Grin and grind it

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What has happened to the UK’s geography since I last straddled a bike semi-seriously a decade or so ago? I ask because we’ve all gone ‘granny-gear’ style.

Back in the 1990s and beyond, I remember you had ‘arrived’ as a cyclist when you were able to ride a bike equipped with a racing block, something like a straight-through 12-20. Now it’s all about 12-30.

At the other end of the drive-train where once we rode 39-50 (also I seem to recall 42-50 even among club-runners), now it is all about 34-50.

Where have all the monstrous inches come from? Have roads somehow got steeper? Has membership of the European Union brought Alpine slopes to the UK? Is the metric system to blame? Is it Health & Safety? Is it the coalition government?

Or perhaps it is because today’s youth have stopped kicking a football around the streets and running away after knocking on neighbours’ doors, or stopped chasing each other in playgrounds and climbing trees, and thereby lost the ability and/or agility to move up a slope.

Is their muscle fibre wasting away so much that they cannot comprehend the subtlety of the straight-through racing block? Or is it a legacy of the mountain bike boom?

You don’t have to be Kaptain Kryptonite to turn a big ring any more, not with a 30 sprocket on the back. Anyone can do it. Even me. Almost.

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