48/33 Rings for Rene Herse Cranks

We’re offering a new chainring combination for our 11-speed compatible Rene Herse cranks. The 48/33 is a perfect size for fast-paced group rides – you won’t get dropped even on downhills with a tailwind, yet the 48 is a bit smaller than the more common 50, allowing you to stay in the big ring on most hills. And if it gets really steep, the 33 extends your range down to a 1:1 gear with most cassettes – or beyond.

This is the combination that I ride in Paris-Brest-Paris, where strong tailwinds and fast groups can require slightly bigger gears than we use during our adventures in the Cascade Mountains.

Why the 15-tooth step between chainrings rather than the more common 16-tooth? To understand why a 48/32 doesn’t work well, let’s look at how ramped-and-pinned chainrings work.

The pins pick up the chain and lift it onto the big ring. The ramps only make room for the chain, so it can smoothly climb onto the big ring; they don’t actually lift the chain.

Chains are made of ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ links. The pins on the large chainring work only if they mesh with an ‘outer’ chain link, right in the middle of the link (above). Inner links are recessed and won’t touch the pin.

The problem with a 48/32 is that both tooth counts are divisible by 16. This means that there are 16 possible positions for the pins. The bad news is that those 16 positions always hit the same chain link – either an inner or an outer – depending on how the chain is placed on the chainring. If the pins always hit inner links, they won’t help with the shifting at all.

In other words, the 16 possible pin positions on a 48/32 ring are duplicates. What you need are (at least) two distinct positions, so there’s always a pin that hits an outer link – no matter how the chain goes on the ring.

That is why we make a 48/33, where the pins always line up with outer (and inner) chainlinks, no matter how the chain is placed on the ring. That is how all ramped-and-pinned chainrings work: Half the pins don’t do anything, but the other half pick up the chain reliably. It doesn’t matter how the chain is positioned on the chainring – half the pins line up correctly.

Now you can see why ramped-and-pinned chainrings only work in pairs. That is why the big ring is marked not just with its own tooth number, but also with the small ring size for which it is designed.

Some makers offer rings that just have a few ramps and pins, without a clearly designed path for the chain. Usually, they are marked only with their own size. Those rings still shift OK – the same as classic chainrings. It’s just that those ramps and pins don’t really do much… and with narrow 11-speed chains, it gets harder to lift the chain to the big ring without the help of a pin.

With the new chainrings, Rene Herse cranks are the only 11-speed compatible cranks with a full range of customized gearing: 48/33; 46/30; 44/28; 42/26. It’s great to have those gearing options, whether you want the new 48/33 for fast group rides or the 42/26 (above) for mountain adventures. We have you covered. And you’ll get shifting that rivals the very best from the big makers, plus superlight, forged arms that pass the most stringent EN ‘Racing Bike’ fatigue test.

If you bought a Rene Herse crankset in the past, you’ll like that all our cranks (since we introduced them in 2011) are easy to convert to 11-speed. All you need is a new 11-speed large chainring. We designed the new rings so they work with our existing small rings and crankarms. Because we don’t believe in planned obsolescence, and we are committed to supporting our products in the long run.

Click here for more information about Rene Herse cranks.

About Jan Heine

Spirited rides that zig-zag across mountain ranges. Bicycle Quarterly magazine and its sister company, Rene Herse Cycles, that turns our research into the high-performance components we need for our adventures.
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25 Responses to 48/33 Rings for Rene Herse Cranks

  1. TWC says:

    Thank you. I always enjoy your posts. I learned something new from this one! Very interesting.

  2. Karl says:

    I have been using the 48×33 combination for some time now with my 1990’s, 110 bcd Shimano mtb crank. I just could not get comfortable with a 34 tooth small chainring what with all the super steep climbing in my region. A German company sells a 110 bcd 33 tooth ring on eBay. Now that Rene Herse is making a 33, I think I will invest in a Rene Herse crank— that’s how enamored I am with the 48×33 and 46×33 combinations.

  3. thebvo says:

    44/28 are both divisible by 4, so does that mean that there are 4 possibilities for pin positions on the big ring? Is there something inherent to 16 in this situation? I can visualize the pin missing an inner link, but why only with 16 as opposed to any other even number?

    • Jan Heine says:

      The problem with 32 is that it’s 2×16. You can put the pins anywhere so they line up with half the teeth of the small ring, but not with the other half. And a chain has two types of links, so your outer link will always line up, or never line up. If you had 16 positions with a 48-tooth ring, it would be fine, since it would be every third tooth, not every second…

      There is a lot more to it than I could explain in the short post, and of course we don’t want to give away all the results from 2 years of research by our engineering team…

  4. James says:

    Will the chainrings be available separately?

  5. kai says:

    Jan, could you elaborate a little of the top gear? with a 48 its hard to get the top gear i prefer without using an 11t cog. that however is a problematic gadget, it wears itself and the chain out in short time if used more than very occasionally. my experience is soon after a new cassette is broken in it it really doesnt pay off to to gear up from 12t to 11t becuase of the soon to come friction of the latter. i find it then ‘cheaper’ to increase cadency on the 12t.

    what is your take on these small cogs vs a bigger chainring? now even 10t is getting commonplace…

    • Jan Heine says:

      If you need that large a top gear, I agree that a larger ring would be beneficial. We do offer rings up to 52, but not in 11-speed (yet).

      However, a 48×12 allows you to go 45-48 km/h (28-30 mph) at 90 rpm, depending on your wheel size. Most riders reach those speeds only on downhills, where tucking and coasting is faster – at those speeds, reducing your wind resistance by 25+% has greater benefits than adding a few hundreds watts in power. If you are a strong sprinter, you’ll probably have a higher cadence: At 130 rpm, you’ll go 65-70 km/h (40+ mph)!

      I run a 48×14 as the highest gear on my Herse, and so far, I haven’t been dropped yet because I ran out of gears… I do use all gears on the bike, unlike many Bicycle Quarterly test bikes, where almost half the cassette gets dragged around without ever seeing any use.

      • kai says:

        thanks for reply! and i thought i was a little excentric having 13t on the top gear on my 90s road bike. but when i build new bikes i have settled for 12t for the top gear, it sems to be an acceptable compromise between speed and efficiency as well as wear. you seem to be on the same route ditching the (too) small cogs. nice to hear that.

        your top gear on your Herse should be around 92, and being an expert biker with high cadence you reach speeds that i as a lower cadence amateur need higher gearing to achieve.

    • Ed B says:

      As a gear masher who considers himself reasonably swift for a randonneur, I use a 53/39 crankset and 11-28 11 speed cassette. I normally plod along at 75-80 rpm at 20-24 mph in a 53-14, 15, or 16 along the flats. A 48 ring would be about perfect for me. The only time I use the 12 and maybe the 11 (downhill) is during a 20 minute blast on a 10 mile TT and this is 30 mph average speed. On a brevet? Never. Just me. Once I get to 27-28 mph, I’m tucked, chewing, or scratching. The advantage is also better efficiency WRT chainline and lower wear. I used to get over 4000 miles on a chain and way over 10,000 miles on a cassette but I do wax and Squirt frequently. I now get over 10,000 miles on a chain (recumbent). Taking the chain off and cleaning it very well is the best way to maximize its life but I have no idea if 11 cog use wears it out, mine looks all shiny and new. Pretty rings BTW

  6. Rick Thompson says:

    Since I’ve not gone beyond 9 speed on any bike yet, am wondering if this is mostly an issue with the narrower chains and spacing of the more tightly packed cogs. My RH 44/26 rampless and pinless front rings shift flawlessly on 9 speed, but I am afraid that I will be forced to go to the newer configurations as old stuff goes obsolete. I mean, I’m having to use 3 bladed razors now…

    • Jan Heine says:

      Natsuko chose 10-speed components for her new bike, because they are compatible with downtube shifters. She also uses standard chainrings, since she wants to run a 42/24, which we don’t offer in a ramped-and-pinned version. It shifts very well – but that is helped by the magic C. S. Hirose worked on the front derailleur…

  7. SteveP says:

    I have had success with a 44/22 combination crankset. I was warned it might not work, but I’ve not dropped the chain yet. It’s ten-speed. I see no benefit of more for the type of riding I do (and in fact have several 9-spd bikes). Yes, it’s nice to have tiny steps when riding into the wind in a group, but otherwise not important to me

  8. John Hinton says:

    I’m a fan of 8 and 9 speed stuff. Will the ramp and pin magic work with those systems, or do I have to buy other models of RH cranksets? Or does it simply not matter with those chains?

    • Jan Heine says:

      The ramps and pins work with 7, 8, 9 and 10-speed as well as 11-speed. They probably work for 5- and 6-speed as well, but we haven’t tried that. We recommend using the Shimano Ultegra chain appropriate for the number of speeds your cassette/freewheel has.

  9. Doug L. says:

    Interesting conversation with other’s experiences using 48-33 etc. chain wheel combinations, with and with out ramps and pins. I have been using 46-33 with ramps and pins which works very well on my road bike. My general purpose machine has 46-32 with no ramps and pins. It does not shift quite as crisp as the 46-33. Both have the same Centaur front derailleur. Question: Have you noticed an improvement in shifting without ramps and pins when using the combinations you listed starting with 48-33? .

  10. Brian says:

    Jan- What cassette range did you pair with the 42/26 crankset for the solstice ride?

    • Jan Heine says:

      I think it’s a 12-27 or something similar. Worked really well – the 42×27 allowed me to climb most hills in the ‘big’ ring.

  11. Frank says:

    Hi Jan and Rene Herse.
    Still here, patiently waiting for a 1 x chainring.
    Best. Frank

  12. Jacob Musha says:

    I recently put a Rene Herse crank with 44/24 chainrings on my touring bike and I’m very happy with it. The front shifting is fine in my opinion (with an old Deore LX), and like you say, I hardly make front shifts anymore since I use the big ring for almost everything. It makes me think the 18 tooth gap I chose for my allroad bike was conservative… I will probably try 20 tooth gaps from now on.

  13. zigak says:

    Any recommendations for the cassette with the 14t smallest cog? Miche is the only manufacturer I know of that offers such a cassette.

  14. Sam Krueger says:

    How about a movement for narrow range doubles? I run 34-44, with a wide range 9 speed cassette (12-36). It’s great – I find the 10 tooth front gives me a great transition shift as I hit a hill or crest over a rollover, etc. With STI the front shifts are effortless and fun to make. The low gear is just low enough for most all-road unloaded riding – if I was touring, a lower gear would definitely be needed.
    I’ve always hated the shift to a tiny granny front ring where you start spinning out and need to make massive adjustments on the rear. OTOH, I’m not strong enough to stay in the 44 front all the time, as where I live it’s very hilly and I’m not an uber stud like Jan and you guys, so constantly making large gear shifts.

    • Jan Heine says:

      There is definitely a place for 44/34s and similar gear combinations, especially with modern 10- or 11-speed cassettes that offer plenty of range on the rear. We offer them with our standard chainrings, just not (yet) 11-speed compatible.

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