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I'm not sure what 27-inches means

It's the distance the bike moves in one revolution of the crankset

Nope, that would be "27 inches development". "Gear inches" refers to the nominal wheel diameter multiplied by the gear ratio. Approximately, development == gear inches * pi.

I prefer to use development as my unit, taking into account the actual circumference of the wheel and tire. Only at that point can you compare apples-to-apples among a broad range of bicycles.

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