didn't mind, as I was going downhill!), but they were fairly short.  Also, there's 3/4 mile of 8% going east of Tonasket that was aggravating because there was a school zone and stop sign right at the bottom -- nowhere to let it run out.  Grr.  All that climbing gone to waste.

But I digress.  You'll have to climb that, which will be easier early in the morning when you're fresh.  The rest of the Washington passes, and Idaho and western Montana, was not a major problem.  Though we had some 3,500 miles in our legs by the time we got to Glacier, which might have some bearing on my perception!  Also, if the NT is like the TransAm, the worst grades are in the east (Virginia, Kentucky, and Missouri on the TA).

Finally, don't be ashamed if you need to walk a few hundred yards.  It's still human powered travel.  And while road builders can build roads you may not be able to ride up, even when they truck the equipment and material around to the top so they can pave going down they can't pave a road you can't walk up!

Such good advice and tips!  Thanks Pat.  After long miles of all day climbing, I may have to walk more than a few hundred yards. :-)
« Last Edit: April 03, 2016, 07:17:22 pm by great_egret »

Offline great_egret

Re: Gear Inches for the Northern Tier
« Reply #12 on: April 03, 2016, 07:21:43 pm »
I can't comment about the Northern Tier, but 22x34 is my standard low gear, and is often used particularly once the grade exceeds 10%.

For my new bike project currently underway, I'm doing away with the big ring altogether, and instead will use a 36/22 chainset with an 11-36 cassette.

I have a gravel bike with 46/36 chainrings and 11-36 cassette.  It's such a fun ride.  36/22 would be a blast on some steep hills I bet. Are you using a chainkeeper? 36/22 is a big jump.

Offline RonK

Re: Gear Inches for the Northern Tier
« Reply #13 on: April 03, 2016, 09:35:14 pm »
I can't comment about the Northern Tier, but 22x34 is my standard low gear, and is often used particularly once the grade exceeds 10%.

For my new bike project currently underway, I'm doing away with the big ring altogether, and instead will use a 36/22 chainset with an 11-36 cassette.

I have a gravel bike with 46/36 chainrings and 11-36 cassette.  It's such a fun ride.  36/22 would be a blast on some steep hills I bet. Are you using a chainkeeper? 36/22 is a big jump.
For myself, steep gravel roads demand lower gears than sealed roads.

No chainkeeper. 36/22 is an off-the-shelf SRAM 2x10 chainset.
Cycle touring blog and tour journals: whispering wheels...

indyfabz

  • Guest
Re: Gear Inches for the Northern Tier
« Reply #14 on: April 04, 2016, 10:10:17 am »
Thanks BikePacker.  I'm so excited for this tour.  What do you consider more gear then most, weight wise?  I'm thinking of carrying no more than 50 lbs, likely less and I'm on the lighter side at 140 lbs.

While it was some time ago, I did the entire NT W to E and, the following year, the western portion to Glacier a second time. If you are a light, strong person with a lighter load, 19.3 should be o.k. During my rides, I was about 50 lbs. heavier than you are carried a lot of weight thanks to a lot of film camera equipment. Bike and gear placed on a truck stop scale was 90 lbs. Low gear was a 22x34. Worked out fine, though I struggled in some places, such as right out of blocks from Colonial Creek Campground on WA 20.

I highly recommend doing the mileage into AB. I was there again in '09 during a loop from/to Whitefish, MT. The towne campsite in Waterton Village is in a dramatic setting and is a good place for a day off. Just don't underestimate the ride there from St. Mary. I found it harder than Logan Pass in Glacier. Another harder-than-it-looks section is between Libby and Eureka. Lots of ups and downs along the lake that can wear you out. South from Eureka follow the ACA route proper. The detours off U.S. 93 are a nice break and pretty. If you need a break along that stretch, go off route the .25 miles to the mercantile in the center of Olney. (You will see a blue sign pointing towards the town center.) The place has a neat collection of old pop/soda bottles. Also follow the ACA route between Whitefish and W. Glacier. There is a section of U.S. 2 between Columbia Falls and Hungry Horse that has no shoulder. I stayed on U.S. 2 the second time. I made it alive, but I went very early in the morning. U.S. 2 can be much noisier whereas the ACA route through Blankenship is low traffic. After Blankenship Bridge, it is unpaved, but it's manageable.

What time of year are you planning on starting?