Numpty Gearing Question (esp for climbing)

Sunny Portrush

No matter how many tutorials I watch, I still dont fully understand gearing lol.

Basically, I`ve just got back from a cycling holiday in the Alps and i bike I hired came with ultegra compact 11 speed groupsets with 11-32 cassettes on the back giving 34-32 as the easiest gear. I found it relatively easy to spin up the climbs but it made me wonder about my own bike.

It has Shimano 105 11s 50-34 with 26-12 on the rear cassette (I just counted the teeth to make sure!) giving my easiest gear as 34-26.

How much harder am I making things for myself by using the gearing on my bike as opposed to the hire bike gearing or are they not comparable?

I know some people will be slapping their foreheads in disgust lol


Depends on the hills near you. If you live on the flat then probably no harder.


Legendary Member
Accra, Ghana
Nobody's going to be slapping their foreheads in disgust.
If you find your current set up manageable stick with it but it wouldn't take too money or effort to change to the lower gearing of your hire bike if you feel you could make use of it.
Sunny Portrush

Sunny Portrush

Cheers all - I live beside Edinburgh which likens itself to Rome in both supposedly being built on seven hills so it can be hillyish around here (not Alps style tho!)

I would just like to go uphill something quicker than snails pace lol


He’s right:

Gear chart using Gear Inches
For 700 X 25 / 25-622 tire
With custom sprocket(s)

34 32 - 28.0
23.1 %
34 26 - 34.5


I use bikecalc for calculating my cadance and or speed with different ratios of gearing. The results have been spot on compared to real world riding. I use a triple crank 48/36/26 and various cassettes depending what Im doing. I have 11-40, 11-32 and 11-25
Cassettes with 32 or even 34 teeth are available so you could replicate the ratios of the hire bike or even an easier 34:34.
For example

You will need a longer chain.

Rear derailleur (RD)
It's most unlikely your RD will have the capacity. Conventional wisdom is to change it for a longer cage version. Shimano publish compatibility info

Many seem to have had success by just lowering the RD with a Wolf Tooth extender that was mentioned above. I put a 34 max tooth cassette on my 10 speed ultegra bike and the standard short cage RD would shift to the 30t sprocket, so now it's 9 speed! However yesterday I ordered one of these that does the same job as the Wolf Tooth offering and am hoping it'll enable shifting to the 34 sprocket.

I can't decide if this has a longer drop:

Maybe you will need a new RD to get it to work, however it is do-able to modify your bike for easier gear ratios.
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