Drivetrain Mods

Ditch the worthless high gears!

Let us help ya go low

Ok real quick, to get it outta the way:  High gearing on your bike is the hard, go fast gear, and low gear is the easy, climbing gear.  Most contemporary bikes (heck almost all bikes ever) have too high (hard) of a high gear, and not nearly low enough of a low gear.  Why is that?  Because everything is copied from racers, primarily.  Having high gearing on a normal person road bike or even a mountain bike is like having a car that goes 150 miles an hour with ease, but stalls out at city driving speeds.  Or it’s like having a stove that’s so hot that it can flash fry a steak in 30 seconds but it turns every omelet into a charcoal briquette.

I (James) rode singlespeed bikes (road and mountain) for about a decade.  I raced them, rode them to work, rode them for fun, and guess what?  I’ll never own one again.  Gears are where it’s at.  The lower the better.  Low gears let you ride up anything without going anaerobic.  The less you go anaerobic, the longer you can ride.  It’s that simple.  If you are climbing, and you’re huffing and puffing, and your heart is trying to punch a hole in your ribcage, that’s bad.  If you are climbing something steep, and can still hold a terse conversation, that’s good.  Basically, here’s a good rule to follow:  if you ever have to get outta your saddle, your gearing is too high.

Lower gearing keeps lactate levels in check, which is part of why it lets you ride longer without feeling all blown up.  It’s also gentler on your knees, and makes it easier to keep a looser grip on your bars, it’s easier on your lower back, and it helps you maintain traction if the climb is loose and steep.  Here’s some basic numbers to think about.  I know, numbers, phahhh that’s boring! ok fine, stop reading here.  Just know that low gears are better, and we can help you get them.  Email us or call us!

The nutshell here, before you go read about boring number stuff, is that the average big chainring on a road bike is about 12 teeth too hard of a gear for normal folks, and the easy gear in the back should be way lower too.  8-10 teeth lower, we reckon.  That would let you carry a load without sweating too hard, ride whatever bike off road, climb big mountains seated, etc.  This applies if you live somewhere hilly, not say, in Florida.  The gearing we’re recommending is lower than your average touring bike, mountain bike and definitely lower than any road bikes.

Numbers that matter

for nerd consideration

What follows is about averages, for simplicities sake:  A typical road bike has a high gear in the front with 50 teeth on the big chain ring, and a high gear in the back with 11 teeth.  Bigger numbers up front are harder, and in the back the converse is true.  The low gear on a road bike is usually a 34 tooth ring up front and a 28 tooth cog in the back.  A typical road ride takes place between 12 and 17 mph for gently rolling hills.  Steep road climbs lower that speed a bunch, but let’s just talk averages here for right now.

With a normal road bike, that means, at a decidedly average cadence (how fast you turn your cranks) of 70 rpm, you can go 17.4 mph using the 50 tooth ring up front and the 17 in the back.  Nowhere near the 11 tooth high gear.  What does that mean?

A 50 tooth ring up front is too big to be practical for normal folk riding.  You can actually go within half a mile an hour of that speed, with same cadence, with your 34 tooth ring up front (way smaller) and your highest gear in the back, the 11.  Whoa.  Talk about overlap!  It makes much more sense to say, make your big ring up front pretty small, a 40t, and then put a really small low gear on there, like a 24t.  That gives you much lower low gearing, allowing you to climb a much steeper hill without jacking your heart rate through the roof.

If you also put an even lower gear on the back of the bike, while keeping your 11t cog, you can get even easier gearing for climbing, while losing no practical gears at the top end.  At a cadence of 70, with the normal road bike gearing, your slowest speed possible is just under 7 mph.  With a super low gearing conversion, it’s less than half that, which basically means you can climb the steepest hills without fear.  Big steep hills keep lots of otherwise rad rides off the radar of riders.  Low gearing can open those paths to exploration.  Let us help you get there.