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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I have a 50/34T compact Ultegra 6800 11-speed crank (with Di2, fwiw), and a bike frame with a conventional bb shell and an 11-32T 11-speed cassette. (The claimed maximum for Di2 is 16T in the front, and up to 32T in the cassette. It also does not allow one to run a triple crankset, which would be the obvious answer.)

For the last couple of years I have been pondering putting a smaller crank on there, to be able to access a really low gear on occasional steep climbs or if I decide to tour again. On most climbs, the 34T front with the 32T rear is fine. We have one road around here (called Alba Road) with some 15% to 18% grades, and even with this low combo, it nearly put me in the coronary care unit. Having entered my declining years about a quarter of a century ago, this will only get worse I suppose.

Anyway, with a 46T large chainring, I only lose the one topmost gear (50/11); it turns out 50/12 = 46/11 ± 0.01, and I hardly ever use 50/11, so why not?

The main problem seems to be lack of options, which in turn is probably driven by consumer interest (and the idea that you are a wuss if you have an expanded range of gearing). People get old, get injured, carry loads, go off-road, climb very steep hills, etc, so the prejudice is unjustified.

I've come across a few options, and experimented with one on an old bike. I'd love to see other options, and hear about other's experiences, especially with Di2.

Defiant Wide Compact Road Crank Set (50/34T square taper, about $200)

Defiant Wide Compact Road Crank Set: IRD



I purchased this for my 1987 Bianchi renewal project. My original crank is a Gippeme 52/42, which combined with a corn-cob freewheel, was fine when I was 25. Now I am 53 and am riding the steepest hills of my life, I thought this was worth a try. The crankset is silver-colored and looks like a classic crankset that complements Campy parts if you don't look very closely. It is nominally rated for 10sp. (I have a 7 speed, and I have also heard it works ok on an 11-speed.) The crank arms are very pretty. The chainwheels are very basic but functional. Seems to ride ok.

White Industries VBC Crank (many gearing options, square taper, $250 crank + $150 for two chainrings = $400 ( + $125+ bb ) = expensive

ROAD CRANKS: White Industries



These look like a thing of beauty in the website photospread. I have not seen them in person. These also seem to be by far the most versatile option, and with both black and sliver-colored options, could complement either a classic or modern look. The negatives I have heard mentioned are clunky shifting compared to Ultegra, the requirement for a square-taper bb (although a BB30 version is said to be in production -- no use to me but perhaps to others), and cost (although it is said you get what you pay for in terms of manufacturing quality with this. Made in CA.) I've been very close to pulling the trigger on this, but having broken a square taper bb axle 25 years ago (and when I was 20lbs lighter), I worry about the bb. I would love to have more feedback on this option.

Middleburn 'Super-Compact' Crank 46/30T 24mm axle £417.00.

ROAD CHAINSETS EXTERNAL BB | Middleburn Shop



This looks like it could be a drop-in replacement for my Ultegra 6800 crank. The price (> $600) and shockingly ugly appearance keep me from pulling the trigger, but otherwise this is ideal from my point of view. The website has a bunch of other options. I would love to hear about other's experiences.

FSA Omega MegaExo (48/32T and 46/30T and more standard options, BB30 and 'MegaExo' versions).

FSA Omega MegaExo - Full Speed Ahead



(This is an older 50/34T. FSA's Website won't allow display of image)

I just found this (with help) on the website, but I haven't seen it offered for sale. I don't know anything about their cranks or bb, but there seems to be a lot of negativity on the internet. The standard-size version seems quite inexpensive. I don't understand what 'MegaExo' means, but I am hoping it means it could fit my conventional bb shell.


Praxis Works Alba Crankset 48/32T, BB30 only (?), $175

https://www.praxiscycles.com/product/alba-m30/



This is named after the road that is inspiring me to find a solution. If I could fit it on the bike, I would buy this, as it is local, named Alba, and the company is well-regarded. Alas, it seems they only make bb30 stuff, unless I really missed something.


More Info
I found this link with some similar listings last night:
Low Gear Range: Road Shifters & Gears For Easier Hill Climbing - CyclingAbout CyclingAbout
 

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I know this isn't really the answer you are looking for but if it were me, I would get a second bike with super-low gearing. I have a Campy triple bike that I use on the hilliest routes. I know you really want to stick with Di2 but now that you are getting older you should be going retro and eschewing that newfangled electronic stuff anyway
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Excellent point. Purchasing another bike is a lot less expensive than purchasing a crankset.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I've got so many bikes I have to give some away to keep out of divorce court. (Unfortunately one was my Trek 520 touring bike, which had a nice granny gear.)

I've already put a 46/30 on my Bianchi.

I'm interested in the best option for this particular bike. I live in steep hills, and also like to ride it off-road, so really this one is the "second" bike. As for compromises, one point I was trying to make was that the ONLY thing I would lose is the 50/11 gear, which I have almost never used. Given how little compromise there is, I am rather surprised Shimano and other big brands don't have 46/30 crank offerings. (I got the Di2, BTW, because it was bundled with hydraulic brakes at the time. However, I am not at all sorry. It really is nice.)

I was hoping just to get a discussion going. The only (implicit) question I have is whether I have missed other options.
 

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I've got so many bikes I have to give some away to keep out of divorce court. (Unfortunately one was my Trek 520 touring bike, which had a nice granny gear.)

I've already put a 46/30 on my Bianchi.

I'm interested in the best option for this particular bike. I live in steep hills, and also like to ride it off-road, so really this one is the "second" bike. As for compromises, one point I was trying to make was that the ONLY thing I would lose is the 50/11 gear, which I have almost never used. Given how little compromise there is, I am rather surprised Shimano and other big brands don't have 46/30 crank offerings. (I got the Di2, BTW, because it was bundled with hydraulic brakes at the time. However, I am not at all sorry. It really is nice.)

I was hoping just to get a discussion going. The only (implicit) question I have is whether I have missed other options.
A 46/30 is probably good option for lots of folks, but I think the OEM market will continue to drive the options.
 

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MegaExo is the FSA external bearing, threaded BB (like Hollowtech ll).

I'd consider an MTB crankset (XT?) but you'd probably have to buy new chainrings.

That FSA Omega is probably the cheapest option.

Years ago I used chemical remover to take the black paint off a LX crank to better match a touring bike. Worked great and was easy to polish the arms to a mirror finish.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks. Do you happen to know if the FSA crank would be compatible with the Shimano BB I'm using for my Ultegra 6800 crank? If that is the case, then I could just get the thing and occasionally swap out the Shimano crank if I know I am going to need lower gearing.
 

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Cranky Old Bastard
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Thanks. Do you happen to know if the FSA crank would be compatible with the Shimano BB I'm using for my Ultegra 6800 crank? If that is the case, then I could just get the thing and occasionally swap out the Shimano crank if I know I am going to need lower gearing.
Great idea!
I've got two FSA MegaExo cranks and was concerned because I've read their BBs don't last (but I've not had any trouble with them so far).
So I bought a 6800 BB and was disappointed that the FSA spindle won't fit because it is .001" bigger than the ID of the bearings.
I will polish that .001 off and use the Shimano BBs.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Let me know if it works (or doesn't). Elsewhere, I've since read that in general it won't work with their carbon cranks, but will with their cheaper aluminum cranks (of which the Omega seems to be one).

Also, has anyone actually seen a 46/30T FSA Omega crank for sale anywhere?
 

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I worked as a machinist much of my life and won't have any trouble taking that .001" off. I could even chuck them in a lathe at my brother's shop but that won't be necessary.

I bought both the Gossamer and Energy cranks cheap as close-outs from Nashbar a couple of years ago. They don't have them anymore.
I just googled it and didn't find any of the 46/30s but some places that sell the Omega set. You may have to check a lot of sites to find one and I'd email FSA and ask them. The 50/34 on Amazon is only $75.
 

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Praxis Works Alba Crankset 48/32T, BB30 only (?), $175

https://www.praxiscycles.com/product/alba-m30/



This is named after the road that is inspiring me to find a solution. If I could fit it on the bike, I would buy this, as it is local, named Alba, and the company is well-regarded. Alas, it seems they only make bb30 stuff, unless I really missed something.


More Info
I found this link with some similar listings last night:
Low Gear Range: Road Shifters & Gears For Easier Hill Climbing - CyclingAbout CyclingAbout
I know this an old post but I wondered if you settled on something. I too would love a 30 with my 32 for the steep climbs. What did the OP end up getting?
 
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