Beach Ratio

I’m back at the shore this week, and as always, have been exploring the area a lot by bike. For the past couple of years, I’ve brought my single speed road bike. It’s perfect for the coast, because everything is flat, so there’s really no need for multiple gears. At home in the Patapsco Valley, I ride a 42/20 gear ratio. I kept the same ratio the past two years at the shore, but it was way too low for the flat terrain. On a long, flat stretch with a tailwind, I felt like I was spinning like crazy and not going anywhere. This year, I changed to a 42/16. I already had a 16-tooth freewheel sitting around, so all I had to do was put it on the bike and take a link out of the chain (a SRAM PC-1 that is at least 7 or 8 years old and still going strong). It made a huge difference. It takes a little bit more effort to get going, but once the bike is moving, I can go a lot faster and cover longer distances more efficiently. With a good tailwind, the gearing still feels a tad low, but I think that if I went any taller than 42/16, it would make uphill slopes and headwinds a bit of a chore. I may change my mind again down the road, but it seems pretty good the way it is now.

The only thing that might be a pain is when I get home and have to switch back to 42/20, because I’ll need to add a link back to the chain. I may just keep a second chain around that I can swap in and out along with the freewheel, but either way, I’ll need to break both chains to swap them on and off the bike. Sounds like a pain either way, but if it’s only once a year or so, it might not be too bad. I guess we will find out.