Swapping chainrings from 50/34 to 52/36?

Having too much time to think about stuff, lately I’ve been pondering the usefulness of going compact to 52/36. On one hand, I’m never in a situation where I’m spinning out at 50-11, but my current setup is 8 speed (cassette 11,13,15,17,19,21,24,28) and I believe when i’m doing sweet spot outside I’m in 50-17 quite a bit. For whatever reason, the jump from 17 to 15 feels especially big to me (I just looked up the gear inches, and it’s 77 and 88 respectively, which might not be that big of a jump to some, but maybe it is!). the gear inches for 52-17 would be a 81, which seems more of a reasonable area, and according to the speed calculator, 90rpm at 50-17 would be 0.8mph slower than 52-17. More practically speaking as someone who has been enjoying sweet spot work outside, seems like my current gearing allows to average 90-92% of ftp comfortably and it’s tougher to get comfortable cadence wise approaching 100%.

So it seems like i’m talking myself into an upgrade lol But would love to hear thoughts from those who know more and have more experience with this, because I may be making all this up!

Having a quick look if you don’t mind losing the bigger gears on the cassette. Shimano do a
12-21 (12-13-14-15-16-17-19-21 ) and a 13-23 (13-14-15-16-17-19-21-23) also look at Miche Primato 8 they have a few options, going to a 52/36 may just shift the problem to the 19/21.

Not an answer, but using a calculator like this to compare your considerations can shed light on the impact of your proposed changes.


That was my initial thought but in looking up the gear inches:
50-17 (generally comfortable for me): 77.78
50-15 (generally less comfortable cadence-wise): 88.1
52-17: 80.96

So the 52-17 just appears to be a modest increase which would be not too far off of the 50-17, at least on paper and not just shifting everything up a cog. And if it made it easier to average like 270ish rather than 260ish at a comfortable cadence, I’d be all about that. I really don’t want to give up the 28t and go too tight with the cassette, we do have some climbing in New England that I need that for lol

My wife runs a Shimano DuraAce 52-34.

I use a Shimano Ultegra 53-36.

It works on newer Shimano stuff. Shifts exactly the same as their more typical 52-36 or 50-34 models.

I’ve only tried this on the Ultegra and DuraAce stuff made in the last 5 years. I’m virtually certain it would work on 105 as well.

No idea if it will work on older stuff, entry level components, or anything other than 11-speed.


Once you drop the old lady gears, 50/34 smdh, you should just go with 53/39. The massive wattage bazookas during your climbing repeats will necessitate your needing to drag brakes (uphill) so you don’t achieve low earth orbit.

I did that change from 50/34 to 52/36, with a 11-32 Sram cassette (11 speed). I was fine with the compact until I entered a few races. I had looked at the gear calculators before and came to the conclusion that I wouldn’t need the 52t, but changing to it still helped for some reason. Most likely because my “comfort cadence” is fairly low, and bigger gears mean I can ride at a lower cadence.

I do miss the 34t on some of our 15%+ climbs though.