The gearing on modern bikes is probably one of the greatest improvements seen in the last twenty years. The only issue I have is that for the non-racing leisure rider, like me, the gear ratios available are well outside the range I am likely to use.
Even with a “Compact” crankset with 50 – 34 chainrings, the 11 speed rear cassette comes with a 11 or 12 tooth top sprocket. And the 12 x 50 gives me a top gear of 112 inches, which I can guarantee I am never going to use.
Even more frustrating, the gears I use most, the ones between 65 inches and the upper 70s, fall all the way over on the large inside sprockets of the cassette, when using the 50 tooth chainring, and the other extreme when using the inside 34 chainring and outside small sprockets on the rear.
Riding most of the time with my chain out of line just causes unnecessary wear on chains and sprockets.
It would be nice if 11 speed cassettes were available with a top sprocket of 13 or 14 teeth, but they are not. At least I haven’t been able to find one.
I did however, recently discover that Campagnolo make a Cyclo-Cross crankset, with 46 – 36 chainrings. I wasn’t sure if they would fit my Athena crankset.
Campagnolo has this strange set up where the compact chainrings have a 110mm. Bolt Circle Diameter (BCD) but the one bolt that is threaded into the inside of the crank arm is on a slightly bigger diameter circle, for some reason. Other makes of chainrings with 110 BCD will not fit.
A search on eBay for “Campagnolo 46 tooth CX chainring,” brought up an abundance of them. I ordered a silver one for my wife’s bike. It fitted with no problem. It was an easy swap, I didn’t even need to remove the crank or the pedal.
I went ahead and ordered a black one for my bike. Now I can ride using my new 46 big ring, and the sprockets I use most are the 16, 17, 18, and 19, right in the middle of my cassette. I still have a top gear of 103 inches, which I am also unlikely to use, but who knows, one day I might be on a steep downhill with the wind behind me.