How many speeds are enough?

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JOD

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Originally Posted By: cjcride
The rage seems to be 9, 10, 11 speed bikes.
Keep in mind that most of those "9-11 speed" bikes are actually 18, 22 or 27 speeds, depending on the number of spockets on the front. Keep in mind also that there's a lot of overlap among all of those gears. What *does* matter is the high and low gearing. Low/easy gears are key if you live in hilly terrain, and previously really low gears were only available with lot o' gears. That's completely changed. My new mountain bike has 11 speeds, total--but it has a wider gear range than my old "27 speed" from a few years ago. It's a total game changer, and one of the first unique products from the bike industry in quite a while. No front derailleur, no chain slap off-road, and a chain that will pretty much never come off. All with the simplicity of one shifter. Right now it's exorbitantly expensive, but the tech will trickle down. My guess: most recreational mountain and hybrid bikes--and even some road bikes--will be 11 speeds total in the next 3-5 years. Eleven is kinda the magic number where you can have a big enough "big" gear, low enough "low" gear, and reasonable jumps between them-even in really hilly terrain.
 
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As others have said, it's not the number of gears but the gear ratios. I was looking for one more gear this AM on my ride smile But I held off my companions as we sprinted to the turn, so I guess I had enough gears.
 
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3 speeds is all you need, for a city cruiser in relatively flat terrain. I have a Raleigh 3 spd from the 70s that is a great around town bike. Fenders and a chain guard so you can ride it in any weather without any special clothing. Its basically maintenance free, all you need to do is oil the internal gear hub a couple of times a year. Gear it down so the 3rd gear is your cruising gear and the 1st two gears are for hills and for starting off from a dead stop. That being said, I also have a road bike, 9spd Cannondale, that has the closest possible gearing since I ride in flat terrain. 53/39 chainrings and 13-19 + 21 cogset. Close gearing gives you by far the best efficiency and/or speed.
 
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Originally Posted By: Saab9000
3 speeds is all you need, for a city cruiser in relatively flat terrain. I have a Raleigh 3 spd from the 70s that is a great around town bike. Fenders and a chain guard so you can ride it in any weather without any special clothing. Its basically maintenance free, all you need to do is oil the internal gear hub a couple of times a year. Gear it down so the 3rd gear is your cruising gear and the 1st two gears are for hills and for starting off from a dead stop. That being said, I also have a road bike, 9spd Cannondale, that has the closest possible gearing since I ride in flat terrain. 53/39 chainrings and 13-19 + 21 cogset. Close gearing gives you by far the best efficiency and/or speed.
I tend to agree. A good three-speed is surprisingly sufficient.
 
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In theory, a person operates best at a particular, fairly narrow rpm range, much like a diesel engine. This depends on fitness, the terrain, bike weight, etc. I can ride at between 1 and about 160 rpm, but have peak power output at about 105 rpm. My son is more efficient at about 95 rpm. So while you can certainly do fine for certain things with even a single speed, the closer you can get to your own performance band, the better. Thus, more speeds, allowing for better selection for the variables involved. Not that I wouldn't say marketing is involved, but their is indeed science behind part of it. As far as old chainrings and derailleurs for 6 and 7 speeds, chainrings won't matter up thru 9 speeds, and 10 will likely work fine. Old 8 speed Campy derailleurs use the same pull as 5-8 speed freewheels (not cassettes). Loose Screws used to be a great source for things like this, but they are out of business now. Harris Cyclery is another good source for info (and parts) I've got an old Cannondale 6 speed that I keep an eye out for parts for this reason (aluminum 126mm spacing - not upgradeable) and snag parts when possible.
 
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I ride flat FL roads. As such, I really only ride on a few cogs. Into the wind, zero wind and with the wind. It's possible that 3 carefully chosen speeds would work OK on most days. However, there is always the day with the wicked headwind and a long way to go. On Christmas day, I had a 20MPH headwind, and a 27 mile ride home from work. That was a first gear day much of the time. However, when a truck passed, I could upshift for a bit and pick up speed.
 
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I have 24 speeds on my mountain bike. Geared quite low - so I can ride it up any hill. Now the problem is it's geared a bit too low for the paved trails I mainly ride now. 24 speed is real nice though. I think I only use 3 or 4 total.
 
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Both my wife and I have 21 speeds, and we both use most of them at some point. If we're leisurely riding the trail or riding with friends we use a completely different gear set than we do if we're pushing ourselves for exercise. If I'm riding alone I use a different set because I usually push myself much harder, especially when riding the entire 40 miles of trail. Without the additional gearing I doubt that I would be able to make the entire 40 mile trail in 1 hour, 45 minutes (average speed of about 22 MPH). When leisure riding we do the same 40 miles in 4 hours (plus lunch stops). Given that the trail is fairly hilly, if I'm pushing myself hard I use a lot of different gears to keep my heart rate up and stay on pace.
 

cjcride

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Originally Posted By: Pop_Rivit
Without the additional gearing I doubt that I would be able to make the entire 40 mile trail in 1 hour, 45 minutes (average speed of about 22 MPH). When leisure riding we do the same 40 miles in 4 hours (plus lunch stops).
22 MPH average speed! Remind me to never race you.
 
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If you have a 7 speed cassette whose smallest cog has 11 teeth and the largest cog has 32 teeth, and an 11 speed with that same range, the ONLY difference between the 7 and the 11 speed cassette is the ratio; more cogs allows a closer ratio shift. Unless you were a monster TdF cyclist or some ultra Type A competitor, 7 speeds is fine.
 
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Originally Posted By: Pop_Rivit
Both my wife and I have 21 speeds, and we both use most of them at some point. If we're leisurely riding the trail or riding with friends we use a completely different gear set than we do if we're pushing ourselves for exercise. If I'm riding alone I use a different set because I usually push myself much harder, especially when riding the entire 40 miles of trail. Without the additional gearing I doubt that I would be able to make the entire 40 mile trail in 1 hour, 45 minutes (average speed of about 22 MPH). When leisure riding we do the same 40 miles in 4 hours (plus lunch stops). Given that the trail is fairly hilly, if I'm pushing myself hard I use a lot of different gears to keep my heart rate up and stay on pace.
Holy cow, that's [censored] impressive. I haven't had a bike in a few years. I should pick one up soon, start riding again.
 
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I just built a couple of mountain bikes with 29" wheels for friends. One of them got an 11-36 ten speed cassette and a 30 tooth single ring up front. Only one ring, no front derailleur, no shifter, no cable. Another one got the same cassette but insisted on a triple up front. After riding both bikes, I think I'm going to do the single on my bike as well.
 

JOD

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Originally Posted By: NYEngineer
I just built a couple of mountain bikes with 29" wheels for friends. One of them got an 11-36 ten speed cassette and a 30 tooth single ring up front. Only one ring, no front derailleur, no shifter, no cable. Another one got the same cassette but insisted on a triple up front. After riding both bikes, I think I'm going to do the single on my bike as well.
While an 11-36/30 tooth combo won't cut it for the terrain I'm riding, I think for most people in most locations that's an ideal spread. I'm using a 30T with a 10-42, and I can tell you use all of it (I spent about an hour continuous yesterday in a 30x42, and I was glad to have it!). For me though the real advancement is with the "narrow-wide" chainrings. I thought it was just hype, but along with a clutch-type derailleur they really do work. I've ridden in some crazy terrain and I have yet to drop a chain. The simplicity of a single ring up front is hard to beat, particularly when the chain never falls off the front ring.
 
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I know this is old but I just found this section and just bought a new Giant Trance SX 4 months ago so I'm still in the honeymoon stage lol. This is my first 1X11 setup and I love it! I go up some pretty steep terrain so the stock 1x10 with a 34x36 wouldn't cut it so I ordered the X01/XX1 drivetrain with the bike for a 32x10-42 setup. I was definitely skeptical at first. I can't imagine ever having 3 rings in the front again and even going back to a 2x seems unlikely. Compared to my old 3x setup and taking the slightly larger 27.5" wheels into consideration, I have almost the same high gear and just a slightly taller low gear and I don't have to deal with a front derailleur to achieve the wide spread of ratios. Having 11 speeds out back took a little getting used to. I used to think I was in top gear when I had one or two more to go but it's easy to get used to. I also agree about the narrow wide setup and clutch type derailleurs. I decided to leave the stock chain guide on since it doubles as a bash guard so I can't comment on dropped chains due to the narrow wide, but the clutch type of derailleur does a great job of eliminating chain slap and it shifts crisp and precisely even when shifting under power over a rock garden. The only thing I would improve on is my chain line on the 42t cog. The main thing is getting the range you need which the 10-42 cassette has made possible for the majority. Once you have that, you've won. You get to enjoy the inherent advantages to a 1X11 setup. Some talk about the ratios being too spread apart but this has never been a problem for me on a mountain bike. Speed already changes so quickly from the changing terrain from ascents to descents, etc, that sometimes I miss my old 7 speed cassette with it's wide spacing between gears. As it is I'm usually grabbing more than one gear on each shift.
 
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you really only need one gear unless you care about efficiency. but really, 10 speeds should be more than enough for most riding.
 
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10 and 11 are perfect...with a single ring up front. I use a 30 n/w chainring up front and a modified 11-42 10 speed cassette in back. Covers pretty much every area of riding with the exception of open fire road but I'm getting old and feeble so speed isn't of much importance anymore.
 
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I had 21 speeds in 1992 - 7 in back and 3 in the front - if anyone wonders how far back 21 speed goes. Probably farther than that. My early 80s Nishiki gas pipe steel bike even has 18 - 3 in front and 6 in the back. And I must say that, it shifts quite well even in index mode. That being said on my main bike, my Rivendell, that gets the most mileage, I've settled into an ultra-compact double, you might even call it a touring double, and 9 in the back, for a total of 18. I have 44/28 in front and 11-34 in the back, shifted with bar-cons. This accommodates speeds from 4-5 on the low end to climb grades of upwards of 20% to 29ish mph on the high end. Between 29 and 40ish going downhill, I just coast. Not only that but the setup on my Riv is cheap - the 44/28 was made by putting a bash guard on an old Ultegra 6503 triple in the former big ring position and non-pinned and ramped Sugino rings in the middle and granny position. Uses a cheap Octalink V1 bottom bracket, IIRC around $25-$30. The 11-34 in the back is an HG50 that I got for around $25 from ebikestop.com. The chain is a 9 speed KMC that I got for like $13. When I went 11-34 in the back I did switch out my Campy Chorus rear derailer for a Deore M-591 and that was around $45. I still have my Campy "racing triple" front derailer, works fine with all this stuff and the Microshift bar-cons. I just adjusted the limit screws and moved the front der down a bit, works perfect. I think a full swap of cassette, chain and 44 chainring would probably run about $55. LOL.
 
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