Author Topic: Gearing for Trek Checkpoint on Transamerica route  (Read 1036 times)

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Offline Jake Northrup

Gearing for Trek Checkpoint on Transamerica route
« on: November 11, 2022, 06:13:23 pm »
I'm riding the Transamerica route in May 2023.  Going with the 'ride what you have' , I'm considering using my Trek Checkpoint.  It has a 50-34 chainring and a 11-34 cassette.  I would really appreciate any feedback on this combination.  It it enough for the tougher climbs given I will have the extra weight of gear?  Any and all feedback would be appreciated!

Offline John Nelson

Re: Gearing for Trek Checkpoint on Transamerica route
« Reply #1 on: November 12, 2022, 02:05:20 am »
Are you young and strong? Do you intend to pack heavy or light?

It’s doable.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Gearing for Trek Checkpoint on Transamerica route
« Reply #2 on: November 12, 2022, 07:58:08 am »
As John mentioned it depends.  It is pretty high gearing by loaded touring standards, but some riders will find it okay.

I expect most people would find the gearing a little tall in the Appalachians and Ozarks on the TA with any load and maybe without.  In the west the TA takes mostly well graded climbs that can be very long, but don't often exceed 6% for long, but there are some very steep climbs in the east.

That said I have met some riders who were doing fine with similar gearing and medium loads.

Personally with a heavy load I used a 26t ring with a 32t cog when I did the TA.  That comes out something just under 22 gear inches.  It was okay, but I wouldn't have minded a 24t ring given that I was carrying what I now consider way too much.  Your setup is about 27 gear inches.  Some of the low gear folks want gears down in the middle teens for gear inches.

We don't know your particulars.  These days I tend to pack ultra light and the unladen bike allows higher gearing for climbing.  On the other hand at 70 years old I am starting to want slightly lower on the climbs than I might have when I was 40.

Do you live somewhere that you actually climb some long steep grades and can gauge how it goes ahead of time?

Offline dkoloko

Re: Gearing for Trek Checkpoint on Transamerica route
« Reply #3 on: November 12, 2022, 09:05:46 am »
The low gear I have in mind when I set up a touring bike, which is widely used as a benchmark, with the components readily available is 24x32 teeth, which is 20 gear inches. I often hear bicyclists tackling steep hills talk about getting lower gears. I never hear complaints their gearing is too low.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Gearing for Trek Checkpoint on Transamerica route
« Reply #4 on: November 12, 2022, 09:49:24 am »
The low gear I have in mind when I set up a touring bike, which is widely used as a benchmark, with the components readily available is 24x32 teeth, which is 20 gear inches. I often hear bicyclists tackling steep hills talk about getting lower gears. I never hear complaints their gearing is too low.

That is kind of the standard choice.  There are folks that deviate either direction quite a bit and are happy with their choices, but yeah if I were asked to give a generic standard answer it would be 20 gear inches.

I did have a few thoughts while out on my morning ride.  Specific to the TA.  Since the East has all the steepest stuff.  Starting in the west would allow the following options:
  • You'd be more road hardened when you hit the worst stuff and have the best chance of managing it.
  • You could change gearing at that point (or sooner) if you decided you needed to.
  • You could decide to take the Eastern Express option and avoid the steepest stuff.  I think it might be a little late if you waited until you were in the Ozarks though.

By the way, if you live anywhere within range of a trip you could check out the Vesuvius climb or some of the other hard climbs on the TA in advance.


Offline Jake Northrup

Re: Gearing for Trek Checkpoint on Transamerica route
« Reply #5 on: November 12, 2022, 07:26:41 pm »
Thanks everyone for all the feedback.  I'm leaning towards different gearing on my current bike, or justifying a new bike!  I am pretty set on east to west due to logistics and timing and do not mind hitting some of the harder stuff first. Not a great climber and not a young guy but I put in decent mileage and have logged some decent elevation days.  I do want to make it as 'easy' as possible and take away any unknowns in equipment, so maybe a new touring bike is in my future!

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Gearing for Trek Checkpoint on Transamerica route
« Reply #6 on: November 14, 2022, 11:31:22 am »
Before you chuck your current bike and get a new one, think about just swapping out the crank.  You (or your shop) should be able to put a 44-28 in there and adjust the front derailer so it works OK.  That should get you down around 22 gear inches, or about one gear above the "ideal" 20 gear inch.

There's always the two foot gear: get off the bike and walk.  Actually seems to help the legs and butt since you're using slightly different muscles.  I'm not sure I could have climbed some of the Appalachian and Ozark hills unloaded, even a dozen years back, but I can still walk them today!

Offline Jake Northrup

Re: Gearing for Trek Checkpoint on Transamerica route
« Reply #7 on: November 17, 2022, 08:30:59 pm »
Definitley a consideration to update the crank on my existing bike.  Also curious from all of you out there on good touring bikes if I do decide to go with  a new one.
 

Offline canalligators

Re: Gearing for Trek Checkpoint on Transamerica route
« Reply #8 on: November 17, 2022, 09:27:01 pm »
Another consideration is loading.  The Checkpoint appears to be set up for bikepacking, as Trek suggests.  It doesn’t appear to have rack mounts, so unless you’re going light, it may not do the job. Or you could tow a trailer. 

Certainly pack light if you can.  I didn’t have that option as I was required to carry group gear and food.

Offline John Nelson

Re: Gearing for Trek Checkpoint on Transamerica route
« Reply #9 on: November 18, 2022, 12:46:07 am »
I toured earlier this year with guys who didn't use racks or panniers. They just used frame bags, saddle bags, handlebar bags and backpacks. And we were carrying camping gear. They did fine with it and didn't need as low of gears as I did because they had less weight.

Offline dkoloko

Re: Gearing for Trek Checkpoint on Transamerica route
« Reply #10 on: November 18, 2022, 09:35:47 am »
I've made the point before backpacking bags eliminate the need for a rack, saving in my experience about a pound. Most of the weight savings of backpacking bags beyond that is by carrying less stuff. In a list published by this organization in their magazine weight allowed for toiletries was one ounce. What is that? a sample size tube of toothpaste and your finger for a toothbrush? No soap, shampoo, etc.? I tried backpacking bags for road touring and found them wanting. Cramped space. Hard to get items in and out of, with what was wanted being inevitably in bottom of bag. Marginally secure bag attachments. Too much weight high on the bike, affecting handling. Works for some, particularly for those who tour off-road. Didn't work for me, primarily road touring. Of the number of touring cyclists I've hosted, I can remember only one who arrived with backpacking bags, and he was primarily an off road rider with little long distance road touring experience.

Offline FlaSpin

Re: Gearing for Trek Checkpoint on Transamerica route
« Reply #11 on: November 19, 2022, 11:03:18 am »
As an observer, I can't seem to muster any interest in the whole bikepacking scene. I don't wish to use the "fad" label. It may be generational in nature. If I were younger and a bit more flexible - I might feel different. And of course, the more streamlined setup could certainly help with off-road touring.

I've always liked the zippered, panel-loading pannier approach. It's a bit heavier but so much more convenient. I don't have the patience for compression sacks - all of that packing and stuffing and strapping. Velcro attachments aren't high on my list, either. I once used a rack trunk bag as a carry-on. It was a well made bag (Lone Peak) but attached via two Velcro straps. I replaced it with a quick-release type (Topeak) - much simpler for daily use. To be fair, it did require a new rear rack.

For me, the added convenience is worth the few extra ounces.

My current bike is a comfort/hybrid touring model - Giant Cypress 1. The 1x10 drivetrain is well suited for cycling in my home state of Florida. There is no way I could tackle the TransAm with such limited gearing.

Offline ray b

Re: Gearing for Trek Checkpoint on Transamerica route
« Reply #12 on: November 19, 2022, 11:49:22 am »
To keep the thread on topic - I'll note that the Cross Check is a fine bike for whatever you want to do. Other than making sure you have low enough gears for an uphill finish at the end of a day while fully loaded, you're probably in great shape for road touring. Unless you're wealthy, I'd save the money you'd spend on a new bike for some treats on the road.

As noted elsewhere, I'm down to 2 bikes - a junker single speed for around townand a 20+ y-old karate monkey with 3 sets of wheels and 3 forks (one suspended) that I have used for everything fron mountain biking, bike packing the great divide, road touring, and relatively fast, unloaded centuries.

As regards the devolution to discussion of the tern bikepacking - it's all semantics and the arguments sound familiar to those of us who backpacked heavy loads on stable frame packs (think racks on the bike) or climbed with softer and usually lighter packs for climbing. Comments above seem to reflect the fact that bikepacking with soft packs, in-line with the bike, and relatively aerodynamic, fit more with multi-day self-supported racing and less with long comfortable touring. Soft, light packs used for touring limit the weight one can carry. I suggest, to borrow a motorcycling term, we refer to these lighter, faster tourers as "sport tourers" - no matter how they carry the load. Any bike plus gear under 45 pounds (20 kg) would likley fit the bill. I'll start a new thread with this thought.
“A good man always knows his limitations.”