Editor’s Note: It’s an increasingly common refrain from roadies: I need more gearing.
Here’s how an RBR Premium Member who wrote me recently put it:
“There are more and more of us “mature” cyclists who take our recreational riding seriously and look for high-quality components. We are no longer as strong as the younger crowd. Riders like me want close-ratio gearing but now need lower and lower gears. The obvious solution is a triple crank. But they have all but disappeared.
“I ride a Specialized S-Works Tarmac and couldn’t even adapt a mountain triple. So I have compact cranks in front and an 11-32 cassette in back. There has got to be a market for riders like me who want a light racing bike with close gears that reach low enough to compensate for our diminishing power. Of course, the industry is moving in the opposite direction with the 1 X 11 setup. Bring back the triple!”
It’s a thought that’s been bouncing around in my own head lately, as I contemplate a tour on the Blue Ridge Parkway next summer – a gorgeous slice of roadway known for either being up or down, with little in between. While that 11-28 cassette mated with a 50-34 compact is good enough for nearly everything I’ve attempted to this point in my riding life, I’m feeling like it’s time to add some more gearing.
It’s hard to predict the evolution of components, but don’t think we’ll see a return to triples. What we’ll see, I believe, is a continuation of the trend toward rear derailleur/cassette configurations that can handle a wider range of gears.
And the fact is, many don’t know the technical limits of the equipment we have (or how far past those stated limits we can really go). Or even how to approach the process.
Free PDF – Our Holiday Gift to You!
Which is where Coach Rick Schultz comes in. Rick is a coach, bike fit expert, prolific product reviewer and engineer by trade. It’s the analytical, technical, engineer’s nature that makes Rick great at diving head-first into issues like this and addressing the myriad aspects of an issue.
That’s exactly what he’s done in an article that is a combination product review (of the WolfTooth Road Link, which itself facilitates added gearing) and thorough look at the technical limits and possible combinations of derailleurs, chain inches and equipment to maximize the gearing of road bikes.
His article contains an absolute wealth of information, including numerous charts and tech specs, along with photos and detailed descriptions – in short, it would have been incredibly difficult and time-consuming to format as a standard web article. So with Rick’s permission, we’re offering it to you as a bit of a holiday gift: a downloadable PDF. Just like one of our eBooks or eArticles, you can print it or save it for future reference – with our compliments! Just click the link to download:
HOW TO ADD GEARING TO YOUR BIKE
Enjoy! And Happy Holidays!
David Minden says
I’ve been using the Road Link for 2 years. I guilt up a Gunnar Fastlane, which is a great steelie road bike. I’m 63yo, like speed, but also like my knees! My standard cassette is 12/32. But I do self-supported touring, with a trailer. Pulling that 60 extra pounds up mountains means I want more gears. So with the Road Link I have a 12/40. Shifts smoothly, has never thrown a chain even.
glenn ashworth says
getting up in years and riding in NH mountains, I built my “terminal” road bike with a campy triple, long cage derailleur, and an IRD 10 speed 11-34 rear cassette. my thought was if I need it, it will be there. if I don’t use it I still know it will be there. works very well for what I need to ride up here.
I’ve been running a Sugino 46/30 up front and a 12-40 in the rear with a Wolf Tooth road link using Shimano DI2 shifters on my gravel bike. I’ve been more than happy with it.
I’ve got 10 speed 7900 Dura Ace with 5/34 compact on my bike and the supposed max rear cog size is 28 teeth. However, after reading something Lennard Zinn wrote in (ahem) another cycling publication I ordered a 12-30 Ultegra cassette and put it on my bike. I had to change the chain as well to get the correct length, but it works just fine. I can even ride the 50-30 if necessary–though I try not to of course. I enjoyed having a 34-30 at the Hincapie Gran Fondo this year, especially on the wall of Howard’s Gap.
John Marsh says
Jeff, I totally agree with you on two points: First, yes, in many cases different combinations of tech that makers say will not work actually work just fine. Second, the Hincapie Gran Fondo is the first event I ever did (I rode the inaugural one) that planted the seed that I could use more gearing than I had at the time. That’s a tough one, to be sure!
It was viewing the ride profile that got me started thinking I should find a way to get smaller gear.
David Stihler says
I ride a triple Campagnolo 34/43/52 13-29 and just love it. I’ve been using it on my Calfee since 2003 and wouldn’t trade it for anything EXCEPT I might consider going to an 11 speed cassette; but I will stay with the triple as long as possible.
I’ve been riding a Campy triple(52/42/32) since 1995 with an 8-speed cassette. I too will stay with the triple as long as possible. “Upgraded” to a 9-speed cassette this past summer, 28-13 from 25-13.
The article had a lot of really good information, Thanks! I recently re-purposed my retired cyclocross bike to a gravel/night riding/rain day bike by changing the rings from the cyclocross standard 46/36 to 48/32 (with a new Praxis crank) and the cassette to 12/30. My road bike will be the next bike to get a gearing make-over and the road link solution is just what I’ll need.
John Marsh says
Somebody just sent me this: http://www.mgtechbikes.fr/bikes.html It may be worth checking out, though I cannot find anything about the pricing on these bikes.
I’ve used the Wolf Tooth on 11-42t cassettes when converting to 11 speed Sram eTap and it works great!
John Klever says
I replaced the 30 teeth inner chainwheel (Ultegra 6703? 50/39/30) with a 24 on both of my Specialized Roubaix, a hardtail, and a trail bike, and that was it. Everything works. Is the shifting perfect? No, because there is quite a jump between 24 teeth and 39, because the highest 3 gears are not usable (drooping chain), and because I’m not the pickiest mechanic around. But I’m normally in the top two chainwheels, so this only matters in the steeps, and I get the low gears (24/28) I need.
I couldn’t find the Ultegra crankset on the internet, but Chainreaction Cycles has a similar crankset in the Shimano 105 5703; the 24 teeth chainwheel is probably one click away on any search engine using that for the search. Other crank sets may work, but the inner chainwheel must be able to accommodate, I believe, a 58 mm bolt pattern.
I really like Holllowtech because of it’s simplicity and availability (act now, Chainreaction has these in short supply), and triples are a good answer to the need for low gears. The industry has abandoned/never supported the needs of oldtimers, the lame, the fat, the recovering, the challenged. Fit hammerheads forever is the implicit motto.
Kilo Campbell says
No mention was offered of using a Shimano mountain bike derailleur, mountain bike cassette, and road dual control levers combination. To my knowledge, the cable pull from the shift lever will index the same, whether for a road or a mountain bike derailleur (Shimano for both).
Steve Hardy says
Rick–Appreciate the info on the shim. I’ve been using Q-Rings for a couple years now, and like everything about them except that I can’t use the 12-13-15 cogs on the cassette with the 36 chainring (wouldn’t normally use the 36 X 12 anyway, but would like the other two). I’ll definitely look into the shim as a solution!
Brian Nystrom says
I recently installed a 46/30 FSA sub-compact crank on my ‘cross/gravel bike. Coupled with a 12-32 cassette, it gives me all the gearing I need for dirt roads in New England. For pavement use, I swap to wheels with fat road tires and an 12-25 or 12-27 cassette, which gives me gearing equivalent to my road bikes (actually a bit lower on the low end), with nice, close gaps. I’m considering using the same crank on my next road bike build.
Buy a frameset with round seat tube with no bulge at the bottom bracket and no front derailleur braze on. One can use a triple mountain and close ratio cassette on it. Presently have a 44/32/22 and 8-speed 12-25 on my road bike.
I’d rather have 13-34 than the standard 11-32. At 66 the only time I’m in an 11 or 12 is going down 5% grade or steeper. Then I’m Spinning out and coasting.