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  1. #1
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    Kind to my body: carbon frame/triple crank?

    This is my first posting. Have learned a bunch here already.
    Unfortunately I had to sell my recumbent due to some physical issues, am just getting back to riding and I am looking at a number of road bikes and would REALLY appreciate your recommendations/thougths.

    I am looking at the Specialized Robaix Comp, Cannondale Snyapse 5, Felt Z35.....all bikes with a more compact and comfortable geometry.

    My plan is to demo, demo, demo....but am quickly learning about the latest tech to help in this decision-making process. I have knee joint, toe joint and carpal tunnel issues, and am determined to find a bike that I can put many miles on AND be as comfortable as possible.....sound familiar?

    Re-entering the upright bike world I have discovered the compact crank and availability of carbon frames. I have read many reviews and would greatly welcome your thoughts.

    COMPACT VS. TRIPLE
    I have had triples on two recumbents and a Softride Solo. I have been told by bike salesfolks that the newer compacts essentially are equivalent to the triples, offering easier shifting and less 'tuning in'. When I road regularly, I rarely used the smallest ring but knew it was always there if I needed it. I understand that most compact cranks provide a 20 gear bike. I live in Western CT with many hills. I am leaning towards another triple. What are your experiences with these two options?

    IS CARBON WORTH IT?
    I keep reading how incredibly more comfortable a full carbon frame is. I have ridden aluminum recumbent frames with pudgy tires and very comfy seats. I am now far more concerned with the frame, stems, fork materials.

    Appreciate your reading this long post and look forward to your thoughts.
    Many thanks,
    Bob

  2. #2
    Email for new group DnvrFox's Avatar
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    Welcome.

    I am not a bike guru. I pretty much just ride. But, I wouldn't ride far without my triple and those lower gears. Why would one not want a triple? Some claim they have more troubles, but I have never had any problems on either of my road bikes nor my mtn bike.

    As far as the comfort of the bike, Sheldon Brown, famous (and recently deceased) national bike guru, always claimed that the geometry of the bike was much more important for "comfort" than the frame materials, at least for touring bikes, and cited references to prove his point. I don't know, as I ride one road bike all steel, and one with a carbon fork, and they feel about the same to me. However, I am sure there will be carbon advocates stating the opposite! Nothing wrong with carbon. IMHO, just try a lot of bikes. Also, the type of tires can make a real difference in riding comfort.

    Here is a reference to Sheldon Brown's article:

    http://www.sheldonbrown.com/frame-materials.html
    Last edited by DnvrFox; 09-17-08 at 06:05 AM.
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  3. #3
    Senior Member Allegheny Jet's Avatar
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    Welcome back from the "bent side". I purchased a Roubaix Expert last year with the compact crank set. For my currrent style of riding and how I intend to grow into the bike, the relaxed geometry of the Roubaix was the way to go. While pursuing the purchase I did the math and found the gearing between the double and triple was about 1 and 1/2 gears different. The easiest gear in the triple 30x27 is 1.11 as compared to the double's easiest gear of 1.25. The bike I was replacing has a standard double crank set with an easiest gear of 39x25 with a gearing ratio of 1.56. The easiest gear on my Roubaix is about 2 and 1/2 gears easier than the standard double. I currenty like to ride on fast group rides and enter races so I have flipped the stem and switched all but one of the spacers on the head set, to get lower, and have installed a 12/23 rear cassette. I do switch the cassette back to 12/27 when I plan to ride centurys or on rides with big hills.

    One thing to keep in mind about carbon fiber bikes. The bikes you are looking at are CF that have the relaxed geometry built-in so they will be more comfortable to ride than a traditional road bike. I like the ride my Roubaix provides and notice it at the end of longer rides. The Roubaix replaced an all aluminum Cannondale R 600 that is a very stiff bike. My son has a Felt F-1 which is a top of the line carbon fiber racing bike, it's so stiff that I can feel shadows when riding over them. I would not want to ride that bike more than 20 miles at a time, but it's fast, really, really fast.

  4. #4
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    Welcome. All the bikes you are looking at are great bikes. I'd be a bit careful of a shop that said a compact was essentially the same as a triple. A compact will give you lower gears than a standard 39-52/54 front chain ring, but can't get as low a gear as a triple. There's a good chance they have lots of compacts in stock and perhaps not so many triples.

    On to frame materials. I own steel, aluminum, carbon, and titanium bikes. All three are comfortable in different ways. The steel seems to flex more over major bumps on the road and does an OK job with vibration. The aluminum is also comfortable, but this is because it's a touring bike with a long wheel base and 32 mm wide tires. The carbon simply kill road vibration, but is not as compliant over road bumps. It is, however, wickedly light... which makes climbing a bit easier for me. The titanium, at least to my tastes, seems to be the best of all the others. But as DnvrFox pointed out, frame geometry has a lot to do with it. I think you're on the right track by wanting to rides lots of demos.
    Oh I used to be disgusted and now I try to be amused. But since their wings have got rusted, you know, the angels wanna wear my red shoes. But when they told me 'bout their side of the bargain, that's when I knew that I could not refuse. And I won't get any older, now the angels wanna wear my red shoes.

  5. #5
    Senior Member gear's Avatar
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    I don't like alum frames unless the bike has suspension or big fat tires as alum is a harsh ride. I find that even though carbon absorbs small vibrations the ride of a carbon frame as a whole is a bit on the wooden side for me. I like steel or even better ti framed bikes. Of course that's my opinion and you know what they say about opinions.

    I switched from a triple to a double (not compact double) in the same groupo. The new cranks also are carbon rather than alum. I couldn't get over how light my feet feel, I would liken it to my springtime switch from hiking boots to sneakers. If you ever want to take a little weight off your bike and feel the most difference from that weight loss, do it in the crank/shoe area of the bike. Well the wheel area would be good for quickness but I really feel it in the foot area.

    I suspect what you are being told about compact doubles being the same as triples is probably close to true. If you wanted to be sure you could do some "gear/inch" calculations to compare the two.

  6. #6
    Hills! speedlever's Avatar
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    In my modest experience, a triple properly setup shouldn't give you any trouble at all and offers the most gear options (and overlap). That being said, my current ride is a compact double... but only because the bike came stock that way.

    If you have lots of money to spend, DuraAce 7900 offers hidden cables, no trim needed, a compact double option, lots of cassette options, and plenty of bling. Toss in the frame/fork/wheelset of your choice and away you go!

    Here's a sample of a bike with such components and carbon frame to boot. And in DG's favorite color!

    Umm... did you have a budget number in mind?

  7. #7
    Senior Member big john's Avatar
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    Triples and compact cranks are not 'equivalent'. Triples give more choices in the range you choose. Sure, a 'standard' compact has a low nearly as low as a 'standard' triple, and the high is almost as high. You can set up a compact with a huge cog in the back to give you a low that is much lower than a 'standard'. triple, but use the same cog with a triple and it's lower still. I thnk triples shift fine and I see people drop the chain often with compacts.
    Either will be fine when set up for your needs.

  8. #8
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    Every time my wheel points up 7% or more, I thank God and Shimano for triples.

    On yesterday's 50-mile ride, where admittedly, I'm the youngest, there were three triples, eight compacts and two standard doubles. Guess which riders didn't complain about the hills…
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  9. #9
    Senior Member dendawg's Avatar
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    I think the fit of the bike is key. I got my first road bike last year. I have knee problems from years of abuse skiing. I also have back and neck problems. I got fitted and bought a custom bike (ti frame, cheaper than carbon at the time). The bike is more comfortable than the chair I sit in at work! Because I ride without pain, I have been riding a lot. If you look into it you'll find that a custom frame is not that more expensive than the bikes you are looking at. Linda just purchased one of these. http://www.gurubikes.com/enUS/showroom/road/evolo.php . The only drawback is the wait time for a custom frame. As for triple or compact double, the way my shop explained it to me is that the range will be almost identical, but with less overlap. They also said to go with what I felt comfortable with. I went with a triple. No regrets. FWIW Linda had the Roubaix Elite Triple, and swapped out her Ultegra rear for a Deore MTB cassette so she could get a super granny gear for the hills. That same granny is going on her new bike.
    Last edited by dendawg; 09-17-08 at 08:13 AM.

  10. #10
    just keep riding BluesDawg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dendawg View Post
    If you look into it you'll find that a custom frame is not that more expensive than the bikes you are looking at. Linda just purchased one of these. http://www.gurubikes.com/enUS/showroom/road/evolo.php . The only drawback is the wait time for a custom frame.
    That frame is $2800. The 2009 Roubaix Comp is $2700 for a complete bike with 105. A Roubaix Pro frame is $1900 if he wants to go for a custom spec.

    So I guess you are right, the Guru frame is not much more than the complete bikes he is looking at, but the complete bike will be much more expensive.
    The more you ride your bike, the less your ass will hurt.

  11. #11
    Senior Member dendawg's Avatar
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    I had been thinking the elite triple, with Ultegra components. Didn't know he was looking at the 105 model. The elite runs around $3200 for the triple. The Guru Evolo with Ultegra is $4000. That frame, which is $900 more than the roubaix frame, would be custom built for his body geometry, not a stock frame.

  12. #12
    Senior Member big john's Avatar
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    Everyone doesn't need a custom frame. You could build a Soma with Ultegra and good parts for under $1800, a Gunnar for a few hundred more. (just a couple examples).

  13. #13
    Senior Member BengeBoy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by redfishpaddler View Post
    I am looking at the Specialized Robaix Comp, Cannondale Snyapse 5, Felt Z35.....all bikes with a more compact and comfortable geometry.
    IMHO these are all primarily lightweight, go-fast bikes whose geometry makes them more comfortable than comparable dedicated racing bikes and whose carbon frames makes them more comfortable than aluminum frames. Whether carbon is more "comfortable" than steel is a debate I'll avoid, but it's certainly lighter.

    You didn't mention how you plan to use your bike, but three other drivers of comfort are:

    - can it fit wider tires (at least 32c)?
    - if you plan to ride in wet weather, can it fit fenders (while still accommodating wide tires)?
    - if you plan to carry stuff on it, can it fit racks?

    It you want an all-weather bike, for real-world pavement, long distances, etc., you might want to look over on the Long Distance forum for some of the bikes BF members there ride. Some bikes to consider might be:

    - The Salsa Casserroll Triple complete
    - Any of a number of cyclocross bikes (Specialized TriCross, etc.)
    - If you're considering custom, take a look at the Rainier, by Rodriguez, at www.rodcycle.com, a semi-custom builder who can fit you with a sub-$3,000 bike in about 6 to 8 weeks.
    - Another custom steel-option would be bikes like the Nor-Wester from Co-Motion.

    My most "comfortable" bike is my 20-year-old steel commuter, with fat 32c tires and fenders. Give me my normal commuting load of stuff to carry on a rainy day, and it's going to be a lot more comfortable than any of the fenderless, narrow-tired, rack-less bikes mentioned above. However, with lights, pedals, a comfy Brooks seat, kickstand, fenders, etc., it weighs in at 30 pounds.

    My second most comfortable bike is my titanium custom bike, which has a geometry a lot like the Roubaix but which also has eyelets for fenders and someday could accommodate tires up to 32c (I just increased the tire size on this bike to 28c from 25c). Somewhere down the road this bike will have wider tires and fenders and it will be a very cushy ride.

    My fastest bike is a 20-year-old Italian steel bike -- however, it only comes out on sunny days.
    Last edited by BengeBoy; 09-17-08 at 10:22 AM.

  14. #14
    Senior Member John C. Ratliff's Avatar
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    I would suggest that you look at the Rivendell website, and read about their philosophy on bike fit:

    http://www.rivbike.com/article/bike_...izing_position

    I have taken that, and raised my handlebar position to two inches above my saddle, which made for a wonderful position for drop handlebars. I like to be able to stand on my bike, and still comfortably hald the top of the handlebars. This also five a more ergonomically acceptable fit for seeing the country, hand position, etc.

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  15. #15
    just keep riding BluesDawg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dendawg View Post
    I had been thinking the elite triple, with Ultegra components. Didn't know he was looking at the 105 model. The elite runs around $3200 for the triple. The Guru Evolo with Ultegra is $4000. That frame, which is $900 more than the roubaix frame, would be custom built for his body geometry, not a stock frame.
    You must mean the Expert. the 2009 Expert is $3700 with Ultegra SL, so yes, not much less than $4000. The Elite is actually a step lower than the Comp and lists for $2200 for 2009.

    Not debating the value of a custom build, but you are talking far above the price level established in the OP.
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  16. #16
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    If I had enough money I would have a bike with a triple and one with a compact double. Because I ride mostly rolling terrain with lots of steep hills thrown in and some long steep quad busters, I have a triple. A triple will cover all your bases. Of course, when I am riding in flat terrain I never touch the small ring. You will not regret getting a triple.
    My Trek Madone 5.2 is a carbon frame with carbon stays and fork. It has the performance fit geometry as opposed to the pro fit which is more aggressive.It is a very comfortable bike even on long rides. I would recommend a carbon frame if the bike is going to be a single purpose road bike, but not if you are going to use it to pick up groceries and run errands where it is going to get knocked about.

  17. #17
    Climbing Above It All BikeWNC's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John C. Ratliff View Post
    I would suggest that you look at the Rivendell website, and read about their philosophy on bike fit:

    http://www.rivbike.com/article/bike_...izing_position

    I have taken that, and raised my handlebar position to two inches above my saddle, which made for a wonderful position for drop handlebars. I like to be able to stand on my bike, and still comfortably hald the top of the handlebars. This also five a more ergonomically acceptable fit for seeing the country, hand position, etc.

    John
    You just can't take any bike and place the bars 2" above the saddle without affecting the handling. One reason the Rivendell bikes are designed as they are is to support that position if needed. Try that on a Tarmac and it's going to create sketchy handling. Even the Roubaix isn't designed for that high bar height. The Roubaix is still a race bike, a bit more relaxed than the Tarmac and therefore can accommodate a higher bar position, but not above the height of the saddle. People may do it but it makes for poor handling.

    If you need the bar above the saddle, then you need a frame that will work in that position. One that has long chainstays, slack HTA, shorter TT, and more trail. If you are comfortable with the bars at saddle height, the Roubaix is a fine choice. So first determine where you want your handlebar to be in relation to the saddle height. Then you can decide which type of frame will be best suited for you.

  18. #18
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    Triple versus Compact- My first road bike had a triple on it- 52/42/30. I struggled up the 15 % hills round here. Second had a compact and once I got used to it- I still struggled up the 15% hills- But faster.

    If you do not use the small ring on a triple- You are effectively using a 42. Compacts have a 50 and a 34/6. Get a 34 and you may be surprised at what you Don't need on low gears- but mentally- I know when I started road riding I did need that triple.

    CF Frames. Another bike to look at is Giant. The TCR-C and OCR-C are pretty popular here. As to whether it is worth it- I am open to suggestions. I ride a TCR-C and although it does go up hills well- It has taken some sorting to get to be as Good a Ride as my Lightweight Alumimium. And just looked on the site and the OCR has been replaced With the Defy.

    http://www.giant-bicycles.com/en-US/bikes/road/
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  19. #19
    Senior Member piper_chuck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by redfishpaddler View Post
    COMPACT VS. TRIPLE
    I have had triples on two recumbents and a Softride Solo. I have been told by bike salesfolks that the newer compacts essentially are equivalent to the triples, offering easier shifting and less 'tuning in'. When I road regularly, I rarely used the smallest ring but knew it was always there if I needed it. I understand that most compact cranks provide a 20 gear bike. I live in Western CT with many hills. I am leaning towards another triple. What are your experiences with these two options?
    Find a new salesman, or ignore the marketing hype and decide on your own. Here are some thoughts on triple vs compact.

    Compacts shift better
    I don't see this as being true. When properly adjusted, a triple shifts just as well as a double. In fact, since the difference between the rings is smaller, a triple should actually shift better than the typically large range between the rings on a compact.

    Compact is lighter
    If it is, it's only by a few ounces. It's doubtful that anyone who would consider a triple is going to notice a few ounces one way or another.

    Triples aren't cool
    Neither are knee problems caused by mashing too large a gear up a hill. Which is better, to choose the right equipment for one's needs, or to worry about making a fashion statement?

    Compacts provide essentially the same gearing
    This one is flat out wrong. There is no way 20 gears can provide the same gearing as 30. Given the same cassette on the rear, they don't even provide the same range.

    I chose a triple after doing extensive comparisons with compacts and standard doubles. I used Sheldon Brown's Gear Calculator to build tables showing MPH at an 80 and 90 RPM cadence (I can comprehend speed at a certain cadence, gear inches is too esoteric for me) for each of the alternatives. I found I could get much finer control of my cadence with a triple. This was largely due to being able to use a cassette with a tighter range. For example, on a compact if I chose a 12x25, I could go 8.5 MPH at 80 RPM. On a triple, I can use a 12x23 and go 8.2 MPH at 80 RPM. This difference matters because I like to spin, less stress on my knees, and I like to be able to shift in small increments to stay in my target cadence.

    Another interesting shifting difference will come up when you shift rings. The large ring difference on the compact means you will have to shift the rear quite a few gears to compensate for shifting rings, for example when you've been rolling along in the big ring and you shift to the small one because you're about to go up a hill. The tighter spacing of the rings on a triple significantly reduces the number of rear shifts that will be needed as a result of a ring change.

    Yet another difference has to do with riding in an area with rolling hills. The big ring on a compact may be too big for going up the hills, while the small ring is too small for going down the hills. The result can be frequent shifting between the rings, which as I pointed out above, adds many shifts in the rear. In contrast, the middle ring on a triple is of a size where it's much more likely to be suitable for going up and down the rollers, without having to change rings at all.

    IS CARBON WORTH IT?
    I keep reading how incredibly more comfortable a full carbon frame is. I have ridden aluminum recumbent frames with pudgy tires and very comfy seats. I am now far more concerned with the frame, stems, fork materials.
    There are a huge number of steel frames out there that are supposed to be extremely comfortable, reasonably priced, remarkably light, and have none of the longevity concerns, such as hidden frame damage after a crash, that I've seen expressed about carbon.
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  20. #20
    Pat
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    It depends.

    I have never tried a compact gearing. I do fine here in Central FL with an ordinary road double. We have some short climbs of up to 14% but the steep part is pretty short. The longest extended climb we have is half a mile at 7%. I can do that really tired on my low gear.

    I have used triples where there are extended climbs like out west. It is nice to be able to sit and spin on a hill that lasts miles on end. Plus, I prefer to run a high cadence.

    So it is part riding style and part the terrain.

    I think for normal riding, a compact gearing system will serve you well. I think one gets more responsive shifting on a double chain ring than on a triple. But triples do OK.

    There is also the cool factor. Many people detest triples. Of course, if you are a bit contrary, triples can be fun too. I have passed people on long western climbs who were out of the saddle and red faced and working like all get out and there I spin by and being older helps too. Maybe I should looks for some white hair dye. But I figure that will come soon enough.

  21. #21
    Climbing Above It All BikeWNC's Avatar
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    Bottom line is, if you need the triple then get the triple. Only you know what gearing will work for you. Compact cranks can get very close to triple gearing but with a wider range between gears. That may or may not be an issue for you. I have found that my compact shifts better than my old DA triple. Do I miss the 30/27 gear? Not very often, though since I have few options of avoiding hills it might be nice to have during more leisurely rides or long base rides in the winter.

  22. #22
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    Going to put this a slightly different way- If you are worried- then get the triple.

    Triple on my first bike and I was worried about having the Compact on the second bike due to the hills that I struggled up with the Triple. It did not happen and I am talking 15% hills. Had to train myself mentally so started doing the 8%- then the 10's and 12's and finally attempted the 15% in our area.

    The OCR with the triple has 30/26 as the lowest gear. Boreas has 34/27 and it still does the same hills. And when I got the TCR- it very quickly had a compact and a 12/27 cassette put on it.

    Gearing is up to you but a big part of that is your fitness- and the mental side of riding. So back to my first statement- If you are worried- then get the triple
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  23. #23
    jwh
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    I bought a Felt Z35 this year with a compact crank.
    I love it!
    Traded in a Cannondale R2000, the Felt is a 10x more comfortable ride to me.
    I would take a test ride for sure.

  24. #24
    Rides again HiYoSilver's Avatar
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    I'd say, go with the triple, just so you have more flexibility. The key is not the high and low ends, but how you get there. With a triple you have more steps inbetween so it will be easier on your body. With a double, you'll have to mash more to make up the change in gears. Just as with the bent, with a 10 speed triple you don't have 30 useful gears, but you should have about 17 useful gears with a small, i.e. < 10% difference between gears. A double would have about 12 useful gears.

    It's just as motor vehicle manufacturers trying to sell people on trucks as being cooler. When it was all about they cost less to make.

    If anyone could show me a double that will span from 20gi to 120gi with the maximum gearing change being less than 10% without double shifting, then I'ld say get a double. But until that happens, go for the triple. There is a rumor for example, shimano has patented a 14 speed cassette. But until something like that is available, I say go triple.
    Hi 'o Silver away

  25. #25
    Senior Member BengeBoy's Avatar
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    I've posted this before -- from the viewpoint of a very good mechanic (and good writer) in Seattle, this is where the compact crank came from and why component makers are featuring fewer triples and more compact cranks. He writes about how the compact crank came to be; advantages and disadvantages; etc.:

    "The Rise of the Compact Crank (aka The Death of the Triple)."

    http://bikehugger.com/2008/05/the_ri...pact_crank.htm

    A couple of good things in his article. First, he explains that the Compact Crank didn't just spring out of thin air...a bunch of advances in derailleurs, cassettes and cranks had to occur before component makers could produce a Compact that worked really well.

    Second, he then explains why the triple is disappearing from more component groups. Mark V (who happens to also be the wrench at my LBS), writes:

    "Component manufacturers would rather offer compact double cranksets instead of triples. Even if they could produce a triple version of a standard double with minimal changes to tooling...the complexity of producing triple shifters and derailleurs to match far outweigh the cost developing the molds or dies for the compact crank. And for companies offering complete bikes, they know that they can often get away with offering road bikes only with compact cranks, particularly in the entry- to mid-level segments. Reduced variation means easier stocking, which leads to better profitability."
    Last edited by BengeBoy; 09-18-08 at 03:21 PM.

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