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  1. #1
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    Any Possible Downside to triple chainring?

    I'm looking at upgrading one of my road bikes to a triple chain ring. Before I did this, I just wanted to see if there was any possible reason not to do this. I think I could use the extra gearing on hills, and it just seems like a no-brainer to me.

    Let me know if you think otherwise.

  2. #2
    Tom (ex)Builder twahl's Avatar
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    A lot of people will give reasons not to use a triple. I'm not one of them.
    Tom

    "It hurts so good..."

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    DEADBEEF khuon's Avatar
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    There are some definate plusses and minuses with a triple chainring setup. You will have to decide for yourself which wins out over the other. The biggest downside to a triple chainring setup is that they're usually pretty finicky and may be hard to set up and keep in tune. This is especially true if you have very short chainstays such as on a roadbike. On my MTB, my triple shifts great but this is also helped by the differential-plate on the cage of the XTR front derailleur. Most roadbikes I've ridden which have triples seem to shift a lot rougher and not quite as quickly due to the longer rear derailleur cage. The front shifting was also a lot less smooth than my double.

    The biggest advantage of course is that it gives you a wider range of gearing. However, one could also argue that if you get stronger and you pick your gearing wisely, you might not need such a large range. The thing is, it's hard to make that instant improvement right then and there when you're already struggling up that hill and grabbing for more teeth only to find that you're already in your lowest gear.
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  4. #4
    100% USDA certified the beef's Avatar
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    It's true, the shifting is a little less smooth. But it's fine for the most part. The advantages outweigh the minuses by far in my opinion, and more than once I've been grateful for the small ring when encountering a surprise monster hill at the end of a new ride.

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    DEADBEEF khuon's Avatar
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    Is this for a roadbike? One other option you might want to consider is going with a compact double crank. While you may lose a slight bit off the top-end, you can obtain less overlap and lower gearing without the fussiness of a triple.
    1999 K2 OzM 2001 Aegis Aro Svelte OCP Club Member
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    Watch out when shifting from the middle to the small chainring. Triples are notorious
    for chainsuck...the chain skips past the inner chainring and rubs up against the frame
    in the bottom bracket area. Not really a good thing for the health of your frame.

    Maybe the system has been improved since the last time I used a triple, about
    5 years back.
    Iím not familiar precisely with exactly what I said, but I stand by what I said whatever it was.

  7. #7
    DEADBEEF khuon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Poppaspoke
    Watch out when shifting from the middle to the small chainring. Triples are notorious
    for chainsuck...the chain skips past the inner chainring and rubs up against the frame
    in the bottom bracket area. Not really a good thing for the health of your frame.

    Maybe the system has been improved since the last time I used a triple, about
    5 years back.
    Yeah. This can happen with doubles too and usually occurs when someone is putting the chain under a heavy load while in the large rear cog... typically while trying to climb a steep hill. Roadbikes with short chainstays can force the chain when in such a gear configuration into a high amount of deflection. When suddenly downshifting the front, all that chain tension can often cause the chain to fly past the inner ring. It's worse with a triple because the cage profile being so big as necessitated by the larger difference tends to also allow for a greater chance of the chain missing the inner ring.
    1999 K2 OzM 2001 Aegis Aro Svelte OCP Club Member
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    The 3 rules of running a triple up front are...

    1) Keep the chain super clean to help prevent chain suck

    2) cable tention is what keeps the chain from rubbing on the front deraileur cage on the middle chainring. Plan on adjusting it pretty often. It's easy once you understand the system.

    3) get 105 or better shifters-- the strong springs and crisp intermedate shifts make life a whole lot easier.

    With that said... look closely at a compact double (34-50) These are great for many riders.

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    Senior Member Grand Bois's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Poppaspoke
    Watch out when shifting from the middle to the small chainring. Triples are notorious
    for chainsuck...the chain skips past the inner chainring and rubs up against the frame
    in the bottom bracket area. Not really a good thing for the health of your frame.

    Maybe the system has been improved since the last time I used a triple, about
    5 years back.
    That's not chainsuck. Chainsuck is the failure of the chain to disengage from a worn chainring. It causes damage to the chainstay, not the bottom bracket area. What you're describing sounds like the result of a maladjusted front derailer, and that can happen just as easily with a double.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dirtdrop
    That's not chainsuck. Chainsuck is the failure of the chain to disengage from a worn chainring. It causes damage to the chainstay, not the bottom bracket area. What you're describing sounds like the result of a maladjusted front derailer, and that can happen just as easily with a double.
    I've never had that happen with a double. With my triple it would occur on a regular basis,
    despite constant fiddling with the front derailleur and regular visits to the LBS mechanic.
    Iím not familiar precisely with exactly what I said, but I stand by what I said whatever it was.

  11. #11
    bike rider jimmythefly's Avatar
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    Triples don't do as well when cross-chaining (running big 'ring/big cog or small/small). Shifting is less precise, and more prone to dropping the chain.

    You didn't tell us your set up, but you may also need a front shifter, bottom bracket, front derailleur, and a long-cage rear derailleur. Consult your LBS or tell us exactly what you've got now.

    If this change to a triple also means you need to buy quite a bit of the above, then I'd strongly consider going compact-double. Only thing to buy is the crank and maybe BB. Then, if you really need more gearing, use that extra money to put a mountain rear derailleur and a wide-range cassette on the back.

  12. #12
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    [QUOTE=jimmythefly]Triples don't do as well when cross-chaining (running big 'ring/big cog or small/small). Shifting is less precise, and more prone to dropping the chain.QUOTE]

    As a matter of fact, triples create less cross chaining due to the fact you have the 3 front rings to choose from. Your quote (running big 'ring/big cog or small/small). should be a no go anyway on any set up. I have my flat bar 30 speed 105 down pat. 50/ 12---16 39/ 13-------23 30/ 16----25 it's second nature now. I suppose driving a car with 3 manual gears would be OK, but I'd prefer 5 or 6.

  13. #13
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    The Ultegra triple weights about 86 grams more than the compact double. Mine shifts just fine.
    2006 Lemond Sarthe
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  14. #14
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hazelmn
    I'm looking at upgrading one of my road bikes to a triple chain ring. Before I did this, I just wanted to see if there was any possible reason not to do this. I think I could use the extra gearing on hills, and it just seems like a no-brainer to me.
    If you were buying a whole new bike I'd agree that it's a no-brainer. Since you're upgrading, however, there are some things to think through.

    To convert from a double crankset to a triple and make it look like and work like a factory installation will require a new crankset, new bottom bracket, new front and rear derailleurs. There is also a possibility that you might need a new front shifter. That's a lot of parts to buy.

    A compact double will give you almost as easy of a hill climb gear and you may be able to get by with just buying the crankset. That's a whole lot cheaper if it happens to be right for you.

    A wide range cassette, mountain rear derailleur and a longer chain is a third possibility.

    Here's how to figure out which is right for you:

    1. Find a gear-inch chart or calculate the gear inches for every single gear combination of the verious cranksets and cassettes that you are considering.

    2. Look for these three things:
    a. Does the easiest hill climb gear meet your needs?
    b. What about the fastest down-hill gear?
    c. (Important) you'd like for your favorite flat road no-wind gear to fall right in the middle of your cassette on one of your chainrings. You'd like to have several ratios that are closely spaced without having to shift the front.

    3. One of your gearing choices will jump out as being right for you.

    I wouldn't worry excessively about shifting a triple. People have been riding them for decades and doing just fine. They can be a little fussy about getting set up but they're certainly not impossible. If that happens to you, post again or PM me and I'll walk you through it.

  15. #15
    sch
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    I have used triples (Ultegra/105) in 8 and now 9spd for the past 8yrs and have almost never drop a chain off the small chainring. It has happened perhaps 10 times in that time frame. Where I ride is moderately hilly but only occasionally steep or long. My experience is that I use the 30t cw about 0.5% or less of the time, mostly at the end of long hilly rides (>60miles) when my legs are rubberized or on the occasional steep climb. I spend about 80% of the time on the 42t chain ring and use the full width of the cassette with an adjust for the inside/outside cassette rings. The brifter is set up for this with two intermediate positions being standard for Shimano, lots of intermediate positions for Campy. Recently I switched one bike to Campy shifters/R der and FSA Gossamer compact with 50-34 and 12-25 10spd cassette. This works for the not very hilly rides, but the 34/25 is a bit higher than I like for some hills. I use 12-27 cassettes on the triples but couldn't find a Campy equivalent. Compact shifting frequently requires a double shift as the drop is large enough that upshifting the cassette a couple of cogs is more comfortable. Upshifting from the 34 to the 50 can result in the occasional argument and I find it works best to downshift from the largest cassette ring to #8 or 7 and the CW upshift goes better. I have dropped the chain off the 34 on a downshift once so far. I am pleased with the compact but it does not replace a needed triple where terrain or legs dictate one.
    Steve

  16. #16
    fmw
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    Quote Originally Posted by jimmythefly
    Triples don't do as well when cross-chaining (running big 'ring/big cog or small/small). Shifting is less precise, and more prone to dropping the chain.

    You didn't tell us your set up, but you may also need a front shifter, bottom bracket, front derailleur, and a long-cage rear derailleur. Consult your LBS or tell us exactly what you've got now.

    If this change to a triple also means you need to buy quite a bit of the above, then I'd strongly consider going compact-double. Only thing to buy is the crank and maybe BB. Then, if you really need more gearing, use that extra money to put a mountain rear derailleur and a wide-range cassette on the back.
    I agree with those who suggest the compact double simply because there is less to buy. If you do decide to make the change to triple, change to Campagnolo. The Campy triples are truly superb. I have no experience with Shimano triples and my comments may be wrong for them but here goes my experience with many Campy triple drive trains.

    1. Q. It is true that triples have a longer Q (distance between the pedals.) The difference is 9mm or a little over 1/4". In other words you would have to be amazing sensitive to notice a difference.

    2. Triples don't shift as well as doubles. Campy triples do. They shift exactly the same. No difference at all.

    3. Triples represent a chain line problem and drop chains more often than doubles. The difference in chain line is a tiny, meaningless fraction of an inch. This simply isn't true. I don't recommend cross chaining but but you can cross chain on a triple just like on a double with no difference in reliability. I've never dropped a chain from the small ring on a triple. I have on a double. My experience may be in a minority but I would suggest to you that it isn't much of a problem.

    4. Triples are heavier. Yes, by an amount similar to a computer mouse. If you are weight weenie you won't want one. If you are not, then the weight is truly meaningless.

    5. People will look down on you for using a triple. It has never happened to me but, if it did, I would find someone else with whom to ride. It may interest you to know that some pro cyclists use triples for some of the more severe climbing stabes in the pro tour. They aren't worried about what people think of the chain rings. They are worried about putting in the best performance then can during the race.

    6. There are redundant gears on a triple. Call them what you like but you access as many cogs from each chain ring as you can with a double. That means fewer front shifts. The negative some people describe as redundant gears is to a positive providing more options for reaching the gear ratio I want at the moment.

    In other words the "down side" that people claim for the triple is based on elements of truth but with meaningless affect on actually riding the bike. In other words the down side is so minor as to be trivial.

    There are some upside issues. Triples require fewer front shifts because you can access just as many cassette cogs in each chain ring as with a double but there are some combinations that would require a front shift on a double to get to a given ratio that would not be required with the triple. So those who say there are redundant gears just don't get it.

    Triples provide more flexibility in climbing. I climb better and more efficiently when I'm spinning at normal cadence. Most people do. I can climb standing up on the pedals, with a grimace on my face and grunting loudly just like anybody else, but I don't if I don't have to. And I don't have to with a triple - at least on our local hills. In other words more extreme climbs are done more efficiently with a triple. That makes climbing more fun.

    I have everything from "manly" 53/42 doubles to triples. My next build will be another triple. The very vast majority of road riders should be using triples.

  17. #17
    Yes it is a paradox
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    Tripples ahve not improved in 5 years, Chain suck is still aproblem.

  18. #18
    fmw
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    Quote Originally Posted by SlowSpinner
    Tripples ahve not improved in 5 years, Chain suck is still aproblem.
    I'm trying to think of a new triple group that has been introduced in the past 5 years. I think 105 is the only one. Never "sucked" a chain with a triple but mine have all been Campy. Have you?

  19. #19
    Senior Member godspiral's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Retro Grouch
    2. Look for these three things:
    a. Does the easiest hill climb gear meet your needs?
    b. What about the fastest down-hill gear?
    c. (Important) you'd like for your favorite flat road no-wind gear to fall right in the middle of your cassette on one of your chainrings.
    c seems a bit surprising.

    Aren't you fine, if your flat gear is your 3rd or 4th highest? -- non racing... a substantial amount of downhill gears doesn't seem that important

  20. #20
    Wrong Side Of 50
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    Quote Originally Posted by SlowSpinner
    Tripples ahve not improved in 5 years, Chain suck is still aproblem.
    I've had chain suck on my old hybrid when the chain has been in desperate need of a clean.. you know the look, dags of oil & grime when the links are so caked up you can’t distinguish the individual outer plates[shame on me] Other than that no chain suck in 23000 ks on triples, every component shimano, except a KMC chain which I had on the 24 sp hybrid. I have overshot the 50 ring on my 30 s 105 flat bar a couple of times though when I've changed too aggressively.
    Edit:- BTW Retro,sch,& fmw have a fairly balanced outlook on this peranial theme.

  21. #21
    The Rabbi seely's Avatar
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    I'm thinking compact would be a good option. The new 105 compact setup is reasonable, and you won't need a new front derailleur or shifter provided you are using Shimano stuff currently. It will still get you that lower range, but works better than triples generally seem to.
    commuter turned bike mechanic turned commuter (also a Velocity USA employee, but this is my personal account)

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    No mention of what kind of riding or terrain you are dealing with? As to cost conversion to a compact will be less. Have both setups, both work. Think the talk about keeping a triple shifting well is bunk. good luck.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by bccycleguy
    The Ultegra triple weights about 86 grams more than the compact double. Mine shifts just fine.
    +1
    The Ultegra triple works great and has microclicks to trim the front derailleur that my RSX triple never had and could've used. That said, triples are a bit harder to clean up front.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hazelmn
    I'm looking at upgrading one of my road bikes to a triple chain ring. Before I did this, I just wanted to see if there was any possible reason not to do this. I think I could use the extra gearing on hills, and it just seems like a no-brainer to me.

    Let me know if you think otherwise.
    Yes, all of the negatives from the strong, young and knee-worthy types.

    Go for it if you have hills, sore or damaged knees or don't want to damage your knees - no matter how much training, that knee is located between the pedal and any strong thigh you can develop. Ease off and keep pedaling for decades.

    But there might be other upgrades that are necessary to get chain alignment and derailleurs, etc to mesh with a new setup.

    And no COMPACT setup will match a triple.

    As you may note, I have no strong opinion on this subject....

  25. #25
    Senior Member shoerhino's Avatar
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    I recently converted from a triple to a double and I really like the double setup. I think that a triple can be made to shift smoothly, but that was not my experience. It's my opinion that the double setup seems easier to maintain and shifts cleaner than the old triple did, but it wasn’t horrible and wouldn’t prevent me from recommending a triple.

    That being said, if you want to go to a triple, do it. There's no good reason not to, but I would look at a compact crank also, as it may be less expensive to convert and may suite your needs. If you input the setup you have into Sheldon Brown's Gear Calculator, you can see the gear ratio ranges of your current setup and speculate on the gear ratios that a compact would bring. A triple will always provided easier gearing than a double, but do you need a 30 X 25 or would a 34 X 25 be easy enough.

    All things being equal, a triple is fine, but you may need new shifters, crank and a bottom bracket. Going to a compact would mean that you would probably only need a new crank.

    A quick google search revealed another option (from Leonard Zinn):

    Several of you pointed out that I failed to offer a cheaper suggestion - one which we have discussed here in the past - namely putting on a mountain bike cogset, say an 11-34, along with a triple rear derailleur. This definitely works, and I have set bikes up this way in the past. It then gives you a 39x34 low gear with a double.

    Another idea many of you offered is to use a compact crank with 34-50 chainrings with his existing cogset and derailleurs. About $200 for an FSA compact crank and bottom bracket. Forgetting the least-cost issue for the moment, if you were to use a compact crank with the MTB cogset and triple rear derailleur, your lowest gear would be 34x34, or one-to-one, which is about as good as you'll ever get with a triple.

    http://www.velonews.com/tech/report/...es/7844.0.html

    I guess in the end, I'm with Retro Grouch on this one. Look at your gearing and go from there. Don't be afraid to go to a triple if you think you'll need the easier gears.
    Last edited by shoerhino; 06-10-06 at 11:15 PM.

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