My posts comparing triple cranksets with compact doubles continue to get a lot of views on an almost daily basis. Clearly, riders are interested in comparing the two versions to try to determine which is best for them.
Now, I’ll offer some further confusion.
The choice doesn’t have to be between a triple — usually a 52-39-30 tooth crankset and a compact double — usually a 50-34.
SRAM came out with its Apex drivetrain this summer. It’s a double crankset — you can’t get a triple from SRAM. But what you can get is an 11-32 cassette, that will give you the range of a triple with the narrowness of a double.
SRAM claims the wider range of gears offered on the ten-speed, 11-32 cassette give less redundancy between chainrings and smoother transitions between gears. The chainrings come in three variations: 53/39, 50/34, and 48/34. Couple a 34-tooth chainring with a 32-tooth cog and even the Bike Noob ought to be able to climb most any hill he comes across.
Velo Orange, which caters to the long-distance cycling crowd, takes a different approach: they have a new Polyvalent crank with 46 and 30-tooth chainrings. They suggest these would be great on city bikes and utility bikes, but I’ve seen randonneurs drool over it on their online forums. Obviously, a 46-tooth big ring won’t let you get to the top end speed of a typical road bike, but for people who spend 12 or more hours in the saddle at a time, ease of pedaling counts for a lot.
Either of these would be worth considering if you need help getting up the big hills on your cycling routes. The VO Polyvalent is listed at $105.00 on the Velo Orange website; The Apex 50/34 crankset can be had at Amazon.com for $118, and the 11-32 cassette for $78.