A few weeks ago in mid April I bought my wife a Schwinn Peloton bike with a carbon fiber frame. (Picture above.)
My wife had not been on a bike for at least 15 years, and then it was only a Wal-Mart mountain bike. I considered getting her a hybrid bike first, but when I had the chance of this CF Schwinn that had only been ridden a couple of times, I decided to skip the intermediate step.
Some might consider this “Throwing her in at the deep end,” so to speak, but not really. Although this can be considered a full race bike, I knew I could set it up with an efficient but comfortable position. I bought a lady’s saddle, and swapped the 10 cm. stem for a 7 cm. one.
She was a little apprehensive at first, but I assured her the bike would ride easier than anything she had experienced previously. I fitted a pair of platform pedals without toe-clips.
I am pleased that I did not go the trouble and expense of getting a hybrid first, because my wife took to riding like a natural. We are already riding distances between 14 and 20 miles, at an average speed of around 15 mph.
One thing, I quickly realized that the gearing was pretty useless for the type of medium pace riding we are doing. The bike has a 50 x 34 double chainwheel, and was fitted with a 10 speed rear cassette with 11 to 23 teeth sprockets.
This gave three top gears of 122, 112, and 103 inches, gears that I would not even use, much less my wife. The cassette went from 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 teeth, then jumped to 19, 21, 23. The first time out I showed my wife how to change gear, and sugested she experiment until she found a gear that felt comfortable.
She was on the 50 big chainring, and said, “It’s either too hard, or too easy,” which was a non-technical way of saying the gearing was too high or too low.
A quick look at where she was and I found she was using 17, 19, 21 teeth sprockets, which translated to 79, 71, and 64 inches. Switching to the small chainring 36 teeth, she soon found the 12 tooth sprocket felt best, 76 inches. The problem now was the chain was way out of line.
I started to look for an alternative 10 speed cassette, no one seemed to have them. Then I remembered that back in the day, I would race on a 13 to 18, straight up 6 speed freewheel, but on the wheels I used for training, I would have a 16 to 21 freewheel; the type used in restricted gear Junior Category racing.
The answer was to go to a shop that caters to racing cyclists; I called Excel Sports, in Boulder, Colorado. I ordered a Shimano, Ultegra 10 speed cassette, with 14 to 25 teeth.
After the switch, on the 50 chainring, the most useful mid range gears are now, 79, 75, 71, and 67 inches, and these are right in the middle of the cassette. See the gear table below. (Far right column.)
Not everyone who buys a racing bike is going to race on it, so I don’t understand why manufacturers don’t give alternative options. I even checked out a few high end hybrid bikes and found they too specify cassettes with 11 tooth top sprockets.
Commuters or people riding for leisure or fitness don’t need top gears that are up in the 100s, and more important they need a usable mid-range of gears that are between the upper 60s and low 80s.
These are the gears they will use the most and so need to be in one tooth increments, and somewhere in the middle of the cassette.
Setting a bike up in this manner, (Picture left.) dispensing with high gears that will never be used, allows for a more user friendly range of gears to be fitted. Also in most cases it makes a triple chainwheel unnecessary because a low enough bottom gear can be had without it