General Discussion Triathlon Talk » Compact Crank Comments from Kevin Metcalfe Rss Feed  
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2013-06-29 3:20 PM

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Subject: Compact Crank Comments from Kevin Metcalfe
I read a Slowtwitch interview of Kevin Metcalfe the other day. At 52-years old, he clocked 49:29 for a 40-km TT at the Northern California/Nevada “State” Time Trial Championships to break the national 50-54 record of 50:17 that he'd set in 2011. He was using a 50x39 compact crank with an 11x23 cassette. In the interview, he made the following comment about compact cranks that I thought was worth passing along.

" I think that the vast majority of people don’t need a standard crank and especially not a 54 or 55 tooth chain ring. The fact that I was able to average 30 mph and except for about 10 seconds in my 12, never used anything bigger than a 50x13 tells me that you don’t need a huge gear to go fast. There are a lot of variables, but a 50x11 is a bigger gear than Eddy Merckx ever had. Of course, on the other hand if you live in Kansas you probably don’t need a compact either. I just think that a lot of people never learn to pedal properly. I’m not saying that somebody should do a time trial or triathlon a 100+ rpm, but if a rider can’t pedal for relatively short (1 minute or so) durations at 100 or 110, they need to work on their pedaling, not buy a bigger chain ring. BTW, in that vein racing on the track does wonders for your abilities as a cyclist."

Pretty amazing to think about averaging 30-mph for 25-miles!


2013-06-29 4:20 PM
in reply to: g_shotts

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Subject: RE: Compact Crank Comments from Kevin Metcalfe
He's right. The vast majority of people should probably be using a compact.
2013-06-29 4:25 PM
in reply to: TriMyBest

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over a barrier
Subject: RE: Compact Crank Comments from Kevin Metcalfe
Been running 50/34 11-26 for years. Gives me the full range I need without swapping out cassettes. Has worked well in Crits, road races, and Triathlon.
2013-06-29 5:47 PM
in reply to: running2far

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Subject: RE: Compact Crank Comments from Kevin Metcalfe
Originally posted by running2far

Been running 50/34 11-26 for years. Gives me the full range I need without swapping out cassettes. Has worked well in Crits, road races, and Triathlon.


Yep, same here, but with an 11-25. The 34/25 still feels like a granny gear even on Connecticut hills. Put me on a flat and I'll destroy you. I completely agree that most people haven't learned about proper cadence and technique, but that should hardly be a surprise. We grow up on BMX bikes, town bikes, with low saddles and for the most part, fixies. We equate going faster with standing up, pushing hard, and getting to a certain speed, then coasting. The more years you do that, the more it becomes ingrained. Take that person and put them on a road bike and they don't understand gearing at ALL. Heck, my sister WORKS for Cannondale and still asks me questions a year later about what gear she should use for what type of grade, and she's only got a rear DR, not even a front one.
2013-06-29 7:19 PM
in reply to: g_shotts

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Subject: RE: Compact Crank Comments from Kevin Metcalfe

Yeah...if pros are generally TT'ing 5-7 mph faster than you...you probably don't need gearing anything close to what they have.

2013-06-29 8:15 PM
in reply to: Jason N

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Subject: RE: Compact Crank Comments from Kevin Metcalfe
I switched all of our bikes to compact 3 years ago.....both of my kids can easily spin 100+ per minute for long periods.  My 15 year old did a 9 mile TT a month ago and averaged 26.8 mph.  I don't think they would be where they are with their cycling if not for the compact crank.  I don't mean this to be a backward brag on my kids....I'd just brag on them straight up if that were the case...it's a testament to what a compact crank has meant to their cycling development.


2013-06-30 8:48 PM
in reply to: Left Brain

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Subject: RE: Compact Crank Comments from Kevin Metcalfe
Originally posted by Left Brain

I switched all of our bikes to compact 3 years ago.....both of my kids can easily spin 100+ per minute for long periods.  My 15 year old did a 9 mile TT a month ago and averaged 26.8 mph.  I don't think they would be where they are with their cycling if not for the compact crank.  I don't mean this to be a backward brag on my kids....I'd just brag on them straight up if that were the case...it's a testament to what a compact crank has meant to their cycling development.


Excellent !
2013-06-30 10:27 PM
in reply to: tri42


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Subject: RE: Compact Crank Comments from Kevin Metcalfe
For the weekend warrior, it is easier to run cassettes with single cog differences with compact cranks than with the standard 130 bcd cranks. With Shimano Junior Gearing: One can run 13-14-15-16-17-18-19-21-23-25 for a 10 speed cassette that provides one cog step differences and the flexibility to pull the 13 and put on a 12 and.....pull the 21-23-25 and put on a 21-24-27 as needed. Thus one can run:

12-14-15-16-17-18-19-21-24-27 via Shimano gearing with crisp one step cog differences for the middle 6 cogs.
2013-06-30 10:32 PM
in reply to: Billyk

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Subject: RE: Compact Crank Comments from Kevin Metcalfe

Originally posted by Billyk For the weekend warrior, it is easier to run cassettes with single cog differences with compact cranks than with the standard 130 bcd cranks. With Shimano Junior Gearing: One can run 13-14-15-16-17-18-19-21-23-25 for a 10 speed cassette that provides one cog step differences and the flexibility to pull the 13 and put on a 12 and.....pull the 21-23-25 and put on a 21-24-27 as needed. Thus one can run: 12-14-15-16-17-18-19-21-24-27 via Shimano gearing with crisp one step cog differences for the middle 6 cogs.

That makes my head hurt. Laughing

2013-07-01 11:17 AM
in reply to: g_shotts


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Subject: RE: Compact Crank Comments from Kevin Metcalfe
I have compact and 11-28 on my road bike.

That setup allows me to get to about 38mph before spinning out and also allows me to climb hills up to 15% staying around 300 watts at a modest cadence.

Proabably about 95% or more of AG triathletes should never see 300 watts. Therefore at least 95% of AG triathletes should be running compact with a 28T rear. If they care about the run anyway.



2013-07-01 11:42 AM
in reply to: cmscat50

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Subject: RE: Compact Crank Comments from Kevin Metcalfe
I live in Kansas. I rarely get to a point where I'm spinning out but when I do, it's for a very short time and I'm usually rolling at 40+ mph anyhow, take a break etc. And there's actually a hill here that peaks out at about 24% grade and I can do that no problem with a 50/34 and 11/25 setup. I don't need to go to the small chain ring either.

I agree that many people overthink things. Just ride more ......


2013-07-01 12:16 PM
in reply to: g_shotts

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Subject: RE: Compact Crank Comments from Kevin Metcalfe
I prefer a compact, and run one on all my bikes other than my Zipp (which, being a 650c is basically a compact) and my Planet X... which should probably be a compact. (although I just bought a new set of rings for It... so I guess not)
2013-07-01 12:24 PM
in reply to: Leegoocrap

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Subject: RE: Compact Crank Comments from Kevin Metcalfe
I still believe the whole cadence story is not yet fully written.
Ullrich rode low cadence and Armstrong high...

It is also my belief that built has a lot to do with it.

With a 36inch inseam and as a 190+ lbs guy, any cadence above 95rpm is just a horrible chore.
CAN I do 100+rpm? Yes
Nevertheless riding at arun 80-90 just feels the most natural!
2013-07-01 12:35 PM
in reply to: timf79

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Subject: RE: Compact Crank Comments from Kevin Metcalfe
Originally posted by timf79

I still believe the whole cadence story is not yet fully written.
Ullrich rode low cadence and Armstrong high...




The Armstrong/Ullrich thing was pretty exaggerated really. It's not like Armstrong was pushing 120+ rpm and Ullrich was grinding 60rpm. Both of them were pretty much in the "normal" range of cadence. But for the most part unless you are at a VERY extreme, just pick the cadence that feels best.
2013-07-01 12:59 PM
in reply to: cmscat50

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Subject: RE: Compact Crank Comments from Kevin Metcalfe
Originally posted by cmscat50

I have compact and 11-28 on my road bike.

That setup allows me to get to about 38mph before spinning out and also allows me to climb hills up to 15% staying around 300 watts at a modest cadence.

Proabably about 95% or more of AG triathletes should never see 300 watts. Therefore at least 95% of AG triathletes should be running compact with a 28T rear. If they care about the run anyway.






No.
2013-07-01 1:55 PM
in reply to: JZig

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Subject: RE: Compact Crank Comments from Kevin Metcalfe
I switched to a compact on my road bike right before a ride through the Florida Keys two years ago. My girlfriend at the time (strictly a roadie) said I was nuts, that I'd be constantly spun-out, especially going from 5800 ft of elevation down to sea level. I ended up very pleased with the results. Even with the road being as flat as it is through the Keys, I was never spun-out. With that experience and another year of riding on a compact, I got a Quarq in a compact for my tri bike without hesitation.

Normally I ride either relatively flat terrain (where I live now @ 4300 feet) or through mountains with lots of climbing and descending (45 minutes away where I go for group rides @ 5800 feet of elevation). My "everyday" wheels have an 11-28 for the mountains, and my "race" wheels have an 11-26 for the short climbs I encounter at races in southern NM. Both work wonderfully for me across a variety of terrain. I think if I rode mostly on relatively-flat roads, I'd have a 12-25 and be satisfied.

Since power was brought into the conversation: my best 20-minute average was 206, giving me a theoretical FTP (Functional Threshold Pain?) of 196ish (If I calculated that correctly). I'll be very pleased when I get over 200. I have no idea where that puts me in comparison to other folks in my AG; I'm just happy to see incremental increases over time. I think this puts me firmly in the "stick with a compact" zone of ability.


2013-07-01 2:31 PM
in reply to: JZig

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Subject: RE: Compact Crank Comments from Kevin Metcalfe

Originally posted by JZig
Originally posted by cmscat50 I have compact and 11-28 on my road bike. That setup allows me to get to about 38mph before spinning out and also allows me to climb hills up to 15% staying around 300 watts at a modest cadence. Proabably about 95% or more of AG triathletes should never see 300 watts. Therefore at least 95% of AG triathletes should be running compact with a 28T rear. If they care about the run anyway.
No.

x2

While most AG triathletes don't need to run 53/39 chainrings, their choice of cassette will be course specific.  There is no point in running a 11-28 if you don't train or race on significant hills.  Most AGers would do just fine with a 50/34 and a 12/23 on a really flat course, but certainly would benefit from an 11/28 on a really hilly course.

2013-07-01 5:57 PM
in reply to: Jason N

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Subject: RE: Compact Crank Comments from Kevin Metcalfe
I went from 53/39 and 12/25 to 50/34 and 11/28 for my setup on my tri bike when I did IMCDA. The hills there are steep enough to warrant having that 28. Granted others out there ran standard 53/39 12/25 but for myself I rather spin easier up the hill rather than mash. At the end I was "fresh" to go on for the run.

On flats I'd go back to running a 12-25. I don't see much purpose in running a 12-23 at this time. Maybe there would be but I don't know.

2013-07-01 6:00 PM
in reply to: spie34

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Subject: RE: Compact Crank Comments from Kevin Metcalfe

Originally posted by spie34 I went from 53/39 and 12/25 to 50/34 and 11/28 for my setup on my tri bike when I did IMCDA. The hills there are steep enough to warrant having that 28. Granted others out there ran standard 53/39 12/25 but for myself I rather spin easier up the hill rather than mash. At the end I was "fresh" to go on for the run. On flats I'd go back to running a 12-25. I don't see much purpose in running a 12-23 at this time. Maybe there would be but I don't know.

Assuming you don't use the 34/25 gear on the flats, running a 12/23 would give you one extra gear in that "sweet spot" area of the cassette where you likely do a majority of your riding.

2013-07-01 9:09 PM
in reply to: timf79

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Subject: RE: Compact Crank Comments from Kevin Metcalfe

Originally posted by timf79 I still believe the whole cadence story is not yet fully written. Ullrich rode low cadence and Armstrong high... It is also my belief that built has a lot to do with it. With a 36inch inseam and as a 190+ lbs guy, any cadence above 95rpm is just a horrible chore. CAN I do 100+rpm? Yes Nevertheless riding at arun 80-90 just feels the most natural!

While you should go with what's most natural, are you sure it's your size that's limiting you? I have a 35" inseam and can pedal at 95+ for quite awhile if need be. Higher than that too. I tend to do best in the mid to high 80's, but the range I can put out power fairly well extends out a bit from there. Left Brain and his kids aren't exactly short either.

2013-07-01 9:15 PM
in reply to: Left Brain

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Subject: RE: Compact Crank Comments from Kevin Metcalfe

Originally posted by Left Brain I switched all of our bikes to compact 3 years ago.....both of my kids can easily spin 100+ per minute for long periods.  My 15 year old did a 9 mile TT a month ago and averaged 26.8 mph.  I don't think they would be where they are with their cycling if not for the compact crank.  I don't mean this to be a backward brag on my kids....I'd just brag on them straight up if that were the case...it's a testament to what a compact crank has meant to their cycling development.

I think that was an excellent move too. Even though much of triathlon may seem like a steady time trial, one should still learn how to really ride a bike and not be focused on only working on a very narrow cadence range. Know where you're strongest, but have a good usable range to work with.



2013-07-01 9:26 PM
in reply to: Left Brain

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Subject: RE: Compact Crank Comments from Kevin Metcalfe
Originally posted by Left Brain

I switched all of our bikes to compact 3 years ago.....both of my kids can easily spin 100+ per minute for long periods.  My 15 year old did a 9 mile TT a month ago and averaged 26.8 mph.  I don't think they would be where they are with their cycling if not for the compact crank.  I don't mean this to be a backward brag on my kids....I'd just brag on them straight up if that were the case...it's a testament to what a compact crank has meant to their cycling development.

Brag away...that's something to be proud of. If he had a paper route, things would be done in record time!
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