Compact cranksets are road bike cranks that come with smaller chainrings that make pedaling easier.
There are many benefits of this crankset over the others.
We’ll be discussing these benefits in this article and also mention the downsides of using them.
Most importantly, we’ll be answering the question that is foremost on your mind. Do pros use compact cranksets?
We’ll be answering this question in detail and also differentiate between the standard and compact crankset so you can be guided into choosing the one that best suits your needs.
Do Pros Use Compact Cranksets?
Pros use Compact Cranskets but they do it rarely. It is uncommon to see pros using compact cranksets because they generally prefer bigger chainrings and have no use for the compact.
You will only see pros using compact cranksets during very serious climbing courses or very steep stages during races.
Pros use bigger chainrings because they have the power to push them, and they need top-end speed for their races.
Climbing with the large chainrings can be done by using cassettes like 11 21 or 11 23, so they usually do not require compact and avoid it completely.
Why Pros Avoid Compact Cranksets?
1- Less Speed
Compact cranksets aren’t for competitive races or group rides on very flat terrains. You’ll be left behind by riders using standard or semi-compact.
They limit your speed in descents and on flats. Descending those steep hills will be slow and difficult. You will spin out faster. You can’t just do competitive cycling with them, but if racing isn’t your thing, a compact is cool for you.
A 50T chainring with an 11 cog will still give you more speed than a 53T with a 12 cog, but it can’t compete with a 53 with an 11.
2- More Shifts
Because there’s a big jump between the two chainrings on a compact crankset, you will need to shift the chainrings often while riding.
This can be a problem unless you live in a very hilly area. Then you will most likely always need to be on the 34T chainring often and require the 50T less.
What Size Cranks Do Pros Generally Use?
Pros usually use standard cranksets because they prefer big-sized chainrings. Standard cranks come with 53T and 39T chainrings.
It is not unusual to even find larger chainrings on their bikes. They often use outer chainrings with 54, 55 teeth, and even more, and combine with inner chainrings in sizes 42 and above.
Pros need these bigger chainrings because they partake in races. And for races, speed is important because every second counts.
Pros have the power to push these big chainrings which when combined with smaller sprockets produce amazing speed. Sprinters especially need this.
For moderate climbs, they can combine their chainrings with 23 or 25T sprockets and it would be effortless since they have the power. In whatever gear they choose, they are strong enough to maintain a high cadence.
Using big size cranks also help them to avoid smaller cogs like 11. They can use a 13T cog and still ride fast.
Are There Any Benefits of Compact Cranksets (For Non-Pros)?
Well, there are quite a few!
1- It Is Lighter
When compared to standard and semi-compact cranksets, compact cranksets are lighter because they have smaller spider and chainrings, use shorter chains, and can be used with smaller cassettes.
Riders often lighten their bike by changing their cranksets to compacts. It makes handling easier for amateurs and beginners.
Although triple cranksets offer the benefit of low gears, they are heavy so compact cranksets are still more preferred.
2- Tighter Gear Spacing
Most cyclists using a standard crankset pair it with large cassettes like 11-28 and 11-32 but with compact you can use smaller cassettes like 11 23 or 11 25 and still get all you need.
You get tighter gear spacing because small cassettes have smaller jumps between gears.
This usually makes shifting easier and gives you more gearing options in the middle of the cassette. Using small cassettes is also one of the ways of keeping your bikes light.
3- Wider Gear Range
When paired with bigger cassettes like 11 28 or 11 3 with a long cage rear derailleur, compact cranksets give you a wider range of gears and minimizes the possibility of gearing overlap.
The combination of your chainrings with the cassette sprockets will give more gear ratio options.
This means you have gears for climbing fast as well as suitable gears for adequate speed on flats. You can always find the gear ratio that is suitable at any time.
4- Climbs Better
This is the most important benefit of the compact crankset and why it is mostly preferred to other cranksets.
Climbing because easier, and more efficient without you losing top speed on flats. This is because compact cranksets have smaller inner chainrings that provide lower gear selection.
Compact cranksets also enable you to climb steep hills at a slower pace while still maintaining a high cadence.
This is essential for long rides because it keeps you from tiring out and exerting your muscles.
5- Better Chain Line
Your chain line is measured by how straight your chain runs between your chainrings and cassette sprockets.
Your chain needs to be as straight as possible to protect your chain and drivetrain from early wear. A bad chain line can also cause poor shifting.
With compact cranksets, you will rarely have a bad chain line. Your chainrings and sprockets will be in sync and the chain will run straighter between them.
6- Easy Pedaling
Larger chainrings are hard to push which makes pedaling difficult. This is why they are mostly used by pros.
Compact cranksets are easy to pedal which allows you to get and maintain a high cadence. You will find a 34/25 easier to push than a 39/25. So unless you have the power to push bigger chainrings, compact cranksets are for you.
This ensures accurate shifting, protects your drivetrain, and also prevents cross chaining.
Compact Crankset Vs. Standard Crankset
1- The most obvious difference is size. Standard cranksets are bigger than compacts because they have a bigger setup. Bigger chainrings, longer chains, big spiders, etc.
2- Compact cranksets are better for climbing. You can’t climb as easily with a standard like a compact. A standard on the other hand is better for races, speed, and riding downhills.
3- Standard cranksets come with 130 mm BCD while compacts come with 110 mm BCD. This means their chainrings aren’t interchangeable. You can’t just change from a standard crankset to a compact by buying new chainrings. They won’t fit. You will have to change the whole crankset.
4- Standard cranksets are better for pros and stronger riders while compact cranksets are better for beginners, amateurs, and old riders. Compacts are easier to pedal and handle.
5- You are likely to cross-chain a lot while using a standard crankset but compact cranksets give you a better chain line.
Cross chaining occurs when the chain is on your larger chainring and biggest sprocket or your smaller chainring and smallest sprocket. This is bad for your chain and drivetrain.
Should You Get a Compact Crankset?
Getting a crankset should not be a matter of following a tren or aesthetics. It should be based on your strength, terrain, power, etc.
Here are a few guidelines for helping you make a choice.
1- You should get a compact if you are an old rider. Compact cranksets are good for old people or people who do not have much power to push hard gears. It makes pedaling easier and gives lower ratios.
2- You should get compact if you’re a beginner or an amateur rider. Compact cranksets help with training and you can quickly master the art of cycling by using them. It is also good for women and teenagers because pedaling and handling are easier.
3- You should get a compact if you climb more than ride on flats. It’s also for you if you like mountain races or races with steep climbs.
Compact cranksets are also for riders who are new to climbing and want to practice hard to master it.
4- Compact cranksets are for you if prefer light bikes or find heavy bikes difficult to handle. Changing from a standard to a compact can reduce the weight of your bike visibly.
With the advent of compact cranksets, pedaling and climbing have become a lot easier. It is now possible for old and amateur riders to ride efficiently. This doesn’t mean it’s only for people who can’t ride well.
Although compact cranksets have a lot of benefits which we have discussed in detail, pros rarely use them.
Pros prefer larger chainrings so they can get better power output and top-end speed for their races. They only require it for very steep hills.
Compact cranksets are improvements on standards and we have discussed in detail, the differences between them. This is to guide you into choosing the best for your needs and body.