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Cycling is one of the most efficient forms of transport – Discuss.

Thanks to amazing advances since the Penny Farthing, cycling is pretty much a sport available to everyone.  This is in no small part because of the engineering marvel that is gearing.

Unless you are a regular cyclist with calves of steel, it might be a good idea to consider the following:

  1. Buy a bike with a Triple[1]. This is a triple chainring on the pedal end of the gears, giving you a “Granny Ring”, a bit like a mountain bike, meaning that you will always find the power to keep your pedals going even though it might only be 5km/h.  Stopping on a hill is more depressing than your Garmin telling you it doesn’t recognise that you are moving even though you are pedalling like an egg whisk.

Although this is very much against the rules, if you haven’t climbed a hill that is on average 9% for over one hour, I think this is a rule you should break.  Remember this will almost certainly mean changing the entire drivetrain if you already have a double, so there is a compromise.

  1. Fit a “32” on the back. Your rear cassette (the rear sprockets), determines how hard you have to work as well.  Most bikes are supplied with a standard or compact cassette which has a 23-28 tooth sprocket as the largest gear which is OK for a reasonably fit beginner, but you can have a larger 32 cassette fitted.  It is important to check that your rear derallier cage accommodates this though, because you don’t want this to jam at a critical gear change.

 Digital vs. Traditional

Having digital gears means that the gear shifting is effortless, and each change is true, so there is less clicking.  You can also program the shifting so that the chain isn’t overly stressed from front to rear gears.  This is a subtle difference for the newbie however, and comes at a price.  Wired gears are easy to fix, cheaper and lighter so it’s not surprising that most people don’t see the added benefit.

Don’t get caught up in the, “More Expensive is Better” attitude either.  If you buy a super-pro geartrain, be prepared for failure as lighter, faster components very often have shorter lives, especially if you don’t weigh 10 st.  Shimano Ultegra are my favourite, and match my price point, but 105’s work equally well and are cheaper to replace.

Recognising a Pro

 Wireless Campagnolo gears with the loudest freewheel on the back is a sure sign someone wants to be recognised for their achievements.

[1] Rule #47 – Drink Tripels, don’t ride Triples


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Ashley Watson

BDS (Kings) LDS RCS (Eng)

Ashley Watson is a 3-time Straumann charity bike ride cyclist and a general dental practitioner who has been placing implants since 2003!

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