All those gears on bicycles

As mentioned you shouldn’t “cross-chain,” which is using the big ring up front with the largest gear in the back (or using the smallest [granny] ring up front with the smallest gear in the back. Besides causing the chain to fall off in the front, it also causes both stress to the chain and wear to the sprocket teeth. Stress to the chain could cause it to snap unexpectedly. Wear to the sprocket teeth will eventually cause the chain to slip, especially when climbing or riding hard.

The big challenge when adding more sprockets in the back is that you’re trying to fit more gears into a finite space; nine-speed gears and chains are slimmer than eight-speed. If either Shimano or Campignolo designed a fifteen-speed cassette and enough riders saw an advantage, frame makers would eventually redesign their frames to accommodate the new gear. As you might guess, new gear is generally designed for pro riders and trickles down to recreational riders.

Also, keep in mind that a 3x9 doesn’t produce 27 unique gear lengths. There are duplicates in there, but sometimes it’s easier to just move one shift level to achieve a desired result than to move two shift levers.

My cassette goes to 11. Which is way too loud to play cassettes at, with all their inherent noise.

Quote; **Uber_the_Goober **

Quote; oreally

I get it. I ride a Redline Monocog 29er. Best bike I ever owned. Single-speed mountain bike, virtually indestructable, light, easy and trouble-free. 'Course, a single-speed rider has to be really well-conditioned, like me…51-y.o. smoker, 20 lbs or so overweight (and not too proud to walk it up the occasional hill) Young skinny deep-breathing types, might want to consider buying one with gears.

I ride a 15 year old 21-speed Murray. In 15 years, I have probably used 7 gears. I would love a lighter, less complicated, bike. Maybe 2 sprockets in the front and 3 in the back.

Those talking about the companies adding gears so they can be seen to be developing something are missing a big facet of cycling; weight is king. Cyclists spend mega dollars just to lose a couple of hundred grams from the weight of their bike. You can be sure that if there was no competitive advantage to having more gears, they wouldn’t have them.

I have a 20 speed bike and absolutely use all of them. Going up a 20% slope I’m in the easiest gear, I’m standing up and I’m barely doing 6 kph (unless I’m having a good day in which case I can cruise up the same hill at 10-12 kph with a gear or two to spare.) Going down a hill I’m doing 70 - 80 kph in the hardest gear and my legs are spinning as fast as they can. Anyone who thinks the gears aren’t necessary aren’t riding real hills. It’s more than just about the easiest and hardest gears though, when I get fit enough to be comfortable reducing the range of gears available I’ll have closer ratios and there will be fewer times where I struggle to find just the right gear that lets me pedal most efficiently.

The reason you didn’t used to have 10 or 11 gear cassettes is because the technology didn’t exist to make them a viable option.

Finally, even a Trek entry level road bike shouldn’t have a chain that falls off the chain ring, get it looked at, that sort of thing is a very simple fix.

I bought it new from a local bike shop so they’d probably fix it for free. I’ts just that I’ve never had anything other than a $100 department store “bike” before so I didn’t know if it was user error, like I could only switch front gears in certain rear gears or something.

I recently invested in my first fairly nice bike, a Raleigh touring model, a few years old. The first thing I noticed was that I was only using about the top three of its 21 gears. I’m in Chicago, so the steepest grade I’ll ever encounter is about 2%. The first “upgrade” I made to my new bike therefore, was to tinker with the chain wheels*. It came with 26/36/46** up front, so I bought a 50 chainwheel, replaced the 46 with that, and got rid of the 26 entirely, turning my 21-speed into a 14-speed. Now I find that I use all 7 of the gears on my top chain wheel, and will occasionally use a couple on my lower. Unless I decide to take it out of Chicago, I don’t imagine I’ll miss the granny gear,*** and at this point am very happy with my new 14-speed 36/50.

Mdcastleman, I agree with others who say your chain should not be slipping off your top chain wheel. The fix for that is to retune your front derailleur. If you’re adventurous you can do it yourself, but derailleur adjustments can be tricky to get just right. One mine, there are two screws right next to each other that you can fiddle with to tune the position of the derailleur in each gear location.

  • A chain wheel is the sprocket up front; the pedals and crank attach to it. Most bikes these days come with one, two, or three.

** The numbers indicate the number of teeth on the chain wheel. More teeth allow you to go faster and offer correspondingly higher resistance.

*** Refers to the “easiest” gear or chain wheel (i.e. the 26 here).

Oh absolutely they should fix it up for you if you bought it there. When I bought my bike a few years back the shop actually specifically told me to come back after the first month for a tune up, as apparently the cables and such typically need adjustment after you break them in to your style of riding. And, if your issue is user error, the techs at the shop should be able to show you what the error is and how to avoid it.

Am I the only one who feels it in the knees if I take hills in high gear? Once is no problem, but after the second or third day in a row of powering up a grade without downshifting (usually because I’m late to work) I feel like my kneecaps are going to fall off!

This sounds like a problem with the amount of extension you’re getting in your legs when you pedal.
If you’re the type of rider who sits down the entire time they ride, then your seat should be adjusted so that when your pedal is at the “bottom” your leg should be about 90 to 95% fully extended, depending on the position of your ankle. Everybody’s a little bit different, but the key is to not be pedaling with a lot of force with your knees somewhat in front of you, they should be below you.

Or, maybe you just need a bit more conditioning? My knees kill me until after I’ve had a few long rides to “break in” my knees again :slight_smile:
(unless of course your extension is fine and it’s just that you are so super strong you can power up a hill in low gear but your joints can’t take it anymore)

Actually the UCI mandated minimum weight of 15 lbs is king, and a modern racing bike can easily come under that. So Campagnolo or Shimano can tell a pro to run the latest 2x11 chainset with no weight penalty at all, so club cyclists around the world have something new to spend their money on. And of course have their cadence benefit from the closer ratios :dubious:
Apparently Cadel Evans runs the same type of cassette as you or I might have on our bikes for this reason - to bring the bike up to weight.

Extension is a big part of it - back when I first started riding and was afraid to be up so high it was a lot worse, once I got over that in a few months and put the seat high enough it’s much less of a problem. And if I use proper gears on hills (not usually the granny gear but definitely the low ones) I can go all day and the knees don’t hurt a bit. I think it’s a combo of needing more conditioning in general and that while I’m not super strong I do have disproportionately mighty thighs compared to the strength of my leg joints. It’s definitely genetic, as both of my sisters report the same thing - thigh muscles bulk up super fast with any exercise at all and the knees suffer. For me it’s biking, for one sister it’s running and the other basketball, but the same result of the muscles running away with themselves if we’re not careful.

I don’t bring it up because it’s an insurmountable problem, just that it’s the biggest reason I wouldn’t want to give up my gears.

The concensus I’ve seen on cycling forums is that singlespeeding is generally pretty good for your knees - as long as it’s done right. Pain in the knee when riding is never right for the majority of people - persistently pushing a too-big gear whilst seated, as mentioned, can certainly do some damage.

I used to ss mountain bike quite a bit and it was great on the kness, even if it did murder the legs in general on the hard climbs. That’s with something like 32x17 off-road. But I ran a SS cyclocross bike with a decent road ratio round hilly Edinburgh and developed some knee pain so switched to gears. Back on the ss 49x18 now for a flat-ish commute and that’s fine.

Yeah. Even as a kid, I realized this. 6/2 is 9/3, and 8/4 is 6/3. That much, at least, I learned in school.

The hills I climb are between 12% and 18%, and these are the same hills I come down. I also ride on flats. Yes, I need ALL my gears!

Agree with the seat height (we go with a 15 to 30 degree bend in the knee with foot at the bottom of the pedal stroke). Also, you should never be riding at a super slow cadence. Ideal cadence is around 90 rpm, but a lot of people can’t hit that, so the general minimum is around 70 rpm. Any less and you need to change gears before you hurt yourself.

Ah I didn’t know that, thanks.

As mentioned, the “speeds” are possible combinations of front chainrings and rear sprockets, and do not refer to distinct useful gear ratios. Several of these combinations are duplicates and/or not meant to be used due to extreme (= damaging) chain angles. Still, if the gear teeth numbers are well chosen, more is better – more speeds give more useful ratios which gives more overall flexibility and suitability.

Consider the old ten speed. With only the rear sprockets, five speeds was the limit (at the time, decades ago), and using all five of them involved less than desirable chain angles. By adding the second front chainring, there were now six to eight useful speeds – six with an easy shift pattern, eight with some double shifting necessary. The thing is you couldn’t get that sixth (or 7th or 8th) speed without going to the ten-speed setup. Even with adding only one more speed, there’s an increase in usability and a decrease in chain-angle related wear. Though it doesn’t have twice the useful gear rations, the ten speed is still superior to the five speed.

All we’ve done with modern designs is multiplied this basic concept into larger numbers – the more theoretical speeds still means more useful speeds. Mocking 24 (or 27 or however many) speeds just because it doesn’t represent that many useful gear ratios is missing the point.

That’s a wonderfully macho position to take. Unfortunately, it’s also an effective way to overstress knees. It’s really not wise to push them hard.

I have eight sprockets on the rear and use them all. I have three sprockets in front and use the middle one all the time.