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I have a hybrid, which for better or worse, I am going to use as my commuting and conditioning bike for the foreseeable future. I am interested in changing the largest chain ring for an even larger one. Will my current front derailleur still work? Are there other drive train issues I should be warned about?

My current setup: Gary Fisher Kaitai, Shimano C102 front derailleur, 48/38/28 crank.

(I would also like some advice on how large to go on this.)

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You would have to change to a new crankset*, I would recommend a road triple for this (52/42/30), and acquire a road triple front derailleur that was suitable for a flat bar shifter.

Shimano makes the 2200 crankset which is quite affordable and will (I believe ... chainline might come into effect here) not necessitate a new bottom bracket. In my experience the FD-R443 derailleur (a road triple, for flat bar) works very well with this set up.

Can I now ask, why do you want a bigger chainring? My experience is people jump the gun on needing larger gears (unless your rides are almost entirely all downhill) and tend to push a much larger gear than necessary. I have found that alot of commuters and casual cyclists ride with a cadence of ~70 rpm. By making the assumption you are doing such, 15-25 rpm would show vast improvements in bike speed and would garner you greater cardio benefits. As well I would then assume, unless you are a highly trained athlete, that you will not spend a huge amount of time riding 48/11 @90 rpm.

Do you have a good set of clip in style pedals and shoes? This will help you work, in my experience, on your pedal stroke. By working first and foremost on your pedal stroke you will improve your muscle recruitment, improve your climbing (able to push the pedal over the top and scrape it across the bottom) and in general increase your average speeds.

Anyways, my two cents.

*When I say 'have to' I am referring to maintaining a semblance of smooth shifting. The reality is you can typically jury rig whatever you want and it often works. But it won't be smooth and it can be more of a pain in the arse than it is worth.

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Yeah, I'm looking to 'travel faster'. Your answer echos some advice I once heard and chose to forget - about increasing cadence and properly using the clipless. I'll try your suggestions before taking apart my bike - I'll get back to you on the results! –  Tom Stephens Oct 15 '10 at 11:41
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Great to hear Tom. Although it is typically in my interest to sell people more stuff ... I'd prefer to see the person develop as a cyclist. Your body, pocket book etc... will all thank you and I am of the opinion you will enjoy it more and get more out of the whole thing. Let me know how she goes! –  tplunket Oct 15 '10 at 12:01
    
Update: I have approached that 15-20 rpm increase on my cadence, and am now pretty comfortable in my clipless setup. Your suggestions have fully dispelled my concern with alternative gear setups. Since paying attention to my fitness and technique (in the pedals), I am riding stronger and faster each week. Thanks! –  Tom Stephens Nov 16 '10 at 14:13
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According to the Shimano Tech Doc it looks like 48 teeth is the maximum recommended size and 48/38/28 is the recommended chain ring combination.

The spec sheet also indicates that the maximum jump between rings is 10 teeth, so even if you could fit a bigger ring, you would have to replace the other two as well.

I believe the Kaitai normally comes with a standard 11-32 rear cassette. Normally 11 is the smallest number of teeth that you will find, but Shimano makes a cassette model called Capreo that you may be able to find and use that goes as small as 9 teeth if you are trying to get a "bigger" gear. The nine speed cassette ranges from 9-26T, so you trade the bigger gear on the low end for a gear that will be much harder to pedal up hills.

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Of note, the Capreo cassette is intended for folding/small wheeled bikes. This cassette only mates with the Capreo freehub which to the best of my understanding only works with a Capreo hub (ie. you cannot use a capreo freehub on an RM-30 hub). Thus ... you would be in for a new wheel which might be more expensive that a new front derailleur & crankset. –  tplunket Oct 15 '10 at 11:01
    
@tplunket Thanks for the info, I was under the impression that they were compatible. The cost of a new hub/wheel would definitely push me toward a new crank and derailleur. –  Gary.Ray Oct 18 '10 at 2:27
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