Yep, it’s all about gearing … this article that is.

gearchart 27 inch

Without sufficient gearing climbing hills or going fast is challenging to impossible. I know money most certainly can be a limiting factor when someone if purchasing a tadpole trike. Some people buy a low cost trike that comes with very limited gearing only to discover they would very much like to have more gearing available. To then try to modify such a trike to give it more gearing might very well cost more than what a trike that already had such gearing would have cost. An entry level trike with such modifications is not the same as a higher cost and quality trike which came with gearing. To my way of thinking it doesn’t make any sense to invest a bunch of money into a low cost trike attempting to upgrade it. And you could never hope to sell it for any more than the original trike you bought would be worth.

By definition “gearing is the aspect of a bicycle drivetrain that determines the relation between the cadence, the rate at which the rider pedals, and the rate at which the drive wheel turns. There are at least four different methods for measuring gear ratios: gear inches, meters of development (roll-out), gain ratio, and quoting the number of teeth on the front and rear sprockets respectively. The first three methods result in each possible gear ratio being represented by a single number which allows the gearing of any bicycles to be compared; the numbers produced by different methods are not comparable, but for each method the larger the number the higher the gear. The fourth method uses two numbers and is only useful in comparing bicycles with the same drive wheel diameter.” Wikipedia

I am not going to even attempt to get into any depth here about gearing. Anyone interested in all the technical aspects of this subject can “read all about it”. Besides, I don’t know much about it myself and really don’t have much interest in learning about it. Most of us really have no need of all the technical aspects of it. We just need to know the basics. For anyone who wants to delve into this further the late well known and respected avid cyclist and knowledgeable mechanic, Sheldon Brown, (who even became a tadpole trike rider late in his life) wrote many articles about gearing.

The most common and lowest cost type of gearing is via sprockets and derailleurs. On derailleur setups gear ranges of almost 700% can be achieved. However, this may result in some rather large steps between gears or some awkward gear changes. The front crankset may have up to 4 chainrings attached to the crankset and typically the cogset attached to the rear wheel may have between 5 and 11 sprockets. I personally have never seen a crankset with 4 chainrings. A derailleur system is highly efficient … up to 99 % efficiency.

There are also internal hubs for front and rear which are really nice, but considerably more expensive. Internal hubs are available with anywhere between 2 and 14 speeds. With internal hubs one can downshift while sitting still … something which would be so very nice when you find you are in too high of a gear and pretty much sitting still unable to take off. Having an internal gear hub also means that there is no concern of damage happening from exposure to foreign objects which can all too easily happen to a rear derailleur. Also a rear derailleur is exposed to dirt, mud and grime and can really get messed up. With internal hubs the efficiency drops off and the more gears a hub has the less efficient it is. Just so you know … even though a cycle may be said to be 21, 24, 27, 30, or any other number of speeds (or gears) … it ain’t really so. That’s because in some of the various gear combinations available shifting between the sprockets some of those gear ratios are duplicated. A 27 speed, for example, may only actually have about 24 speeds in reality.

Some trikes are outfitted with both an internal rear hub and a rear derailleur which equates to having a whole lot of gears to select from. We are talking 81 or 90 speeds minimum with a 3 speed internal hub and either a 9 or 10 speed derailleur system. Again, some of those combinations are duplicated so in reality the actual number of speeds/gears is less.

The bottom line here is most folks want, need and prefer to have sufficient gearing on a tadpole trike. Keep this in mind as you contemplate what trike to buy. Even the 8 speed models are not sufficient for some riders. It is far better to buy what will work for you than to settle for something you will be disappointed with. Yep, having sufficient gearing will help you …


Author: Steve Newbauer

I have a few current blogs (tadpolerider1, navysight, truthtoponder and stevesmixedbag) so I am keeping busy. I hope you the reader will find these blogs interesting and enjoy your time here. Feel free to email me at tadpolerider2 at gmail dot com (

5 thoughts on “IT’S ALL ABOUT GEARING”

  1. Amen. AMEN. BUT……
    What looks good on paper and what feels good on the “flats” did NOT work out for me in the mountains where I live. After test riding in FL on the “flats”, I spent a lot to get what I thought would be low enough gearing for my mountain home. Wrong! WRONG! Today I am heading to the LBS to start the first of what I hope is the last modification because it is the least expensive. But I am likely to be in for a step two or three as I “upgrade” to low–low and robust–gearing to get me up, up, and away. So dear readers: in my experience there is no such thing as “too low.” 😦

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