How much of a difference does chainring size make?
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  1. #1
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    Question How much of a difference does chainring size make?

    I'm currently riding a 52T, and wonder how much difference there would be upgrading to a 53T, or would I just be wasting my money?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Wood Devil View Post
    I'm currently riding a 52T, and wonder how much difference there would be upgrading to a 53T, or would I just be wasting my money?
    Many answers to questions on this site are subjective, but this is one that can be answered with math. Assuming your small gear on the back is 12t the difference is a the 53 would have a high of 119.3 gear inches and the 52 would be 117. About a 2% difference. So at a cadence of 90rpm you'd be going 31.9mph instead of 31.3 with your 52t. Is that worth an "upgrade" to you?

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    Regardless of the math no one has any idea because they don't go on your rides with your legs.

    If getting faster was a matter of buying bigger gears we'd all just get 54x11 single speeds.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jay Strongbow View Post
    Regardless of the math no one has any idea because they don't go on your rides with your legs.

    If getting faster was a matter of buying bigger gears we'd all just get 54x11 single speeds.
    I couldn't turn over a 54x11 if I was riding an e-bike.
    Too old to ride plastic

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    I heard bigger crank arms are the craz!

    If your going downhill with a tail wind, I would get the 53.
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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by duriel View Post
    I heard bigger crank arms are the craz!

    If your going downhill with a tail wind, I would get the 53.
    He might be riding a trainer.
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  7. #7
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    No matter how skeptically I squint at the table of percentage differences in chainring and cog sizes, I do feel these quote-unquote tiny differences in my legs. And when, sometime in the past, I changed my 53 back to a 52, I remember being a happy guy.
    Mapie is a conventional looking former Hollywood bon viveur, now leading a quiet life in a house made of wood by an isolated beach. He has cultivated a taste for culture, and is a celebrated raconteur amongst his local associates, who are artists, actors, and other leftfield/eccentric types. I imagine he has a telescope, and an unusual sculpture outside his front door. He is also a beach comber. The Rydster.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jay Strongbow View Post
    Regardless of the math no one has any idea because they don't go on your rides with your legs.

    If getting faster was a matter of buying bigger gears we'd all just get 54x11 single speeds.
    That is why we buy non-round chainrings. They practically turn themselves

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    Quote Originally Posted by velodog View Post
    He might be riding a trainer.
    Exactly! This is for indoor training, on the old CAAD9.

    I keep hearing bigger is better in terms of power. As it is, I still don't have the power to spin out the 11 or even the 12 with my 52, but being on the Kickr I was just curious to know how much, if any, difference that extra tooth would make in terms of sprinting power. My best sprints see to come from a lower cadence start, grinding my way to higher rpms. The power profile of these sprints are like a nicely rounded hill. When I start from a higher rpm I get a higher peak wattage, but within 3 seconds I'm starting to spin out as the watts drop off a cliff (the power profile of these looks like a 90degree angle, like a steep cliff on one end, with a sharp slope on the other). Grinding I can hold 750 to 800w for 20 seconds or so, but when I start with higher rpms, for some reason I can't hold more than 550w while spinning 110rpm. It's almost like the trainer needs that torque of a long wind-up to keep the steady wattage, but once the cadence is up there it's like the resistance fades away (I heard someone say something about the flywheel outspinning the input, whatever that means). This is why I was thinking the bigger ring would let me keep the torque to the Kickr longer.

    I don't know if any of this is making any sense; it's surely got me confused.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wood Devil View Post
    Exactly! This is for indoor training, on the old CAAD9.

    I keep hearing bigger is better in terms of power. As it is, I still don't have the power to spin out the 11 or even the 12 with my 52, but being on the Kickr I was just curious to know how much, if any, difference that extra tooth would make in terms of sprinting power. My best sprints see to come from a lower cadence start, grinding my way to higher rpms. The power profile of these sprints are like a nicely rounded hill. When I start from a higher rpm I get a higher peak wattage, but within 3 seconds I'm starting to spin out as the watts drop off a cliff (the power profile of these looks like a 90degree angle, like a steep cliff on one end, with a sharp slope on the other). Grinding I can hold 750 to 800w for 20 seconds or so, but when I start with higher rpms, for some reason I can't hold more than 550w while spinning 110rpm. It's almost like the trainer needs that torque of a long wind-up to keep the steady wattage, but once the cadence is up there it's like the resistance fades away (I heard someone say something about the flywheel outspinning the input, whatever that means). This is why I was thinking the bigger ring would let me keep the torque to the Kickr longer.

    I don't know if any of this is making any sense; it's surely got me confused.
    Punch your cassette and chain rings gearing into this Bicycle Gear Calculator and then do the same with the 53 tooth chain ring and you'll see what the gearing difference is.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mapei View Post
    No matter how skeptically I squint at the table of percentage differences in chainring and cog sizes, I do feel these quote-unquote tiny differences in my legs. And when, sometime in the past, I changed my 53 back to a 52, I remember being a happy guy.
    That's how I felt when I went to a 50, and again when I went to a 46.
    Too old to ride plastic

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    Does your 52T need to be replaced? If not, and you are just looking to "upgrade", then yes, you are wasting your money.
    Insert something clever here:

    Insert list of every bike I own here:

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    If your not using you 11 or 12, just shift there, you don't need a bigger ring. I'm not going to say it, ... reallly!
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  14. #14
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    It's all about gear inches.

    Here you will arrive at your definitive answer: Sheldon Brown's Derailer Gear/Internal-Gear Calculator

    https://www.sheldonbrown.com/gear-calc.html

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    As others have said this is all very subjective but I can say that based on my personal experience, the difference of one tooth on the big chainring is actually pretty significant. I was used to my 53 and bought a bike that had a 54 and I didnít like it. The guy I bought it from was a former pro racer with legs like tree trunks so he had no problem spinning that big ring.

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    Quote Originally Posted by azpeterb View Post
    As others have said this is all very subjective but I can say that based on my personal experience, the difference of one tooth on the big chainring is actually pretty significant. I was used to my 53 and bought a bike that had a 54 and I didnít like it. The guy I bought it from was a former pro racer with legs like tree trunks so he had no problem spinning that big ring.
    53 and 54 are only about 2 gear inches apart. No biggie. Especially if you have a few gears to choose from.


    https://www.bikecalc.com/gear_inches

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    no matter what the calculator says, one tooth DOES make a difference in how the legs feel. I have 5 bikes, 3 of them use the 52t front, 1 uses a 53t, and one uses a 50t front. I normally use the bikes with 52t front. And every now and then I take the bike with the 53t out and it ALWAYS feels heavier, my legs know it, ALWAYS! The problem is that if you shift to a bigger cog when using the 53t, then it always feel like you're in too light a gear (i'm assuming you're using the same sized cassettes on the bikes). Give time, your legs will adjust to the new cadence. But my point is that one tooth change can definitely be felt in a real way much more the than calculator says.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by velodog View Post
    That's how I felt when I went to a 50, and again when I went to a 46.
    My 46/38 combo has the same effect .... no more cursing on hills.
    Cheers

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  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wood Devil View Post
    Exactly! This is for indoor training, on the old CAAD9.

    I keep hearing bigger is better in terms of power. As it is, I still don't have the power to spin out the 11 or even the 12 with my 52, but being on the Kickr I was just curious to know how much, if any, difference that extra tooth would make in terms of sprinting power. My best sprints see to come from a lower cadence start, grinding my way to higher rpms. The power profile of these sprints are like a nicely rounded hill. When I start from a higher rpm I get a higher peak wattage, but within 3 seconds I'm starting to spin out as the watts drop off a cliff (the power profile of these looks like a 90degree angle, like a steep cliff on one end, with a sharp slope on the other). Grinding I can hold 750 to 800w for 20 seconds or so, but when I start with higher rpms, for some reason I can't hold more than 550w while spinning 110rpm. It's almost like the trainer needs that torque of a long wind-up to keep the steady wattage, but once the cadence is up there it's like the resistance fades away (I heard someone say something about the flywheel outspinning the input, whatever that means). This is why I was thinking the bigger ring would let me keep the torque to the Kickr longer.

    I don't know if any of this is making any sense; it's surely got me confused.
    None. Zero. Question: What crank are you using? Hopefully it's Shimano so you actually can go from 52-53 w/ the same crank.
    #promechaniclife

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by alane View Post
    does your 52t need to be replaced? If not, and you are just looking to "upgrade", then yes, you are wasting your money.
    ^^^^this is the correct answer^^^^

  21. #21
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    Unless you're winding our your current top gear in sprints, you don't need a bigger large chainring.

    My rule of thumb is, (assuming flat ground) second smallest cog is used for sprinting. If I need to use my smallest cog often in sprints, it's time to up the chainring size.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by aclinjury View Post
    no matter what the calculator says, one tooth DOES make a difference in how the legs feel. I have 5 bikes, 3 of them use the 52t front, 1 uses a 53t, and one uses a 50t front. I normally use the bikes with 52t front. And every now and then I take the bike with the 53t out and it ALWAYS feels heavier, my legs know it, ALWAYS! The problem is that if you shift to a bigger cog when using the 53t, then it always feel like you're in too light a gear (i'm assuming you're using the same sized cassettes on the bikes). Give time, your legs will adjust to the new cadence. But my point is that one tooth change can definitely be felt in a real way much more the than calculator says.
    Exactly.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by aclinjury View Post
    no matter what the calculator says, one tooth DOES make a difference in how the legs feel. I have 5 bikes, 3 of them use the 52t front, 1 uses a 53t, and one uses a 50t front. I normally use the bikes with 52t front. And every now and then I take the bike with the 53t out and it ALWAYS feels heavier, my legs know it, ALWAYS! The problem is that if you shift to a bigger cog when using the 53t, then it always feel like you're in too light a gear (i'm assuming you're using the same sized cassettes on the bikes). Give time, your legs will adjust to the new cadence. But my point is that one tooth change can definitely be felt in a real way much more the than calculator says.
    Yep, same here. The 53 gives a slight edge in a competitive situation, like a sprint. It'll make the legs a little stronger if you maintain cadences the legs are used to in a 52.

    But that was in the days of 13t.smallest gear in back. 12 and 11 more than make up for it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fredrico View Post
    Yep, same here. The 53 gives a slight edge in a competitive situation, like a sprint. It'll make the legs a little stronger if you maintain cadences the legs are used to in a 52.

    But that was in the days of 13t.smallest gear in back. 12 and 11 more than make up for it.
    Sorry, but this "advantage" is probably a placebo. The only advantage that using a larger chain-ring would be a very slight increase in drive-train efficiency.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveG View Post
    Sorry, but this "advantage" is probably a placebo. The only advantage that using a larger chain-ring would be a very slight increase in drive-train efficiency.
    Exactly. Larger cogs are easier to turn than smaller cogs, the beauty of 42-40!.

    Still, every time I've gone to a 53t. from 52, one tooth difference, the legs got stronger trying to maintain the cadences they turned the 52, and speeds, seemingly effortless [there's your placebo], got a little faster.

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