Compact or triple

by paulfg42   June 3, 2012  

I'm sure this topic has come up before so please forgive me for raising it again. I'm about to go shopping for my first road bike since my Raleigh Banana many moons ago.

I'm a social cyclist, enjoying climbing hills in my local area and am thinking of joining a local club for a Sunday spin.

I've been doing a bit of research but am still none the wiser over whether a compact or a triple would be my best bet. Any suggestions?

8 user comments

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Short answer: it's really a personal preference. Both are perfectly good options.

Longer answer: some people find the wide leap between a typical compact's 50 and 34-tooth chainrings while others don't want 3 chainrings or have previously found that they had to adjust the trim on a triple's front mech too often for their liking.

I have a Tiagra 9 speed triple setup on my road bike and like using the 39t middle ring most of the time. I have a adjusted the cable tension on my front mech about 4 or 5 times in 4 years.

Compacts outsell triples these days, there are more bikes with them fitted. Most owners seem to like them and SRAM promote their Apex groupset as "replacing the triple" (though that's partly because they don't offer a triple chainset option). The weight difference is about 200g.

In case it helps, I have a graphical comparison of compact and triple gearing (9 speed with 12-25 tooth cassette) here.

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [2338 posts]
3rd June 2012 - 21:09


Totally agree with Simon, it's really about what you prefer. Some British cyclists can get a bit sniffy about using a triple, but they don't seem to have such hangups in Europe and I'd have to say that the chainset that I most enjoyed using was a Dura Ace Racing Triple which was lovely and smooth and never left you with any big jumps. They must still have their fans because they certainly still sell for serious money.

One of my downers on some modern compacts is that as rear cassetes have got wider they are as much prone to extreme chainlines as triples - in fact more so because the chain is straight in a amaller number of gears. That's one of the reasons I think the last mid-range SRAM compact chainset wore out in a matter of month - the other being that SRAM seem to have made it from some sort of metallic looking cheese.

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4201 posts]
3rd June 2012 - 21:40


Great advice from the previous two comments (and more professional than I could give you advice on).

Unless you live in the Alps, go for the Compact. I have a triple and never use the bottom cog. It's a complete waste of extra weight.

posted by londonplayer [671 posts]
3rd June 2012 - 21:53


Compact plus 11-28 = better than a triple

Sir Velo

Raleigh's picture

posted by Raleigh [1734 posts]
3rd June 2012 - 22:15


I think how hilly it is where you are is a factor. If it is hilly then triple if not compact. If in between then it does not matter!

posted by SideBurn [908 posts]
3rd June 2012 - 22:41


Couldn't agree more with Simon and Tony's comments above.

Two more factors to consider - availability/cost and riding style.

If you're considering getting a bike with a mech spec of Tiagra or higher, is finding a model in triple.

Since most roadies in Britain are sniffy about using a triple, few brands sell mid-high range models with triple chainset here (same models on the continent usually have a triple option).

I had to buy a bike with compact chainset and convert it to triple. Cost me about £200 extra and left me with a spare compact chainset & front mech.

On riding style side, I've noticed that people who like to put in a lot of power in their strokes, do better (/prefer) compacts. On the other hand, folks (like me) who like to ride a higher cadence (middle in the city, spin on the hills), prefer a triple.

If you can push a high cadence with lots of power, go for a double and sign up for a racing license Smile


rbx's picture

posted by rbx [243 posts]
3rd June 2012 - 23:20


Cheers for the replies. So if I'm looking in the shimano 105 range, then compact it is?

posted by paulfg42 [392 posts]
3rd June 2012 - 23:48


I'm 64, live in an area where you cannot avoid hills (mountains in south Wales) I use a compact c/set on both my road bikes - 34/50 with a 10, cassette of 11, to 28, no need for a tripple! From the comments above! I think everyone has the same opinion! Get a double (compact) you can upgrade for racing later to a 39/53 if necessary.

posted by Mostyn [425 posts]
4th June 2012 - 11:51