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Triple, Double or Compact

zippy483zippy483 Posts: 104
edited December 2011 in Road beginners
Good afternoon all

This new to cycling thing is getting a little confusing :)

I was looking at puchaising a bike with a triple chainring, it's hilly around here and I thought it would probably aid in getting up them but I've had a bit of conflicting advice, from oooh you don't want a triple get a compact instead to oh no who told you to get a compact standard is the way to go I'm sure you've all been there.

So what are the relative merits of each other than triples being easier to pedal up hill :)
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  • McCullochEMcCullochE Posts: 25
    edited November 2011
    There's an element of snobbery about not having a triple - having a double is seen as being more hard core cyclist (or just for beginners, depending upon your view). I've two bikes - one with a triple, the other with a compact. The triple obviously gives you a better spread of gears - although I find myself doing 80% of my cycling in the middle gear. I've also noticed that the triple gearing needs more tweaking to ensure it switches between the various gears smoothly.

    Triples are probably on their way out though with the introduction of gears like SRAM Apex. The rear gearing (which is typically 12-26 or so) goes up to 12-34. While using a compact, this gives the gearing distribution of a triple. So if in doubt, go for that.
  • gmaczgmacz Posts: 343
    Low fitness, beginner, hilly area = triple.
  • styxdstyxd Posts: 3,234
    Either is fine really. But with a triple you can still run a close ratio cassette at the rear and still have a nice gear for climbing.

    I cant think of any hills in the UK that you cant get up on a compact though.
  • Monty DogMonty Dog Posts: 20,614
    Another factor is consider whether you plan to ride the bike laden with panniers or luggage - whilst it's possible to achieve nearly the same gear range with a compact chainset, the downside is often bigger jumps between gears which is more noticeable when hauling a heavier load. Certainly, if you're looking at a bike that might foray onto trails/ unmade roads, you'll struggle on road gears.
    Make mine an Italian, with Campagnolo on the side..
  • keef66keef66 Posts: 13,123
    Well I went for a triple when I returned to road cycling at the age of 50 and following knee surgery. As already mentioned, this allows me to run a close ratio cassette with small jumps between gears, which means I can always maintain my preferred cadence whatever the terrain / windspeed.

    Still happy with it 3 years on. I do find I spend most of my time in the middle chainring, but it's nice to have the others available at times. Then again, I do ride solo, so I don't have to worry about juvenile comments from other riders.
  • zippy483zippy483 Posts: 104
    Other than expense how feasible is it to convert form Triple to compact or standard at a later date once fitness levels are up again ??

    And if I've got this right A compact would give me roughly the same range of gearing as a triple but with bigger jumps between gears?
  • If you are new to cycling I would go for the triple for 2 reasons. 1) you have a bail out gear on steep hills, hills are hard for the beginner as you use different muscles for cycling than say running, the thighs can take a pounding. 2) as you progress you will find that you use the middle and large ring only which works as a perfect stepping stone to running a double further down the line. I have a compact on my best bike and a triple on my other; to be honest I find the compact a bit of a faff as you have to move between the front rings a lot to acheive the right gear. In practice I find I am either in too low a gear or too high whereas on the triple you can move up and down the rear cassette with impunity, on the compact some of the gears dont work together due to the chain line.
  • definitely compact for me. i use 12-25 rear cassette and the compact covers all hills. i used to ride 12-23 with a double and that was too much, some hills were impossible for me. i wouldnt even consider a triple.
  • deswellerdesweller Posts: 5,271
    Triples
    Pros:
    1. You get a wide gear range without sacrificing close ratio gears
    2. The middle ring (39 or 40T) can cover the entire cassette, meaning you'll rarely need to change into the granny ring or big ring; I like this as I find front gear changes to not be the fastest thing in the world and I'm a man of little patience
    3. Smaller jumps between chainrings and concomitantly smoother shifts at the front compared to a compact
    4. Shifter compability with compact and double chainset

    Cons:
    1. Slight weight disadvantage
    2. Conventionally-minded riders will look at you funny

    Compact
    Pros:
    1. Shorter gears at the bottom end compared to a double
    2. Shifter compability with double chainset

    Cons:
    1. Big gap between chainrings
    2. Frequent changes at the front. Combined with the big gap this causes a lot of shuffling up and down the cassette too.
    3. You can either have close ratios or a wide range of gears...not both
    4. No bail out gear for touring or very steep hills
    5. Proper tough riders will look at you funny for picking such a wimpy chainset and weather-beaten long-distance tourists will look at you funny for picking such an impractical chainset

    Double
    Pros:
    1. It's what the pros ride, so it must be good, innit?
    2. You won't run out of gears at the top end
    3. Your bike will look awesome
    4. You can bail out and fit a compact chainset without too much trouble if it all becomes too much!
    5. No-one will look at you funny; you're 'ard, innit.

    Cons:
    1. It's what the pros ride, so it also needs fair levels of fitness
    2. What's a granny gear?
    3. Not compatible with switching to a triple
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    On Strava.{/url}
  • DiogenesDiogenes Posts: 1,628
    This is one of those questions which leads to polarized answers. The lean mean racing snakes will disport their prowess by letting everyone know that if you cant get up Rosedale chimney on a 39/25 then you must be a wuss. I would struggle to get up it on a 25/39!. I have ridden and been dropped with guys with such prowess, equally I have twiddled past many a hard rider swinging from one side of the road to the other looking for a lower gear. Don't be swayed by the hardman talk, get a set up which you will enjoy riding.

    If you are going to carry a load then a triple is a must.

    If you are young, fit and committed then you will get up most hills on a compact, especially with one of the wide range cassettes available. It may be worth considering this and then changing to a closer ranged cassette once you become a racing snake.

    I triple offers a huge range of ratios.

    The weight difference between a triple / double or compact is not massive, certainly not worth worrying about unless you are going to take racing seriously.

    A triple has a much more severe chain line which prevents the use of all the available combinations and can lead to more chain wear and poorer shifting if gear selection discipline / skill is not developed. Not a major issue.

    A triple with a 52/39/30 gives a normal double range and a bail out ring. On the long downhills you have a bigger gear than a compact and so are less likely to spin out.

    You pays you money and takes your chance, if you are young and fit and are not going to tour with a load then I would go for the compact with a wide range cassette. If like me you want to enjoy 70+ mile rides at a comfortable pace and still get over the hill at the end then get the triple.

    D :D
  • BobbinogsBobbinogs Posts: 4,841
    Now Des, can I just have a guess that you ride a triple :)

    Some good points about getting the right spread of gears there though. I ride a triple on one bike so i can afford a high top end (which i only use once or twice on a ride) and a very low bottom end (again, just used on stupidly steep hills). I don't need all the options all the time, I can ride for long periods in the middle ring and I don't need to walk up hills.

    Personally though, I don't mind some gear jumps which is why I also regularly ride two inherited 9 spd bikes with standard doubles, but with 13/28 at the back to get me up the lumps.

    So in summary, a triple is probably best for you but I can see why lot's of folks would offer a counter opinion.
  • Here's my 2 cents, as you asked.....

    I have a triple on my commuter. Always loaded with a rack and bag with change of clothes, spare tube, tools and packed lunch. 99% of the time I'm in the middle chain ring and if this was the only front ring, I could live with that :)

    On my weekend toy, it has a compact. Only been out once on it so far, but found it to be really good and suited to me. So much so I wish my commuter was a compact too :!:

    I'm 46, 6ft 2" and weigh 16 stone and was a smoker for many years. Started cycling properly this August.
  • pipipipipipi Posts: 332
    Hi Zippy, is there a bike shop near you? If there is why not pop along and ask to borrow a few bikes for a ride up a hill? I think that will be the only way to be sure.

    If you can't then go for a triple if you haven't done much riding or you aren't very fit. You can be sure that a triple will be able to handle any hill. As your fitness improves you'll be able to assess what bike you need next. There are loads of gear options, and then some more.

    My bike is a compact and it's fine for getting up the north downs, which have plenty of steep bits.


    Anyway, grab a triple, get out there, and see you in twelve months asking what bike next, and then twelve months later, and then
  • pottsstevepottssteve Posts: 4,043
    I have 2 bikes, both with triples, though I sort of wish I'd gone for a compact on the more recent one. The triple was good when I was a beginner and lived in a hilly area. I now live in a less hilly area and am fitter but went with the triple as the new bike is intended to outlast me - I'm guessing I'll need a triple again as I get older. However, I ride with a guy who has a compact and I find it hard to keep up at times, specifically on some of the steady climbs as I'm either over or under-geared.
    But if you're not so fit and live in the hills, a triple is probably the best, I suppose.
    Head Hands Heart Lungs Legs
  • deswellerdesweller Posts: 5,271
    pottssteve wrote:
    I have 2 bikes, both with triples, though I sort of wish I'd gone for a compact on the more recent one. The triple was good when I was a beginner and lived in a hilly area. I now live in a less hilly area and am fitter but went with the triple as the new bike is intended to outlast me - I'm guessing I'll need a triple again as I get older. However, I ride with a guy who has a compact and I find it hard to keep up at times, specifically on some of the steady climbs as I'm either over or under-geared.
    But if you're not so fit and live in the hills, a triple is probably the best, I suppose.

    But Steve, with a triple you have as wide a range of gears as your mate Mr Compact, and the advantage of narrower gaps between ratios should you choose... You shouldn't be struggling with selecting the right ratio compared to a compact, that's exactly the problem I had when I went from a triple to a compact.
    - - - - - - - - - -
    On Strava.{/url}
  • I've just got a new bike and had exactly the same debate. I am 58, about 5' 7" and weight 11st (ish) I intend to be riding for many years to come. Riding with a local group we had all the debates about compact v double v triple but in the end I decided the weight penalty of a triple was tiny (less than a mars bar and on long rides much less than a second drink bottle). Additionally I could get the same range of gears on the triple as well as a few more for those hilly days. I have a 52/39/30 (ultegra) on the front and a cassette that gives me a narrow range for pushing it while also giving me a wide range when I need it. So I end up with the same range as the rest of the group but with a bit more spare in case I need it.
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  • At this stage I would go triple as I did, next bike when I am much fitter & looking for seriously upgraded spec may be different but for piece of mind knowing I have a gear that will suite every occasion triple all the way
  • John.TJohn.T Posts: 3,698
    What is all the cr*p about big gaps with a compact. I run a 12/27 cassette which is straight through to the 17 then 19,21,24,27. The only closer one I could get is 12/23 which just gives me an 18 and a 23 and looses the 24 and 27. Not exactly big gaps. I do miss an 18 on the big ring though but that is the only problem I have.
  • anweledig wrote:
    I've just got a new bike and had exactly the same debate. I am 58, about 5' 7" and weight 11st (ish) I intend to be riding for many years to come. Riding with a local group we had all the debates about compact v double v triple but in the end I decided the weight penalty of a triple was tiny (less than a mars bar and on long rides much less than a second drink bottle). Additionally I could get the same range of gears on the triple as well as a few more for those hilly days. I have a 52/39/30 (ultegra) on the front and a cassette that gives me a narrow range for pushing it while also giving me a wide range when I need it. So I end up with the same range as the rest of the group but with a bit more spare in case I need it.

    Well said. I'm 47, recently returned to roadiedom after a 15 year layoff (doing other sports, so pretty fit) and bought my first new bike in 20 years, yesterday.

    I'm in training for my first Sportive, the Maratona Dles Dolomites in 7 months time, and plan to do various other sportives too. I also wish to seek out some of the scary climbs in the Lakes such as Wrynose pass etc as well as my local (hilly) terrain.

    If you even envisage climbing steep hills only very occasionally, there is no good reason not to go triple, as eloquently described by my friends above. Apart from a very slight weight penalty (equivalent to a fraction of a bottle of water, let's be honest, boys and girls) it is a win-win situation, because you get all the gears that Mr Compact gets, but with closer spacing, arguably a more useful middle ring (40) and bail out gears for when you need them.

    It made my new purchase a no-brainer, but for others a compact will be just fine. It's all about the likelihood of needing that handful of bailout gears, given your expected riding terrain and ability.

    But it is, absolutely, 100% guaranteed, just a tiny bit about vanity, willy-waving, and a tribal testosterone mentality. have you ever heard of a girl having a self-consciousness issue with riding a triple chainset equipped bike? No, because their sense is not clouded by a pair of testicles.
  • John.T wrote:
    What is all the cr*p about big gaps with a compact.

    Not big, necessarily, but bigger, definitely. I think the issue is one of unarguable maths, so not really censored at all.

    The gaps on the front chainrings are wider on a typical compact than a typical triple. ie 50/34 vs 50/40/30.

    Given that you can have the same rear cassette on either, a triple offers closer spacing by virtue of the front chainrings' relative sizes.

    Or, put in another way, if you're happy with your lowest gear, say 34-28, then you can get the exact same lowest gear (in inches) on a triple and (of course by using a closer ratio rear cassette) have even more improved closer ratio spacing than your compact.

    Or if, like me, you just like the idea of having the same high/mid gearing as a compact but closer ratios and the benefit of a set of bail out gears for very steep stuff, and don't feel your masculinity is in question, then you'd get a triple.

    Win win.

    PS you kind of agreed with me when you said you missed one rear cog size in your compact set up. With a triple you could run the same top and bottom gear and have the "missing" ratio available.
  • pottsstevepottssteve Posts: 4,043
    desweller wrote:
    pottssteve wrote:
    I have 2 bikes, both with triples, though I sort of wish I'd gone for a compact on the more recent one. The triple was good when I was a beginner and lived in a hilly area. I now live in a less hilly area and am fitter but went with the triple as the new bike is intended to outlast me - I'm guessing I'll need a triple again as I get older. However, I ride with a guy who has a compact and I find it hard to keep up at times, specifically on some of the steady climbs as I'm either over or under-geared.
    But if you're not so fit and live in the hills, a triple is probably the best, I suppose.

    But Steve, with a triple you have as wide a range of gears as your mate Mr Compact, and the advantage of narrower gaps between ratios should you choose... You shouldn't be struggling with selecting the right ratio compared to a compact, that's exactly the problem I had when I went from a triple to a compact.

    Des,
    I understand what you mean. I don't want to hijack the tread, but I think my issue is that I find it difficult to pedal at high cadence for long periods. That means that in order to keep up with my compact colleague I select a higher gear, hence my struggle.
    The other issue with the triple is that you can come to rely on the granny ring on the hills and this can maybe slow your progress in terms of pushing yourself to improve. I now make a conscious effort to use it only when absolutely necessary.

    Steve
    Head Hands Heart Lungs Legs
  • John.TJohn.T Posts: 3,698
    This 'handful of baleout gears' is actually only one. A 30 tooth granny ring is too big. You need to fit a 26 or 28 to get any real benefit.
  • Im currently Window shopping for a road bike which ill be purchasing around march until then ill get through winter on my mtb but like many i cant decide on wether to go compact or triple as i rarely use the small ring on my bike im thinking compact :roll: Still confused about cassettes though :?
  • This seems to be more of an issue with UK/USA riders (maybe Oz as well), than with the rest of Europe to whom a triple is not peculiar. Is it to do with being 'different' to MTB's or part of the old school hard man riding of the 50's/60's?
    The older I get the faster I was
  • Triple user here. Havent had much need for the granny gear but i know its there for when i need it. Fot its weight, unless i was riding an exotic race bike and racing i wouldnt worry.

    I ride with a puncture kit, mudguards and extra clothing at the moment, the weight issue isnt really anything to worry about.
  • John.TJohn.T Posts: 3,698
    John.T wrote:
    What is all the cr*p about big gaps with a compact.

    Not big, necessarily, but bigger, definitely. I think the issue is one of unarguable maths, so not really censored at all.

    The gaps on the front chainrings are wider on a typical compact than a typical triple. ie 50/34 vs 50/40/30.

    Given that you can have the same rear cassette on either, a triple offers closer spacing by virtue of the front chainrings' relative sizes.

    Or, put in another way, if you're happy with your lowest gear, say 34-28, then you can get the exact same lowest gear (in inches) on a triple and (of course by using a closer ratio rear cassette) have even more improved closer ratio spacing than your compact.

    Or if, like me, you just like the idea of having the same high/mid gearing as a compact but closer ratios and the benefit of a set of bail out gears for very steep stuff, and don't feel your masculinity is in question, then you'd get a triple.

    Win win.

    PS you kind of agreed with me when you said you missed one rear cog size in your compact set up. With a triple you could run the same top and bottom gear and have the "missing" ratio available.
    I am in no way anti triple. My normal advice to anyone asking the triple / compact question is 'If you have to ask then get a triple'. What I am against it the 'bulsh1t' that so many put on these forums. Neither system is perfect and how you use it makes a lot of difference to how convenient they are. You talk about the big gap between rings. This has never been a problem to me as I use them rather like a high and low range. I can often do a 60 mile ride and never change rings. Big one for flat land and small for the hills. My normal riding gear is 69" which is 34/13 or 50/19 (you can see why I miss an 18 as this gives 74" which is also on 34/12 but I don't like to use that much. I need a 12/27 11sp ). When I did use a triple I hardly ever came off the 39 (or 42) middle ring.
    What annoys me is the 'triple lets me spin up the hills' comments. If you are struggling on 34/27 then you will not spin up on 30/27. Get up a little easier yes but not spin up. You need a 26 or 28 ring for that.
    You get the same sort of comments about spinning out on 50/12. These people need to learn to ride properly. I used to do RRs on 53/13 and TTs on 52/14 top gears. If you were spinning out then you should be saving energy and free wheeling.
    I think the comments about more close ratio gears actually adds up to more duplicated (or close) gears and if you run 50/34 and 53/39/30 with a 12/27 cassette through a gear table you only really find 2 more gears, one higher and one lower. Any gear within about 3" is near enough the same to not notice. You normally get about 16 gears with a triple and 14 with a compact. Depends on cassettes used of course.
    If only people would learn to use and understand gear tables they could sort this out easily for themselves.
  • oldwelshmanoldwelshman Posts: 4,733
    John.T wrote:
    What is all the cr*p about big gaps with a compact.

    Not big, necessarily, but bigger, definitely. I think the issue is one of unarguable maths, so not really censored at all.

    The gaps on the front chainrings are wider on a typical compact than a typical triple. ie 50/34 vs 50/40/30.

    Given that you can have the same rear cassette on either, a triple offers closer spacing by virtue of the front chainrings' relative sizes.

    Or, put in another way, if you're happy with your lowest gear, say 34-28, then you can get the exact same lowest gear (in inches) on a triple and (of course by using a closer ratio rear cassette) have even more improved closer ratio spacing than your compact.

    Or if, like me, you just like the idea of having the same high/mid gearing as a compact but closer ratios and the benefit of a set of bail out gears for very steep stuff, and don't feel your masculinity is in question, then you'd get a triple.

    Win win.

    PS you kind of agreed with me when you said you missed one rear cog size in your compact set up. With a triple you could run the same top and bottom gear and have the "missing" ratio available.
    I am with J on this one. I presume you mean the physical gap on chain rings becuase the gap with gear ratios depends on the combination of teeth and I race with a compact with a straight through cassette so minimum gear ratio gaps.
    I do not have an issue changing between rings at all and this only has to be done rarely .
    I use smaller ring for climbs, then onto big ring and have 9 gears to choose with only one tooth difference.
    It is better to keep ther rear teeth closer together as they have the biggest impact on gaps in gears, wellmore so with small sprokets.
  • keef66keef66 Posts: 13,123
    In my teens and early 20's I toured quite happily on a standard double with a 5 speed block. I just did a lot of standing on the pedals going up hills.
    More recently I went for a triple because I was returning to road cycling at the age of 50, and immediately following knee surgery. My triple with a 12-25 cassette gives me maybe one lower gear than a compact with 12-27, but what I do get is more sprockets that are only 1 tooth apart, so I can change cadence / effort in small increments which suits my knackered knees. As you say, I spend most of my time in the 39 chainring.
  • John.TJohn.T Posts: 3,698
    keef66 wrote:
    My triple with a 12-25 cassette gives me maybe one lower gear than a compact with 12-27, but what I do get is more sprockets that are only 1 tooth apart, so I can change cadence / effort in small increments which suits my knackered knees. As you say, I spend most of my time in the 39 chainring.
    Exactly the sort of thing I was on about. 34/27 is 33.1" (23mm tyre), 30/25 is 31.5". If you can tell the difference on the bike you are a better man than me.
    12/25 cassette is 12,13,14,15,16,17,19,21,23,25.
    12/27 cassette is 12,13,14,15,16,17,19,21,24,27.
    Where are all those sprockets that are not only 1 tooth apart.
    For a triple to make real sense you need a smaller inner ring. If I was riding loaded then I would definitely go for a 50/39/26 with probably a 12/27. You can fit down to 26 at least on a 74mm BCD crank.
    I don't like the 12/25 as the bottom sprockets are too close together. Once you get down there you need to get as low as you can. You would only use the 24 and 27 on the granny and no lower than the 24 on the middle ring so why not have a bit of insurance.
    I also returned to cycling after over 30 years off at 55. I am now 69 and still racing. I did a Pyreneen Raid (2006) on a compact with no difficulty. Not easy but I rode everything. Smilies don't seem to work.
  • jgsijgsi Posts: 5,027
    If Op was confused before...
    As a starter a triple aint no bad thing at all.
    As you become fitter on the bike then you consider compact chainsets and cassette options.
    If you want to race after you become one mean son of a roadie then you can upgrade the bike to big assed double.
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