Gearing Explained – A Ribble Guide

Picking the right gears has a dramatic effect on how your bike rides and how much (or little) you wish to suffer when the road heads upwards. Our gearing explained guide will hopefully make you a little more gear savvy when it comes to your bikes spinny bits.


We can well understand the confusion when it comes to deciding what gear ratios your new bike should have. A beginner faced with such options as 10, 11, or 12 speed and 11-28, 11-32-34T simply doesn’t know what such figures relate to.

Here then is our beginners guide to gearing explained and how to choose the right fit for you.

So, when we refer to gearing what specifically are we talking about?

The gears on a bike are determined by the chainset at the front and cassette (sprockets, cogs) at the rear. More specifically the number of teeth each component has. The general rule of thumb is that the more teeth a chainring has, the harder it is to pedal. The opposite is true for the rear cassette, the more teeth there are, the easier it is to pedal.

Therefore, if you wanted a really good setup for climbing you would want smaller chainrings at the front and larger sprockets at the rear. With us so far?

Now for the nitty-gritty, how does one go about selecting one option over another. And how does your selection affect how the bike performs?


A chainset will consist of 1, 2 or rarely 3 chainrings. Otherwise referred to as One by, Double and Triple respectively.

To put it as simply as possible the smaller these are then the easier it will be to spin the pedals.

Most bikes will come fitted as standard with chainsets that have 1 or 2 chainrings. If it is a double chainset there will be 2 chainrings, an inner and outer. The inner is always by virtue of its small number of teeth the climbing ring. The larger diameter outer chainring is best suited for flatter terrain and descending.

Ribble is renowned for its bike customisation options which means that virtually every bike in the range is customisable. You can select chainrings size and cassette ratios to suit your riding needs.


You may see or hear this referred to as ‘compact’. Both the inner and outer chainrings are quite small, which makes pedalling easier. This is especially handy on climbs and makes the 34-50 ratio chainset the most popular with beginner cyclists or those looking for more assistance on the climbs. The trade-off is that the relatively small outer ring will cause you to ‘spin out’ more quickly on descents or on the flat (if you’re fast and fit enough). Spinning out is when you run out of gears and the legs just spin to little effect.

36/52 – 34/53

Shimano 12-speed groupsets now include a semi-compact 34/53 ratio.

Known as ‘semi-compact’ this is an intermediate option for riders who still want help on the hills but desire more speed on the flats and descents. Rather than the 34/50 of compact, you now get 36/52 or 34/53 chainrings.


Ok, so it’s not strictly 39/53, but it is so very pretty!

If you travelled back to the latter part of the 20th century you would more often than not find this ratio fitted to almost every bike. It was for a time the standard ‘race’ setup and back when the options were limited simply to double or triple. Today’s racers will still use something very similar, but it offers very little assistance on the climb. This is all about speed on the flats and descents.

1x Single Chainring 

The lack of front derailleur adds simplicity and greater chain security over rough terrain.

The relatively new kid on the block is the single ring chainset or 1x as it is referred to in the industry. It’s been a feature in MTB circles for a few years. However, the Gravel Bike boom means that 1x is a hugely popular option for all-terrain bikes with drop-bars. With only a single chainring there’s no need for a front derailleur. Eliminating the possibility of the chain jamming when clogged with mud or other assorted debris. Chainrings varying in size between 32t and 46t will normally be specc’d depending on the groupset.


A wide range cassette, note the increase in cog size. The closer to the top, the easier it is to pedal.

A cassette is a collection of cogs that sits on the rear hub and provides a select gear range for every riding discipline. In direct contrast to the chainrings, the larger the sprocket is, the easier it is to pedal. Large sprockets are more advantageous when climbing. Whichever groupset is fitted will determine whether there is anything between 8 and 13 sprockets in total. Entry-level groupsets will have typically offer 8 and top-tier 12 or 13.

You therefore need to select an appropriate cassette ratio for the terrain you will riding over on a regular basis. Wider ranged cassettes such as 11/32 or 11/34 are the best choice for climbing.

Slightly closer ratio cassettes such as 11/25, 11/28 or 11/30 are better for riders with a good level of fitness or who prefer flatter terrain.

1x systems are equipped with cassettes that have a much wider spread – anything between11-42 and 10-50 at the norm.

Combinations / Recommendations

Climbers gearing -34/50 with 11/32 or 11/34 Cassette

What we here at Ribble refer to as a climbers ratio and one we recommend to riders looking for a little extra help on the climbs or beginners. Having the combination of a small and a large chainring means that the cassette doesn’t have to offer quite as wide a gear range as a single ring system. This results in the steps between gears being smaller for smoother gear shifts and pedalling rhythm (cadence).

Semi-Compact 36/52 with 11/25 to 11/34

Amateur racers and super-strong riders may benefit from such a set-up. It still offers some assistance on climbs thanks to the 36t inner ring. However, it’s the 52t outer ring that they crave as it allows them to ride faster o the flats. This offers the following benefits;

  • The gap between gears is not as high, ideally you would keep the number of sprockets as close as possible. The reason for this is to avoid loss of pedaling rhythm when changing gear. As well as the loss of power generated through the pedals due to this loss of rhythm. Therefore, opting for smaller spaced cassette like a 11/25 or 11/28 avoids this jump in gear change. This also has the added benefit of making the pedaling action smoother.
  • The gears do not spin out as fast when descending. By this we mean that you can pedal for longer before the chain loses any traction. Causing you You then have to freewheel until you slow sufficiently enough to start pedaling once more.
  • Specifying larger chainrings and / or closer cassette ratios also make the bike faster on the flat.

Single Chainrings

The gearing loadout of a bike will depend entirely upon what type of bike you go for and what groupset it comes fitted with. A multi-terrain hybrid will often have a chainring as small as a 32t which will be combined with a road ratio cassette of approximately 11/32t. Gravel bikes tend to have a large chainring of approx 42T and an MTB in the range of 11-42t. In reality, the gear range will be markedly similar and you are less likely to be offered a choice of gearing.

We hope this guide helps you to gain an understanding of what to choose when buying a new bike. If, however you still need assistance then please contact the customer service team.

The Ribble 2019 bike range 

No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.