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They seem to be all the rage in cycling these days but what exactly is a compact crankset? What are the compact crankset’s benefits over standard size cranksets. What kind of cyclist are they really for? Read on to find the answers.
What Is A Compact Crankset
A compact crankset is a crankset with a 50 tooth large chainring and a 34 tooth small chainring. Standard chainrings for road bikes have a 53 tooth large chainring and a 39 tooth small chainring. There’s other chainring sizes that have been around for some time, such as 52/36 tooth chainrings. However, 50/34 tooth chainrings are what the industry considers to be a compact crankset.
What Are The Compact Crankset’s Benefits
Compact crankset benefits are felt the most in the lower gears. The lower gear ratios provided by the 34 tooth small chainring are beneficial for anyone who rides in hilly terrain. Without going into great detail about gear ratios, suffice to say the lower gears found in compact cranksets are considerably easier to ride. In fact, many professional riders have adopted compact cranksets for the hilly stages of races.
The compact crankset benefits riders who would normally choose a triple chainring for their bike to get lower gear ratios. Triple chainrings add weight and complexity. The compact crankset is lighter and easier to manage when shifting to lower gears. Combining a compact crankset with a 32 tooth low gear sprocket on the rear cluster will provide a low gear ratio of 1.06:1. Modern derailleur gear bicycles have 10, 11 and 12 speed rear gear clusters which, in most circumstances, eliminates the need for triple chainrings.
On the high gear side a 50 tooth large chainring gives only a slight reduction in top end speed, especially when combined with an 11 tooth high gear sprocket on the rear cluster.
Who Are Compact Cranksets For
The compact crankset benefits the average rider the most. The average rider, myself included, don’t ride all year around. In the Spring it always takes a while to get back into shape after a winter of overeating and lack of real exercise. Compact cranksets are especially beneficial for anybody who rides in hilly terrain. In fact, hilly terrain is where the compact crankset really shines.
Older riders will especially appreciate riding with a compact crankset. I’ve been riding road bikes since the 1970’s. As a seasoned rider I must admit that I appreciate riding with a compact crankset vs the standard crankset I used to ride. I definitely don’t ride with the same intensity that I did back then.
As mentioned earlier, many pro riders use compact cranksets in the hilly stages of a race. They aren’t just for older or out of shape riders. The compact crankset has benefits all riders can appreciate.
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