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Racing on a compact

Old 12-23-11, 04:31 PM
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Racing on a compact

I have done several searches one this topic, so I know it has been discussed several times. I have read that with a compact you may be undergeared while racing or on fast group rides. At the same time I have watched Cdr's video of sprinting on his 39. So my question is; Has anyone actually lost or felt like they lost a race because of riding a compact? I'm just looking for the people racing on compacts and their experiences.
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Old 12-23-11, 04:50 PM
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Didn't Pizza Man race on a compact to great effect?

BTW, whatever happened to him?
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Old 12-23-11, 05:06 PM
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He's still racing. I think he won districts last year in the 35+.

I normally ride and race on a 50/34 and 12-27. I normally do hilly or mountainous road races but I've done a crit on that gearing as well.
I've only felt like I was undergeared at one race which features a 8 or 10 mile slight downhill that normally has a stiff tail wind. The first time I raced it the wind was the reverse direction so no problem. The next time I made the split that happens before we hit the tailwind part and then got dropped there because I just couldn't spin the cranks that fast for that long. I came back this year with an 11-26 which was much better. I can't see needing more than a 50x11 for any race. On fast descents it's better to tuck and coast- one has to come out of the tuck to pedal and the added drag is as much as the power I'm able to put out.
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Old 12-23-11, 05:26 PM
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My standard makes me feel all manly like, but I certainly don't need the 53-11.

In theory aren't the gear inches a bit closer together on the standard than the compact? So it should be more efficient for crits/flat RRs. Maybe? I'm new and pretty bad at math.

I doubt it makes a significant difference for us mortals.
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Old 12-23-11, 09:19 PM
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I have a compact on my commuting bike and have been thinking a lot about if i'd want to get a compact or standard quarq (when I finally get one). In the end i've decided that i'd rather get a standard crank and adjust my cassette/RD accordingly. If you get a medium/long cage RD and you'll be able to do any terrain you need to.

How low of gear do you need? What do you have now?
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Old 12-23-11, 09:50 PM
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I have a compact now, with an 11/25 on back. I've done large group century rides and smaller group rides and have never felt under geared. Just never having raced I didn't know if there was any reason to use anything else. That's why I was wondering if anyone felt they had lost because of a compact. I think my fitness and lack of experience is going to be my biggest challenge. With it being winter time I thought I might be able to catch a sell on a standard if there was a reason to.
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Old 12-23-11, 10:10 PM
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Depends on the terrain and the definition of "compact" vs "standard". A compact with 50x11 is bigger than standard with 53x12.
Around here, 53x12 is fine for racing. I don't think I'd ever use a 53x11, and if I had one, it would mean I'd lose a middle gear which I use all the time.
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Old 12-24-11, 04:56 AM
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I bought a compact last fall (2010) thinking that I'd only put it on for the steepest climbs (e.g. Tour of the Catskills), but after successfully doing all training and racing in 2011 without the standard crank, I don't think I'll ever put it back on. BTW, I have an 11X27 cassette to go with the compact.
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Old 12-24-11, 08:43 AM
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I'm running a compact(quarq) with a 11-25 and I climb a lot better now with guys that used to drop me.

I'll see how racing goes but last year I was braking on descents quite bit because no one ever drove the pace descending just on the climbs
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Old 12-24-11, 10:27 AM
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Originally Posted by tjk23 View Post
I have done several searches one this topic, so I know it has been discussed several times. I have read that with a compact you may be undergeared while racing or on fast group rides. At the same time I have watched Cdr's video of sprinting on his 39. So my question is; Has anyone actually lost or felt like they lost a race because of riding a compact? I'm just looking for the people racing on compacts and their experiences.
I raced for 5 years with a compact and 50-11 high gear. In two or three races that had a strong tailwind stretch I wished I had a 53-11. I wouldn't say I lost those races because it isn't as if I would have won them on a 53-11, but it would have made those sections a little less uncomfortable. In only one sprint did I feel undergeared - also a strong tailwind.

Also, twice in my first year of racing I dropped my chain on a 50 to 34 chainring shift which is much easier to do on a compact. After that I learned to be careful to move the chain to a smaller rear cog before shifting in front and I was fine.

I wouldn't buy a compact for a race bike again, but I also didn't bother to change it out. I did like it for training when I wanted to put in a long steady ride with a lot of hills.
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Old 12-24-11, 11:50 AM
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I just watched my own 39T clip again. This has made me think about compact vs standard, different ring sizes, etc. I may race training races in my own gear limited fashion, maybe a 53x14 or similar. I think the 53x15 was too low; also, I should point out that in the 39T sprint it was a sprint in the 3rd group. There were probably 20 riders ahead.

A former teammate (the one that got 2nd at Battenkill in his first Cat 2 race and then promptly quit) used only compacts.

Dropping a chain is easier if you have a bigger chainring size difference. I used to run a 54x45 or so just to keep the chainring size difference minimal (51x42 also). It's also easier to drop a chain off a smaller chainring, hence people dropping chains off mountain bikes with their 22 or 24T rings.

I'd think that for general use a 52x36 (i.e. compact) would be close to optimal.

Part of the reason for using such a wide spread in chainrings is to try and keep a narrow spread in the cassette. 1 tooth jumps may not seem significant when training on your own but they make a big difference when at the limit and trying to find a gear that keeps you in an optimal cadence range. In time trials I've found one tooth jumps to be a bit much - I used to run a half step set up, 48/52, so that I could get every inbetween gear.

I still like the big gears. I like moving up when it's easier to move up, and that's usually in fast tailwind sections (no one wants to move up when you have to pedal 120 rpm), downhills (ditto), etc. With my current (and temporary) 55x44 setup (I'm using tandem rings since I've worn out my two sets of regular ones), I've done some massive moves on downhills, rolling a 55x11, then waiting for the others on the flatter bits. It's a lot of fun. Of course the others killed me on the uphills so it's all even.
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Old 12-24-11, 12:32 PM
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I put a chain catcher n last year and have not dropped the chain since. I have felt the catcher working a couple of times. I think with all things considered I will just keep the set up I have and if it does hinder me with racing I'll make the change then. The fastest group ride I have been on ended up with me and two others dropping the rest of the group. One of the riders is a Cat 1 and the other a Cat 3. I have no way of knowing how hard they were trying but I was able to keep up with them on the ten mile run in to the finish. I know racing is a while different ballgame.
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Old 12-24-11, 12:56 PM
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Keep in mind that steady state riding (3 guys, paceline) won't hit max speeds like a seething surging field. It's not uncommon in a cross tailwind for a field to be softpedaling at 35-38 mph, with riders moving up hitting 40-42 mph (while sheltered, so it's like riding rollers, very little resistance). Turning a bigger gear over a bit slower will keep the HR down.

Having said that I've had ex-pros turning a 53x14 ride me right off their wheel (in Gainesville). They also did it in a 53x11 and something absurd like a 39x15 (into a massive cross/headwind).

I use the N-Gear Jumpstop if I can - the orange Tsunami has a one. On that I'll purposely adjust the derailleur way too far inboard (4-5-6 mm too far) and slam the derailleur down. The chain never falls off the ring, it's amazing.

I've dropped my chain using the K Watcher, and I don't have faith in that. On the K-Watch bike (black Tsunami) I shift slower into the small ring if at all. In most crits I don't use the small ring, just leave it in the big ring.
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Old 12-24-11, 01:33 PM
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If you find that you don't need the low gearing you can get alternate chainrings, like 52/36 or 52/38.
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Old 12-24-11, 01:52 PM
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my new bike came with a "mid compact" - 52/36 w/ an 11/28.there are some big gaps in the cassette, but the crank is a good balance of full size/compact IMO.
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Old 12-24-11, 01:54 PM
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Originally Posted by carpediemracing View Post
Having said that I've had ex-pros turning a 53x14 ride me right off their wheel (in Gainesville). They also did it in a 53x11 and something absurd like a 39x15 (into a massive cross/headwind).
"Which state?", asks the guy in Gainesville, Florida.

We have some of that kind of guys around here. Some without the "ex", too.
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Old 12-24-11, 01:56 PM
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I use a 52/34 with an 11-26 and has all the gearing I need. Best of both worlds. I don't mind the jumps in gearing at all and once you're used to it you don't even notice.
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Old 12-24-11, 03:04 PM
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Originally Posted by kindablue View Post
In theory aren't the gear inches a bit closer together on the standard than the compact? So it should be more efficient for crits/flat RRs. Maybe? I'm new and pretty bad at math.
It's the other way around. With the same cassette, a smaller ring gives you smaller jumps.
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Old 12-24-11, 03:13 PM
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Originally Posted by soma5 View Post
It's the other way around. With the same cassette, a smaller ring gives you smaller jumps.
The ratios are independent of the big ring. Going from a 15 to a 14 is a 7% jump (15/14) whether you're on a 39 or 53.
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Old 12-24-11, 03:16 PM
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How well does that 52/34 shift?
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Old 12-24-11, 03:20 PM
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I'm starting to think that one should be fine with the compact. I've been transforming myself into a spinner (from a masher) and, lately, I've been hanging in the little ring almost exclusively. Today, I was in my 39-21 for a townline sprint, cranked it up to 188rpm, and I was flying (I didn't take it, but, had I shifted into the 19 at some point rather than spinning that 21 as much as I could, yeah, I probably would have taken it). The 53-11 seemed so far away from being needed. OP, take this with a grain of salt as I am new to turning the crank at a high cadence. (Now, when I mashed, I used that 53-11 often enough and wanted even more -- thought about going to a 54, 55 or 56).
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Old 12-24-11, 03:45 PM
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52/34 shifts fine even though it's an 18 tooth difference. It's a little bit harder to dial in but I haven't had any real issues, but I can tell it is a bit slower than normal setups.
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Old 12-24-11, 03:57 PM
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i run a 52/36 and choose between an 11-23, 11-25 and 11-28 depending on the course.

we have a few races around here with long fast descents (dead dog RR in wyoming, in particular) when i've definitely wishd for a bit more gear, but its rarely a decisive issue.
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Old 12-24-11, 04:27 PM
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Originally Posted by gregf83 View Post
The ratios are independent of the big ring. Going from a 15 to a 14 is a 7% jump (15/14) whether you're on a 39 or 53.
We were talking jumps in gear inches, not percentage changes.
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Old 12-24-11, 10:05 PM
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Bigger rings give you smaller jumps. A 56x15 to 56x16 is a smaller jump than a similar set of gear inches on a smaller ring with the 11 and 12 (I'm not at my computer so I don't have any nifty stuff bookmarked/saved, but I'll just guess a 42T or so).

Part of the reason TTT squads used huge rings was to reduce gear differences. The Russians would use 56 or so rings, even if they were "only" in the 15 for part of the course. More efficient chain line (less time in the 12), smaller gear jumps, rounder cogs (an 11 is way less round than a 15 - for an extreme, think of what a 2T cog would look like, or a 1T cog).
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