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I am a road biker trying 46/16 fixed-speed (freewheel) and loving it, but the gearing is too tough for me even on small grades. I want to be able to do as much as 5% without pain.
Problem is I don't know how much to increase in back--18? 20?. Thanks for any help!
 

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You want about a 60 to 65 inch gear. On a 700x23 wheel a 46x16 is about 75 inches- which is quite big for general road riding and road training (i.e. not on a track). With a 46-tooth chainring you'd have to go up to the 20 (60.4 inches) or 19 tooth cog range (63.6 inches). I ride about a 63 inch gear and it's great for stuff up to about 9% grade before it becomes a bit uncomfortable.

See:
http://sheldonbrown.com/gears/
 

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eRacer
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I have old knees and ride totally fixed using a 42 x 18 or a 63 inch gear.
No knee problems, but I get passed by lots of folks with bigger gears, but that's fine.

john
 

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I've found that 70 gear inches (a 42x16 on my fixed and a 48x18 on my SS commuter) is just about right. Of course, there is a guy on our "club" rides that sports a 52x15 on his SS and beats us all up the climbs, but he is not of this earth.

Sure, I'm "spun out" at 22mph on the flats, but I've got several geared bikes if I want to keep up with "those guys".

P.S. I'm even older than jmlapoint.
 

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42x16 or 40x16. I had the same gearing and went to a 40 on the front and have no problem cruising 18-21 mph and still make it up some pretty steep hills. (40 was what the lbs had in stock)
 

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Since turning 50, I've come to firmly believe that spinning is a lot better for your knees, so I absolutely agree with the recommendations to gear in the low 60s. You'll be able to climb (almost) anything, and the top speed you lose on the flats isn't that big of a deal; even in a group, you should be able to hang in with others who are geared a little taller -- you'll just be pedaling faster.
 

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If I understand you right, you're riding a freewheeling single-speed rather than a fixed-gear. That makes gear choice a bit easier, since you can coast on the downhills so a lower gear doesn't limit you so much. In light of that, I'd agree with the suggestions to go somewhere around 46x19 (73 inches).

Riding fixed, the compromise is trickier if you want to avoid having to drag the brake all the time on descents. I don't do a lot of hilly rides on the fixed, but I do climb grades of 5% and more without hurting my 60-year-old knees, using a 39x14, which is just a litle easier than your gear (73 inches). I have to climb out of the saddle, with some care, but it works. I've probably hit about 30 mph briefly on downhills, but that's spinning 140 rpm, and I can't do it for long. The slightly taller gear lets me cruise at 22 mph at a comfortable 100 rpm (not that I can go that fast for very long, either ;-)
 

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hold my beer n watch this
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I've settled on 42x17 for about 65 gear inches. I have a 16T also which will bump it to 70 gear inches but for me, it is much easier to climb and start at stop signs with the 17T.

Flyn G
 

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pedalpedalpedal
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Richard said:
I've found that 70 gear inches (a 42x16 on my fixed and a 48x18 on my SS commuter) is just about right. Of course, there is a guy on our "club" rides that sports a 52x15 on his SS and beats us all up the climbs, but he is not of this earth.
Ugh. That's pushing it even for me. I run 50x16, 25c.

OP, use this gearing calc to figure out what size to go with: http://software.bareknucklebrigade.com/rabbit.applet.html
 

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Got old knees too. I run 42/18 ss on one bike, 42/16 fixed on another, and 52/20 ss on a bike with cottered crank (forced to use the 52 up front). I've got an extra 20T freewheel I think (for cheap).
 

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I find it hard to spin beyond 85 rpm for long periods, so I use about 78 gear inches (47:16). I have good knees, but I still try to stand during climbs to avoid problems.

To put it in perspective, my last 3.5 hour ride had me climb almost 3800 feet. Hard but manageable.
 

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la dolce vita
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Used to run a 48 x 16 and it was great on the flats, but hills were a standing affair.
Switched to a 48 x 18 and while I spin out sometimes, the hills are more enjoyable.
I feel that I have expanded the range of the bike with the 18T.
 

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eRacer
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Old knees need to spin with low load.
I use 42 x 18 and still stand up lots to change and relieve stress on knees.

john
 

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Mootsie said:
Used to run a 48 x 16 and it was great on the flats, but hills were a standing affair.
Switched to a 48 x 18 and while I spin out sometimes, the hills are more enjoyable.
I feel that I have expanded the range of the bike with the 18T.
I was at 48x18 and changed the rear to 16T a couple months ago. My rides consist of 6-7% grades and I barely squeaked by. I thought I would get used to it, but hasn't happened yet. I think I'm going back to 48x18. And I'll be dropping down to 42x18 for a canyon run that consists of 8 miles of 9%+ grade.
 

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jodyhotch said:
I am a road biker trying 46/16 fixed-speed (freewheel) and loving it, but the gearing is too tough for me even on small grades. I want to be able to do as much as 5% without pain. Problem is I don't know how much to increase in back--18? 20?. Thanks for any help!
I ride my SS on a rolling greenway here in East TN. I have a couple of short hill climbs also. Started out running a 48/19 and felt it in the knees so I switched up the rear to a 23T
freewheel. Overall this set up is more friendly to my knees. I had to decide did I want to go fast or enjoy riding the SS. Enjoying the SS has won out. Still have a little residual overuse injury, but its getting better.
 

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huvia ja hyötyä
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jmlapoint said:
stand up lots to change and relieve stress on knees.
I hope this was understood from the beginning: pushing a tough gear seated can really kill knees. The leverages are different when you stand up.

I have some history with knee pains, and make sure I stand up as soon as turning the cranks gets hard.
 

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hello
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If you can't find a compromise gear ratio and your knees are still hurting get a geared bike.
When my knee(s) bother me I'll use my geared bike for a while.
 

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lots of old knees here, mine included.

i worry more about my lower back than knees, especially going fixed.

i tend to bump my gearing up every couple of years, now settling in at 44x16. my knees are fine. dropping some other sports and riding more solved my knee issues.
 

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oh lonesome road for you
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I use about 75 gear inches (fixed) for group rides n flat to rolling terrain, and about 70 for more climbing and dirt roads. For singlespeeed freewheel, riding solo and commuting, I generally go with a gear somewhere in the mid 60s.
 
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