With a subject line like that, I'm not sure I should ask a question or just say, "Go"...
... but AVO (and then the rest of you) got me thinking after commenting on the photos of my new bike that I'd probably want to consider compacts, so I thought I'd ask for a bit of insight.
Now, I have 2 reasons for this request: firstly, I want to learn and use what I learn to improve my riding; secondly, I've been stupidly sick for the last 3 weeks and as such, haven't ridden Dita outdoors yet so I'm thinking, if compacts are the way to go, should I take her back to Turtur bikes while still in her shiny new condition and get them to swap the crankset out for me? (I'm getting better quickly now & want Dita ready for me to ride as soon as I have the strength to so, if I do this, I'll probably take her to the Turtur guys tomorrow)
Given I'm still a very new rider (and this is my first ever road bike), and considering that my goals are to ride the hills as much as possible as well as long distance, what would you suggest? I am yet to hear a consistent (or passionately convincing) argument as to why I ought to go either way and I know personal preference will play a great part in most opinions, but tell me what you think. What are the pros and cons? And of course, answer any other questions you think I should be asking about compacts...
Compacts are only good for the Hills, from what I understand
Good question, lots of different answers
In the context of road cycling, compact drivetrain typically refers to double cranksets with a smaller (usually 110mm) bolt circle diameter than the standard 130mm or Campagnolo's 135mm. As of 2006, all of the major component manufacturers such as Shimano and Campagnolo offer compact cranks in their midrange and high-end product lines. The compact crankset provides a compromise between the standard road double crankset (with 39/52 or 39/53 tooth chainrings) and the road triple (with 30/42/52 or 30/39/53 tooth chainrings). The compact crankset has two chainrings and typical ratios are 34/48, 34/50 and 36/50. This provides nearly the same lower gear ratios as a triple but without the need for a third chainring, a triple front derailleur and a long cage rear derailleur. Both Shimano and Campagnolo recommend and sell front derailleurs specifically designed for compact cranksets, claiming better shifting.
Compact gearing is not necessarily lower than standard gearing if cassettes with smaller sprockets (such as 11–23) are used. A high gear of 50×11 on a compact drivechain is actually slightly higher than the 53×12 of a standard set.
Compact gearing usually has a large percentage jump between the two chainrings. In balance, it may also allow small jumps in the rear by allowing a closer ratio cassette to be used, except for the 9% jump at the high end between the 11 and 12 tooth sprockets.
Also take a look here a good article discussing the pros and cons of standard vs compact.
I've always ridden standard, but if and when I buy a new road bike I'll go compact. At the end of the day its probably not critical for you to change from standard to compact, but if you are going to do it probably best to do it before you start riding the bike (as you suggest)
To try and help, think of it this way. Professional riders in the Tour de France (or other pro tour rides for that matter) will use a "normal" chain ring (53:39) for the flat stages, but will switch to a compact (50:34) for the big hill stages
Basically, a compact chain ring offers you lighter gear ratios. I ride compacts on my roadie, and wouldn't have it any other way. Having the lighter gearing available means you can spin at a slightly higher cadence when going up the hills, which makes the climbing more manageable. Having the bigger chain rings at the front allow you to continue putting down power at higher speeds. But in saying that, I still have a usable gear on my roadie moving at 70kph.
However, to make things a little bit more complicated, it also depends on what range of gears are available on the rear cassette. Is your largest cog 25 tooth or 27 tooth? And is the smallest cog 11 tooth or 12 tooth? From memory, using a 34:25 gear ratio (using compacts) is pretty much the same as using a 39:27 gear ratio; and a 50:11 gear ratio (using compacts) is actually a bigger gear than a 53:12 gear ratio.
If you plan on doing a lot of hills riding, as you say, a compact chain ring on the front would be very beneficial. Hope that helps.
Rear cassette: largest 26 teeth, smallest has 13.
... I'm still getting my head around lots of information...