January 23, 2010
Compact Cranksets have been becoming widely used on road bikes and cyclocross bikes over the past few years, but they are more recently working their way into the the realm of touring bikes. The benefit behind a compact crank is that it allows you drop down to a 34 tooth gear for the second ring. Component manufacturers also benefit by simplifying the their component offerings, allowing them to designing shifters and derailleurs for double and triple systems.
Unfortunately for touring riders, climbing loaded can sometimes demand that extra relief that a 26 or 30 tooth ring can offer. The third ring also allows a little more diversity with your rear cassette and derailleur choices, so you're not always stuck grabbing a mountain bike derailleur, and an 11-34 cassette.
By and large, most stock touring bikes are still outfitted with a triple, however, there are a few out there making the transition to a compact double, such as the Masi Speciale Randonneur. My rule of thumb is if you are unsure on which is best for you, go with the triple. It's better to have it and not use it, than to not have it and need it.
On the industry front, SRAM currently has no road triple offerings, and Shimano has recently dropped a few of their triple options. Oddly enough, the company that brought the compact crank to the forefront, FSA, is one of the few companies still producing a decent array of road triple cranks. Also check out Sugino and Andel for classic touring cranks.
Photo by Josh Tack
TOURING GEAR AND TIPS is written by Joshua Tack of Adventure Cycling's member services department. It appears weekly, highlighting technical aspects of bicycle touring and advice to help better prepare you for the journey ahead.