Drivetrain for touring bike
May 30, 2019 10:38 AM   Subscribe

I currently have Campagnolo on the bike I use for touring, but I'd like to switch to a more forgiving crank (either something smaller or a triple), plus Campy parts are hard to find here so I'm thinking of swapping out the whole group. Any suggestions?

I've been out of the bike world for a while so I'm out of touch with what would suit best. Cost is a factor but I'd rather pay a bit more than be frustrated with poor performance. So far I've been looking at Surly and Salsa to see what they're putting on their bikes now to get some ideas.

The frame is a Surly Crosscheck that was originally built up from odds and ends I had around. It's set up with drop bars so I imagine I'll need to go with a road setup as opposed to mtb, but maybe I'm wrong about that? I don't want to go so far as to swap out bars unless there's a real advantage to doing so.

Thanks for your ideas!
posted by bighappyhairydog to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
For touring, Shimano's Deore line works very well, even though it's "supposed" to be a MTB groupset. If you want to run a very wide range of gears in the back with a triple up front, you'll want a long-cage derailer that can wrap a lot of chain. I've had a Deore rear derailer on my Rivendell since 2015 and it's been rock solid. (It also has a Claris front derailer, which I thought was strange on a $2600 frame, but it's worked great. Disclaimer: I use bar-end friction shifters for everything so I have no idea how well it would be work indexed, but I'm sure it would be just fine.)

My go-to choice for cranksets have been Sugino's XD 26/36/46 triples. The 36 is what I use 95% of the time, but on a loaded bike having the tiny 26 up front is great for cranking up steep grades, and it's rare that I really need or want to go faster than the combination of 36 up front and 12 in the back. Velo Orange also makes some really nice-looking triples that should work fine with pretty much any drivetrain.

For cassettes, I buy whatever Shimano-compatible 9 speed cassettes my LBS has in stock, and try to go from about 36 - 12.
posted by kdar at 11:22 AM on May 30, 2019

That last article suggests "Shimagnolo" or "Shimergo" as a setup that could work for you.

Shimergo is the mix and match of “Shim”ano drivetrains with Campy “Ergo” shift levers. This is possible because the cable pull between the two is so similar. Routing of the cable a little differently through the derailleur effectively changes the ratio to make things line up. This is called the Hubbub routing method. But, as noted earlier, Campagnolo Ergo levers pull 2.5mm of cable five times, 3mm twice and 3.5mm twice and Shimano derailleurs are designed around consistent cable pull each time. There is a fudge factor of compatibility though and there are numerous reports of success online. The methods require a reduced speed; meaning 9-speed levers with an 8-speed cassette. If you are interested in setting up a Shimergo setup, there are plenty of articles and forum posts out there to help you with your setup.

With the Shimergo setup, it is also worth mentioning Jtek Engineering. Their most popular product, the Jtek ShiftMate, uses a pulley to change the ratio of the amount of cable pulled by the shifter. There are four different pulleys available to allow you to run numerous combinations of Shimano and Campagnolo 8 through 11-speed systems together. Here is an article that details one rider’s experience of moving from the Hubbub method to a Jtek ShiftMate.

posted by danceswithlight at 11:36 AM on May 30, 2019

Campagnolo on your bike makes me think - perhaps incorrectly - that you have some money to spend.
If you do, I'd look into René Herses' offerings, given that they can deliver any combination of chairings you'd want.
Possibly the best crank out there.
Combine with a SKF bottom bracket for maximum carefree biking for years to come.
Not cheap, though.
posted by Thug at 11:56 AM on May 30, 2019

A setup that has worked well for me is this drivetrain:


Shimano 105 ST-5700 and ST-5703 road shifters (triple for the left, 10-speed for the right)

Shimano Deore M610 26/36/48 triple crank (and I switched out the smallest ring, so now it's 24/36/48 for better hill climbing)

Shimano Ultegra FD-6503 front derailleur (identical to the more widely known IRD Alpina-d derailleur, which Sheldon Brown describes as the only currently available front derailer that is designed for mid-range ("compact road") triple chainwheels AND compatible with Shimano "road" (drop handlebar) STI shifter indexing.

Shimano Alivio HG400 12-36 9-speed MTB cassette

JTek Shiftmate 2 (a ratio-changing pulley that makes the MTB cassette compatible with the road shifters)

Shimano Deore M591 wide-range rear derailleur (with an extra-long B-screw to make sure the pulley clears the largest cog, and with the high and low stops set such that I never even have access to the 10th click in my shifter when using the 9-speed cassette)

KMC 10-speed chain with "missing link" to make taking it on and off easy


However, I found that shifting on the front triple wasn't great, despite being advertised as compatible. For full shift compatibility, and because I want even lower gears so hill climbing could be more enjoyable, I'm about to switch to the following setup:


same as above, except:

Shimano Deore M590 22/32/44 triple crank

any Shimano Deore front triple derailleur

JTek ShiftMate 7 (a ratio-changing pulley that makes the MTB front derailleur compatible with the road shifters)

Shimano Deore HG500 11-42 10-speed MTB cassette (look at the range on that thing!)

remove JTek Shiftmate 2 (no longer needed because for some reason, Shimano 10-speed Road shifters pull the right amount of cable to be natively compatible with 10-speed MTB cassettes... at least I think that's true, haven't tried it yet)


Hope that gives you some ideas.
posted by danceswithlight at 12:13 PM on May 30, 2019

oh Thug, I wish I had money to spend. I worked in a bike shop in a previous life, so I have a couple of bikes with Campagnolo that have become a bit of a nuisance because parts are expensive and not stocked locally. Thanks for the drool-worthy ideas though!

Thanks, everyone, for a wealth of information! This gives me lots to work with. Much appreciated!
posted by bighappyhairydog at 12:25 PM on May 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

If you haven't already done this, and since you're already thinking in terms of a lower-geared triple, how about shorter crank arms?

I'm 6' with 34" inseams, and I have really enjoyed a triple with a 20 tooth low gear and 165mm crank arms. It's been smoother, and I have often felt like I can zoom up hills when I've been in good shape.
posted by jamjam at 1:12 PM on May 30, 2019

As a counterpoint, are you SURE you need the triple?

Modern compacts with an 11-speed cassette can get pretty wide. I have a 34/50 on one of my bikes, and as-shipped it came with 11-32 in the rear (all Shimano Ultegra), which at the lowest was about 1.06:1 (obvs).

The Shimano 105 triple is 50/39/30, and so would have only a slightly lower low-end (.9:1, basically).

Are you somewhere super hilly, such that a 26t front ring would make sense?
posted by uberchet at 4:37 PM on May 30, 2019

Modern mountain and gravel groupsets have really stretched the limits of what 1x can do. I’d go with that so you only need one shifter, one derailleur, cheaper crankset...

If you’re swapping out the whole thing on a budget I’d do Sram Apex.
posted by supercres at 5:25 PM on May 30, 2019

Uberchet, I was going back and forth on the triple. I live in the mountains and even my commute has a big hill, but things sure have changed since I was immersed in All Things Bike.

This has given me great ideas! Much appreciated, everyone!
posted by bighappyhairydog at 11:44 AM on May 31, 2019

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