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I may have outgrown my Compact crank...

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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

I may have outgrown my Compact crank...

Old 09-11-11, 08:35 PM
  #1  
garciawork
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I may have outgrown my Compact crank...

3 years ago when I started road biking, I had to make an important decision, compact or standard crank. I went with the compact, and haven't looked back. Until recently. As I have been riding to get faster with a vengeance since I had to take 6 weeks off after a car hit me, I have noticed that I can NEVER find the right freaking gear on the flats that is good to stay in for long periods. I can either cross chain one way in the small ring, and not worry about having to touch the front when I come to the inevitable red light, or I can be right in the center of the cassette in the big ring up front, but know that in a short distance I'll have to shift down for the stop. Obviously, of all the problems people in the world have, this isn't exactly a big 'un, but its still fairly annoying.

That all being said, I am also awaiting a custom steel frame currently being built for me, and I have decided to try a standard crank. I'm hoping this will make the flats less obnoxious front derailleur-wise, and I also plan to use this as a swift kick in the pants to get myself stronger going up the big climb in our area (Mt. Diablo).

Not saying that my compact sucks, just that I have finally gotten my flat land speed to the point where all of the warnings I read about compacts years ago have come true for me. Took three years though... so I'm definitely still glad I went the compact route. It was a great way to keep my confidence up when I started and was slow (and fat).

One other thing. One warning I remember reading a lot was that it is seemingly harder to find the right gear, period, with a compact. Something about the jumps being just a little bit off or something like that. I never experienced this issue, finding the right cadence was never difficult, it just may require some cross chaining. No biggie in the grand scheme of things.
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Old 09-11-11, 08:47 PM
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going to a double isn't going to really fix this issue. going to a triple probably would be more beneficial. you will be able to stay in the middle ring and use the entire cassette saving the granny and big rings for big hills.

I do know what you mean, I don't really love my compact, I've gotten used to it. just got a new commuting bike today with a triple and was like "wow! it's sweet not having to constantly shift that damn front derailleur.

one other option would be to consider getting a new cassette. if your running an 11-28 or 11-25 look for an 11-23 or 11-21
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Old 09-11-11, 08:48 PM
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Pedal faster and get into the higher gears on the big ring.
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Old 09-11-11, 08:49 PM
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I don't think you'll notice a difference. The difference between a standard and compact double is like 1 cog in the rear. If you're cross chaining now, you'll be doing it with a 53/39 too.

The only difference is you will cross chain 1 cog less while in the small ring, but probably have to cross chain more while in the big ring.
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Old 09-11-11, 08:54 PM
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What's the range on your cassette? Maybe it's too wide (like 11-28?)...
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Old 09-11-11, 08:59 PM
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You could also do 36t for the small ring if it makes you feel more manly, but again, the difference isn't going to be worth it.
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Old 09-11-11, 10:47 PM
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Shift down for stops?? I always start from stops in whatever gear the bike was in when I was hammering in the flats. That's a lot of front shifting that isn't really necessary. Unless your stops happen to come at the start of climbs. When I ride with people who shift down, they get a very slight lead off the light with the lower gearing, but I always make up massive ground because I don't have to shift
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Old 09-11-11, 11:15 PM
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Originally Posted by garciawork View Post
..Or I can be right in the center of the cassette in the big ring up front, but know that in a short distance I'll have to shift down for the stop.
I don't see the problem. If you are finding that you are often "right in the middle of the cassette" then that suggests the 50T ring is perfect for you. You could still change down to say the 2nd to largest rear cog for restarting, no need to shift onto the small ring.

Changing to a standard double will make this issue worse, not better. I find that on the flats I ride in the 50T ring most of the time unless there's a bad headwind.

Of course like all standard/compact comparisons its a meaningless discussion without considering the rear gearing as well.
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Old 09-11-11, 11:21 PM
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First, let me admit I've never had or tried a compact, but on the last two bikes I've bought I've chosen the standard 39-53 crank instead of a compact. I actually prefer a 42T small (42-53) and that's what I ride on flat rides and in cooler weather. I rode a lot this summer with a 39 because it lets me spin more in the heat. I like my chainrings closer together than the 16 tooth jump on a compact. The 14 tooth difference on the 39-53 is almost too big. I guess I could try a 36-50, but if I went to a 36T chainring would probably prefer a 36-46 with a 11-21 or 11-23 cassette. The only place I think I'd really like a 34-50 compact is for very hilly terrain. These are my personal preferences.
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Old 09-12-11, 05:12 AM
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Originally Posted by kle View Post
What's the range on your cassette? Maybe it's too wide (like 11-28?)...
This. Get a different cassette. The crank is not the issue. Try a nice 11/25 or 11/23.
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Old 09-12-11, 06:57 AM
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?? What cadence are you running on the flats? I have all three setups on my 3 different road bikes and don't really notice a difference except on climbs. On the flats I am always on the big ring running along in the 90-100 (after a year of getting there) cadence range. Maybe look at your rear cassette, that sounds like more of your problem.
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Old 09-12-11, 07:34 AM
  #12  
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Since we ride in the same area, I'd vote for spending more of your time in your big ring. I rarely use my 34T on flats/false flats/gentle climbs and am quite happy with a low of 50x22 or so (depending on which cassette I've got on). Diablo is a nice long climb, but there are plenty of steeper climbs around here that make it unlikely for me to reach for a 39T any time soon.
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Old 09-12-11, 07:36 AM
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Originally Posted by Hunt-man View Post
This. Get a different cassette. The crank is not the issue. Try a nice 11/25 or 11/23.

Actually, it would be better to go the other way, to a wider range cassette (if the OP doesn't already have one). With a narrow range cassette you can't use the big ring at lower speeds, and you have to shift more often between small and large rings (and shift more cogs when you do so).

If you ride the steeper bay area climbs you'll probably want the low gears of a compact. If you don't ride the steep climbs then you could get by with higher gearing. You could try a 50/36 or 50/38 by changing just the inner ring, which is inexpensive.

Edit: Beaker's right. I use a 50/34 (and 12-27 or 11-26) in the bay area. I'm also in the big ring on flat and flattish terrain.
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Old 09-12-11, 08:58 AM
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Wide range cassettes give you less usable gears though, so that wouldn't help.
It's very personal and it depends on average speed of the rider and the terrain.
Me, for instance, I use my big 53 wheel all the time on flats and moderate hills and I only use the 39 for steep hills.
I use 11-23 10 speed cassettes to have close gear intervals.
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Old 09-12-11, 09:02 AM
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I have out grown my compact too. Only I'm going to a triple. I should add that I just had my 71 birthday.
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Old 09-12-11, 09:05 AM
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Originally Posted by AdelaaR View Post
Wide range cassettes give you less usable gears though, so that wouldn't help.
I think you misunderstood Eric's point; the wider range opens up more gears for the 50T. For instance I normally run an 11-26 with a 50/34, but switched out to 11-28 for Death Ride this year. The unexpected benefit I've found is that I can now access 50-25 as well as 50-22 as new gear options and use those as climbing gears too, so no need to go to the 34 for shorter/mid length grades below 5%.
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Old 09-12-11, 09:41 AM
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I am with Eric. I use a 50/34 and 12/27 for training and switch to 11/26 for racing. I prefer the 12/27 for climbing since I can spin faster. And I like the 34/24 combo for climbing versus the 34/23 on the 11/26 cassette. I am am trackie so I like to keep my cadence up.
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Old 09-12-11, 10:16 AM
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Originally Posted by Phil85207 View Post
I have out grown my compact too. Only I'm going to a triple. I should add that I just had my 71 birthday.
Haha nice 'n congratz
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Old 09-12-11, 10:24 AM
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Why are we trying to avoid shifting? I shift my front constantly... stops, climbs, for fun...
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Old 09-12-11, 11:03 AM
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Your cross chaining is related to your road speed and cadence.

You can try out different chainrings and cassette sizes in Mike Sherman's bike calculator This link has 34, 39, and 50 chainrings, so you can see the difference.

The graph showing Speed over RPM Range with each gear combination with a range of cadence is the most useful. See that at 20 mph, the 34 chainring (in red) is on the 12 tooth cog, but the 39 chainring (in black) is on the 13.

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Old 09-12-11, 01:23 PM
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Originally Posted by garciawork View Post
3 years ago when I started road biking, I had to make an important decision, compact or standard crank. I went with the compact, and haven't looked back. Until recently. As I have been riding to get faster with a vengeance since I had to take 6 weeks off after a car hit me, I have noticed that I can NEVER find the right freaking gear on the flats that is good to stay in for long periods. I can either cross chain one way in the small ring, and not worry about having to touch the front when I come to the inevitable red light, or I can be right in the center of the cassette in the big ring up front, but know that in a short distance I'll have to shift down for the stop. Obviously, of all the problems people in the world have, this isn't exactly a big 'un, but its still fairly annoying.

That all being said, I am also awaiting a custom steel frame currently being built for me, and I have decided to try a standard crank. I'm hoping this will make the flats less obnoxious front derailleur-wise, and I also plan to use this as a swift kick in the pants to get myself stronger going up the big climb in our area (Mt. Diablo).

Not saying that my compact sucks, just that I have finally gotten my flat land speed to the point where all of the warnings I read about compacts years ago have come true for me. Took three years though... so I'm definitely still glad I went the compact route. It was a great way to keep my confidence up when I started and was slow (and fat).

One other thing. One warning I remember reading a lot was that it is seemingly harder to find the right gear, period, with a compact. Something about the jumps being just a little bit off or something like that. I never experienced this issue, finding the right cadence was never difficult, it just may require some cross chaining. No biggie in the grand scheme of things.
You haven't really "outgrown" a compact if you can't start from a stoplight on the big ring.

FWIW, I ride with a couple of racers who have compacts.

It ain't the size of the rings that matter.
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