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Should I Change to a Triple?

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Should I Change to a Triple?

Old 06-04-08, 08:11 AM
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A while back I had been in great riding form, but had to take break due to travel. Then I moved to a hillier area. I decided to go from a tightly geared cassette to one with a wider range to make it easier on the hills. I ended up hating the thing. The problem for me was that the gearing was too far apart making it hard to stay at the right cadence.

Last summer I went through an analysis of compacts versus triple and ended up choosing a triple. My reason for choosing the triple was largely because it allowed me to stay with tighter gearing in the back. Another benefit is that the closer gap in the front rings actually makes for easier shifting than what you will get with a compact. And one final reason is that with the triple the gap between rear gears when shifting the front rings is smaller. In other words, when changing to a different front ring I need to shift a smaller number of cogs in the back to stay at the same speed/cadence.

I'm surprised to see that Sheldon's gear calculator https://sheldonbrown.com/gears/ hasn't come up in the thread yet. I used it extensively when I made my choice. Instead of using esoteric measurements like gear inches, I chose MPH @ my target RPM. This tells you what MPH you'll be at in each gear combination.

Anyway, since you've already decided to stick with the compact, the above might be of interest if you later reconsider, or for others who might be reading the thread. When I ran your setup through Sheldon's calculator, using MPH @ 80 RPMs it gave a range of 26.2-8.5 for your current 12x25, 28.5-7.6 for the 11x28, and 26.2-7.9 for the 12x27. With the 27 you get a .6 mph drop and with the 28, a .9 mph drop, assuming an 80 RPM cadence. Note that I had to choose a tire size, yours may be different. Also note that the crank length for this calculation doesn't matter.

Armed with this info, think about how fast you are going up the hills in question. Is this reduction in speed going to be enough to put you at a good cadence? If you're currently going up them at 7 mph then the new gearing will certainly be closer. If you're only going 4 MPH, it will help, but it might not be enough. The reason I'm talking in terms of cadence is that spinning at a higher cadence will put less strain on your knees than mashing the pedals up the hill.
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Old 06-04-08, 09:23 AM
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Good info -- I actually had pulled up Sheldon Brown's Gear Calculator, and was comparing my current 12-25 with the 12-27 vs. the 11-28. I'm trying to keep my cadence in the 90s (per Doc recommendation) to help with the knee, but find the tough hills have me in the 6 mph range currently (and I can't seem to go much slower), hence the question of 12-27 vs. 11-28 (may be closer!). Pretty sure Mrs. AirBeagle won't go for the cost of switching to a triple, but the rear cassette I can probably get approval on.

I like the 12-27 from the "safe swap" standpoint -- straightforward, no concerns about compatibility, etc., and it gains me one easier gear.

I like the 11-28 gearing better on the 28 side so it truly becomes a 'bail out' gear, not so worried about the 11-side, but I also have concerns about compatibility based on some previous posts (although LBS says the 11-28 should fit and function appropriately with current RD).

Price difference between the two will be nil -- both estimates (installed) are within a couple bucks of each other.
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Old 06-04-08, 10:16 AM
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I went from a 12-25 to a 12-27, and it has helped me get up a couple REALLY tough hills (grades go up to 20%) without bailing and walking the bike. It's only 2 gear teeth, but it DOES help.
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Old 06-04-08, 11:43 AM
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Originally Posted by AirBeagle1
I like the 12-27 from the "safe swap" standpoint -- straightforward, no concerns about compatibility, etc., and it gains me one easier gear.

I like the 11-28 gearing better on the 28 side so it truly becomes a 'bail out' gear, not so worried about the 11-side, but I also have concerns about compatibility based on some previous posts (although LBS says the 11-28 should fit and function appropriately with current RD)

What's your current RD? That 27t max isn't always the true max capacity the RD will function under. A 28 might require some tweaking of the tension adjuster, but you should be able to get away with it. Shimano lists the max capacity of the Tiagra GS derailleur as 11-27t, but I run an 11-32t on mine and all it took was a little bit of fine adjustment on the tension to keep the top pulley away from the largest cog.
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Old 06-04-08, 12:01 PM
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I have a triple and a megarange huge innermost gear on the cassette on the bike I most often use, and on my utility bike I extended the spread of the triple changing out the smallest front chainring.
I have hills to deal with. I live in a mountainous area. Anyone who wants to stick their nose in the air about it I generally assume lives somewhere more or less perfectly flat. I sneer at people who think a three speed or a seven speed hub will be sufficient for everything; maybe if you live in one of those places where a "hill" is an all-but-invisible vague gradient, rather than an arrangement of cliffs.
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Old 06-04-08, 01:34 PM
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I bet you could find someone who would SWAP the parts with you for free. There are a lot more people looking to go from tripple to compact double than there are the other way.
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Old 06-04-08, 01:59 PM
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Compact doubles are for people who are bad at math, or are too insecure to concede that the laws of nature exist.
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Old 06-04-08, 02:55 PM
  #33  
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+1 Don't punish yourself, or your knees. If this keeps being a problem, I would seek out a triple, either modify the bike, or flip it and buy a triple. The damage to your knees greatly outweighs any cost of conversion.
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Old 06-04-08, 03:22 PM
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Originally Posted by superslomo
Compact doubles are for people who are bad at math, or are too insecure to concede that the laws of nature exist.
O RLY? Care to elaborate?
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Old 06-04-08, 07:19 PM
  #35  
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Originally Posted by Tabor
O RLY? Care to elaborate?
I'm guessing it's something along the lines of...

There seems to be a macho attitude among roadies that triples are for sissies. This attitude made it hard for the manufacturers to sell bikes with triples so they came up with the idea of the compact double. While the compact double does reduce the gearing, it also introduces new problems. For example, the large tooth difference between the rings results in them not shifting so well. Also, if you look at the speed differences between the two rings you will realize that a shift between them will usually require changing 3 cogs in back. If a person rides in an area with rolling terrain, this could become quite annoying. In contrast, the closer spacing between the rings on on a triple means they can actually shift better than a compact. The closer spacing also means a small number of gear changes will be needed in back when shifting between the rings.

I considered these issues very carefully when choosing between a compact and a triple. I chose the triple and have found it works very well. Perhaps someday people will learn to ignore the macho of the roadies and choose more gears when it makes sense to.
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Old 06-04-08, 07:30 PM
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I really could care less about what others think about me riding a triple. I ride for my health and well being, not to impress others. Heck, I ride too slow to impress anyone anyway......

The three bikes I ride regularly are all triples. My next bike will be a triple. On regular rides around the neighborhood, OK, I don't need the smallest chain ring. But I have a couple of kick a** hills nearby that I do need to smallest ring. And in Waynesville, NC, I can't go more than half a mile before I am using the small chain ring.
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Old 06-04-08, 07:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Pinyon
If I were you, I would consider gettting a new 11/28, or 12/28 cassette, before switching the front to a triple. There is a good chance that you won't have to change anything else on the bike but the cassette.

My new bike has a 50/34 in the front and 11/28 in the back (tiagra front derailure, 105 short-cage rear derailure). The resistance feels VERY close to my wife's triple when it is on the 30 chainring in the front and the 25 cog in the rear.

It would be woth a try. You should make sure that your derailures will handle it, but most compact crank bikes are newer, and can take the range of gears.

Good luck!
+1 I have a 13-29 and it's darn close to like having a triple. I'd guess the 12/28 or 11/28 would be pretty close. Probably worth a try at least if you want to save. Keeps me moving on the 12-15-20+% stuff I live on top of.

How long do these hills of yours go on for?

That said, I have nothing against triples, and if I bought another bike for touring, commuting and whatnot I wouldn't mind one on it, for seeking out those extra-freaky hills. I have a few nasty hills in mind as yet unconquered that i know I'd have to go out of the saddle for long stretches even with a 13-29; they loiter in the back of your mind, taunting ...

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Old 06-05-08, 08:35 AM
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Besides the "triple are for wimps" misconception, I think many people still think that triples have shifting issues... when I got my Specialized Roubaix triple, I had already purchased a compact to swap it out not only because of all the negative things I had read about triples, but also with my previous problems with triples (I had an older triple that was always rubbing here or there and I never could get it just right). But a friend of mine convinced me to just try it out for a little bit because he'd read some very positive things about the new Shimano 105 stuff. I'm glad I did because I've had zero issues with it and it shifts just as well as compact double on my other bike. Although I don't use the small chainring very often, when I do use it, I count my blessings! For me, there really would not be a reason to not use the triple (weight savings for a big guy like me isn't measured in grams!)
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Old 06-05-08, 09:34 AM
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Originally Posted by wrk101
I really could care less about what others think about me riding a triple. I ride for my health and well being, not to impress others.
Oh FSM how I hate to do it but: THIS

I can't understand why someone wouldn't want the range of gear inches a triple can offer just to save a bit of weight. Unless you blessed to live in an area without hills doubles seem impractical to me. I'm sure it's a big deal to racers to not have the weight but frankly that doesn't concern me nor 90% of people who ride doubles. Sure a new rear cassett can be a compromise but it's still just that. If you want to ride a double ride a double, no need to get condescending with the people who choose triples. So the front der might rub a bit when your cross chaining, learn to shift and it's not an issue.
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Old 06-05-08, 12:17 PM
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I have a 2004 Trek 5200 with a 9-speed triple Ultegra, and a new bike with a 10-speed Dura-Ace derailleur. I rode the 5200 for a day last week when my new bike was being worked on. I have to say the triple Ultegra had better shifting, at least on the rear changes.
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Old 06-06-08, 10:56 AM
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I can now speak from real expierience, if you saw my posting from a couple of weeks ago, I went on a bike ride with a local club. I was riding my new road bike with a 50/34 compact and a 12/27. We hit the hills hard, and I was desperatly trying to keep up with the crowd and just had no time to recover once we got to the top. Well, has you could expect, I ran out of gas and had to break off and ride home. I went back on that same ride a week later by myself on my old hybrid and rode the whole ride at a leasure pace. The lower gearing helped, but I think the big help was no peer pressure, I didn't have to push to keep up. I was tired at the end, but I think with a little more training I will be able to handle those hills on my compact, I'm sticking with it.
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Old 06-09-08, 02:48 PM
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After completing the century this weekend (ride report forthcoming), completely with plenty of hills, I'm convinced -- I'll be OK sticking with the compact double, but I definitely want to go from the 12-25 on the back to the 12-27. Wasn't very often I wanted a gear past the 50/12, so I'll skip the 11-28 and just install a standard Shimano 105-level 12-27 on the back in place of the 12-25. Thanks for all the help!
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Old 06-09-08, 03:03 PM
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Congrats on the century!
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Old 06-09-08, 03:42 PM
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Originally Posted by walter231
General observation from riding with a lot of other people is that triples are basically for people who either don't ride a lot or have serious health issues (severe overweight, emphysema, etc.)
Guess all the pros who ride triples up Brasstown Bald are hiding more medical information than we thought.

My and my imaginary chain ring made about 12,000 healthy miles in the last 3 years. I guess so much for "general observations."
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Old 06-09-08, 06:14 PM
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Originally Posted by walter231
General observation from riding with a lot of other people is that triples are basically for people who either don't ride a lot or have serious health issues (severe overweight, emphysema, etc.)
Triples are really for people who need to go up steep hills, and/or carry a heavy load. This is why triples are pretty much standard equipment on touring bikes these days, where you may spend 2 full days carrying 25kg on the racks, while going up hills that truckers refuse to go down.
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Old 06-09-08, 06:29 PM
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20 some odd years ago when I weighed about 165 and lived on a bike, I was a real Roadie snob who thought triples were, well, I didn't think highly of them

I'm 45, bad knees, bad back, and weigh almost a 100 lbs more than I did then. Since I've rediscovered two wheel Nirvana, I ride a moutain bike and a road bike, which both have triples. My knees love me for it since I don't have to mash to keep up my cadence, and hills are less torture.

I will welcome the day when I don't use that third ring, but until then it's helping me stay on the bike(s).

Borrow a riding buds triple and take it for a spin. If it feels good or helps, go fo it. Remember when you first started and had to have the attitude that what others may think as you roll along in lycra and praying for an oxygen mask didn't matter because there was a more meaningful purpose? I think that applies to the use of a triple as well.

I once worked for a guy who had a saying, "There are 10 ways to get this done, 9 of them will work. Let's not waste time on how, just get it done".
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