Gearing options to save your legs.

A fair amount of questions regarding gearing choice for the Tour of the Whitefish Divide route this year. I can’t specifically address your needs as it’s purely subjective, if it were up to me you’d be drinking whiskey after the ride, not beer.


Best View in Whitefish from the new downtown parking garage, looking north at the Whitefish Mountain Resort (Big Mountain).

The main consideration would just to be honest with yourself, nothing wrong with spinning a giant flapjack for your lowest gear on the back cassette.  Right from the start you’ll have the longest and largest vertical gain of the day to the top of the Big Mountain (pictured), 27 miles and 4k of climbing respectively from the Whitefish Bike Retreat.

Wether you will be pedaling a 2X or 1X, here are a few suggestions to make your ride more enjoyable:

• Roads vary from 3 – 14% in grade. Forest roads were not put in by the D.O.T. but by folks out to do a bit of logging, so they are not a constant grade, nor is the surface predictable. They were put in by a D-9 CAT and the main priority was to go from point A to point B, taking the line of least resistance. Average road grade would fall some where in the 5% – 7%, with some steeper sections thrown in for your enjoyment.

• The last several hundred yards of the Mount Werner out and back spur, will be the steepest grade you experience on the course. It tops out at 14%+. I’m betting it will be a hike-a-bike for even the strongest riders, only because bikes will not have a low enough gear to make it up. If you plan on wearing your nice carbon soled road shoes, just be aware you may add significant wear to them.

• For someone with only one horse (1X) up front pulling your wagon, here are some gear ratios to consider. To be on the safe side you can go with a 38, 10-42. If you were really feeling like you have more to give, you could increase your front ring to a 40 or even a 42. Or you could still roll with the 38 up front and go with a 11-36 in the rear. Your call though.

• If you are pedaling a 2X, you can tighten your gearing out a bit more. 34/50 up front would be appropriate with a 11-32 or 11-36 in the rear. If you want a lower gear, you can always go with one of the newer adventure cranksets up front with a 30/46.

• Moving on to horse power. Joe was sometimes forced to hop off his steed and walk a few paces or a mile or two. Assuming you have enough horsepower, you may want to make sure your gearing is within your own personal parameters. Keep in mind you are pedaling on dirt roads and the pebbles pass underneath your tires add a bit more resistance and is slower than rolling on pavement. Nothing worse than wishing you had a lower gear all day.

A few helpful links and upgrades if you need to make some changes:

• You can find a gearing chart HERE. Here are a few example of gearing in inches for the lowest gear, front chainring and largest rear cassette cog. These ratios would work for a strong recreational rider, if you like to spin a bit more, go with the lower gear set up.

• 1X Gearing – 38/36 = 30.6 gear inches. • 3842 = 26.2 gear inches.

• 2X Gearing – 34/32 = 30.8 gear inches. • 34/36 = 27.4 gear inches.

Wolf Tooth Components makes some great accessory products that can extend your gearing ranges on your standard set up. Worth checking out, say if your rear derailleur and cassette combo is maxed out with a 32t and you want to jump up to a 36t. They have a product called the Road/Got Link the will jump up your rear derailleur’s capacity.

So, keep in mind all of this is purely subjective. Go out and ride your bike, and figure out what will make you day the most enjoyable while in the saddle. I can’t pedal at 55!