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Find your perfect gravel gear ratios

13 January 2021
Find your perfect gravel gear ratios

Ekar’s gravel gear ratio options - which is right for your riding?


Choosing the right combination can make your ride fun and fast or low, steady and long-lasting – it all depends what kind of riding you do most.

Here’s how to decide which setup is for you.

Not so long ago, many gravel bikes came with a road-derived 50/34-tooth double compact chainset and a narrow range cassette (say, 12-25 teeth, or maybe 11-28).

With Ekar we’ve now moved on to the lighter, simpler world of 1x drivetrains where one chainring is matched by a greater number of cogs on your cassettes to give a full complement of gear choices.

But the principle remains the same.



The bigger the tooth-count of your front chainring and the smaller the rear cassette cog, the faster your maximum speed, the further you travel for each turn of the pedals – but you tend to pay for that with the lack of friendly climbing gear. So the road-style combination is probably ok if you mostly stick to the asphalt with just some gentle off-road skirmishes, and, assuming that you don’t carry more than a small pack on your back or on your bike frame.

With a smaller chainring and a choice of bigger sprockets on your cassette, the slower your speed but the more you increase your ability to cope with the challenges and fun that is characteristic of gravel riding.

But if you head to the more technical trails, attack the steeper gradients, or carry your own kit – and you’ll benefit from a shorter (‘easier’) bottom end.

Do all three of those and to keep pedaling, keep traction and keep moving, you should certainly be looking at the benefit of the lower ratio ranges on offer with Ekar.



Generally, within the gravel sector, a lowest gear ratio of 1:1 around is often seen as the useful, you’ll see that Ekar’s configurations achieve this, with some options offering more beyond.

There are many different types of gravel riding – from slow and low die-hard bikepacking to lung-busting short-distance gravel racing.

And fittingly, there are many different types of gravel riding – from the novice enthusiast to the pro racer. There are also many different conditions under your tires, depending on where and when you ride: dry, packed and fast; wet, muddy and strength-sapping; gritty and slippery technical tests, or a combination that changes by the rides and the seasons.



But typically, gravel riding demands a wide range, from those low lower gears – for steep, slippery climbs on broken surfaces – and a mid-way high top gear, for the asphalt stretches between trails and for the fastest fireroads where you can give it everything, even on your low pressure 40mm tires!

That’s why we made Ekar a 1x13 system, to minimise fuss and weight from additional mechanisms, but to maximise range.

And we carefully positioned the steps between gears with natural and progressive spacings so each change is intuitive and you always feel like you have the right gear to ride.

Ekar’s gearing combinations come in different otions.



There are four chainrings: Adventure has 38 teeth; Pure Gravel has 40T, Fast Gravel is 42T, and there’s eGravel with 44T.

And there are three cassettes: Endurance with 9-36T; Gravel Race has 9-42T and Gravel Adventure cassette is 10-44T.

The clues to their most common uses are in the names, but here’s a guide to the gearing options we’d recommend for these quite different gravel riders.



Janie and Marc love multi-day bike-packing adventures

Multi-day adventures, away from it all, carrying bivvy bags, a day's food and spare clothing mean that the pair are packed, and spend more watts than other riders just to keep moving. They also like to stay close to nature, away from the roads and whenever possible on the tracks through the countryside and in the mountains. Often those tracks can get tough, so sometimes the riding speed is barely above walking pace and just occasionally they’re too severe and short sections become hike-a-bike.

But that’s ok, it’s part of their adventure.

For Janie and Marc we recommend the 10-44T cassette and the 38T chainring, with an option for the 40T (1:3.80 top end ratio) and 1:0.89 at the lower extreme – which should get you and your laden bike up most hills you can picture!



Diego does day rides

Mixed terrain riding with friends; the pace and distance varies according to the group and the day. They transition on roads before reaching the forest fire-roads and ride loops as long as the legs allow before refuelling, sharing stories and doing it all again!

Matched with a 40T chainring, Ekar’s 9-42T cassette has the greatest outright range, ideal for these mixed days and Diego knowing he’ll be ready for whatever the conditions and the group present, any weekend.



Tony goes gravel racing - and pushes hard

Tony has done a couple of seasons of crit racing and whenever he joins his friends at the gran fondo he always seems to drop them and shoots off to face the timed sections like he’s got a pro dossard.

But now he’s been bitten by the gravel bug and while he still loves to ride fast, keeping an eye on his maximum and average speeds, he’s entering gravel races where he can push the pace, keep his crit-racer adrenaline pumping and face new handling challenges.

For Tony we recommend the 42T chainset with the 9-36T. It’s around a 1:1.2 ratio at the lower end, and at the top, the 1:4.67 ratio is a close equivalent to a 52T ring with an 11T cog, which is long enough gearing for many riders to spin out on a road bike.

The truth is there is no one rule for all riders.



The minimum and maximum gear ratios (sometimes expressed in meters or inches) will change based on your fitness levels and wattage output; on the roughness of surface, weather condition and length of ride.

So you have a great choice to tailor your gearing to your kind of riding, by switching components - the chainring is easily removed from the spider with just four bolts, and switching cassettes on the N3W hub is simple too.

And thanks to Ekar’s cleverly designed derailleur and narrow chain, all are compatible with each other, with the same mech cage and pulley wheels,with the need to modify the chain length only in extreme cases.

You might even want to have a choice of wheelsets, with one running a lower-range cassette and more aggressively treaded, wider tires for the dirty days, and higher ratio cassette and faster-rolling rubber for high speed outings.

Either way, Ekar has your perfect gravel riding ratios.



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