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  1. #1
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    Super low gearing.

    Currently run a 30/23 for the short steep stuff , and the bony technical stuff. Id like to try 28/23. I'm curious if anyone has done this. 29". Wheel . Big tires. Very little flat or down hill here. Very technical. I only ride SS rigid and easily keep up with all but the elite guys on gears with 30/23. But into 4 hrs I find myself wishing for a little easier gear.
    This is not a debate . And I've used every realistic ratio one can for this particular terrain. I have enough gears to swap out per trail. I'm only interested in a response from those who have experimented with very low SS gearing.

  2. #2
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    Okay, I won't debate whether such low gears are a good idea. But where do you ride where all the hills go up and none of them go down? Sounds pretty awful to me. I've done a lot of riding in Colorado, Utah, and California and everywhere I went all the hills that went up went down going the other way.

    Also, you swap out gears for every trail? How do you keep up with the "elite guys on gears" if you stop at every trail junction to change your gearing? Or do you mean you swap gears for every ride? Why would you do that? Seems a bit obsessive to me, but I haven't changed my gear ratio in 12 years.

    And finally, getting tired after 4 hours of riding is completely normal. Most people start wishing for a motor at that point.

    Really, you already know the answer anyway. Switching to a 28 will lower your gearing a little bit. You've changed your gear ratio before and you know what happens when the gearing gets easier. Only you can determine if that is a good idea or a bad one. Who cares if someone else has run that exact ratio or not?

    I ride 32/21 on a 29er and some of the guys on this forum will think that's a low ratio. That's the gear ratio that works for me. What if I said I had tried 28/32 (or 30/23) and it was way too low? Would that be helpful at all? Nope.

  3. #3
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    I almost didn't respond to this, because I haven't tried gearing that low. But I thought I'd throw out the reason why. At some point gearing becomes low enough, that you can't cover a meaningful distance on your power stroke (down stroke) and you have to transition from one downstroke to the next in a zone where you'd ideally still like to be in a power stroke. Of course, you have to balance that with being able to actually MOVE the bike in the taller gear that lets you cover a meaningful distance with a power stroke. Since you're already running a lower gear than I've tried for that reason, you may know something I don't about it, but that's where I stand on "how low can you go" - at some point, to me, the low gearing becomes more of a hinderance than a help.

    That 4 hour mark where you get tired? That's why I have a bike with full suspension and gears. Most rides, I don't mind the SS because they're only a few hours or whatever. When we start planning 4-8 hour trips, I start prepping the FS bike instead.

  4. #4
    The White Jeff W
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    I run 26/18. Slow as f__k on the flats but it works for me. I'm not in a hurry.

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    32-18 everywhere in every state. If you spin out horribly on the flats and you don't hafta stand to climb the steeps you might as well ride a geared bike.

    Get stronger, don't swap low. Ss ain't supposed to be easy.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by newmarketrog View Post
    32-18 everywhere in every state. If you spin out horribly on the flats and you don't hafta stand to climb the steeps you might as well ride a geared bike.

    Get stronger, don't swap low. Ss ain't supposed to be easy.
    ^^^^ not riding 6+ hour rides with over 200' per mile average grade.

  7. #7
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    I run a 32/22 right now on my Unit but I have short steep climbs with little to no lead up for momentum. I do have a 18 and 20t freewheel. I will probably switch when I get to Maryland.


    All in allride what you like but I do agree with what has been said your body will adjust to a harder ratio.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Raybum View Post
    ^^^^ not riding 6+ hour rides with over 200' per mile average grade.
    BS. I've done races (and won) with up to 11,000 of gain in 60 miles with the 1st 3 mile climb of one race gaining 2000' vert (200ft per mile bwaaaah, that ain't climbing) with 32-18t. All other racers were geared lower. Stuff they could ride, i ran up faster. Flatter stuff and dh i was faster with the taller gear.

    If yer strong enough to run bigger gear, you'll go faster overall. Power lifters don't gain strength by lifting less weight

  9. #9
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    32/21 on my Unit and it's not low enough sometimes.
    But occasionally I'll be riding 18km to get to the trails.

  10. #10
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    it's a SS! no matter what gear ratio you run it's never going to be low enough/high enough for every situation.

    this thread is dumb
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    Stop asking how much it weighs and just go ride it.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by BENKD29 View Post
    it's a SS! no matter what gear ratio you run it's never going to be low enough/high enough for every situation.
    Wrong^^^^^^^

    A proper ss gear allows for a nice spin/recovery on flats without spinning out too much and gets you from point a to b quickly on the road, gives you great momentum to get you up and over techy features and punchy climbs, allows you to grind up longer climbs at a slow lower heart rate cadence while still mantaining more speed than you'd normally maintain on a geared bike cuz you'd most likely gear down and sit n spin up, and a gear that makes some steep climbs impossible to climb forcing you off of the bike making you run the section which is most often faster than crawling up in granny or on an undergeared ss.

    32-18-always the right gear

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by newmarketrog View Post
    a gear that makes some steep climbs impossible to climb forcing you off of the bike making you run the section which is most often faster than crawling up in granny or on an undergeared ss.

    32-18-always the right gear
    you just said the same thing i said in different words. that's exactly what i meant.

    you can't make every climb on a SS. or use that same gear to commute long distance. best you can do is find the best average gear for you.

    just like you can't make every climb on a geared bike either.

    agreed: 32:18 suck it up and deal.
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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by mattbyke View Post
    Currently run a 30/23 for the short steep stuff , and the bony technical stuff. Id like to try 28/23. I'm curious if anyone has done this. 29". Wheel . Big tires. Very little flat or down hill here. Very technical. I only ride SS rigid and easily keep up with all but the elite guys on gears with 30/23. But into 4 hrs I find myself wishing for a little easier gear.
    This is not a debate . And I've used every realistic ratio one can for this particular terrain. I have enough gears to swap out per trail. I'm only interested in a response from those who have experimented with very low SS gearing.
    It would help if we knew what exactly you were curious about. The obvious stuff is that you'll have a lower top speed, and an easier time of it climbing. This may or may not help you ride past 4hrs. I don't have anywhere nearby to ride 200' elevation gain every mile, but I do gear down when the ride has more elevation gain vs. flatter rides. Really, the only think I can suggest is that, if you think it might make your ride more enjoyable, go for it.

    As far as 32x18 being the "best gear ratio", I call BS. There is no such thing as a single gear ratio that will work the best for every rider and in all conditions. Telling the OP to put a 32x18 gear on his bike and "suck it up" isn't helpful at all.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cotharyus View Post
    I almost didn't respond to this, because I haven't tried gearing that low. But I thought I'd throw out the reason why. At some point gearing becomes low enough, that you can't cover a meaningful distance on your power stroke (down stroke) and you have to transition from one downstroke to the next in a zone where you'd ideally still like to be in a power stroke. Of course, you have to balance that with being able to actually MOVE the bike in the taller gear that lets you cover a meaningful distance with a power stroke. Since you're already running a lower gear than I've tried for that reason, you may know something I don't about it, but that's where I stand on "how low can you go" - at some point, to me, the low gearing becomes more of a hinderance than a help.

    That 4 hour mark where you get tired? That's why I have a bike with full suspension and gears. Most rides, I don't mind the SS because they're only a few hours or whatever. When we start planning 4-8 hour trips, I start prepping the FS bike instead.
    Two out of two Mountain Bike Radio hosts agree...

    This. It's the same reason why I tell people going 1x11 that they don't need a 28t front ring. That lowest gear may work fine for spinning up something steep and smooth, but as soon as you need to put in a "burst" of power to get through something loose or over a rock/root/etc, you're gonna stall out. It's just not a useful gear for the the reason he gives.

    The 32x18 argument below is BS, too. There's never going to be a magic gear that's perfect everywhere. There's just the one that sucks the least for the ride you're doing. Personally, I know I've found the right gear when I start to feel like it's too much late in my ride. So, if you're riding 4.5 or 5 hours and you feel like, at 4 hours, your gear is too tall, then (at least by my standards) you've picked the right gear for yourself. If you're talking a 6 or 7 hour ride, then yeah, maybe try one tooth lower. A 28/23 probably isn't getting in to that "too low" zone that Cotharyus and I are referencing.

    Edit to add: Here's a short story about gearing-
    I was at the first Winter Park XC series race, and noticed on the first climb that the singlespeed lady I was head to head with was sitting and looking comfortable, and I was obviously on a harder gear. Talking with her later on, we'd both thought the same thing at that point in the race- I knew I'd be faster and win unless my fitness failed me and my bigger gear made me blow up further in to the race. She stayed steady knowing that my bigger gear would be faster but more likely to make me blow up later in to the race. Luckily, my fitness won out, but it could have gone the other way if I'd not geared for what I knew I could push. Lesson? Know what other people run for a trail or race course or whatever, but at the same time, stick with what you know you like given the duration/terrain/altitude.

    Or HTFU like everyone else says. Whatever.
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  15. #15
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    Gear according to penis size (perceived or actual).
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  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cotharyus View Post
    That 4 hour mark where you get tired? That's why I have a bike with full suspension and gears. Most rides, I don't mind the SS because they're only a few hours or whatever. When we start planning 4-8 hour trips, I start prepping the FS bike instead.
    Interesting. That's when I'm more likely to start prepping the SS.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andrea138 View Post
    Or HTFU like everyone else says. Whatever.
    that's much too controversial. what are you some kind of D*ck? you should be more PC. say something like 32:18 FTW! there that's not offensive and i've expressed my opinion.

    seriously though, i think that 28:23 is too low to be useful on most trails but it's entirely dependent on the terrain and rider. the internet can't answer that question.

    as for the "what happens if i go one gear lower?" well that's pretty obvious, you'll go a little slower and it will be a little easier.

    I'm with A1an, whatever.
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  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andrea138 View Post
    Two out of two Mountain Bike Radio hosts agree...

    This. It's the same reason why I tell people going 1x11 that they don't need a 28t front ring. That lowest gear may work fine for spinning up something steep and smooth, but as soon as you need to put in a "burst" of power to get through something loose or over a rock/root/etc, you're gonna stall out. It's just not a useful gear for the the reason he gives.

    The 32x18 argument below is BS, too. There's never going to be a magic gear that's perfect everywhere. There's just the one that sucks the least for the ride you're doing. Personally, I know I've found the right gear when I start to feel like it's too much late in my ride. So, if you're riding 4.5 or 5 hours and you feel like, at 4 hours, your gear is too tall, then (at least by my standards) you've picked the right gear for yourself. If you're talking a 6 or 7 hour ride, then yeah, maybe try one tooth lower. A 28/23 probably isn't getting in to that "too low" zone that Cotharyus and I are referencing.

    Edit to add: Here's a short story about gearing-
    I was at the first Winter Park XC series race, and noticed on the first climb that the singlespeed lady I was head to head with was sitting and looking comfortable, and I was obviously on a harder gear. Talking with her later on, we'd both thought the same thing at that point in the race- I knew I'd be faster and win unless my fitness failed me and my bigger gear made me blow up further in to the race. She stayed steady knowing that my bigger gear would be faster but more likely to make me blow up later in to the race. Luckily, my fitness won out, but it could have gone the other way if I'd not geared for what I knew I could push. Lesson? Know what other people run for a trail or race course or whatever, but at the same time, stick with what you know you like given the duration/terrain/altitude.

    Or HTFU like everyone else says. Whatever.
    32-18 ftw.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by newmarketrog View Post
    32-18 ftw.
    Wow, I didn't even know you could get an 18t front ring.

  20. #20
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    I think that most usable gear range for 29er is 32:18+/-2 teeth on the cog
    Anything higher than that is just too hard for trails. Anything lower than that is not wery useful because it's harder to maintain momentum and also to maintain traction while standing in difficult conditions. However singlespeed is a very intresting thing because you can ride one trail on SS's with different gearing and they will reuqire different style and tactics. Taller gear provides better momentum, smaller one provides better acceleration and more opportunity to recover so on some trails you can pedal to the matal on the climbs because everythere else your gear is not efficient.

  21. #21
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    However I agree that sometimes it is easier to climb with a taller gear - it gives better momentum and more comfortable cadence for standing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Igoreha View Post
    I think that most usable gear range for 29er is 32:18+/-2 teeth on the cog
    Anything higher than that is just too hard for trails. Anything lower than that is not wery useful because it's harder to maintain momentum and also to maintain traction while standing in difficult conditions. However singlespeed is a very intresting thing because you can ride one trail on SS's with different gearing and they will reuqire different style and tactics. Taller gear provides better momentum, smaller one provides better acceleration and more opportunity to recover so on some trails you can pedal to the matal on the climbs because everythere else your gear is not efficient.
    bs^^^^^^^^^i raced a whole season ss/expert mostly running 34-18 on my 29er and did very well. i was used to it and carried more speed because of it. climby courses as well.

  23. #23
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    - I'm an old guy living in the foothills of northern GA, and its 32(oval)/21 for me.......don't really want it any lower cuz I also like to use this bike if I go to the beach.....
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  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by newmarketrog View Post
    bs^^^^^^^^^i raced a whole season ss/expert mostly running 34-18 on my 29er and did very well. i was used to it and carried more speed because of it. climby courses as well.
    We're not all as genetically blessed and fit as you. Gear for your fitness and the course and you'll go faster.

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    Quote Originally Posted by solo-x View Post
    We're not all as genetically blessed and fit as you. Gear for your fitness and the course and you'll go faster.
    Gearing for your fitness gets you nowhere unless you want to merely tread water. Gear harder than you think you should for your terrain and slowly reel in those climbs over time. You'll eventually get a good portion or all of em and you'll be going way faster to and from the trailhead, and the gearies won't be laughing at you on th e flatter terrain from spinning out on yer gerbel wheel gearing.

  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by newmarketrog View Post
    Gearing for your fitness gets you nowhere unless you want to merely tread water. Gear harder than you think you should for your terrain and slowly reel in those climbs over time. You'll eventually get a good portion or all of em and you'll be going way faster to and from the trailhead, and the gearies won't be laughing at you on th e flatter terrain from spinning out on yer gerbel wheel gearing.
    I'm glad that approach works for you. It doesn't for me. Everyone is different, and thinking a cookie cutter approach will work for everyone is flawed IMHO.

  27. #27
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    32/22 on Krampus with 3 inch Knards
    32/18 on 1x1 with 650B wheels and Neo Motos
    22x22 (fixed) on Moonlander with B&L for deep snow. This one never really worked that well - it was not low enough for some snow last winters and was too low for the rest of the winter. So I put gears on it this summer and swap tires to 4.8 Knards. Knards roll so easy I may try them in winter in SS mode, probably 33/23
    42/19 on Nature Boy disc with 700x38 tires (challenge gravelgrinders). This ratio on this bike is low for the pavement but great for up to 100K rides in mixed terrain (did not try longer rides yet but pretty sure it will be OK). For training - 42/17 with beefier tires
    All other rides are geared pretty high

    If you ride regular bike - ignore the bit below:
    What I found with bigger tires all gear ratios reasoning goes out of the window on first serious ride. Diameter is bigger, contact patch and traction is way different from regular bike so one has to adjust accordingly.
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  28. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by solo-x View Post
    I'm glad that approach works for you. It doesn't for me. Everyone is different, and thinking a cookie cutter approach will work for everyone is flawed IMHO.
    cookie cutter approach? heh, naw it's called getting out of yer comfort zone a lil bit. push a bit harder, hurt a bit more. compounding rewards.

  29. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by newmarketrog View Post
    cookie cutter approach? heh, naw it's called getting out of yer comfort zone a lil bit. push a bit harder, hurt a bit more. compounding rewards.
    Maybe he's already doing that? Or maybe he's just in it to have fun his own way. Doesn't matter, really.

  30. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by newmarketrog View Post
    cookie cutter approach? heh, naw it's called getting out of yer comfort zone a lil bit. push a bit harder, hurt a bit more. compounding rewards.
    I am on both sides (low and high gearing) but try and get out of your comfort zone too, gear one of your bike on low side and try to maintain the same speed. Faster cadence will give lots of work out and I assure you will get faster and stronger too.
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    Quote Originally Posted by praharin View Post
    Maybe he's already doing that? Or maybe he's just in it to have fun his own way. Doesn't matter, really.
    THIS IS SERIOUS BIDNESS!!!

    ya yerite doesn't matter really.

  32. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by newmarketrog View Post
    THIS IS SERIOUS BIDNESS!!!

    ya yerite doesn't matter really.
    Some of us are happy being at the pointy end of the field.

    The point and laugh end.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mongol777 View Post
    I am on both sides (low and high gearing) but try and get out of your comfort zone too, gear one of your bike on low side and try to maintain the same speed. Faster cadence will give lots of work out and I assure you will get faster and stronger too.
    one of my bikes? i only have one. one's all ya need unless yer talented nuff to ride multiple bikes at once.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NordieBoy View Post
    Some of us are happy being at the pointy end of the field.

    The point and laugh end.
    sounds kinda ghey ole nordieboi. nttawwt.

  35. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by newmarketrog View Post
    one of my bikes? i only have one. one's all ya need unless yer talented nuff to ride multiple bikes at once.
    Haha, I can ride 5 at once!
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    Quote Originally Posted by mongol777 View Post
    Haha, I can ride 5 at once!
    That's what she said

  37. #37
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    Whatever...
    Quote Originally Posted by praharin View Post
    That's what she said
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    Good stuff!

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    Quote Originally Posted by newmarketrog View Post
    cookie cutter approach? heh, naw it's called getting out of yer comfort zone a lil bit. push a bit harder, hurt a bit more. compounding rewards.
    So what happens when you get comfortable with 32x18

    Seriously though, I tried to run something like a 32x22 or 24 on my first 26" ss setup thinking I wanted to start "easy". It was actually a fair bit harder to get up the weekday climb (600 ft or so in a tick under a mile, then it settles down a bit) than the 32x18 setup I eventually settled on for that bike. Seemed weird then, but in retrospect it was pretty much what Cotharyus described.

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    Quote Originally Posted by wreckedrex View Post
    So what happens when you get comfortable with 32x18

    Seriously though, I tried to run something like a 32x22 or 24 on my first 26" ss setup thinking I wanted to start "easy". It was actually a fair bit harder to get up the weekday climb (600 ft or so in a tick under a mile, then it settles down a bit) than the 32x18 setup I eventually settled on for that bike. Seemed weird then, but in retrospect it was pretty much what Cotharyus described.
    32-18 on 29 or 36-18 on 26 is the ticket, imo. Best balance of speed everywhere. Back in the late 90's ss were spec'd 2-1 from the manufacturers that were putting em out and no sser i knew would swap it out for easier. You just ran it an got strong. Ss was supposed to be hard, not geared so easy that you never had to run up a climb here and there. Ss went soft by about 2003

  41. #41
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    Actually it can be even harder to go with the same speed on an easier gear than on a harder one. On a harder gear you just don't have any choise but go fast if you are strong enough or walk. On a smaller gear you can go slower, but going fast is a big challange in that case - you have to manage standing/seating, develop high cadenses. And some folks just hate walking with the bike)

    However both cases are fun, both are punishing in it's own way. Personally I like both)

  42. #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by Igoreha View Post
    Actually it can be even harder to go with the same speed on an easier gear than on a harder one. On a harder gear you just don't have any choise but go fast if you are strong enough or walk. On a smaller gear you can go slower, but going fast is a big challange in that case - you have to manage standing/seating, develop high cadenses. And some folks just hate walking with the bike)

    However both cases are fun, both are punishing in it's own way. Personally I like both)
    I too have no favorite and like both. Sometimes I am in the mood for mad spinning and sometimes just want to stand up and go at it.
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    34-18 = 32-17 which is within the range of gears mensioned by me. So no BS here)
    I used 34-18 and 34-17 myself)

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    Quote Originally Posted by mongol777 View Post
    I too have no favorite and like both. Sometimes I am in the mood for mad spinning and sometimes just want to stand up and go at it.
    geared bikes are perfect for that^^^^^^^^^^^^^. no swapping cogs and whatnot. less work.

  45. #45
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    Quote Originally Posted by newmarketrog View Post
    geared bikes are perfect for that^^^^^^^^^^^^^. no swapping cogs and whatnot. less work.
    I have geared bikes as well. Funny that you mention it but I built most of them specifically for that purpose - so I can work on cadence and spinning and switch to more mashing towards the end of the ride. My heart though still belongs to SS and FG, there is no substitute.
    And I don't have to swap cogs or freewheels that often - have similar bikes with different ratios. I quit smoking earlier this year, I don't care about fancy shit and I prefer pedaling or hiking with my dogs so that's where my money go. Plus I am lazy and prefer just to grab the bike which matches my mood and go.
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  46. #46
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    Quote Originally Posted by mongol777 View Post
    I have geared bikes as well. Funny that you mention it but I built most of them specifically for that purpose - so I can work on cadence and spinning and switch to more mashing towards the end of the ride. My heart though still belongs to SS and FG, there is no substitute.
    And I don't have to swap cogs or freewheels that often - have similar bikes with different ratios. I quit smoking earlier this year, I don't care about fancy shit and I prefer pedaling or hiking with my dogs so that's where my money go. Plus I am lazy and prefer just to grab the bike which matches my mood and go.
    you can get yer spin on with a properly geared ss by riding it in different ways. i commute to work 12.5 miles each way and there's no better way to get yer spin on than rolling a 52" gear to work and back every day. mega spin sesh daily, wicked high rpms. then i'd hit the trails and steep climbs for my slower cadence power work. the complete workout program. raced for years training like that. didn't own a road bike for like 10 years. all work commuting and to and from the trailhead on the 32-18 29er. sometimes riding 30 miles on road to meet a group for a solid great 20 mile singletrack ride, then 30 miles home.

    one bike one speed one ratio for all

  47. #47
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    Quote Originally Posted by newmarketrog View Post
    you can get yer spin on with a properly geared ss by riding it in different ways. i commute to work 12.5 miles each way and there's no better way to get yer spin on than rolling a 52" gear to work and back every day. mega spin sesh daily, wicked high rpms. then i'd hit the trails and steep climbs for my slower cadence power work. the complete workout program. raced for years training like that. didn't own a road bike for like 10 years. all work commuting and to and from the trailhead on the 32-18 29er. sometimes riding 30 miles on road to meet a group for a solid great 20 mile singletrack ride, then 30 miles home.

    one bike one speed one ratio for all
    That's a great way to do it! I had period like that for a while - all I had was my trusty KM. But I do like to explore new things and try out different styles and bikes. I grew up riding coastie and that was the only bike I had for a long time and SS came back naturally. After I enjoyed my KM for several years I added 1x1, many many vintage rides in between (all in SS or FG flavour) and it all went downhill from there. I now have around 20 bikes (+/- 5 depending on where I am in selling or buying) and several of them have gears. I don't regret introducing gears in my pedaling life - each have their own advantages and disadvantages. But if life takes a turn and I'll be faced with downsizing my velopark (and I hope such moment will never come) - I will be happy with one SS (although it would be very hard - how do you choose between Krampus and 1x1 or between Moonlander and nicely winter equipped Unit with studs and all, or between Nature Boy and Big Block. I surely hope I won't have to face such dilemma)
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