Monday, March 31, 2008

Flip side of Jr. gearing...

If you are racing as a junior in any USA Cycling road event, you are limited in your high gear to a roll-out of 7.93 meters. Basically, that means your top gear is about a 52x14. I find it interesting that there is no limit to junior mountain bike racers. The top ratio of a road gear at 52/14 is 3.71. The top gear of a mountain bike with 44/11 is 4. That makes absolutely no sense and further goes to show just how uncoordinated USA Cycling is.

But this isn't about the lack of logic in rules for junior by USA Cycling. This is about Sr. gearing. As I get older, I just can't assume either the position on the bike I once could nor turn the pedals with the gearing that is supplied on most of todays bikes. When I started riding, 52/42 was the standard front chainring set and freewheels were 13-21 (or 23). I don't know how it happened. But somewhere along the way, Shimano and Campagnolo thought we were much stronger riders than we actually were and started giving us 53t big rings and 11t small cogs.

I was probably a stronger rider in my 30's than I was when I was in my 20's. And probably up until a couple of years ago, I was a stronger rider in my 40's than I was in my 30's. Even in my strongest riding years, a 53/11 was reserved only for those rare occasions when I was faced with a long steep downhill.

And then compact cranksets came out. Actually, "compact" cranksets have been out for years. The 110mm bolt circle was the common size for mountain bike cranks. There was even a Ritchey Logic double road crank in '94 that was a 110 BCD crank with 53/38 rings. I ran one for a long time. Then I switched from 6-speed down tube shifters to 9-speed STI shifters and went back to a 53/39. When compact came out again about 4 years ago, I jumped all over it. Ran it with an 11/23.

I'm still on a 50/34 with an 11/23, but after today's ride, I calculated (based on my WAG calculation) that I was in the 50 about 90% of the time and between the 16/17/19/21 about 90% of the time as well with 8% spent in the 23 and the remaining 2% spent in the 11. Boy, when you are in the 11, you sure have to bump that 10s shift lever a lot to get back to your 19 when that descent ends.

So, I start to thinking (and remembering) that if there are junior gears, maybe there ought to be a limit to senior gears - hey, I'm 4 years away from qualifying for AARP membership. Thankfully, I'm riding Campy parts because they have the gearing I need - a 13-26 that will be on my next parts order. With a 13-26, I'll be able to spend more time in the middle of the cassette rather than the upper end. By reducing my cross-chaining, I'll also save on chainring and chain wear. If I was on Shimano, I'd be SOL because all they gots is a 12 (you listening, Daniel - 13-25 10-speed Ultegra level, you know you guys need it). (edit: Evidently, they were listening because right there in the QBP book is an Ultegra 10, 13-25. Wow, you guys are fast. Must be using the gmail custom time option.)

I guess I'll be the guinea pig for my new proposed senior gearing. Heck, I've already started in on my senior approach to bike fit with my new acquisition, a 120mm x 30 degree Ritchey Pro stem. The funny thing is, even with this stem, my bars are still 4" below the top of my seat so I haven't gone all Rivendell quit yet. Maybe I do need a bigger bike though...


(What's playing: Tears For Fears Mad World wow, where'd that one come from. And for those not familiar with precision forecasting WAG = Wild Ass Guess)

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