bike - gears

The Rolls Royce of gears has to be the Rohloff internal hub, favoured by many a long distance bike tourer.


A hugely reliable sealed unit, an oil change every 50,000km is all the maintenance that’s usually required. They may only have 14 gears but they are fully usable and don’t overlap unlike the standard 27 gear bike which actually has 12 useable combinations.

The Rohloffs have a few other huge advantages: no exposed parts to wear out or break; the chain always pulls in a straight line and doesn’t need to ever change cog; the chain is much stronger, bulletproof in fact; and you can change gear while stationery.


There is a downside: they cost as much as the rest of your well equipped bike, (and probably as much as the rest of the gear you are carrying as well).

For the rest of us there’s the standard derailleur setup. 27 gears, usually, with the narrow 9 speed chain.

It’s worth getting a bike mechanic to show you how to adjust it before you set out. On those bumpy roads derailleurs, both front and rear, sometimes require a little tinkering. A rear 11-34 cassette gives speed on the flat with that occasional tailwind using the 11, and grinds you up most inclines on the 34. That’s if you can find a decent hill out there.

The front chainset: a widespread range is sensible: say 48:34:22. The 22 is usually important when the going gets tough when you have 2 weeks food and 3 days water aboard.

Out on the dirt, day after day, it’s the 34 tooth middle ring that takes the brunt of the assault.

If you ever get into that 48 big ring make the most of that tailwind.