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Triple vs compact - input please

Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

Triple vs compact - input please

Old 09-22-08, 02:35 PM
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Judoka
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Triple vs compact - input please

If this question has been asked OR the topic is redundant, I apologize. Just picked up my first road bike on Fri - Felt Z35 with a compact crank. I've been a mountain biking guy for 15 years and have always had triple (27 speed) cranks. So far so good, but my only concern is the climbing that i anticipate. I noticed on my first two rides going up-hill that I seem to be running out of gears as I try to get lower and lower on the gears and climb harder and harder. I really didn't give it much thought since all the pros and LBS owners etc advised that the compact offers basically the same level of gears as a triple with less work and weight. Do all of you honest folks, is that so? Will I still get the same allowance and ease as I start to climb or am I going to be working harder given less gears (i.e. - NO Granny gears - which I didn't use much, but liked them when I did need them).

Input please. I am getting a bit panicked to start my climbs if I will be on the lowest gear and panting - searching for another few! Don't want to get discouraged.

Thanks in advance.

Cheers.

Joey
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Old 09-22-08, 02:43 PM
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This question comes up about once a week, I'd guess... My advice to you is to go to Sheldon Brown's site and run his gearing calculator. Put in the numbers for a compact double, then compare them to the numbers for a triple. My guess is you'll be surprised at how little difference there is between the two setups. I know I was...
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Old 09-22-08, 02:43 PM
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Go out and try to do some climbs before you think about changing.
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Old 09-22-08, 02:43 PM
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you can try a 12-27 cassette on the back.
34x27 is pretty low, but triples can go even lower, most of them are fitted with 50/39/30 so you can get 30x27.
the only problem with going triple is that unless you can trade for a bike equipped with a triple you may find that it's pretty expensive to make the switch since you'll need a triple crankset, triple FD and a triple shifter.
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Old 09-22-08, 02:47 PM
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You're not going to get the same low end gears you have on a MTB on a road bike, still with a compact 50/34T and a 12-27 cassette you should be able to tackle pretty much anything.
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Old 09-22-08, 02:50 PM
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compact with 12/27 and dont look back
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Old 09-22-08, 02:50 PM
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Hmmm. I hope you are all correct. I am not going to change anything and I will deal with it. I was just surprised this morning as I was climbing that when I looked down, I had about 3 gears left..where as on my mountain bike I still had the entire bottom chainring plus a gear or two.

Is this normal or am I just not in as good a shape as I thought. And these are not severe hills.
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Old 09-22-08, 02:56 PM
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sorry guys, what is a 12/27 cassette? I don't know the lingo. I do know that I have 50/34T... Maybe i already have a 12/27 cassette, but dont see it in the specs.

thanks
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Old 09-22-08, 02:58 PM
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oh, i see now..i have Shimano 10-Speed Cassette, 11-25T. no good?
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Old 09-22-08, 02:59 PM
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Originally Posted by Judoka View Post
sorry guys, what is a 12/27 cassette? I don't know the lingo. I do know that I have 50/34T... Maybe i already have a 12/27 cassette, but dont see it in the specs.

thanks
According to the Felt site you have a 11-25 cassette, normal for a compact crank.

Changing the cassette for a 12-27 will give you a few more low gears and is a LOT easier than switching to a triple which will involve a new crank, front derailleur and left STI.
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Old 09-22-08, 03:00 PM
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Thanks! Yes, i just posted same. I think i get it. a 12/27 will give me a few more gears. any idea how much this should cost to switch out if i decide to do so?
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Old 09-22-08, 03:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Judoka View Post
Thanks! Yes, i just posted same. I think i get it. a 12/27 will give me a few more gears. any idea how much this should cost to switch out if i decide to do so?
$77 here
http://www.bikesonline.com/SRAM-OG-1...7-cassette.htm

However, HTFU'ing is free
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Old 09-22-08, 03:07 PM
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great. tnks much! lets see how it goes for a while.
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Old 09-22-08, 03:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Judoka View Post
Hmmm. I hope you are all correct. I am not going to change anything and I will deal with it. I was just surprised this morning as I was climbing that when I looked down, I had about 3 gears left..where as on my mountain bike I still had the entire bottom chainring plus a gear or two.

Is this normal or am I just not in as good a shape as I thought. And these are not severe hills.
The thing is...if you plan to stick with cycling then you will soon outgrow a triple. I mean...you will out grow it very very quick. A compact crank will give you much more room to grow into your bike...cassettes arent too expensive. Just really make sure you have that 12/27...you can count the cogs if you want...I promise you will be better off....

This is coming from someone who has owned both.
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Old 09-22-08, 03:11 PM
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OK. Thanks for the words. If you promise, I will acquiesce... But I will come looking for you if you are wrong. ;-)
Yes, I plan to make the road cycling part of my regular weekly workouts esp as I begin to do more TRIs.

Will stick with what I have. If I feel I need a few more 'go to' gears will consider a new 12/27 vs 11/25.
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Old 09-22-08, 03:14 PM
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"LBS owners etc advised that the compact offers basically the same level of gears as a triple "


That is because the bike they were trying to sell you came with a compact. It will now be pretty expensive to change to a triple (new shifter, front deraileur, crank, etc. - $500-1000). On steep hills, it is frustrating to run out of gears. You can easily gain a couple gears with a triple that can make all the difference in the world on a long, hard climb. If you need the gears and can still return the bike, now is the time to do it.
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Old 09-22-08, 03:22 PM
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Well, I can't return the bike, but I really don't want to. I test rode a dozen models or so and the Felt z35 was the most comfortable for me by far. I love the ride and the relaxed geometry. The crankset wasn't really a primary concern. Maybe it should have been taken more seriously. Everyone just brushed it off as a wash or an advantage vs the triple.
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Old 09-22-08, 03:31 PM
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dude - you're not going to be able to get that spinning feel that a big 34 tooth dinner plate on your MTB cassette gives you. So just forget about that and HTFU. Seriously.
Road riding and mtb'ng are such different animals. MTB climbs tend to be short and brutal. I know I've climbed out of gulleys and streams on hills that went way over 20%. But they were over in a couple of minutes. On the road be prepared to suffer up climbs. They may not be as steep but they will almost certainly be longer. Suffering is good for the mind and body. Not to mention the roadie soul.
If you have knee issues or are a complete weenie-cat then go with the triple. I've got one in the shed. I used it for two years and found at the end of that time that I never got off the middle ring.
There are some climbs around here where I admit to reaching over to check the right shifter because I can't believe I don't have another gear waiting. But thats all part of the suffering.
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Old 09-22-08, 03:39 PM
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Originally Posted by jrobe View Post
"LBS owners etc advised that the compact offers basically the same level of gears as a triple "


That is because the bike they were trying to sell you came with a compact. It will now be pretty expensive to change to a triple (new shifter, front deraileur, crank, etc. - $500-1000). On steep hills, it is frustrating to run out of gears. You can easily gain a couple gears with a triple that can make all the difference in the world on a long, hard climb. If you need the gears and can still return the bike, now is the time to do it.
Most honest answer in the thread.
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Old 09-22-08, 04:07 PM
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Just keep in mind that all the compact double talk is in the context of racing and would-be racing. I don't think it applies to the touring rider, especially if carrying weight. You're just not going to duplicate the low gears of a touring bike when you need them if you're smallest ring is 34.
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Old 09-22-08, 04:23 PM
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>The thing is...if you plan to stick with cycling then you will soon outgrow a triple. I mean...you will out grow it very very quick.<

Coming from a mt. bike (with slicks for the road), I was gung-ho for a triple when I bought my last road bike. I knew what it took to make it up the steepest grades on pavement - easy spinning in a 32/28!

It took about two weeks to realize I could have gotten by with a compact. For one thing, a triple typically will give only one (1) lower gear than a compact can deliver. Plus, a triple weighs about a quarter pound more than a double.

And when it comes to climbing, narrower tires and the lighter weight of a mountain bike give additional advantages to the road bike over the mt. bike.

Here's the other thing. Forced to climb in whatever you've got, you will become a lot stronger, and if you ride a lot, you'll become a lot stronger in a matter of days. Admittedly, I would never spin with ease uphill on my older road bike, with it's 45/23 gearing; there are limits to how strong you can become. You'll do fine on the bike you have, though, particularly if you replace the rear cassette.

That said, I still like my triple. The gears are a little less spread out (but there is one less useable gear) with the 52/39 than with a 50/34. I can stay in the 39 most of the time, on the flats and up all but the steepest hills. I get two more usable low gears with my 30 (but only one lower than on a compact double).

What it comes down to is this: each system works as advertised. One offers a weight penalty but more gears than the other (on both ends), the other offers less weight but has less gears. And you can't go wrong with either set-up.
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Old 09-22-08, 06:22 PM
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To the OP -- keep riding, and certainly consider a 12/27 cassette. It's the cheapest way to guarantee low-low gears, and you'll still have to be going over 35-40 mph before the 50-12 combo isn't enough.

I'm like icyclist above. I got a road bike with a triple and thought nothing of it, and eventually swapped the whole bike for a larger size except for a standard 53/39 double. The shop owner asked me if I wanted to keep the triple and have it put on the new bike. I thought about it for a second, and realized that I almost never used the granny ring on my usual routes. In fact, I never got down to the biggest rear cog when in the granny ring -- it was just too slow.

A few hundred miles later, I got the 53/39 crank replaced under warranty, and after test riding a compact-equipped bike, I took the opportunity to switch to a compact, along with an 11/26 cassette. 50-11 is still crazy fast, and I can't even push it enough to do it justice. The 34-26 combo is really low, though, and is a welcome bailout gear if I'm really, really worn down.

Something else I've learned, though, as I've gotten stronger -- on the same hill, if I climb in the big ring, I get to the top faster, spending less time working harder... which, surprisingly enough, leaves me hurting not much more than if I spun up in a low gear on the small ring.

Last edited by BarracksSi; 09-22-08 at 06:35 PM.
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Old 09-22-08, 06:41 PM
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To OP, I'm an overweight unfit cyclist. I had triple bike, and now ride compact with 34/27. The benefit of having a double (smoother shifting) outweighs the tiny additional gearing you'll get with 30/27. And, if you still want more gears, SRAM makes an 11/28 cassette while would put you very, very close to 30/27 (with 34/28).
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Old 09-22-08, 06:49 PM
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IMHO, the disadvantages of a triple are a little much to deal with. Aside from being slightly heavier and wider, they just don't shift as easily as a double. Granted, they can be set up to shift very well, but having ridden both, the double (compact or standard) is far more idiot proof.

That being said, the advantage of a triple is not only lower gears, but more "gear redundancy". In other words, there may be a myriad of ways to get to the same gear ratio with a triple. Also, for some people, a triple allows them to just cruise in the middle ring, and only shift up to the big ring when they want to go REALLY fast, or down to the granny when they hit something REALLY steep.

I found on my triple that the granny was more of a safety valve. Very rarely I would get to something super steep and be too tired to really attack it. The granny gear was a nice little insurance policy.

A compact is a nice comprimise, especially when paired to an appropriate cassette.
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Old 09-22-08, 06:57 PM
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Originally Posted by MONGO! View Post
You're not going to get the same low end gears you have on a MTB on a road bike, still with a compact 50/34T and a 12-27 cassette you should be able to tackle pretty much anything.
Dang! 34T and 12-27 cassette?! You sure its enough?

What, you wanna climb walls?
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