Every cyclist eventually reaches that moment when they start to think about upgrading the components on their bicycle. Maybe you want to keep up with the latest components, you want to save a few grams for an upcoming race or maybe you just want a smoother ride? Whatever your motivation, upgrades can be a key part of enjoying your cycling experience. They help give your bicycle that unique characteristic and help make it your prized possession. The only thing is, where do you start? The gearing is a vital part of your bicycle as this is what gets the bicycle rolling, literally, making it a good place to start.
Bicycles can be equipped with very different gear ranges quite easily. Manufacturers try to guess what sort of gear range their target customers will prefer. It is entirely reasonable to customize the gearing on your bicycle to match your particular strength, endurance, terrain and load, among other variables.
The best gearing for you depends on a large number of variables, including:
- Your weight
- Your strength
- Your endurance
- How far you will be riding in a day
- How hard you are willing to push
- How much baggage you will be carrying
- The steepness of the terrain
- The nature of the road surface
Gearing is something that can seem very complex at first but is actually extremely simple once you get your head around the jist of things. If you want to make climbing up hills easier, maintain higher speeds on the flat or even balance these two factors, understanding gearing will help you to do this. There are three main factors to take into account when it comes to choosing your ideal gearing for your ride; the crank teeth ratio, the cassette teeth ratio and the number of gears.
Gearing: Cranks/Chain Sets
The crank teeth ratio refers to how many teeth are on the big chain ring and the little ring. The choice of teeth ratio depends on the power of the rider and the type of riding undertaken. For example, a rider who regularly rides in hilly areas might use a 50-tooth chainring. For experienced riders looking to race in an event, a 52t/53t chaining or ‘standard’ chainring will normally be ideal, provided that the cassette, the rear set of gears, are compensating for any hills or specific rider requirements.
Cassettes are the rear set of gears on a bike. By using these gears correctly, a rider can accelerate quickly with ease or maintain a steady rhythmic pedal stroke, depending on what the type of riding demands. When upgrading the cassette, increasing the size difference on the sprocket (the rings that make up a cassette) can result in smoother gear changes and can allow for more efficient climbing gears. Just keep in mind when changing the amount of sprockets available on the rear, the shifters and chain need to be included in the change, otherwise the gearing will be thrown out of balance in shift points
How many gears?
Remember that more gears does not necessarily mean more choice. If the difference between gear ratios is too small, you won’t notice much difference when you change gear. If you want more choice in terms of gears, which is particularly beneficial in hillier areas, you need to pay attention to the difference between the ratios between the biggest and smallest gears.
Even though the terrain and type of riding is different for Road and MTB bicycles, the gearing in both are meant for 2 common purposes, more speed and easy climbing. Even though most hybrid bicycles come with entry level MTB gearing components, road gearing groupsets can be used as an upgrade on Hybrids. Ultimately there is no magic formula for knowing if you need a gearing upgrade or not, only experimentation will let you determine what gearing suits your needs. Although most of us don't want to admit it, our bicycle probably isn't holding us back anywhere near as much as we would like to think. Hopefully you have gained some useful knowledge about gearing upgrades. If you have any doubts or clarifications regarding this feel free to write to us at [email protected] and we will be happy to help.