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why road bikes lack easy gears

Posted: 9 Jan 2019, 2:41pm
by thelawnet
I have a 50/34 12-28 (1.21x ratio). It's about 9kg and I'm about 90kg.

I normally ride on 40/30/22 with 11-36, albeit a ~14kg MTB, but I think the bigger tyres and such don't make much difference when you're plodding up a hill, but safe to say I can climb up anything on that

On my 50/34 12-28 I seem to frequently find myself in bottom gear, and gave up on a 15% stretch and walked.

A basic road bike such as might be sold to a beginner

https://www.decathlon.co.uk/triban-500- ... 77759.html

30/25 (1.2 ratio)

or

https://www.evanscycles.com/pinnacle-la ... e-EV299413

34/28 (1.2 ratio)

is quite similar

I think such machines are not going to be sold to actual athletes, and while I am fat & inherently unathletic, I've climbed up plenty of hills and certainly a lot more than the average Joe who might be buying a £349 bike. Surely it is undesirable to be finding that you have no more gears left to bail out to?

Re: why road bikes lack easy gears

Posted: 9 Jan 2019, 2:52pm
by tatanab
Those examples are already very much lower geared than anything around when I started club riding, and also lower geared than my touring bikes until about 20 years ago. They are within a few inches of the bottom gear on my touring machines on which I go cycle camping (aged 66). So I would say the low gears are there, no problem. Perhaps more of a problem is that there are also higher gears than anything I ever raced on.

Re: why road bikes lack easy gears

Posted: 9 Jan 2019, 2:55pm
by JakobW
Preaching to the converted on here, of course - how many threads do we have on 'how can I lower my gearing' - but isn't it mostly because 'road bikes' are (explicitly or otherwise) modelled after road racing bikes, whose riders can put out ludicrous wattages whilst weighing about as much as the usual contents of my saddlebag? This then feeds into the available tech (derailers etc.), so in order to get decent shifting you can't use too small a ring on the front or a dinner plate at the back. Triples might work, but are of course rather infra dig for the (pretend) racers among us.

One good thing to come out of the rebranding of disc tourers as 'gravel bikes' is that manufacturers are producing drivetrains that are more suited to mere mortals when the road goes up.

Re: why road bikes lack easy gears

Posted: 9 Jan 2019, 3:01pm
by Paul Smith SRCC
Many road bikes now use 50/34 with a 34t sprocket,a noticeable difference over your 28t; for a lightweight road bike for the majority that offers a low enough gear ratio. Off the peg touring bikes will offer lower, something like the RidgeBack Voyage has a 48-36-26T chainset with 11-34T.

Manufacturers these days cater for the majority, catering for the desires of the minority can result in some 'head scratching'. Triple road bike triples in the higher end variations are far less commonplace being replaced with with compact doubles, a 50/34 chainset with a 34t sprocket offering slightly lower gearing than the 53/39/30 triples with 28t they replaced.

Re: why road bikes lack easy gears

Posted: 9 Jan 2019, 3:08pm
by 100%JR
I have 34/50 with 11-30 on both my Road and CX bike and can get up most things around here(upto about 25%).My mate calls me a wimp and runs a 39/53 with 11-25 cassette and he's a big unit at 16st+ :o He leaves me for dead on steep stuff.
I think that a compact 34/50 with 11-28 is the most common choice for roadies in these parts.

Re: why road bikes lack easy gears

Posted: 9 Jan 2019, 4:03pm
by thirdcrank
Isn't the big question "Why are unsuitable bikes sold to inexperienced riders?" It's not just gears and as has been pointed out, a lot of these machines come with lower bottom gears than was once the case; so often we get people wanting to fit mudguards, carry luggage etc. Modern marketing is the answer.

Re: why road bikes lack easy gears

Posted: 9 Jan 2019, 4:21pm
by Marcus Aurelius
‘Road bikes’ are primarily designed for ‘roadies’. ‘Roadies’ ‘smash stuff’ so don’t need ‘granny gears’.

Re: why road bikes lack easy gears

Posted: 9 Jan 2019, 4:54pm
by mjr
It ain't just road bikes, either. My old three speed roadster (with mudguards, rack and so on) was supplied with its original gearing that had a bottom gear somewhat over 50" - approximately 36/18 on a 27" road bike I think?

Re: why road bikes lack easy gears

Posted: 9 Jan 2019, 5:02pm
by thelawnet
tatanab wrote:Those examples are already very much lower geared than anything around when I started club riding, and also lower geared than my touring bikes until about 20 years ago. They are within a few inches of the bottom gear on my touring machines on which I go cycle camping (aged 66). So I would say the low gears are there, no problem. Perhaps more of a problem is that there are also higher gears than anything I ever raced on.


What's the problem with having higher (harder?) gears?

Re: why road bikes lack easy gears

Posted: 9 Jan 2019, 5:23pm
by thelawnet
Shimano offer 50/34 doubles & 50/39/30 triples, even in their Tourney line-up intended for pig iron road bikes sold in supermarkets.

A quick look at a 2004 Shimano catalogue suggests the standard cassette was 11/12/13-25, with either 50/39 or 52-42-30, and few if any bigger cassettes than this. Possibly the triple more common, so about the same as a modern compact (30/25 vs 34/28). The Tourney A050 lacked the triple option, so you would have had 39/28 (1.39x) (7-speed freewheel).

Now you can get 11-32t even in semi-pro Ultegra, so I suppose the tools are there for the manufacturers to use.

Re: why road bikes lack easy gears

Posted: 9 Jan 2019, 5:29pm
by thelawnet
Paul Smith SRCC wrote:Many road bikes now use 50/34 with a 34t sprocket,a noticeable difference over your 28t; for a lightweight road bike for the majority that offers a low enough gear ratio. Off the peg touring bikes will offer lower, something like the RidgeBack Voyage has a 48-36-26T chainset with 11-34T.


This is a bit of a trick because there's a road/mtb mix, which is something Shimano have set out to rule out.

SRAM's 1 road groupsets have a range of 10-42 or 11-42, depending on whether you want to use their expensive cassette/freehub driver or not.

SRAM are eating some of Shimano's lunch as a result. (note that 26/34 is obviously a much easier gear than you'd find on an SRAM 42/42, say)

Re: why road bikes lack easy gears

Posted: 9 Jan 2019, 5:38pm
by tatanab
thelawnet wrote:
tatanab wrote:Those examples are already very much lower geared than anything around when I started club riding, and also lower geared than my touring bikes until about 20 years ago. They are within a few inches of the bottom gear on my touring machines on which I go cycle camping (aged 66). So I would say the low gears are there, no problem. Perhaps more of a problem is that there are also higher gears than anything I ever raced on.


What's the problem with having higher (harder?) gears?
It is back to the old discussions about pedalling rate. i.e pushing or spinning. The high gears are fine if you are a pusher, but in that case you would not find the low gears too big. If you are more of a spinner you could not use the big gears and might appreciate something lower.
mjr wrote:It ain't just road bikes, either. My old three speed roadster (with mudguards, rack and so on) was supplied with its original gearing that had a bottom gear somewhat over 50" - approximately 36/18 on a 27" road bike I think?
Which is why I changed the sprocket on my 3 speed hub to give me a top gear of 65". I live in a hilly area and appreciate the bottom gear of 30 something inches as I winch the small wheeled, inefficient riding position machine up the hills to the shops. Still, it is a tool for the job over short distances - now I've modified it. I have no idea how the intended market place would have coped.

Re: why road bikes lack easy gears

Posted: 9 Jan 2019, 6:18pm
by thelawnet
tatanab wrote:
thelawnet wrote:
tatanab wrote:Those examples are already very much lower geared than anything around when I started club riding, and also lower geared than my touring bikes until about 20 years ago. They are within a few inches of the bottom gear on my touring machines on which I go cycle camping (aged 66). So I would say the low gears are there, no problem. Perhaps more of a problem is that there are also higher gears than anything I ever raced on.


What's the problem with having higher (harder?) gears?
It is back to the old discussions about pedalling rate. i.e pushing or spinning. The high gears are fine if you are a pusher, but in that case you would not find the low gears too big. If you are more of a spinner you could not use the big gears and might appreciate something lower.


Well that's not necessarily the case, in that you can have both - a 40/30/22 with an 11-36 has a 6.0x range, whereas a road compact 50/34 11-28 has a 3.7x range. The equivalent range would be a 50/34 11/44

'Big rings' are relatively inefficient in the sense of providing a massive gear, in that the extra 10 teeth between a 40/11 mtb gear and a 50/11 road gear gives you 25% more gear, whereas on the bottom end, adding 7 teeth would give you the same amount 'more gears'.

I think if you are talking about 'total capacity' of a dereailleur system therefore, it would make sense to go down from a 50 to say a 46, because the extra 4 teeth aren't buying you that much. Though I appreciate that a 50/16 or whatever is a bit more efficient than 46/15 or so the differences must be quite small

Re: why road bikes lack easy gears

Posted: 9 Jan 2019, 7:06pm
by Brucey
thelawnet wrote:Shimano offer 50/34 doubles & 50/39/30 triples, even in their Tourney line-up intended for pig iron road bikes sold in supermarkets.

A quick look at a 2004 Shimano catalogue suggests the standard cassette was 11/12/13-25, with either 50/39 or 52-42-30, and few if any bigger cassettes than this. Possibly the triple more common, so about the same as a modern compact (30/25 vs 34/28). The Tourney A050 lacked the triple option, so you would have had 39/28 (1.39x) (7-speed freewheel).

Now you can get 11-32t even in semi-pro Ultegra, so I suppose the tools are there for the manufacturers to use.


'the tools' have been there for a very long time; campag had a Nuovo record based triple chainset in the 1970s. Shimano have offered road bike triples since some time in the 1980s (allowing a 1:1 bottom gear in most cases). Bicycle manufacturers have specced whatever they think will sell well, and whilst some road bike customers know they want low gears (and have done more or less since MTBs have had low gearing), most are swayed by 'what the pros use' when it comes to road bikes.

On the one hand I remember a discussion BITD about the Super Record RD max sprocket capacity of 27T, 1T more than the Nuovo Record's 26T. 'Who would want a sprocket that big on a racing bike?' was the conversation, and that was when most of us used a 42T small chainring. And we were right too; if you dipped into a 26T sprocket during a race or an intense training ride, even in very hilly terrain, you could expect to go straight out the back. Cadence fashions change of course but I suspect that most people who ride 'racing bikes' these days are nowhere near 'race fit'.

On the other hand at one time you could buy 'road bikes' from the major manufacturers which had quite sensible road triples fitted. For example with the RSX groupset you could have 52-42-30 (FC-A417) or 46-36-26 (FC-A413 I think) and when combined with a 13-25 cassette this gives you a nice range of quite closely spaced gears. Fit a 13-28 and this would be low enough to go touring with. Arguably even with a 7s cassette, this setup gives more, better spaced gears with a stronger rear wheel and a better chainline than a modern 2x11 arrangement.....

cheers

Re: why road bikes lack easy gears

Posted: 9 Jan 2019, 7:59pm
by foxyrider
All the gears are easy on my road bikes, they'd be even easier if I actually put some effort in! :lol:

I do have a get out of jail sprocket on them, a 27 to go with the 34 up front but it rarely gets used. At the other end, even on the Touring/CX bike the 11/12 sprockets get used on most rides and 52x13 is probably the most used gear on the road bike.

The quest for lower gears is IME, driven largely by some strange idea that cycling should be easy - clearly the marketing has worked but truly, you only get out what you put in.