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Old 01-13-08, 08:32 PM   #1
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First Road Bike: Double or Triple?

In my continuing journey toward finding that first road bike, I stopped in our LBS this evening to see what might be on sale. I explained what kind of riding I do now (1/2 day rides with hubby) and what I want to do next in addition to what I do now - club rides, small triathlon (teeny, really). The man who helped me recommends the Specialized Ruby (the female version of the Roubaix) Comp; the 2007's are currently 10% off. He has both a compact double and a compact triple in my size. He thought that I'd probably prefer the triple. (BTW, he's lean and in great shape, maybe late 30's early 40's. I'm about 128# and in early 50's.)

I currently ride a Trek 7.2 FX and haven't used the granny gear in months. I still struggle up the steep 1/4 mile hill that leads to our house, but that's only when I've been riding for hours and am rather tired. I simply stop and rest for a couple minutes until my heart stops pounding, then carry on. All other hills so far are gentle, although some of them are miles long. I'm not fast up those hills, but I don't struggle like I did in the beginning. In newbie language (the hybrid shifters are numbered), I use 2-1 for the steepest hills, 2-2 to 2-3 for the gentler hills, and usually stay in 2-4 through 2-6 for everything else.

Oh, and I'm starting a spinning class tomorrow and will soon start swimming laps to prepare for the teeny tri scheduled for June. I know that this doesn't "count" but wanted to throw in that I'll be improving my strength in ways in addition to cycling.

So given all that, do you recommend I go for the double or the triple? I really do value the opinion of my LBS, but I also value the collective wisdom of this 50+ forum.

Thanks!
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Old 01-13-08, 08:43 PM   #2
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If you are riding 2-1 up the steepest hills, that's a gear ratio of 38:32. The lowest gear of the 2007 Ruby Double is 34:27. This is a bit steeper, but not terribly so. If you can push a low-end Trek fitness hybrid up a steep hill in 38:32, then the odds are good that you could take a Ruby up in 34:27.

If you go that route and it turns out to be a little too hard, then you always have the option of replacing that 27 with a 29.

So it sounds like you could get by with the double ... particularly because it's a friendly 50/34 double crank and not a 53/39.

Going to the triple lowers the bottom gear from 34:27 to 30:27, not a whole lot. But it would also give you a 39t middle crank that you might find useful in your everyday riding.

I would lean to the triple just to give you more options. Since you are still using a gear that is lower than the lowest gear on the double, it isn't like you've proven that you don't need it.
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Old 01-13-08, 08:44 PM   #3
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I have a triple and am glad of it. We have the Ozark and Boston Mountains in our area, and the triple comes in handy.
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Old 01-13-08, 08:49 PM   #4
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I guess it depends on whether those club rides, triathlons, etc. will be on similar terrain to what you're riding now (i.e., if its the same, the double might do nicely...while if its hillier, you might want to go for the triple). I, for instance, recently gave up my traditional triple in favor of a compact double, as I found I was spending the vast majority of my time in ~12th gear and have no plans to take up mountain climbing.

If you really want to tell how the difference gear-wise between the two, I'd recommend you visit Sheldon Brown's gear calculator: http://sheldonbrown.com/gears/
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Old 01-13-08, 08:57 PM   #5
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Get the triple and don't feel guilty or bad about it.
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Old 01-13-08, 09:14 PM   #6
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Sounds like the triple is the way to go. Thanks, everyone! I love this forum.
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Old 01-13-08, 09:16 PM   #7
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I would lean to the triple just to give you more options.
+1
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Old 01-13-08, 09:22 PM   #8
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Which hills that are miles long are you talking about? The Tomales/Bodega road over the peninsula? Mt Veeder? Pope Valley? Ink Grade?

Tom is correct about the gearing, so you want to look at the grades you'd be doing on club rides. Will the shop let you test ride up a good grade to see which one you like?
Most of the members of my club that have been riding for years and are eligible for AARP are riding triples, even the ones that still hit the gym regularly and also run.
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Old 01-13-08, 09:33 PM   #9
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Maybe someone can give the advantages and disadvantages of both the double and triple. If everything is equal except for and extra chainring it would seem that the triple would be better.
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Old 01-13-08, 09:34 PM   #10
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Why are struggling up hills to the point of having to stop and rest when you have a small ring that you are not using? Too macho to use the granny?
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Old 01-13-08, 09:34 PM   #11
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If they made bikes with a quadruple, I'd have one.
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Old 01-13-08, 09:36 PM   #12
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I must admit that I've considering swapping out my triple for a MTB 44/32/22 triple.
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Old 01-13-08, 09:56 PM   #13
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My first road bike since the '80s is the Specialized listed in my sig line. It has a triple and I highly recommend it for the reasons others have given. My Orca has a compact and once I swapped out the cassette from a 12-21 to a 12-25 the hills aren't as brutal as I perceived them to be. I miss the triple but I'll adapt -- just another way to get stronger.

But the Ruby is a pretty bike and given the hills you have, a triple will serve you well.

Of course, we need a picture of the new bike.
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Old 01-13-08, 09:56 PM   #14
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My philosophy is that you might as well have the widest range of gears possible. I have a triple, but seldom use the small cog. If I do, I try to stay at approximately the same ratio as a compact double. But I've got that granny if I need it. It sure is nice now and then.
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Old 01-13-08, 10:33 PM   #15
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Why are struggling up hills to the point of having to stop and rest when you have a small ring that you are not using? Too macho to use the granny?
Not too macho. Not sure if I can explain it, but I'll try. The granny just had me peddling faster, not getting any farther for the effort. I would still have to stop or zig zag up the hill using the 1-1. Using 2-1 feels better. I can stand or sit while peddling. 1-1 meant just sitting. I like how it feels to have a bit more resistance. But it could be that I'm not taking advantage of my granny the way I could be for lack of expertise on gears?
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Old 01-13-08, 10:43 PM   #16
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The 1-1 on your Trek is very low, way down at 28:32. There to be used if all else fails. When you read about the experiences of people on this forum riding road bikes up hills, pretty much none of them will have a gear this low. A really low road bike gear would be a triple paired with a cassette with a 29t cog, for a 30:29 ratio. Usually a road bike that is considered to have easy gearing will have a low gear of 30:27.

If your rear cassette is a typical 8 speed 11-32 cassette, then the 1-2 gear is the next step below your 2-1 gear.

2-1 gear ratio is 38:32
1-2 gear ratio is 28:26 This is the gear that would be closest to a road bike lowest gear.
1-1 gear ratio is 28:32

How does it feel when riding in 1-2?

That Klein you were looking at had a 53/39 double with a 12-23 rear cassette, making its lowest gear 39:23. That's very close to gear 2-3 on your Trek.
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Old 01-13-08, 11:04 PM   #17
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Not too macho. Not sure if I can explain it, but I'll try. The granny just had me peddling faster, not getting any farther for the effort. I would still have to stop or zig zag up the hill using the 1-1. Using 2-1 feels better. I can stand or sit while peddling. 1-1 meant just sitting. I like how it feels to have a bit more resistance. But it could be that I'm not taking advantage of my granny the way I could be for lack of expertise on gears?
The triple is the best way to go. Many more options for gearing. You will learn how to use your gearing over time. Although I live in Colorado I travel out to Northern Cal at least once a year and stay with some friends in St Helena (Napa). Once you get stronger you can tackle some of the great hill country in your area. I ride a triple and have even opted to replace my 30T with a 28T small gear. Riding for long distances at high altitude here in Colorado it is nice to have a compound low gear which I call the rest gear when the legs need a rest. It is nice to be able to make a few hundred yards "resting" in the saddle.
If you like your knees then spin and don't grind.

Most experienced riders who have used compact grearing that I know eventually go back to a triple for the larger variety of gear choices and reduce knee soreness. Good luck. The area where you live is one of my favorite places to ride.
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Old 01-13-08, 11:12 PM   #18
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Tom, I sure appreciate the time you are taking to explain things to me. I'll give the 1-2 a try and see how it feels. If the Klein only goes down to a 2-3, then I now understand when you said that it would not be easy on hills.

There are no dealers in the area that sell Kleins, so I haven't been able to even see one let alone test ride it. But it sounds like it really isn't the bike for me. Did you ever pull the trigger on the Reve?

Embarassing Newbie question: What do the numbers stand for when you say "38:32" or "28:26", etc.?

Thanks!
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Old 01-13-08, 11:21 PM   #19
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The triple is the best way to go. Many more options for gearing. You will learn how to use your gearing over time. Although I live in Colorado I travel out to Northern Cal at least once a year and stay with some friends in St Helena (Napa). Once you get stronger you can tackle some of the great hill country in your area. I ride a triple and have even opted to replace my 30T with a 28T small gear. Riding for long distances at high altitude here in Colorado it is nice to have a compound low gear which I call the rest gear when the legs need a rest. It is nice to be able to make a few hundred yards "resting" in the saddle.
If you like your knees then spin and don't grind.

Most experienced riders who have used compact grearing that I know eventually go back to a triple for the larger variety of gear choices and reduce knee soreness. Good luck. The area where you live is one of my favorite places to ride.
Thanks, Deanster! Yes, we love this area. St. Helena is gorgeous! We're in Sonoma County. Great hills here, too.

I'm convinced that the triple is the way to go. The LBS has a way to set up the bike so I can practice the gears in the shop. Must be some sort of trainer? I've got lots to learn! So when I say I like the feeling of some resistance, that is "grinding" rather than the fast peddling, which is "spinning." OK.

Not sure if the Ruby is the bike for me, but might as well start by giving it a spin. I'm sure they'd let me try it on some hills if I ask. (We bought our Treks from them last year, and LOTS of gear.
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Old 01-13-08, 11:40 PM   #20
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The first number is the number of teeth on the front crank ring, the second number is the number of teeth on the rear cassette cog/ring.

Let's consider a bike with a triple crankset of 52/39/30 and a rear cassette of 12-27. It's lowest gear would have the chain on the small ring in the front, the 30t, and on the largest ring in the rear, the 27t. Thus the gear ratio would be 30:27. One revolution of the front crank would spin the rear cog just a little more than one revolution.

It follows that the highest gear would be 52:12, largest ring on the front turning the smallest ring on the rear. One revolution on the front would spin the rear 4.33 revolutions.

Your lowest gear on the Trek is 28:32, so one complete revolution of the front crank would turn the rear less than one complete revolution. That's why you spin and spin and spin and don't go very far.

You can compute the gear inches by using the ratios and the wheel size to calculate how much distance the bike is moved. But ratios work well when everyone is comparing bikes using the same wheel size, like a 700c wheel.

Your Trek 7.2 FX has a 48/38/28 front crank and 11-32 rear cassette. You've said that you usually ride in the front middle ring, so that's a 38t. An 8-spd 11-32 usually has cogs of 11 - 12 - 14 - 16 - 18 - 21 - 26 - 32. It can very a bit on the middle rings.

When you are in 2-6, that would be the 38:14 ratio. When in 2-3, it would be 38:21. In 2-1 it is 38:32. And so forth.
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Old 01-13-08, 11:51 PM   #21
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Here's one more vote for the triple. A triple gives you a lot of flexibility to have a super-low range plus a reasonable high range.

I've been riding triples since I was in my 20's. Two of the 3 bikes in my signature have triples. One of them, the Trek, is geared absurdly low...the Davidson is just geared low. IMHO 99% of the bikes sold in America are sold with gearing that's too high for the riders who will actually own them.

Even if you don't use your smallest chainring a lot, it sure is a confidence builder if you want to take off on a hilly route you've never ridden before.

BTW, your knees will likely thank you if you are more of a "spinner" up hills vs. a "grinder."
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Old 01-13-08, 11:56 PM   #22
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Thanks, Tom! Now I understand, although I'll have to print out your expanation as a cheat sheet until I really "know" it.

You didn't answer my question about the Reve...
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Old 01-13-08, 11:57 PM   #23
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Speaking of spinning versus grinding: Think of me at 6 a.m. PST tomorrow morning as I start my first spinning class at the Y.
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Old 01-13-08, 11:58 PM   #24
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If you look at all of the gear ratios, or gear inches, you will notice that many of your gears are near duplicates. On your Trek, when you are in 2-4 you are running a 38:18 gear ratio. When you are in 1-6, it is 28:14. That ratio is very close.

Or consider "3-2" vs "2-3" vs "1-5" those are 48:26 vs 38:21 vs 28:16. Some difference, but not a lot.

So anytime you are riding around in 2-6 and feel like using the Big Ring, just change to 3-4, it's almost the same gear.
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Old 01-14-08, 12:07 AM   #25
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Did you ever pull the trigger on the Reve?
No. It's still there, tempting me. I thought hard about it a few days ago. It's a great deal at $650 and a smooth ride. Would be nifty to own a Klein. But I came to the same place as I did last year when I had my pick of a Trek Pilot 1.2, 2.1 or 5.0, all in my size, and all 50% off on a 2006 clearance sale. And that place is: I don't enjoy riding road bikes. And I don't have much occasion to ride on paved surfaces. So why buy one??? What would I do with it? Hang it on a wall in a frame???

It's tempting only because it's a good deal and so many others have road bikes. But the desire to buy has to eventually run through my logical thinking processes and so far, no road bike has made it. I think a really cheap one might have a chance.
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