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  1. #1
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    Gearing & Engagement

    I'm currently running a 32x19 gearing. It gets me up most things, but I have to walk some of the steeper and more technical stuff. I mostly fault my legs for this, but on the other hand I'm not sure how much stronger my legs are going to get. I've only been single speeding a year and a half or so, so I'm not terribly experienced with these matters - I'm really just experienced enough to know that I will burn out cheapie freewheels in a couple months, and I don't want to have that happen 10 miles into a 20 mile ride again So figured I would make a short story very VERY long and ask a question here.

    I was talking with someone the other weekend and he was using a 30x20 gearing - said it was perfect for my favorite place to do really rocky climbing. This got me thinking, and it seems like I would appreciate the easier climbing a lot more than I would miss the extra speed on flats that the 32x19 gives me. It seems like a 32x21 would get me pretty close to the ratio that 30x20 gives.

    However, I was thinking that I might benefit from better engagement on these rocky climbs that I have so much fun on. This got me thinking about the WI trials freewheel (my 19 is a regular ENO). I can get this in a 20 or 22, and I'm not really interested in a 20 since it seems too close to the 19 I already have to make much of a difference.

    The difference between the 21 and 22 doesn't seem that great, and my initial feeling is that I would appreciate the improved engagement on those climbs much more than I would miss the extra bit of speed sacrificed in the flats (looks to be about .6 mph @100 rpm). I suppose this would make me a bit more likely to select which freewheel to use based on where I'm riding on a given day but I don't really see that as a problem.

    Are my instincts correct in leading me towards the trials freewheel, or am I going to get more frustrated with spinning out at a lower speed than my typical 7-8mph moving average would suggest?
    Yeah I only carry cans cause I'm a weight weenie.

  2. #2
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    If you're worried about the freewheel - even the proper WI ones - just carry a Velosolo 6-bolt cog with you. In case of a breakage you can flip the rear wheel, replace the disc with the cog and finish the ride fixed.

    I started my 29er SS experiment with a modest 32/22, quickly went to 34/22, then 34/18 fixed and I think I've finally settled to 34/20 SS and 34/18 fixed. I just might give 34/19 a try but I'm quite happy with the balance of speed and climbing ability of the 34/20. My legs are not very strong and I have weak knees, but I have good lungs and I spin the cranks like a madman.

    I wouldn't be too quick to say one tooth in the rear doesn't make much difference. Going from 32/19 to 32/20 doesn't change your gearing only for the climb, but for the entire ride. So when you hit that climb that previously made you walk, you have an easier gear and your legs aren't that stressed from riding the trail up to that point. With gears it's different, but in SS just one tooth makes a surprising amount of difference that you don't see on paper. Sometimes even one tooth in the rear is too much of a difference and finding a better ratio requires changing both the chainring and cog.

    In your situation I'd get the 20t freewheel. When you are able to ride things that brought you off the bike before, you'll build better skills, which will help you handle climbs. It's not just about strength and gearing. With better technical skills, you can build up speed before the climb and use the momentum for your benefit. With a too low gearing your possibility to do this is limited.

    If very long climbs end up wearing you out and you end up thinking 32/20 was a bad choice, you can always switch the chainring to 30 and it's far cheaper than buying a new freewheel.

    I can't comment on engagement points with a huge amount of experience, but I guess the more the merrier.

  3. #3
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    I don't use freewheels as I occasionally use my wheelsets for different setups. So I use geared wheels with spacer and cogs. I however understand the value of using the appropriate gearing and having good engagement. So i will speak from that angle only.

    The relative difference that you will notice between a tooth change on a chainring and a cassette is 2:1. Meaning, for every time you you add a tooth to your freewheel gear, its the same as adding 2 teeth on your chainring (or pretty d@mn close by the numbers) and its pretty significant as a gear change!!!!

    I really think stepping up to a 32/20 or 32/21 will be more impactive to your riding than changing your engagement as you will find it easier to turn the crank over rather than reset your pedal stroke to get it to the "4 o'clock" position. More than likely, this "Reset" is what is punishing your freewheel and compromising the durability since you are forcing really hard engagements.

    ...That said, you can never go wrong with a faster engagement and more durability. Faster engagement feels more crisp and you will feel like you get better response in acceleration, and better durability never a bad thing. I have a set of American Classics with a 6pawl by 24 engagement, and I have a DT Swiss 240 with 36 by 36 ratchet. The 36 by 36 is a much faster, more crisp engagement and does make the American Classic 6 by 24 feel clunky in comparison. I however think that one really would not need to go higher than 36 by 36, but I guess some do..and thats a big reason why Chris King and Industry Nine are popular.

    ....But I do feel the problem lies more with your gearing and having to torque up climbs rather than having a better smoother pedal stroke while climbing.

    Singlespeed is filled with compromise, thats part of the fun. So no matter what gear you run, its either going to effect how you climb or
    Some may make conversation about how big of a gear they are running..but in reality, they are either trying to belittle, intimidate, or just showing their ego. There is nothing to gain by one-up'ing those tools. You ride the gear you need to ride to have fun...and not have your legs blow up on you
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  4. #4
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    How technical are your climbs that you feel you might benefit from faster engagement; on most climbs engagement is a non issue, at least for me.

  5. #5
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    They're technical enough to be challenging on the way down on my rigid bike. Mid sized water bars, constant uneven rocks (this is where I think higher engagement would be nice as I find myself ratcheting the pedals a lot trying to avoid getting them caught).

    Don't think a smaller chainring is an option w/ my crankset (an e13 that I'm unlikely to part with anytime soon)

    I'm in the process of building a new wheel set, considering maybe skipping a new freewheel and putting that cash towards a free hub so its easier/cheaper to experiment with ratios. So the plot thickens. But you guys gave me some good stuff to think about that should help either way.
    Yeah I only carry cans cause I'm a weight weenie.

  6. #6
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    I've been riding SS pretty much exclusively for 6 years now. Started with a 33x20t and this season, as I am riding a bit less, went to a 33x21t. The one tooth doesn't slow me down too much, but still lets me ride the longer climbs with some chance of keeping my heart rate below the 200's I found the 19t was just a bit too much for the hills here in the SF Bay Area/NorCal where I ride. 22t was a bit too low to find any flow on the faster/flatter trails. Hopefully next Spring I'll be riding a bit more than I did this year, and will put a 20t back on. Good freewheels are pricey. If you can find a "lower-end" freewheel to try out your gearing option(s), once you find your gear - THEN buy the nice WI freewheel. Have fun - and remember - there are just times you're going to be walking!
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  7. #7
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    Heh, I'm sure there are times I would just be walking on a geared bike too - just hoping to maximize what I can ride!

    For a little more background, I've been looking to build a lighter wheelset also now that Stan's has upped the weight limit on the Arch rims, assuming that this would help my legs out on the climbs as well (my brother borrowed my flow-equipped bike a week or two ago and reported that the flows felt sluggish compared to his Arches, especially on climbs). Current thinking is that I will get the highest engagement SS-specific freehub I can get my hands on for this wheelset (hopefully a chris king, but this depends on how many spare parts I can sell - may have to settle for a hope or something) and start out with a 20T cog. This setup should make it much easier to experiment with ratios and whatnot (and save another fair bit of weight as well - I think the WI freewheel must weigh half a pound or so!)

    Thanks for all the help so far.
    Yeah I only carry cans cause I'm a weight weenie.

  8. #8
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    Nothing can beat the fixedgear in terms of engagement and durability!

  9. #9
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    Keep in mind that engagement only comes into play when you are stopping/starting in you pedal stroke. for example, you're pedaling along and then you need to freewheel to clear an obstacle, then start pedaling again. The engagement is only noticeable when you start pedaling again. If you're staying steadily on the gas for these climbs, then engagement means nothing - as the hub is staying engaged. If you need to ratchet over rocks/logs/whatever, or are negotiating tight switchbacks, or anything else that might make you stop/start while you're climbing, then it might be worth your while. Personally, if a hub has less than 36 points of engagement, then I won't even consider it as an option.

    As for gear changes, it sounds like cost is a big deterrent for you and the White Industries freewheel. If I were you, I would get cheapo versions of a 20 and a 21. test them out on all the trails that you ride frequently to see which you like best. Buy a good version based upon what you think works best for your riding style.

    Nobody can tell you what will work best for you personally, on your trails. We can only tell you what works for us. For me, I like a taller gear as I like to grind up climbs rather than spin. In racing, the taller gear is an advantage (for me) because if I'm to the point that I'm grinding up a hill slowly, I'm faster on foot. so I'll dismount and run the steep hills and the taller gear gives me more top end on the flats. On my 29er, I typically race 34 x 18 for rolling mid atlantic trails. I'll go taller for flat races. A fun gear for me is 34 x 19 - so slightly shorter.

  10. #10
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    Yep definitely understand the engagement pretty well - its the ratcheting and maneuvering pedals around obstacles that gets me on some of these climbs. With the tallish gearing I have now I'm typically already standing on a sufficiently steep climb, and it can be very hard for me to get started again after making pedal position adjustments.

    Kinda gunshy about using a cheap freewheel again, had a shimano fail on me last winter on maybe the 4th ride I took with it. I was ~10 miles from parking lot and getting back was not pleasant.

    I definitely agree that you can't beat the fixed gear + freewheel for durability, but I've heard enough good things about the singlespeed hubs that take a cog that I'd like to give one a try if I build another wheelset.
    Yeah I only carry cans cause I'm a weight weenie.

  11. #11
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    Getting a freehub set up is definitely recommended. You can pick up some cheap cogs at On One USA (search for Groove Armada Cogs). I picked up 3 for $10 each. Seems like good cogs.

    Regarding rims, I was also thinking Arch (EX) the next go around, but I'm liking the wider profile of the Flows. This will be better if you're putting fat tires on (by fat, I mean 2.2+). I usually have 2.2-2.3's in the back, which is why Flows should be better. There is a weight penalty, but unless you're an elite racer, you're not going to benefit at all from 1/3 lb weight savings for both wheels.

    Lastly, on POE, I don't see what the big deal is. I've had 70-some-odd, currently have 32 in my DT240, and had 24(?) on my AC. I'm no slower or faster, and I've been able to clear all tech climbs on all wheels. And there are some fairly tech sections around here. But maybe in my head I'm wearing red underwear over blue tights, when in reality, I'm rocking coke-bottle glasses and pennyloafers.
    Last edited by phsycle; 11-26-2012 at 02:18 PM.

  12. #12
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    Keep in mind WI will sell you a trials inner gear. They sold me one for $55 shipped factory direct, it just pops in and bam I have 72 POE.
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  13. #13
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    My plan is to keep smallish tires (2.0-2.2) on the arches for the faster trails, and larger tires on my flows (they aren't showing any signs of slowing down - don't think I've even had to true the rear yet). I'm hoping to do at least a metric century next year also, and I think the lighter rim/tire combo would probably help in those efforts.

    I do want to try riding the other wheels on some of the techy stuff just to see how they compare, but suspect I will eventually settle into an 18-19 on the arches and 20-22 on the flows and swap based on where and how I'm riding.

    Can anyone recommend a cheapy freewheel that isn't shimano that I can pick up to experiment with the shorter gearing? I'd like something that will last at least 8 cold-weather rides before failing on me
    Yeah I only carry cans cause I'm a weight weenie.

  14. #14
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    Check out GT's FW apparently 120pt engagement, never seen anyone with one but not that expensive I'm told.

    Or just buy a used WI FW, can usually get one for $60. Heck I might have a 20t with a 36POE laying around.
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  15. #15
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    My 22t freewheel is an ACS Crossfire. Plenty more convincing than any Shimano or Dicta freewheel, which I've also used.

  16. #16
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    If you want better engagement, you can't beat a True Precision Stealth hub with instant engagement:
    Home | True Precision Components

  17. #17
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    Put 2 hardcore singletrack hours in today, on new WTB LASER TCS Wheelset (Chainlove $209 deal). After using Chris King Singlespeed hub, these have noticeable slow engagement. I really like these wheels as 2nd set, they are great. However, I really noticed how bad slow engagement is on wet/rocky/steeps. It really is not that bad, but I am spoiled after using Chris King hubset. If some other hubs are faster, and you can afford it without any thought, I WOULD get fast engagement hubs. If $ is issue, I would not worry too much.

  18. #18
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    WTB set is 24 clicks per revolution, My King hub is off bike, so hard to listen, but I think about 72 clicks! I really never paid that much attention until I rode WTB set today.

  19. #19
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    Looks like the ACSs can be found on Amazon for under $20 - even cheaper than shimanos :-) looks tougher too.

    I will order a 21 or 22 today and give it a shot
    Yeah I only carry cans cause I'm a weight weenie.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by phsycle View Post
    Lastly, on POE, I don't see what the big deal is. I've had 70-some-odd, currently have 32 in my DT240, and had 24(?) on my AC. I'm no slower or faster, and I've been able to clear all tech climbs on all wheels. And there are some fairly tech sections around here. But maybe in my head I'm wearing red underwear over blue tights, when in reality, I'm rocking coke-bottle glasses and pennyloafers.
    Everybody has different preferences with POE and there are upsides and downsides to both. I think that in a lot of cases, ignorance is bliss... Low engagement is fine if you haven't tried a hub with high POE. I've owned American Classics, and to me they were atrocious with regard to POE. While I could ride the same trails on the AC's that I did with any of my other hubs; there was a distinct difference in feel due to the low POE. When I can feel the clunk from my drive train engaging, that's no good. I felt like I had a little less control of my bike because my legs were spinning but the hub was not engaged yet. We're talking a couple inches of movement around the arc of a pedal stroke - it's noticeable. I think those AC's were 18 POE.

    Right now, I'm riding DT's (w/ 36 ratchets) and King's. I really like the 72 points on the Kings. As for engagement, those are clearly better. The DT's are a great mix of decent engagement, light weight, and they roll forever.

    For the freewheel, I used to have a wheelset that used freewheels and it was a pain in the ass. The big problem is that you can't adjust your chainline with a freewheel - which is huge. I found the freehubs more difficult to change and I found the cheap ones to be craptastic as well. I was hesitant to spend real money on a nice WI freewheel because I wanted to be able to change gearing without owning a few hundred dollars worth of cogs. It was a no brainer for me to switch to cassette hubs. I have Surly cogs from 16-22 and it cost me what, $120 for all of them - That's one and a half WI Trials freewheels. If I had a bike where I never wanted to change gearing, then a freewheel - maybe. Until that happens, no thanks.

  21. #21
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    This has probably been covered in other topics, but what are the thoughts about the Hope Pro II SS / trials rear hub?

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by blum585 View Post
    This has probably been covered in other topics, but what are the thoughts about the Hope Pro II SS / trials rear hub?
    Generally, Hopes seem to be a good value hub. I don't have any personal experience with them, but have friends that ride them - they all have good things to say about em. One thing I can say about them is that they're really loud, if that means anything to you.

  23. #23
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    Yes, Pro 2's are good hubs and while they're fairly loud they're not that loud - no louder than a Halo Spin Doctor hub that I also have, which I reckon is a good hub too if, like the Hope, a little heavy. I like clicky hubs anyway - I find it reassuring to know that the pawls are doing their job.
    A little weight doesn't worry me either, unless it's stupidly heavy rims and/or tyres. I'd do better making more effort to get down to 145lbs instead of 155lbs, rather than fretting about a little hub weight.
    Anyway, you could do a lot worse than try one.

  24. #24
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    Wink

    One gear does make a difference...

    ...since you feel like you want more low end climbing power go for the 20, you can learn to spin more for flats. I have been testing a GT 120 POE FW so far good for one month of my abuse.

  25. #25
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    another vote for the hope pro II hubs. i have have them on most of my bikes and i ride really hard

    i was going up one tooth every year until i hit 32x14 and strained my back twice in one year trying to pedal up the steepest of hills. since then i have gone back to 32x16 for racing and 32x17 for longer rides. i am a bit stubborn and refuse to walk unless i have died or something.

    what i have switched to is a 36x18/19 i feel the bigger rings give me more teeth to really push harder and not break or wear out my stuff. feels smoother too.


    you can push bigger gears than you think. your body will adapt or break.

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