After a few months cycle touring NZ on my 9 speed (42t x 11t-34t) Surly Troll I came to a few conclusion regarding gearing…
First up, with the benefit of hindsight and a few more fully loaded shake down rides before embarking of the tour, I would have opted for a double chainring up front. The reason being is that the trip was split between a mix of mountain bike off road trails, steep unsealed roads along with a majority of good quality tar seal road. A double would have basically given me the option to switch between on and off road gearing and enabled me to focus on using my cardio over anaerobic strength on climbs via spinning at a much higher cadence vs grinding like I am used to from riding my fixed back home in the Southdowns.
However, the 42t is what I had (pinched off another bike along with the cranks for this build) and so that is what I went with.
This never really became an issue as our rides were generally fairly short and we had lots of days off, after all we were touring not racing! But I did find myself in the 34t a lot of the time, probably the majority of it by the end actually, and if nothing else the crazy chain line and the slight noise from it was pissing me off and I wanted to make my most used gear the one with the best line. Result being that I needed to gear down and in doing so move the chainring into the middle position from the outer.
This got me calculating gear inches and I finally opted to lose 10 teeth off the front and replace my chainring with a 32t MRP one curtesy of my mate Roger from Waibike.
It would be interesting to see what if any the difference in power produced is between the old and new setups, but without a power meter to hand we will just have to wait and see when we get home.
So far in a very flat Thailand this has been working out great as I have had absolutely zero feelings of stress on any part of my body when cycling, while still maintaining a reasonable touring speed of low 20’s (kmph) while staying level with Alex. I am looking forward to giving it a thorough testing in the mountains once we hit the north of the county and will update you on how it deals with the grades.
I still believe a 1x? setup is a decent option for this type of touring as I coast down vertically all hills and it’s just getting the balance between speed on the flat with spinning on the climbs right.
Alongside the chainring I also replaced the chain and cassette due not to excessive mileage, but rather to the rust they had picked up while lazing around on beaches in the Coromandel.
Aside from the gearing you might have also noticed that I have done away with the front rack and as a result relocated my Dynamo powered Exposure Revo light to the front of my Jeff Jones bars. This is working well and re wrapping the bar tape over the wiring keeps it looking sleek.
The only other change is with regards bottle cages. Having the forks freed up allowed me to make use of the reverse facing cage mounts, putting a set of Monkii Cages on each side.
With the reduction in the size of the chainring I could lower the chain guide and make use of the bottle bosses on the seat tube as well as the top of the down tube. All this meant that u no longer had to use the set of bosses on the underside of the down tube where with the open steel cages I have the weight of the bottle would prise open the cage and the bottle would fly out while ridding.
In the future I may try out other options like a 42t cassette on the back or even a Rohloff speedhub, but for now I’m happy with the new setup and keen to keep a high cadence for the remainder of the tour.