Darkside – Triple or Compact – opening a can of worms!

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  • Darkside – Triple or Compact – opening a can of worms!
  • andysandes

    I searched the net and opinion seems divided!

    I'm looking at this bike:


    With the choice of these ratios:
    Triple: front 30/39/52 Rear 12-25
    Compact: Front 34/50 Rear 12-25

    I've toyed with the idea of fitting a 12-27 to the back of the compact which gets it close to the triple on the easiest gear (unless I decide to get a 12-27 for the triple! πŸ˜€

    I would appreciate the views of mtb riders who also ride road. Also to bear in mind i've stupidly signed for the Dragon Ride which appears to have rather a few very long climbs and is very long to boot!

    At the moment I'm leaning towards the triple as it gives me some nice gears for downhill and flater easier climbs, but gives me a safety net for long climbs (please don't tell me I need to train more!)as on the dragon I don't want to be standing up for long on a 2 mile climb!

    Cheers in advance



    Triples are for 75 year olds and women I'm afraid.

    As are 27T cassettes.

    Premier Icon tthew

    Roadbikes LOOK better with short cage rear mech's on them, thought I know that's really not a good reason.


    Spent 2 weeks in the Alps last summer. Used a compact rotor chainset with 50/34 x 12-25. Pretty much spot on for all the climbs we went up.

    Compact wins over triple on aesthetics alone every time.

    Premier Icon paulosoxo

    I use MTB tripples on mine, but the big ring versions, 26/36/48's although I don't really know why!

    Premier Icon Teetosugars

    Even this biffer can mangage on a 50-34, 12-25…


    I would definitely choose a compact. A 12-27 cassette has the same ratios as a 12-25 for the first 8 gears so your are not loosing anything there.

    I once had a 10 speed 105 triple groupset and found it no easier than using a compact and a wide ratio cassette. I sort of equated it to the laws of diminishing returns and I found it didn't really seem make getting up hills any easier, it just seemed to take longer and prolong the agony.

    Quality of gear changes suffered as well – more like an MTB rather than a well set-up double road set-up.

    Premier Icon crazy-legs

    Compact double but change the cassette for an 11-27, that gives you a higher high and a virtually identical low.
    Also it means you have a bike that looks decent rather than something which shouts "I'm a fat unfit mountain biker with no sense of style, aesthetics or taste what has just bought a road bike"



    I use a triple but normally use just the middle and outer (which are the same size as a normall double) and only really use the granny when towing the trailer. Get what you think is right for you and don't worry about what people think of the looks.


    I would really recommend you get out and ride more if the climbs in the dragon ride seem that daunting. The climbs on the dragon ride are really not steep, and apart from Bwich and cray not long either. Honestly riding more and gaining reasonable fitness is what you need not triples and 27 gears.


    Compact is the way to go. Never got near running out of gears. Needs to get pretty steep before you are onto the inner front ring. Will be fine

    west kipper

    Go for a double (compact?) if you can, with a bit of pre ride training to get used to it maybe? Not only do they look better but their mechanically a bit more efficient/ less hassle.
    Having said that, even Miguel Indurain was seen on a triple on a number of occasions.

    Premier Icon ahwiles

    i use a double (34-25 bottom gear) around sheffield and in the peak.

    i was about to tell you that i have no problems, but there are certain climbs i'll avoid when i'm tired.

    i'll buy a bigger cassette one day – it'll be nice to have a gear i can get home in when i'm done in.

    (i'm 32 and fit-ish)

    Premier Icon crazy-legs

    Oh yeah, what Ed2001 says ^^
    Far too many people think they can buy their way to riding up a hill – I've lost count of the number of people I've seen pushing their 30speed carbon wonder bikes up a hill that any half decent rider can do in a 39:23.
    I guess you get the same in MTBing only the other way round – people buy more suspension and body armour so they can ride *down* the hill!

    Premier Icon MoreCashThanDash

    I've ridden both triples and compacts.

    I was the first in the group I ride with to have a triple, and everyone took the mickey, and then said "Thank God someone else has got one first". A couple did switch, but most now have compacts as it has become the more common standard on non-racey bikes.

    The problem I found with triples was that I ended up spinning such a stupidly small gear that eventually gravity overtook forward momentum and I'd topple off sideways.

    Triples can also be more fiddly to set up

    I now use a compact with a 12-27 on the back, and it gives me roughly the same spread of gears and I've only got off on hills when my legs/lungs/head have conceded defeat.

    Ignore all the macho nonsense on here – pick gearing that enables you to do the riding you want to do at a pace that suits your fitness. If that means a triple and 27 tooth sprocket or bigger, it's no one else's concern.


    compact, unless you really really must have something lower than 33-28

    easier to use, easier to set up, lower Q, better looks, lighter.

    I've never liked triples, and I don't run one on my roadie or my mtb.


    Compact is just a triple in disguise.

    There is a 50g or so weight difference, plus to some people's eyes it looks nicer.

    The disadvantage is that you can't have nice close together gears – triple with 12-23 gives you a very wide range of gears, but with small gaps between them.



    andy the key to finishing or doing well on any sportive is YOUR fitness not how light your wheels or how much carbon you have or how many gears you have. The dragon ride is an excellent sportive that with a reasonable fitness is very doable. All you need is sensible gears( say compact 12-25 easliy enough imo) plenty of miles in your legs and preferably experience of riding in a group.


    Thank you for the input so far.

    As predicted lots of comments about fitness and asphetics! the triple doesn't really look any different, unless you're a road bike snob!

    I'm reasonably fit, but hate grinding gears on hills and prefer to have a higher cadence.

    I take the point about shifting, although lots of stuff on the web about the bigger jump on the front of compact.

    Anyone else, still undecided!


    sorry wrote me second comment when there were only a few comments, but appeared after there had been 19! cheers for all the reply so far!


    Also it means you have a bike that looks decent rather than something which shouts "I'm a fat unfit mountain biker with no sense of style, aesthetics or taste what has just bought a road bike"

    Guilty as charged 😳

    But seriously where do you live and ride and what shape are you in? If like myself you live amongst the towering cols of the South Pennines and are carrying a few extra pounds (good for insulation this time of year) don't shy away from a triple just coz you're worried you might get sneered at by some gear snobs. I get up the hills on my heavy old 'budget' Giant triple only a tad behind my supposedly fitter mates on their carbon framed doubles.


    Andy have a look at the profiles of the climbs you will face on the dragon ride they are really not steep at all, all but one have an av % LESS THAN 5%! If you feel you need a triple and 12-27 then do it, but to me it says you lack confidence and fitness which both can be solved by riding more. Your doing the sportive not the bike sorry if I sound harsh I really am not trying to be. You will have a great time it's a great ride if you have prepared for it.


    ….and typically I disagree. I got a triple and I have never regretted it (Mind you I don't ****' care what other people think). When I'm cycling with my mates with compacts they often don't have the gear for comfortable spinning.

    it's also what I'm used to!


    compact means you can have sram gears, which rule


    i have a triple I like it as it offends roadie snobs. I have used the granny – steep hill evil head wind + shot legs, actualy twics but the other time was an accidental change at lights and I wheelied as I set off!!!


    I live in Gloucester so there are some steep hills getting up in to the Cotswolds.

    I reasonably fit, but not century fit yet…I plan on training properly for it though.

    I'm not worried about gear snobs I just want the right geared bike!


    In that case Andy try before you buy. I tried a compact up a steep hill….and bought a triple. It depends on you


    I have a triple on my tourer and compact on the racer. My logic was that I'm more likely to need the extra lower gears if I'm loaded up. However, I'm now looking to replace the tourer and will go compact on that too.

    (Scotland btw).

    Premier Icon CHB

    Compact with 11-27. Works fine up (and down) Harewood Bank.

    I live in south wales and bought a road bike with a triple on it 3 years ago for fitness. I virtually never use the granny and feeel my mtb pedalling has got alot stronger from using the roadbike.

    if you are not a racer i suppose it's nice to have the option of a granny!

    Nice area for riding btw , my inlaws live near newent and i love road riding there around the forest / malverns and herefordshire.

    Premier Icon edhornby

    on the internet you'll never get folk to agree on this on, if there was a consensus there wouldn't be 2 options on sale!

    my take is get the compact, you'll be fine.

    on a mountain bike you need the inner ring and the largest sprocket to ride very hilly squidgy bits and you very rarely use it. On the tarmac it's negligable, and most importantly triples look gopping


    Another vote here for compact. Mind you a standard double used to get me up anything less than 20% and I'm not a particularly strong rider.

    Premier Icon ourmaninthenorth

    I have a triple on both my winter bike, and also my decent bike. I have both because I started out unfit, was not strong enough and was heavy. I have both 12-25 and 12-27 cassettes. Decent bike is 30/39/53.

    I now never use the granny on my decent bike (sometimes on the winter bike, when riding with laden panniers, etc.), though do find myself in the 27, but I ride with guys on compacts running 25s.

    I did, however, resort to the granny (30×27) on the Ventoux during this year's Γ‰tape. Frankly, the heat and the 16km at 10-13% was enough to drive me to that level, if nothing else so I could keep my heartrate below a set limit.

    I'm going to fit a double (39/53) to the decent bike, but run it with the triple STI. This means that I can do most riding with a double, but have the option of the triple if I'm heading out for a long day in the hills. I can also choose to run a compact if I want.

    Frankly, being told to MTFU isn't quite enough. Sure, you can do that, but those who say it forget that there is an element of time required to build the strength to ride all hills on bigger gears.

    having ridden most of the dragon route on a road bike you don't need a granny for the climbs but the option might be nice if you hit a wall

    Premier Icon Bez

    Singlespeed it, sell the mechs on eBay and buy steroids with the money.

    Premier Icon beej

    I did the Dragon last year, my first big road event. Did lots of training in the Cotswolds and when I did the Dragon it all seemed a bit flat. Some of the climbs in the Dragon are much longer, but nowhere near as steep.

    Oh, I started off on a double, then bought a new bike with a compact. Either would have been fine.

    Premier Icon Suggsey

    I rode last years Dragon Ride and it was my first big road ride and I was very glad of my triple and my mate was regretting only having compact as he ran out of legs. I am a big bloke and the only frustration with the triple I have is that on the flat/downhill I find that I wished I had the bigger gear of the lads with compacts but the bike I was riding was for a specific purpose (Giant SCR3).
    Having used the Drgaon Ride as a gauge of fitness for the distance/time aspect of training for Lands End To John O Groats and numerous other training rides thereafter I find that there is only the rare occasion that I use the granny however on LeJog instead of developing the tendinitis that the other two got early on from trying to push to bigger gear too often (the route over Exmoor was quite punishing ie the climb out of South Molton to the top of the moor).
    I am going to upgrade to a new BB and chainset in the future and this will be compact primarily as the road rides are now flatter and for the commute on it.
    I was advised by a number of ex semi pro riders and LBS owners who had done the LeJog ride to use the triple and it came into its own on the climb out of Berridale in Scotland.
    It aint soft to use a triple its what your legs will take and what you are comfortable with. Once you have built up the leg strength then you may feel that you could cope with a double. On the Dragon Ride I overtook so many people on the 7.3km climb who were walking pushing their compact equipped bikes whilst I spun by on the triple feeling smug.

    Big M

    Rode the Dragon last year on a Compact set up, you'll be fine. I didn't need any lower gears than I had.

    Oh, never pushed/walked on the Dragon and I'm far from a roadie!

    Edit – I too live in the flatlands of Norfolk so don't really have any serious hills to train on.

    Premier Icon schmiken

    I ride compact in East Anglia as I ride with a very high cadence (120ish). Don't care too much what people think – would use a single on the front if I could find a brake lever that was the same shape as a Shimano STI!

    Gilly C

    I have a tripe on my road bike. I do not use the granny very often, but went past fit roadies on the David Lloyd Mega who were all very jealous of me riding when they pushed!

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