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If Compact Chainsets are so great....


If Compact Chainsets are so great, why doesn't everyone use them?[&:]

I've read that compact chainsets will aid those of us not endowed with Chris-Hoy-legs.

"Excellent", I think, "That should knock a few minutes of my time, and help me catch the quick guys."

...But then I think, "Won't the fast guys already have Compacts?"[8|]

So, am I right in thinking that Compact Chainsets are no use to serious cyclists, it's just the muscle deprived like myself that gain an advantage?


  • BopomofoBopomofo Posts: 980
    A compact chainset will help you if you are not fit enough to get your cadence right using a normal set-up in most circumstances. You are one of these people if you find that you rarely use your big chain ring, or more experienced cyclists keep shouting 'smaller gear!' at you.

    Personally, I used to have a compact but found that on my hilly ride to/from work (38 miles done 2 or 3 times a week) I was using my small chain-ring less and less. I started challenging myself to get home without using it at all. Then to get home without using the granny cog at the back.

    I was also running out of gears on the flat in still conditions or with a tail-wind. Basically, my bike was under-geared for me.

    I ended up going for a normal 53/39 chainset with a 12-25 cassette and now find I use all my gears.

    Incidentally, weedy legs are not the issue. You change your gearing to keep your cadence up so you don't have to have 'Quads of Justice' - higher cadence = lower torque, requires less muscle and needs more aerobic ability. You need the fitness to sustain this cadence when the going gets tough. I'm sure a proper coach can advise, but I guess that Sir Chris has almighty legs because he spends so much time accelerating hard on his fixie, i.e. high torque conditions.
  • JulesJules Posts: 987
    Sorry to be dim, but what exactly is a compact chainset? My Allez had a 50/34 double chainring. Is this one? It wasn't described as such, just as a "double" as opposed to a "triple" chainring. I've looked at the Trek 1.5 which has an identical 50/34 setup which is described as "compact".

    BTW I was quite happy with the gears on the Allez, I wasn't running out of gears on downhills and I could get up any hills I needed to.
  • BopomofoBopomofo Posts: 980
    Dunno if there is a firm definition. I always took it to mean anything smaller than the standard 53/39 or 52/39.

    You can also get more TT focussed chainsets, e.g 53/48 but a quick check on wiggle says these are rare.

    Compacts are usually 50/34, although my old bike had a 48/34 which maybe explains my problems with it.
  • JulesJules Posts: 987
    Cheers Bopo.

    Compact it is for me then. Dunno if it makes me a wuss (probably does!).
  • BARNYBARNY Posts: 157
    I started with a standard and then moved to a a 50/34..

    For me it increased my average speed by around 5kph. You dont get up to the same high speeds on the down hills but only on the very steepest...

    FOr me coupled with additional aerobic fitness it if defo the best choice... and certainly for longer distance (I.e. Ironman) its great as you dont kill your legs and feel fresher for the run.

    FOr me, and I wodul say triathletes not on TT set ups I woudl advise Compact all the way.. 50/34.

  • gunforhiregunforhire Posts: 457
    Thanks guys.

    I've ordered the tools I need. [;)]

    Cadence isn't a problem for me, I spin between 90-100 on the rings I can manage to use.

    It's the higher gears that I can't get near.

    Compact it is!

    I've entered the National Duathlon next week, so I'll let you know if it's made a difference.
  • the bellythe belly Posts: 125
    [:D]compact is for the weak feeble and muppets.... get a mans chain ring.....theres no other way....
  • the belly wrote:

    [:D]compact is for the weak feeble and muppets.... get a mans chain ring.....theres no other way....

  • BopomofoBopomofo Posts: 980
    Maybe I didn't explain myself clearly. We spin at 90-100rpm because we don't want to put too much force into our pedalling, i.e we don't have/want massive thighs.

    Lower gearing will let you operate at the correct cadence while putting in less torque. It doesn't make you faster on the climbs unless you were not able to spin properly at the right power level, i.e you could not sustain the aerobic requirements.

    So... lower gears are NOT for 'weedy' legs compared to the course requirements. They're for 'weedy' heart/lungs compared to the course requirements.

    Granted, if I were heading over the alps I'd probably want a triple, but for most normal road conditions a compact seems to me to be a little bit short. How about simply swapping your lowest gear (i.e. the biggest cog, which is usually separate from the main cassette) for an 'emergency' cog, like a 28?

  • GGBGGB Posts: 482
    This is all confusing for a mere mortal like me ... I have a 50/36 front and a 12 /26 rear - I've only encountered one steep hill that I really struggled with and I have weedy legs - my main problem is I run out of top end gears - what would you reccomend changing on mine to get more speed top end ? ohh and its just an 8 speed rear cog.

    Sorry for the thread hijack ...

  • BopomofoBopomofo Posts: 980
    @GGB: So you have found that in normal use your gears are OK for the hills (36/26 should get you up most hills), but you run out of cogs on the flat - 50/12 is too low for you?

    Is that right? Sounds like your odd sized 50-36 front compact is too small for you.

    Mind you, your cassette is a fairly easy one too. What you have to think about is whether it is worth you replacing a single component or more cost effective (albeit more expensive) to change a lot at once. I looked into this for my bike which had a compact RPM front chainset, Sora mech and shifters and Tiagra 9-spd rear. To upgrade to 105 10-spd 53-39 or go to Ultegra would have meant changing almost everything. I bought a new bike instead.

    If you have an 8-spd rear then I'm guessing it is maybe Shimano Sora or something like that? Let us know and we can take it further. You can't mix 8/9 speed components with 9/10 speed because of different chain width, so far as I know. Also, the indexing might be wrong on the shifters.
  • treefrogtreefrog Posts: 1,242
    Stop whinging and get the training in.

    Compacts are great for non cyclists or those with weedy legs, lungs hearts and courage, they enable you to get the bike moving and keep it moving. I would suggest that once ou get used to cycling and moving the bike that you get a proper chainset as they are faster in the right hands or as in this case legs. The full size chainset is at home on a hilly course as it is on the flat, if in doubt get a medium cage and fit a cheaper (you'll love that!) 25 or 27 cassette at the back and use it as your get out of gaol card!

    dos anyonr know the gear figures for 39 x 27 and 34 X 23 etc?

  • the bellythe belly Posts: 125
    [:)]a 28 sproket.... whats that? are you riding some sort of circus bike? were racing... 53 chain ring at least.... with maybe a 13/12 theres people to beat..... tripple chain rings my ar#e
  • JulesJules Posts: 987
    the belly wrote:

    weak feeble ... muppets

    I may have this painted onto my bike, sounds just about right [:D][:D]
  • BopomofoBopomofo Posts: 980
    The full size chainset is at home on a hilly course as it is on the flat

    ...last Friday I did my normal hilly 50k circuit using my big ring only, just for fun as a strength session. So now I'm heading towards not using my small chain ring on my 'normal' set-up. Do I graduate to some super-size chainset at some point? 60/54 anyone?

    @belly Re: comedy cogs... I think the old model of Focus Tria had some kind of comedy dustbin lid on the back, for emergencies... 26 or 28 maybe? From memory I think this was coupled to a odd 53-48 or something up front, so maybe that's why. I just thought for a newbie it might provide a comfort zone to slap a huge gear on the back. Now I think about it, perhaps it isn't such a good idea: as treefrog says, they'd probably need to change the cage too.

    @treefrog: Actually I'm still recovering from the shame of bottling out of a 11-23 on my Dolan and speccing a 12-25 instead. [:(] Guess what? It's too low. When you asked about gear figures for different ratios what do you mean? Gear inches? Or just the basic ratio?

    Oh sod it. I'm changing my advice to "Just go out there and do the miles until it gets easier. Wusses." How's that? [:D]

  • agent_tiagent_ti Posts: 306
    I do believe the BBAR winner last year was running a 77 chainring up front... [:-]
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