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Thread: Compact Cranks

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    Senior Member Frankfast's Avatar
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    Compact Cranks

    I'm wondering what gears most of you old timers are using. It's hilly around here where I ride and I presently have a standard crank (53-39). I recently changed my cassette from an 11-23 to a 12-29 and it helped a lot. If I changed my crank to a 50-34 do you think that it would be overkill or would I benefit more? Thanks for any advice.
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    Senior Member bruce19's Avatar
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    It's impossible for me to venture an opinion without knowing who you are (as a cyclist) and how you ride. I can say that I went from a standard crank set to a compact and it has been a very positive change. I run the 50x34 crank set and 11x25 cassette. It has made climbing easier and faster in addition to saving me enough energy so that I am no longer wasted after 30-40 mi. It is particularly helpful in the early season when I can use all the help I can get climbing.

    Something like this might help make gearing decisions. http://www.bikecalc.com/gear_inches

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    Senior Member Frankfast's Avatar
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    Yes, my setup (39-29) calculates to 36-37 gear inches which is at the high end of recommendations for riding hills. A compact would lower it to 32-33 gear inches which concurs with recommendations. I'm asking for real world experience understanding everyone is not at the same conditioning level.
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    Senior Member NOS88's Avatar
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    If the 12-29 helped because it gave you a lower gear, the 34 versus 39 chain ring will give an even lower one. Overkill? I don't see how.
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    Senior Member oldnslow2's Avatar
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    I have a compact crank (50/34) and a 11-28 cassette.

    Works for me, but i'm not much of a hill climber.
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    Senior Member BlazingPedals's Avatar
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    A compact will help more. So will a 11-34 mountain cassette. So will a Triple. How much lower gearing do you think you need?

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    Senior Member Frankfast's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BlazingPedals View Post
    A compact will help more. So will a 11-34 mountain cassette. So will a Triple. How much lower gearing do you think you need?
    I guess that's the point. I don't know what I need because I don't feel I'm in the best shape....yet. Right now hills are a strain but I don't want to sacrifice the bigger chainrings until I'm sure I need to change them. The recommended gear inches for hilly riding seem to point to a compact crank but before I spend the money I wanted to see how others felt.
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    Senior Member OldsCOOL's Avatar
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    I have a 39/53 road double cranking 12-28. We have some hills that I have wanted to try the 34/50 and yet may. It's an easy enough swap and would greatly help on the steepest. If you are riding hills that on a regular basis you end up with knee pain, swap and give it a try. If your low isnt low enough, get another "gear". The only hesitency I would have is getting accustomed to ratio changes.
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    Senior Member Moyene Corniche's Avatar
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    I'm 57 and riding 53/39- 11/26 that's for the region I ride.. NE Conn. and Western Mass. I have gone up B17 climb in 39/26 so I don't see a need for anything lower.. But I'm also riding to return to racing as a Cat II and Masters 45+ to 50+. Soon I will be returning to an 11-23 as fitness reaches the goals I had set forth...

    Compacts are good if you are in the hills of 10-15% most of the time, personally I would consider a triple so that your rear cassette gearing is closer and therefore more efficient... I don't like the extreme jump in a compact so to me a triple makes more sense...

    Hey if the Pro's use a triple on some of the ridiculous grinds in the Vuelta than it says something about equipment choice...

    You should 1st figure out where your optimal cadence is ( 80-90rpm ) then consider your terrain and then chooses your gearing for 75% of your cycling terrain... Don't base your choice on what someone else is riding, there are too many factors that are unequal..
    Ah.... Voila les Cannon ... !!

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    In the wind mercator's Avatar
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    I've been riding my older steel bike with a compact 50/34 and 12-26 cassette for a few years now, and I like to climb even though I suck mightily at it. My main complaint is that I can't seem to find an 11-25 or similar 8 speed cassette and I frequently spin out with the 50-12 combination.

    On my 10 speed carbon bike I'm running a 53/39 crank with an ultegra 12-30 cassette and it seems to be working very well for me. Of course, the bike is also about 7 lbs lighter, which probably skews my perceptions a bit.

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    Senior Member raqball's Avatar
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    Currently have a 50/34 11-32.. Works pretty good for climbs but there are times where I wish I had a wee bit lower choice for them massive climbs...

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    Senior Member bikemig's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Frankfast View Post
    I guess that's the point. I don't know what I need because I don't feel I'm in the best shape....yet. Right now hills are a strain but I don't want to sacrifice the bigger chainrings until I'm sure I need to change them. The recommended gear inches for hilly riding seem to point to a compact crank but before I spend the money I wanted to see how others felt.
    If you're straining up hills, that would point towards a compact. You're knees aren't getting any younger and you want them to last a long, long time. Plus a 50 running on an 11 gives you a high of 120 inches; that's a pretty good high gear.

    Compacts make a lot of sense with 9, 10, or 11 on the back. You have plenty of in between gears and a very useful low and high. The jump is a bit big at 16 teeth which is why you might prefer a cross type set up (say 46-36 or 48-36).

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    Senior Member HunkerDown's Avatar
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    I'm amazed they can sell standard cranks anywhere outside Florida and Kansas. Absolutely, go with the compact crank and an 11-28 or even an 11-32 if your derailleur can handle it. I have the compact/11-32 setup and when I get to where I spin out on the descents I'm just about hitting my personal speed limit anyway...

    HD
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    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    So when's the last time that you really used the 53/12?

    Back in my road bike riding days switching from a standard crank to a compact turned out to be my best equipment change ever. I traded some big gears that I NEVER used for some easier hill climb gears that I did use.
    My greatest fear is all of my kids standing around my coffin and talking about "how sensible" dad was.

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    Senior Member oldnslow2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HunkerDown View Post
    I'm amazed they can sell standard cranks anywhere outside Florida and Kansas.
    My son rides a standard crank with a 11-25.

    He's 23 and a animal in the saddle. He does Olympic distance Tri's and knows if there are hills, he'll easily make up for his average swim time.

    BTW... he went to college in western New York and trained on the hills there.
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    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    I'm wondering what gears most of you old timers are using
    Rohloff Hub.. small chainring on the big wheel , small wheel has a big chainring. gear range the same.

    Biz Note:
    What goes on bikes is what the component maker offers the best price on ... but once its your bike you can change any part you wish .

    you have my blessings ..

    White industries VBC crank White Industries - Road Cranks Opens up more combinations than a 110 bolt circle
    by machining a slot in the outer ring rather than a hole .. inner ring 24 to 38t , outer ring from 38t to 52t .. you can pick any 2..

    my roadie bike got a 50,40,30>24t Campag Race triple years ago.... 13-28t (freewheel)

    in the 80s, I built from a mix of a *Gippiemme triple as a double 36 and a 52t rings ,

    with a polished Campag chainguard as the outer , it works fine other than the big gap .. back then 13t was the high gear cog.

    *will Sell, Its really pretty and shiny ..
    Last edited by fietsbob; 05-05-14 at 02:08 PM.

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    Senior Member dendawg's Avatar
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    I've had a triple on my bike with an 11 for the seven years I've owned it5 rear for the seven years I've owned. Just went for a new compact double 11 speed with an 11-32 rear and love it. A lot less gears to shift through and yes the hills feel easier.

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    Senior Member Frankfast's Avatar
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    "So when's the last time that you really used the 53/12?"

    I have used it but not very often. I'd get more use out of a 50-12 and 34-29 where I ride. Thanks guys for the input. Looks like a compact is in my future.
    The trick to life is to keep moving.

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    In the wind mercator's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Retro Grouch View Post
    So when's the last time that you really used the 53/12?
    Last weekend I did three rides in the mountains in Montana, 53/12 is pretty useful on the downhills.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Frankfast View Post
    I'm wondering what gears most of you old timers are using. It's hilly around here where I ride and I presently have a standard crank (53-39). I recently changed my cassette from an 11-23 to a 12-29 and it helped a lot. If I changed my crank to a 50-34 do you think that it would be overkill or would I benefit more? Thanks for any advice.

    A 50-34 compact crank set with a 12-27 (assuming 10 speed) would give you one gear lower than your current set up AND you'd have much nicer spacing between gears which would give you the ability to fine tune your cadence more precisely. Personally? I think this would be much better.

    Here's a comparison showing how the two sets would compare. Note that the jumps between gears would be a lot smaller with the compact crank so it would be easier to find the 'right' gear to spin your way up the hill.

    http://www.gear-calculator.com/#KB=3...UF=2099&SL=2.5

    Not knowing how you ride or where you ride exactly, but from what you describe, I'd do this in a heartbeat. I had an old racing bike I had built up in the 80's and I changed the small chain ring down to a 39 and did much as you did. When I get a compact crank on a newer bike, I really loved the difference and made riding much more enjoyable. I don't need the upper end big chain ring like I would if I were racing.

    J.

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    Senior Member Frankfast's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mercator View Post
    Last weekend I did three rides in the mountains in Montana, 53/12 is pretty useful on the downhills.

    But how's that 39/27 or 29 on the uphills?
    The trick to life is to keep moving.

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    USMC Veteran qcpmsame's Avatar
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    I am using a compact, 50/36 and my cassette is an 11-26, came into this, from a pretty much "normal" 53/39 on an old 8 speed cassette, when I bought the new bicycle in 2012. I am coming up on needing a new cassette and I cannot justify the 11 tooth cog any longer, no ricing in the future I can see. I'll be getting a 12-28 most likely in the next few weeks.

    I like the compact just fine, I haven't missed the top end that much. I've always been more into spinning gears than mashing big gears as it makes my knees ache. If I needed I could go to the mid-compact being used by some, a 52/36 or 38, I suppose.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Frankfast View Post
    I guess that's the point. I don't know what I need because I don't feel I'm in the best shape....yet. Right now hills are a strain but I don't want to sacrifice the bigger chainrings until I'm sure I need to change them. The recommended gear inches for hilly riding seem to point to a compact crank but before I spend the money I wanted to see how others felt.
    From a training and improvement program point of view, it is always a good idea to learn to spin easy gears up the hills first. As you improve, you will learn to spin heavier gears at the same cadence. That will be when you no longer need the compact, or you can keep it as a spare for that real hilly century somewhere in the future.

  24. #24
    just keep riding BluesDawg's Avatar
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    I have a 34-50 compact crank on my road bike with a 12-30 cassette. We have a lot of short and steep hills and some longer ones around here. My newest dirt road bike has a 34-50 crank with a 12-32 cassette. I am planning to build a custom anyroad bike and I will likely run a White Industries VBC crank with 30-46 rings and a 11-32 cassette. I like having low gears available when I need them.
    The more you ride your bike, the less your ass will hurt.

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    In the wind mercator's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Frankfast View Post
    But how's that 39/27 or 29 on the uphills?
    Actually, the 39-27 is about the same as the 34-24, and I find the 39-30 to be low enough for most of the stuff I run into.
    Here's a comparison of the gearing between my two road bikes, the range is pretty comparable.

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