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Old 10-25-07, 09:47 AM   #1
Spoke
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Compact or a Triple???

Okay, I am 56, 6'0", 210lbs, currently riding a Cannondale, aluminum frame with 105 components. I have decided to get a better bike for longer rides. I'm thinking about an all CF frame & fork with Ultegra components, something on the order of a Specialized Roubaix with the Zertz inserts. But for the hills I need a lower gear than is available on a standard setup. So I am trying to decide between a compact or a triple. Any suggestions or recommendations? Thanks!

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Old 10-25-07, 09:57 AM   #2
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Traditionally, the triple with the 12/27 ultegra cassette has been the popular choice.

My own choice is a 50/34 compact double with an 11/32 cassette. I have all the gearing I can use and since I have no interest in pacelining with others, the slightly wider gear ranges present no problem whatsoever. The front shifting/derailleur setup with friction shifting is so simple as to be a non event.
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Old 10-25-07, 10:02 AM   #3
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Probably depends on where you live. Where I am (Maryland), we have a bunch of hills and some mountains nearby (Blue Ridge) and compact double is my choice. If I lived in the Rockies, I'd probably go for a triple.
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Old 10-25-07, 10:03 AM   #4
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I tried a compact double and didn't care for it. I was constantly having to shift the big ring back and forth because my gearing sweet spot was between the two.

The triple set up allows me to stay in the middle ring much of the time, the big ring on descents, and small ring for steep climbs. It's very simple and intuitive.

For me...

Last edited by Big Paulie; 10-25-07 at 04:31 PM.
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Old 10-25-07, 10:18 AM   #5
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I use a triple but only because it came on the bike. I don't have anything against a double but have never really tried one for any length of time. Even on hills, I am almost never in the small ring.
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Old 10-25-07, 10:30 AM   #6
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I keep going back and forth between a triple and a compact on my main bike. I really like the simplicity of a double and I like the way it encourages me to go a little faster so I can stay on the 50 ring. But as Big Paulie mentioned, I often find myself needing to shift the front more often with the compact double than with the triple. A 39 or 40 tooth ring is just more versatile than a 34 or 36 except on the low end. My situation is a little worse since I decided to stay with a 7 speed rear end. A 9 or 10 speed would offr more range while keeping the jumps small enough.
I think I'll be going back to the triple soon. Overall, I find shifting the front ring less often to be more in line with my idea of simplicity than having fewer rings but shifting more often.
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Old 10-25-07, 10:30 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spoke View Post
Okay, I am 56, 6'0", 210lbs, currently riding a Cannondale, aluminum frame with 105 components. I have decided to get a better bike for longer rides. I'm thinking about an all CF frame & fork with Ultegra components, something on the order of a Specialized Roubaix with the Zertz inserts. But for the hills I need a lower gear than is available on a standard setup. So I am trying to decide between a compact or a triple. Any suggestions or recommendations? Thanks!

Regards,
Spoke
Good luck on your future purchase. Try both out and see what you fancy.
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Old 10-25-07, 10:37 AM   #8
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For me, the triple is the way to go. I've become a big fan of close-ratio cassettes. They let me keep my cadence in a comfortable range no matter what the terrain or headwinds. Prior to switching to a close-ratio cassette, it always seemed like one gear was too easy and the next too hard. There was never any "just right". Now I have 'em. But a 12-23 doesn't give me enough oomph for hills without shifting to the granny ring.

So if you like small jumps between your shifts, go with the triple. If you don't mind large ones, the double will do--unless, like Big Paulie, your comfort zone is between the two. I suspect that's where mine would be too.
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Old 10-25-07, 10:38 AM   #9
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Overall, I find shifting the front ring less often to be more in line with my idea of simplicity than having fewer rings but shifting more often.
This is what I was trying to convey, but BD said it much better!
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Old 10-25-07, 10:57 AM   #10
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The triple set up allows me to stay in the middle ring much of the time, the big ring on descents, and small ring for steep climbs. It's very simple and intuitive.

..[/QUOTE]

+1, like Big Paulie I find I spend 80% of my time on the middle ring. As a "spinner" its easier for me to maintain even cadence with a triple.
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Old 10-25-07, 11:08 AM   #11
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I have a 50/36 with a 12/27 ten speed mix of Dura ace and Ultegra. Shifts great and I can go 21 mph on the flat in the little ring, and I haven't been in the 50/12 combo long enough to report on how fast that will go except on a downhill going over 35. I can climb everything I have seen in the 36/27, but if you are concerned the 34 would probably work well also. It's only money, try 'em all - lol.

Cheers.
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Old 10-25-07, 11:21 AM   #12
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I am getting my bike built with a compact double 50x34 with the new 11-28 SRAM 10 speed cassette.

This should give me a wide enough range to keep me from changing between the chainrings too much for my style of riding.

If it doesn't work for me, I will adjust... I am building with a long cage RD so I can easily move to a triple if that is in the cards later... and I can change the rngs too if I think that willl make a difference. To be honest, 48x34 or 48x36 sounds interesting to me with this cassette, but I am going stock with what comes on the crank to begin with.

I was originally leaning toward triple, but I decided to give compact double a try first for simplicity.
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Old 10-25-07, 11:32 AM   #13
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For those with compact 50/34 110mm cranksets ... have you ever replaced the 50T with a smaller chainring such as 48T or even a 46T?

If so, and assuming the smaller outer rings you replaced with were not Shimano (because I don't think Shimano makes 46T or 48T chainrings for 110mm cranksets) chainrings ... how did this affect the Ultegra-level ... R700 Shimano ... compact chainring-shifting performance?
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Old 10-25-07, 11:39 AM   #14
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Have a triple and a compcat. I have some quite steep hills around here and as such I used to go on the triple if climbing was required. But when I got the New bike with a compact double-50/34 and 12/27- I decided to give it a try at least. Started on the 8 % hills- then the 10 and so on up to the 12% that has a nasty 15% in it- then tried the 15% with a short 20% at the end. By working up the grades - I gave myself confidence. Confidence to do the real basket of 16% that does not slacken off for one mile. I made it but the HR did get a bit high.

Don't think I would like to do Ventoux on 34/27 as my lowest gear- but I have plans for that.

I have steep hills but I am used to them. I like the simplicity of the double and prefer the gear ratios but you know your legs. If I take myself back a year- then I would have said- hills- 50+ - and not knowing what I want- Get a triple. Now I am saying go for the compact but make certain it has a 34T ring and the cassette to be 12/27.
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Old 10-25-07, 11:46 AM   #15
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On my Cannondale Six13 I have a 50/36 compact up front with a 10 speed 12/26 in the rear. On my older Cannondale R1000 I have an Ultegra triple up front and a 9 speed 12/26 in the rear. For the majority of my riding the compact arrangement works best for me. The compact shifts very well and I find the ratios work fine. The compact weighs less and is mechanically simpler then a triple. Occasionally I ride in Vermont and I have ridden both bikes there. The compact certainly does the job but on the really long steep climbs the granny gear on my triple is very much appreciated.
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Old 10-25-07, 01:25 PM   #16
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Any suggestions or recommendations?
I recently went through a similar choice. To help me with the decision, I went to Sheldon's gear calculator http://www.sheldonbrown.com/gears/ . I put in the gear ratios of the 2 bikes I was considering and had the calculator show me the MPH at 80 and 90 RPMs. Armed with this information and knowledge of the range of speeds I usually ride around home, and what I could probably do on the mountain rides I plan to take next year, I chose the triple. My reasons included many that were already mentioned:
  • Tighter gear range in back. I use a 12x23 around home and I'll switch to a 12x27 when I do the mountain rides. The 30x27 will allow me to stay at a much better cadence when I'm working my way up the long climbs.
  • Less bouncing back and forth between rings. The middle ring handles most of the terrain, but I can switch to the small ring when climbing and the big one when descending. With a compact I would have been switching between rings even on smaller rolling hills.
  • I'm long past the point where I feel the need to prove myself to others by only having 2 rings up front.
  • The smaller big ring meant I would be spinning out on many of the hills around home. I guess I could just coast, but sometimes I feel like pedaling down the hills.
If I were in an area that was less hilly, and didn't plan to ride the NC mountains, I might have gone with a compact.
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Old 10-25-07, 01:34 PM   #17
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I am very close to your age weight and height. I recently got a compact (SRAM Rival) and love it. Here on Long Island, NY the hills aren't very long but pretty steep. Plenty go in to the teens and a few in parts in the low twenties as far as grades. I find the 34X26 more than enough. If you have longer hills but just as steep it has more to do with conditioning than gearing.
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Old 10-25-07, 01:41 PM   #18
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I changed to a compact 50/34 on my bike, plus I added a long cage RD and changed the 9 spd to a 12/34 to give me a little more bottom end for those steep climbs. This setup was less expensive than changing to a triple and a new shifter. I'd like to a little light touring hence the setup. I do like to spin rather than mash but don't find myself shifting back and forth too much looking for the right gear, seems to work for me.
That being said - the next bike might be a triple.
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Old 10-25-07, 01:45 PM   #19
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For those with compact 50/34 110mm cranksets ... have you ever replaced the 50T with a smaller chainring such as 48T or even a 46T?
Actually, I have a 48 "big ring" on my triple!
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Old 10-25-07, 02:08 PM   #20
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Okay, I am 56, 6'0", 210lbs, currently riding a Cannondale, aluminum frame with 105 components. I have decided to get a better bike for longer rides. I'm thinking about an all CF frame & fork with Ultegra components, something on the order of a Specialized Roubaix with the Zertz inserts. But for the hills I need a lower gear than is available on a standard setup. So I am trying to decide between a compact or a triple. Any suggestions or recommendations? Thanks!

Regards,
Spoke
We are the same age and ride in the same area. I weigh 80 pounds less than you so my gearing is probably not going to make you happy. However, I have friends I ride with whose gearing might be close to what you want. One friend is 6'5" and weighs 230, and uses an Ultegra triple with 12-27 in the rear. He says that he never uses the little ring. He's quite a strong rider and a surprisingly good climber but he moved here last year from Denver where the climbs are much longer than around here. He says that you need a triple in the mountains but here he'd rather have a compact double. I have another friend who has a Trek Pilot with a 105 triple setup. He is about 5'9" and weighs about 215. He really likes his setup and uses the granny ring extensively now. He's been losing weight steadily and has started talking compact double lately. With the compact double, you give away the top end as compared with a standard setup. Compared to the triple, you give up the lowest end. Interestingly, because of overlap you have about as many usable gears with the compact double as with the triple, just not the lowest one or two bailout gears.

If you are able to climb the hills around here with a regular setup but are worried about those same climbs at the end of 80 miles, and want to experiment before buying, I'd suggest 1) 12-27 cassette, 2) bigger tires for comfort. If you are using 23mm tires, try 25mm ones. If you can fit 28mm, try that. These will allow you to see if slightly lower gears will do the trick for you and if the greater shock absorption is what you need.

I think you'd probably be happy with either the triple or compact double. If you are in the process of losing a lot of weight, you might think more about the compact double for around here.

Whereabouts do you ride, and do you ride with a club?

-soma5
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Old 10-25-07, 02:17 PM   #21
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The LBS tried to talk me into a triple for the hills around here (Sierra Nevada foothills) but I am very happy with my FSA compact double (50/34) with a 12/25 cassette. It doesn't hurt to have Dura-Ace brifters with DA derailleurs front and rear either!
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Old 10-25-07, 02:20 PM   #22
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Well, it depends on your riding style and the kind of hills you face.

Around here in central Florida where we have some climbs that are of some distance at 7% and a few that are steeper and shorter (up to 14%), I get along fine with a standard double with a 13-25 on the back.

But if I go places where there are 7% climbs for long distances like Rabbit Ears Pass (7 miles at 7%), I like to sit and spin. For those, I use a triple.

Triples give you a wider range of gearing and they give you gearing that is closer together. They don't weigh anymore. The only disadvantage is I don't think they shift quite as quickly as double chain rings.
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Old 10-25-07, 03:49 PM   #23
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I have gone to the 50/34 compact with the 12/27 10 speed cassette. For a while I was missing the middle ring, but I have now worked through that problem. The real advantage of the compact double is the ease of shifting. Almost error free now, where in the past with the tripple I would drop my chain on a regular basis. I now have confidence in the compact double. At my weight, 230 pounds, climbing problems have more to do with the dinner table than the gears.
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Old 10-25-07, 04:32 PM   #24
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Very much like saddles, the drivetrain is a very personal choice and what works for one person may not work for another.

I rode a triple for several years. The gearing was 52-42-30 and I used a 12/27 cassette. Last year I changed to a 50/34 with a 11/32 cassette and it is just super. It has a little easier lower gear than the triple setup and provides an excellent range of gears across the board. Unlike some others who have used the 50/34, I find that with both a 11/32 and a 12/27 cassette I'm actually changing from the big ring to the 34 a lot less. My feedback on a comparison is that a compact is lighter, it is simpler shifting, it is easier to adjust and maintain and to me just looks better.

Both setups can work well but I'm firmly entrenched in the compact camp these days.
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Old 10-25-07, 04:40 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by Spoke View Post
Okay, I am 56, 6'0", 210lbs, currently riding a Cannondale, aluminum frame with 105 components. I have decided to get a better bike for longer rides. I'm thinking about an all CF frame & fork with Ultegra components, something on the order of a Specialized Roubaix with the Zertz inserts. But for the hills I need a lower gear than is available on a standard setup. So I am trying to decide between a compact or a triple. Any suggestions or recommendations? Thanks!

Regards,
Spoke
There should be plenty of both bikes in your area. Ride them both and you decide. You can tell what your body likes better than we can.
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