Bicycles and human beings have a lot in common. We both have moving parts that either break or wear out. I can probably hear you say: ‘tell me about it!’ You may have broken a bone, which is likely to be an arm, leg or collar bone if you are a cyclist. Some of your joints may have worn out, and you’ve had a hip or knee replacement.
Well, my Litespeed Ti has suffered similarly from progressive age and constant use. I recently picked it up from the ‘bike hospital’, having had most of its moving parts replaced. In fact, the only original bits left are the frame and two wheels (including handlebars and saddle, of course). I have known for months that the whole drivetrain was edging towards the precipice of no return, but the closure of my local bike shop during the pandemic prevented the ‘surgery’ being carried out. So I kept riding and riding, clocking up the miles during lockdown, keeping fingers crossed that the drivetrain wouldn’t suddenly collapse…..but it did. The early symptoms included an overstretched chain jumping on the razor-sharp teeth of the front chainwheel. Just like many of us, the old bike was getting ‘long in the tooth’. Still unable to get it booked in at my LBS, I found another (equally professional) business that could fit me in.
With the complete re-fit, I have taken the opportunity to revise the entire range of gear ratios, bringing everything down several inches. Most of my cycling life, I have ridden the standard range provided by the compact-double chainring of 50/34, coupled with an 11-30 cassette at the back, giving a range of approximately 120″-30″. A good range to have, and it has served me very well over the years. But, as is the way with all human beings, the anno domini have been marching on almost imperceptibly, until I realised one day I wasn’t climbing the local hills with quite the same ease I used to and, like a lot of male cyclists of my ilk, I was refusing to accept the inevitable. Until now….
So, the bottom line is, I have had fitted a 40/24 crankset, with an 11-32 cassette, now giving me a gear range of 96″-20″, which means that some of the bothersome hills have mysteriously flattened out. In fact, I climbed one this morning that would have had me in my lowest gear with the old set-up, and now I find I have 3 ratios to spare!
If you are not familiar with ‘gear inches’ (as opposed to gain ratios), on my old set-up, to engage with the top ratio of 120″, I would have to be going at more than 80kph. Given that I seldom exceed 50/60kph, the top four or five ratios were useless and dispensable. Now, with a top ratio of only 96″, I can still pedal at speeds over 50kph, but it now gives me the benefit of a much bigger range at the bottom end, where they are most needed. But, playing around with chainwheel and cassette sizes can bring other changes as well, especially if your front and rear changers are no longer up to the job. Mine weren’t, so they had to be replaced too.
The nett result has been that I now have a bike which continues to be utterly familiar in every respect, except for its range of gears and its new-found ability to drag me up the hills without me complaining too much. What is there not to like?