Q: I was a frequent cyclist in the 1950s and, now a certified senior citizen, I have started again with a second-hand Cannondale R500. Unfortunately though, I find that technology has somewhat passed me by, hence this question.
The R500 comes, as you will know, with a 39/53 chainset, Shimano HG53 chain, a Tiagra 9-speed short cage rear mech and a SRAM 12-26 cassette.To ease the old knees on the South Wales hills, without the expense of a triple chainset or a compact, can I do a straight swap, replacing the cassette with a SRAM PG950 9-speed 11-32 unit?
Bob Lawton, email
A: The change from the 12-26 to the 11-32t cassette will provide you with a lower crawler gear, and indeed a taller top gear, but you'll need to add a long arm rear mech to handle the greater difference that fitting such a cassette creates between the smallest and largest cassette cogs.
Having said this, I believe that you will benefit hugely from the extra range of gears that a triple chainset provides. If funds are tight, however, a compact double chainset will give you those lower gears, while saving the hassle and cost of fitting new triple-compatible Shimano STI levers, longer bottom bracket axle, and triple front mech.