Big, Bigger, Bigger still!Amongst cycling hardmen, the term "53x11" refers to pushing the hardest gear you have. The 53 big ring was macho and for generations of cyclists it was the only option. Riding the same gearing combo as the winners of the Tour de France meant you were a "real" cyclist. Triples were for wimps and having one was paramount to wearing a shirt that said, "loser."
Several years ago the "compact" crank was born and the 53 has largely been replaced by a 50 up front. The change to a 50 was really to accommodate the change from the small ring up front from a 39 to a 34. This allowed those with more than 4% body fat to climb at a cadence higher than 40 on sustained road climbs. Although they have become the norm now, the 50/34 crankset was initially referred to as, "the proud mans triple."
Within our band of merry men the throw down is still about gears. For gravel rides in particular we get excited about big rings. The difference is, now we are talking about how big we can go on the back cassette.
Cassettes ranges of 11-23 to 11-26 were about it. If you wanted to draw attention you could go 11-28. You can climb most paved roads with a 34 small ring up front and a 28 big ring in back.
With Gravel you can't go too low. Even the murders are sporting 32s in back. I felt like I had a pizze plate in back when I went to a 36. Now some are super sizing and going as big as a 40 in back. KB went sub compact in front. He is ahead of the curve.
If you were on a Sunday ride with us and the conversation turned to drugs. We might be talking EPO or we might be talking Flowmax. That is just where we are.
However, don't think we have become a bunch of pot bellied, primal jersey wearing old farts. We are the fastest bunch of bad asses that AARP is chasing. The message is the same for AARP and other masters cyclists. Keep chasing; you'll never catch us.