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Old 01-13-09, 08:41 AM   #1
tntyz
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Triple or Compact Double?

I know this question pops up on the road forum often enough, but I'd like the perspective of my fellow L-pals. I'd prefer input other than the ubiquitous HTFU (which I already know I need to do).

Looking at getting a Trek 2.3, now need to decide which crank set. This would be my first road bike coming from a Trek 7500 hybrid. I hear that climbing on the road bike will be easier (it is nearly 20 lbs. lighter), but don't know how that translates into actual riding.

No plan to race, just exercise and fun. Located in Kettle Moraine territory (if you can relate). Guess I'd describe it as rolling hills. Toughest climbs are typically ~1 mile at 5-7% (based on readouts from Garmin 305). About 30% of riding distance is on flat land, the remainder split between up or down hill (again based on readings from my 305).

I am used to spinning up the hills and do not consider myself a strong climber. However, last summer was my first of getting serious about riding, so I could get better.

What are your thoughts? Factors to consider?

Thanks!


Tech specs:

Trek 7500 (current): 28/38/48 - 11-32
Trek 2.3 Compact: 50/34 - 11-25
Trek 2.3 Triple: 50/39/30 - 12-27
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Old 01-13-09, 08:49 AM   #2
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I have a bike set up with each, i.e. my Ti GT has SRAM compact, with a 34 x 28 low gear. Fine for most climbs, esp. the kind you're talking about. So something similar is what I would recommend for your environment.

On the other hand, for really long days (double centuries) and esp. ones that have a ton of climbing after the 130 mi. point, I ride my Calfee which has a Shimano Ultegra triple set-up and a 30 x 27 low gear. However . . . for what you're doing, I think the compact would be fine.

If you go to CO, CA or UT where the climbs may be very steep AND last for an hour-plus, you should consider a triple.

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Old 01-13-09, 08:59 AM   #3
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Here comes 30 shades of gray!

If you already "own" the hills that you will be riding on and the new bike will be 20 lbs lighter, I say get the compact double and tell the LBS you want a 12-27 cassette. That way your lowest gear is 34 inches vs the lowest gear on the triple of 30 inches. Now, if you intend to take vacations in the mountains get the triple since going back to a triple from a double is expensive.

I ride a compact 50/34 and switch the cassettes between a 12-27 for hills in Penna and a 12-23 for club rides and races.
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Old 01-13-09, 08:59 AM   #4
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...for what you're doing, I think the compact would be fine.
Agreed.
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Old 01-13-09, 09:01 AM   #5
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I have a Buenos Aires. It is a triple, 50/39/30 and 12-25. I live in Kentucky where we have lots of rollers and hills but no Alps D'Huez and such.

I think in retrospect I would have prefered a 50/34 and 12-27. I'm a weak climber, BTW.
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Old 01-13-09, 09:21 AM   #6
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I am used to Ultegra triple FD and Campy racing triple front shifting and is not very impressed with how my Crossbikes 105 FD shifts my compact double. (the chain derails far too often at the front).
I think given your kind of riding that a triple will be a better choice.
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Old 01-13-09, 09:27 AM   #7
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Based on your description I'd go with the compact but ask to get the 12-27 as Allegheny Jet has suggested. Either way, it will be a vastly different ride over your current hybrid.
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Old 01-13-09, 09:37 AM   #8
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I always enjoy these discussions. Takes me back a few years to when I was debating "the switch" from a triple. I went with a 50/34 compact as well and have mine set up to be able to ride on any type of road. I can use a 11-34 cassette which gives you a strong top end gear plus an easier gear on the bottom end than a typical triple.
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Old 01-13-09, 10:03 AM   #9
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I prefer the compact double with the broad range cassette. Because I like to retain the agressive downshifts on the front derailleur, I run a N-gear jump stop so the chain never derails. I believe that Stapfam has some serious input from his climb of the alps with a triple. He now has a compact double and can give a direct comparison for extreme hill work.
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Old 01-13-09, 10:38 AM   #10
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+1 Go with the compact double.

Right now, I am planning to convert a traditional double on my vintage bike from 42/52 to 36/50 (since I have the chainrings on hand). I would go 34/50 if I had a 34 chainring on hand, but I don't (and I am thrifty Bill).

My other bikes are all triples.... But they are a mountain bike and a touring bike.

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Old 01-13-09, 10:40 AM   #11
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I have a Campagnolo compact, 34-50 and 13,14,15,16,17,18,19,21,23,26.

This is missing about two more low gears from a triple. I need to stand to climb anything more than a 7% grade, and it would be nice to sit and spin a lower gear.

I like the 13-26 since I'm often in the 50-17,18,19 range for group rides (an 18 cog is unusual). At 90 rpm, that's 17.1 mph, 18.0, and 19.1 mph, so I find the exact gear I need. I max out on downhills in 50-13 at the low 30mph range, but I'm coasting at speeds faster than that, anyway.

But, in the 85-90 rpm range, this setup needs a front chainring shift somewhere between 15 and 17 mph. And then the back cogs need to be shifted over 3 positions. So, on somewhat slower rides, I'm shifting the front a lot. (It works pretty well on Campagnolo: to shift from 50-34 and up 3 in the back is just two thumb shifter pushes.)

With a triple, your normal cruising speeds might be in the middle of a chainring range, instead of right at the crossover point.

Try out this bike gear calculator for your own cadences and speeds. Plug in your gears, and see the Speed at X rpm table below.

Last edited by rm -rf; 01-13-09 at 10:44 AM.
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Old 01-13-09, 10:44 AM   #12
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I prefer the compact double with the broad range cassette. Because I like to retain the agressive downshifts on the front derailleur, I run a N-gear jump stop so the chain never derails. I believe that Stapfam has some serious input from his climb of the alps with a triple. He now has a compact double and can give a direct comparison for extreme hill work.
OK- went from a mountain bike to a road bike and as I have hills in my area- I got a triple. 52/42/30 and 11/28 rear cassette. I used to do road hills on the MTB and I used the 22/32 on the MTB frequently so I was worried about the higher gearing on the road bike. Those hills that were hard in 22/32 were just as hard with 30/28- but no harder. Went to the alpes and I was very happy with the road triple gearing as there was only one gear I used from early on in the 13 mile climb.

Only thing was that when I got back from that trip- I ordered a new bike. With a compact double. 50/34 and a 12/27 cassette. There is no way that a 34/27 is as low as 30/28 so I tackled all the hils in my area progressively. Started on the 8%ers- then the 10 and then the 12's. So far the gearing was comfortable so I then did the basket. 600ft climb over a mile with a nasty 20% section in it. Not a long 20% but it took out of the saddle to do it--Exactly the same as the road bike with the triple and it was no harder.

So no trouble climbing with a compact double. Only thing is I might be out of the saddle a bit more and the cadence may be a bit lower but the gearing on the compact is still suitable for the worst that my hills can throw at me. The only one that gets me is the long drag of a 2 mile 5% with a couple of 10% sections in it. I can never get comfortable on that one. But 600 ft climbs at between 8 and 16% are all doable.

The triple for your first road bike would give you confidence. But if you have some fitness-If you haven't it will come- then go with a compact. Just my view but I now have a triple fitted to the TCR for when I go back to the mountains- but only go into granny when it gets above 10% gradient. That middle ring is just too high compared to a compact double.
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Old 01-13-09, 10:47 AM   #13
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It has been my experience that I can climb OK with the 50/34 combined with a 12/25, but if I am planning to ride a longer distance with climbs I will change to the 12/27 (That little difference actually helps climbing.). Of course a triple allows for even easier climbing, but a double will normally shift easier and with fewer mishaps than a triple. I like for mechanical things to work correctly, and compact double does just that.
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Old 01-13-09, 11:06 AM   #14
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I reckon if I had experience with a compact, I'd be happy with it, but I'm a big fan of spinning low gears over long miles. My first real rides were long distance tours loaded down with camping gear--so a triple was a natural choice, and it's what I've stuck with over the years.

My guess, tntyz, is that you're going to be very happy with your nice, lighter road bike--with either a compact or a triple.
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Old 01-13-09, 11:12 AM   #15
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Either one will work but a triple is more versatile. I have a standard double on one road bike and a triple on the other road bike. Both shift well. I plan to change the double to a triple mostly to get a lower granny and for the versatility. With the triple I ride the middle ring most of the time and the big ring some of the time. I don't need the small ring very often but when I do need it I'm glad it's there. YMMV
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Old 01-13-09, 11:27 AM   #16
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I have road bikes with 3 configs, std (52/39 or 42), compact (50/34), triple (52/42/30).
my personal preference is single step cog ranges, not wide range, so I don;t have anything larger than a 23 on the compacts and triples and nothing larger than a 25 on a 10spd std double.

large elevation climbs aside, I ride all three and now still prefer either the compact or triple for 'rolling' (under 1K elevation climbing) terrain. I like the compact cause you can run the shifts all thru the large ring and then drop to the small ring and run those - no double shifts, since the gear ranges usually don;t overlap on a tight cog range. What I find is a 'hole', in the compact range, right around the mid-70s gear inches, which I like a lot just for floatin thru a ride. That mid-70's gear is good for anything 15 mph to 20, so I set it and forget it on many easy group rides. I'm always shifting more on the compact when near than gear size. On the Triple that gear is right there.

The triple requires some double shifting at some gearings, but you can't beat the variety of gears available. If I need a gear, I'll find it on the triple.

That said, a compact is 'simpler', for sure, especially when it comes to front 'trim'.

On the triple I've overcome the 'trim' issue by just not using a Brifter. I use a barcon on the front - a much simpler, more elegant solution than a Brifter for the front (would say the same for DT shifter for the front, simple, elegant, utterly workable and uncomplex).

If I had to pick one roadie setup, it would be a triple (can do both race and tour with a 52/42/30). And I do plan racing on the triple this season. Be just fine...

Thankfully I will NEVER, EVER have to make a decision on having just one rig....

PardonEE Mois, but if I had to make that decision, and not having ridden a compact, I would get on one (borrow) for a good solid 1 - 2 hour ride and see how I liked it...

EDIT: Oh, one other thing... on some rigs, depending on the setup, when the front is on the inner 34 and also on the 2nd to smallest cog (or smallest) , the chain will rub on the large ring as it circulates, because the upper chain line is further 'down' and the chain angle is enough to cause the 'rub'. Only solution I've found is to shim out the chainline a mm or 2. check this before you lay down any dosh on a compact setup bike.

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Old 01-13-09, 12:21 PM   #17
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It sort of depends on how strong you are and how well you climb.

I tend to prefer to climb seated at a high RPM so I like low gears for long climbs. I have a bike a cobbled together years ago with pretty low gears on a triple and it works well on long climbs of 7% or so. By "long", I mean miles.

Here in central FL, I can get up everything which means 15% for short distances and half a mile of 7% with a 53/42 and a 12-24.

Now if you can get by with it, a compact would be nice. Compacts are more "in" for some reason. People always seem to look down on triples. But just having 2 rings to shift on makes for slightly faster shifts. But that is just my feeling.

However, I find that if I feel the desire to have some nice low gears, a triple is worth the fuss. It is nice to ride in a hilly area and have complete confidence that you have the gear for any situation.

I would think that a way to check would be to ride the steepest and longest hill you are likely to hit on any regular basis and figure out just how low of a gear you will want. Then sit down and figure out whether a triple or a compact double is more likely to deliver it for you.
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Old 01-13-09, 12:29 PM   #18
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Here comes 30 shades of gray!

If you already "own" the hills that you will be riding on and the new bike will be 20 lbs lighter, I say get the compact double and tell the LBS you want a 12-27 cassette. That way your lowest gear is 34 inches vs the lowest gear on the triple of 30 inches. Now, if you intend to take vacations in the mountains get the triple since going back to a triple from a double is expensive.

I ride a compact 50/34 and switch the cassettes between a 12-27 for hills in Penna and a 12-23 for club rides and races.
+1 and well stated. I offer the following. When i purchased my Trek 5.2 a couple of years ago, the Trek dealer set up demos anyway I wanted. I tried a couple of different gearing configurations and bikes. What I suggest is tell the dealer you are going to purchase the bike but are undecided about a triple / compact double. Request a demo on a double and a triple and check out lowest gear, impact of lighter bike, gearing range and etc. We are in recession and cash is king. I have to believe that there is a lot of inventory and riding different configurations should not be a problem. Get what works for you. Good luck.
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Old 01-13-09, 03:12 PM   #19
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Western NY State is all moraines too. Here in the city we're still on ancient lake bottom, but just a few miles outside the city limits, hills await.

I too started on a hybrid with a triple. When I switched to road bikes, I stayed with the triple. I found I like the single-tooth steps of a close-ratio cassette. The only way to have any sort of range with one of those, is a triple.

I've also found that on the flats around town, I seldom have to shift from the middle ring. With a compact, I'd be spinning out the small ring or mashing the big ring at my usual speeds. Just the way it works out for me. BTW, I'm a sit and spin climber.

I can live with a few grams of extra weight from the third ring, and I've taken the time to learn how to tune the FD and keep it in tune. I'll stick with triples for the foreseeable future.

EDIT:

For the record, my hybrid was a 48/38/28 with an 11-30 8-speed that I later swapped for a 13-23 8-speed.
One road bike is a 52/42/30 with the 13-23 8-speed I kept from the hybrid. The other road bike is a 52/39/30 with a 12-23 10-speed. I put a 12-27 on it when I'm going to be spending the day or more in the hills.

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Old 01-14-09, 05:33 PM   #20
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I was in a very similar situation when I went from my hybrid to a Specialized Roubaix Elite. I agonized and probably posted the same question and listend endlessly to different opinions. I think I decided on the triple but when I went to purchase, all they had was the double and at a great price.

They modified the hub as others have suggested and things have been great. I don't believe I ever use the lowest gear anyway and the climb over a never ending causeway that used to drain me on the hybrid is doable without using the gear I had fretted about so long.

Good luck. If you can do it on the hybrid don't sweat this decision, either will be fine.
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Old 01-14-09, 07:00 PM   #21
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The triple will give you a wider range of gears. Only you can judge if that much range is useful. There is no penalty except for the style points that you give up.
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Old 01-14-09, 08:30 PM   #22
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The triple will give you a wider range of gears. Only you can judge if that much range is useful. There is no penalty except for the style points that you give up.
Well, also weigh more and don't shift as well, but the style point loss is the most significant problem.

I have a 50/34 12-27 and climb a lot with it. Heck, our little neighborhood ride of 25 miles has over 1500 feet of climbing.

With climbing, that weight difference between your new and old bike will be HUGE. You will notice.
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Old 01-15-09, 02:23 AM   #23
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Have a look/read here.
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Old 01-15-09, 05:11 AM   #24
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Well, also weigh more and don't shift as well, but the style point loss is the most significant problem.
That's what people say when they are looking for reasons not to have a triple. The weight difference isn't enough to shake a stick at. Shifting difference, if any, isn't much, especially when compared to the wide chainring difference on a compact double.
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Old 01-15-09, 05:37 AM   #25
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That's what people say when they are looking for reasons not to have a triple. The weight difference isn't enough to shake a stick at. Shifting difference, if any, isn't much, especially when compared to the wide chainring difference on a compact double.
I agree. I went with a triple and the disadvantages are pretty much nil. On hindsight I think that for all of my local riding a CD would have been quite adequate though. I am toying with using my road bike and going with ultra light camping gear on a tour of skyline drive and the blue ridge parkway, rather than taking my touring bike. Also trips to Glacier, Rocky Mountain National Park, and other mountainous places are likely in the future. The triple will be well appreciated on any of those endeavors.
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