|entry||Campagnolo||Xenon||compact double chainring w/10 cogs||most-affordable 10-speed components|
|enthusiast||Campagnolo||Mirage||compact or standard double chainring w/10 cogs||fine parts, can get flat-bar controls, too|
|serious||Campagnolo||Veloce||compact or standard double chainring w/10 cogs||nice function and finish, lighter|
|race||Campagnolo||Centaur||compact or standard double chainring w/10 cogs||almost Chorus-quality function and finish|
|pro||Campagnolo||Chorus||compact or standard double chainring w/10 cogs||almost Record-quality function and finish|
|pro||Campagnolo||Record||compact or standard double chainring w/10 cogs||among the world's lightest components|
|entry||Shimano||Sora||double or triple chainrings w/8 cogs||sweet shifting, braking and reliability at a nice price|
|enthusiast||Shimano||Tiagra||double or triple chainrings w/9 cogs||nice function and finish, lighter|
|serious||Shimano||105||double or triple chainrings w/10 cogs||almost Ultegra-quality function and finish|
|race||Shimano||Ultegra||double or triple chainrings w/10 cogs||almost Dura-Ace function and finish|
|pro||Shimano||Dura-Ace||double or triple chainrings w/10 cogs||one of the world's winningest road component groups|
|serious||SRAM||Force||compact or standard double chainring w/10 cogs||almost Rival function and finish|
|pro||SRAM||Rival||compact or standard double chainring w/10 cogs||among the world's lightest components|
Regardless of what bike you choose it won't be much fun riding it if the gearing isn't appropriate for your fitness level and where and how you pedal. Fortunately, all component groups offer a variety of different gearing options. And we can also modify things if needed to suit your needs. Here's what's involved:
Chainrings and Cogs
There are sprockets on the front and back of the bike. The fronts are called "chainrings" and they're located on the crankset, the part that the pedals are attached to. The crankset comes with 2 (called a "double") or 3 chainrings (called a "triple"). Triple cranksets include a small inner chainring (sometimes called a "granny") that offers easier hill-climbing gears. There are also cranksets called "compact" that have only 2 chainrings but have a smaller small chainring for easier climbing.
The sprockets on the rear of the bike are called "cogs," or, if you're referring to the entire cluster of gears, it's called a "cassette" or "freewheel." The cassette is attached to the rear wheel to drive it as you pedal. Depending on the components on the bike, there will be from 8 to 10 cogs on the rear cassette.
How Many Gears?
To figure out how many total gears are on a bike, simply multiply the number of chainrings by the number of cassette cogs. For example on a model with a triple crankset and a 10-cog cassette, you have 30 gears — quite an upgrade from the 10-speeds so popular years ago.
How many gears to get depends on how and where you ride. If you're reasonably fit and bike in flat to rolling terrain, you'll probably be fine with a double chainring and 8 to 10 rear cogs. If it's hilly and you're getting into shape, consider a triple chainring and its easier gears. Compact cranksets with 8 or 10 cogs are popular, too. These provide the simpler double shifting up front with a small enough small chainring for easy climbing, too.
When considering how many rear cogs to get, keep in mind that you'll have plenty of gears even if you get an 8-cog cassette. If you go to more cogs, you can either get a wider range of gears or more-closely spaced gears. The latter is excellent for racing and training because it makes it easier to fine-tune pedaling effort. Wider gearing offers easier low gears so it's ideal for mountainous riding and for when you're not in tip-top shape.
How the Gears Feel
To figure out how easy it is to pedal the gears, you have to know a little more about the chainrings and cogs. They are referred to by the number of teeth on them. So, you might read in bike specifications about 39/53 chainrings and 12-23 cassettes. This means that the small chainring has 39 teeth and the large has 53 teeth and that the cassette has a small cog with 12 teeth on it and a large one with 23. Meanwhile, a compact drivetrain could have a crankset with 34- and 50-tooth chainrings and the cassette might be the same 12-23. To know the size of every cog and chainring, you usually have to count each one (cogs and chainrings are often marked but the marks can be hard to see).
Know Your Numbers
Don't let the numbers confuse you. The key thing to know is that for chainrings, larger numbers mean it's harder to pedal and vice versa. For cogs, it's the opposite: the larger the number, the easier it is to pedal and vice versa. By keeping these rules in mind, you can quickly see that a 30/42/52 triple crankset and a 12-30 cassette will offer much easier gearing than a 39/53 double with a 12-23 cassette.
Pondering a Triple or a Compact
Many people wonder whether or not they need a triple crankset or a compact crankset. Our advice is that it depends a lot on how and where you ride. If you like the hills, ride fairly long distances, sometimes carry gear and aren't training all the time to be in optimum fitness, a triple is a great thing to have. Even if you don't use the small chainring all that much, it can be a lifesaver at the end of a long ride when a tough climb stands between you and home.
Even some competitive riders favor triples, though if you're really strong, you may decide to forgo the additional grams of a third ring and go with a compact set-up instead. Also, a triple-chainring drivetrain shifts slightly more slowly than a double, which is a consideration in a race when a slow shift can cost you a podium spot.
If you're not sure which is right for you, we recommend coming in and trying the various drivetrains to feel how it works for you. It's also helpful to talk to your friends who ride and see what they recommend since you'll likely be hitting the road with them and enjoying similar rides.
You also need to decide on the range of gears on your rear cassette. Here's a guide to some commonly available sizes and what they're designed for:
The Fun Part
Now that you have an idea how to decide what type of road machine to get, it's time to come into our store and do some tire kicking and test riding to see how the models compare in person. This will complete the picture and give you a chance to see what you get at the various price points. Here are a final few helpful tips:
Thanks for reading. We look forward to helping you select the perfect road bicycle!