This week at La Velocita we look at compact crank sets. Are they worth buying? Will they slow you down on the flat? Are they a soft option? Should you buy one? We simplify things.
Buy nearly any road bike in Australia and it’s pretty much certain that it will be supplied with a 53/39 tooth standard crank set, if you want to change this over to a compact 50/34 version you will likely have to pay the bike shop for the labour and the additional cost of the new parts.
Is it worth it? It really depends on what sort of rider you are and where you ride.
- Flat land rider - If you mainly ride flat lands and rolling hills you will likely be fine with a standard crank set.
- Hills and mountains - If you ride big hills, mountains, lots of steep hills you will most likely benefit from a compact crankset unless you are pretty powerful and ride a 400+ kilometres per week.
Our experience at La Velocita is that plenty of riders appreciate the extra gearing the compact gives them on steep climbs. Science dictates that you will be able to ride up a steeper hill with a compact than a standard crank set.
The best bit is that having the smaller chainrings wil allow you to spin the pedals faster up long climbs. This is likely to make your overall time on the climbs faster and take less energy out of the legs while reducing pressure on your knees and other joints. You will see some of the pros running compact cranks on some particually vicious climbs to help them get over the top and save their legs.....
It will slow me down on the flat….. Unless your name is Mark Cavendish you might find that you can still get a solid speed up running a compact. With a 12 tooth sprocket, at a cadence of 100rpm you'll be hitting 53kph on a compact, on a standard you will be doing 56kph, you can always go an 11 tooth if you think you can maintain higher than 51kph for any length of time.
I'm serious and race in A or B grade - If you are a hardcore crit racer and race A or B grade level and can push 45kph for hours or maintain a good cadence up a long climb you will llikey head for a standard crank.
I'm going overseas to take on some big mountains - Short answer, go compact. Head to the mountain regions in France, Italy, Spain and you will find most bike shops stocking not just compact cranks but triples (three speed chain set) to help cyclist get up 20km to 30km climbs with crazy gradients.
Soft option? No no no. They are the smart option for many riders. If you enjoy riding hills or are heading overseas or considering some touring they are certainly the way to go.
The idea (or dream) set up is to have two bikes, one for climbing one for flat land hit outs. We don't all have that luxury and if you have one bike and what to do the lot, including heading to some long climbs you won't regret going compact.