Combining a 52/36 crankset with an 11-30 cassette is a viable option when:
- Short Distances
If the bike is used for short distances (a mile or two), then almost any gearing will work because the rider won’t experience significant fatigue.
- Commuting In a Flat Area
The lowest gear is 36/30 and is sufficient for commuting in a city that doesn’t have extreme hills.
If the rider is strong enough, that gear will allow him to climb fairly steep gradients too. However, the combination could be too high for a recreational rider who isn’t looking to get in optimal shape.
- Lighter Riders
The lighter you are, the easier it is to pedal in high gear. If you are 150lbs or less, then a 52/36 crankset and an 11-30 cassette will be an acceptable combination. However, if you weigh 200lbs or plan on doing a tour with a heavily loaded bicycle, then you will benefit from a lower first gear.
Combining a 52/36 crankset with an 11-30 cassette is not ideal when:
- Consistent Commuting
If you cover long distances during your commute 5 days a week, then a lower gearing would be beneficial as it will reduce the repetitive strain that accumulates over time.
- Long touring in the mountains
You can get by with a fairly high gearing when you are just going around the block, but when you have to cover long distances uphill with a loaded bike, the game changes. In that case, it’s recommended to get a cassette with a 32T cog at least, preferably 34 or 36.
Another option would be to replace the crankset with a more compact one (50/34) or at least the smaller chainring.
- Joint Issues
The higher the gearing, the more the rider has to “grind” to pedal forward. The extra torque stresses the joints. In a similar situation, it may be wiser to lower the gearing, especially if the route includes long hills.
Understanding Gear Ratios
The term gear ratio indicates how many times the rear cog in use and respectively the rear wheel spins per one revolution of the cranks/chairing.
To find out the gear ratio of a gear combination, one needs to know the number of teeth on the chainring and the rear cog.
For example, a 36/30 gear gives a 1.2:1 gear ratio. This means that 1 spin of the cranks equals a 1.2 rotation of the rear cog and wheel. Thе higher this number is, the more speed the gear can generate provided that the rider can produce the needed power.
The lower the number, the easier the gear. Hence why low gears result in smaller gear ratios.
For example, a 36/34 gear gives us a 1.12:1 gear ratio. Or in other words, the rear wheel rotates slightly less per 1 revolution of the cranks. This makes pedaling easier because it takes less effort to spin the rear wheel 1.12 times than 1.2 times.
If we increase the rear cog to 42T for example, we get a 0.85:1. This would be a significantly lower/easier gear than 36/30 because the rear wheel will rotate only 0.8 times per 1 crank revolution.
As mentioned earlier, the same effect can be achieved by using a smaller chainring.
A 36/30 gear gives us a 1.2:1 ratio, but if we replace the front ring with a 32T one, the ratio becomes 32:30 or 1.06:1.
Summary: What You Need To Know
А 52/36 crankset can be successfully combined with an 11-30 cassette when the bike won’t be used for extremely challenging ascents. The gearing is low enough for basic commuting, but on a long trip, the lowest gear could end up being insufficient.
A cassette with a 32/34/36 large cog is a safer bet for most people. At the end of the day, you can always shift up the cassette if the gearing is too low, but you can never shift to a lower gear that doesn’t exist.
Another option to lower the gearing would be to use smaller chainrings.