Need for 10-speed?

I have a 9-speed Tiagra groupset on my Sepecialized Allez with a triple crank. I’m looking to upgrade to a full 105 set-up, 10-speed rather than 9, and am confused about what ratios I’ll need. I ride flat roads in Norfolk and I’d like a bigger top gear.

But I’d like to do some touring on the Allez too, so would like to be able to get over a hill – should I ever see one. Triple, double or compact? Any tips would be great.

Hudson1984, via the Forum

Concentrate on spinning faster in lower gears and save your money. You do not need 10-speed. Nobody needs 10-speed. Keep the triple. When your pedalling matures to a more rapid and efficient cadence (with less knee-damaging force!) you’ll find much more use for the middle ring – even in Norfolk. The inner ring weighs little and can be ignored for now, but when you eventually venture somewhere with more interesting terrain you’ll be ever so glad you kept it. And if you should find you need an even smaller inner, you will be even gladder you kept the old Tiagra triple, because anything down to 24 teeth can be swapped onto that design, whereas none of the current 10-speed triples accept other than the stock 30 inner.

If you change to a compact double you will at first be delighted with an outer ring that is even better-sized for riding in all of the time, like you do now, in Norfolk. But once your cadence improves, you’ll find your ideal gears to be split between the outer and inner, requiring lots of double-shifts on terrain which is merely rolling (e.g. Suffolk and some parts of Norfolk) and that is a lot less convenient than leaving it mostly in middle.

Save your money until you have found the sort of cycling you want to do a lot more of. Then you can buy a new bike that exactly suits whatever sort of cycling that is. Maybe it’ll be a carbon-framed road bike with 105 10-speed – or maybe something else entirely.

Chris Juden


This was first published in the August / September 2012 edition of Cycle magazine.