Author Topic: Lowest acceptable highest gear inches for you to tour with?  (Read 4362 times)

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Offline hankj

Lowest acceptable highest gear inches for you to tour with?
« on: February 25, 2023, 08:32:13 pm »
For me it's about 90"

Last summer did my three weeks road and gravel CC touring Austrian, Italian, Swiss and French Alps, French countryside, Netherlands.  On a Diamant Rad 136 HER.  It's a Trek subsidiary in Berlin.  Similar tube set to Trek 1120, nearly identical geo to Salsa Fargo but stretched to 1120 wheelbase because of 468mm chainstays.  It's not heavy, very smooth for aluminum and rides better loaded.

Stock 11-51 11sp cassette.  Came 1x with a 40t big ring. No frickin' way!  I need a lower low gear than that. 

Ended up with 36 up front and 90"-19.5".  Would have loved a little lower low, but workable given light load (8-10lbs).

90" high gear was good!  I don't think I could go lower.  Not because I want to go fast, but because on a 100 mile day I need to stand up on the flats sometimes or I might get an injury from staying static.  I like to stand for a couple of minutes every 20 minutes or so, and a 90" gear lets me cruise of flat terrain comfortably while standing at about 60rpm.  Lower and there's not enough resistance to stay up comfortably.

I do wish I had 2x gearing, but  1x is so simple.  Hard to think about returning to 2x (much less 3x) for me.

So 90" it is for me.  You?  I'm curious about what works for others and why.


Offline John Nettles

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Re: Lowest acceptable highest gear inches for you to tour with?
« Reply #1 on: February 25, 2023, 09:21:10 pm »
I have a Pinion P1.18 internal gearbox (1x18 setup) with a 30t chain ring and 30t sprocket.  This gives me a range from 15" to 95.3" with a 700x35 wheel.  This is about as low as I can get before I lose balance due to too slow uphill. 

That said, I very rarely use more than 85" (17th gear) because when I do my typical 100rpm cadence, I am then going around 25mph which is plenty fast for a fully loaded touring bike while pedaling.  It has to be an extremely massive tailwind and/or gentle downhill for me to do that.  On steeper downhills, once I am spun out, I coast or just gently pedal to keep the legs warm. I actually wished Pinion/Rohloff/etc. would not have such a wide range as the top ends tend to be wasted with most people.  Something like 15" to 80" would be perfectly fine for me. While I used to stand (dance) on the pedals, I rarely do that now so a higher high is not needed for me. 

Do what works best for you.

Tailwinds, John

Offline hankj

Re: Lowest acceptable highest gear inches for you to tour with?
« Reply #2 on: February 26, 2023, 12:26:51 am »
very interesting John.  I really like your range of gears. Does the gear box lose efficiency compared to conventional drivetrain?

Offline staehpj1

Re: Lowest acceptable highest gear inches for you to tour with?
« Reply #3 on: February 26, 2023, 06:42:17 am »
I have gone with a setup with 87.9 GI top gear and was fine.  I probably could go lower if I had to, but see no reason why I'd want to.

Offline j1of1

Re: Lowest acceptable highest gear inches for you to tour with?
« Reply #4 on: February 26, 2023, 08:40:33 am »
I have a Thorn Nomad MkII with a Rohloff hub.  My gear ratio is 2.24 (front chainring of 38 and rear sprocket of 17) and I ride on 26" x 1.5" tires for paved road conditions and 26" x 2.0" for gravel roads/trails. I've experimented with different size sprockets and remain loyal to my 17 rear sprocket).  My Rohloff speedhub has 14 gears giving me a low of 16.21 gear inches (gear ratio x wheel size) and a high of 85.26 gear inches. I rarely use my top two high gears preferring to use my mid range gears to keep me spinning around 90 rpm.  I fully appreciate my lower gears on steep hills when fully loaded especially when my companion riders are walking their bikes!

FYI, I read somewhere, but can't recall where, some recommended (again just recommended - not set in concrete, figure out what is best for you) gear ratios (front chainring/rear sprocket):
1.9 - 2.3 for Mt biking, fat biking, more heavily loaded off road touring
2.1 - 2.5 Off road bikepacking
2.4 - 2.6 On road touring
2.5 - 2.75 On road bikepacking, commuting, gravel riding
2.75 - 2.0 Road, faster/more fit gravel rider
3.0 - 3.75 Faster, more fit road rider

Be well and happy and may the wind always be on your back.

Offline John Nettles

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Re: Lowest acceptable highest gear inches for you to tour with?
« Reply #5 on: February 26, 2023, 04:40:19 pm »
I have gone with a setup with 87.9 GI top gear and was fine.  I probably could go lower if I had to, but see no reason why I'd want to.
I am not sure but I would assume so, though it is a minor amount.  I have bikes with a traditional derailleur system, the fairly well known Rohloff, and the aforementioned Pinion P1.18.  To me the perceived efficiency is traditional, Pinion, Rohloff.  I am sure someone more scientifically minded than me has tested each to determine the efficiency. 

If you are doing a ride primarily on paved surfaces, then I would suggest using the traditional system.  It is definitely proven for decades, easy to maintain (though much more maintenance is required), and much less expense initially.  It might be best on dry fairly groomed unpaved surfaces (crushed gravel on rail trails) but then you have even more maintenance. For any wet or or ungroomed surfaces, I like the easy maintenance and no derailleur of an internal geared system as mud can't gum up the derailleur and snap it off or have the chain jump off on bumpy roads.  Plus the maintenance if an internal geared system is fairly maintenance free, especially when paired with a belt drive.

For instance, I am planning to ride from Prudhoe Bay to near Mexico this summer.  Due to the unpaved and muddy conditions, I will definitely take the Pinion/belt bike. I will start off with a freshly oiled gearbox and the only maintenance I will have to do is wash the dirt/mud off the belt with a hose (or more likely my hand by a stream) periodically if it gets bad.  Otherwise, no maintenance which a great for a lazy guy like me.  When I get back home, I will re-oil the system which only takes about 15 minutes and is very easy to do.  IMO, the Pinion is easier to maintain than the Rohloff, especially dealing with cable changes.

That said, and to bring this back to the topic of the post, the gear range to me is too wide on both Pinion and Rohloff.  The manufacturers had to come up with some range but really do wish it was smaller/tighter as I almost never use the very highest gear.  I really miss the old days when you could pull a freewheel apart and put on whatever cogs you wanted to get you the gear range you wanted.  Even then, my lowest was a 15t (maybe a 16t, can't remember) with a 39t chain ring as I never wanted a high gear because back then I had a 110-115 cadence.

Offline ray b

Re: Lowest acceptable highest gear inches for you to tour with?
« Reply #6 on: February 27, 2023, 12:44:00 am »
On trips, I'm a Rohloff guy most of the time, but I've been known to do some light touring as a one-speeder - 32/16 (53 inches) or 32/18 (47 inches).
Something for the back of the mind while thinking about possibilities.
“A good man always knows his limitations.”

Offline froze

Re: Lowest acceptable highest gear inches for you to tour with?
« Reply #7 on: February 28, 2023, 03:28:19 pm »
Knowing that I was going to be 67 years old by the time I start touring, I shopped like crazy to find the ideal bike, in that process I got a bike that had the ideal gearing.

I ended up with a 2019 Masi Giramondo, and luck would have it that came with the gear rings at 40/32/24, and the cassette was 11-36 (10-speed cluster), with a 700c wheelset.  On a gear chart if I'm in the granny gears and spinning at 90 rpm I would be crawling up a mountain on a loaded bike at 4.9 mph in the 24 36 gears.  This gear combo was the best I could find from any touring bike for hauling a load up a mountain road, of course, it also means that my top speed at 90 rpm will only be 26.8, but who goes that fast on a loaded touring bike on flat level ground?

Offline canalligators

Re: Lowest acceptable highest gear inches for you to tour with?
« Reply #8 on: February 28, 2023, 05:18:42 pm »
A very high top gear isn't terribly useful, in most situations.  If you get much over 25 mi/hr, any extra effort you add will be dissipated in wind friction anyway.  You might as well coast.  People riding randonneurs, ultra long rides, always coast down every hill.

That said, I think it depends on the tour and the bike.  On the tandem, a slow bike, we like to take full advantage of downgrades, so we kept the big ring and high gear of 108".  Same with my single on any tour with long mountain descents.  On my offroad tourer, I'm happy with a 78" high gear. 

Offline hondo77

Re: Lowest acceptable highest gear inches for you to tour with?
« Reply #9 on: March 02, 2023, 03:41:55 pm »
When my Disc Trucker is fully loaded, I could live with the highest gear giving me 66 gear-inches. Just like you, that allows me to pedal standing up on the flats to mix things up. That's for a pretty heavy setup, though. Fortunately, I have a few more cogs to go so I can keep standing up on declines with a tailwind. ;)

Offline Alessa3322

Re: Lowest acceptable highest gear inches for you to tour with?
« Reply #10 on: March 07, 2023, 03:49:05 am »
I'm not the most knowledgeable gear person around these forums, but I read that a good range for a touring bike is usually about 20 inches at the low end to 90 inches at the top end. I learned about gears mostly from this source https://www.bikertricks.com/bicycle-gears/ When I put my 26" in a 22T-32T gear, I have a hard time keeping balance unless I'm spinning like crazy. If my bike was loaded down, it'd be even worse. If my speed is anything lower than 2.5mph according to Sheldon Brown's gear calculator, it's useless for me.
« Last Edit: March 14, 2023, 04:43:13 am by Alessa3322 »