A lighter bike climbs better as you don’t have as much of it to drag up a hill. But if you’re deciding between buying a road bike or a hybrid, beware: road bikes can hurt you on the hills.
Why? Because you can wave goodbye to low gears, and say hello to burning thighs.
Hybrid bikes are fantastic do-it-all rides: Strong, comfortable and adaptable they are often spec’ed out with mountain bike gearing. Switch to a road bike you swap low gears for high and wave bye, bye to the beloved Megarange that served you so well.
So what does this mean in real terms? And what can you do when you’re buying a road bike to pick one that’ll give you a chance on those climbs?
First step: Understanding the terminology
Chainrings: Big rings/cogs on the front – can be single, double or triple.
Cassettes: Not for a cassette player – a cassette is the pack of 6,7,8 sometimes 10 smaller rings/cogs on the rear.
Chainsets: The front rings, plus a crank and pretty much everything between the pedals.
Second step: Understanding the basics of gears
As with lots of things in cycling, it’s all a little back to front: Small ring on the front is low, small ring on the rear is high. So when you choose first gear you’re going to put the chain into the smallest ring/ cog on the front and biggest on the back.
Third step: Counting your teeth
You can very easily compare (roughly) how close the gearing on a new road bike will be to your current bike. To do this, check the specs of your current bike with a quick Google search. The numbers will look like this: Front 28/38/48 Back 11-34. The smallest/ lowest gear will be small ring on the front (28 teeth) when it’s running on the biggest ring on the rear (34 teeth).
As part of the Evolving Cyclist Project I’ve just swapped from a Scott P5, with the above gearing, to a Carrera Virago that is running 34/54 on the front and 12-28 on the rear. My lowest gear was 28(front)-34(back), it’s now 34 (front)-28(back) – so I’ve been done at both ends, so to speak.
So, what can I do about it?
Well, look for a road bike with a triple chainring (that’s three rings on the front) or if it is a double – as is increasing popular – find one with a small front ring (34 or smaller).
Touring bikes have these and any good bike shop will find one to replace yours.
And look for the cassette with the lowest gears (highest number of teeth) – so a 11-34 would be better than a 12-28 range on the rear. You can often add a lower ring to the cassette at the rear if you need to, or change the cassette for another one.
And there’s often the chance of changing just the chainring on the front, rather than buying a new chainset. But take care doing this yourself as both might affect how your chain fits and may force you to buy new shifters etc.
Or, accept that a road bike is made for road cyclists and they use the higher gears for speed and brute strength to drive the lower gears up hills.
Buying a road bike can be a vanity purchase for some – understandable as there are many gorgeous bikes around – just realise they are designed for racing, and you might not be!
For me, the higher gears are forcing me to work harder on hills and learn how to ride out of the saddle. It’s a brutal way to get fitter. My first climb of Ditchling Beacon on the road bike was an ugly affair – and I filmed it! So once I’ve cut out some of the swearing and grunting, I’ll get it posted and you can laugh at the drama. I missed my Megarange, really missed my Megarange.
- Buying a road bike and living with it
- Buying Bike Lights: Knog Blinder Reviewed
- Hybrid to road bike: Riding a Carrera Virago
2 Comments to “Buying a Road Bike: Gears and losing your Megarange”
- Adventure Sports & Travel Thoughts
- New Adventure Travel Ideas
- Our Experts
- Top 10s
- Travel Gear
- Adventure Sports Insurance: What Does The EHIC Actually Cover?
- Kayaking Challenges: Paddling 1300km in handmade kayaks
- Child-Free Sports: Time to reclaim the wave?
- New Zealand: Spiritual Home of Adventure Sports
- 5 Things Cyclists Never Do
- Kevlar Swiss Socks that Rock!
- Adventure Race Events: Trying the Toughest Challenges on Earth