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me rikey to bikey
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60 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm moving from a flat prairie town to the west coast, which will have much more climbing. I currently have an 11/26 cassette and a double crank (52/39).

I've done the search and see lots of varied responses - but I'm still reluctant to go to a triple. I like the thought of (roughly) 13% lower gearing, and am happy to sacrifice the high gear loss - I'm 220lbs, and wouldn't mind some help on the hills.

Who's swapped out their double for a compact? Are you glad you did? Would you rather a triple?

Info appreciated.
 

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Darling of The Lounge
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5,336 Posts
I made the switch

Had a 53/39 and switched to a compact 50/34. I also have a 52/42/50 triple on another bike. Overall I'm happy with the switch. However, I would try riding at your new location for a bit first before spending coin on a compact setup. IMHO
 

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trying to HTFU...
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1,910 Posts
only half-way there

i just ordered a 38t and a 50t set of chainrings(130bcd) to replace my
39/53 setup. i also ordered a 12-25(8spd) to replace the 13-23 cassette.
so yes, i'm going as low as i can on my crank, but i'm not actually
replacing the entire crank. hopefully this will help me out on the
hills as well. here in the LA area, it can be quite hilly and i need all
the help i can get right now(returning rider after a longish hiatus)
the rings and cassette cost less than 100 bucks including shipping
for new, retail gear. that's about 40-50 bucks cheaper than a whole
new crank; i was looking at the FSA stuff, some are about 130$
(gossamer compact?) the other issue i was considering was the whole
ISIS BB thing. avoiding that would have meant going for an octalink
BB or one of the external BB designs(megaEXO, for example)
anywho, being a lazy-ish sort, i chose the easy way out by replacing
just the chainrings. if i find that need even more low end, i can
always order a 28t cog.

as i've noted in another thread elsewhere on RBR my next build
will probably have a compact crank if only to give me more flexibility
in choosing the appropriate chainrings. i think it's a lot simpler to
swap rings than pull a whole crank.

where on the left coast are you now?
 

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century rider
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116 Posts
count me in

did the switch to compacts about late 2002. I was searching the net for a triple to replace my 53/39 when I came across stronglight's granfondo 50/36 crank. It was called as touring cranks back then before tyler and FSA named it compact. I has since replaced it with FSAs carbon compact 50/34 as I found I still need lower gearing for my riding. you won't regret it!
 

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Registered
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175 Posts
Nope

I'm the opposite. I have a 50/36 and now wish I had a standard crank. I needed the compact when I started riding 2 years ago, but now I'm strong enough to get up the hills around here with the middle of my cogset. On the way down hill, I frequently max out my 50 - 12 gear ( I live in a very hilly area). Not a big deal as all the time trials I do are fairly flat, but I'd prefer the smoother shifting standard crank at this point.
 

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Cannot bench own weight
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4,298 Posts
Went from 53/39 to 50/34. Going back to 53/39, and i'm a clyde. I just can't ever find the right chainring. It's either a little to much or a lot too little. Going from 34 to 36 might help a bit, however i'm just going to stick a 13-29 on and switch back to standard cranks.

Let me know if you want a great deal on a Record Carbon CT crank, about 500-600 miles on it.
 

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eminence grease
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18,559 Posts
I was glad I did it once I changed the 50/34 to a 50/38 which is pretty much like saying it was a royal waste of time and money.

My CC is currently sitting in a bike. It does have a role for the future, it's going to go on a travel bike I'm building. I'll throw a 34 and 36T ring in the case with it since I will be living in Asia and it will be my only bike. I figure those combinations will provide me the ultimate in flexibility.

For everyday riding though, that conversion caused far more problems than it solved. At least for me.
 

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168 Posts
I switched from a standard double to a 34/50 compact. Rode for about 1,500 miles. I had some rides with a lot of climbing. Worked well for that, but I found that I was always in the big chain ring except for hills. I found that it reduced the effective gears for me unless I wanted to do a lot of chain ring shifting. I switched to a triple, w 30/39/52. I now ride it as a double, which I prefer, and use the 30 occasionally on the really challenging hills. I am much happier with this setup.
 

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106 Posts
I switched from a bike with a triple to one with a 34-50 double. I used to ride the 42 ring all the time. On the compact, I almost exclusively ride the 50.

The biggest problem with the compact is the point where you switch between the big ring and small ring. The cross-over is around 15 mph. If you ride around 15mph, you are not going to be happy with the gearing. A 39 ring will be much more satisfying. Ironically, the compact is not very good for new or returning riders, who are likely to ride at this pace.

In my case, I think it's perfect. On flats, I typically ride around 18 or 19mph. I spend a lot of time at 50/19 or 50/17. I'm a pretty big guy, so hills can be brutal. I like having the 34 ring to cover the hills. With my 34/25, I can get up the hills...eventually. I guess the compact is really only good for big guys that ride decent pace on flats.
 

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Tourist
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989 Posts
if you like the number of teeth on the chainrings go for it. If you are looking for better shifting performance than a triple this is all BS. Shifting performance depends on the difference in number of teeth. With a 30/39/53 triple this means 9 and 14teeth jumps. With a 34/50 compact this means a 16teeth jump. No way a 16teeth jump is better than 9 or 14 (except of course if the derailleur is poorly adjusted).

By the way, I have both triple AND compact on different bikes. The main bikes always have triple and I go in the mountains all the time as you can see from the ride reports.
 

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Banned
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6,492 Posts
Triple's the answer, but if you only want to go halfway...

I'm a Clydesdale in the West, too, and I'm sold on triples. I have 46-36-26 cranksets on both my road bikes (Atlantis and Rambouillet), and I use the grannies a lot.
Actually, though, if I were to build the Rambo again, I think I'd go with a compact double, about a 48- or 50-34, just for a change. It could be my LATE summer bike, when I'm sort of in shape, and I'd use the Atlantis in the spring...
EIther way, though, I'd never go back to a 53-39. Any time I can turn a 53-tooth chainring and a cog smaller than about 19, I'm going to be coasting anyway.
 

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Registered
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150 Posts
Bingo

Einstruzende said:
... I just can't ever find the right chainring. It's either a little to much or a lot too little. ...
Yup, me too. I have two bikes, one (been riding this one for a while) with a 54-39 in front, and 13-26 in the back. Just got a new bike. After many spread sheets, much calculatin' and figgerin', the compact (in my case, the 50-34 in the front, and an 11-23 in back), seemed to make a huge amount of sense. The two setups would give me almost an identical hillclimbing ratio (rollout of right around 1.50 for both), while giving me a much taller high end (roll out of about 4.00 on the old set up, but about 4.50 on the compact setup), so that I wouldn't be spinning out so much as I pushed down the hills.

Yeah, it may be fine at the very lowest and the highest settings, but as with the quoted poster above, I'm constantly searching for the right gear in any other situation, and I'm seriously considering replacing my new bike's current crankset and cassette. Ouch. So I may also have a slightly used Record carbon CT crankset and Record cassette for sale.
 

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I switched from a 39/53 to the 34/50 this spring. As previously noted, I find that I am riding at the "inbetween" gears a lot of the time on the flats. I haven't had an issue with this and am not sorry I have switched. As I have gotten older I find I don't have as much leg strength as I did 20 years ago so the lower gears are very welcome for climbing.
 

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61 Posts
Depends on terrain

I have 3 bikes - old 53/39, newer triple 52/42/30, and newer still compact 50/34, all with 27 as the biggest cog on the rear.

I'm a 200lb clyde (down from 270) and I can't imagine ever going back to 53/39 on any place with real terrain. For general riding I like the triple best - easy to get in a good gear, even if there is some overlap, and the bottom gearings will take you up 20%+ grades easily.

With the compact, it's tough to find the right gear in rolling terrain - the big ring is good for downhill, the small ring is good for uphill, but you get a lot of front ring action when the terrain rolls. In Colorado (big hills) this is fine, but it's tougher in the rolling hills of Indiana where the 42 middle ring gives lots of options.

In the final analysis, either is fine, and will take you anywhere. It might seem counterintuitive, but I recommend Big hills = go compact, smaller hills = go triple. Either way, enjoy.
 

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Big is relative
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11,901 Posts
I wasn't really satisfied with mine until I swapped out the 34 for a 36. I live on Oahu and find that a 50/36 with a 11-23 will get me over any mountain pass. Maybe I will consider a triple one day, but for right now the compact works for me. My commuter has a 130 bcd crankset with 39/48 chainrings. Ride two miles on the small ring to get some blood in the legs and put it on the bigring for the rest of the ride. My commute is mostly flat so I don't really miss any top end speed.
 

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376 Posts
I love it

Like many I found that the 34 was too little and went to a 50/36. As a clydesdale in north Georgia it can get a little hilly. Actually I have found that I love the 50 the most of all. I ride in the 50 almost all the time. The 36 then is perfect for climbing.

I kept the 34 teeth chainrings with the thought I would put one on for any really hilly rides, but never have. Frankly, the 50/36 is just a way more usable setup than the old 53/39 I used to ride.
 

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2,514 Posts
I love compact because I ride in the mountains a lot and it makes 6km at 13% much easier. I also have a custom cassette with a 50x11 top gear so that isn't a problem either, though it's not ideal for chasing cars. But if you are using a 39x26 in the Midwest you will need a triple in the mountains for sure.
 

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Steaming piles of opinion
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10,520 Posts
I'm a fairly recent convert. 750 miles later, it turns out I like it pretty well. The extra low (effectively an extra cog) meant that I could sit and grind up some of the stuff that I’ve previously had to stand to get up, and spin up some of the stuff I previously had to grind up. Since sitting is more efficient than standing, and spinning more efficient than grinding, I’m faster up the hills, and have more left at the top. Bottom line, I’m faster than I was with a conventional rig. Flatlanders and big-mountain boys just won’t get that, and that’s fine.

As for the 3.8% top-end loss, I personally don’t find much need. If I can’t hang with the big boys, it’s because I can’t hang, not because I’ve spun out a 39mph gear, much less the 40mph that I ‘gave up’. Compacts probably aren't the choice for TT/Tri bikes.

Compared to changing back to a standard? Let’s see. Tiny bit more weight – not that it matters much, but it’s there with the combinations I'd be trading. Gonna stand more, gonna grind more, so I’ll be slower and wear out quicker. Doesn't seem like a good choice.

Maybe I should still get the standard double, and add a wide-range rear cluster to get back what I had with the compact. Still more weight, and now I’ve got ugly gaps in my cluster. Maybe not a big deal for a masher, but I much prefer riding with a close-ratio cassette to find that 'perfect gear.'

Next possibility: Keep the close ratio in back, and switch to a triple in front to get the uphill spinning gears. Still more weight, and now I’m buying new ders and brifters in addition to the cranks. I’ve also just junked up my shifting performance and get to deal with the extra trimming and ugly chainlines. Someone mentioned that shifting performance is about tooth gap, but that's only part of the story. More severe chainlines, sloppier chain tension from the long cage, and the bigger gap in the front derrailleur plates also play a part. The shifting on the compact isn't as quite as good as a standard double, but I prefer it to a triple's shifting.

There are shortcomings to a compact, but for me the other possibilities have longer lists. I’m not saying that everyone has the (iffy) legs I do, or lives in the (moderately hilly) terrain that I do, so others might have other optimum solutions. If I lived in Florida, I’d have a standard double (and a corncob). If I lived in West Virginia, I’d have a triple. If I were weaker in FL, I’d keep the compact, and if I were stronger in WV, too.

The biggest shortcoming I've seen is that on flattish ground there's a certain speed range that as others have noted can leave you hunting. The same problem exists with a conventional double too, except in a slightly different spot. Part of my initial interest in a compact was to get away from the personal 'hunting zone' that I run into on my normal rig. Just depends on your personal combination of terrain, strength, and pedaling style.

It's tough to predict if a particular person would like a compact more or less than the other alternatives, but it works out great for me.
 

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merckxman
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2,217 Posts
I thought carefully about a compact

but in the end went the triple route for my main bike, which is intended as my be able to go ANYWHERE bike. The new Ultegra 10 triple works wonderfully and I like my 52/39 and my cake (30). I like the additional gear choices and at the end of a long hard day there is some gearing still left to get me home. I'm in the process of building a 2nd bike and I might try a compact on that....
 
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