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  1. #1
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    spin versus grind

    I am riding a 34/21 gear on my mountain bike and 36/18 on my CX (gravel/road) bike. I find that I can ride all but the longest road climbs that I encounter on the CX bike with that gear, and only need it on the mtb for really slow, technical stuff. basically, my bikes are set up so I rarely have to walk, but most of the trail is a bit slower than I'd like.

    Does anyone pine for a taller gear so you can go faster on the flats but your skill/ strength/ joints can't take the punishment? can or should I be working toward the ability to push a harder gear? if so, how does one get to that next step?

  2. #2
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    I haven't gone SS on raod/gravel yet, however the plethora of All City Nature Boy 853's on eBay may change that soon...

    But for mtb, I actually run a 32 (oval)/22, as I have some steeeep hills in my area, and honestly, don't really mind the spinning on the flats. There is a small bike park near me that would honestly be better served with a taller gear, but I am far too lazy to swap out for one ride.

    So, I can answer the first question, no I don't pine for a taller gear for any reason other than ego, and I don't care much about that either...

    Now, if I ever get around to SSCXing, then my attitude may change. My mentality on pavement is different vs when I am offroad.

  3. #3
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    I think that's the cardinal rule for SS--"you're ALWAYS in the wrong gear. I actually find I ride better on the geared bike when I keep the 21-tooth on my SS. I can get up the steepest, longest, and rockiest climbs I have on that (after some riding time in the spring), and I spin probably 110-120 on the flats. When I ride my geared bike, my legs feel a little bit like I started a lawnmower, and they just go. Helps on the road too. My $.02.

  4. #4
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    If age or injuries are your limiting factor and you physically can't handle putting a lot of force on the pedals, just keep your current gearing and work on your cadence instead. Train yourself to spin faster. I practice on my indoor trainer and can hit peaks around 200rpm. Definitely helps on race starts if you're on a SS racing with people on geared bikes.

    If age or injuries are not a factor, just put a tougher gear on and you'll get used to it. I've also trained with tough gears. 32x19 is about perfect for my local trail, but every now and then I'll go to 32x17 just to work on building some strength on the steep climbs.

  5. #5
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    On a ss bike you have to learn to love both (spinning and grinding)
    I brake for stinkbugs

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by slohr View Post
    I think that's the cardinal rule for SS--"you're ALWAYS in the wrong gear
    Quote Originally Posted by J.B. Weld View Post
    On a ss bike you have to learn to love both (spinning and grinding)
    When SSing you are always in the wrong gear for that part of the trail in front of you (in the present), but it's the right gear for the whole ride(compromise). Learn to love it or get angry!
    I don't know why,... it's just MUSS easier to pedal than the other ones.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by mack_turtle View Post
    I am riding a 34/21 gear on my mountain bike and 36/18 on my CX (gravel/road) bike. I find that I can ride all but the longest road climbs that I encounter on the CX bike with that gear, and only need it on the mtb for really slow, technical stuff. basically, my bikes are set up so I rarely have to walk, but most of the trail is a bit slower than I'd like.

    Does anyone pine for a taller gear so you can go faster on the flats but your skill/ strength/ joints can't take the punishment? can or should I be working toward the ability to push a harder gear? if so, how does one get to that next step?
    If you want to go faster on a single speed you will need to make the gear harder. That way at the same cadence you are going faster. However if you can't turn the gear over you go slower. I run 34x19 and I have been working on increasing skill and strength to turn that gear on the tougher climbs. For me I don't have any joint pain so that is non issue. There are some 5-8minute 7% grade smooth climbs that I climb faster on 34x19 vs 34x20. I have to stand in the same places and my natural standing cadence is the same in both gears. I am faster in the 19 because each pedal stroke takes me farther. On these climbs there are a couple really tough spots where grade pitches up and come into them gassed already. Cleaning them is hard in both gears. In the end I am faster in the 19 even if I have to walk 10 feet. Plus this forces me to work hard on turning that gear in those spots. As I improve I can clean more and more and more often when I do it.
    Joe
    '18 Specialized Epic 29", Vassago Verhauen SS 29", '13 Santa Cruz Solo 27.5", XC, AM, blah blah blah.. I just ride.

  8. #8
    WillWorkForTrail
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    Quote Originally Posted by dbhammercycle View Post
    When SSing you are always in the wrong gear for that part of the trail in front of you (in the present), but it's the right gear for the whole ride(compromise). Learn to love it or get angry!
    The more I think about this, the more I like it. I've ridden places where I thought at the end of the ride, maybe a little more gear, or maybe a little less gear at some other place. Ultimately, what I settled on was what I like at most places "for the whole ride" rather than just this part of that ride or whatever. There are a couple of places I end up walking sometimes - but just as often I walk those places on my geared bike too - yes, gearing isn't necessarily why I end up walking them - and there are some places I can completely spin out on the flats - but often I don't push myself that hard there - so I like where I am.

  9. #9
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    If I don't have to get off and walk on some hills, then I'm geared too low.

    But I have always worked on the principle that when you're down to walking speed on a bike is when you get off and walk.

    Several benefits: you use less energy; you get a rest; you can look at the scenery instead of scanning for 2" pebbles in the 4 feet ahead of your front wheel; good chance to grab a drink, etc.

    You can always find a few more rpm, but never another ounce of grunt when things get tough.

    As for the flat bits, they're boring whatever the gear.
    As little bike as possible, as silent as possible.
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  10. #10
    Yeet so hard
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    My gear is tough for me on many climbs and I am often gassed at the top. But thats ok - I don't care about speed on the flats (i don't race) so I use that as recovery. Its interval training of sorts.
    Guerrilla Gravity BAMF
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  11. #11
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    I may need to rethink my strategy on my two bikes, then. I gear my MTB so I can keep pedaling on just about everything, especially the chunky, punchy climbs around here. a mtb needs super fast acceleration.

    but on the CX bike that I am riding on roads, easy trails, and gravel bike paths, it's rare that I need to worry about acceleration. it's more about momentum in that case. I would keep a low gear if I were racing cross on it. I rode a gravel race last weekend with 63 miles of roads, mostly hardpack with pea-sized gravel on top, and 2000+ feet of climbing. the hills were gradual and steady and I never felt like they were too much for my legs. so I could stand to put a higher gear on to get more momentum on the flats and downhills.

  12. #12
    Armature speller
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    I liked 38/17 on the SS gravel/CX bike although it got geared down to 34/17 for most races.

    On the MTB, 32/22 is normal and 32/(18-22) depending on the course for racing.

    This weekends race is >3hrs, 1,300m of climbing, single lap and 32/22 territory.

  13. #13
    EAT MORE GRIME
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    squats with free weights
    and isometric squats held for 1 minute at a time, 5 in a row....to bring the pain

    that is how to push taller gears faster. riding a bike is a breeze compared
    to sitting in an iso squat for 1x5 set
    "Put your seatbelt back on or get out and sit in the middle of that circle of death." - Johnny Scoot

  14. #14
    Always in the wrong gear
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    Quote Originally Posted by mack_turtle View Post
    ... basically, my bikes are set up so I rarely have to walk, but most of the trail is a bit slower than I'd like.

    Does anyone pine for a taller gear so you can go faster on the flats but your skill/ strength/ joints can't take the punishment? can or should I be working toward the ability to push a harder gear? if so, how does one get to that next step?

    This is basically me on 32x20. I'm pedaling 99.5% of my trails, walking is a rarity, but I spin out and get dropped like a bad habit on the flats by the gearies I ride with, or my SS buddies, who run ratios like 32x18 or 34x19. Even considering I'm happy to spin at 100 rpm, I still fall off the back.

    I tried 32x18, and literally everything got faster...including the rate at which I blow up and stall. I probably walked 15+% of the climbs.
    I'm currently on 32x19 at 29+, and still faster, but miss the 32x18 on the flats, and miss 32x20 on the hills. Not a lot of walking, but often suffering a good bit at the top of a grind.

    I think 32x19 is the best compromise for my current fitness. Would like to get stronger for 32x18, so I'm pushing how far I can "mash" on 19.

    My plan to get faster/stronger is to just hammer on the 19 until I can ride everytihng like I did on the 20, and walk almost never.. then drop to 18 and repeat the pain.

    Edit: the thing that seems to suck the most about dropping teeth, isn't the stalling, its that even once I walk it past the feature, I can't get back up and pedaling... so it's ride it all on a 20, or ride it faster on an 18....unless I stall, then it's walk to the top, which is way slower.
    Don’t modify the trail to match your skills, modify your skills to match the trails.

  15. #15
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    i think it is much easier to grind on the road. as you mention it is usually smoother and way less punchy.

    i never managed much more than a 34x21 off road comfortably; but rode 44x18 on the roads in the same area. hell for a while i did decent hillrides (for philly) 46x17 fixed; mostly because downhills were too terrifying with a smaller gear.

    once you get used to it you can generate good power with very low rpm so long as it is steady climbing on a good surface; both sitting and standing.

  16. #16
    Ahhh the pain....
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    I've found after 5 years of nothing but SS on the MTB that bigger gears (within reason) is always faster. I found myself falling into the trap of, "I ride 34x___" on these trails all the time...then I dropped a tooth in back and PR'd everything...
    when you look at the guys racing SS XC, the guys winning are geared stiff...
    On the endurance side, ie, 6+ hour rides, I think you have to be careful and consider terrain... Places like Sedona (az guys will appreciate this), 34-22 or 32-21 on a 29r is fine since there are so many punchy climbs and NO place to open up a bigger gear...
    So, end of the day, I say for training rides, gear STIFF... make yourself suffer... generate power at low cadence...

  17. #17
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    No flats here, but a higher gear is great for flowy sections over rolling terrain. I just converted my FS bike back to SS with 32/20. Been riding stronger, lately, and just using the bottom half of an 11-36 cassette(30/11-19T) when geared.
    I need a SS gear I can make the uphills on, though. I could go higher, otherwise, but it's the techier climbs, as opposed to the longer ones, that make me dubious about ever going to a much harder gear. Those uphill rock gardens and twisting rooty step-ups in quick succession kill all momentum, and use up a lot of energy. A higher gear is harder to move, especially when you just got stood up between rocks or roots and are still on the bike but going 0mph. It's certainly a lot faster if you have room to get up to speed, and terrain that allows you to keep it there, but that isn't the case for most of my riding(or I'd be talking about 32/15-16 instead!). I could avoid that by sticking to a limited loop of easier trails, ride impressively fast while knocking out lots of total mileage, but that would mean avoiding the trails that are the most fun, so...no, thanks.

  18. #18
    I am Walt
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    Quote Originally Posted by Raybum View Post
    I've found after 5 years of nothing but SS on the MTB that bigger gears (within reason) is always faster. I found myself falling into the trap of, "I ride 34x___" on these trails all the time...then I dropped a tooth in back and PR'd everything...
    when you look at the guys racing SS XC, the guys winning are geared stiff...
    On the endurance side, ie, 6+ hour rides, I think you have to be careful and consider terrain... Places like Sedona (az guys will appreciate this), 34-22 or 32-21 on a 29r is fine since there are so many punchy climbs and NO place to open up a bigger gear...
    So, end of the day, I say for training rides, gear STIFF... make yourself suffer... generate power at low cadence...
    I have definitely lapsed into "my one gear for everything is 34x20", and need to drop a tooth in back after Old Pueblo to work the easier rides a bit harder (Ray, you know where I'm talking about).

    For endurance, I'm adding a tooth for OP, to "conserve matches" (another Ray-ism).
    Ride more; post less...

  19. #19
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    I run 32/21 in quite a hilly area and personally I'm okay with some lost speed and spinning on the flats if I can get some more kms in over all the hills.

    That said, I know there is some joint problems that come with ageing but I don't think riding a bike is going to improve that... much.

    If you are having joint, ligament and tendon problems which stop you from moving a higher gear than you would like, the first option is to accept that but unless you have a diagnosed problem that means you have to accept that, then get into some good off the bike resistance training. Start with a lighter program to help your body adapt to the loads but then work on improving your max strength. Steadily it will improve your ligament, muscle and tendon abilitiy, protecting the joints better and potentially allowing you to push a higher gear on the bike with reduced risk.

    You could argue there is a strength benefit in pushing a higher load on the bike, but as you mentioned the joint risk is increased, especially doing it in such an unprogrammed, uncontrolled manner.

    This would be my first thought if I wanted push a higher load on the bike. Never too old I say!

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Raybum View Post
    I've found after 5 years of nothing but SS on the MTB that bigger gears (within reason) is always faster.

    I don't ride ss anymore but I have found the opposite. When gunning for pr's on climbs I used to always note the gear I was in and make sure it was in a big one. I felt like I was putting in super hard efforts and was totally gassed at the end but I ended up beating those times with less perceived effort after I started spinning a little higher gear. That surprised me.
    I brake for stinkbugs

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by chumbox View Post
    ...Start with a lighter program to help your body adapt to the loads but then work on improving your max strength. Steadily it will improve your ligament, muscle and tendon abilitiy, protecting the joints better and potentially allowing you to push a higher gear on the bike with reduced risk...
    On a visit to Australia a few years back, all I had to ride was my old SS which had been stored in my son's house. The terrain was pretty flat and I was using it mainly for road rides, eg I'd ride 20km to the beach to have breakfast. Anything over 10mph was a mad spin, and I did a lot of that. I ended up doing quite a considerable mileage on the bike over 3 months.

    I was concerned that that the lack of resistance riding meant I was going to be not as strong on the climbs when I got back to Scotland.

    I was surprised that not only did I not have a problem, but the climbs seemed easier. It changed my attitude to gearing my SS, and now I tend to go for an easier gear than I previously would have chosen.

    It's purely anecdotal, but certainly it seems to me that doing a lot of spin has benefits that a pedal masher (like me) wouldn't expect. Possibly it's the same effect that the old fixed wheel riders used to trumpet - use a medium gear* fixed wheel for winter road riding and your warmer season riding will benefit.


    *defined as no more than 72"
    As little bike as possible, as silent as possible.
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