It was a simpler time, one crank option, 53-39 rings, what was known as “standard,” although it isn’t anymore. Coupled with a narrow range cassette, you earned all your vertical feet. You were better and stronger then. We all were.
Then “compact” arrived, 50-36 rings, and very quickly became standard. There was a period of compact-shaming, when stalwarts ridiculed those of us who wanted to work less hard. My experience suggests that most have capitulated by now. They got tired, too.
What I didn’t expect and still don’t really understand is the emergence of mid-compact, 52-36. I shouldn’t have been surprised. The bike industry I know has never been shy about splitting hairs. I don’t know who buys mid-compact cranks, buts someone does. Is it you?
Finally (not really…there is never a finally) we have sub-compact cranks, 46-36. Driven by the challenges of riding gravel bikes in less and less hospitable places, we will undoubtedly see these on road bikes too. People like pedaling their bike to be easier (see: eBikes for all relevant evidence). This can’t be the end of the story either, because while I haven’t talked about cassette ranges, the other trend in bicycle gearing is the movement of gear inches from one end of the bike to the other.
I also don’t want to talk about triples. Please don’t bring up triples. Occasionally I still talk to a rider who misses a triple, and I think, “Yeah, right. It’s complicated, but at least it’s heavy.” If I have offended you, I’m sorry. But not really very much. Neither of us should probably take cranksets so seriously.
This week’s Group Ride asks, what are you riding now? Do you like it? Or do you think some other combination would work better for you? There has to be some sort of shake out, right? We have to settle on something, if only to simplify bikes and hold costs down. Or in the future will we just 3D print whatever you want in every esoteric combination?