A 50/34 crankset and аn 11-32 cassette are an acceptable combination providing a number of benefits such as:
- High Gearing
The highest gear of this drivetrain would be 50/11 and has a 4.54 gear ratio.
The term gear ratio indicates the number of rotations that the rear cog and respectively the rear wheel make per 1 full revolution of the cranks. The higher the gear ratio, the greater the potential speed of the bike.
The maximum speed that a bike can reach via pedaling is dependent on three factors:
- Gear ratio
- RPM (rotations of the cranks per minute)
- Wheel circumference
The basic formula for speed is Speed = Distance ÷ Time.
If two bikes have identical gearing and are pedaled at the same RPM, the bike with the larger wheels will be faster because the additional circumference results in a greater traveled distance per minute.
If two bikes have the same wheel circumference and gearing but are pedaled at different RPMs, the bike operating at the higher RPM will cover a greater distance in the same time frame and will therefore be faster.
The table below contains the top speed that a 50/11 combination generates at different RPMs when using standard 700×25 tires.
|RPM||Speed kph||Speed mph|
50×11 gives you plenty of top speed. At 90 RPM, the bike will be moving at over 50km/h – a speed that most people will never be able to maintain for long.
Another advantage of having high gearing is the smaller chance of spinning out on descents.
Spinning out occurs when the bike is moving at a speed that cannot be generated via pedaling. In that situation, pedaling becomes useless because it doesn’t contribute to the bike’s forward movement anymore. The higher the top gear, the more extreme the descent has to be to spin out.
- Substantial Low Gears
The lowest gear of this combination is 34/32 and has a 1.06 gear ratio. In other words, the rear wheel will barely rotate one time per 1 spin of the cranks. The lower the gear ratio, the easier it is to pedal.
34/32 is a very low gear and will allow you to conquer some massive hills.
Truth be told, trained cyclists may consider the gear needlessly low. But if you’re just starting out or want a bicycle primarily for commuting rather than to exercise or become a stronger cyclist, then the low gearing is just fine.
Another benefit of the lower gear is that you will experience less joint stress.
The Downside of Using an 11-32 Cassette
The main problem with relying on an 11-32 cassette would be the larger jumps between the gears.
The larger the first gear on a cassette is, the larger the transition jumps have to be.
The table below contains the gradation of 11-speed 11-25, 11-28, 11-30 and 11-32 cassettes.
- The transitions between the first 4 cogs are identical.
- The transition between the 4th and the 5th gear is the largest in the case of the 11-32 cassette. (14T to 16T)
- The 11-32 has the largest transition between the 10th and 11th gear (28T to 32T)
- The 11-25 cassette offers the smallest transitions. The jumps from the 1st to the 7th gear are minimal (one tooth).
Larger transitions between the gears make it harder to maintain a smooth cadence. Cadence is a term indicating the crank rotations that the rider makes in 1 minute.
Higher cadence such as 90 RPM results in energy efficiency and higher average speeds. Hence the saying “spinning is winning”.
The larger jumps, however, make it more difficult to maintain constant cadence because each consecutive gear has a notably different gear ratio.
Of course, the difference isn’t massive, and most casual cyclists wouldn’t care. However, those who want to have smaller jumps between the gears allowing them to maintain the smoothest possible cadence will benefit from getting a cassette with a smaller large cog such as 11-25.
The trade-off is that you will lose the bail-out gearing that comes with the 32T cog.
Summary: What You Need To Know
- A compact 50/34 crankset is a good choice for cyclists who plan on riding seriously.
- Combining a 50/34 crankset with an 11-32 cassette is also a very decent option because you have the best of both worlds – very high gears and very low gears.
- For some people, a 32T cog may be too large, especially if the terrain is mostly flat. In that case, it’s logical to replace the cassette with 11-25 or 11-28 and benefit from the smaller jumps between the gears making it easier to maintain a smoother cadence.