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Old 05-02-08, 09:15 AM   #1
zowie
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Compact Doubles - Feh

Compact doubles seemed like a good idea, an ideal compromise. Give up a few teeth on the top side that most LD riders (and most riders generally) don't need, while getting a wider range than a standard double, and simpler mechanics and slightly less weight than a triple. After being less common, compacts seem to be showing up as the stock equipment on many many road bikes for 2008.

So, I'm riding behind my bud who's on his new 50/36 carbon bike, and I notice he's spending much of the time in the largest cogs on the cassette. I point this out, he shifts to the smaller ring, and then he's spending much of the time in the smallest cogs on the cassette. Later, I played around with Sheldon Brown's Gear Calculator to think about this further.

Compacts aren't making a lot of sense to me now. Unless you ride fairly fast or fairly slow, you're going to spend a lot of time with your chain crossed more than necessary and/or encountering a lot of double shifts. 50 is somewhat too big for "average" riders to be in consistently and 36 somewhat too small. If you do tend to be a particularly strong or weak rider (power to weight, not as a judgment), then that's more reason to get a standard double or a triple, respectively.

What would make sense to me if I wanted to use a double for LD is a 44 (give or take) you can stay in virtually all the time with a wide-range cassette, along with a bail-out ring for when you really need it. Me, I'm going to be sticking with a triple on my LD bike.

Last edited by zowie; 05-02-08 at 09:40 AM.
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Old 05-02-08, 09:28 AM   #2
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Compacts are a nice compromise if you want a somewhat wider range, no longer ride
consistently above 25mph and don't want triples. OTOH it does force you to stay in
one CW a bit longer than you would like as they always require a double shift to swap
CW. The 50% down and 35% up change is more than most people like so you
compensate by twitching 2-3 cogs in back. I like riding my compact but will switch to
the triple for long or really hilly rides.

On another note the change in triples from 52-42-30 to 53-39-30 also forces a double
shift more often than not, and is a step backward for the rider. It benefits the
manufacturer who can use the same forgings for triples as he does for 53-39 doubles. I stay in the 42 on the triple about 85% of the time. The 30 gets about
1% and the 52 the rest.
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Old 05-02-08, 09:47 AM   #3
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do a 'compact' that is set up as a 32/46 or a 30/44 (for climbing days!). even a 32/48 would work well. also consider changing out that cassette to something that makes more sense for LD riding - a 13-29 works well for me.

i enjoyed the 'standard' compact double with a 12-27 but found a crank with more flexibility for ring sizes gives me what i want...
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Old 05-02-08, 10:33 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by zowie View Post
Compact doubles seemed like a good idea, an ideal compromise. Give up a few teeth on the top side that most LD riders (and most riders generally) don't need, while getting a wider range than a standard double, and simpler mechanics and slightly less weight than a triple. After being less common, compacts seem to be showing up as the stock equipment on many many road bikes for 2008.

So, I'm riding behind my bud who's on his new 50/36 carbon bike, and I notice he's spending much of the time in the largest cogs on the cassette. I point this out, he shifts to the smaller ring, and then he's spending much of the time in the smallest cogs on the cassette. Later, I played around with Sheldon Brown's Gear Calculator to think about this further.

Compacts aren't making a lot of sense to me now. Unless you ride fairly fast or fairly slow, you're going to spend a lot of time with your chain crossed more than necessary and/or encountering a lot of double shifts. 50 is somewhat too big for "average" riders to be in consistently and 36 somewhat too small. If you do tend to be a particularly strong or weak rider (power to weight, not as a judgment), then that's more reason to get a standard double or a triple, respectively.

What would make sense to me if I wanted to use a double for LD is a 44 (give or take) you can stay in virtually all the time with a wide-range cassette, along with a bail-out ring for when you really need it. Me, I'm going to be sticking with a triple on my LD bike.
If you stick with 9-speed, you can pair up a compact double with a custom cassette to avoid some of this. However, cross chaining isn't as big a deal with a double than with a triple. But even with a triple, it's not a big deal so long as you can adjust your FD to prevent rubbing.
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Old 05-02-08, 10:50 AM   #5
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If you ride a lot of hills (such as we've got around the PNW) the compact double is a godsend for those of us who don't want to rock a triple.

34/48 compact double to an 11-32 9spd cassette. Yes, I admit that I've got some double shifting to do if I want to keep the lowest possible jumps between gear inches, but on a 5 mile climb I really appreciate having that 34/32 combo when I hit the 9% and 10% grades.
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Old 05-02-08, 10:54 AM   #6
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I also find I stay in the 42-cw about 75-85% of the time, with a 12-25 10 speed cassette. I typically use the 30-cw on anything sustained above 10-12% grade.

Begs the question: having grown up on "10-speeds," maybe 10 speeds is enough? Get like an 11-27 cassette, and just run a single 42 in front? That would really simplify matters.
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Old 05-02-08, 11:16 AM   #7
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I have a compact and although it took some adjusting to, I really like it. You can spend a lot of time close to the limits; (50 ring & larger rings in the back or 36 in the front and smaller in the back); but once you get use your machine, you are better prepared to handle it. As I returned to my mountain bike after a 6 month break (and I realized it is geared majorily differently), it took a while for handling a triple to come back to me.

It also depends on how many sneaky hills you find on your route. After riding 90 miles and then having to climb 1000 ft in the final 5 miles, that 34 in the front and a 25 in the back doesn't always hurt.
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Old 05-02-08, 11:22 AM   #8
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Begs the question: having grown up on "10-speeds," maybe 10 speeds is enough? Get like an 11-27 cassette, and just run a single 42 in front? That would really simplify matters.


Pretty tempted to do that with my long distance ride... 42t or 40t with a 13-29 on the rear - would cover most riding - but until I kill off an Ergolever I'll keep things the way they are...
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Old 05-02-08, 11:23 AM   #9
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"10-speed bikes" that weren't meant for racing typically had a 14-28 on the back.

I want to note that, generally, lowering gearing by reducing ring size in the front saves weight, while lowering gearing by increasing cog size in the back adds weight. Not a major point, but when things are otherwise equal ~
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Old 05-02-08, 05:06 PM   #10
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My vote would be for a compact double set up. I spent a lot of time fretting over what kind of set up to get when I was replacing my drive train recently. It was either a compact double or a triple, the bike shop I use had a set of compacts on special and the cheapness in me won out.
I am really glad I chose the compact set up. People I had spoken before hand all said "get a triple you'll regret it late in brevets when you start hitting monster hills"
So far I have no problems what so ever with the set up at all. And seems to have helped my hill climbing as I can climb much faster without blowing up on the hills or having to stand.
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Old 05-02-08, 06:55 PM   #11
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spin guru -
Did you go with a wider span cassette than a standard road setup, or just a big ol' 27t?
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Old 05-02-08, 08:36 PM   #12
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I run a Ultegra 50-34 with a 12-27 cassette and I get very close to what I get on an Ultegra 52-42-30 and a 12-25 cassette.
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Old 05-03-08, 01:05 PM   #13
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My recall of my final 10spd days (5x2) and observation of downtube shifter riders
since, is that the rider adjusts the cadence through a lot wider range in response
to terrain in preference to reaching down and shifting. With an 8-9-10spd
brifter it is so easy to change gears that cadence remains in the same small
range (for me 70-85 on single) rather than 45-90 with downtube shifter and
5 spd freewheel.
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Old 05-03-08, 10:06 PM   #14
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The advantage of a compact is not having to switch out anything on the bike to put one on (assuming your front derailleur can handle the smaller chainwheel.

My and my buddies ride relatively flat to slightly rolling terrain here in western Ohio and we all use normal 52/39 rings. But we make a number of annual pilgrimages for hilly rides:
  • Asheville, TN for Blue Ridge Parkway, Rt. 80, Mt. Mitchell
  • Helen, GA for TdG and do Brasstown, Hogpen, etc.
  • Challenge rides like Cherohala, 3S3M, Highlander (NY), etc.

When we do these trips, most of the guys put compact cranks on their primary bike about a week beforehand. It's quick and easy. Some also move up to a 27 on the back as well, especially for Brasstown.

I have a 2nd road bike with a triple and a 26 on the back, and spin quite high cadences when I climb.

Unless you live in one of those hillier areas and do steep grades on a regular basis, I don't see the need to keep a compact on a bike all the time. That seems to be the latest fad to me.
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Old 05-04-08, 01:33 AM   #15
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I had the exact same experience as the OP. The 50 was slightly too big and the 36 wasn't enough except on steep hills. The solution is glaringly obvious and was mentioned not only by the OP but by several others: smaller rings. I use a 46/30 with a 14-25 on the back. The chain only comes off the 46 when the going gets very steep, and the 30x25 gets me up anything that isn't faster to walk. And while the 46x14 isn't enough for field sprinting, it does what I want it to. (I coast when I get to 30 MPH.)

This isn't, of course, likely to be offered by a major manufacturer any time soon, as they make their money from folks caught up in the "imitate the racers" business. I understand that, being as 10 tooth cogs are too small to fit any current hubs, the 60 ring is the coming thing. Lol.

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Old 05-04-08, 07:10 AM   #16
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I built up my latest road bike to have a 34/46 matched with a 8spd 12-32. I live in Vermont with some steep hills. I am glad for the 34/32 combo for the steep climbs. So far it has worked. The only drawback is the 46/12, spinning out on the downhils. However, whenever the cassette wears out, I will probably replace it with a 9spd 11-32. My compact truly helps with the long rides, making the hills more peaceful...
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Old 05-04-08, 08:46 AM   #17
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I ride a road triple and depending on the ride spend maybe 90% of the time in the 42 and all over the 13-26 cassette. The big ring is great for fast descents and interval work, but not much else, while the small ring gets me up the occasional 15% or 20% grades found around here. I spin out the 42-13 at around 25 mph, so don't have a lot of need for the big ring.

Still, I've been mulling over going from my 13-26 and 53/42/39 to a 53/39 and 13-29. Doing so would save about 3/4 of a pound or more for only losing my lowest gear.

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Old 05-04-08, 09:53 AM   #18
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When I do a long ride with big hills, I really appreciate having a triple. The compact crank just doesn't give me enough gearing to spin up a long steep hill after having already done almost 300K of hills. After getting whupped and I find myself bonking, I might even need that gear on a 4% grade.
I have an Ultegra 10 speed triple and want even better gearing. Although, I would love to have a 32 cog in the back, I can't do that unless I go to 9 speed.
My next move is to replace the little chain ring with a 28 tooth ring to complement my 12-27 cassette.
I just hope that I don't drop my chain when shifting into my small chain ring.
That'll enable me to spin up a 10- 12% grade even when tired.
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Old 05-04-08, 11:37 AM   #19
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Pretty tempted to do that with my long distance ride... 42t or 40t with a 13-29 on the rear - would cover most riding - but until I kill off an Ergolever I'll keep things the way they are...
I'm not a particularly strong rider, but I like doing long distances so when confronted with the gearing on most bikes I realized that 25% of the gears were pretty much useless to me. My speed on the flat is 16 to 18 mph so I have no use for gearing biased towards doing 20mph plus for long periods. So I did a few calculations and came up with a 42/26 double combined with an 11-34 9sp speed cassette. On my rides around home I stay in the 42t ring almost all the time. When I go touring, or have a day with a lot of climbing, I resort to the 26t bail out ring. With this set up I get ratios form 103" to 21" and very little duplication of gears. I can use both rings on all the cassette cogs, although I try to avoid cross chaining too much. The 42/26t ring combo will probably be too small for strong riders, but for beginning to intermediate cyclists it works well.
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Old 05-04-08, 06:03 PM   #20
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I grew up on "cross chain and die" but Shimano says it isn't really an issue with todays flexible 10speedchains. Indeed, I cross big-big occasionally (or even a hair more) and it doesn't sound or feel bad like it did in 1977 (or 1987)
Small-small on my bike doesn't work at all. The angle the 34 needs means the chain actually hits the 50 ring on small-small.
But riding in 50-25 or even 27 doen't look like that bad an angle, and it sounds fine, so heck, I'm doing it. I've gotta replace my new-improved planned wear-out 10-speed Ultegra chain every other day anyway...
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Old 05-05-08, 07:54 AM   #21
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do a 'compact' that is set up as a 32/46 or a 30/44 (for climbing days!). even a 32/48 would work well. also consider changing out that cassette to something that makes more sense for LD riding - a 13-29 works well for me.

i enjoyed the 'standard' compact double with a 12-27 but found a crank with more flexibility for ring sizes gives me what i want...
Well, there are smaller double setups out there, aimed primarily at the mountain bike racing/cyclocross community. I just saw a review for a crank (I think it was from RaceFace) that is a 29/44 setup. Dunno how it would do with chainline on a road frame (it's an external BB model, so Q-factor isn't all that flexible), but it kinda hits what you're after in terms of chainring selection.

As far as my experiences are concerned, after riding for years with a triple (30/39/52) I switched to compact doubles (36/50 and 34/50) last year. After a lot of long-distance riding with big, long hills (though not extended distance, loaded randonneuring), I can't say I miss the triple. I actually prefer the lower maintenance and better shifting action on the doubles, given the choice. I run 11-25 and 11-26 (depends on the bike used - one is Campag, one is Shimano) cassettes, so I'm not giving up anything on the high end, and the low end is usually just fine. I have spare cassettes in 12-27 in case I want something slightly lower, but I've yet to find a case where I can't make it up a hill in the lowest available ratio.

Just my $0.02 - YMMV.
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Old 05-05-08, 09:49 AM   #22
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Well, there are smaller double setups out there, aimed primarily at the mountain bike racing/cyclocross community. I just saw a review for a crank (I think it was from RaceFace) that is a 29/44 setup. Dunno how it would do with chainline on a road frame (it's an external BB model, so Q-factor isn't all that flexible), but it kinda hits what you're after in terms of chainring selection.

As far as my experiences are concerned, after riding for years with a triple (30/39/52) I switched to compact doubles (36/50 and 34/50) last year. After a lot of long-distance riding with big, long hills (though not extended distance, loaded randonneuring), I can't say I miss the triple. I actually prefer the lower maintenance and better shifting action on the doubles, given the choice. I run 11-25 and 11-26 (depends on the bike used - one is Campag, one is Shimano) cassettes, so I'm not giving up anything on the high end, and the low end is usually just fine. I have spare cassettes in 12-27 in case I want something slightly lower, but I've yet to find a case where I can't make it up a hill in the lowest available ratio.

Just my $0.02 - YMMV.
If you use the middle and inner ring bolt patterns of a triple you can up with some very useful double combos. You have to work within the capacity of the FD, but you don't have to be limited by what you can buy "off the shelf". On a 110/74, small rings from 32 to 24 are available
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Old 05-05-08, 10:31 AM   #23
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Well, there are smaller double setups out there, aimed primarily at the mountain bike racing/cyclocross community. I just saw a review for a crank (I think it was from RaceFace) that is a 29/44 setup. Dunno how it would do with chainline on a road frame (it's an external BB model, so Q-factor isn't all that flexible), but it kinda hits what you're after in terms of chainring selection.
I'm running a TA Carmina double in a 94 BCD, on a Phil Wood BB. I love that its got a low tread (Q) and the BB allowed me to get a great chainline. Smallest ring would be a 30 on the inner and I can (and occassionally do) cross chain big/big. I bought a selection of rings too... so I can change it up if needed and have 2 cassettes - Campy 13-29 for a wider low end and a Campy 13-26 for a more evenly spaced low end. Been working great so far - when I'm fit and strong I run it 34/48 or 34/50 - but I've been recently enjoying running 32/46. Most of my riding is in the big ring... with very little double shifting.
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Old 05-05-08, 12:43 PM   #24
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I'm running a TA Carmina double in a 94 BCD, on a Phil Wood BB. I love that its got a low tread (Q) and the BB allowed me to get a great chainline. Smallest ring would be a 30 on the inner and I can (and occassionally do) cross chain big/big. I bought a selection of rings too... so I can change it up if needed and have 2 cassettes - Campy 13-29 for a wider low end and a Campy 13-26 for a more evenly spaced low end. Been working great so far - when I'm fit and strong I run it 34/48 or 34/50 - but I've been recently enjoying running 32/46. Most of my riding is in the big ring... with very little double shifting.
Nice set up, the Carmina gives more options than any other crank because of the interchangeable spiders and the range of BCDs available. The 94 double is really nice as is the 94x58 triple on which you can do things like 46-34-20 for touring. I do my wide 42/26 double on a $50 Sugino XD 300. I took off the rings it came with and replaced them with bright shinny TA rings.....The rings cost me twice as much as the crank....

I also use a Phil Wood BB so that I can adjust the chain line.
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Old 05-22-08, 03:26 AM   #25
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This thread has really inspired me. Like the OP, I didn't like the gearing on the compact double that I tried (34/50) - too much double-shifting, more cross-chaining than I'd like, and the lowest gear wasn't low enough (with a 12-27 cassette). I've instead always had a triple on my bikes. I currently have a 30/39/52 crankset paired with a 12-25 10-speed cassette, but sometimes I switch the inner 30 tooth chainring for a 26 if I'm heading into the Alps 'cos I like to spin up the long climbs.

However, I've often wondered why I should bother with the big ring, and running a double with my current inner chainring plus something intermediate between the middle and outer rings sounds ideal. I'm now thinking about a set-up with 29/44 on the front and the SRAM 11-26 cassette on the back. By doing this, I'll only lose one gear on the top end (the new 44-11 combo' will be equivalent to my old 52-13, so I only lose the current 52-12 combo, but probably won't miss it), and on the bottom end I will have a sufficiently low gear (29-26) for any climb. Plus, I'll lose a bunch of weight and improve shifting on the front and back (I could switch my long-cage Ultegra RD for a short-cage one that I have lying around). The only drawback is that I may have to shift out of the 44 as soon as any half-decent climb comes along, whereas I can currently stay in my middle 39 tooth ring for most of my ride.

First, what do you guys think about this set-up and resulting combinations?

What are my options for getting a 29/44 double crankset?
I've looked at the TA Carmina custom builds, but they are pretty expensive. People above mentioned a RaceFace crankset and a Sugino that could be used - anyone have more info or links for these? The cheapest thing would be to use a triple crankset that I have already (MTB or road) and only put two rings on there, but then the chainline wouldn't be great, there would be some wasted weight, and it probably won't look too pretty. So, any other ideas?

BTW, this setup is on a racing/road bike, I like to spin a cadence of 90+, and frequently do long rides on Alpine roads (some averaging 8%+ for several km's), but I also do some other flat training with clip-on aerobars.
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