Gear Ratios

For discussions about bikes and equipment.
Raph
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Re: Gear Ratios

Postby Raph » 2 Feb 2010, 1:52pm

The CTC is big enough for everyone!


in fact my fastest ride of any length averaged just 14.5mph
- that's roughly what I do these days, but even times when it was more like 20+ over 80-90 mile rides I never bothered much with pedalling down hills, and kept up 25ish on the flat on gears around 80"-85". Only when racing mates I'd bother with gears up to 100" which was always plenty.


Raph wrote:
Winching up a hill on a tiny gear only makes it last forever, which might suit some people's fitness style, i.e. more suited to long constant effort rather than short bursts, but ultimately you need the same amount of energy to get up the thing.


Surely that's not quite true?


Yes, the notion that it takes "forever" is obviously... er, untrue. The amount of energy "per second" is what's different, so if you're restricted in the rate of energy, a lower gear is useful, but as you have to expend that energy for longer, the total is the same (well, give or take a hundred other factors). During a long ride on the MTB I can easily drop to 4-5mph if I admit defeat on steep hills, whereas on the road bike if I give it some welly it'll be more like 7-8mph. This isn't a huge difference, but psycologically it's massive. This may be just a personal quirk of mine. Without testing it scientifically it's impossible to be too definite, as when I see people hunking it out of the saddle, they've obviously got enough energy to do that, when I see people winching miserably at a snail's pace they're obviously not coping too well, so one can't necessarily say that winching slowly is what's making them knackered - it's probably the other way round.

The bit about expenditure regardless of external work seems to suggest that the slower you go up the hill, the more energy you expend, as the external work is the same, but the time is longer. Anyway, I'm not arguing that - I think if we get into technicality, it gets so complicated that just going on experience is better, after all psychology is wrapped up in there somewhere and everyone's different - if you find going up hills slowly keeps you mellow, that's good. For me it only happens when I get defeated (frequently these days as I'm unfit), and given the choice I'd much rather save the energy to get it over with and enjoy the view at the top, stop for a breather and wait for my mate who's chosen to winch himself up.

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meic
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Re: Gear Ratios

Postby meic » 2 Feb 2010, 2:10pm

In my experience of hill climbing, which is rather too much on the whole.
Those of us with low gears or more importantly using the low gears that we have, not only take it easier on the hills, we also get up them quicker. 8)
Obviously you can ride in TOO low a gear just as you can ride in too high a gear.
You can also take a rest either by lowering cadence or by pushing a lower gear than you could manage.

Of course riding in the wrong gear full out, either too high or too low will improve your abilities even if it slows you down on that particular ride.

I appreciate that there is a local guy who rides fixed and goes up hills faster than me, he has no choice about that. I on the other hand just could not do that.
I am sure he would be EVEN faster with gears.
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Mansfield Marauder
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Re: Gear Ratios

Postby Mansfield Marauder » 2 Feb 2010, 2:43pm

When I bought my first 10 spd in 1978 it was a 52/42 chainset with a 14-24 block 27" wheels 35 years on I now ride a 48/38/28 with 14-28 block 26" wheels. I mostly use the granny ring when I park up for any period of time. I have used it on the odd hill but I can probably count the number of times on both hands, I have had the current bike about five years. I did eventually swap my original gearing from 52/42 14-24 to a 52/42 14-32 which I used for touring usually weekend runs out to a youth hostel averaged about 140-150 over the weekend not much I know but I was happy with it. My mate in the Coventry Cycling Club told me that with a 42 - 32 I should be able to ride up a brick wall, never tried it obviously.
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Raph
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Re: Gear Ratios

Postby Raph » 2 Feb 2010, 3:10pm

Obviously you can ride in TOO low a gear just as you can ride in too high a gear.


Yes obviously.

take it easier on the hills, we also get up them quicker


Than whom?

What I've forgotten to mention is that getting up hills without resorting to ultra-low gears means getting out of the saddle - I have yet to see anyone get up a hill quicker in the saddle in a low gear than out of the saddle in a higher gear. Out of the saddle you can engage your weight to work against the bike and create a lot of force with not much effort, in the saddle you have to do all the work yourself. In some martial arts there are ways of getting upward motion out of downward movement of weight - same thing in playing musical instruments without getting RSI. It's a huge subject, but in the context of cycling it doesn't have to be big science - a mate of mine once asked why I waste a lot of energy wiggling my behind side-to-side when going up hills - I tried to explain about using weight rather than muscle but to no avail... the long and short was that even though I couldn't keep up with him on the flat I left him thoroughly and miserably behind on every hill. Really low gears go with staying in the saddle, but if you're trying to push higher gears still in the saddle, then I would agree you're on a road to nowhere. The higher gears I'm mentioning go with getting out of the saddle. Ultimately, even though I can't measure it, I reckon I spend no more energy getting up the hill quick than slow. More energy at a given moment yes, but not overall.

I am sure he would be EVEN faster with gears.
Over a whole ride, I'm sure that's true. my fixed average speeds are laughable, but on hills I have no choice but to get up them - if I get defeated and fall back into the saddle, I'm stuffed! Hasn't happened yet, but then I use a tiny gear to make sure it doesn't (currently 58"!)

Raph
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Re: Gear Ratios

Postby Raph » 2 Feb 2010, 3:14pm

Sorry me again - just to say, my thing about getting up hills "quicker" is not cos it's macho or tough or I'm in any hurry, it's just that I find spending what can feel like half an afternoon on the same slope with the same view of the same bit of tarmac is sometimes soul-destroying - I'd rather get that bit over with and then have a rest coasting down the other side, rather than crawl up it slowly and then push 120" gear to get down the other side. It's purely a matter of personal preference.

simonp
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Re: Gear Ratios

Postby simonp » 2 Feb 2010, 3:30pm

[quote="Raph I have yet to see anyone get up a hill quicker in the saddle in a low gear than out of the saddle in a higher gear. [/quote]

Funnily enough, I quite regularly ascend hills more quickly whilst in the saddle than some others who get out of the saddle. I think this is because it's possible to spin quite efficiently, particularly on a long climb. Perhaps I would go quicker if I got out of the saddle, but I never really try it! Horses for courses I suppose.

Certainly professional riders obviously get out of the saddle when racing, but maybe for everyday riding there's not much in it between the two approaches.

In terms of conserving energy, I would have thought that the amount of external energy used to climb a hill is based on the height gain only. The rate of ascent determines the amount of power / power endurance required and I think it's this that's important in terms of how tired you feel at the top (i.e running up a hill is more tiring than walking up).

fatboy
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Re: Gear Ratios

Postby fatboy » 2 Feb 2010, 3:36pm

simonp wrote:[quote="Raph] I have yet to see anyone get up a hill quicker in the saddle in a low gear than out of the saddle in a higher gear. [/quote]

Funnily enough, I quite regularly ascend hills more quickly whilst in the saddle than some others who get out of the saddle. I think this is because it's possible to spin quite efficiently, particularly on a long climb. Perhaps I would go quicker if I got out of the saddle, but I never really try it! Horses for courses I suppose. [/quote]


I regularily overtake over-high geared riders when out on my Sunday ride. I also went past countless riders who were straining out of the saddle on the Audax that I did in October. Obviously there is a fine line and if you can push in a higher gear and still keep the legs turning then you'll go faster, but I can't - I'd just grind to a halt (even using my reasonably considerable bulk whilst standing!).
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squeaker
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Re: Gear Ratios

Postby squeaker » 2 Feb 2010, 3:39pm

simonp wrote:Certainly professional riders obviously get out of the saddle when racing, but maybe for everyday riding there's not much in it between the two approaches.
From what I've seen of long (e.g. alpine TdF) climbs, most pros stay in the saddle until they need to push / kick hard, or to change muscle groups.
Last edited by squeaker on 2 Feb 2010, 3:40pm, edited 1 time in total.
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meic
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Re: Gear Ratios

Postby meic » 2 Feb 2010, 3:40pm

Quote:
take it easier on the hills, we also get up them quicker


Than whom?

The only useful answer to this, is "ourselves."

Obviously the quickest up the hill is the one with the best power to weight ratio.

I can do bursts of out of the saddle but not for much longer than 20 seconds. Then I am all out. If I wish to have my highest sustainable power output it is sitting twiddling (at 90 or so cadence) be that uphill at 3mph or downhill at 40mph.
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Raph
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Re: Gear Ratios

Postby Raph » 2 Feb 2010, 4:37pm

My mate in the Coventry Cycling Club told me that with a 42 - 32 I should be able to ride up a brick wall, never tried it obviously.
Yes, if it's very short!

fatboy I'm really curious to see these people that you overtake on hills. If they're just cr@p then it's not comparing like with like.
Obviously the quickest up the hill is the one with the best power to weight ratio.
as long as you're using the power efficiently and not wasting it. Simply getting up and bouncing up and down isn't an efficient use of getting out of the saddle, and if that's the only option on offer then indeed staying in the saddle is probably better.

It's hard to get technical about this without seeing real riding techniques in action in the flesh. I find out-of-the-saddle to be more efficient when the slope gets to more than about 1:12 and probably quite a bit before that too. Twiddling fast is as knackering to me as just getting out of the saddle. By a "burst" I don't mean one that would flatten you in 20 seconds - going up the Pyrenees with luggage some of these "bursts" were an hour long, and eventually I got to a level where I could keep it up indefinitely, but I still wasn't anywhere near a racing level of fitness, and probably not as fit as some of the people commenting here who push a 120" gear.

A mate I go for rides with these days also stays in the saddle on hills - he's faster than me most of the time, up hills though he's nowhere - even though his weight is minimal compared to my 2-stone overweight bulk. He cites a hundred good reasons why staying in the saddle is better, including references to TdF riders - though by then I'm usually out of earshot!

I had exactly these discussions when I first started riding, I remember learning uphill technique from racing guys, and it took a bit of learning, and I remember saying all the same stuff as you guys - EXCEPT the bit about twiddling a low gear while overtaking people who were out of the saddle - that's definitely never happened!

From what I've seen of long (e.g. alpine TdF) climbs, most pros stay in the saddle until they need to push / kick hard, or to change muscle groups.
Exactly - changing muscle groups is one of the advantages, and the steepest hills are the bit when you need a bit of extra welly - albeit "pushing/kicking" proportionally less. note I'm not saying you get out of the saddle at the slightest hint of 1:200 - save it for the steep stuff.

We need to go on some rides together to check this stuff out! It's the only way. Anyone here near Banbury? The Cotswolds are just next door with lots of good hills.

reohn2
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Re: Gear Ratios

Postby reohn2 » 2 Feb 2010, 5:25pm

I'm tending to agree with Raph here.I've never been what you'd call a good climber,(there was a time when I could climb OK but never well),I put alot of this down to weight(83kgs) and age(56),my riding tends to be steady at roughly 15/16mph average for 60 to 90 miles.
I can climb out of the saddle or "sat in", out of is quicker than sat in.Out of is two to four teeth higher on the cassette,it is more tiring but thats because I'm climbing quicker.
Climbing IMHO is to do with shifting mass higher,slowly(sat in) needs less effort than quickly(out of),generally speaking.There are riders who can climb quickly sat in(Big Mig for one) but they tend to be the exception to the rule.
Cadence is the key and a higher cadence generally wins out when climbing (Lance der man Armstrong).But then Lance does both out of,and high cadence,not easy,very technical.

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120inch gears, yeah right!
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pq
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Re: Gear Ratios

Postby pq » 2 Feb 2010, 5:29pm

Riding out of the saddle gets more power out - which is why sprinters do it and why many do it to get up short sharp hills. The downside is that it's less efficient so it can't be sustained for any length of time. That's because you're climbing around all over your bike which wastes energy - illustrated by getting out of breath very quickly.

As for fixed, I ride a fixed on a training ride where most of the other guys are faster than me. I do it because fixed is faster on the gentle climbs around my neck of the woods - the bike is lighter and the transmission more efficient and it's on the hills where I'm most likely to get dropped. The fixed advantage on climbs disappears of course if the hill is too steep to ride up on the gear you have. So the comment somewhere above that gears are faster on hills is unlikely to be true on a hill that the fixed rider is able to ride up. Coming down the other side is a different matter of course...
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swansonj
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Re: Gear Ratios

Postby swansonj » 2 Feb 2010, 5:57pm

pq wrote:Riding out of the saddle gets more power out - which is why sprinters do it and why many do it to get up short sharp hills. The downside is that it's less efficient so it can't be sustained for any length of time. That's because you're climbing around all over your bike which wastes energy - illustrated by getting out of breath very quickly.


Actually, I'd assumed the biggest single reason you get of breath quicker when climbing out of the saddle is that you generally climb faster. I would suspect the most work you can do moving your body side to side is only a few percent of the work you are doing raising it up the hill against gravity. Likewise, there may be some loss in deflecting the bike frame, but I'd take some convincing it was a major factor.

pq wrote:As for fixed, I ride a fixed on a training ride where most of the other guys are faster than me. I do it because fixed is faster on the gentle climbs around my neck of the woods - the bike is lighter and the transmission more efficient and it's on the hills where I'm most likely to get dropped.


Well, again, I can't dispute that that's right in principle. But the transmission weight saving can't be more than a percent or so of the all-up weight, and the efficiency saving perhaps a few percent max. Both are likely, I suspect, to be swamped by differences in fitness between you and other riders even on a club ride of similar fitness riders, and also by subconscious differences in how much you exert yourself.

Raph
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Re: Gear Ratios

Postby Raph » 2 Feb 2010, 6:59pm

"The downside is that it's less efficient so it can't be sustained for any length of time. That's because you're climbing around all over your bike which wastes energy - illustrated by getting out of breath very quickly."


I'm not sure that's necessarily true - it simply depends how you do it. "Climbing around all over your bike" definitely sounds like bad technique, when you're out of the saddle the bike should be doing the wobbling - watch racers when they sprint. Their bodies aren't wobbling around, the bikes are. If you get into a rhythm where you use your weight against that of the bike, you're using weight as efficiently as possible to do part of the job. The only way to check this out is to do it, describing on a forum won't really put it across. What I do, over-simplified, is to pull the bike to the left as I swing my weight to the right, resisting the movement with the right leg so it forces the pedal down with not much effort - then the same on the other pedal. Psychologically I'm making the bike do the work - in reality I'm just making as good use as possible of my weight - also it puts some of the work onto the arms. On really steep gradients it might take twisting the front wheel to force the bike to go the opposite way to my weight - when you see racers twist the bike ridiculously when out of the saddle, that's what's happening, albeit at a much faster rate.

Obviously good technique can't "make" more energy than there is , but you can use as much as possible of what's there. Some martial arts chops get incredible powers out of the human body, and since I don't believe in fairies I know it must all be within the bounds of physics. I occasionally teach percussion technique and get incredible power out of puny little people where big guys often fail to make a decent noise. The trick is to make weight do as much as possible of the work. There are good demonstrations of this that I use in workshops, but actually, getting up hills is a good cycling equivalent. It can't be total voodoo that even when I'm an unfit tub of lard (now for example) I still do well on hills.

I'm reaching the point of no further progress with this, as the substance is ultimately in the doing not the talking (and I realize on re-reading I've done most of the talking :lol: ), so - seriously - I'm near Banbury and I'm not too old to learn new tricks, so if anyone comes this way, or is near enough that I could come over to you, let's go for a ride and check out this stuff*! Then perhaps we can come back to this discussion with some meaningful feedback...

*Bear in mind I'm at a rather unimpressive fitness level of 40-50 mile rides at averages of 14-15ish, if that!

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Beakyboy
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Re: Gear Ratios

Postby Beakyboy » 3 Feb 2010, 10:59am

I run a 30/42/52 with a 12-26 rear (31 - 117 inches). Because where I live is very very hilly I am pleased of the lower gears, especially when faced with a 2mile 1 in 10!

However I recently changed my rear 12t for an 11t thus giving me now 128 inches, I did this as I wanted to go faster on the sprints and faster downhill. I didn't think one tooth would make much of a difference but it does.

Before the change I reached a top speed of 49mph (obviously going downhill), I have yet to try out the 11t yet!
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