Smaller gears advice

derekwatts Posts: 107
edited October 2008 in Workshop
Hi All

I know this topic has been covered elsewhere but not the specific answers I need, so here goes:-

My current ride, a 2003 Specialized road bike, has a standard double 52/39 Ultegra chainset and a 12/23 cassette, which is fine for my blasts round Richmond Park, but I want to take the bike overseas on work trtips and I know I won't be able to tackle some of the Mountains around California and Nevada with these gears. I rented a road bike recently with a triple which was pretty easy going on 7-8% gradients up Mount Tamalpais in San Fran.

Can I get away with fitting a new compact Ultegra compact 10 speed chainset, a smaller 12/27 9 speed cassette and just fit a new 9 speed chain? I can't find an outlet for 9 speed Ultegra chainsets on the net, just 105 / Tiagra stuff.

Also, I remember reading somewhere that the standard Ultegra (left) shifter will also work with a triple, and that only the front mech is different. It sounded unlikely, but is this true? Not sure if I would go for a triple, I don't want to make the bike unneccessarily heavier by fitting a triple if I don't need to, after all I am wondering if the step from 34/27 on a compact will be that much harder than 30/27 on a triple. I have also been told to consider fitting a bigger rear mech and a mountain bike cassette, somthing like 11/34, but I feel this is overkill and would result in a huge jump in ratios making it less than optimal for finding the right cadence on roads back home.

I would be interested for your views on this, especially the compatibility issue with 10 speed / 9 speed chainsets / chains.




  • bhm100
    bhm100 Posts: 102
    Hi Derek,
    I can't answer all your questions but I can try some of them;

    1. the difference between 34x27 and 30x25 is very little and I doubt you would notice it in practice. 30x25 is fractionally lower and you would notice a difference if you had 30x27 though.

    2. Generally speaking the front mech for a triple has a deeper cage than that for a double, and the rear mechs on triple set-ups have longer cages to accomodate the longer chain needed. I run a 105 triple c/set with standard Ultegra front & rear mechs but it needs very careful adjustment.

    And due to the cage length on the rear mech it only works properly on the 30 ring for the bottom 5/6 gears as there's too much slack on smaller rear sprockets. But that's ok for me because I only use it on serious hills where I don't need 30x14/13/12 anyway

    3. Weight - the only added weight over your current double is a 30t inner ring which is in Aluminium, and a few extra links in the chain - so little that it's not worth bothering about. However a compact c/set is likely to give a weight saving over your current set-up.

    4. Your cheapest option is to replace with a compact assuming your front/rear mechs are in good condition. Although at coming up to 5yrs old I'd check the rear mech closely as mine are usually noticably worn at that age. Front mechs usually last longer with me.

    5. I went for a triple is because I can set the bike up so that the middle/big rings are identical to my prefered double set-up (52/39) and so I just have the 30 ring as a bail-out ring for when I'm in hilly regions. In normal use around here (lincolnshire) I never use it.


  • bhm100
    bhm100 Posts: 102
    PS - on chains my personal view is that there is a difference between 9 & 10speed chains. You can interchange them but I found a better quality gearchange with the correct chain - ie 9sp chain on a 9sp cassette.

    Front chainsets/chainrings are more flexible - I haven't noticed a difference even using an old 8sp chainset modern chains/cassettes.
  • Thanks very much Brian, that's pretty much answered all my queries. A compact and a new cassette it is then!
  • redddraggon
    redddraggon Posts: 10,862
    10 speed compact chainset is fine to use with a 9 speed chainset.
    I like bikes...