Anyone have experience with 52/34 chainring setup?

Hi all,

I’ve got a trip to the Dolomites next year. I’m currently running a 52/36 on the front with an 11/32 on the back. Some of the climbs I’ll be doing (Zoncolan, Mortirolo, etc) are fairly steep. My preference when climbing is to keep my cadence as high as possible and I was thinking of swapping out my front chainrings. Is it better to go to a true compact (50/34) or can a get away with just swapping my small chainring to a 34?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

I believe that there is a limit to the difference between the big and little rings, 16 tooth or there abouts.
you could try it but I believe that your shifting will begin to suffer as the jump is too big.

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I had a friend that ran a 52/34 on Sram Red with no problems. I had purchased a set of Wickwerks Ultra Wides but never installed them, ended up selling them.


These certainly are steep climbs! It’s possible that even 34-32 may not be sufficient - obviously depends on how strong a rider you are.

It’s worth going on to best bike split, or to check what speed you’ll be riding at for a given power output on those climbs.

Then calculate the cadence you’ll be spinning at in your 34-32 gear for that speed. If the cadence is lower than your preference, you may need additional gearing.

I’ve put on a MTB cassette (11-40) on my road bike when I’ve done long steep climbs. Certainly helps!


You can get away with it.

I have this setup on my bike for 5000 km now and the only time I had some troubles with it was on the cobbles. But as as already said the shifting wil begin to suffer as the jump is to big but I don’t think there will be big jumps on these gradual climbs you mentioned.

The disadvantages do not outweigh the benefits (money wise) in my opinion.

Officially it’s not supported but a few club mates run 52/34 on Dura ace/ultegra and report it’s fine.

I did La Marmotte last year. I ran a 50/34 with a 11-34 cassette. Oh man, I was very glad of the 34/34. Id go 34/36 if thats possible. Better to have the option than not. On the high end, I found a 50/11 just fine for the flat and downhill sections.

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I’m running 52/34 on Dura-ace 9000. As others have said, it’s not officially supported but works okay. I find shifting from the 34 up to the 52 is a little slower than it was with a 36 (normal front DA shifting is amazing). I’m not sure if I could tune that out a little, it’s good enough that I haven’t bothered, and certainly good enough for a week or two in the Dolomites.


Just wondering why it is that you need to keep a 52 chainring? The top end speed difference between 50 and 52 is 1.5mph at the same cadence.
Are you planning on descending at over 50mph?

The drop from a 52 to a 34 is not recommended, this is why shimano doesn’t make that combination.
You increase the risk of dropping your chain, as you would probably have to dump 6 or 7 gears before dropping.

You will have plenty of gears if you stick a compact on your bike.

I also don’t see why you want to keep the 52 chainring for the Dolomites as you’ll either be going straight up or straight down. Unless you’re gonna be powering the downhills at insane speeds, and seeing as you think you need a 34/32 to go uphill then no offence but I can’t see that you will. However I have known a few people use the 52/34 combo without any issues. Personally I used a 34/28 this year in the Dolomites and it was perfect for me, previously I have used a 36/32. Shimano also now do a 30T with a cassette which I used late this summer in the mountains and is now my top choice for this kind of riding.

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Possibly because swapping out both rings costs way more than just the small ring. Shimano big rings (certainly at the Dura-ace level) cost a heap.

Thanks for the input everyone. The main reason I was contemplating getting only swapping out the small ring was cost. I run sram etap and I’m sure the big rings are more expensive to swap. Having said that, I hate dropping chains so I might swap out both to a compact. I certainly won’t be pedalling much on the descents.

I ran 52/34 on Ultegra at Haute Route Ventoux last year with ZERO issues. My brother ran the same on Dura-ace at the same event with ZERO issues too. No dropped chains.

Your front shifting performance will likely decline, as the front pins and ramps will no longer be properly aligned to pick up the chain, but 52/34 will not be the Chain Ring of Death. Assuming this is more touring than racing, you are probably not having to shift under load, so this may not be a major problem. Also, in the Dolomites, you are probably in the big ring, or in the small ring, and not changing between them all that often.

A small ring and a chain keeper are probably a much cheaper solution than a full compact setup.

Yes. I run ‘hybrid’ setups on my road and TT bikes.
Road: 52/34 with 11-28 rear for local riding, and 11-32 for the Alps. Sram Red ETAP.
TT: 53/36 with 11-28 rear. Shimano Ultegra Mechanical.
Both bikes are short cage rear mechs.

All setups work fine, I have also used a 33 front for the Fred Whitton (I was gad of that!) - you have to be very careful not to cross-chain with the 52F/32R combo, and for the best results be ‘mechanically sympathetic’ when shifting (take the load off, don’t do changes whilst standing etc).
I have a chain catcher on the roady, and would be lying if I said that I have never dropped a chain, but it’s so infrequent that I never think about it, and because I am not under load when changing gear, i can often catch it and use the mech to flick the chain back on without stopping.
I wouldn’t hesitate to run this combo, but wouldn’t advise it for a newbie or to someone who is a gear masher and likes full power shifts.
Oh, and you will want the 52/11 in the Alps, in fact any long downhill needs more than a 50/11 IMO.

I used to use 52/34 and went to 52/36.
The downside of 52/34 is, that the tooth offset of the two rings does not match. In the Moment of the shift, the chain cannot sit engaged in the teeth of the 52 and the 34 at the same time. It sits more “on the teeth” on the 34. It is only if the chain leaves the 52, it sort of falls into the 34. I’d go for a long cage / big cassette. A bit hard to explain in a foreign language…


Yes, I ran this on Shimano Ultegra with 6800 52/34 on the Andorra 4 Portes this summer. It allowed me to ride 11/28 cassette with the short cage rear mech. Although the new Ultegra /Dura Ace can cope with 32 max cassette anyway as I understand.
If you’re a Campag rear mech person then that will I think take greater than 28 anyway.

I have 50/34 and 11-34 and this is good for MOST climbs I do. At my best I am a 3w/kg rider - average, but I like climbs and higher cadence. I have done HC / Cat 1 climbs in VA and NC and as long as average gradients are <8% with short higher ramps, my set up is fine. But I have done a few climbs that are like the HOLL climb at worlds - a few miles of 7-10% and extended kickers at 20-30%, some on gravel. Even very strong riders are paperboying, grinding, or walking up.

In these cases, lower gearing than 34-34 would be more enjoyable and you would still have 11 cog for flats/descents. Absolute Black is making 48-32 or 46-30 chainrings that fit on Shimano cranks. Those could be an ideal solution. I think Easton / Praxis / FSA are other options for either full cranksets or rings. If you have a CX crankset around, I wonder if you can keep the 46 big ring and just buy the 30 tooth AB inner ring.

Does anyone run a 53/36? I’m running a 52/36 but as the front are getting worn I’m thinking of changing to a 53

i run 54/32 without issue on 11spd ultegra. You just have to dial in the FD trim carefully but its not hard.

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