Q&A – Compacts, triples and doubles

Q: What's the difference


Q: Sorry – I’m a bit new to this. I’ve entered a few challenging events this year, and will be getting a new bike (Focus Cayo)
What exactly is the difference between a triple, compact double and a double? I’ll need all the help I can get on the hills, so which should I go for?


Richard, Edinburgh

Triple refers to the number of chainrings on the front crankset. This comprises of a small chainring for getting up steep hill, a bigger middle ring and a large outer ring for speed. If you see numbers like 50/39/30T or 52/39/30T this refers to the number of gear teeth on each chainring. The smaller the number, the smaller the chainring rings and the easier the gear.

A compact double is a halfway house between having a triple and a regular double. Generally a compact will have smaller chainrings (say 50/34T) to give you a broader gear range and a bike that’s easier to pedal up hills. You’ll see them used on a lot of bikes especially the sportif event bikes like the Focus Cayo.

A standard double uses bigger chainrings for speed, like 53/39T or 52/42T. These are generally the choice of faster, fitter riders and racers. You can’t fit compact rings to a standard double chainring and vice versa because the crank design is different.
Of course that just deals with the front. You can also alter your gearing range by swapping the cassette on the back wheel. For the events you intend to be riding the gearing on the Focus Cayo should be spot on.

For a bit of further reading check out our buyer’s guide to chainsets and we’ve also answered a related question here.


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