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Old 06-14-08, 01:22 PM   #1
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Compact vs Triple

Compact cranks have been touted as providing a boost on hills for older riders over the standard double crankset - has anyone gone from a triple to compact and has the compact turned out to be an adequate replacement over the triple for various terrain changes ?
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Old 06-14-08, 01:35 PM   #2
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Compact cranks have been touted as providing a boost on hills for older riders over the standard double crankset - has anyone gone from a triple to compact and has the compact turned out to be an adequate replacement over the triple for various terrain changes ?
I have both: triple on my Trek 2300 and compact on my Pinarello Galileo and after many mile on both, I still prefer the triple, especially on the infrequent hilly rides I do in FL. For flat riding I changed my Trek's cassette to 11-21 and I've bought, but not yet fitted, a 36 inner chainring for the Pina as I can then stay in the inner ring for most of my riding rather than do the rather complicated double shifting which you tend to do more often with a compact.
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Old 06-14-08, 01:40 PM   #3
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I just change my triple to a compact double and I should have done it a year ago. I ride on almost no hills, and I had never once used the granny gear. But I also almost never used the 53 because it was simply too big. The 50 -36 is a great size for me (48 is probably perfect). Sorry I can give no advice about it's use in different terrain.
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Old 06-14-08, 01:44 PM   #4
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I have a standard 53-42 on one bike and a compact 50-36 on another and my first bike had a triple. I think of the three the compact is the best for level, slightly hilly terrain but you do have to double shift sometimes or do a lot of cross chain riding. I rented a bike in Raleigh NC with a triple and I was very glad to have the little ring.
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Old 06-14-08, 01:56 PM   #5
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I have switched from triples to compact doubles. With a 12/26 flatland cassette and an 11/32 hill country cassette I've found the gearing more than adequate. As Kerlenbach noted, the 53 on the triple was rarely being used.

As to the famous double shift (rear and front to get the right ratio), I was doing that on the triple anyway. For a rider who wants to stay in a relatively narrow cadence range a "chainring smaller, cassette 2 larger shift" is a normal occurance. The whole point behind having the double crankset is flawless front shifting.
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Old 06-14-08, 02:12 PM   #6
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I live in a hilly area and first road bike had a triple. And I used the lowest gear of 30/28. Even took it up a mountain and the bike and I survived. A year ago I got a new Lightweight bike and it came with a Compact double. 50/34 and I got a 12/27 cassette on the bike.

My problem with the compact was confidence. So started doing the 8% hills and worked my way up on severity of the slopes. Then one day there was a tailwind for a basket 15% hill so I attempted it. Made it up the hill with ease- but that may have been the tailwind. It was- The next bit of the ride took in another 15%-but I was now going in the other direction. That hill into the wind was hard on the compact. In other words- The hills I struggled up with the triple- I now struggled just as hard with the compact- Except it took less time to climb the hills.

I needed that triple when I started to give me confidence to climb the hills. Now whether it is the confidence I have gained- or the extra fitness- I do not know- but I no longer feel that I have to use a triple on a steep hill. Might need a lower gear- but I do not walk up hills. May need a rest at the top but Compact doubles are OK.
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Old 06-14-08, 02:54 PM   #7
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I used a triple last year, and a compact double this year. I'm in way, way better shape this year, and also doing way more hills, so it's not necessarily comparable. But I've been doing much harder, longer hills with the compact double than I ever did with the triple. I've done Mt. Weather and Skyline Drive in VA with no problems on the compact. But I never rode anything that hard on the triple, so it's hard to tell. Very convenient, easy enough gears, and overall a better choice for me.
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Old 06-14-08, 04:02 PM   #8
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This is pretty timely as I am planning to put a new group on my Simoncini which has a 9 spd and triple. I was planning on going to a conventional 53-39 + 10 spd cassett because I am using that bike more for distance (>50) and using the Tarmac (53-39-30) for my hill rides which tend to top out at 35 miles. As madmax noted, even on the triple I do the double shift. I am usually motoring along and when I am 50yrds from the start of a hill I drop down to the middle and drop two in the back. I only use the little chain ring when climbing the stuck'n feep hills I train on but that is only one day a week and that is now only with the Tarmac as it is a better climber with a little lower gearing and 5lbs less weight. I want to loose another 10lbs and get stronger so I can stay out of the little ring for even these hills - they average a 10% grade for 2.5 miles with some sections upto 26% - at least according to my GPS reports (not sure I believe that as the Highway department would not accept that steep a grade).
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Old 06-14-08, 05:06 PM   #9
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I've used triples, "standard doubles" and compact cranks-and ridden in all types of terrain. Triples just make no sense to me....you can get the same overall gear ratios with a compact with less weight by getting the right combination of front and rear gears. But then again some folks still prefer a manual transmission in an automobile versus the industry standard.

(just seeing if I can get a reaction........seems like I've seen this discussed before!)
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Old 06-14-08, 05:46 PM   #10
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I've used triples, "standard doubles" and compact cranks-and ridden in all types of terrain. Triples just make no sense to me....you can get the same overall gear ratios with a compact with less weight by getting the right combination of front and rear gears. But then again some folks still prefer a manual transmission in an automobile versus the industry standard.

(just seeing if I can get a reaction........seems like I've seen this discussed before!)
I run a triple 52-42-30, with an 11-34 cassette. How am I going to get the same range with a compact double? I can make it up most hills with a compact double, at least the first one. I find having a triple helps me keep a higher cadence. Lower cadence climbing tires my legs, higher cadence climbing tires my lungs. My lungs recover much more quickly.
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Old 06-14-08, 06:38 PM   #11
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This is an interesting thread to me.

I have lately been meditating on my gearset too. I have the standard triple, 52/39/30 and cassette, 12/25 - 10 spd (per the Trek website).

I try to minimize cross-chaining by restricting my gears to 6 per chainring:
30:1-6
39:3-8
52:5-10

Am I being too conservative in that regard?

What I'm finding is that I can run my middle chainring and 8th gear but when I double shift to the large chainring and gear 5, I can't pull that as well, even though the cadence seems similar. (maybe it's not)

I still find the little chainring useful when I've exhausted myself spinning up a hill and drop down to grind it out.

Would a change in gearset benefit me in any way?

Last edited by speedlever; 06-14-08 at 07:46 PM. Reason: gear correction
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Old 06-14-08, 06:43 PM   #12
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How odd, I just came back from picking up a new bike...with a compact double and I almost didn't do it thinking it wasn't going to be enough selection...sounds like I might have to decide for myself, but I like what I'm hearing so far.
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Old 06-14-08, 06:51 PM   #13
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I understand that crosschaining a modern drivetrain is not a problem. I just got my compact double and I do it regularly. Am I wrong?
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Old 06-14-08, 06:54 PM   #14
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I'm 57, 6'0", 210+ lbs. I rode a standard double 53/39, 12-25(27) for about five years. This year I got a new bike with a triple 53/39/30, 12-27. I often ride in the Texas Hill Country west of Austin. I wish I had gotten the triple sooner. I don't use the 30t chainring that often, but when I do, I am glad I have it. It gives me two things the double doesn't: 1) three lower gears, and 2) more options in the low gears so I can find the right gear for the incline. I'm going to upgrade my old bike to a triple.

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Old 06-14-08, 06:58 PM   #15
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How odd, I just came back from picking up a new bike...with a compact double and I almost didn't do it thinking it wasn't going to be enough selection...sounds like I might have to decide for myself, but I like what I'm hearing so far.
Congrats on the new bike! Ride up to Idyllwild on the 1600 and then on the Madone and give us a report.
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Old 06-14-08, 07:17 PM   #16
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I understand that crosschaining a modern drivetrain is not a problem. I just got my compact double and I do it regularly. Am I wrong?
I am far from an expert on this, but I was under the impression that you can't cross-chain a double in a significant way. That cross-chaining is more an issue when you use a triple, given how the width of your triple will stress the chain at the extremes of your rear cassette - particularly 9- and 10-speed rear cassettes which are in turn very wide themselves.
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Old 06-14-08, 08:05 PM   #17
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I've used triples, "standard doubles" and compact cranks-and ridden in all types of terrain. Triples just make no sense to me....you can get the same overall gear ratios with a compact with less weight by getting the right combination of front and rear gears. But then again some folks still prefer a manual transmission in an automobile versus the industry standard.

(just seeing if I can get a reaction........seems like I've seen this discussed before!)

I definitely prefer a manual transmission on my car (and friction shifting on my bike) and I like the versatility of a triple crank on my bike, particularly with my 7 speed rear setup. A 34/34 low gear is very low, but not as low as the 26/32 I'll be running when I ride the big climbs in the mountains. For most rides I run a 12-21 cassette with a 26-36-48 crank.

I just rode this combination for 420 miles across Georgia and it worked beautifully from the rolling hills of the piedmont to the long hills of the fall line to the flat roads of the coastal plain. I had plenty of low gears and plenty of high gears with nice small steps between gears. For extremely hilly rides I would want more low end which can come from a different cassette. I could go as low as a 28 with the Campy triple rear der. or as low as 34 with a MTB der.

I tried a compact crank for a while, and although the simpler front shifting was nice, I could never find a combination that gave me both good range and closely spaced gears. I expect that would be less of a problem with a 10 speed rear.
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Old 06-14-08, 08:36 PM   #18
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Compact cranks have been touted as providing a boost on hills for older riders over the standard double crankset - has anyone gone from a triple to compact and has the compact turned out to be an adequate replacement over the triple for various terrain changes ?
1. As surely as 52 is bigger than 50 and 30 is smaller than 34, you'll always be able to get a wider spread of gears with a triple than with a compact double. If you think that you need that much gear range, you need a triple crankset.

2. To me the issue with a compact double is it's lack of overlap gears. That mandates when you have to shift chainrings and it usually requires a shift or two with the rear derailleur when you do.

I think that where you happen to be when you shift chainrings determines how well you'll like a compact double. If you do most of your riding on the big ring and only change to the small ring as you start up steep hills, a compact is great. If you find yourself right at the cusp of changing chainrings while riding on flat roads, I'd think that a compact double would be a PITA.
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Old 06-14-08, 08:44 PM   #19
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Congrats on the new bike! Ride up to Idyllwild on the 1600 and then on the Madone and give us a report.
Thanks. And uh, don't expect to see that report too soon.
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Old 06-14-08, 08:46 PM   #20
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I run a triple with a 12-25 on one bike and a compact 50-34 with a 12-27 on another and the gear inches on low end are very similar.
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Old 06-14-08, 08:54 PM   #21
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You guys seem to like to talk about number of teeth you have have in your front rings and rears, but that's really irrelevant. What matters is what gears you have. How you get them makes no difference. You can't compare anything until you've made a gear chart for your bike.

Also, when you say "I never used the 52 ring on my triple, but I like the 50 on my compact", you're comparing apples to oranges. Who says you have to have a 52 or whatever on your triple? You don't like the 52 (I know I wouldn't), keep the triple and put the appropriate rings you want on it. I have a 50 big ring on mine.
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Old 06-15-08, 12:46 AM   #22
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You guys seem to like to talk about number of teeth you have have in your front rings and rears, but that's really irrelevant. What matters is what gears you have. How you get them makes no difference. You can't compare anything until you've made a gear chart for your bike.
Which is exactly what I do. I have a spreadsheet that shows the gear-inches of every gear combination for several front and rear setups so I can compare and choose. Number of teeth is not irrelevant. It is the variable you change to get different gear combinations.
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Old 06-15-08, 03:13 AM   #23
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Which is exactly what I do. I have a spreadsheet that shows the gear-inches of every gear combination for several front and rear setups so I can compare and choose. Number of teeth is not irrelevant. It is the variable you change to get different gear combinations.
I do the same thing!
I customize my cog sets and currently run a 3X8 on my old RockHopper.
I run a "semi-corn cob", 12-13-14-15-16-17-19-23, usually on the middle (38T) ring. I've got 3 closely spaced higher and 2 not as closely spaced lower gears on the other rings.
A change will be in the works, since I have shorter cranks ordered. It'll be a 13-something I presume.

That brings up a major point! There are many other variables! CRANK LENGTH has a large effect on how low a gear you need or how fast you can spin.
This is a 50+ forum (where's the 60+?), but besides being "older", there are many degrees of fitness and bicycle types amongst us to be generalizing about what works best. It's what works best for ME! What works best for YOU may be entirely different!
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Old 06-15-08, 06:11 AM   #24
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Bill K is right about crank length being the additional variable to consider. I was using a triple with a 175 crank, and almost never used the 53. My compact double has a 172.5 crank, which also was the right move for me. I understood that longer legs means longer crank length; that advice I suppose is correct for longer, stronger younger legs. My legs are as long as they were years ago, but I think not so strong. So a shorter crank is a good move.

Longfemur also is right. I think many folks (me included) are too reticent to change out the rings on an existing crank in an attempt to tweak it. My compact double is an FSA Gossamer, and it would be no problem to change the big ring to a 49 or 48.
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Old 06-15-08, 07:23 AM   #25
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This is a 50+ forum (where's the 60+?), but besides being "older", there are many degrees of fitness and bicycle types amongst us to be generalizing about what works best. It's what works best for ME! What works best for YOU may be entirely different!
I totally agree. I'm an ongoing research project of one. I can tell you what has worked for me, but there are too many variables to say for sure what might work for someone else.
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