Hey folks looking for a little discussion regarding pros and cons of a compact crankset vs the traditional 53/39. I just finished the thread on compact double vs triple and looking to get a little deeper into the subject. I am starting the process of builing out a new carbon frame for racing next season with the opportunity to trade up from the compact setup I am running now. I live and ride in East TN & East KY so its pretty hilly here with some horrendous climbing. I have been running the 11-25 cassette and pretty much able to climb anything here. Cross chaining has not been a problem with the compact, and I don't expect it to be an issue if I go 53/39. I have never checked, but feel like I ride with a pretty high cadence most of the time...at least it seems like I spin well. The big question for me is how much performance gain am I going to loose by not running the big gears like the big boys....and if I decide to stay with the compact so I can "spin to win" how can I improve my shiftting so I can stay up with the big boys. Seems like I typically get dropped on the hill climbs when I go from the big ring to the little after I have have already hit the 25 cog and ride as far as I am able. Once I loose momentum it seems like shiffting back up to the 23 or 22 just does not get it back and the peloton keeps moving on. Oh, I just finished my 1st season as a Cat 5 so I know I still have a lot to learn about racing, and I also ride Metrics in between race weekends.
Thanks for your help.
Gotta Ride Today
aka Chuck Faulkner
Tazewell, TN 37987
Hi Chuck, I've just switched to 50/34 with 11 to 25 cassette from 53/39 with a 12 to 21 (8 speed). I used the 53/39 with a 12 to 21 for the last 10 years and I've done most of my riding in Upstate New York, plenty of hills, not a climb friendly combo. I'm considered a spinner by those who I ride with and I've always considered the 21 my bail out gear, had to . I have to say that I much prefer my new setup with the 50/34 with 11 to 25 cassette just because I find that I'm able to stay in my spin zone longer.
Thanks for your perspective joe. Those are some of my thoughts also. I am pretty much a spinner and thinking I may be able to get away with a little less top end if I learn to manage my gears better and save my legs. I really don't see myself standing on the tall gears around here where we always have a wall to climb on every course. Even riding crits, I still work the middle cogs rather than the little ones when I am in the big ring.
Gotta Ride Today
aka Chuck Faulkner
Tazewell, TN 37987
In a crit with a big climb thrown in I believe you would have an advantage being able to get up the hill with a higher cadence and less fatigue. In a relatively flat crit it would make a difference accelerating out of the corners as well, the higher cadence again being the advantage. The disadvantage would be in a long run out where inch gear starts to rear it's head. However, with the proper training and the higher cadence, you should at least be able to hold your position. But don't depend completely on the easier gear combinations. You still have to work to gain strength so you can hang with the standard geared racer.
I did a "short course" crit with my standard gearing and afterward felt I should have used my compact for the quicker accelerations out of the corners. A lot of times this is the only place to put some space on the group and hold it till the next turn. To surmise, you have both systems, use them to your advantage based on the characteristics of the course. Tires, pressures, food, training, gearing, weather...it all comes into play.
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All very true.
Yea, the few crits I rode in last year had a slight downhiill back stretch, 4 corners and an slight uphill on the front stretch. Overall they favored good riding through the corners with an opportunity to crank it up on the back. I typically rode in the big ring and the middle cogs, up and down over 3 gears. Generally I got gased after 10 to 15 min of riding w/ 15 min left to go (Cat 5) so equipment was not my limitting factor. As folks have said, get in shape physically, learn to ride in traffic, and properly use the tools you have. All great things to work on next season. I'm pretty much decided to go w/ compact crank, and I will probably do the same for my son also. He will be 14U next season and is limitted to Jr gearing, meaning he will race with a 25-14 cassette. I boosted him up to a 52-39 crank this year although I don't think it was much of adavantage since he rode his 39 and small cogs most of the time rather than 52 and the middle cogs. We also road race and the compact will certainly be a good choice there.
Gotta Ride Today
aka Chuck Faulkner
Tazewell, TN 37987
I was in on the earlier thread regarding casual riding and compacts but just spotted this discussion. Greg knows his stuff but, Greg, I don't understand to what comment you responded "spot on." Guys. Gear inches are gear inches. I don't think my comments in the previous thread registered at all so I'm going to risk patronizing you and repeat some general ideas.
Efficient pedaling is facilitated by having smooth reliable shifts.
Gear range needs are partially dependent upon the terrain you are riding so that whether you opt for a compact drive or a standard (to most) 53/39 is significant but the rear cassette is relevant as well.
So, that said, why do you have an 11-25? As previously mentioned if you have an 11 instead of a 12-25 you are going to lose a gear at the higher end.
With an 11-25 you have a straight combo up to 15 then 17, 19, 21, 23, 25. if you have 10 gears. If you start with a 12 you get to fill in a gear with a 16. So in the middle of you shift range you don't skip a space. Why do you need an 11? Well, what you are being told is that a 53/12 (which many bikes have) is about the same as a 50/11. As three gears in the front is about one in the rear this is true. BUT, when do you really even need a 53/12 unless you know for sure that your sprint finishes in that crit is downhill? The whole point of the compact drive to me is that you get an easy climbing set up but should go more towards a straight block in the rear, that is with a 12/21.This is so each shift is smooth and efficient. On a crazy hill course then use a 12/23. This is with a compact, not the other way around as one fellow above wrote about with his 8 speed. Now if you were having difficulty climbing with a 34 and a 25 then you should stick with a compact and that gearing. Since 39 is about two gears in the rear harder than a 34 you have an easier time climbing with the 34 but coming out of a turn into an acceleration you need to have something there so I don't see many riders here riding crits with compacts though I am in Michigan and while some of our crits have hills, even several of our circuits, even the hardest crit we had on a hill in Rockford Michigan did not require a compact.
Here, most of the riders don't even get into their small chainring in races. They stay in the big as the 39 is too small. As a result they use larger cassette in the back, say a 25 so that when in that 53 they can climb to the 23 without a total crossover. My personal thinking is different. I, as I mentioned, use a 53/42. One gear harder in the small ring BUT each shift requires, most of the time only one adjusting shift in ther rear to get that dialed in feeling whereas with a 53/39 I usually require two shifts. THIS IS NOT PARTICULARLY EFFICIENT in race conditions and I find it generally annoying. I actually do use both chain rings in a race, albeit that I use a bigger one than most. I would consider a compact with a somewhat tighter block if the courses were crazy hilly but I climb fairly well in power so I'll stay where I am. I'll shift my cassettes from a 12/21 (for flat courses)to a 12/25 if really hilly but also I use an 11/23 which came with my bike as it happened (and I recently bought another which is still in the box.) So what did I just say about not needing an 11? Well, as I mentioned a moment ago about my race cohorts here keeping to a 25 to avoid cross over, that is they go from the big ring up to the second biggest cassette, the 23 without crossing, I on the other hand can shift from my 42 DOWN to the 12 without total crossover. As my bike came with this set up and I rode it two weeks before I realized it was an 11 (older eyes!) I developed a pattern of shifting down to the 12 often enough.
But consider the smooth shift thing. That is why I suggest a tighter block unless necessary for climbing. A 34 25 might be necessary but if it were I, I'd go with a 12 and no way an 11 unless, as I said that sprint finish is downhill. My teammate, Mark Cahn (read Bob Roll's BOBKE II, sentence one) and I raced a hill course in Fenton, Michigan a few years ago. The sprint was slightly downhill. He said that was the first race he could recall that he wished he had an 11 tooth cassette for the sprint. But consider, Mark was a pro and knows how to pedal! He and I and Fred Fisk, who won the Nevada City classic back in the day rode from Marin to LA last year recreating the nonstop record making and breaking ride Mark did about 25 years ago. Those guys have forgotten more than I'll know but even on a hill course you have to be going crazy fast to really need a 53/11. Arguably evne a 53/12 is more than we need.
So, work on pedaling efficiency. Do my ONE GEAR OUT OF THE SADDLE drill. That is, pedal on a road about a mile long with a modes hill/slope in the middle. Do so out of the saddle in a hard gear. DO NOT SHIFT AND DO NOT SIT DOWN. On the way over the top you will find the pedaling to be easier and easier or rather faster and faster! Eventually your legs will spin like crazy and your thighs will want to explode. Stick with it. Do this drill every other week or so and your cadence efficiency will get a significant boost.
So, I'm at the other end it seems. Not only consider a 53/39 but a 42! Let me know your thoughts.
Well said EJ, to help facilitated a more efficient pedaling pattern, I found that training on rollers is very helpful, for me, I have remember to not point my toes.
Regarding the ratio's, I never had a cassette with ten cogs before, 5, 7, and 8 yes. I bought a new ride that has 50/34 with 11-23. I thought that I would changing the rings and cassette out ASAP but after a few weeks, I found my rhyme. One of my favorite combos was 39x16, which is about 64" and about 17 mph @ 90 rpm's. I find with my new setup, I can either run on the small ring with the 14 or my big ring with the 21. The draw back for me, as you pointed out, in the big ring the jump in inches from gear to gear is a much and disrupts my leg speed. Not a major problem if I know what's around the next turn.
I'll apply your training technique, thanks
Thanks for the comments EJ. Lots to digest there. I am riding an 11-25 simply because that's what came on the bike rather than any strategic decison on my part. I had not really thought about the advantage to having a 16 in the 12-25 setup so that is a great point to consider. Especially since I try to ride in the middle of the casette rather than on the end (11) very much. Also, being a 56 yr old newb (although I have been on bikes since I was 6), I really get cognizant of my mortality when I am bombing the steep hill and don't often take full advantage of the need for speed as much as an appreciation for well adjusted levers, and good modulation on the brakes, so even on the crazy hilly course I am probably still not hitting the 11 or using it much. Down here in East TN and KY every road race is a hill climb, some being more hilly than others so I have to figure out how to balance the demands of a long road race on varied terrain with the relatively flat course on on our crits. The only circuit race I did last year also had a significant climb that took me out of my big (50T) ring each lap and, of course, that was key to staying with the pace. Seems like my 1st priority is increase my physical condition, and learn how to properly ride my equipment. I'm still aways from making a decison on the crank, but the 12-25 idea has a lot of merit.
Thanks for the discussion. This is exactly what I was hoping for when I started the thread.
Gotta Ride Today
aka Chuck Faulkner
Tazewell, TN 37987
Right on guys,
Yes, the manufacturers don't really get what they are doing in my mind. On the one hand they set up compact drives and on the other don't consider that the advantage of it is that you can use a more straight block cassette. If not a 12/21 (which is 10 gears, all in a row, no skips) or a 12/23. Instead they try to make it the same with an 11 which gives you about the same gear inches as the 53/12 but who needs it for pedaling downhill. Most get compacts for the uphills! And I would not want the missing 16 or 18 tooth cogs.
Spinning on a trainer is great and rollers even better. I try to ride out doors and I'm off to work for a 9 mile commute. (and in the dark later.) I'm happy as my sore back is feeling better after over a week off.
Wow, That's a lot of gear talk! For me...... Back in MI. I did run a 53/39 but being out here in OR. I do run a compact. I'm not that gear wise myself I just run what works for me. That being said, I'm running a 50/34-12/23 and in my 40 mile rides I do on avg. between 2500 and 3000 vertical feet of climbing. One climb in particular 1 1/2 miles takes me about 16 mins. to climb. (hurts so good):). But on the descent you hit 55+ , I spin-out at about 33. The more I ride these gears out here the more I like them. The only thing I have considered is going from a 172.5 arm to a 175 but had some in-put from a friend who said it may put undue stress on my frame. I do power ride more than spin , I like the big ring. The compact seems to work well on the flats for me also, I can roll at 22 ish pretty well so I really don't think (for me) I would consider a 53/39 out here.
There is a lot of good input from everyone on this, just thought I would jot down what I'm doing in the mountains. Good riding all, from the liquid sunshine state!
I've only been over 50 mph three times in my life and never in Michigan. Once in Ohio and twice in Texas when I lived a short time in Austin. There is a nice road out of Dripping Springs that you can really get a move on. The compact works well because a 50 tooth gear is only one gear different from a 53. At the other end the 34 (usually what comes with it) is about two gears easier than a 39. I would say to you though that you should work on your cadence and see about not mashing tough gears. Most of us should be in one gear easier almost any time we check ourselves out.
Now crank arm length is a whole different conversation. I have a 170 on an my older Merlin XL which came set up that way as I bought it off my buddy who felt the frame was a tad too small. It is perfect for me. My other bikes have 172.5's. That said, when I go from one bike to the other I don't really feel as if I'm missing or gaining much but I can get that pedal around quicker and with, as you would think, less leverage when going up hill with the smaller arm. So, if climbing is of issue, I'd say, stick with the shorter arm. If you somehow need to go faster downhill, then consider going longer. But I'd say work on your cadence. A 50/12 should be able to get you over 33mph pal!
Have fun at 55!
Hi Roland, Thanks for your input. A word of caution regarding your crank arm length. The undue stress concern should be on your knees. Lengthening or shorting the crank arms without being measured first, could result in pain with prolonged use. If you must do it, adjusting your cleat position to compensate. In mountain biking, lengthening the arms, means reduced ground clearance. On race day, years ago, in Galaxy far away, some people do swap out there training cranks arm length for long arms, just for the event. I don't know if done anymore. My coach, back then, felt that it was not worth it because we didn't training with it but you can sure, if at a given event with a lot of climbing, if everyone was doing, we were going to do it.
Awesome! No lag time here for response. Thanks for the in-put guys. I'm not going to a 175, thought about the joint pain also. I was doing to many hard rides with no spin rides and could hardly sit or stand,ha,ha. I got over that though and backed off a few notches. It it definitely way easy for me at 47 to over-train myself out here. More than likely the 175 would just add to joint pain with my riding style, thanks.
My brother has been trying to beat cadence into my noggin for ohhhhhhh, the last 25 years. I guess I do need to work on my spin because 33 is really about all I can get out of it.... I've never hit 55 till I moved out here, now it's easy to go train and reap the benefits of a good climb, I did flat at 43 about a month ago luckily it was a rear. I can go through a rear in about 400 miles if I don't rotate, (I do now) .
Hay, thanks again guys, gona go hit it again today 45 deg. and liquid sunshine all week long! Good rides all......