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Double vs. Triple(38 posts)

Double vs. TripleWil
Jul 31, 2001 10:55 AM
OK, I'm obviously a newbie. I have ride mountain bikes and the more gears the better. But why wouldn't I want a triple? I rode the C'Dale R800 Double yesterday and fell in love with it. I just have to decide whether to get a double or triple. I'm not going to race, but ride a lot. Please advise.
re: Double vs. TripleLen J
Jul 31, 2001 11:07 AM
Do a search of this site Using "Double vs Triple" and you will get many oponions on this.

IMHO it depends on what kind of riding you do & where you do it & what kind of shape you are in. I ride predominatly flats here in eastern Maryland. I have a double with a 12-23 cog in back, never have any problems. If I'm going somewhere with hills, I'll swap out the 12-23 for a 12-27 and I'm usually fine. If I'm touring somewhere with mountains, I have a bike with a triple, again no problems. Different gearing for different conditions. I ride for speed & enjoyment, so again this dictates certain gearing.

My rule of thumb is, if I'm ever in doubt, I take more gearing not less. But that is me.
I'm gonna take heat for this....mr_spin
Jul 31, 2001 11:10 AM
Don't get the triple. I'd like to say be a real man, but I won't, because everyone will jump all over me. So I didn't say that. I didn't, okay?

Anyway, if you get the triple, you'll use the triple. Why not set your goals higher? Get the double, and become a stronger rider instead. It doesn't matter if you race or not.

Let the flames begin.
I agree and this is why I got myself a double (nm)Mabero
Aug 1, 2001 5:41 AM
Got Hills?grzy mnky
Jul 31, 2001 11:12 AM
Really what it comes down to is how steep and long are your hills and your overall fitness.
re: Double vs. Tripleduh
Jul 31, 2001 11:13 AM
Why wouldn't you want a triple?

Because you already "fell in love" with the bike with a double.

Be a real man.
re: Double vs. Triple..
Jul 31, 2001 8:12 PM
If you want to be a "real" man, get a single speed Huffy. You guys with doubles are wusses.
If I had a choice I would go with the triple...sensitive spinner
Jul 31, 2001 12:06 PM
but I am in touch with my feminine side.
Instant climbing powerLone Gunman
Jul 31, 2001 12:16 PM
Instant power and ability to climb any paved hill in the U.S. and enjoy the rest of the ride if you get a triple. I laugh at the fools who are grinding up the big hills and as I spin past them say "on your left" with a smile on my face. The triple adds a few ounces to your bike and gives you the option of riding one bike anywhere in the country. THATS A FACT JACK. I got ride experience in 15 states and search for hilly rides. If you don't plan to ride hills, go with the double and switch out cassettes as needed. I want to ride Colorado and Alaska and big mountain states and have the equipment to do it.
laughableGrassy Knoll
Jul 31, 2001 12:26 PM
I lived in Colorado for years and never needed a triple; the roads there just aren't that steep. Triples only add a few usable gears but add a bit of finickiness to the drivetrain. THAT'S A FACT, JACK.
laughableLone Gunman
Jul 31, 2001 12:39 PM
And if you know how to tune a drive train they work fine for long periods of time and you still have instant power. The end,HTJ.
there you goGrassy Knoll
Jul 31, 2001 12:45 PM
so, do you think Mr. Newbie Wil can tune the drivetrain? The point is, more gears do NOT equal power, instant or otherwise... more gears may increase your ability to spin maybe, but there comes a point where if you can't turn the pedals you will fall over no matter how low your gearing.
Instant climbing powerDrEvilAdam
Jul 31, 2001 12:38 PM
Basically a triple will instantly cause your unmentionables to retract within your body forever. Well, not really. But that's the way some people view it.

The decision depends on what your riding style is going to be. I view it as less of a choice of hills vs. flats and more of a decision based upon less vs. more serious riding. (Not to say that riding with a triple isn't serious!!) Everybody has different goals and that's ok. If you want to just get out and enjoy riding, you may want the triple. The added complexity of the drivetrain will pay for itself in terms of a wider choice of easy gears. However, if you are wanting to go the more masachistic route, get the double. Yes, you'll work harder and have to train more to climb effectively. The payoff is when you're stronger than other riders because of your training and you can use it to your advantage because you climb out of the saddle instead of spinning in low gears. Remember, what helps more than anything on the big hills is training. A double will MAKE you work.
At the risk of being flamed, I disagree.......Len J
Jul 31, 2001 12:46 PM
I can work just as hard (or harder due to the middle ring being a 42 vs your small ring of 39) having a triple by just being disciplined when I'm working hills of not using the 30. It just takes discipline. I have never understood this argument that if you have a double, you automatically work harder. Why? Becuause if you had a triple you would "bail out"?

The real argument for the double vs. the triple is in your first paragraph. Real men don't use triples! Bulls**t. I still contend it depends on your goals.

I think your last line should be "A double will not give you any other choice but to work!"

My .02
What Len said, plus...Dave W.
Jul 31, 2001 12:51 PM
You can always lock out the "granny" with the limit screw for training if your willpower is so weak as to make that necessary.

Dave(building up a triple with a 12-21 block)W.
somewhat trueColnagoFE
Jul 31, 2001 2:37 PM
I have bikes with both double and triple and I live in Colorado. If I'm riding hills w/ the triple I use it, but really don't NEED it. I can get up pretty much anything in a 39x25. I also have a 39x26 casette and will use the 26 when I'm riding with it. You will use the gears you have in most cases. If all you have is a 23 then you'll find a way to get up with it or walk. Eventually your legs will get stronger and you'll be able to make it up without walking. If all you use is a really small gear you'll coninue to use that really small gear. All of this my opinion of course.
I'm with Lone Gunmancory
Aug 1, 2001 7:33 AM
OK, I'm twice as old as some of you guys, and I can't climb like I used to (I never could climb like I SAY I used to...). But I live in Reno, where every road out of town goes over 7,000 feet, and I have triples on both my road bikes. I've been riding 30+ years, my knees feel great, I can climb anything the tires will stick to and I LAUGH OUT LOUD at all the macho men trying to push their 39-25 grannies over Monitor Pass.
Jul 31, 2001 12:36 PM
If you enjoy pain with no alternative, go with the double. If you think you are the type that wants an "out" when the ride is too long, the hill too steep, and your legs are fried, go with the double.

I went thru the same thing. My 25 mile commute to work today was painful as I did a 60 mile ride yesterday. I was extremely happy to have the triple this morning.

I will admit though that the drivetrain is a little finnicky with the triple. Sometimes get chain rub on the front derailer, but nothing major.
Only three lower gearsLI Biker
Jul 31, 2001 1:09 PM
If you check it out with a gear calculator, a triple gets you about 3 lower gears and you lose a little of the highest gear.
Having said that, I have a triple for the bad hills, just in case. I do not believe I ever used the lowest three, but near the top of a killer, it's nice to know you have something to fall back on. Also, I plan to keep my Trek 5200 into my 60s.
4 gears when I did it...Dave W.
Jul 31, 2001 1:54 PM
Maybe it varies with the cassette? I ran the calculator with a 12x21 9 speed.
More to it than low gears, I think...DrD
Jul 31, 2001 4:42 PM
To start, I ride a 39/53 double with a 12-27 cassette - I generally always have a low enough gear to get up whatever I have run into - however, going with such a wide cassette, the gears are really widely spaced at the low end - it's not too bad until you get to the 21, then it goes 24 - 27. - that's where I think something like a 10spd 12-27 would be good - then you could go 12-13-14-15-17-19-21-23-25-27 and not have the big jumps at the end...

With a triple, you can run a tighter cassette, and still get the low gears.
ExactlyPCH Cruiser
Aug 1, 2001 9:21 AM
Thats exactly why I chose a triple. I use a 12-21 on my triple because it gives me small incremental shifts to find the "sweet spot" and still provides me with low gears if I need them.
Win both ways! Campy 10 speed double w/13-29! :) nmMikeC
Jul 31, 2001 1:37 PM
Jul 31, 2001 8:48 PM
I looked at both the Campy Record long-cage with a pie-plate in back (the 29) and the Campy Racing-T (T for Triple)and got the Racing T with a 9-spd. 12-23 in back. The 10-spd pie plate has plenty of grunt, but gives up lots of those sweet 1 and 2-tooth shifts in that ever-so-important 13-19 tooth range. They both make you look like a spaz, but with the Racing T you don't have to ride like one...I can tune my gearing and spin just like I did before the Fat Gods marked my 40th year on this earth with a little 20 pound surprise. And I can still ride Redwood Gulch. All of my 40-something friends save one gave the Gulch up years ago.
Wrong?Cliff Oates
Aug 1, 2001 4:06 AM
Let's see...

13-29 10 speed: 13,14,15,16,17,19,21,23,26,29
12-23 9 speed: 12,13,14,15,16,17,19,21,23

Other than a 12t cog, which I have never needed, which "sweet 1 and 2-tooth shifts in that ever-so-important 13-19 tooth range" am I giving up that you have?

Save the posturing for the road where it has some meaning. Here, it just gets in the way of communication.
Aug 2, 2001 3:40 PM
OK, sorry if I got a bit excited. Let's look at things a bit further. Taking your 13-29 10-spd and my 12-23 9-spd freewheels, look at the percentage jumps between the ratios (smaller cog is the demoninator):

13-29, starting at the bottom:

12-23, starting at the bottom:

The "sweetness" I like (I'll speak for my self and pontificate less) is the 6-8% jumps. The 12-23 has one more of them. The 9-spd triple rider can use the 42-13 or 40-13 combination but the 10-spd double rider would not use the 39-13. That is one more useable cog in the "sweetness" zone as I look at it. Also, we can't just look at the rear cogs...we have to look at the combinations we get with the chainrings. I won't try to imbed gearing tables here, but if you look at the charts you will see that you get more usable gear combinations (with no funky double-shifting and no credit for one-inch differences between possible combinations) with more sub-10% jumps between the gears. The low is about the same, the high is higher.

My conclusion/assertion is that the triple is superior because it gives me more choices to adjust cadence and power output. Being a hardcore old-school pound-the-hills in a 42x21 on my old bike, I always regarded triples as "sit down and twiddle away" had regular gearing at the middle and top ends and bail out gearing at the bottom. I have completely changed my perspective on this, however. It gives me a lower low (except for the Campy 10-spd), but they also give us usable gearing from that low end right on through the high gears. So on a hill, if I am in my 30-23 and feel frisky, I can crank it up a little at a time (in my "sweet" small jumps) to adapt my power output to the hill. If we like those small jumps when we are spinning or hammering on the flats, it makes sense that we would also like it on the climbs.

One thing that we'll certainly agree on, though. Both the 9-spd triple rider and the 10-spd with pie-plate double rider will ride up hills smoother and faster than they would with higher gearing, assuming that they needed the gearing. I assert that you need the gearing if you are going for long climbs (multi-miles) and can't hold 80rpm in the gears that you've got. Lance has proven what I learned long ago from build power by grinding big gears, but you access and deliver that power by running higher rpms in smaller gears. Even so-called mashers like Ulrich and Lemond were turning gears at 80+ rpm up hills. Most people I see mashing up hills are overgeared and are lucky if they hold 60. And a lot of "wanna look cool" riders look pretty dorky to me honking in their 39x21's with an Alp de Huez death grimmace on their face, almost stopping at the bottom of each stroke...when they could have gone up faster and smoother with smaller gears.

I supppose that if I lived in Indiana and rode the flats and headwinds most of the time this would not be as big of an issue. I live and ride in Northern California where 3 to 7 mile 7% climbs are part of a "nice little ride."
Superior?Cliff Oates
Aug 3, 2001 6:16 AM
Actually, a lot of "wanna look cool" riders looked like they were wearing out their cleats as I rode past them while they were walking up Slug Gulch Road at the Sierra Century last June. I live over in the shadow of Mt. Diablo in the East SF Bay Area, so I'm familiar with climbing. FWIW, my year to date climbing total, which is on hold while I recover from a crash that occurred descending the East side of Mt. Hamilton in June, is 137,000 feet. A wide ratio double like the 13-29 has gven me enough gear choices, and enough low gears, to tackle whatever I ave needed to tackle.

Here is a table showing, side by side, a 12-23 triple and a 13-29 double:

52 23.8 % 42 40.0 % 30 53 35.9 % 39
12 113.9 92.0 65.7
8.3 %
13 105.1 84.9 60.6 107.1 78.8
7.7 %
14 97.6 78.8 56.3 99.5 73.2
7.1 %
15 91.1 73.6 52.6 92.9 68.3
6.7 %
Grrr...Cliff Oates
Aug 3, 2001 6:21 AM
Apparently the forum software barfs when you post a table, so here's the rest of my post sans table. I used Sheldon Brown's gear calculator to generate the data. Anyway, other than most of the table, here's what got chopped off:

In terms of gearing choices, a triple doesn't have as many as you might argue. I'm going to call any ratios where the gear inches are less than an inch apart duplicates as I doubt my legs could feel any significant difference between the gears.

On a 12-23 triple, that rule results in 4 duplicate gears. 3 when comparing the big ring to the middle ring, and 1 when comparing the middle ring to the granny. Also, a rider is generally only going to use the bottom 4 gears on the smallest ring, because those are the only ones with ratios smaller than the middle ring. As an aside, I have found that there is a psychological factor in using the granny where it becomes a point of pride to avoid using it on hills. Add the big-big combo that you will naturally avoid and that leaves you with 17 effectively usable gear ratios, and perhaps fewer depending on how you feel about actually using the small chainring. The triple does have a higher gear than the wide range double does, but a 53/13 gear at a cadence of 100 means the bike is going almost 33 mph (52/12 @ 100 cadence = 35 mph). In the case of this recreational rider, that means I'm more than likely heading down a hill and I'll stop pedalling soon and get aero.

Applying the same criteria to the 13-29 indicates 3 duplicate gears. Exclude the big-big and small-small combos and the wide range double is left with 15 effective gear ratios. The 39-29 gear isn't quite as small as the 30-23 ratio on the triple, but it is close and it has been enough for me. I just don't see gear choices playing a major role here given these cassette ranges.

In terms of factors other than gearing, the triple actually shifts more smoothly than my double. Heresy? No, the triple only has a 10 tooth jump between the large and middle ring, while my double has a 14 tooth jump. On the other hand, the double weighs a bit less and has a narrower Q-factor (for those who are into Q-factors). Shifting on and off the small chainring on the triple is pretty rocky. Esthetically, I prefer the look of a double crank, but esthetics won't get you to the top of the mountain.

Given the selection of a 12-23 cassette range, I don't see any compelling reason to choose one option over the other. For a new or older rider, a triple with more gears at the low end would give the advantage to the triple. In the case of Shimano, that would be a 12-25 or 12-27 while for Campy the choices are a 13-26 or 13-28. Alternatively, if a rider wanted a very close range cassette and needed a bailout gear, then a triple with a 12-21 might be a viable choice.
Similar situation?Timmer
Jul 31, 2001 2:00 PM
Last year I decided to buy a road bike, after years and years of riding a mountain bike. I live in CT and I am surrounded by hills, so I decided to buy a CDale R600 Triple. After riding the bike for a few months, I realized that I like standing up and pounding up the hills, rather then using the granny gear and sitting down on the way up. So now, I rarely ever use the lowest gear, but I look at it like a spare tube...will I NEED it?...probably not...but its better to have something and not need it then need it and not have it, right?

If your knees are not strong yet...STEELYeyed
Jul 31, 2001 3:09 PM
go with a triple,you don't want to damage your knees hammering up hills in a gear you can't yet handle,you can always change out your crankrings later as your strength and confidence increases,I still ride a triple although rarely use it,although,I encountered a hill on my last tour that had me on the smallest rings, out of the saddle. Is it more embarassing to have a triple,or to walk a $3000 road bike up a hill?
re: Double vs. TripleVictor Chan
Jul 31, 2001 5:13 PM
Hey, I got a triple because that's the stock component of my Raleigh R600 2001 model. :D I wanted a double but the bike shop didn't have the R700 model and this one was on sale. Anyway, is no big deal to have a triple crankset. You can always force yourself not to use the 30 unless it is an emergency. :D
If you're in Kansas get a double, if in Nepal, get a triple (NM)MeDotOrg
Jul 31, 2001 6:04 PM
re: you can't go wrong with triplescyclopathic
Aug 1, 2001 2:46 AM
but you may with doubles

don't get sucked in in "macho" thing "I am tough to ride doubles"

with triples
- you can sit and spin on long climb (comes handy after you get ~200mi in your legs)
- less gear jump from big ring to middle
- close ratio gears (12-23 vs 12-27)

I have a doubles and triples and on triple bike I may use granny once in a blue moon, but I love 42t middle more then 39t, pls if I need lower gearing it's always there.
re: Double vs. TripleTurtleherder
Aug 1, 2001 6:46 AM
Here's one more piece of flame bait. My wife wanted the bailout gears of a triple but not the drive line problems. She got the double and swapped out the rear derailleur for a mountain bike XT and a mountain bike cassette. She has a gear range of 12 - 34. It looks a little odd with that pie plate, but I swear the thing runs perfectly and she can practically climb trees with it.
re: Double vs. TripleLC
Aug 1, 2001 9:34 AM
Too bad Shamano does not make a 28, 29 or 30 for the low on the nine speed, but I would not want to give up the 12 like on the Campy 13-29. 32 or 34 is just a little too much. The 8 speed 11-28 was perfect. Does anyone else make an aftermarket 12-29/30 ?
triples threaten our very existence as cyclistsDaveG
Aug 1, 2001 8:24 AM
I don't care how bad you're suffering on that hill, suck it up. Adding another ring simply is not proper.

Dave "Triple Ridin'" G.
as does Shimano - let's hear it for campie double riders! - nmVictorChan
Aug 1, 2001 10:32 AM
Shimano is good. Campy is expensive.
triples threaten our very existence as cyclistsVictorChan
Aug 1, 2001 10:32 AM
How so??? The doublers feel stupid because triplers can outclimb them using the third gear???? :D