All those gears on bicycles

I have a pretty nice bicycle- Trek’s entry leve road bike. It has like 24 speeds, but I only use about 3 of them. Granted the chain falls of the front derailleur every time I try to switch it, but mainly I just find a few speeds right in the middle adequate. Why build 24 speeds? Do other people use them? Are they usefull if you’re in Colorado instead of Minnesota? Are they useful if you’re in a bike race? Just marketing and bragging rights (My 24 speed is better than you’re 21 speed)

Still remember as kids those of us with 10 speeds, instead of 3 or 1, were the elite…

If you’re riding hard on varied terrain, yes, those gears are useful. You are trying to keep your cadence at a fast, steady pace on all sorts of terrain and minor changes in gear are important. The smallest chainring is usually only for hill climbing, and the two bigger ones are for all the other sorts of terrain.

Does everyone need 24 gears? Probably not. Do enthusiast riders, yes, they can take advantage of them.

Several of the gear combinations in these high-gear bicycles can’t be used; the chain will snag on the teeth of the larger sprockets if you try to cross from the little one in front to the little ones in back, and can hang up on any of the gears if the angle is too extreme. Fortunately, there is little reason to do so. The point of these gear systems is to offer a few low gear combinations for climbing, a few high gear combinations for good power on more level ground or downhill, and some in the middle so you can choose a comfortable gear for cruising. You might only use about half of the theoretical possibilities; when I rode an 18 speed, I used maybe 6 of them – and I was riding in the hills above Berkeley and Oakland.

I have used all of the practical combinations at one time or another in order to maintain my cadence. As was said earlier, some of the gear combinations are impractical due to the flex required of the chain and the side-to-side tension imparted on it. It’s called a 24-speed because there are 24 different possible combinations, but really it’s more like 16 or so and I find most of the ones I use are 3-6 in the back on the middle front sprocket.

Still, they all get used at one time or another.

Meh. I use my god-given continuously variable power transmission equipment - my legs.

I ride a single speed mountain bike. Yes, I have a lower top speed. I’m ok with that though.

I never pop a chain. My deraileur is never out of adjustment. My handlebars are clutter free.

Simplicity is the best if you ask me. Bummer nobody ever does though…they keep coming out with more and more gears for bikes…I saw a 32 speed once. WTF is all that for? Learn to pedal harder for crying out loud.

I think my favorite all-time bike was my mid-60s one-speed Schwinn Typhoon. Sadly, that bike is long (long) gone. I don’t think it could match my current bikes when it comes to comfort and/or performance though.

Today I have a 12-speed road bike and a 18-and 24-speed MTB. I think I use the “middle” two or three gears on them about 90% of the time. It sure is nice to have all those extra gears just in case.

Has anyone ever marketed a CVT for bikes?

Yep. I’ve only seen one brand - NuVinci - and they’re relatively new, heavy, and expensive, though. I was looking into it, and the hub (it’s an internal) was about $350 with no wheel. Maybe worth it for a hardcore mountain biker, but that’s a lot of money for one part. I’m sort of hoping they’ll come into their own, it’s a neat idea.

In terms of efficiency, the human animal is good at a steady output rate.

We tend to be better at a relatively higher cadence and lower power output, so its no surprise that we make good long distance trotters compared to most other animals.

Having one gear on a cycle means you are frequently either pushing hard, or you are over revving. Most times you see fixed wheel riders on relatively flat terrain where you can keep more or less the same pedalling rate - there are exceptions such as track sprinters but then they do not typically ride for 50-100 miles at a time.

When you get to road racing, events can easily get into the 70 mile range, and for the elite riders frequently exceed 100 miles, especially for title events.

The gears are much more about controlling speed in the case of such riders, road racing is very strategic and the idea is to use what you have available in the most effective way, so you might try to shed out a few riders early on by riding the larger gears and go at higher speed, and then settle down until you reach race changing places such as climbs etc.

The cadence usually keeps within a fairly narrow band for the most part, but the speed will vary as differing gears are used. When you are riding close to the limits of your personal endurance, then .5 mph - which might be just one tooth difference on your sprockets, can be critical.

The thing is, as a rider your abilities can change significantly race by race, so that you find that you can ride slightly faster one day than another so you need a good selection of pretty close gear ratios, but the range of ratios available still needs to be pretty wide to cope with all the conditions, which means having lots and lots of sprockets.

Proliferation of gears is pretty stupid - 3x7 was standard on anything good when I started mountain biking and now it’s 3x10. It’s symptomatic of the bicycle being quite a refined machine, and it’s really hard to do new things with it. Really really hard to do new things that actually add anything substantial. So companies resort to this sort of empty innovation as they need to be seen doing something new.

Saying that my newest mountain bike came with 2x10 stock drivetrain which I like - but it’s no better than 2x8 or 2x9. I know a lot or riders who use 1x9 or 10 on the mountain bike - use a wide-spaced cassette and that’s versatile enough for most things in the UK.

I do a lot of trail riding, but it’s one continuous slope, and it’s a pretty gentle one. I usually stick to two or three gears, but occasionally I’ve needed more than that because of the variability in trail conditions.

I also use it for general transportation on decently hilly streets, so that may involve a few more, as well. It just depends on where I’m riding and on what surface.

I use all my gears on my mountain bike. Any sort of terrain/hills requires gear changes. Heck, even around town on pavement it’s nice to have different gears. Of course, I live in a hilly town - if you’re on the flats and only ride pavement, I can see how just a few gears works just fine.

I ride my bike for daily commuting and the occasional tour (just ~ 2k km/a), and when I bought my current bike chose a 14-gear Rohloff hub over a 6-gear SRAM hub (NB with hub gears all gears are usable) - cost 1k€ more but I have not regretted the expense. When starting from traffic lights I change gears every few meters to get the maximum acceleration (which is useful when riding in a city environment).

Because this is America, where if something is considered good, then more is better, and that can’t be taken too far. :rolleyes: I had a 10 speed as a kid and have ridden 24 speeds. I notice no diff or advantage in the extra speeds.

Hey somebody else gets it, thanks!

bolding mine

So a very nice bike would be one that worked correctly?

Note that competitive road cyclists will only have a choice of two front chainrings which currently gives them a maximum of 22 speeds (2 x 11). Triple front rings would be considered more of a touring setup where you might want the extra flexibility of lower gearing when carrying loads. Also note that there is a deal of overlap in the ratios available on the different cahinrings. This is because it is faster and smoother to change gear with the rear sprockets than the front and it is nice not to have to keep switching.

Back when I was a student in Hawaii, I had a very nice Diamondback. I don’t remember how many speeds it had, but it had a lot, and I used them all. People don’t realize how mountainous Hawaii is, and even Honolulu has its ups and downs. Three times a week, I’d ride to the top of Tanatalus, a small mountain. That helped get me in shape for the annual 100-mile bike ride up the coast of Oahu. (Not a race, just a ride.) Oh yeah, I used all my gears. Never had any mechanical problems that I can rememebr.

But, this computer is better because it has two more USB ports and it’s blue!

An extra chainring is pretty simple to slip in at minimal cost. Is anyone doing four cogs at the crank yet? Hey! This bike has FORTY speeds!! :eek: Guessing that would be fairly easy to add as well, but engineering it to actually work may be another story.

In my ride today I used both my top gear (52 front, 11 rear), and my bottom gear (30 front, 32 rear). It is pretty rare for me to use my top gear, but Iit was the only to keep up going ~35 MPH. I used the bottom gear to climb a 11% grade, though most of the hills I climbed I didn’t need to go to the bottom gear (I did definitely appeciate my granny ger in front)

For level (or nearly so) riding, I’m in the middle (42) gear in front, I only use the others for going up or down big (> 5% or so) hills


I’ve got 3x7, and in my typical commute to work (5 miles roundtrip with lots of hills and some gravel) I use maybe 6 or 7 of them. I’m glad to have them because if I were stuck with only the lower gears I’d be coasting half the time and not getting a workout at all, and with only the higher gears my knees get busted on the uphills. If I was riding on flatter terrain I’d make due with fewer, haven’t seen the need for more though if I was into racing I can see how they’d be handy to smooth things out even more.

As mentioned above, if the chain falls off when you try to switch, get it fixed! It won’t cost much and you won’t need to worry about it anymore.