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Ride Quality: 50/34 crankset vs a subcompact 48/32

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Cyclocross and Gravelbiking (Recreational) This has to be the most physically intense sport ever invented. It's high speed bicycle racing on a short off road course or riding the off pavement rides on gravel like : "Unbround Gravel". We also have a dedicated Racing forum for the Cyclocross Hard Core Racers.

Ride Quality: 50/34 crankset vs a subcompact 48/32

Old 02-18-16, 07:08 AM
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Rupert2016
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Ride Quality: 50/34 crankset vs a subcompact 48/32

Hi everyone I could use your opinions on the difference in overall ride quality between a 50/34 crankset and a subcompact 48/32. Please keep in mind Iím a simple rider who is not overly concerned with the technical details of bike riding. I ride for recreation and exercise. There are definitely hills in my area that Iíve ridden with my current bike that has a 48/38/28 crankset. The terrain is mostly pavement but I will venture off on light trails. Iím in the process of deciding to buy a gravel bike with a 50/34 crankset or one with a subcompact 48/32. From what Iíve read, subcompacts are best for hilly terrain and off-road so does that mean when Iím on a flat road and I want to hammer itÖthe subcompact will be significantly slower than the 50/34.

Thanks
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Old 02-18-16, 07:36 AM
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On your current bike, what is the most common gears you use? Do you ever use the big ring? How much do you find yourself using the small ring? I am of the opinion that it is a shame triples are going out of style, as I find myself using the middle ring 90% of the time and with a compact double, I would find myself shifting between the big and small ring to get the gear combinations I currently have using a 38 tooth ring on a triple.

Consult a gear inch calculator.
BikeCalc.com - Bicycle Gear Inches Chart

As you can see, the differences between a 50 - 34 and a 48 - 32 cranksets are fairly small, almost unnoticeable. Assuming you are using a wide range 11 - 32 cassette, you are talking about a high gear of either 121 gear inches or an almost equally unusable (for recreational use) 116 gear inches. At the low end, you are talking about a hill friendly 28 gear inches against an slightly more hill friendly 26.7 gear inches. You might as well flip a coin.

If it were me, I would consider something along the lines of a 44 - 30 or even 42 - 30 ultra compact crankset.
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Old 02-18-16, 07:59 AM
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I think gearing is a thing that gets massively overlooked with respect to ride quality. The difference in a well-spaced cassette and a poorly spaced cassette is night and day. Nothing is worse than a 2 tooth jump when a 1 tooth jump is expected.

Pay attention to the edge gears with respect to your local terrain and fitness levels. The gears you really care about are the ones you'll use right before you shift in the front. Say your two biggest cogs are 24 & 28. Will 50/24 get you over the hill? If not, will 48/24? Sometimes the small differences are very important.

I rode 50/34 with a 12-26 cassette and found myself constantly shifting the front to handle the small rollers of 50-100ft that make up most of our terrain. The 50 was too large to handle the hills and the 34 was too small for the flats. First I switched to 48/34 and liked that but was still not 100% happy so I switched to 46/36 with the same cassette and found the gearing combination was much better. I can stay in the big ring for more of the rollers and the small ring is just a hair better on the flats but it's the difference between a front shift+multiple rear shifts and just a rear shift.

Something like 50/34 and 48/32 often ends up as two gearing systems. You use the 50 for flat areas and as soon as a hill approaches the 34 comes out. This is fine for a lot of riders but I don't enjoy widely spaced front rings like that since it adds a jarring quality to the ride trying to manage the multiple shifts required to keep a consistent speed or cadence.

Also, top end gearing doesn't make you fast or slow. Your fitness level does. Based on my ride logs, my fastest bikes are my single speeds with 50/18 and 46/17 gearing.
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Old 02-18-16, 08:09 AM
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Originally Posted by Spoonrobot View Post
I think gearing is a thing that gets massively overlooked with respect to ride quality. The difference in a well-spaced cassette and a poorly spaced cassette is night and day. Nothing is worse than a 2 tooth jump when a 1 tooth jump is expected.

Pay attention to the edge gears with respect to your local terrain and fitness levels. The gears you really care about are the ones you'll use right before you shift in the front. Say your two biggest cogs are 24 & 28. Will 50/24 get you over the hill? If not, will 48/24? Sometimes the small differences are very important.

I rode 50/34 with a 12-26 cassette and found myself constantly shifting the front to handle the small rollers of 50-100ft that make up most of our terrain. The 50 was too large to handle the hills and the 34 was too small for the flats. First I switched to 48/34 and liked that but was still not 100% happy so I switched to 46/36 with the same cassette and found the gearing combination was much better. I can stay in the big ring for more of the rollers and the small ring is just a hair better on the flats but it's the difference between a front shift+multiple rear shifts and just a rear shift.

Something like 50/34 and 48/32 often ends up as two gearing systems. You use the 50 for flat areas and as soon as a hill approaches the 34 comes out. This is fine for a lot of riders but I don't enjoy widely spaced front rings like that since it adds a jarring quality to the ride trying to manage the multiple shifts required to keep a consistent speed or cadence.

Also, top end gearing doesn't make you fast or slow. Your fitness level does. Based on my ride logs, my fastest bikes are my single speeds with 50/18 and 46/17 gearing.
A 46 - 36 sounds intriguing. I am thinking that if I had to give up my triple, I would try either a 46 - 36 with a wide cassette (11 - 34) or a 44 - 30 with a more roadish cassette. (12 - 27).
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Old 02-18-16, 10:15 AM
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My gravel bike came with a 50/39/30 crank and wide range MTB cassette. I replaced the cassette with a close ratio road one. I really like this setup, no big gaps and low gears. I didn't like the 50/34. The downshift to the 34 had to be accompanied by a shift or three in the rear. It made for a lot of anxiety when approaching a hill in a pack ride.
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Old 02-18-16, 11:55 AM
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+1, What gear ratios do you use most?

a double shift using both derailleurs at the same time to go between the 2 gears you use most may be a PITA before long.

SheldonBrown gears https://sheldonbrown.com/gear-calc.html another math help
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Old 02-18-16, 01:35 PM
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I'm a fan of triples. I read once that anytime you need a 28T cog in back you really probably want a 32T cog. Triples are the logical extension of that thinking. If I want a low gear, I want a really low gear.

On pavement, I feel like a 34T chainring is almost always the wrong gear. As I get going from a stop I've got a lot of rear gears to go through to get up to speed, and the jump to a 50T big ring is just awkward -- it takes like three shifts for a "smooth" transition. On the open road it's fine because once you get to the big ring you can stay there, but anywhere that you need to stop frequently it's just wrong. With a big enough cassette you can get a low gear out of a 34T chainring, but whatever cassette you use your low gear would be lower with a 30T ring (obvious but it shows the flaw in the usual 50-34 argument). I mostly use my 50-39-30 triple as if it were a 50-39 double but I have the 30T ring to bail me out when the road gets really steep. A 50-34 is like having a 50T 1x setup with an awkward not-quite-bailout ring attached.

I love 46-36 for cyclocross racing, but the 36T small ring leaves a lot to be desired for extended gravel/trail riding where you are likely to encounter extended climbs and steep hills that you don't want to get off and run up. For this reason, I tend to put a 34T ring on my cross bike in the off-season. The 46-34 combination is pretty good for gravel riding (though as above, not quite as good as a triple). I like 46-34 better than 50-34 (even on pavement) because a 46T 1x setup makes more sense than a 50T 1x. I'd consider a 42-34 or 44-34 if quality rings were available at a reasonable price in this configuration. WickWerks makes these, but I can't justify the price.

I am in the process of grudgingly making the jump to 11-speed on my commuter in order to get hydraulic braking. Since this means I'm forced to a 2x11 configuration, I'm losing my beloved triple. I considered a 46-34 crank with an 11-32 cassette (which would match the low gear on my current 50-39-30/12-28 gearing), but instead I'm going to start by just replacing the big ring with a bash guard and running it as a 39-30 double. The 39-11 high gear will get me about 28 mph without excessive spinning, so that's more than sufficient for commuting. You might think this would give me a sub-optimal chainline, but since I only use the small ring with the two biggest cogs and mostly use the "big" ring across the entire range of the cassette, this chainline (42.5) is actually better than the standard 43.5 that you get from a road double. I had to install the front derailleur higher than it ought to be, and it pulls back perilously close to the seat tube, but at least in the stand it seems to be working. I haven't oiled up the brakes yet so no ride experience, but I'm pretty optimistic about how this will work.
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Old 02-18-16, 01:41 PM
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In the past 5-6 years, I've gone from a triple, to various doubles (34/46, 36/46, 34/48, 30/50), but currently run a single-ring setup (42 & 10-42). If I was doing fast-paced club rides (on pavement), I'd probably miss the 2x/3x's tighter spacing, but since nearly all of my riding is solo, I'm fine with the 1x11's wider gaps.
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Old 02-18-16, 04:39 PM
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The big difference is that the 48/32 is a subcompact crank with a smaller Bolt Circle Diameter (BCD), so you would be able to fit smaller (or larger) rings, if you want to change the gearing later on.

With the 50/34 crank, you can't fit a smaller ring than a 34t.

I also agree with some of the other posters that a 48t big ring gives you a more usable range, without sacrificing much of the high end gearing.
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Old 02-18-16, 04:56 PM
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I assume your question is 11 speed. I ride a 48/33, so it is really close to what you are thinking. It might not seem like much, but it is a significant improvement over 50/34 (I also made a change in the cassette as well). The 50t just wastes so much of the upper gear range unless you are race rider on roads. I find it very frustrating for adventure, fitness, general riding.

I also took out the 11t cog on my 11-32 cassette and put in a 15t cog. That combo is really super nice if you like tight gear spacing, and 48t/12t is still plenty high enough for 98% of riding.

For this subcompact, if you can use 46/30 chainrings, that is nearly ideal for 11-32 cassettes in my opinion.
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Old 02-19-16, 10:03 AM
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Originally Posted by Andy_K View Post
...I love 46-36 for cyclocross racing, but the 36T small ring leaves a lot to be desired for extended gravel/trail riding where you are likely to encounter extended climbs and steep hills that you don't want to get off and run up. For this reason, I tend to put a 34T ring on my cross bike in the off-season. The 46-34 combination is pretty good for gravel riding (though as above, not quite as good as a triple). I like 46-34 better than 50-34 (even on pavement) ....
ditto Andy.
My rain/cx/commute bike is a Tricross 46/34 with 11-28 in back. If I ever need to haul a real heavy load I can run 11-32. I have a 36 ring I could use if I want to race, but 34 is nice since it is very hilly here.
the 46/34 shifts very well and is similar in ratio to the tried and true 53/39 (which I use on my road bike).

In practice, if you can spin you won't have real trouble riding with guys on road bikes using 50t big rings. I did a group ride with a guy who uses 54x11 big gear, he had a slight advantage on a long downhill but I kept up.
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Old 02-19-16, 12:01 PM
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It is very rare to exceed 30 mph in gravel riding even for the strongest cyclists, and it usually only occurs in short downhill bursts. 48t/11t (38c wheel) at nominal 90 rpm cadence is ~32 mph. Spinning up to 95 rpm is almost 34 mph. So there is plenty of top end range for a 34/48 chainring and an 11-32 cassette. To me that is a really good gravel drivetrain.
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Old 04-10-17, 09:43 AM
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IMHO a 50x11 is a larger gear than needed on gravel. I have this on my gravel bike but it only is "needed" when I'm on pavement riding in a fast pack. However "needed" and "used" are different - I'm a masher and I like the larger gears. If I were going for a new bike with an 11spd setup I'd definitely pick 48/32.

Regarding prior comments about needing to double and triple shift with a 50/34 setup - this is just the tradeoff between a tightly spaced cassette versus wide range. Going into a hill, with a fast group of racers, I'll double shift to have about the same ratio but be on the small chainring: large to small chainring and drop two cogs on my cassette. If you're finding yourself constantly shifting the rear derailleur two or three cogs at a time, you might consider a wider spaced cassette. For road I like a tightly spaced cassette, for mtb riding I want big jumps, and gravel is somewhere in between.

One last thot... Having chainrings which are closer in size will make shifting quicker. If you get the 48x32 crankset and find you don't need or want that large of a jump, the small chainring is usually inexpensive to replace so you could move to a 34 or 36... This of course assumes you won't miss the lower gears.
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Old 04-10-17, 11:56 AM
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Originally Posted by Rupert2016 View Post
does that mean when I’m on a flat road and I want to hammer it…the subcompact will be significantly slower than the 50/34.

48/11 will be about 4.2% lower geared (slower?) than 50/11.

114.66 gear inches vs 119.66 gear inches respectively.


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Last edited by TimothyH; 04-10-17 at 12:10 PM.
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Old 04-10-17, 12:28 PM
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one of the marginal improvements i've been wanting to make is to my gravel/road bike (stigmata) is swapping my 50t chainring for a 48t on my SRAM compact crank. unfortunately i have not been able to find a decent 48t ring that would work well with the existing 34t red chainring. the Zayante crank from Praxis is tempting, but if i can't find a good 48t for my current setup, i'll probably just leave it alone.
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Old 04-10-17, 12:36 PM
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For gearing.. General rules apply and opinions along with the math and charts are great tools for comparing but in the end, only YOU can decide. Where you ride, your strength, endurance, your discipline a specific cadence, riding in organized groups or yourself, willingness to sit or stand (even if for occasional stretch or a butt break). Just an example, given the choice, I'd like less rear gears with a huge range and do not mind uneven or larger gaps, that is the exact opposite of what most people want.

I can collectively say that like many others, I don't need a 50-11 on my gravel bike, I rarely even need it downhill on the smooth road. In the perfect world for me I think would be a 48/32 with an 11-32. I ride my GB on rough and MTB trails too (albeit at a much slower pace)

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Old 04-10-17, 05:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Rupert2016 View Post
Hi everyone I could use your opinions on the difference in overall ride quality between a 50/34 crankset and a subcompact 48/32. Please keep in mind Iím a simple rider who is not overly concerned with the technical details of bike riding. I ride for recreation and exercise. There are definitely hills in my area that Iíve ridden with my current bike that has a 48/38/28 crankset. The terrain is mostly pavement but I will venture off on light trails. Iím in the process of deciding to buy a gravel bike with a 50/34 crankset or one with a subcompact 48/32. From what Iíve read, subcompacts are best for hilly terrain and off-road so does that mean when Iím on a flat road and I want to hammer itÖthe subcompact will be significantly slower than the 50/34.

Thanks
What size tire are you riding?

Tire size impacts gearing a great deal

Originally Posted by MRT2 View Post
A 46 - 36 sounds intriguing. I am thinking that if I had to give up my triple, I would try either a 46 - 36 with a wide cassette (11 - 34) or a 44 - 30 with a more roadish cassette. (12 - 27).

Or do a 46-30 like I'm doing on my build.
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Old 04-10-17, 07:14 PM
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I have two road bikes, both 50/34 with 11-32 and 12-30. Trying to find a gravel bike with a 32/48 Crankset and I think the Haanjo Trail would fit the bill minus the crank.
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Old 04-10-17, 07:44 PM
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Not sure if you guys have seen this thread...
It has a ton of great information.


-Tim-
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Old 04-10-17, 08:19 PM
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Originally Posted by TimothyH View Post
Not sure if you guys have seen this thread...
It has a ton of great information.


-Tim-
It seems like most new gravel bikes coming out are adapting some version of a subcompact crank, see the new Orbea Terra for example or this years Felt VR.

Good luck finding the FSA cranks as a seperate purchase though
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Old 04-10-17, 10:14 PM
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Originally Posted by RedVVing19 View Post
It seems like most new gravel bikes coming out are adapting some version of a subcompact crank, see the new Orbea Terra for example or this years Felt VR.

Good luck finding the FSA cranks as a seperate purchase though

Still not on the shelves yet?

-Tim-
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Old 04-10-17, 10:24 PM
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If you find the FSA Gossamer Pro Adventure 32x48t let me know, I believe it retails around $170
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Old 06-03-17, 10:14 PM
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just for fun here's what I'm riding my commuter/toddler-tower/gravel/utility bike - 44/34 on 8 speed 12-32 - it's tits!

the 44/34 is an FSA Omega 110BCD crankset running the stock 34T inner ring with an MCS 44T bmx outer ring slapped on there, with the necessary FD adjustments. it doesn't have any ramps or pins, but with careful FD adjustment, it shifts flawlessly. honestly going back to flat plate chainrings reminds me that all the technology is just marketing - it shifts fine! the rear cassette is a stock 12-32 8 speed sunrace setup.

the thing is beautiful. a front shift only necessitates a single rear shift, the spacing is close and wide, it's trouble free, and the red anodized outer ring is very attractive. people ask about it, and are even skeptical, which allows me to talk about how great it is lol.

spec-wise, it spins out at 35 mph at 120rpm, and has a climbing speed of like 6 mph at 65rpm . . . especially on this bike, I don't need to go slower, and certainly don't need to go faster.

I agree with the opinion that modern road bike gearing is, generally speaking, too high, and duplicative. front shifts of 18T are easily achievable even with current shimano parts. I would like to see 48/30 with 12-28, or even 50/32 with 11-32. this is doable from an engineering perspective right now.
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Old 06-03-17, 10:31 PM
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Originally Posted by ypsetihw View Post
just for fun here's what I'm riding my commuter/toddler-tower/gravel/utility bike - 44/34 on 8 speed 12-32 - it's tits!

the 44/34 is an FSA Omega 110BCD crankset running the stock 34T inner ring with an MCS 44T bmx outer ring slapped on there, with the necessary FD adjustments. it doesn't have any ramps or pins, but with careful FD adjustment, it shifts flawlessly. honestly going back to flat plate chainrings reminds me that all the technology is just marketing - it shifts fine! the rear cassette is a stock 12-32 8 speed sunrace setup.

the thing is beautiful. a front shift only necessitates a single rear shift, the spacing is close and wide, it's trouble free, and the red anodized outer ring is very attractive. people ask about it, and are even skeptical, which allows me to talk about how great it is lol.

spec-wise, it spins out at 35 mph at 120rpm, and has a climbing speed of like 6 mph at 65rpm . . . especially on this bike, I don't need to go slower, and certainly don't need to go faster.

I agree with the opinion that modern road bike gearing is, generally speaking, too high, and duplicative. front shifts of 18T are easily achievable even with current shimano parts. I would like to see 48/30 with 12-28, or even 50/32 with 11-32. this is doable from an engineering perspective right now.
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Old 06-03-17, 10:59 PM
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Originally Posted by ThermionicScott View Post
Pics?
this is an early mockup pic, FD has been since adjusted, and will likely shorten chain
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