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  1. #1
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    What is the big ring in a 3-ring crankset used for?

    I hear a lot of people say that they rarely use the big ring and the small one. I tend to also use the middle ring almost exclusively. Is the big ring for "street" use mainly? I realized that on my rigid Cannondale that I exclusively converted for street riding I have a single-speed crankset and am running 32t. Should I be using a larger ring?

  2. #2
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    Interesting, I rarely come off the big ring. I tend to use the full range of the cassette with the big ring, unless it's a serious hill, then I go to my middle ring.

    ETA: but then again, my rides aren't extremely technical, so this will probably all change when I get into it deeper haha
    Don't take life too seriously, you'll never get out alive.

  3. #3
    Vaginatarian
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    If you dont use it remove it and get a bash guard, if you dont use the granny either then you should be riding 1x9

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by dan0
    If you dont use it remove it and get a bash guard, if you dont use the granny either then you should be riding 1x9
    Actually I'm already running a 1 x9. The crankset I have on my street mt bike is specifically an SS crankset with 32t. Reason I brought up this issue is that I'm gussying up an old GT mt bike as a grocery getter, run-about, or whatever you call it and was thinking of doing a ghetto 1 x 8 by removing the big ring and using the middle 34t ring and probably leaving the granny ring since I'm afraid I'll screw something up by taking the crankset apart just to remove it. Then it occured to me that city riding pretty much requires the big ring, right? So now I'm thinking of just leaving the gearing as it is. I really do like the simplicity of a 1 x n. I think it has made me a better rider.

  5. #5
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    On the road I ride only in the big ring (44t). If I was fast enough I would use the big ring more for off road.

  6. #6
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    What is the big ring in a 3-ring crankset used for?
    Rocketing along on medium-to-fast sections of the trails Also useful for jamming on the streets, yeah.

  7. #7
    Ride Good or Eat Wood
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    Used for grinding down your knees...... hence why I have removed mine and spend most of my time in granny gear spinning (upon my specialists advice). If you've got crappy knees like mine, you need to spin rather than punish which is what the bigger rings tend to do. Hence I only run the small and medium with a bash.
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by djork
    I hear a lot of people say that they rarely use the big ring and the small one. I tend to also use the middle ring almost exclusively. Is the big ring for "street" use mainly? I realized that on my rigid Cannondale that I exclusively converted for street riding I have a single-speed crankset and am running 32t. Should I be using a larger ring?
    You're just not riding fast enough on the dirt Or the hills aren't steep enough where you live to justify the low gears for climbing and the high gears for descending.
    I'm a member of NSMBA and IMBA Canada

  9. #9
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    I don't personally see need for gearing past 32x11, even on pavement. Maybe I'm slow, maybe I just like to spin instead of mash, maybe my MBT has a lot of drag. Singlespeed riders typically run 2x1 off road, max 3x1 for road rigs, so a 44t ring with an 11 or 12 small cog in the back seems stupid on a MTB. On my road bike, I tend to cruise in something like 39x15, and only kick it up on the big ring when going downhill, drafting, or trying to pace traffic on busy streets.

  10. #10
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    MTBs used to come with 42T big rings. Since the change to 44T I bet they get a lot less use on singletracks. Switch to a 42T and use it more in the dirt.
    Keep the Country country.

  11. #11
    Former Bike Wrench
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    Its used for sawing a notch in log crossings

  12. #12
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    I use all 3 rings. Middle ring obviously gets the most use, but I use the big ring on flatter sections. Sometimes I'll do "big ring only" rides to work on leg strength. There are some hills in my area that are steep enough to require the small ring, at least for me.
    "Confidence is the feeling you have before you fully understand the situation".

  13. #13
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    There's more than one way to get a wide range of gearing...

    Many use the 1x9 setup, relying entirely on the cassette to provide the range. Typically this is 11-32 range, or similar. This works, but the step between gears is fairly wide, and the chainline is often less than optimal.

    Or, you can use all 3 chainrings. If you choose this option, you can use a road cassette with tightly-packed gear ratios. I use a 14-25 cassette. My rides would best be described as XC, no true DH, and no extremely long climbs. It turns out that I spend almost all my time in the 17, 18, 19, or 21 tooth cogs, switching rings as the terrain varies, and frequently switching rear cogs to maintain cadence. Incidently, this has a nice benefit of a near-perfect chainline in all these gear combinations.

    You pay your money, you take your choice.

    jeff

    Chainrings: 44-32-26
    Cassette: 14-15-16-17-18-19-21-23-25

  14. #14
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    I have both a 1x9 and 3x9. The big ring on the 3x9 is fun to have sometimes because I can really push my speed on the downhills. With the 1x9 you have to rely on momentum once you get to a certain speed.

    Sometimes on steep climbs its really hard to spin with the 1x9 (but that could be because I'm fat and out of shape). They are all fun. The good thing is that you have lots of options.

  15. #15
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    Big ring = OEM bashgaurd.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lelandjt
    MTBs used to come with 42T big rings. Since the change to 44T I bet they get a lot less use on singletracks. Switch to a 42T and use it more in the dirt.
    15-20 years ago mountain bikes came with 46 or 48 big rings for the most part...then the compact drives started to come out and then 42/44 became more normal for big ring sizes.

    Chainring and cog combos should be what works for you where you ride. I still use all three rings in my riding...even on my older cranks. While I might be able to live without the big ring, no way on the grades around here would I give up my granny!
    "...the people get the government they deserve..."
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  17. #17
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    I used to rock a 48-38-28 x 12-28 with 180 cranks. Maxed that bastard out and it created a warp signature... These days a 42x11 gets me going as fast as I need to. ~50 km/h on rolling trails FTW. THAT is what a big ring is for - big ringin'.
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  18. #18
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    I was out riding today, and jumped down to the 32 x 11 just to see what it felt like at ~20mph on a descent. I didn't like it.

    Analysis of why I don't like it:

    1) I have many more pedal-strike opportunities to think about when the cranks are going around that many more RPMs.

    2) Unweighting the saddle's a lot harder when pedalling ~90rpm instead of ~60rpm, and I'd prefer not to have to level the cranks up, coast, unweight and give up momentum. I ride a hardtail, so I'm not getting assistance from rear suspension.

    3) With a 44T ring, at fast singletrack speeds, there's still the option to spin, but also to torque. With a 32, at what I consider a fast cruise on rolling singletrack, it's spin or coast.

    4) Using the 44 makes going faster as simple as upshifting on the cassette. On the section where I was going ~20mph on a descent, I could easily bring it up over 30mph under power in the 44x11. If I were running the 32T, I'd have to make a chainring shift first. If I only had a 32T, then I'd have to coast, or try to spin 140+ rpm. No thanks.

    5) after the ride, I hit the streets and headed downtown. Pulling up to the red light on a 4-lane one-way, I left it in the 44T. Green light. Rev, clickclick, rev, clickclick, rev, click, rev, BRAKES for the next red light while punching back down the cassette for the next launch. Motorists catch up. Repeat. Another red light. Motorists catch up. Repeat. XTR shift pods, with their dual-release upshift feature, are beyond awesome Anyway, launching in the 32T ring would mean arranging a chainring upshift, then a chainring downshift, then an upshift, then a downshift... no thanks.


    Bonus: a 44T ring wears slower than a 32T ring, other factors being equal. For me, the 32T ring is for significant climbs, the 44T ring is preferable for everything else. For those who prefer some other setup, that's fine, but these are some of the reasons they'll pry my big chainring from my cold dead fingers.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtnbiker72
    Its used for sawing a notch in log crossings
    I was going to say the same thing!! back in the day they had this thing called a Rock Ring that was kind of a "bash guard" that you could use for I guess you can call it grinding up rocks and logs. So I guess that you could use it for another wheel gripping up logs and stuff...... btw I hardly ever use my middle or granny rings except if I'm on a really technical trail or going up a big (steep) hill
    The most important thing is what God thinks about it. He will have the final say.” – Joshua Stinebrink

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  20. #20
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    I've been using latety the mid ring pretty much for everything, even for uphills. When i consider im about to stall in a steep uphill, i then change to the small ring.
    However, now i have the feeling of having a big ring when im chasing someone or just to speed up or even in downhills.
    I am currently using mid and small rings with bashguard, however i will soon replace the bashguard for a big ring.

  21. #21
    Bicyclochondriac.
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    Quote Originally Posted by djork
    I hear a lot of people say that they rarely use the big ring and the small one. I tend to also use the middle ring almost exclusively. Is the big ring for "street" use mainly? I realized that on my rigid Cannondale that I exclusively converted for street riding I have a single-speed crankset and am running 32t. Should I be using a larger ring?
    On the dirt I have no need for a large ring.

    On the street, a 32t ring up front is often too small. I run a 1x8 for my commuter, but it has a 40t ring. I still spin out going down hills, but I don't really care. I don't want it geared any lower because I sometime have it loaded with stuff.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lelandjt
    MTBs used to come with 42T big rings. Since the change to 44T I bet they get a lot less use on singletracks. Switch to a 42T and use it more in the dirt.

    Your used to does not go back far enough. the original gearing was 48/38/28 . It was mid 1990 when compact gearing showed up .

  23. #23
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    I often think of using a bash guard, but I think I would miss the big ring.
    Living in SoCal, it is big hills for the most part.
    I like the high chain tension and no rattle with the big boy when going down.

    On a side note, and maybe it's psychological but the big ring seems to have less friction than the others. I feel like I can push a larger gear when on the big ring. Any thoughts?

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheJohnG
    On a side note, and maybe it's psychological but the big ring seems to have less friction than the others. I feel like I can push a larger gear when on the big ring. Any thoughts?

    The big ring is a longer lever than the smaller rings.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheJohnG
    On a side note, and maybe it's psychological but the big ring seems to have less friction than the others. I feel like I can push a larger gear when on the big ring. Any thoughts?
    The chain articulates less when in the big ring. Essentially, it's taking a straighter path and the links have less motion while still under tension.

    I always figured that this was offset by the additional friction of being under higher derailleur tension... but don't let me spoil the sensation for you

  26. #26
    Fat-tired Roadie Moderator
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    I tend to think of the big rings as being the gears, and use my cassette to adjust cadence. So in the flats, I'm almost always in the middle ring, unless it's super-muddy or something. On a climb, I'll switch to the little ring before messing with rear shifting. On descents or on pavement on the flats or a descent, I'll be in the big ring; middle ring to do a climb.

    Sometimes I end up running out of gears on the cassette and use a different ring. But I find that to be a pretty good way to generally be somewhere near the middle of the cassette, so I've got some flexibility up or down, and I spend less time messing around with my shifting when I'm riding than I used to before I started using my crankset that way.

    If you race, the big ring can be pretty nice to have because if you want to sprint, you can shift into it and be in a pretty good spot.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  27. #27
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    Good job! Yes

    Quote Originally Posted by AndrwSwitch
    I tend to think of the big rings as being the gears, and use my cassette to adjust cadence. So in the flats, I'm almost always in the middle ring, unless it's super-muddy or something. On a climb, I'll switch to the little ring before messing with rear shifting. On descents or on pavement on the flats or a descent, I'll be in the big ring; middle ring to do a climb.

    Sometimes I end up running out of gears on the cassette and use a different ring. But I find that to be a pretty good way to generally be somewhere near the middle of the cassette, so I've got some flexibility up or down, and I spend less time messing around with my shifting when I'm riding than I used to before I started using my crankset that way.

    If you race, the big ring can be pretty nice to have because if you want to sprint, you can shift into it and be in a pretty good spot.
    That is exactly what it is for. Well put!

  28. #28
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    I rarely use the big ring on the dirt. But I consider it essential for riding on the street. The vast majority of the rides I do start at my house so I ride to the trail.

  29. #29
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    This thread has been very informative. Thinking about looking for a new SS crankset with 40+ teeth for my strret mt. bike, which currently has a Bontrager Race Lite SS crankset with 32t. Some of the problems about having to shift constantly or spinning with this gearing makes sense now. I don't get any "feel" when going downhill.

  30. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bikinfoolferlife
    15-20 years ago mountain bikes came with 46 or 48 big rings for the most part...then the compact drives started to come out and then 42/44 became more normal for big ring sizes.

    Chainring and cog combos should be what works for you where you ride. I still use all three rings in my riding...even on my older cranks. While I might be able to live without the big ring, no way on the grades around here would I give up my granny!
    the crankset i just replaced (deore lx 93') originally came with a 46-36-26 but also had a 13-30 cassatte then the next year the compact came out. through the years i was able to find 44-34-24 tooth chainrings in the 110/74 5 bolt pattern. however that was becoming harder and harder and was just cheaper to buy a new crankset.

    i really like the 44-32-22 setup and for the trails i ride do use the big ring on open, fast areas. also, the big ring is good to use for downhill sections to reduce chain slap.

  31. #31
    Fat-tired Roadie Moderator
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    Quote Originally Posted by djork
    Thinking about looking for a new SS crankset with 40+ teeth for my strret mt. bike, which currently has a Bontrager Race Lite SS crankset with 32t.
    Why not just get a new chainring? They're cheaper than a whole new crankset.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

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