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« Ridiculous | Main | 46 Big Ring »

More on Practical Gearing

My last piece was about switching out my 50 tooth chainring on my Campagnolo Athena crankset, for a 46 tooth Cyclo-Cross ring, to give me a more practical gear range. The article brought many interesting and useful comments.

One of the things I learned was that there are other makes of Campagnolo compatible cassettes. Miche for example is one of them. It occurred to me that rather than go to the expense of replacing the whole cassette, why not just swap out a couple of sprockets.

With this in mind I ordered a Miche 13 tooth first position sprocket, that’s is one with a serrated outside edge that the lock-ring butts up against, and has a shoulder on the inside so it doesn’t require a spacer. I also ordered a 20 tooth middle position sprocket, which is plain and requires a spacer on either side. The cost was $12.99 and $11.99 respectively.

I unscrewed the lock ring, (You do need a tool and a chain-whip to do this.) I removed the 12 and 13 teeth sprockets. The final position (Inside.) cogs on my Campagnolo 11 speed cassette are conjoined triplets, with 21, 23, and 25 teeth. Next to that was another conjoined 17, 18, and 19 teeth. I placed the new 20 tooth sprocket between these two triplets.

I then replaced the 13 tooth sprocket with the new final position one. I was able to use all the original spacers as the new set up used the same number. Now my cassette is a 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 23, and 25.

My top gear is now a practical 95.5 inches, which is as high as I’ll ever need to go. I have effectively removed a 12 tooth top sprocket that I would never use, and added a more useful 20 tooth one. The first nine cogs now go from 13 to 21 in one tooth steps.

There is a slight visual difference in that the new Miche sprockets are bright chrome, whereas the original Campagnolo are dull chrome. (Picture top.) The proof of the pudding would be in the riding, I took the bike out for a longish ride, and the gears shifted up and down flawlessly.

I think I have shown, (Along with all those who commented on my last article.) that there is a desire amongst non-racing leisure riders, for a more practical gear range. We have shown that this can be achieved, and in a way that will not cost a huge amount of money.

Someone asked a question about my new Russ Denny built Fuso. I have had this bike for just under two years now. It is one of the best, and most comfortable riding bikes I have ever owned. (Picture above.) It is purpose designed and built for the style of riding I do now.

It has a low 10 inch (25.5cm.) bottom bracket height. This means I can put my toe to the ground when stopping in traffic. Grounding a pedal on corners is not an issue, I am not doing any fast cornering leaning over at extreme angles, and anyway, modern clipless pedals give more ground clearance than the old style quill pedals used to.

The average road bike has a 10 5/8 inch (27cm.) BB height. Mine is 5/8 lower which means my saddle is also 5/8 inch lower in relation to the ground. However, my handlebars remain approximately the same height as any other bike of a similar size. It means my bars are a little over an inch below my saddle without having to jack the handlebar stem up at some strange angle.

Actually if I were able to design this bike over again, I would probably go even lower to 9 ½ inch BB. (24.1mm.) The lower BB means longer chainstays, which gives extra tire clearance to run wider 25mm. tires. I could quite easily go to 28mm. if I choose.

I am enjoying my bike riding more than ever. There is no pressure if I can’t get out because the weather is bad, or I have some other commitment.

When I raced there was always a need to ride and train hard, in the 1980s when I built bikes there was never any time to ride. When I did occasionally ride I was so out of shape I didn’t enjoy it. Now-a-days I just ride, nothing to prove, to myself or anyone else.


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Reader Comments (17)

Dave, what's your source for individual Miche cogs? This sounds like something I'd like to try.

March 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterOlyOop

Definitely a better arrangement and it's nice to know that Miche cogs can be used as substitutes for Campy's - have to check those options. Noticed after searching that there are Miche 9 speed hubs, Campy splined, available.

Given that improving ride quality is the objective, curious to know which brand of tires you prefer.

Spring is here but it is now snowing with temps back in the 20s tonight.

March 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJack

I don't get modern gearing either. Even when I was young and strong I had no use for gears above 104 or so.
The nice thing about 10spd rear is that I don't need a dual chain ring or front derailleur. I now have two bikes without front shift, though one still has a second chain ring, before I go out I simply choose which range to ride in.

March 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEdStainless

Very clever! Fusing the 17-19 and 21-25 together in triplets, it's like they're inviting you to sneak a 20 in the middle! (you're lucky they weren't all fused as a sextuplet!)

Personally, I need even more range, so I run a mountain 11-34 and long-cage mountain rear derailleur, with a standard 52/39 double in the front. Sometimes down big hills I do max out the 52/11, but 90% of the time I'm in the small ring. I should switch to a cross crankset, but the 52/39 is a nice-looking Shimano 600 that I got from my dad, so I keep it for sentimental reasons.

March 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRubeRad

For Shimano/SRAM users, Shimano markets a "junior" gearset in a 13 X 25 configuration that I've used for several years. Not a common cassette, but it's available with some searching.

LIke other posters, I have no need for gearing over 100". I recently replaced a standard compact crankset with a Sugino crankset that has a 46 X 30 chainring set on my gravel bike which also doubles as my touring bike. For touring either with gear or in the mountains, I switch out the 13 X 25 cassette with a 12 X 32 cassette.

March 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRick

Hi Dave,

Ambrosio make 10 speed cassettes with shimano splines with campag spacing, and vice versa, with small sprockets of 11-12 & 13 which opens up all kinds of combinations and wheel choices.

Marchisio also make a multitude of different combos to suit almost every variation imagined.

At present on one bike I'm using campag nine speed ergos with a with campag 8 and an ultegra 9 cassette on record 10 speed as they are kicking around. Neutral service cars in the major races used 9 speed shimano wheels when Campag supplied teams had 10 speed, one set did both. And I believe that campag and shimano 11s work well together but I haven't tried it myself.

We often take at face value manufacturers claims on incompatability between their transmission and the other guys, but I have found that with a bit of experimentation it's possible to run an efficient mix of Campag and Shimano especially if a high quality chain compatible with both systems is used.

Well worth a shot if the bits to achieve the desired gearing are sitting around gathering dust.

March 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKeith. British Columbia

What I got out of this article Dave was that you are riding for the love of riding, the joy and sense of release and accomplishment it gives. As one approaching retirement and who is an avid ride, I very much appreciate reading these sort of comments. Ride on!

March 27, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterskylab


When you measure BB height, you're measuring from the center of spindle ... right?


March 31, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterInvisibleHand

Yes center of BB to the ground. I wrote an article about it here:

April 1, 2014 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

I've taken a different approach to getting a useful spread of gears on my everything-bar-mountain bike: the tremendously unfashionable triple crank.

I'm running 30-39-50 up front and 12-25 at the back.

I'm just shy of 40 years and in the strongest riding condition of my life so far, so I'm happy to have (and use) my 110" 50:12 gear (I'm not sure how anyone other than a professional sprinter ever uses a "standard" 53:11).

I've got a nice tight spread of gears in my standard rings, with bail-out gears down to 32" on the small ring if I need them. Most of the time, I just ride it like a standard double crank, and would hardly know the extra ring was there.

If I'm going for a serious back-country epic (my custom "road" bike can fit CX tyres), I can fit a MTB cassette to give me a 1:1 gear ratio or even lower. That doesn't shift as nicely as a pure road drivetrain, but it works.

I had a compact crank for a while, but I found the 34T small ring to be an awkward size. Too big for seriously steep hills (unless I fitted a wider range cassette, with the gaps that brings), but too small for normal undulating conditions - I couldn't leave it in the 34 and just ride for hours like I can with a 39.

If I was at a stage of life where I needed more low gears and fewer high gears, I think I would go straight to a MTB triple crank. Shimano XT cranks can be had with 28-38-48 rings (which is only very slightly lower than my road triple), with options available to mix or swap in anything down to the "standard" MTB 22-32-42 rings. Apologies to Campagnolo enthusiasts in particular for suggesting such a thing.

It's always struck me as odd that people are so eager to add yet another sprocket to their cassette as soon as it's available, but nobody ever wants to add another ring to their crank where the benefit is so much greater.

April 1, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterbarefoot

Thanks Dave,
This brought back memories of when I would disassemble and rearrange freewheels to get the gearing I wanted. I'm putting together a new touring bike and am pretty much stuck with an 11 tooth high to get a big low. Much smaller Chainwheels and a parts box 12 and nut got me closer to usable gearing. Thanks again for the nudge.

April 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRedtaildd

Dave, ITYM cm where you wrote mm.

April 13, 2014 | Unregistered Commenters

Thanks, Typo corrected.

April 15, 2014 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

Hi dave,
I've been reading and appreciating your writing for about 2 years, if not 3.
About bb height, I advise 260 on road bikes, and have built a 240 height bb on a town bike, it feels great, but slow corners turning and pedalling. it does tend to scrape pedals. They are flat pedals, so some thinner ones would make the situation better.
Thinking of a 255 for myself, the tandem I converted to 26" wheels ended up with that bb height and though pedalling through corners was a bit frightening, the pedals didn't actually touch the ground except on parking lot manouvers (tight slow corners,nearly stopped).

I use a 33-46 with a 14-25. shimano makes it.
Shame they went to those stupid chainrings that don't let you swap out rings to TA ones, available in all sizes and longer lasting too.

take care, thanks for your writing.

(framebuilder at the simoncini factory, italy)

April 17, 2014 | Unregistered Commenteremanuel

Try this: Mountain crankset. 22-32-44
Then pick an Ultegra 9-speed cassette
Like a 12-21 or 12-23

August 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDan Dempsey

Maybe I'm a winp, but I've got hills all around me. One I rode up yesterday is a 17% climb. 10 percenters everywher. So I keep the compact crank but add a 12/32 cassette. I certainly use the 50/12 on downhill sections - and the 34/32 uphill. This is a bit beyond what Shimano specs for a medium cage Ultegra setup, so please don't tell them it works fine.) In the winter I break down and use a triple crank rig.

September 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSteveP

I'm with Dan Dempsey. What I use up front but with an 8-speed 12-25.

August 17, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterResty
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