My biggest concern when I bought my Felt F-35 was the fact that it had a double chainring instead of a triple. I wanted the double - all the doubles I rode just seemed to shift better - but I didn't know if I would have trouble with the big hills. I did have the cassette changed to give me a 27 rather than a 23 and this has been useful (the front is 39 & 53).
I can still use some lower gearing though and have been thinking about changing my setup when I need to replace the cassette anyway (I have over 13,000 on it so far). I thought about a ten speed if I can get lower. Some people have said I could only get to a 23, others a 25. On the front, some have said maybe I could go to a 38.
Today, one guy at the shop said I could get a 11/27 cassette in a ten speed and a 34/50 chainring. I haven't done the math yet, but it seems this would make my highest gear just a little lower, but make my lowest gear at least somewhat noticeably better.
But with all the different things people have told me, I thought I'd ask here - would this combination work? Is it possible to get an even bigger gear on the rear to help without going to a mountain bike derailer?
Three possibilities in increasing gear change and cost...
1) Customize your cassette to 12-30. Buy a loose 30T hyperglide cog, take out the loose 14T cog and its spacer from your current cassette, put on the 30T with the spacer, and put on the rest of the cogs from the 12-27. If you don't want to do the customizing, Harris Cyclery sells them already customized (http://harriscyclery.net/site/itemdetails.cfm?ID=702) but they have a 13-30 instead of a 12-30. This will give you a gear about 10% lower. If you already have 10-speed, you can't do this because they don't make cogs bigger than 27T for 10-speed yet.
2) Go with the 50x34 compact crankset. This will give you a gear about 13% lower.
3) Triple crankset to get a gear that is 20-30% lower (depends on the granny ring you choose).
Hmmm, I was kinda hoping that it would let me get a little bit bigger cog on the rear with a 10 speed (every little bit helps).
I don't know if I can actually go bigger on the rear though, even with my present setup, without a derailer change. I know when I put the 27 on, some people thought it would work, but some weren't sure. Even when I wrote to the Felt company, they weren't sure. But it did work. Bigger may push me past the limits. I really don't know how to figure those things out.
Right now, based on your comments, I think the compact setup might work best.
Near as I can tell, the 34 in front would be virtually the same as putting a 31 on the rear - a full gear lower, roughly.
Of course, with a 12/27 like I have now, I lose a little on my highest gear - I do use that sometimes, mostly downhill though. But if I can go with an 11/27, my highest gear is a little higher.
Only negative I can think of is the same one I get when I went from the 23 to the 27 - the gears are more widely spaced, making it harder to find the "ideal" gear in some situations. Might be worth it though.
Would I be correct that the front crank couldn't have a wider difference than 34/50 without having problems?
As I said, I really prefer a double rather than going for a triple. It just feels more solid to me.