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Old 08-13-09, 09:12 AM   #1
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Triples vs Doubles-Pros and Cons of each?

I get a bit confused when reading about triples and doubles. Is the main difference- doubles more flat out speed oriented and the triples more suited for climbing? Thanks!
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Old 08-13-09, 09:18 AM   #2
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For any given choice of rear cassette, a double won't give the low gears that a triple can provide since it doesn't have the extra small chainring but a triple can have the same large chainring as any double. So, a triple can provide the same high gear as a double but a double can't provide the same low gear as a triple.

You can get lower gears with a double by using a very wide range cassette but that gives big gaps in the middle gears. Even at that, a triple will always provide a lower low gear.

The disadvantages to a triple are a very slight weight penalty and style points with the bike snobs. Some will claim triple don't shift as well as doubles. It is true that a triple with friction shifting (barends or downtube shifters) is trickier to shift accurately but it's a non-issue with indexing.

Last edited by HillRider; 08-13-09 at 09:22 AM.
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Old 08-13-09, 09:26 AM   #3
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Not necessarily. Depends.

There are regular doubles, generally 53/39's or something similar which would be more typical of a road double (very common on a new road bike), then you have compact doubles usually 50/34 (but these ring sizes depend on the use of the bike, a lot of cross bikes may have 44-46 for the large). This gives you a slightly lower gear for climbing.

Then you have triples like the Dura Ace and Ultegras which are essentially road doubles with a 30t granny ring added. Then you have touring style triples which are generally 48/36/26 etc. (helps for carrying weight on a bike).

Preference depends on you (and the intended use of your bike), I just went from a triple 50/44/30 to a compact 50/34, and there is only about 2 gear combos I can't get on the compact, and a few ridiculously low gears that obviously aren't there, but I'm not carrying a lot of weight.

You also need to factor in crank length, etc, check out Sheldon Brown's gear information here:

http://www.sheldonbrown.com/gain.html

It also depends on your cassette choices. If you have a closer spaced cassette (corncob) you will have more options for fine-tuing cadence on rides, but your larger cogs might not be big enough for climbing.
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Old 08-13-09, 09:30 AM   #4
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.....and a few ridiculously low gears that obviously aren't there, but I'm not carrying a lot of weight.
What are "ridiculously low gears" in Chicago are anything but ridiculous in Pittsburgh. A triple will always provide a lower gear than any double. Whether you need it or not depends on where and how you ride.
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Old 08-13-09, 09:36 AM   #5
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What are "ridiculously low gears" in Chicago are anything but ridiculous in Pittsburgh. A triple will always provide a lower gear than any double. Whether you need it or not depends on where and how you ride.
True story, I should of phrased that differently.

Also, as HillRider said, some people think that triples don't shift well - that's a myth. I've never had that experience, and the higher end triples have so many ramps and pins now, that they shift buttery smooth (given the proper setup). I road my triple (without ramps or pins) for 18 years in friction and never had an issue with shifting performance. For the brief time I had my DA triple, it shifted amazingly well.
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Old 08-13-09, 09:42 AM   #6
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For any given choice of rear cassette, a double won't give the low gears that a triple can provide since it doesn't have the extra small chainring but a triple can have the same large chainring as any double. So, a triple can provide the same high gear as a double but a double can't provide the same low gear as a triple.

You can get lower gears with a double by using a very wide range cassette but that gives big gaps in the middle gears. Even at that, a triple will always provide a lower low gear.

The disadvantages to a triple are a very slight weight penalty and style points with the bike snobs. Some will claim triple don't shift as well as doubles. It is true that a triple with friction shifting (barends or downtube shifters) is trickier to shift accurately but it's a non-issue with indexing.
Well said.
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Old 08-13-09, 10:19 AM   #7
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What are "ridiculously low gears" in Chicago are anything but ridiculous in Pittsburgh. A triple will always provide a lower gear than any double. Whether you need it or not depends on where and how you ride.
The difference between the lowest gear on a standard road triple (52/39/30) and a compact double (50/34) is about 4 gear inches. If you're reasonably fit, you probably won't notice the difference. I know that I didn't when I switched from a triple to a compact double last year...
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Old 08-13-09, 10:30 AM   #8
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The difference between the lowest gear on a standard road triple (52/39/30) and a compact double (50/34) is about 4 gear inches. If you're reasonably fit, you probably won't notice the difference. I know that I didn't when I switched from a triple to a compact double last year...
That's 4-gear inches out of say 36 (assume a 25T big cog) or 11% which is not negligible at all. Then too a 33T is the lowest chainring you can put a compact double and a 38T on a "standard road" double. The 30T granny ring on a road triple can be replaced with down to a 24T ring and that provides a greatly improved lowest gear.

I still maintain there is no real downside to a triple these days if your terrain and/or fitness need it. As I said, what's needed in the mid-West isn't the same as what's needed in Southwestern PA or West Virginia.
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Old 08-13-09, 10:56 AM   #9
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+1 for Hillrider's posts.

I'll add that with a decent triple setup, the weight penalty is about 100g - or the weight of a shot of tequila (without the glass, dearie).
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Old 08-13-09, 11:37 AM   #10
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Thanks folks. Well with the triple I find myself using the large ring and sometimes the center ring but have never used the smaller ring.
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Old 08-13-09, 11:50 AM   #11
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Well I loved my old triple, I'm not knocking them, I just figured it would be easier to drop the scratch on a compact double, then trying to track down proper spacers to use my old triple with a 9 speed setup. It would have been 40 dollars for spacers alone!

I tried the Dura Ace triple and I found the gearing didn't suit my bike.
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Old 08-13-09, 11:51 AM   #12
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Please put your location in your profile so we can see if you live in Florida where the biggest hill is the freeway overpass.

What cassette are you using? With a triple and some fitness you should be on something like an 11-23.
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Old 08-13-09, 12:34 PM   #13
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I get a bit confused when reading about triples and doubles. Is the main difference- doubles more flat out speed oriented and the triples more suited for climbing? Thanks!

I love triples. . . .and that I can use 26/44/48 rings with a 13-32 7sp rear. I can use the entire middle ring which by itself can take me from modest 8% climbs to fast rolling descents. It's great for rolling hills because I don't have to cross shift at all.

One difference between doubles and triples is versatility. . . . especially if you use a square tapered one. You can run any of these as doubles if you ever move or transfer it to another bike that doesn't need a triple. . . just get a shorter BB.


Speed is speed . . . it depends on the rider's input . . .the crank has nothing to do with it
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Old 08-13-09, 12:59 PM   #14
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A triple will always provide a lower gear than any double.
Well, no. I realize you may be talking about road bikes, but Shimano's SLX double is 22 teeth on the small ring, as is their SLX triple. So in that one case, the triple does notprovide a lower gear than its corresponding double. What you actually lose are a few higher gears; you lose the 44tooth ring.
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Old 08-13-09, 01:11 PM   #15
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The thing that triples give you is a wider gear range than a double with a setup without too-large a difference in tooth count between rings.

Last edited by njkayaker; 08-13-09 at 01:15 PM.
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Old 08-13-09, 01:42 PM   #16
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My bikes are standard doubles. My lowest gear combination is usuallly a 39-26 which is good enough where I ride. We climb short and sometimes steep hills but no mountains. If I rode mountains I would probably have at least one triple. I have ridden some real mountains on rented touring bikes and was glad to have that 30t granny gear.
I do think there is a significant weight difference between a high end double and a triple, but when you need a triple you need a triple.
In the future I may go to a compact double, probably a 50-36. I think I would have much more use for a 36 than a 34. If I lived in the mountains I might have a 48-34 instead of a triple, just for the weight savings.
One of my bikes has a 9-speed Dura-Ace double. It has my favorite front shifting system because I can run any gear combination without trimming. And it never needs adjusting (other than an occasional shot of WD40 into the shifter).

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Old 08-13-09, 03:15 PM   #17
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I have both a 50/34 compact, and a 53/39/30 triple. What I really prefer on the triple is the 39 ring which I rarely get out of. Of course the standard double is 53/39, but sometimes in the big hills I need that 30. I do not use the 30 ring often, but when I have to I am glad I have it
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Old 08-13-09, 03:28 PM   #18
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A triple allows you to use a close ratio cassette like 12-23, which will always give you the right gear for your normal riding.
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Old 08-13-09, 03:58 PM   #19
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I do think there is a significant weight difference between a high end double and a triple, but when you need a triple you need a triple.
The weight difference insignificant as a contribution to the overall weight of the bicycle.

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A triple allows you to use a close ratio cassette like 12-23, which will always give you the right gear for your normal riding.
You can often get those "right" gears with a larger ratio cassette if you are willing to double shift.

============

Doubles do have the advantage of being somewhat easier to shift.

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Old 08-13-09, 04:05 PM   #20
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A triple allows you to use a close ratio cassette like 12-23, which will always give you the right gear for your normal riding.
A 12-23...... Man . . .that reminds me of when I used to ride those in a 6 or 7 speed FW back in the day with a 42/52. With 9,10 or 11 speeds it seems the only use is for a case of Carpal Tunnel. . . .or join "Shifters Anonymous" 12 step program.
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Old 08-13-09, 04:35 PM   #21
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Advantages of doubles that haven't been stated yet:

-- Lower "Q" factor, meaning your feet will be a tad closer to the middle of the frame when pedaling. Grant Peterson and the Rivendell people are all about Q factors. As a practical matter, the difference isn't a big deal for most people, and they notice the difference but adjust to it in a few miles or, at worst, a few rides. But there are some for whom the extra width of a triple equals significant ongoing muscle or knee discomfort. It seems to be kind of rare, though, so you aren't likely to care, but it is a possible concern.

-- Doubles, with the attendant short-cage rear derailleurs, look more like what the pros ride. That matters to some people.

And yes, doubles and the attendant stuff weigh less than triples and the needed longer cage rear derrailleurs, longer chains, and whatever else. But even assuming the poster who said the difference is 100 grams is wrong by a factor of two (I'm not saying he is) and the diff is realy 200 grams, that is less than half a pound. Unless you are a dyed-in-the-wool weight wienie, half a pound is nothing if you live in hilly terrain and need the lower gears.

For me, the Q factor and "it looks like what the pros ride" factor both matter and both weigh in favor of doubles. But my size, my (utter lack of) climbing ability and the hilliness of the area where I ride overrides any and all other factors and mean that Mr. Triple is and will remain my friend, on all of my bikes. If I lived in Pancake Flat Land, I might feel differently. But I don't, so I don't.
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Old 08-13-09, 04:48 PM   #22
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I tried the Dura Ace triple and I found the gearing didn't suit my bike.
This, and the fact that it is damn near impossible to customize rear cogsets, is the direct result of all the pins and ramps and sepcially shaped teeth and other things that go into modern click-shifting systems. Put another way, the vast reduction in chainwheel and cog size flexibility ois the price we pay for instantaneous buttery-smooth indexed shifting.

In the good old/bad old days, I could go into Talbot's in San Mateo and see two stacks of chainwheels - one Campy, the other Shimano - in literally any size you wanted. Good luck trying that today. Of course, everyhting was friction shifting then, so ramps and pins weren't part of the equation, and the smoothness of the shifts was down to the quality of the machining and your skill in shifting.

This is not meant to be an old-fogey rant (although I am an old fogey and am prone to ranting ), but rather a factual comparison. The point is: there ain't no free lunch - you can have uber-flexibility in setting up your gears or uber-fast and uber-smooth click shifting, but good luck gettng both.

(Post from someone telling me why I am completely and utterly wrong coming in 5 . . . 4 . . . 3 . . .)
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Old 08-13-09, 06:25 PM   #23
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This, and the fact that it is damn near impossible to customize rear cogsets, is the direct result of all the pins and ramps and sepcially shaped teeth and other things that go into modern click-shifting systems.
Considering modern 10-speed cassettes are nearly straight blocks how many other cogs could you substitute?

A 12x23 10-speed is 12,13,14,15,16,17,18,19,21,23 or straight for the first 8 cogs. A 12x27 is 12,13,14,15,16,17,19,21,24,27 or straight for 6 cogs and then only 2 teeth difference for the next 2.

How much better could you do?
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Old 08-13-09, 06:31 PM   #24
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The weight difference insignificant as a contribution to the overall weight of the bicycle.
This is very subjective. It all depends on what you consider significant, or what I consider significant.
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Old 08-13-09, 06:48 PM   #25
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weightweenies puts it about 100g for the higher end groups. That's about one jigger, or 3 Tbsp, of tequila. Some might consider that significant, but not for its weight.
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