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How does the 52/36 chainring coupled with a 11/30 cassette match up. Will it be good for a 70 year old recreational rider? Or what combo would you suggest?

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Highly unlikely this is the gearing for you. Standard chainrings on most drop bar road bikes are 50/34 ‘compact’. 52/36 would be considered a higher gearing choice these days.

It’s likely you will need a lower gearing, especially if you live in a hilly area, so consider a 48/32 ‘sub compact’ on a road bike. You may also want to consider bike that can take a wider range cassette. 11-36 cassettes are available on road groupsets.

You may even want to consider a flat-bar hybrid with even lower gearing and more upright riding positions. Find a good local bike shop for advice and to try out some bikes.

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Generally speaking, it seems too high. I am rather fit, a few years younger, run a 50/34 compact, don't have an 11, and don't miss it. Whether you use 52/36 or 50/34 doesn't matter too much but I would prefer the smaller. For the low end, it depends on the hills you want to ride. My low is 34/30 which does what I want, but each area and each rider is different. It seems to have become easier to find 32 or 34 cogs on road bikes. You need a medium cage derailleur for them and the spacings get a bit larger, but you can't use gears you don't have. If you can borrow a bike, go climb some hills and see what gears you use.

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The reality is that this is impossible for anyone to answer for a specific rider, without knowing the rider.

When I read “70 year old recreational rider”, my inclination is to assume relatively short/easy rides, and a fitness level which is not ideal and may include medical restrictions. However, 2 of my favorite shop customers are people that would describe themselves as “recreational riders” but put in more miles in a year than I do by far. Not least because retirement allows them to ride consistently. They are both well over 70 at this point, also.

That said, if you are looking at a comfortable, stable road bike, and your goal is not to race your bike, then I would consider a 50/34 (compact) front end, and a 12-28 rear cassette. To my way of thinking, that provides a good balance of top end speed, and reasonable climbing gears.

Things that will affect your decision:

  1. Fitness level/body weight: The strength to weight ratio is critically important in cycling. If you are 125 lbs. and strong enough to push your weight up hill without losing your ability to continue riding, then erring on the side of high torque/high speed gears makes sense. If you are 250 lbs, and any hill is the one you die on, then erring on the side of low torque/low speed gears makes sense.
  2. Terrain: If you are retired and and living in the Arizona desert, and an overpass is the biggest hill you see, then high torque/high speed. If you live in San Francisco, and every direction away from your home is uphill and beyond category, then low torque/low speed.

  3. Medical restrictions: There are a million things that can go on this list, but the big thing is, if you have medical restrictions, don’t push them. Err on the side of easier pedaling, rather than creating issues for yourself.

As for how to decide what specific gearing fits your needs? Well, use a gear calculator to compare the different combinations and find one that fits your needs, with the things I mentioned in mind.

There are lots of choices for gear calculators. Bikecalc.com is my favorite.

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