The hardest decision that I had to make when specifying the kit for my dream Mercian was what Group Set to have fitted. The choices seemed endless.
Shimano or Campagnola or SRAM.?
And then a double front chain wheels or a triple?
And what range of tooth set on the cassette?
And of course there was the question of component quality
And style, tradition and engineering pedigree
To help the decision making I could of course call upon Sheldon Brown and his Gear Inch Calculator, http://sheldonbrown.com/gears/ ;though one still needs to be able to translate into the reality of climbing a mountain the difference between 32 and 38 inches.
My vintage 1961 Mercian Audax with its original 53/42 front chainset coupled to gravity non-indexed gears with a 12-25 cassette results in a lowest gear of 45.4 inches which is certainly a challenge to my aged legs. Hence it has been modified to something more manageable by one of its previous owners to have a third ring of 30 teeth and a cassette reaching the dizzy heights of 28 teeth resulting in a manageable 28.9 inches.
But do I REALLY need a triple? Those 50/34 compacts with a 12-26 cassette result in 35 gear inches, only a mere 6 inches difference from my ancient steed. “A trifle” says my heart and the whole classical Campagnola range are open to me if I go with the compact, and after all, how many hills have I not been able to climb? None. So, a few extra inches, piffle.......to a man of 65 years who is a novice and whose strength will soon be ebbing :-()
Is there a reason why most of my riding companions have gone for triples with 46/36/26 rings and upto 34 teeth on the rear cassette? Do those Derbyshire Peaks get steeper with every passing year?
Dreaming meets Reality.
Or does it?
Currently I can power up the hills and the recovery rate is rapid. I rarely use anything bigger than 30/22 , (or 36.8 gear inches ) and when I have tried riding a 26/34 combination my legs were spinning so fast to get nowhere I almost fell off. So perhaps a compact IS feasible, even with my poor conditioning.
And so to a decision.
I would choose Campagnola because of its classic heritage and its reputation for engineering excellence.
This decision meant that all the rear cassettes above 29 teeth were ruled out as Campagnola seem to believe that road bikes are designed for fit young men and only make a token effort towards the casual veteran cyclist. That token, a Centaur Triple with 50/40/30 front chain rings and a 10 speed 13-29 cassette would be my choice. And if, in a few years time as my strength starts to fade rapidly, I find the hills too hard to manage, I will change the entire group set for something easier. Until then i will enjoy the excitement of the ride.
Would you have made a different choice?