Bicycle Cassette and Gearing

Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 19mm, f/2.8, 1/25 sec, ISO3200
“Clean Cassette” Cedar Park, 2020

While I await delivery of my new bicycle rim, I have been doing some research on how to replace the bent one with it. I’ve found this helpful video which I am going to follow. The process seems easy enough, but I am expecting it to take a while as I get the wheel straight, or true. Also, because it is the rear wheel, I think the spokes are not even – the ones that connect to the drive-train are more vertical as compared to the left side, which is more angled. At least I think that’s how it is on my bike.

Anyways, as with most YouTube searches, it’s was easy to find other related videos. One such topic I found fascinating is the different kinds of cassettes and chain rings. These are the parts that the chain actually interfaces with. The photo above shows the cassette, which on my 20-year-old bike has 8 different speeds. The chain ring (by the pedals) is 3 speeds. Therefore, my bike has 24 different speeds, with lots of overlap.

The trend on modern mountain-bikes is to have just one speed on the chain ring, and then an 11-speed cassette. By having just one speed up front, you don’t need a front derailleur, its cabling, and shifter. Much cleaner and simpler! On touring bicycles, there are typically 2 or 3 speeds up front to allow for a larger range, especially on the low-end (the granny gears). The thinking is that a touring bicycle will most likely be carrying a heavy load and needs to have those lower gears to tackle those long uphills a bit easier.

My bicycle is technically a mountain bike, but I have turned it into a touring bike with the addition of a rack and panniers (bags), a more upright stem and butterfly/trekking handlebars. I think even after 20 years, my 3×8 gear setup is still common on lots of bicycles, and I am pretty satisfied with it. Honestly, for the front, I never use the highest chain ring, and rarely use the lowest, finding that the middle chain ring and 8 speeds in the rear are sufficient. On a couple of steep hills I will shift it to the lowest speed on the front so I can select an “extreme granny gear”, so I think I can get by with a 2×8 but why not just keep it a 3×8 since I will still need a front shifter and derailleur, right?

In other words, no need to change the drive-train. Anyways, it’s still fun to think about.

Speaking of bikes, I really want to fix up the bicycle I rode on my one-and-only long-distance bicycle tour that I went on when I just started high school. It’s an old Peugeot road bike that currently resides at my parents’ house in California. Since I haven’t ridden it in almost 40 years, I’m curious to see what it feels like. Maybe one day I’ll take a road trip out west to visit family and pick up the bike. Sounds fun!

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