The question of what road gearing is best-suited for a rider depends on their riding style and ability level. Efficiency and cadence play a big roll in that even if you are not racing and just riding to stay in shape and have fun on your bike. Standard and Compact gearing are the two most common road crankset sizes and each one offers the rider a significantly different ride experience. This guide will help you decide what crankset is most appropriate for your type and level of riding.
Gearing Range Types
Standard is also referred to as the “traditional” crankset and gearing is typically a 53 tooth large chainring and 39 tooth small chainring (53/39t) with a 130mm Bolt Circle Diameter (BCD). BCD refers to the spacing of the chainring bolts on the arms. Standard cranksets are a popular choice by many riders, such as time-trial riders, those who frequent club rides, or riders who find themselves constantly hammering down long, flat terrain. Some manufacturers have begun producing cranksets that are 110mm BCD and can run both standard and compact chainrings (i.e. Shimano Dura Ace 9000).
On the other end of the spectrum is the “Compact” crankset which is chosen by riders who prefer a lower gear selection to make it easier to climb hills without changing the top speed. Compact gearing is typically 50/34t gearing, which is significantly lower and use a 110mm BCD. Popular among riders who favor numerous feet of climbing with steep gradients and even novice riders with less-than-spectacular fitness, the Compact crankset has become very common in the road market and often comes stock on entry-level to mid-level road bikes.
Cyclocross bikes have their own unique set of gearing, specifically designed for ‘cross races. Because these races are run on off-road courses, lower gearing is necessary to negotiate energy sapping mud, sand, and short steep uphills. Some riders use a single chainring in the front while others prefer a double depending on the course or the terrain. The typical setup found on a cyclocross bike is 46/38t and the obvious benefit to running a double during a ‘cross race is the extra gear range to cover a variety of conditions.