why road bikes lack easy gears

General cycling advice ( NOT technical ! )
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Tigerbiten
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Re: why road bikes lack easy gears

Postby Tigerbiten » 11 Jan 2019, 4:44am

When I was a kid, the "standard" top gear was 53/14 or around 105" and gear range as roughly 3.5x.
Now I'm a lot older the "standard" top gear is 50/11 or around 125" and the gear range is around 4.5x.
So now bikes have a bigger range of gears but they a biased to the top end.

I wonder how much this is due to inertia.
Because road bikes almost always needed a +50 tooth chainring to get a +100" gear, they almost always got built with one as standard.
When the sprocket shrunk from 14 -> 11 as more where add to the block, the chainrings stayed roughly the same because that was how it was always done.
That was as opposed to shrinking the chainring with the sprockets to keep the top gear around 105".
If that had happened then today's "standard" double would be around 44-28 versus the 50-34 of the modern compact double.

iandusud
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Re: why road bikes lack easy gears

Postby iandusud » 11 Jan 2019, 8:48am

A very fair comment. I consider myself to be reasonably fit 59 year old cyclist. I'm out most weekends on 40-60 mile ride at an average speed of around 15mph depending on how hilly the route is. But even when I was a lot fitter, lighter and faster in my 20s I could only use a 52/13 downhill.

So many new bikes are bought by people either getting back into cycling or starting for the first time and I consider them to be hugely over-geared. As in the above post a 44 or 46/28 chainset would give a much better range of gears for most.

In fact I remember, when I was young and fit, riding to Brighton and back from London once when I had a problem with my chain coming off the chainring if I put it on the smallest sprocket at the back, meaning I was limited to an 81" top gear. I was riding with my brother who was of a similar fitness level to me. We picked up another lad and formed a chaingang and smashed it all the way back. It is still probably the fastest 50 miles I've ever done all with a top gear limited to 81".

Ian

Bmblbzzz
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Re: why road bikes lack easy gears

Postby Bmblbzzz » 11 Jan 2019, 9:19am

I think Marcus Aurelius and others have answered this. Road bikes don't have easy gears because they are not for easy riding. The more appropriate question would be to ask why non-roadies are buying road bikes.

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Tigerbiten
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Re: why road bikes lack easy gears

Postby Tigerbiten » 11 Jan 2019, 11:51am

Probably because only a small proportion of bikes designed to be on the road don't have gears that start 50/11 or higher.
This turns them all into a quasi racing bikes with a bias towards high gears.

Which is where this thread started ............ :lol:

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foxyrider
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Re: why road bikes lack easy gears

Postby foxyrider » 11 Jan 2019, 12:00pm

Bmblbzzz wrote:I think Marcus Aurelius and others have answered this. Road bikes don't have easy gears because they are not for easy riding. The more appropriate question would be to ask why non-roadies are buying road bikes.


A more pertinent question and the answer?

IME (22 years selling bikes) it's because the newbies don't like the idea that they might not be able to hack a full on race bike - machismo squared!

By contrast most female buyers are much happier to listen to advice and buy something more suited to their abilities.
Convention? what's that then?
Airnimal Chameleon touring, Orbit Pro hack, Orbit Photon audax, Focus Mares AX tour, Peugeot Carbon sportive, Owen Blower vintage race - all running Tulio's finest!

peetee
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Re: why road bikes lack easy gears

Postby peetee » 11 Jan 2019, 12:36pm

IMHO a large proportion of new roadies are buying in to an image first. What is right for them both practically and ergonomically comes a very poor second to being seen on the right bike.
Current status report:
Latter side of fifty and feeling less than nifty.
Too many bikes on pegs and too few miles in the legs.

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Mick F
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Re: why road bikes lack easy gears

Postby Mick F » 11 Jan 2019, 4:54pm

What does anyone want "easy gears" for?
I never had them in my teens, twenties and thirties. Trouble is, as I got older and older, my need for easier gears increased.

I'm 66, but I still really love high gears. The higher the better thank you!
Mercian is 53/12 and TBH I'd like 53/11 as a top gear. At present it's 115.7" top gear and bottom is 28/30 = 24.5"

Moulton TSR when new only managed 58/11 = 96.5" and was pitiful in that department, so changed the 58t for a 61t (the biggest I could find off the shelf) and that upped it to 101.5"

This still wasn't high enough, so I fitted a SA 3sp to it all. That made my top gear 135" and it's absolutely wonderful. :D
Meanwhile, I get a 16.5" bottom gear, and that is absolutely wonderful too. :D
Highly recommended.
Mick F. Cornwall

thelawnet
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Re: why road bikes lack easy gears

Postby thelawnet » 11 Jan 2019, 4:55pm

Bmblbzzz wrote:I think Marcus Aurelius and others have answered this. Road bikes don't have easy gears because they are not for easy riding. The more appropriate question would be to ask why non-roadies are buying road bikes.


Isn't that a bit of a catch 22? How do you become a 'roadie' without buying a road bike?

And I don't think you are quite right in terms of 'road' bike, being not for easy riding. A 'racing' bike is not for easy riding, but not every road bike is a racing bike, and to come back to the op, it is not really likely that many £400 road bikes will be used for racing, so they are therefore not racing bikes, but something else, perhaps 'beginner's road bike'.

So the question might be 'why do they exist at all?' if they are in fact 'racing bikes' that nobody would ever race on.

Bmblbzzz
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Re: why road bikes lack easy gears

Postby Bmblbzzz » 11 Jan 2019, 8:07pm

Isn't road bike the traditional term for a road racing bike as distinct from a track bike? A touring bike is something else again, as is a time trial bike nowadays. Various other sorts of pedal cycle exist of course.

But regardless of what you call it, you become a roadie by riding fast and competitively. You can be a roadie riding a 3-speed roadster through lack of alternative (Jean Bobet's book about his brother Louison records that this was common in France at the time, for instance) but obviously you've got more chance of winning on a road bike.

thelawnet
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Re: why road bikes lack easy gears

Postby thelawnet » 11 Jan 2019, 11:31pm

Bmblbzzz wrote:Isn't road bike the traditional term for a road racing bike as distinct from a track bike? A touring bike is something else again, as is a time trial bike nowadays. Various other sorts of pedal cycle exist of course.

But regardless of what you call it, you become a roadie by riding fast and competitively. You can be a roadie riding a 3-speed roadster through lack of alternative (Jean Bobet's book about his brother Louison records that this was common in France at the time, for instance) but obviously you've got more chance of winning on a road bike.


well I suppose the question is what the use of a cheap road bike is, not necessarily riding fast or competitively, shurely?

Bmblbzzz
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Re: why road bikes lack easy gears

Postby Bmblbzzz » 12 Jan 2019, 2:15pm

The use to which a bike is put is one part of the story, the use for which it was designed is another. Ideally they should overlap, in practice they might not. This brings us back to the beginning...

Marcus Aurelius
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Re: why road bikes lack easy gears

Postby Marcus Aurelius » 12 Jan 2019, 2:34pm

To be serious for a minute, I really have nothing to prove to anyone anymore ( CBAd) so a semi double up front with an 11-30 or 11-32 works with a standard medium cage Shimano set up. I also have a Sora 9 speed with a triple up front, and an 11-30 cassette, and lots of bikes somewhere in between. There are plenty of ‘road bikes’ on the market to which you can fit easy gearing if needs be. If you buy the built bike ‘off the shelf’ they tend to be aimed at the head down buttock up brigade as a default, so tend to be over geared for the average Joe.

gxaustin
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Re: why road bikes lack easy gears

Postby gxaustin » 12 Jan 2019, 6:09pm

When I was in my mid 20s I went touring in the Wicklow Mountains and my lowest gear was 42/28 and highest was 52/14. It was a struggle but I managed and thought nothing of it.
Forty years later I changed the lowest to 39/28 and then 34/28 (same 1970s bike). Later I bought a modern bike and fitted a 46t big ring alongside the 34t in place of the 50t and used firstly a 12/30 cassette and currently a 11/32. (Fitting the 11/32 did mean getting hold of a 9 speed XT derailer).
In the same period my climbing ability has improved steadily. Changing from a 46 to a 34 is a lesser ratio change than 50 to 34 and is noticeably smoother and I prefer it.
I can live with the lower potential top speed since there are few places that I would need it.
About 2 years ago I bought a Shimano groupset with 46/36 chainset and 11/32 cassette off the shelf so we don't have to put up with gearing which is too high.
My latest (new) bike came with an 11/32 cassette and I changed the 50/34 to my preferred 46/34. I use all my range of gears regularly as a result.

Ontherivet77
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Re: why road bikes lack easy gears

Postby Ontherivet77 » 12 Jan 2019, 6:57pm

My first road bike had a 53/39 and rear cassette that was close ratio with racing in mind I'd imagine. When I bought it I didn't really know what I was getting and just took the advice of the shop. On steep hills I invariably had to get out of the saddle to get up them. With my next bike I got a triple chainset and wide spread of gears. If I went up a climb of 20% and above I would invariably be hitting Maximum Heart Rate, whether I was spinning a gear or standing out of the saddle, so the idea of easier gears seems a bit of a nonsense. The terrain may be easier or you may find things to be easier by virtue of better fitness, but easy gears no such thing.

thelawnet
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Re: why road bikes lack easy gears

Postby thelawnet » 12 Jan 2019, 10:00pm

Ontherivet77 wrote:My first road bike had a 53/39 and rear cassette that was close ratio with racing in mind I'd imagine. When I bought it I didn't really know what I was getting and just took the advice of the shop. On steep hills I invariably had to get out of the saddle to get up them. With my next bike I got a triple chainset and wide spread of gears. If I went up a climb of 20% and above I would invariably be hitting Maximum Heart Rate, whether I was spinning a gear or standing out of the saddle, so the idea of easier gears seems a bit of a nonsense. The terrain may be easier or you may find things to be easier by virtue of better fitness, but easy gears no such thing.


?

An easier gear is very simply one that requires less force to push. At 60rpm or 70rpm or whatever for a given gear you will be going a given speed.

As I understand it there is some sort of range of cadence that is efficient, so for example a very hard gear at a very low cadence would is simply inferior to an easier gear at a more normal cadence.