Friday, April 17, 2009

compact gearing

Not that long ago (well, maybe 20 years ago), the default pair of chainrings on a road crankset was 52T x 42T. Of course there have always been variations made depending on the application. I've got a pile of rings ranging around that general vicinity from the 80s. Come what must have been the mid 90s, I was convinced by the thought of the Victorian Alps that I ought to have a 39 onboard. 39 with 21 on the back got me up Tawonga Gap, Falls Creek, Tawonga Gap again in the opposite (steeper) direction and then up Buffalo. 21T — what was I thinking!?

Late 90s and along comes a 9 speed rear cassette with the luxury of a 23T cog. Up front a trusty 39 spun me up and a 53 geared me down the hills in the Tour of Bright. I've not been back to Bright to ride now for more than 10 years. Time flies! But when I do get out that way again...

I will be sporting a new combination, 50T x 34T and 11-25 on the rear. I am a recent convert to compact gearing, having been lucky enough to secure an 11 speed Campag. groupset in Australia last year (thanks to the guys at Mascot). At first I was unconvinced. I seemed to spend a lot of time fidgetting with the gears, fumbling over the little ring paired with the little cogs, or the big ring with the big cogs. Things fell into place like the chain onto the little ring of my new groupset. Now I wonder if I'll ever love the 53 x 39 combination again. On the compact cranks I can spin up the steepest slopes with ease, faster and with much less effort than on my 39 x 23. With the 50 x 11 I can tear down the steepest slopes, passing more inches per stroke than on my old 53 x 12.

Long live compact gearing and wide cassettes. I can go slowly pedalling quickly, and I can go quickly pedalling slowly. What's not to like about that?

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