I think my straight cog days are over. My 13-18 Regina America (ultra-six freewheel, baby!) will probably never be used by me again. My 13-24 six speed freewheel is now becoming not low enough (42-53 chainrings). I'm seriously considering setting up either the DeRosa or the Vitus with a triple and touring ratios. The Ibis Mountain Trials has a 24-34-44 and a 14-34 six speed cassette. Combine that with the 24 inch rear and it's faster to walk uphill than pedal the granny, but rolling and wind resistance!
April's monthly displacement miles is 204.1 for a calendar 2009 tally of 432.65 miles.
My bike is a Raleigh Super Course from 1978, and it has a 6 speed rear cluster by the extinct company, Suntour, which replaced the 5 speed cluster it came with.
The largest once was a 30 (I lived in a place where 30% hills were common) and the smallest was a 13....but now the largest is a 25 (WAY too big for where I live now) and the smallest is a 14, because my NOS Suntour supplier is out of 13s. So now I have no top end at all, even with my Campagnolo Record 53 on the front. I wear out the small cog every three years or so and they are of course quasi-unobtainable.
I think in a few more years it might be time to retire this old hag of a bike, whose frame is rusting in a few spots - I touch it up every year and more rust pops up. This bike has served me well for 31 years, but then again, I may have three kids in university all at the same time then (only two this year!), which costs a few dollars. So maybe it will have to go on, and on and on.
New bikes have thinner cogs and chains to make room for more gears, so they wear out much faster. Old 5 speed freewheels have thick cogs and chains. Riding in the same gear will wear it out quicker. Smaller gears wear out quicker because theres fewer teeth to carry the load. That's why I like to ride in the largest chainring possible without cross chaining.
I wish I was still able to ride a bike and get in on this, but since I injured my back about 10 years ago I've tried to ride a bike short distances a few times. Once I rode about 1/2 mile and had to climb a hill to return home, when I got home I had to go to bed because of back pain. Back when I was 13-16 years old it wasn't uncommon for me to ride a bike 25-50 miles a day because it was my only transportation besides hitch hiking, but being near 50 now I know I couldn't ride that far even if I didn't have the back injury. I would always put a speedometer on my bike so I could keep track of the miles. I probably logged close to 10,000 miles during my early teenage years.
Wow! I have no idea how that can happen. Every sprocket on the original 5-speed freewheel of my 1973 Paris Sport is still in great shape after more than ten thousand miles.
I have about 28,000 miles on my 1978 Raleigh Super Course and virtually all of that is post-1986 on a six speed rear cluster.
If you ride with the chain being stretched for a while, it will wear the smaller cogs to the point where the chain can jump under high torque conditions (like pounding up a steep hill in a tall gear, standing up). Usually you will only notice this once you put a new chain on worn cogs.
I have had to change the smallest cog twice now, so once every 9000 miles or so. As I say, you usually will notice the jumping of gears when you fit a new chain. Chains should be changed every couple of years, if you ride say 1500 miles a year, as a rule, to avoid this.
If you have an original chain on a 10,000 mile bike, it is mega-stretched and as soon as you put a new one on, it will skip on the smaller cogs.