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  1. #1
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    Gearing question

    How much difference in "FEEL" is there between 32x18 and 32x20? Currently running 32x20 and it feels nice to ride but I sure don't build up a lot of speed for endos and small jumps when the terrain goes from flat to more technical. I don't know what to do cause there is so many different places I want to ride this summer and I am not sure yet if one gear setup can do it all. 32x20 has my vote for heavy climbing but I do not know if the majority of my trails that I have yet to ride will be super steep or not. If 32x18 is close to 32x20 in muscle exhaustion but just a tad higher what do I have to lose? But is it a pretty significant jump? I don't want to start carrying extra cogs and tools to change them every time I travel to ride. Or is that what most of you guys do who are not professional racers? Maybe I am acting a little lazy?

  2. #2
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    Most people don't change gears often.

    On the other hand, I change my gears A LOT!

    I also have a few bikes so that I can ride in different gears depending on my mood and/or the workout that I have planned.

    This past week I road 164 miles. On various rides I used 48/22, 48/20, 34/18, 30/16, 36/18, and 36/19.

    Big gears are great for some rides, small gears are great for other rides. Changing often is also a good chance to clean the bike and set the proper chain tension. You can also check chain wear.

    In terms of "feel" this is highly dependent on what you ride and your pacing. Even a "little" change can make a big difference.

    I did a couple of days of huge trail rides with 36/18 then decided to tweak down to 36/19 for today. Earlier in the week I used 48/22 and then 48/20 as I was playing with gearing for my gravel grinding bike. On other rides, I used the 34/18 and then 30/16 just to play with things. Switching gears on single speed is fun

    I keep a lot of chains all setup hanging on a wall so when I switch I don't need to remove links. I simply grab the cog and ring then pick a matching chain after cleaning my bike and while thinking about my next ride.

    When I use strava I keep track of my gears. It's nice to see how I perform on different segments in different gears.

  3. #3
    Stateline Falls, Watauga
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    I ride 32:18 (29er) all the time, everywhere. It works for local trails and it works for the mountains. When I first started singlespeeding I was all kinds of nervous about needing the right gear for the right terrain. I even built a dingle with a super low granny gear for trips to the mtns. I quickly found that if I can't mash up a climb in my "normal" gear I'm not likely to make it with a lower spinney gear either. If I can't climb, I walk, but I don't have to do that too often, usually it's late in the day when I'm getting tired (if I were riding endurance races I'd use an easier gear for that reason).

    There's an assortment of cogs in the toolbox that's always in my car. I never use them. I keep the same gear even if it's gonna be a long ride with thousands of feet of climbing. I've settled on a gear that isn't too spinney on the flats, but lets me mash up everything I might ride. Every few months I'll switch to a harder gear for awhile, 32:17. I find I can still manage to climb all my normal trails with the harder gear, but I'm faster on 32:18 and less fatigued at the end of the day. I always go back to 32:18.

    After years on the singlespeed, I think I've lost the ability to spin up a climb in an easy gear. If the grade is super steep then I have trouble with low gears - if the gear is too easy to give enough resistance to let me stand and mash, I'll wind up walking. A too easy gear forces me to stay in the saddle, and sitting my balance sucks and my ability to climb over anything even vaguely technical is very low. Standing I can manage to climb over rocks & roots much easier. That's why if I can't mash it, I probably can't spin it either.

    I ride alot with my wife, who is quite slow. I entertain myself on those rides by letting her go ahead and I ride literally as slowly as I can - coasting until I'm forced to pedal, and then pedaling in slow motion as slowly as physically possible up every incline (almost holding a track stand). After a few minutes of that I hammer the trail until I catch her, then repeat the slow-motion riding. You learn the limits of what you're capable of mashing up if you do every climb in slow motion, with no attacks and no momentum helping you up each climb. I do it just for entertainment on the slow rides, but I think it's good practice for balance as well as strength building.
    It never gets easier, you just go faster. -Greg LeMond
    I'm not as fast as I think I am. -JeffL

  4. #4
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    I think I am bumping up to 32x18. I just rode a flat easy trail in Omaha yesterday with some small drops and clmbs and some small whoop de doos ect. I just watched my video and I watched a video of the same trail from another rider and his is flowing and fast and mine looks like grandma is riding even though I remember mashing pretty good along most of it lol. I cannot believe I was going as slow as the video showed. Sure seemed like I was going faster. But beside the video my main thing is that there was no way I needed this low ratio on this trail or possible some others in the midwest.

    The only reason I am running 32x20 is because when I built this bike I had a leftover Surly 20 tooth cog from my Jamis which had been running 34x20. I figured why waste the money until I tried it. Well I think it is time to spend some money lol.

  5. #5
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    Oh and by the way would 32x18 on a 29er be equivalent to 32x17 on a 650B?

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by iowamtb View Post
    Oh and by the way would 32x18 on a 29er be equivalent to 32x17 on a 650B?
    Compute it with the gear inch formula.
    Wheel Diameter (including tire) x (Chainring Teeth) / Rear Cog Teeth = Gear Inches

  7. #7
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    I dunno......to me, the whole thing about riding a SS is never being in the right gear.....swapping gears for different rides, sounds almost like riding a geared bike. Kind of defeats the essence of riding the SS.

    That said, I ran 32/22 for along time, before finally changing over to a 32/21. Out here in So. Cal. everything is steep up/steep down. Been thinking about going to 33/22 to help pull the rear wheel in closer.

    32/19 out here is for the hearty/strong legged.....32/18 just sounds too painful.
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  8. #8
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    32x18 is pretty big if you are doing any climbing. I run 32x20 in norcal and I have to walk some bits. If you can push 32x18 on extended climbs, you are a stud.

  9. #9
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    32/18 is just fine for 650B. On a 29er I feel it's a little bit tall, but only a wee bit.

    Keep in mind that climbing a hill at a certain speed requires just as much energy regardless of gear ratio. Of course some gear ratios put you in a more efficient cadence, but for short climbs there's not much difference: if you climb fast it's hard.

  10. #10
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    Guess the only way to know is buy a cog and find out....I am on it like flies on doo doo lol!

  11. #11
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    Just get a Formula/Gusset/Shimano stamped 18t sprockt for < $8 and find out for yourself!
    Ride more!

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by asphaltdude View Post
    Just get a Formula/Gusset/Shimano stamped 18t sprockt for < $8 and find out for yourself!
    Went with a Niner cogalicious 18 tooth cog. Just ordered. I will find out in plenty of time if it is what I like. Plus being aluminum I might shave some weight off. My Surly steel cog is pretty hefty for how small it is.

  13. #13
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    From: Single Speed Drivetrains | Spews | The Information Hole | Surly Bikes

    "9. Gear lower. I know all you guys and gals out there are gorillas and want desperately to outdo you pals mentally, socially, physically, etc. on rides, but from a functional standpoint lower gears are better on a one-speed off-road drivetrain. I suppose if you're a member of the go-fast club you have to run a big gear, so you HRM-types can skip this part. But if you're more concerned with your ability to ride and clean the tight stuff, you'll be doing your style a favor and you'll be sparing your drivetrain a small measure of unnecessary abuse by sticking with low(er) gears. Yes, you do have to "spin" more on the flats, subjecting drivetrain parts to more cycles and more wear, but by not having to herniate yourself up the climbs you will be reducing the amount of shock, distortion and potential for catastrophic skippage or breakage of your drivetrain components. Not to mention your unmentionables."

    This is sound advice. I started SS on 32x18 (29er) and while it was fine, I always felt like I was racing. It was often difficult, though I would go pretty fast. Once I switched to 32x20 I enjoyed it at lot more. So yeah, see above...
    My other bike is a /7.

  14. #14
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    Thought I was a badass so I put on 51 gi's. Decent climbs were tough so I swallowed my pride and went to 48 gi's. Still too high for any respectable climb so I dropped to 43 gi's. Allows me to pedal up the steeps and going down, I'm not pedaling anyhow.
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  15. #15
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    I usually ride 32/18 or 32/20. On a couple of climbs I am shot.

    Does anybody ride 32/22? I am tempted to pick up a Surly 22 for $30 so just curious.

    I know it is a sin but I do not like to get out of the saddle.

  16. #16
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    I have run a 32/22. I didn't like it. Put it on for a ride in Whiskeytown with a long extended climb. I don't think it saved me any. Hard to stand and power through some sections with it. I don't like to stand either, but sometimes you got no choice. My usual gear now is 32/20.

  17. #17
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    after reading that blog by surly I got it yet I'm wondering if I made the right choice lol. but I guess you never know until you try it. If I decide I need to go back to 32 by 20 I will probably need a new chain. I got my chain as short as it would go now and the sliders are halfway back in the dropouts. So my guess is when I put the 18 cog on I will have to take another link out of my chain to pull it back forward in the slider.if I try it and decide it's too much then I guess I'm only out $35. But on the other hand try telling that to my wife lol!

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jlee197853 View Post
    I have run a 32/22. I didn't like it. Put it on for a ride in Whiskeytown with a long extended climb. I don't think it saved me any. Hard to stand and power through some sections with it. I don't like to stand either, but sometimes you got no choice. My usual gear now is 32/20.
    Yeah. I was thinking a 22 would just be too little resistance on even a climb if that makes sense. I'd spin on flats and on the hills I picture a sort of stepper exercise machine. Mashing the pedals and going nowhere.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by iowamtb View Post
    after reading that blog by surly I got it yet I'm wondering if I made the right choice lol. but I guess you never know until you try it. If I decide I need to go back to 32 by 20 I will probably need a new chain. I got my chain as short as it would go now and the sliders are halfway back in the dropouts. So my guess is when I put the 18 cog on I will have to take another link out of my chain to pull it back forward in the slider.if I try it and decide it's too much then I guess I'm only out $35. But on the other hand try telling that to my wife lol!
    SRAM PC850's are my favorite SS chain and you could probably get 2 for $35!

  20. #20
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    truthfully if this Niner aluminum cog is as badass as I think it's going to be then even if I decide to go back to a 20 I'm not sure if I'm going to want to throw that surly steel cog back on lol. I will wait and see but I may just have to order a Niner 20 tooth cog if I decide to go back and be happy and done with it :-)

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by drjay9051 View Post
    I usually ride 32/18 or 32/20. On a couple of climbs I am shot.

    Does anybody ride 32/22? I am tempted to pick up a Surly 22 for $30 so just curious.

    I know it is a sin but I do not like to get out of the saddle.
    If you don't like to get out of the saddle, then maybe single speeding isn't for you. You just need to be out of the saddle on anything resembling a half reasonable climb.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by drjay9051 View Post
    I usually ride 32/18 or 32/20. On a couple of climbs I am shot.

    Does anybody ride 32/22? I am tempted to pick up a Surly 22 for $30 so just curious.

    I know it is a sin but I do not like to get out of the saddle.

    Started out with a 32/22.....actually rode it for a long time. Last year finally jumped to 32/21....didn't really feel that different. I was stronger so I was able to climb just as much with the harder gear.

    Just bought a 33/22....it is close to the 32/21, but hopefully will allow me to pull the wheel in closer to the frame. The swinging drops are out pretty far.

    With 32/21-22, I can sit and pedal without too much trouble on gentle fire road climbs. Still have to get out of the saddle to get up steeper climbs...I don't want to walk. I do spin out on the flats quicker, but I am used to it.

    My rides tend to be 30 mile/3500-4000' minimums....with 60-85 milers/6000-9000' once a week.
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  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andy R View Post
    If you don't like to get out of the saddle, then maybe single speeding isn't for you. You just need to be out of the saddle on anything resembling a half reasonable climb.
    Oh no SS rigid is for me. Been doing it for a while. Never looked back.
    Don't agree you need to be out of saddle.

    You need to do what you enjoy and what works for YOU.

    I am very happy with SS

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by drjay9051 View Post
    Oh no SS rigid is for me. Been doing it for a while. Never looked back.
    Don't agree you need to be out of saddle.

    You need to do what you enjoy and what works for YOU.

    I am very happy with SS
    ^^^^^^^

  25. #25
    Stateline Falls, Watauga
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    Seated climbing on a singlespeed. That makes my knees and back hurt just thinking about it...
    It never gets easier, you just go faster. -Greg LeMond
    I'm not as fast as I think I am. -JeffL

  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffL View Post
    Seated climbing on a singlespeed. That makes my knees and back hurt just thinking about it...
    I'm 61 with bad knees and back. However strong quads and abs do wonders. Do i ache on a climb, yup. Pain: not really pain just discomfort.

    Can I stand and mash as I climb, sure but typically i sit unless real steep and/or long

    YMMV

  27. #27
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    I believe in facts and opinions. Statements regarding my question involving facts from gear calculators or personal knowledge are taken into good consideration by myself. But telling another rider how he or she should be riding just because others do it differently is something we should be careful of. I stand and hammer to build speed and for climbing. However I get tired at a point and want to sit down and pedal to conserve or rebuild my energy. So I had some people tell me a while back about seat selection for my new ss that I didn't need a seat. They were of course kidding but the principal remains that a lot of ss riders think you need to be standing constantly. I sit as much as I stand.

  28. #28
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    pft, I sit as much as I possibly can. Burn less energy that way. Knees and back only hurt if you're pushing a gear that is too big for your fitness or if your fit is off. No other reason. Also, I've done some testing on my local loop and I'm SLOWER with the bigger gear. Efficient cadence is more important, and you lose less efficiency spinning 100-120rpm than if you can't get above 70rpm.

  29. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by iowamtb View Post
    i believe in facts and opinions. Statements regarding my question involving facts from gear calculators or personal knowledge are taken into good consideration by myself. But telling another rider how he or she should be riding just because others do it differently is something we should be careful of. I stand and hammer to build speed and for climbing. However i get tired at a point and want to sit down and pedal to conserve or rebuild my energy. So i had some people tell me a while back about seat selection for my new ss that i didn't need a seat. They were of course kidding but the principal remains that a lot of ss riders think you need to be standing constantly. I sit as much as i stand.
    bingo !

  30. #30
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    34/21 gearing

    Quote Originally Posted by drjay9051 View Post
    I usually ride 32/18 or 32/20. Does anyone ride...
    I have 34/21 on my ss (old airborne mail order hardtail, old air fork with lockout, mechanical discs).

    Some of the trails in my area are hilly.

    I have made it up some that I am afraid to ride down even though I am not that fit.

    the 2-to-1 ratio everyone talks about is a great starting point, but for those of us who just ride for fun (not racers) the gearing is affected a lot by terrain. I'd be nice to be fast, but I'm more concerned with getting up the hill! Let the hills be your guide. I'm actually thinking about going to a 20 but am on the fence; with 34/21 the bike is perfect for offroad, but pretty much useless outside of actual mountain biking; I'd like to also use it for running errands, cruising around, etc. but it spins out on paved or level ground.

    Also consider crank length. I'm running 170s because that's all I had and the bike was built from parts for free. If I had my druthers I'd got with a bit longer cranks, more leverage.

  31. #31
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    I will say that since I went 32x18 I feel like I can climb almost as good and yet have more speed. I actually got just as exhausted running 32x20 as I do now with 18 cause I don't think people take into consideration that spinning exhausts you just as much as putting more effort down to the pedal. For the time being I am staying 32x18. I am not pushing my bike any more than I was before and I get more speed with less effort so it is a win win right now.

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