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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My bike is set up with a Ultegra triple thats getting a little tired and have thought about going to a compact...the new Shimano looks nice! I ride mostly in the Cascade foothills so I tend to stay in more in the middle to high gears. I don't have access to a bike set up with a compact, at least one where I can have the time to really try it out. Would I miss the close spacing I get with the set up I have now? Any feedback about your experience vs. what you gave up would be appreciated.
 

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I switched from a triple to a compact a few years ago - when I bought a new bike. Lack of close gear spacing has not been an issue for me. I run a 12-25 rear on one bike and a 16-27 on another with 50-34.

Cons:

I found myself shifting the FD more often and when shifting the FD I almost always must shift the RD in advance or almost at the same time. I got used to this very quickly,

Lower overall hard gear which I NEVER miss.

One less easy gear which I ALMOST never miss.

A friend with the exact same bike and components but in a smaller frame size experienced slightly more chain rub on his FD at extreme chain angles when going from a standard crank setup (not a triple) to a compact crank.

Pros:

I found smoother and crisper shifting.

FD adjustment is easier.

I like the cosmetics of a compact more than a triple.

For me it's not a huge difference. I don't think I would make the change on an existing triple that was working properly, If components required replacement or I was considering a new bike I would go with a compact.
 

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I have a triplle and a compact. I really like the look of the compact but prefer the triple. On the triple I shift the front ring MUCH less than on the compact. I rarely ever use the bottom ring but its great to have on that really long ride where a monster hill shows up.
 

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I just switched from a double (39x53) to a compact (34x50) on my commuter-touring bike. I like it a lot and have no regrets. It shifts flawlessly and gives me a lot more low-end gearing. I've never had a triple on my bikes, although I have ridden them, because I've heard so many people complain about shifting problems with them.
 

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No regret recipe.

Simply put all your triple stuff into a pasteboard box and put it somewhere where you can't see it. That way, you won't be tempted to ebay the triple parts right away. Given hills steep enough and rides long enough, you might want to return to the triple, even if it's just temporary.
 

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I went from triple, to standard double to compact. Love it, race it, train on it. I have cassettes for different conditions. 11-23 crits and non hilly races, 11-25 all around, 12-27 for rare day long rides in mountains.
 

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I've used both extensively, and long story short is this- I wouldn't sweat the decision too much. With today's outstanding shifting performance, they both work great. Yes there are advantages to both, and disadvantages to both, but in the end, it's pretty much 6 of one or a half dozen of the other. With the new 10 speed rear clusters, a compact with a wide range cassette like a 12-27 should give you a low enough gear without having too big of a jump between gears, but on the other hand you do end up shifting your front derailleur a lot more, beacuse of the large jump between the small and big rings. With a triple, it's like you have more normal jumps in the front, you can run a little tighter cluster in the back, but the front shifting can be a little bit more finicky. Bpayne has good advice though, keeping a few different cassettes on hand can be useful. But in the end, you'll get used to the minor disadvantages of either system, so don't sweat it!
 

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Not riding a compact I appreciate the info about shifting your FD more. I was considering buying a compact for my build but as I really hate shifting in the front I will likely not purchase one and instead try it out first on a borrowed bike.
 

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I don't find that I shift my front derailleur any more with the compact than a standard double crank. If anything it might be less because I can keep it in the big ring more often, particularly on rolling terrain.
 

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yakky said:
I have a triplle and a compact. I really like the look of the compact but prefer the triple. On the triple I shift the front ring MUCH less than on the compact. I rarely ever use the bottom ring but its great to have on that really long ride where a monster hill shows up.
+1, this is completely true. Sometimes, even with a wide range of gears, compact misses a couple of sweetspots.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I use the granny gear mostly on longer uphills, 6% +. If your familiar with RAMROD (one day, 160 miles, ride around Mt. Rainier), the lower gears really come in handy. I had some knee issues many years ago riding the hills of Palos Verdes, CA mosty because my bike was set up with "racing gears", just so it looked cool, I suppose. After moving to Washington State I knew if I wanted to keep riding I had to consider terrain and fitness. Now, at 56, I can enjoy riding and not have aches afterwards. Since I live in the foothills near Mt. Rainier I tend to do most of my riding in that area.
 

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When I first got into road bike 5 years ago i had a triple and i started to try compact and i never when back. i have shimano set up with sram 11-26 cassette with all my 5 bikes and I love it!!
 

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dirthersh said:
I use the granny gear mostly on longer uphills, 6% +. If your familiar with RAMROD (one day, 160 miles, ride around Mt. Rainier), the lower gears really come in handy. I had some knee issues many years ago riding the hills of Palos Verdes, CA mosty because my bike was set up with "racing gears", just so it looked cool, I suppose. After moving to Washington State I knew if I wanted to keep riding I had to consider terrain and fitness. Now, at 56, I can enjoy riding and not have aches afterwards. Since I live in the foothills near Mt. Rainier I tend to do most of my riding in that area.
Not familiar with the area, I'm on the right coast. Can you maybe put a percentage of time you are in each chainring? Like 20% granny, 60% middle, 20% big? I ride compacts and really like them, but the terrain out here is very different.
 

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I went from a triple to a compact about a year and a half ago. I like in Utah where we do have some good climbing. I'm a fairly big guy so the aspects of a triple still appeal to me.

Advantages of a triple:
a few more better gears for the hills.
closer gear spacing (this directly relates to how much shifting you do)

Disadvantages of a triple:
weight
FD adjustment a lot more sensitive
more maintainence required

Advantages of a compact:
simple
low weight
smooth shifting
good range of gears(every now and then wished I had that 1 or 2 more gears lower or higher)

Disadvantages of a compact:
have to double shift when shifting the FD (either go up or down on the back when shifting the front)
range of gears


Overall I prefer the compact but I do use specific cassettes depending on the rides. My everyday cassette is a 12-27. For most races and flatter rides I put on a 11-26 or 11-23.

ScubaD
 

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What is getting worn on your triple? If it is just the crankset, you can get good deals on a DuraAce 7803 for about $250. Now if your brifters are worn out too, then consideration of a compact is warranted

Adjusting the FD on a triple may take a little more fine tuning. That's maybe 5
minutes. Big deal.

I don't mind toting the extra 70g that may triple weighs cause on those rare occations when I need it, it's there.
 

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dirthersh said:
I use the granny gear mostly on longer uphills, 6% +. If your familiar with RAMROD (one day, 160 miles, ride around Mt. Rainier), the lower gears really come in handy. I had some knee issues many years ago riding the hills of Palos Verdes, CA mosty because my bike was set up with "racing gears", just so it looked cool, I suppose. After moving to Washington State I knew if I wanted to keep riding I had to consider terrain and fitness. Now, at 56, I can enjoy riding and not have aches afterwards. Since I live in the foothills near Mt. Rainier I tend to do most of my riding in that area.
If you want to get an estimate of what range of gears the compact would offer and how it would feel, I recommend playing around with Sheldon Brown's gear calculator, or something similar. Just plug in your current triple set up and compare it to the compact setup you would get. You'll be able to tell which lower gear ratios/combos you'll lose going to a compact. If those are gears you find you use, then you probably want to stay with the triple.
I ride a compact in the foothills up around Bellingham and they are fine for me. I'm looking at trying RAMROD this year and I know by the end of the second climb I'll be wishing for a triple.

http://www.sheldonbrown.com/gears/
 

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TiCruiser said:
If you want to get an estimate of what range of gears the compact would offer and how it would feel, I recommend playing around with Sheldon Brown's gear calculator, or something similar. Just plug in your current triple set up and compare it to the compact setup you would get. You'll be able to tell which lower gear ratios/combos you'll lose going to a compact. If those are gears you find you use, then you probably want to stay with the triple.
I ride a compact in the foothills up around Bellingham and they are fine for me. I'm looking at trying RAMROD this year and I know by the end of the second climb I'll be wishing for a triple.

http://www.sheldonbrown.com/gears/
I'm about to make the switch so it remains to be seen how much I'm going to miss my triple. My decision to switch was largely driven by biomechanics. The Q factor on my Campy triple was just too much for my knees (I'm a woman with narrow hips). In building up my soon-to-be-new Moots, the Q factor on the compact just made more sense.

I spent a lot of time using Sheldon Brown's gear calculator, then, not to figure out whether I wanted a compact, but what cassette I could get away with. What hills we have in Indiana are short but very steep. I'm not a bad climber, but I often relied on my littlest of gears at the end of long climbing rides. With the 13-26, I lose my biggest gears and my smallest gear. I may miss the close spacing that I have with my triple, but the 13-26 rear/50-34 front offers some of the "middle" gear ratios that I use the most, so hopefully it won't be that big of an issue. I may also use a 11-23 on the flatlands. It just depends on how much I miss a closer spread.
 

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I live in the Smoky Mountain where we have a lot of mountains. Although they aren't as big as the Cascades, they can top 5,000 ft. I started out on a triple, finally went to a compact, but have switched back to a triple on all my bikes. The reason - I'm 60 and I want to insure the long term health of my knees. I can horse my way to the top on a compact or even a 53/39, but why kill my knees for the sake of cleaner shifting?
 
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