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Double versus triple chainwheel

Stephen Price2020-08-27 16:36:28

Hello. We bought an orbit tandem a few months ago which we love. We have been riding tandems for 36 years and always used triple chain wheels. I understand that triples are now very much ‘out of vogue’. In fact even doubles are being done away with but perhaps not on tandems yet. Anyway, what I can’t understand is why triples aren’t used on tandems? Having a double means we have a rear block which goes up to 46 teeth, a foot long derailleur arm which just about clears the ground and an extra half a mile of chain to travel round it all. Most of all, even with an 11 speed there is a far bigger jump between each sprocket. A triple would reduce the length of arm, reduce the amount of chain needed and give a nice close ratio between sprockets, which would not only mean that you could always choose the right cadence but would have less wear and tear on chain and rear mech. Not to mention the whole thing probably working out lighter! We also find that we would ideally like a slightly lower and a slightly higher gear, both of which would be easier to create with the use of a triple.

can somebody tell me what I’m missing here? I’m happy to be converted if someone can convince me that this is porward progress🙂


Brian Stephen Reid2020-08-27 19:54:27

We have Campagnolo Veloce 3 X 11 on our Orbit Lightning. Most manufacturers are pulling out or triples, but we wouldn't be without it.


Stephen Price2020-08-27 21:12:48

Well it’s encouraging to hear that. You must have purchased your tandem before they did away with triples🙂 a 3x11 sounds perfect.

David Ebling2020-08-27 22:07:57

I still prefer triple even on my mountain bike; I don't really care that it's deeply unfashionable these days. I like a big gear range and was never that bothered about chain slap so the whole 1x thing doesn't excite me greatly.

In fact I've just fitted a new 3x9 drivechain to my mountain bike with 11-34 and 22/32/44.

A single or a double on a tandem sounds awful to me, except perhaps a compact double on a tandem intended for racing/unloaded riding at speed with two fast riders, but perhaps any reduction in popularity of triples is driven by component availability rather than desirability?

Stephen Gray2020-08-27 22:27:29

For a tandem or any sort of touring bike with derailleur gears, a triple works best as it puts the gears you use most on the middle ring in the middle of the cassette. The gear range required can be achieve more easily with smaller steps and a better chain line and you don't need a super long rear derailleur cage if you adjust the chain length so it will cover the sprocket and chain ring combinations you should be using to keep a sensible chain line. So long as you can still get a front changer that will cover the width and don't mind using a square taper b/b. (Shimano sealed cartridge takes a lot of beating in my opinion) you will be able to obtain and run a triple for a long time yet.

Matthew Hodges2020-08-27 23:01:50

We had a Greenspeed Recumbent Tandem Trike with a Triple and a 3 X8 rear hub giving a total of 72 very much overlapping gears with a total range from about 14 inch to 130 inch IIRC. Unfortunately the hub gear part of the 3 X 8 rear hub failed a few years ago but i have since replaced it with a Rohloff 14 speed hub so theoretically it is now 3 X 14 but I am very wary of using the small chain ring with the Rohloff as it is well below the minimum size approved by Rohloff. 

The 3 X 8 itself a good arrangement with a single chain ring.. hub middle is direct and gives you the 8 deraileur gears you use most Low drops the range by quite a bit and high raises it quite a bit.. One advantage over a triple chain ring is that when you stop without changing down far enough you can drop into hub low while starionary to help start off again.. I don't know whether they are still available. 

Another is that you can use the whole deraileur range in all three hub setting. No problem of big ring to big sprocket or little to little.