Life Without the Big Ring


It was just last summer that I was living life in the Big Ring.  Being in Saskatchewan and riding the flat prairie roads provided the setting for some great big ring riding.  But then when I arrived in the hill country of Austin last September, that was brought to a sudden halt.  It then become more like a part time big ring life with a striving for more and more time in the big gears.  But for the past couple weeks I had to live life without any big ring at all.

It all started with a few rides of having trouble shifting from the small to the big ring….and then one day it just wouldn’t shift all together.  At first I thought my derailleur was shot, but then a second opinion by my friend Jamie of Reveille Peak Ranch found that it was actually the shifter that was the problem. Seeing that my bike is not quite two years old, Jamie recommended me using my twitter power and get the word out to Trek.  So that night I shot out a friendly tweet to @TrekBikes asking what they could do for me.

Before long they had tweeted back asking for more information and the next thing I knew they had DM’d me their e-mail address.  From there I was put in touch with William from Trek’s Technical & Customer Service Center and he said they would take good care of me.  The only tricky thing was that I had bought my bike in Canada, but William said that Mellow Johnny’s would look after it here in Austin.

I called Mellow Johnny’s to make sure this was all cool, and one of their service dudes, Chuck said I just need to bring in the dud shifter and my receipt and I was good to go.  I have to put a great big shout out to Chuck as he gave me some super awesome service right from the first time I called, to me picking up the new part a week later.  Seeing as only the part was under warranty, MJ’s would have had to charge me to put on the new Shimano and to re-tape my handlebars.  Being the cheap guy that I am, I decided to take it on myself….with the help of Jamie of course.

Oh, and while all of this was going on and I was waiting for my new shifter to arrive, what was my riding like?  Well, I did still take out the bike (minus one shifter and a front brake).  The first time I grabbed my handlebars it sure felt weird not having the shifter hood to grab onto.  I felt like my left hand was going to slide right off….I also felt like I was riding some sort of half fixie/half road bike.  I’m sure I had a few strange looks from other cyclists on the road, but at least I was able to keep on riding….without being able to shift into the big ring, of course.  This also gave me a good reason to take out “Tina Turner” a few times and I ended up putting more miles on her than she’s ever seen.

The Trek is all fixed now and I’m back loving life part time in the Big Ring.  How much time do you spend in the Big?  Do you find yourself pushing to spend more and more time in it?

Big Ring photo courtesy of She Bicycles
Enjoy Your Ride

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13 Responses to “ Life Without the Big Ring ”

  1. Perry Huntley on April 7, 2011 at 5:31 am

    So far I ride 100% of the time on the big ring…..I have a compact and love the gearing. I was worried going from my triple to this setup, but it was unfounded. I climbed Eagles Nest North of Leander without using the smaller gear, but I’m more of a “masher”. Eventually I want to start using the higher cadence/smaller ring to maintain my knees, but I see a huge difference in my stamina and leg strength that using the big ring gives me. Hope to see you Saturday on the hills Darryl!

    • Darryl on April 7, 2011 at 1:19 pm

      Yeah, it will be nice to ride with you on Saturday. I’m more of a spinner so maybe I can help convert you over.


  2. Aaron - Steep Climbs on April 7, 2011 at 2:34 am

    Glad you got hooked back up. I recently converted to a compact for my upcoming mountain rides and found that I am spending a LOT of time in the big ring, like 90% or so. I switch back on the steeper hills and sometimes at stops. I try to ride the moderate hills in the big ring just because it helps ‘conquer’ the hill, but I make sure only to do so when cadence is high.

    • Darryl on April 7, 2011 at 3:51 am

      I’ve never tried a compact, but might have to see what it’s like sometime. Keep it big ring, dude.


  3. PedalmanTO on April 6, 2011 at 3:41 pm

    I love the fluid motion and tension the Big Ring gives me. Living life in the Big Ring is fun and powerful but don’t forget that the Small Ring offers reflection and recovery.

    • Darryl on April 6, 2011 at 4:25 pm

      Thanks Ian, good points. I also use the big ring as something that challenges me to work harder as well.

  4. Anonymous on April 6, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    I rarely go into the big ring, and I consider myself a pretty strong rider: I just love going up hill and keeping high cadence.

    I just bought a new bike and am building it up with a 42 tooth chainring and a 9 speed mtn cassette. does anybody have much experience with this? 1x9s are pretty common in the cyclocross world, but almost unheard of in the road world… It seems, at least out here in CO, there’s a lot of snobbery about what kind of crank people ride. Granny gears and Compact doubles are often frowned upon as weaker, although I always find myself wishing for more gears when I hit steep grades…

    • PedalmanTO on April 6, 2011 at 3:45 pm

      There are hordes of riders that believe that bigger is always better, don’t listen to them. You ride what’s comfortable for you. The weak rider is the one who doesn’t enjoy the ride they are on; it has nothing to do with their setup.
      Keep the Rubber Side Down.

      • Darryl on April 6, 2011 at 4:24 pm

        I totally agree with Ian. Ride for yourself and don’t worry about what others have to say about your crank. As long as you’re getting out there and riding and enjoying yourself….that’s what matters most.


  5. Dave Boyd on April 6, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    My traditional road ride is out and back on a road with 1200 ft of elevation gain in 6 miles. When I started, I couldn’t make it in the big ring. I was SO stoked the day I got to the turnaround without touching the left shifter. Life in the big ring is very satisfying! Great post!!

    • Darryl on April 6, 2011 at 4:28 pm

      Yes, very satisfying. Keep up the great riding, Dave.

  6. Ashley Hill on April 6, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    I’ve never been a big ring rider…I grew up and starting riding in NW CT where there’s quite a few hills, so I had my granny gear to fall back on.

    Now that I’m riding compact on a new bike and am a lot more fit, I find myself getting into the big ring a lot, especially when I ride around here near Boston, where the hills are not-so-much.

    • Darryl on April 6, 2011 at 5:00 pm

      Yeah the terrain definitely has a lot to do with what ring you ride in. Thanks for checking out the post and leaving your comments.

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