Cycling in Sydney Australia
I have just completed a charity ride, which took those riding it - along a road that included a steep hill. I found the hill hard and like a couple of other riders found ourselves having to stop rest and try again. I have heard good things about compact cranksets. I was riding my road bike at the time and it has a regular crank set. I also have a touring bike that has a granny gear but consider it overkill to use it on this particular ride.
The thing I want to know - which works better? Given I am sitting here with worn out legs after only 90 km this hill has got me wondering what could be done better.
I see many images of gratuitously painful hills.
Shouldn't you be posting this in that S&M TT thread?
I would never buy a bike that didn't have a triple. You don't have to use granny, but it's always handy to have just in case. My bikes are
Trek 520 Tourer 48-36-24 with 11-34 cassette
Trek 5.2 Pilot (carbon fibre with Ultegra components) 52-39-30 with 12-27 cassette
Hills are where I run out of gears, not downhill or on the flats.
On my weekender, the 11-23 has cost me several pairs of cleats, I swapped out to a 12-25 cassette (and new chain) which has helped a little.
I then started tweaking with the commuter, I've gone from a 11-23 to a 13-28 (and new chain) but wasn't comfortable how close the top jockey wheel was to the 28T cog and have now settled with a 13-26 - it is fine as I don't intend to push myself too much when commuting.
My analysis :
compacts : moving from a 53/39 to a 50/34 gives an 6% - 15% easier gearing across board and maintains your current cassette cluster.
cassette change : changing from say 25 to 28 T cassette is only 11% of so easier gearing on the last cog
granny gear = new longer chain, technically more weight with the big ugly cassette and even possibly forcing a change of a RD (from short cage to medium)
compacts = which effectively mean less weight on the chainrings, possibly shorter (new?) chain, but probably a more expensive exercise, maybe even a FD change (can anyone confirm?)
it really depends how much you want to spend , what sort of hills you ride frequently and how much you absolutely need 53x11
For me it's not feasible to switch to compacts (not a need for the commuter, not compatible for the weekender) but for a new bike (n+1) .... well! that's a different story.
There is one point about triples that does not get mentioned much. We ride sometime in bottom or high gears but the majority of time is spent in middle gears or just to the edge of middle. With a triple you have the best chain alignment. I like to look down and see a straight or almost straight chain.
On a real racing bike there are different issues, particularly the closeness of the ratios. But if you are not racing and can use wide range gears I think there is little doubt that a triple is best of what chaingear systems have to offer. Going to an internal hub eg Rohloff system is a game-changer.
I started reading this thread with some trepidation. My road bike came with a compact crank and 11-26 (from memory) cassette. Having only ridden triples with MTB cassettes, for the previous 10 years, anyway, I struggled. Other female riders were using triples and larger cassettes and were climbing easier than I was.
I learned that they had considerate husbands who went with them to the LBS to order their bikes and made sure that their bikes could accommodate triples and MTB cassettes and ordered the bikes with them already fitted. I have a husband who says he is glad he has a wife who can decide for herself what bike she wants and what gear she wants on it, so stupid me thought I should HTFU and take the bike straight from the manufacturer "as is".
I then paid my "Rudd money" to have a bigger cassette (I think it is 11-28) and a triple fitted (still Ultegra like the original). I have never had to walk up a hill yet and I rode up Kissing Point Road (my nemesis) and over to Bobbin Head and back yesterday morning. I can't complain as I am pretty sure I was the only female 57 year old doing that yesterday as far as I could ascertain.
So, all-in-all, it is about ratios, as others have said. Compact crank with existing cassette will give you lower ratios and make it slightly easier. Bigger cassette will give you further improvement in ratio. Just try to ensure that you maintain the top ratios so you don't lose speed on the flat.
My belief is that you can't beat practise, practise and more practise.
I don't think
...I'm going to finish this last sentence.
FWIW, my bikes...
Good roadie: 53/39 13-29
Rain/spare roadie: 50/39/30 12-26
Commuter/CX: 50/34 12-26
Assuming the same cassette, compacts (i.e. 50/34) have lower gears than "normal" (i.e. 52-53/39) cranksets and a similar spread. Although, the jump between the rings on a compact is greater and in my experience is in the middle of cruise speed. A bit annoying, but not really a big deal just something to point out.
Triples have lower gears and a greater spread at the expense of weight (debatable if this has much impact, but true nonetheless) and shifting being slower and harder to setup/tune (true, but as has been pointed out elsewhere has no real impact unless you race).
I reckon the steepest bit of road I have ridden is Hansford Parade, Bilgola. I've done it in 30-26 and 39-29. The 30-26 was noticeably easier. Then again I made it up with both.
Personally, I think Paul has it right with the SRAM Apex setup 50/34 11-32, although personally I'd go for the 12-32 as that has more road like spacings and I can't spinout 50/12 anyway except on hills when I'd be better to tuck and pray anyway. The 12-32 is like having a 12-24 9spd casette with a massive 32 bolted onto it for the really steep hills when needed. I was thinking of building up an XACD Ti frame with Apex until I got a good deal on my Van Nic.
There are loads of ways of addressing the problem it just comes down to cost, but without knowing what you already have it is difficult to suggest. The lowest geared road cassettes are the Apex 11 or 12-32 10sp and Shimano Tiagra 12-30 - both of which you'd probably need to get a new rear derailleur for. SRAM rear derailleurs are not compatible with Shimano shifters, so if you went SRAM Apex you'd probably have to get a Shimano MTB derailleur (the new 10spd tiagra might also work, but it would be 2 teeth out of spec), but the new Shimano 10spd MTB deralleurs do not work with Shimano road shifters, but apparently the 9spd MTB rear derailleurs will work fine with the 10spd road stuff ....you'd need to research :)
I have a 53-39 SRAM Force crankset (BB30 bottom bracket) and I want to put some smaller gears on so that I don't die at the Alpine Classic. Am I looking at a new crankset, or two new chainrings? My thoughts are that as long as I have the right PCD (130mm) it should be right to just put new rings on and shift the front derailleur down? Why then, do I only hear people talking about a compact crankset, as opposed to just smaller chainrings?
Following that, assuming you all tell me I just need new chainrings, SRAM chainrings seem hard to find. Do Shimano chainrings fit alright?
Thanks, brains trust :-D
No doubt having a BB30 bottom bracket is that it limits what cranksets you can use without mucking around with adaptors.
I know you can pick up a SRAM Apex 50/34 Crankset for $65 to $85 (depending on your crankarm length requirement). That is certainly a cheap way to change your bike over. Downside is that SRAM Apex is standard Bottom Bracket.