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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've owned a road bike for several months now, ride regularly, including commuting to/from work every day. When I started, my predominant gear for the flats was 39x15 or 16 (Ultegra triple). Now it is almost always 39x13 or up to 39x12 if I've a good rhythm and low to mid 20s cruising speed. I've also raised my seat about an inch+ since I found it better from a smoothness and power delivery perspective from the LBS fit (FitKit/KOPS based).

I'd like to get a perspective from those with a longer experience riding as to how their favoured gear choices changed as they rode more and more. I've ridden in the big ring a few times, but typically don't, since they're hard to push and a bigger rear cog causes chain grinding on a triple. I know big rings are sexier, but I don't care to rush it and sacrifice my knees for it.
 

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Your experience is typical, I think, but...

I think most of us have followed that same progression. I've been riding for more than 30 years as an adult, but last summer when I decided to train hard and get into the best shape I could (hey, as midlife crises go, it's a cheap one), I gained a whole chainring, not just a cog, on most of the hills near my home. Raising the saddle is also a pretty common response as you become more flexible and your technique improves.
You may be working under a couple of misconceptions about gearing, though. First, the big ring isn't "harder to push" if you switch to a bigger cog in back. If you're close to spun out (pedaling as fast as you can) in the mid ring, then shift up to the big one and go faster. If it's too hard to push, go down a gear or two in back.
Second, there's no reason the big ring should cause "chain grinding on a triple." I have triples on all my bikes except my singlespeed, and none of them grind in the big ring. There's something wrong with your setup, maybe the cable tension to the front derailleur or misadjustment of the limit screw, and it shouldn't be hard to fix.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks for your comments! When I referring to chain grinding, I meant in a crossed position (big ring, bigger cogs). My triple is an Ultegra 10; maybe yours has fewer - it makes sense that the amount of skewing would be less with fewer cogs, to me. I know I can avoid the grinding in the smaller cogs with the big ring, but doing so does make it harder to pedal, unless I'm riding in line or going downhill.
 

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Pay more attention to the cadence than the gear. The easiest way is to get a computer with a cadence sensor. As you get stronger, you'll be able to push a larger gear at the same cadence. But don't inflate the gears so fast that you sacrifice cadence.
 

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Quick note on the "grinding"

BSAMach1 said:
Thanks for your comments! When I referring to chain grinding, I meant in a crossed position (big ring, bigger cogs). My triple is an Ultegra 10; maybe yours has fewer - it makes sense that the amount of skewing would be less with fewer cogs, to me. I know I can avoid the grinding in the smaller cogs with the big ring, but doing so does make it harder to pedal, unless I'm riding in line or going downhill.
In general, avoid going "across the driveline," from the small chainring to the smallest cogs or the big chainring to the biggest cogs. If you're in the big ring and keep shifting down (to larger gears in back) for a hill, you should go to the middle ring before you go onto the largest cog. Don't use the big-big or small-small combinations at all, if you can avoid it. Among other things, it puts the chain at a sharp angle that increases wear, though I don't know that you'd ever notice that it wore out 100 miles sooner.
This is less complicated than it may sound to a newish rider--it will become a habit pretty quickly. And as the other posts said, concentrate on cadence. Most sources seem to agree that 80-90 or 95 rpm is most efficient. Computers to measure your cadence aren't really necessary, IMO, though there's no reason NOT to use them. After you've been riding awhile, you'll be able to feel your cadence within a revolution or two.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks guys. I've indeed been focussing on developing a smooth cadence, thanks to useful advice from riding friends who have more experience than me. My typical 21-22 mph in 39x13 translates to ~90RPM. I wouldn't say I spin well yet, but I make a conscious attempt to do higher RPMs .

I've primarily been interested to note how my typical gear choice on flats has progressed. I used to be comfortable with the 39 ring and a mid/upper teens cog, plus a lower seat. I'm not one to 'look at the gear'; I ride in the combination I feel comfortable in. It just so happened that after a long mostly flat ride where I hardly changed gears at all (a conscious choice, in an attempt to be 'singlespeed', since my riding buddy was on a fixie), I noticed that I was in 39x13 at the end, and my first thought was 'that can't be right', since I used to be 2-3 cogs up earlier.

These changes have been interesting, and the primary purpose of the post was to request other RBR members to share their own experiences regarding what combination they usually used when they started out, how their own comfort with bigger gears developed, when they started using the big ring regularly, etc. Not a typical thread for this subforum, perhaps :)
 
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