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  1. #1
    Hills! speedlever's Avatar
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    Ultegra differences & other questions

    What are the differences between Ultegra SL and Ultegra?

    Also, how does cross chaining differ when comparing compact doubles to a triple? Is a 50/34 considered a compact double? If so, what would be an example of a double that's not considered compact? I assume compact refers to gear ratios.

    Is the only advantage of a compact double over a triple just the weight savings? I'm not a serious weight weenie so the flexibility of the triple would trump weight savings.

    There is a possibility I may be getting a new bike, so I will have to decide which will benefit me more. I currently have a full Ultegra triple set-up. 52/39/30 and 12-25. What I'm considering would have either a 50/34 and 11-25 or a 52/39/30 and 12-27.

    Thanks.

  2. #2
    Senior Member bluenote157's Avatar
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    do the math on all of the possible gear ratios for both of your proposed triple and double compact. I'm not so familiar with either, but i would imagine that quite alot are redundant.

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    Senior Member Nessism's Avatar
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    The SL model Ultegra has a different finish and has been updated to remove a little weight. No big deal in my opinion.

    Yes, 50/34 is compact double (but you knew this already)

    If weight is no issue for you, a triple is hard to beat. What was your question again?
    Becareful buying/selling bike parts on-line. I learned the hard way. :(

    Good/Bad Trader Listing

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    A "compact" double typically has chainrings of 50/34 and a 110 mm bolt circle diameter. A "standard" double is typically 53/39 and the bolt circle diameter is 130 mm (Shimano and SRAM) or 135 mm (Campy).

    The advantage of a compact over a triple is slightly lighter weight and somewhat simpler front derailleur and shifter setup. It also avoids the image problem some riders have with a triple.

    The advantage of a triple is a wider choice of gear selection, a significantly lower low gear, more even distribution of intermediate gears and a smaller jump from the large to the middle chainring than between the two rings of a compact.

  5. #5
    Bike ≠ Car ≠ Ped. BarracksSi's Avatar
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    If you can use the stump-pulling torque of most triples' bottom gear, then go for it. If it turns out to be unnecessary, then use a double (standard or compact, whichever) on your second* bike.

    * Nobody here will tell you that you have to be stuck with just one bike.

  6. #6
    Hills! speedlever's Avatar
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    Thanks for the help guys.

    The reason for the possible new acquisition: it will be an insurance replacement for my beloved Pilot 5.2 which I've put nearly 3300 miles on over the last 11 months. That's with not riding about 5 months during that time.

    Had a car turn in front of me last week and I couldn't stop before T-boning them. Thought there was no damage at the time... only to find out later the fork was broken in the crash. Front tire was still true and everything seemed to work ok. But the LBS told me late the next day the fork was broken. CF can be a bit more tricky/fragile than I realized.

    Anyway, I'm hoping to get a new bike outta the insurance company because repairs on the existing bike will take a month or so. I'm considering a Madone 5.2 to keep the component level near the same as on my Pilot 5.2. I'm considering my options just in case the settlement works out this way.

    Yes, I know that N+1 is the better deal when it comes to bikes... but in this case, I may settle for N(ew).

    I'm curious if a 50/34 would suit me. But my engine is still challenged on hills, so I think the triple is still my best bet. Considering that, I could leave the Ultegra crank or change it to a 105 crank and get 50/39/30 in place of the Ultegra 52/39/30.

    I thought the standard triple cassette was 12-25, but the Trek brochure shows the triple option on the M5.2 to be a 12-27 cassette. Is that a misprint or does that look right? As stated in the OP, the CD option provides an 11-25 cassette, if the brochure is to be believed.

  7. #7
    Hills! speedlever's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nessism View Post
    ...

    If weight is no issue for you, a triple is hard to beat. What was your question again?
    Considering that my body weight varies a great deal more than one chainring and I'm not (yet) into racing, I can't see the wt of a single chainring as being significant to me. Unless a CD crankset somehow performs much better than a triple... which I sorta doubt.

    I am NOT worried about an image problem. (Fred wannabe...)


  8. #8
    Hills! speedlever's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HillRider
    The advantage of a compact over a triple is slightly lighter weight and somewhat simpler front derailleur and shifter setup. It also avoids the image problem some riders have with a triple.

    The advantage of a triple is a wider choice of gear selection, a significantly lower low gear, more even distribution of intermediate gears and a smaller jump from the large to the middle chainring than between the two rings of a compact.
    Sounds like a triple is still the ticket for me. (image not withstanding).

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    Quote Originally Posted by speedlever View Post
    I thought the standard triple cassette was 12-25, but the Trek brochure shows the triple option on the M5.2 to be a 12-27 cassette. Is that a misprint or does that look right? As stated in the OP, the CD option provides an 11-25 cassette, if the brochure is to be believed.
    There is no "standard triple cassette" although many manufacturers will use a 12-25 (though that is the same regardless of crank at least for midrange bikes). 12-27's might be becoming slightly more popular, though this is based solely on looking at Cannondale's 2008 Synapse offerings. I have a 12-27 with a 52/42/30 triple on one of my bikes and love the gear range.

  10. #10
    Hills! speedlever's Avatar
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    Right you are. I mis-remembered Sheldon's gear calculator page thinking it only listed a 12-25 when in fact, it lists 4 different 12-x cassettes.

    I'm so used to my current gearset I'm not sure if/how I'd like something different. Methinks that would be a job for N+1.

  11. #11
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    +1 Triple is the way to go. Only reason I would go for a compact is if I were replacing a standard double (and thus able to reuse existing front derailleur and brifter).

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    If you have a choice, go for the 12x27. The only difference between it and the 12x25 is the two biggest cogs. The 12x27 is ...24,27 and the 12x25 is .....23,25. The first 8 cogs on both cassettes are identical (12,13,14,15,16,17,19,21.....) so the most used cogs are the same on both cassettes.

    The weight difference is negligable and the extra low gear can't hurt.

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    Senior Member orangepaint's Avatar
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    Get a triple if you need the granny ring. A double will always shift better than a triple.

    If you can play around with your cassette and R derailleur to get the gears you need, I'd suggest a double. Of course most road cassettes don't go over 27t and most road R derailleurs, even the long cage ones, can't handle more than a 27 tooth. If you manage to find a suitable cassette, you can opt for a mountain derailleur or go with a road derailleur and play with the length of the chain to make it work.

    ....Of course that's going a bit out of your way. If you want to keep it simple, get a triple?

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    I have a standard triple with a 12-25 cassette. On my new bike, i'm going compact with a 12-27. The difference between a 30/25 and a 34/27 is about a half a gear.

    Right now I'm constantly having to look down or remember which chain ring I'm in and I seem to shift between each ring a lot. Hopefully, that won't be the case with the compact double.

    I think that it's all a matter if you need that extra half a gear at the low end. If you do and you still want a compact you can go with SRAM's 11-28 cassette. A 34/28 is virtually identical to a 30/25

    Many people say that a triple is harder to keep tuned properly.

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    Quote Originally Posted by orangepaint View Post
    Get a triple if you need the granny ring. A double will always shift better than a triple.

    If you can play around with your cassette and R derailleur to get the gears you need, I'd suggest a double. Of course most road cassettes don't go over 27t and most road R derailleurs, even the long cage ones, can't handle more than a 27 tooth. If you manage to find a suitable cassette, you can opt for a mountain derailleur or go with a road derailleur and play with the length of the chain to make it work.

    ....Of course that's going a bit out of your way. If you want to keep it simple, get a triple?
    i agree with that. On my test ride, the shifting on the compact double was so much smoother than my triple. It could have been the difference between the DA on my test bike and Ultegra on my triple, but I doubt it.

  16. #16
    Hills! speedlever's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HillRider View Post
    If you have a choice, go for the 12x27. The only difference between it and the 12x25 is the two biggest cogs. The 12x27 is ...24,27 and the 12x25 is .....23,25. The first 8 cogs on both cassettes are identical (12,13,14,15,16,17,19,21.....) so the most used cogs are the same on both cassettes.

    The weight difference is negligable and the extra low gear can't hurt.
    That's good to know. But I wonder why Trek used a 105 cassette on an otherwise Ultegra SL gruppo? The 5.2Pro uses a full Ultegra std double, which I know I don't want. However, the 5.5 uses a compact double and the SRAM Openglide 11-26 (which I know nothing about).

    The below posts are making me rethink the triple vs cd gearset.

    Quote Originally Posted by orangepaint View Post
    Get a triple if you need the granny ring. A double will always shift better than a triple.

    If you can play around with your cassette and R derailleur to get the gears you need, I'd suggest a double. Of course most road cassettes don't go over 27t and most road R derailleurs, even the long cage ones, can't handle more than a 27 tooth. If you manage to find a suitable cassette, you can opt for a mountain derailleur or go with a road derailleur and play with the length of the chain to make it work.

    ....Of course that's going a bit out of your way. If you want to keep it simple, get a triple?
    Honestly, gearsets and deraillers are confusing to me. I don't know which goes with the other. Regarding granny, I occasionally use it... especially on a 14% hill I sometimes ride. But if there's only 1/2 gear diff with the appropriate CD setup, I could make that work.

    Quote Originally Posted by RoboCheme View Post
    I have a standard triple with a 12-25 cassette. On my new bike, i'm going compact with a 12-27. The difference between a 30/25 and a 34/27 is about a half a gear.

    Right now I'm constantly having to look down or remember which chain ring I'm in and I seem to shift between each ring a lot. Hopefully, that won't be the case with the compact double.

    I think that it's all a matter if you need that extra half a gear at the low end. If you do and you still want a compact you can go with SRAM's 11-28 cassette. A 34/28 is virtually identical to a 30/25

    Many people say that a triple is harder to keep tuned properly.
    I've heard that said of a triple. But my experience with my Ultrega triple in 3200+ miles of riding has been flawless. I've never thrown a chain and I'm very comfortable double shifting, etc. I know how I like to ride this combo. I'm not opposed to learning a CD, but have to wonder if I'd miss the versatility of the triple.

    Seems like an in-depth discussion with my LBS is in order before I make any decision.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by speedlever View Post
    But my experience with my Ultrega triple in 3200+ miles of riding has been flawless. I've never thrown a chain and I'm very comfortable double shifting, etc. I know how I like to ride this combo.
    100% correct.
    Most that comment otherwise are usually speaking through their bums or have never actually ridden one & only repeat what they have heard from other uninformed troglodytes.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by speedlever View Post
    The below posts are making me rethink the triple vs cd gearset.


    Honestly, gearsets and deraillers are confusing to me. I don't know which goes with the other. Regarding granny, I occasionally use it... especially on a 14% hill I sometimes ride. But if there's only 1/2 gear diff with the appropriate CD setup, I could make that work.


    I've heard that said of a triple. But my experience with my Ultrega triple in 3200+ miles of riding has been flawless. I've never thrown a chain and I'm very comfortable double shifting, etc. I know how I like to ride this combo. I'm not opposed to learning a CD, but have to wonder if I'd miss the versatility of the triple.

    Seems like an in-depth discussion with my LBS is in order before I make any decision.
    In defense of the triple option, I have had excellent performance with both Shimano (105 and Ultegra) and Campy (Chorus) triple cranks and front derailleurs. If a double "always shifts better" I don't know how much better it could be. If you can't keep track of 3 chainrings how can you possibly keep track of 10 cogs?

    As to the "1/2 gear difference" The triple will ALWAYS allow a lower gear. The comparison of a compact with a 12x27 vs. a triple with a 12x25 isn't valid. A triple with 12x27 will give a 12% (or more, see below) lower low gear than a compact with the same cassette.

    BTW, the 30T granny ring supplied on most road triples is not the only option. I've changed the 30T for a 26T granny ring on a dozen or more Shimano and even a Campy triple crank and they work just fine. If you want to have a really low low gear available that's the way to get it. The only downside is you can't use the granny ring with the smallest two or three rear cogs but there is no reason to do so anyway.

  19. #19
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    One big reason why I stayed away from a compact double was that neither the 34 or the 50 tooth ring is in the right range for my typical cruising speeds on flats and rollers (what I spend a lot of time riding). The 42 tooth ring on my triple, however, allows me to stay in one chainring for probably 80% of my riding which I think is a big plus (call me lazy). With a compact, I'd be downshifting up front for every hill and upshifting for every downhill on top of changing the rear (16 teeth is a big gap between chainrings).

    As to using a MTB rear derailler and cassette with a compact double, there are two things to keep in mind there. Even with a 9 speed cassette, I find the gaps in between gears on a MTB cassette a little too big to be ideal for road use (though I do tend to like a specific cadence). The other thing is that 10 speed MTB cassettes are not available as far as I know. I think the biggest rear cog you can get is a 28 tooth which a standard road rear derailler can handle.

    As had been said before, about the only good reason to go compact is if you already have a standard double set up and want lower gears with the fewest possible changes.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by speedlever View Post
    I am NOT worried about an image problem. (Fred wannabe...)
    Then get a triple. I commute to work 25 miles and I consider myself to be a pretty strong cyclist. The other day I had some hills to climb 45 miles into a 52 mile ride and I was out of steam. Normally I would have climbed them 42x25, but it was all I could do to climb them 30x25. The triple saved the day.

  21. #21
    Hills! speedlever's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HillRider View Post
    In defense of the triple option, I have had excellent performance with both Shimano (105 and Ultegra) and Campy (Chorus) triple cranks and front derailleurs. If a double "always shifts better" I don't know how much better it could be. If you can't keep track of 3 chainrings how can you possibly keep track of 10 cogs?

    As to the "1/2 gear difference" The triple will ALWAYS allow a lower gear. The comparison of a compact with a 12x27 vs. a triple with a 12x25 isn't valid. A triple with 12x27 will give a 12% (or more, see below) lower low gear than a compact with the same cassette.

    BTW, the 30T granny ring supplied on most road triples is not the only option. I've changed the 30T for a 26T granny ring on a dozen or more Shimano and even a Campy triple crank and they work just fine. If you want to have a really low low gear available that's the way to get it. The only downside is you can't use the granny ring with the smallest two or three rear cogs but there is no reason to do so anyway.
    Regarding keeping track of gears, I will NOT give up my inline gear indicator for my cassette. If in doubt, I can always look down to see which chainring I'm in, but that is not practical for the rear. Concerning the granny gear, I have yet to find the hill that the std 30/25 lets me down... but I'm sure there are some out there that would kick my butt with this combo.

    Quote Originally Posted by joejack951 View Post
    One big reason why I stayed away from a compact double was that neither the 34 or the 50 tooth ring is in the right range for my typical cruising speeds on flats and rollers (what I spend a lot of time riding). The 42 tooth ring on my triple, however, allows me to stay in one chainring for probably 80% of my riding which I think is a big plus (call me lazy). With a compact, I'd be downshifting up front for every hill and upshifting for every downhill on top of changing the rear (16 teeth is a big gap between chainrings).

    As to using a MTB rear derailler and cassette with a compact double, there are two things to keep in mind there. Even with a 9 speed cassette, I find the gaps in between gears on a MTB cassette a little too big to be ideal for road use (though I do tend to like a specific cadence). The other thing is that 10 speed MTB cassettes are not available as far as I know. I think the biggest rear cog you can get is a 28 tooth which a standard road rear derailler can handle.

    As had been said before, about the only good reason to go compact is if you already have a standard double set up and want lower gears with the fewest possible changes.
    That may well be true for me too. But not having ridden a compact double, part of me sorta wants to test it to see if there's any advantage in my riding.

    I had a thread not too long ago about cross chaining practical limits. I tend to be very conservative as I like to take care of my gear. With no experience to back this up, I have to say that I think a triple will serve me better in this regard. Looks to me like the compact double may have cross chain issues in order to utilize the gearset effectively. But I may be completely off base here.

    On the MTB cassettes, I have a hybrid with MTB gearing. I believe is a Deore setup. Yep, completely different than my Ultegra bike.

    What I've run into is exploring options to change my 52 for a 50 on my triple, only to find I'll have to change the FD or things like that. I don't understand enough about the gearsets to know why they don't all work together like I think they should!

    Quote Originally Posted by Tabor View Post
    Then get a triple. I commute to work 25 miles and I consider myself to be a pretty strong cyclist. The other day I had some hills to climb 45 miles into a 52 mile ride and I was out of steam. Normally I would have climbed them 42x25, but it was all I could do to climb them 30x25. The triple saved the day.
    Good point. I have to confess to having too many days like that myself.

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    I haven't tried a compact double, but I'm pretty happy with my triple. I like to spin around 100rpm basically all the time. Maybe -5/+10, but not much outside that range. Looking at the gear calculator, I think that means a compact would be annoying for me--my speed range in the 34t would be 10.6-22.2mph, and 15.6-32.6 in the 50t. Given my usual range of riding speed, I think that would mean a lot of pretty major double shifts.
    The 39t on my triple, on the other hand, is good from 12.2-25.4mph, which is pretty much everything but big climbs and and big descents.

    So yeah, trying out a compact to see what it's like makes sense, but running the numbers of how fast the different configurations will let you go at your preferred cadence might clarify things, too.

    Also, why a 50t on a triple? Would that be your cruising ring? For me, the 39t is my cruising ring and the big ring is just for zooming down hills (and the occasional kick-ass tailwind or draft), so I'd have no reason to forgo the 4 extra gear inches.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by speedlever View Post
    That may well be true for me too. But not having ridden a compact double, part of me sorta wants to test it to see if there's any advantage in my riding.

    I had a thread not too long ago about cross chaining practical limits. I tend to be very conservative as I like to take care of my gear. With no experience to back this up, I have to say that I think a triple will serve me better in this regard. Looks to me like the compact double may have cross chain issues in order to utilize the gearset effectively. But I may be completely off base here.
    I use the full range of the cassette when in the middle ring and all but the last cog on either end when in the big and small. I think that puts me in the non-conservative cross-chaining group. Even with using the full range of the cassette, with a compact double I'd be going into the big ring at anything above 20mph (anything flat or slightly downhill) assuming a 12T small cog. With the 42 middle ring, I'm good up to 25mph with the same small cog which, to me, make a world of difference.

    Quote Originally Posted by speedlever View Post
    What I've run into is exploring options to change my 52 for a 50 on my triple, only to find I'll have to change the FD or things like that. I don't understand enough about the gearsets to know why they don't all work together like I think they should!
    Here's my thread about my learning experience with the new 10 speed Shimano FD's and their compatible cranksets: Ultegra vs. 105 10 speed triple front deraillers

    To summarize, because of the deep inner plate on the new deraillers, you are much more limited to a specific tooth difference between the middle and big ring. Too small of a change and the inner plate with hit the middle ring when trying to shift into the big ring. The Ultegra 6603 FD (designed for a 14 tooth difference) will definitely not accomodate a 10 tooth difference. I think 13 teeth would be it's limit. I got the 105 5603 FD (designed to work with an 11 tooth difference) to work with a 10 tooth difference though my clearance for the big ring might be more than some people would prefer.

    In my experience, the 8 and 9 speed deraillers do not have this problem as their inner plates are much more shallow.

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    Quote Originally Posted by skylla View Post
    Also, why a 50t on a triple? Would that be your cruising ring? For me, the 39t is my cruising ring and the big ring is just for zooming down hills (and the occasional kick-ass tailwind or draft), so I'd have no reason to forgo the 4 extra gear inches.
    Shimano seems to think it's a good idea. All of their new cranksets 105 level and below are 50/39/30.

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    Quote Originally Posted by skylla View Post
    I haven't tried a compact double, but I'm pretty happy with my triple. I like to spin around 100rpm basically all the time. Maybe -5/+10, but not much outside that range. Looking at the gear calculator, I think that means a compact would be annoying for me--my speed range in the 34t would be 10.6-22.2mph, and 15.6-32.6 in the 50t. Given my usual range of riding speed, I think that would mean a lot of pretty major double shifts.
    The 39t on my triple, on the other hand, is good from 12.2-25.4mph, which is pretty much everything but big climbs and and big descents.

    So yeah, trying out a compact to see what it's like makes sense, but running the numbers of how fast the different configurations will let you go at your preferred cadence might clarify things, too.

    Also, why a 50t on a triple? Would that be your cruising ring? For me, the 39t is my cruising ring and the big ring is just for zooming down hills (and the occasional kick-ass tailwind or draft), so I'd have no reason to forgo the 4 extra gear inches.
    Your cadence is pretty close to what I run ... generally 95-105+. I've been happy with my triple too, but just wonder if I'm missing anything that a CD would bring... such as greater utility with fewer gear changes. Not that I'm complaining about gear changes. I'm used to my routine, ya know.

    Due to my conservative cross chaining nature, I have restricted my speeds in the 39t ring. I was having problems going from 39/14 to 52/16. I slightly expanded my 52t range to the 52/15 and find it works much better for me. That was behind my initial question about going to a 50t chainring in place of the 52.

    The reason for the restrictions are purely personal, I have no evidence to back up my practice. But I am not comfortable running what I perceive to be large angles on the chain. So I have restricted my triple to 39t/14-21 and 52t/15 and up. My least used gears are 12-13 and 23-25.

    As I've grown stronger, I find I use the 52t more although the 39t is my mainstay. So maybe that 50 may not work as well as anticipated. All I can say for sure is that I do NOT want a standard double.

    Quote Originally Posted by joejack951 View Post
    I use the full range of the cassette when in the middle ring and all but the last cog on either end when in the big and small. I think that puts me in the non-conservative cross-chaining group. Even with using the full range of the cassette, with a compact double I'd be going into the big ring at anything above 20mph (anything flat or slightly downhill) assuming a 12T small cog. With the 42 middle ring, I'm good up to 25mph with the same small cog which, to me, make a world of difference.



    Here's my thread about my learning experience with the new 10 speed Shimano FD's and their compatible cranksets: Ultegra vs. 105 10 speed triple front deraillers

    To summarize, because of the deep inner plate on the new deraillers, you are much more limited to a specific tooth difference between the middle and big ring. Too small of a change and the inner plate with hit the middle ring when trying to shift into the big ring. The Ultegra 6603 FD (designed for a 14 tooth difference) will definitely not accomodate a 10 tooth difference. I think 13 teeth would be it's limit. I got the 105 5603 FD (designed to work with an 11 tooth difference) to work with a 10 tooth difference though my clearance for the big ring might be more than some people would prefer.

    In my experience, the 8 and 9 speed deraillers do not have this problem as their inner plates are much more shallow.
    I'll check into that thread you mentioned. It will probably explain why I can't just mix and match chainrings as I desire without making corresponding changes to the derailler, etc. Seems to me that gears are gears... but whatever.

    See above for my (ir)rational cross chain practices. I do not doubt that I'm too conservative. Although I've developed a pretty workable and comfortable routine now, I'm sure it could be improved if I move out of my comfort zone a bit.

    Given my conservative nature, it appears I'd really have issues with a CD... unless I could force myself to run the full range of the cassette in both chainrings.

    Edit: I read that thread, but your mechanical knowledge far exceeds mine. I've never changed out a derailler so all the long/short talk, deep inner plate, etc. have no meaning to me at this point. Alas, my ignorance is showing.
    Last edited by speedlever; 08-04-08 at 08:13 AM.

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