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  1. #1
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    Compact versus standard 53/39

    I am wanting to evaluate going to a compact versus the standard 53/39. I would like to gain some lower gears for hill climbing but at the same time not give up much top end speed. Putting our egos aside, are there advantages to a compact crank over the 53/39?

  2. #2
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    It's really simple. Having a 34 can get you lower gears than a 39 for the same sized cassette in the rear. If you want to keep a gear as big as a 53/12, then you need a 50x11. That means the gaps between gears will possibly be a bit bigger.

    I've got both for my Waterford, but mostly ride the standard unless I'm planning a killer hill ride in which case I'll put on the compact with a 12-25 or 27.

    I dislike the 16 tooth jump on the compact, you end triple shifting on the back and there's not much overlap with typical cassettes. Using the two smallest cogs will usually cause the chain to rub on the inside edge of the big chain ring.

    It's really just a way to shift your gear ratios downward. It's not an upgrade or better or worse than a standard.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by he_runs
    I am wanting to evaluate going to a compact versus the standard 53/39. I would like to gain some lower gears for hill climbing but at the same time not give up much top end speed. Putting our egos aside, are there advantages to a compact crank over the 53/39?
    There are many, many, many threads and post on the subject. You really should do a search.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Moontrane
    There are many, many, many threads and post on the subject. You really should do a search.
    +1

    Still, I dont understand why a recreational rider would need the same gear ratios as Thor or Tom or Cavendish.

    For non-racers, compact is the way to go

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by LeDomestique
    +1

    Still, I dont understand why a recreational rider would need the same gear ratios as Thor or Tom or Cavendish.

    For non-racers, compact is the way to go
    a 53-39 with a 11-21 cassette is kinda dumb for a recreational rider, but throw on a mountain bike cassette and you've got just about all the gears you'll need.

    My only problem with compact is the big jump between the big ring and the small ring- it just makes things a little more complicated. Just a little, but just enough to annoy. Obviously, gears are as personal as saddles and everything else, so YMMV.

  6. #6
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    Do the math

    Look at the cadences you normally ride at (or want to ride at, or should be riding at), look at the terrain you ride and the kinds of rides you do (solo, group, race, long, short?), think about what changes in your fitness/strength you want/expect. Considering all those things, determine three things: the lowest gear you want/need, the highest gear you want/need, how much you value having close ratios for fine tuning in the middle of the range (and where that "middle" is).

    Then do charts of the gear ratios (gear inches is the measure most commonly used) of the setups you're considering. If you decide you want some really low bailout gears, but you also value close ratios for cruising, don't forget to consider the third crank option: a triple.

    It's not that hard. Approach it rationally and you can make a choice that works best for you.

  7. #7
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    If you want to switch to compact, I would recommend looking into a 50-36. I had a 50-34 and the 16 tooth difference was really irritating. I took off the compact and replaced with a standard 53-39 and have been happier with the gearing ratios from big ring to small. I have thought about getting a 36 tooth to replace the 34 on the compact and probably will eventually for early season and rides that will require a lot of climbing; however, I will never use the 50-34 again. I would rather suffer up the climbs than deal with that "unnatural" compact gearing for some reason. Also, I am fat and out of shape at 6'1" and about 215 lbs...so, I am not a natural climber and probably a really good candidate for a compact.

    All of this of course applies to my personal experiences and others opinions may vary.

  8. #8
    Resident Curmudgeon
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    I like the compact. No complaints about it at all. The discrepancy in chainring size hasn't been a serious detriment to shifting performance.
    Don't believe everything you think.

  9. #9
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    As the second poster said, a compact will give you lower gear ratios than a standard crank. The question of "Do you need these lower gears" depends on:
    - your level of fitness
    - how heavy you are
    - how competitive you are (fast grouprides or racing or riding by yourself)
    - your local and/or anticipated terrain
    - your cassette gearing

    Personally.... I race for a collegiate team, and have 12-27 and 53-39 gearing. I weigh about 150 lbs and put out something around 270 watts for a 10 minute interval. Most of the time, this is way more range of gears than I need, especially during the season. However, in the mountains, I end up wishing very hard for something like a 13-29 or a 36 tooth chainring. Anything above an 8 to 10% grade I can't climb at a normal cadence.

    Hope this helps. Gearing, like saddles, is one of those very personal things. Good luck sorting out what you need.

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