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Upgrading Bicycle Gearing-Customizing Your Gear Range

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by Sheldon "Low Gears" Brown
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Bicycles can be equipped with very different gear ranges quite easily. Manufacturers try to guess what sort of gear range their target customers will prefer, but the same bikes are sold in flat Florida and the mountains of Colorado. It is entirely reasonable to customize the gearing on your bike to match your particular strength, endurance, terrain and load, among other variables.

I can't tell you what gears you need. Gearing is a very personal matter, and it is difficult to give good specific recommendations for someone I haven't actually ridden with.

The best gearing for you depends on a large number of variables, including:

There is no magic formula for this, only experimentation will let you determine what gearing suits your needs.

You may find my online gear calculator useful for comparing with your present gearing:

http://www.sheldonbrown.com/gears

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The Tradeoff/Marketing Labels

You can have wide-range, medium-range or narrow-range gearing. There is no free lunch here: these options involve a tradeoff. Note that the number of gears the bike has is much less important than the relative sizes of the front and rear sprockets. The various ranges are available in all different numbers of gears.

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