LARGE or small chainring … 🤔

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I have been pedalling on the small chainring. I idea is to pedal faster with less effort, with an average cadence between 90-100 rpm.

This past week, maybe longer, I have noticed an annoying chatter when I’m pedalling in some gears. So annoying that I would change into a larger or smaller one just to quiet it down. It kept getting worse despite my attempts to adjust the cable tensions, or the position of the front changer.

Today I had had enough. I rode on the large chainring. There is no chatter there.

I was once told that pedalling on the large ring develops strength. I was climbing up one of the local mountains, when I came along side a young rider turning a big gear. He said he did this climb once every week or two pedalling in the largest gear he could. It developed power he said.

Well today was supposed to be a slow day. A recovery day. A Zone 1 day. I did 48 km on the large chainring averaging 25 kph but with a slower cadence. Eighty-one. So, I was turning a larger gear but spinning about 10 rpm slower on average. Did I feel more tired? No. It was all in Zone 1, at a lower heart rate. Did I travel faster faster? No. The same as I do in a lower gear but at a faster cadence. Did I develop more power by doing this? I don’t know. But it certainly felt comfortable, and easy. Maybe I am getting stronger.

I’ll stay on the large chainring until I can figure out the cause of the chatter. At first, I thought it was the BB but I have now isolated the problem to the small chainring. Maybe it is loose.

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Compact or Race … 🤔

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Several years ago, I holidayed on Maui with my kids. I call them kids, but they are really young adults. We all cycle, and wanted to do the West Maui Loop together – an epic, breathtaking, 100 km ride around the base of the smaller volcano. They are good enough to still want to cycle with me.

We didn’t take our bikes on this trip. We were only there for 10 days, and there were many other things we wanted to see, and do. So, we visited one of the local bike shops looking to rent road bikes. They had them. Carbon bikes all equipped with Ultegra compact cranksets (50-34). I was worried about the ride, and had been advised there were several short, but difficult climbs. I asked if they had a triple for rent. The owner smirked at me and said, “We find the compact is all most people usually need here.”.

A few days later, we returned with our pedals and shoes, rented the road bikes equipped with the compact cranksets, and off we went. This was my first experience with this setup. I had always ridden with race cranksets (54-39), even on the west coast. I thought that’s what good cyclists did. Push big gears. Thought that was how you got stronger, and faster. And when I had difficulty climbing, I just needed to train harder.

To my surprise, I enjoyed the West Maui Loop. The climbs weren’t as difficult as I imagined. The compact setup was more than adequate. I never felt like I needed a lower, or higher gear. I pedalled more easily, and for longer periods without tiring.

I’m not going to debate the relative benefits of the compact or race cranksets. Plenty has been written about them already. I will tell you that after I returned home, I installed compact setups on both of my road bikes. I climb more easily. I maintain a higher cadence with less effort. Travel as fast, if not faster than before. And, I ride longer without tiring. I completed a 40 km ride yesterday averaging 25-30 kph with little effort, all in Zone 1 (if you are familiar with heart rate training). The only time I may feel I need a higher gear is on long descents, and in those instances, I remind myself that 60 kph is fast enough.

It is the perfect setup for me. I live in a hilly, mountainous region. And, I like to ride most every day.

I’m just say’n 😉