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.