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I've been into biking for the past 18 months and have just been given permission to buy a new bike. I'm working Ebay to try and stretch my dollars as far as I can.

The frames I'm interested require integrated headsets. I don't know anything about these headsets so have been trolling the internet trying to get smart. Many of the discussions I have come across are dated. So what's the current concensus on integrated headsets? Certainly all the highend frames are coming with them but I don't see a lot of choice when I read the catelogs/websites. What do people think?

As for compact crank sets, what is the concesus on these? I buy into the logic that one can get a wider range of gear ratios with them. However, I don't do a huge amount of hills in my usual rides. If that's the case, is a compact crankset a gimick compared to a traditional set of cranks? I seem to be able to get higher quality/lighter cranks for my money on ebay with traditional cranks than the compact ones.

Thanks for your perspectives, much appreciated.
 

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RoadLoad said:
I've been into biking for the past 18 months and have just been given permission to buy a new bike. I'm working Ebay to try and stretch my dollars as far as I can.

The frames I'm interested require integrated headsets. I don't know anything about these headsets so have been trolling the internet trying to get smart. Many of the discussions I have come across are dated. So what's the current concensus on integrated headsets? Certainly all the highend frames are coming with them but I don't see a lot of choice when I read the catelogs/websites. What do people think?

As for compact crank sets, what is the concesus on these? I buy into the logic that one can get a wider range of gear ratios with them. However, I don't do a huge amount of hills in my usual rides. If that's the case, is a compact crankset a gimick compared to a traditional set of cranks? I seem to be able to get higher quality/lighter cranks for my money on ebay with traditional cranks than the compact ones.

Thanks for your perspectives, much appreciated.
1. Iffin' I were you, I'd focus on finding a frame that fits and pushes your buttons as opposed to worrying about the type of headset.

2. Determine what sort of gearing you need. Some people say with the right gearing you oughta be able to have a cadence of at least 80 on the flats and 70 on der hills....and that should be a comfortable cadence. Of course such things are highly dependent on the individual. At any rate, if your current gearing allows you a comfy cadence in the situations in which you ride, don't change. If not, then it's easier, and cheaper to change the cassette. Still, that might not get you where you want, so maybe compact will get you there.

There's nothing magical about compact cranksets. They're not any lighter--sometimes actually they're heavier than their standard counterparts--and sometimes they require more shifting than a standard. Just focus on the gearing.
 

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RoadLoad said:
So what's the current concensus on integrated headsets? Certainly all the highend frames are coming with them but I don't see a lot of choice when I read the catelogs/websites. What do people think?
None of the high end frames I look at come with them. Chris King makes the best headsets and it I cannot put the best on a frame then it's not high end. Period.

RoadLoad said:
As for compact crank sets, what is the concesus on these?...I don't do a huge amount of hills in my usual rides.
If you don't do a lot of climbing then why are you looking for a compact crank? Get a normal 53-39 and if you want to climb some serious stuff you can put on a different cassette.
 

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Under ACrookedSky said:
None of the high end frames I look at come with them. Chris King makes the best headsets and it I cannot put the best on a frame then it's not high end. Period.
So if the frame that fits a person best happens to have an integrated headset, you advise that person to instead get a frame that doesn't fit quite as well but has a standard headset? Interesting advice. I guess Spin (custom and about as high end as you can get in CF), Time, Look, Cyfac (again, custom and one of the most well respected frame makers out there), DeRosa, Merckx, and so on are not worthy manufacturers? Wow.



Under ACrookedSky said:
If you don't do a lot of climbing then why are you looking for a compact crank? Get a normal 53-39 and if you want to climb some serious stuff you can put on a different cassette.
Do you understand the whole "find the right gearing for you" concept? "Normal" doesn't necessarily work for everyone.
 
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alienator said:
So if the frame that fits a person best happens to have an integrated headset, you advise that person to instead get a frame that doesn't fit quite as well but has a standard headset? Interesting advice. I guess Spin (custom and about as high end as you can get in CF), Time, Look, Cyfac (again, custom and one of the most well respected frame makers out there), DeRosa, Merckx, and so on are not worthy manufacturers? Wow.





Do you understand the whole "find the right gearing for you" concept? "Normal" doesn't necessarily work for everyone.

I have recently become a convert to the Compact Crank. I live in the mountains and find it hard to go a mile from my front door without facing some significant grade changes. As to changing back and forth, I was able to pick up a campy compact crank for essentially the same price as a cassette, so changing the crank was easy.

The other point in favour of compact cranks is that I am getting old, somedays it feels like I am getting OLD, but the compact sure seems to make the rides a bit easier and more enjoyable for me. That's worth the change.
 

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RoadLoad said:
The frames I'm interested require integrated headsets. I don't know anything about these headsets so have been trolling the internet trying to get smart. Many of the discussions I have come across are dated. So what's the current concensus on integrated headsets? Certainly all the highend frames are coming with them but I don't see a lot of choice when I read the catelogs/websites. What do people think?
The main impetus for the integrated headset is aesthetics. The main downside is compatibility - there are presently several competing standards, so if you buy a frame today and the type of headset it uses becomes obsolete tomorrow, then several years down the road when you need to replace the headset, there may be none available.

RoadLoad said:
As for compact crank sets, what is the concesus on these? I buy into the logic that one can get a wider range of gear ratios with them.
That's the common belief, but it isn't really true. Compact cranks give barely any increase in gear range over other double cranksets. It is, afterall, just a double crankset with a 14-16 tooth difference in chainring size, just like any other double crankset - the only difference is that a compact crankset just has smaller chainrings. This has the affect of bringing the entire gearing range down - not only is the low gear lower, but the high gear is lower as well. The same affect can be had by simply using a larger cassette. (Only a larger cassette isn't nearly as "cool" as a compact crankset - at least this year, maybe next year's fashion will be different).

So why have compact cranksets? It's a "normalizing" response to the fashion for compact cassettes. Years ago, most people used a 13 as the smallest sprocket, with a few stronger riders using a 12. Then everybody had to have a 12. So when a 12 sprocket became the norm, people started clamoring for an 11 tooth sprocket. Of course, when combined with a "standard" 53/39 crankset, these gave huge gear ratios that were rarely needed (but everybody had to have anyway "just in case"). As road cycling became more popular, new riders were discovering that the 11/23 cassettes that came with their new bikes didn't provide gearing low enough for hills. One simple solution would be to use a bigger cassette, like a 12/25 or 13/27. But nobody wanted to give up their 11 and 12 tooth sprockets, so instead of making the cassette larger, a new fashion was developed around a recently "invented" compact road crankset. This allowed normal people to have normal-person gears, but still keep their covetted 11 and 12 tooth sprockets. (Of course, the compact crank "innovators" failed to mention that in fact, the compact crank had actually been invented over 30 years ago, and was called a touring crankset at the time - but you can't sell touring equipment to racer wanna-bes - you have to call them "compact racing cranks").
 

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Mark McM said:
The same affect can be had by simply using a larger cassette. (Only a larger cassette isn't nearly as "cool" as a compact crankset - at least this year, maybe next year's fashion will be different).
Probably, but not in all cases. I made an Excel spreadsheet to see what gearing combos would get me closest to what I wanted, and the combo that came out best, giving be the best change between ratios and minimizing duplicate or near duplicate ratios, was a 50/36 w/ 12-25 on the back.
 
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It used to be that the "standard" crankset was a 52/42 and it was pretty common for those of us riding and racing back then to chnage the rings out and quite frequently in the hills I would change out to 50/40.

Chainrings back then didn't cost the earth.

Also, you could swap out your freewheels, and re-build to different ratios for the need. Regina used to sell freewheel kits. Came with two bodies and cogs to build up freewheels from 13 to about (memory here) 28.

Nowadays, individual cogs for cassettes are stupid expensive, cassettes are stupid expensive and cranksets are - comparatively - cheaper.

I do my switching for terrain by swapping out my crankset. As I said above I was able to score a Centaur Crankset for about the price of a cassette. I find the compact works perfectly with the standard FD and it doesn't need to raised or lowered.

I can swap the cranset out in about 5 minutes.

Works for me.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Thanks for all the thoughts, much appreciated.

If I can summarize what I've learned (not necessarily the same as what people wrote).

Compact Cranks:
1. The story about compact cranks is one of repackaging touring crank sized chain rings to be palatable to racing bike owners (like me) who have 11 and 12 sized gears at the top end of their cassettes that they rarely ever use - makes sense (not to mention a new product line to offer).

2. Its all about the actual gear ratios and another way of thinking about meeting my riding needs is to review the size of the gears in my 9 speed cassette. Changing my cassette to include larger gears may be less expensive than buying a compact crank set.

Question: If I go the route of larger gears in my cassette, is there an upper bound on the size of the largest gear if I have a short cage deraileur? I know there is that screw I can adjust to keep the deraileur and cassette apart, if I have a 9 speed deraileur what's the largest gear I could use?

Integrated Headsets.
1. Its asthetics. Can't argue with that. I like the clean look.

2. I should take care when buying a frame designed for an integrated headset because I might buy one and the headset could become obsolete and then I'd be stuck if the headset needs to be repaired or replaced.

Question: What's the scoop on standardization within the integrated headset industry? Certainly they are being used at the highend which always trickles down eventually. Is the integrated headset "industry" still developing such if I bought a frame designed for an integrated headset, there is a good liklihood of getting stuck with an obsolete frame (that would be the worst scenario)?

Thanks for everyone weighing in. I appreciate your perspectives.
 

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Mark McM said:
That's the common belief, but it isn't really true. Compact cranks give barely any increase in gear range over other double cranksets. It is, afterall, just a double crankset with a 14-16 tooth difference in chainring size, just like any other double crankset - the only difference is that a compact crankset just has smaller chainrings. This has the affect of bringing the entire gearing range down - not only is the low gear lower, but the high gear is lower as well. The same affect can be had by simply using a larger cassette. (Only a larger cassette isn't nearly as "cool" as a compact crankset - at least this year, maybe next year's fashion will be different).

So why have compact cranksets? It's a "normalizing" response to the fashion for compact cassettes. Years ago, most people used a 13 as the smallest sprocket, with a few stronger riders using a 12. Then everybody had to have a 12. So when a 12 sprocket became the norm, people started clamoring for an 11 tooth sprocket. Of course, when combined with a "standard" 53/39 crankset, these gave huge gear ratios that were rarely needed (but everybody had to have anyway "just in case"). As road cycling became more popular, new riders were discovering that the 11/23 cassettes that came with their new bikes didn't provide gearing low enough for hills. One simple solution would be to use a bigger cassette, like a 12/25 or 13/27. But nobody wanted to give up their 11 and 12 tooth sprockets, so instead of making the cassette larger, a new fashion was developed around a recently "invented" compact road crankset. This allowed normal people to have normal-person gears, but still keep their covetted 11 and 12 tooth sprockets. (Of course, the compact crank "innovators" failed to mention that in fact, the compact crank had actually been invented over 30 years ago, and was called a touring crankset at the time - but you can't sell touring equipment to racer wanna-bes - you have to call them "compact racing cranks").
Most stock racing cycles come with 12 up cassettes. Trek, Specialized & Scott all spec 12-25 cassettes on even their top models.

Yet customers see pros using 11 top srpockets and have to follow suite. None of them needs or can make use of that 11. I don't think I've ever met anyone capable of doing so other than Sean Kelly!

A compact allows you to have almost the same range as a triple without the complexity & extra weight penalty.
 

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"A compact allows you to have almost the same range as a triple without the complexity & extra weight penalty."

A compact dos not increase your range - it only moves that range. If you need more range, you need a triple. - TF
 

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TurboTurtle said:
A compact dos not increase your range - it only moves that range. If you need more range, you need a triple. - TF

It does increase the range vs a 53/39 if you run a 50/34. The difference between the chainrings is 36% on the 53/39, and 47% on the 50/34.
 

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ericm979 said:
It does increase the range vs a 53/39 if you run a 50/34. The difference between the chainrings is 36% on the 53/39, and 47% on the 50/34.
If you want to shift a 16T difference, then run a 38/54. The point is that you need to pick your gearing and then pick the drive train that gives you those gears is the most convenient (or esthetically pleasing or cheapest or ...) package. - TF
 

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High Gear = Low Wear

paper warrior said:
Don't those 11 or 12 tooth gears wear out real fast?
No, those folks who were duped into converting to compact cranks and using an 11x?? cassette do not use the 11t cog anymore than they used the 12t or 13t cog on their standard cranks (unless they were crossgearing). Rather than buying compact cranks they could have went with a 13x?? or 14x?? cassette in the rear end. With 9 or 10 speed cassettes they would have had great ratios in their most frequently used gears and room for a pie plate to bail out on the steep climbs.

Nearly anytime you see someone with an 11t cog and a compact crank they were fooled by marketing or misinformed by a nonriding salesman. Compacts have their applications, unfortunately that is not how they are being setup.
 

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not quite...

To correct a few folks who apparently have forgotten high school level math, a compact CAN increase range, but only by 7%, just slightly less than a normal 8-9% one-cog shift. This assumes we're talking about the most common 50/34.

Of course there are many other possible compacts setups that can maintain the same range and just shift the gear range downward. A 50/36 or 48/34 will do this without creating the extra cog shifting that the 50/34 does. I don't think anybody mentioned the extra cog shifting caused by wide spaced rings. This can be a real pain if you live in a rolling terrain area where frequent shift between the rings are the norm.

Speaking of a 50/36 with a 12-25, it does not "minimize duplicate gears". When you get down to the 50/23, you shift to the little ring and then up two cogs (smaller) to resume the gearing progression, just the same as you would with a 53/39. The 50/36 does create a larger percentage jump than a 53/39 does at this point. The idea of minimizing duplicate gears idea fails to take ito account a typical gearing progression. To take this idea to an extreme, total nonduplication of gears would require something really stupid like 52/27 chainrings. No one would like the 7-cog shift from a 52/23 to a 27/13 that's required to produce a uniform gearing progression, but there would be NO duplicate gears (excluding the two extreme chain angles).

A compact will NOT provide the same range as a triple. It only lowers the gear range by about 13%. Using a 53/39/28 triple with any given cassette lowers the available range by 28%, providing four lower gear ratios.

If a person really wanted to approximate changing the cassette cogs to one larger across the board and increase the range by one more cog, the real sensible compact would be a 49/33.

Switching to a cassette with larger cogs is obviously the easier method to lower all the gear ratios. The problem is that shimano has forgotten this and offers no cassettes that start with a 13 and end with something larger than the 27 tooth already offered with a 12-27. You can get "junior gearing" cassettes with closer spacing, but no increased range. Campy at least offers the 13-29.
 
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C-40 said:
Switching to a cassette with larger cogs is obviously the easier method to lower all the gear ratios. The problem is that shimano has forgotten this and offers no cassettes that start with a 13 and end with something lower than the 27 tooth already offered with a 12-27. You can get "junior gearing" cassettes with closer spacing, but no increased range. Campy at least offers the 13-29.

Agreed on all points, the next problem though with the 13-29 cassette is that too many of the bikes being sold are being sold with a short cage derailleur "cause that's what the big boys use" and I would question the use of a short cage derailleur with a 39/29 combination. Probably need a medium anyway.

As I said before, for me the choice was easy as I got the compact crankset for about the price of a cassette.
 

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correct..

It would be wise if prebuilt Campy equipped bikes just came with a medium cage to handle all the cassettes offered. A 13-29 can be used with a short cage,but the only safe way to do it lequires a 1-inch longer chain, leaving the 39T and several smallest cogs unuseable.
 

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C-40 said:
Speaking of a 50/36 with a 12-25, it does not "minimize duplicate gears". When you get down to the 50/23, you shift to the little ring and then up two cogs (smaller) to resume the gearing progression, just the same as you would with a 53/39. The 50/36 does create a larger percentage jump than a 53/39 does at this point. The idea of minimizing duplicate gears idea fails to take ito account a typical gearing progression. To take this idea to an extreme, total non duplication of gears would require something really stupid like 52/27 chainrings. No one would like the 7-cog shift from a 52/23 to a 27/13 that's required to produce a uniform gearing progression, but there would be NO duplicate gears (excluding the two extreme chain angles).
Minimizes with respect to the type of gearing I want. The thing below is the developed gear ratios(inches) for my wheels. Note that I don't really care what ratios happen in the big cross chain ratios (56-23,56-25,36-12,36-13). There is one large jump in the chart, but I can live with that. According to the spreadsheet, this is what gave me best what I wanted.
 
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