Useful Double Drivetrains with Easton’s Gravel Shifting Rings – Morgan Taylor Apr 12, 2018

Photos and words by Morgan Taylor

Double drivetrains may currently be out of vogue for off-pavement riding, but I think they really do have a place on today’s gravel and adventure bikes. While the chainring combinations in Easton’s Gravel Shifting Rings introduced today aren’t a new idea by any means, they make a lot of sense with the way people are using their bikes these days.

47/32, 46/30, 46/36

In addition to normal road doubles and single ring options for Easton’s EC90 SL cranks, they’ve introduced three new direct mount “super compact” doubles: 47/32, 46/30, and 46/36. The latter is the classic ‘cross double, something Easton did not offer until now. More interesting, however, are the 47/32 and 46/30, which are very well suited to the off-pavement excursions riders are seeking out on bikes they probably call their road bike.

I’ve personally been gravitating toward this type of chainring combo as I dial in a couple of Campy drivetrains this year. When I reached out to Easton a few months back to discuss a project I’d been scheming on that would make use of their EC90 SL crank and Cinch power meter, I was prepared to use a regular compact chainring combination, as 50/34 was the smallest they offered at the time.

When they hit me back saying I could have the chance to be among the first to ride the new 47/32 rings, I jumped at the opportunity and have spent the past couple of months on a pre-production version of the 47/32, receiving the production 46/30 just last week to shoot these photos.

Super Compact?

I don’t know who gets credit for using this term first, but I’m sick of it already. Rather than get down the wormhole of dissecting terms, let’s just talk about how we might see the new rings in use.

There’s a distinct difference in how we go about choosing gears for road riding and choosing gears for mountain biking and bikepacking. On the road, bigger chainrings and smaller jumps between gears are prioritized. On a mountain bike, particularly with today’s 1x systems, you choose your front chainring based on your climbing needs.

In the hot category of gravel and adventure riding, where bikes with drop bars and road gearsets are ridden in terrain more traditionally associated with mountain bikes, that need for lower gears is real. Yet, at the same time, these bikes are usually an everything bike, being ridden further distances on pavement than most mountain bikes are. So, the need for smaller jumps between gears is still there.

This is where I really see the small chainrings of 30 and 32 teeth finding their own. You can run an 11-28 or 11-32 cassette, get a climbing gear that’s 1:1 or slightly better, and still maintain the smaller jumps between gears that these narrower cassettes boast. On the long end, the 46 and 47-tooth chainrings offer plenty of go combined with an 11-tooth cog.

If you regularly spin out a 46/11, power to you. You probably also have opinions about 1x drivetrains on road bikes. I’m personally quite happy with my gear range being skewed toward the easier end of the spectrum, but like the narrower gear jumps of smaller cogsets for the “everything bike” application.

I won’t delve any further into the numbers here, but will instead point you toward Easton’s White Paper on the Gravel Shifting Rings in their Product Manuals section. They’ve nerded out mega-hard on gear ratios and wheel diameters, if you’re into that kinda thing. I am.

A Modular System

Easton’s EC90 SL crankset makes use of the Cinch direct mount chainring interface, also seen on sister company Race Face’s mountain bike cranks. You have a wide variety of direct mount single ring options, a direct mount spider for standard and compact road cranks, and the new spiderless doubles seen here. And they’re all compatible with the co-branded Cinch power meter spindle, which is the foundation for my still-in-progress build.

What this means is you can mix and match to some extent, and what I’ve chosen to do is to run Race Face’s 134mm mountain bike Cinch power meter spindle with the EC90 arms, which pushes my Q-factor out by 5mm – a similar idea to what Max at 333fab did with the Air Land Sea’s 73mm bottom bracket and White Industries R30 road crank arms. In the long run I can swap my power meter spindle to a mountain bike with Race Face arms, or run it like this on 68mm shells. I’ll save my thoughts on this system for another story.

The Burning Question

So how do they shift? As noted above, I rode the 47/32 for the last couple of months, putting about 750 km on the rings. Right out of the box, upshifts and downshifts were smooth and quick. The ramps pick up the chain reliably and quietly. I’m not dropping chains in either direction. I’ve now got my hands on the 46/30, which is photographed here, and you’ll see that I haven’t yet got the front derailleur low enough. Upshifts are slower, but that’s not the fault of the rings. Essentially, as long as your front derailleur is set up properly, you can expect high quality shifting out of Easton’s rings. 

A Useful Double

More important than numbers, which readers of this site will know I’m happy to get way deep with, is the fact that the way we’re using drop bar bikes these days simply dictates having lower gears on them. Just like wider tires are suitable for a broad range of people looking to get more from their everyday bike, “super compact” double chainrings are welcome to the party too. On-road, smaller jumps between gears are appreciated. Off-road, having an easy enough gear to climb the hills you want to climb is important. Nobody’s forcing you to ride a double, but I’m enjoying it!

The humongous crustacean is a work in progress, but it’s coming along nicely.

  • Jim Seely
  • barry mcwilliams

    I’m so stoked I got my CX/Gravel/whatever/Stinner before 1x was everywhere. I’d probably have gotten it that way & been bummed on a pretty typical ride of Lowe up to Wilson & the 2 down. My climbing gear is probably 34×32 – which is great loaded – and I regularly spin out going down the 2 in 50×11 (I think). The more bikepacking I do, I may look into these in a few months.

  • Drew Carlson

    My “road bike” has Praxis Alba 48/32 chainset with an 11-32 cassette and the 1:1 is a great bailout. If I had a regular compact I would definitely be interested in the 46/30. So exciting that the options keep increasing! Should these be able to work with any of the major brand road groupsets?

    • Yep. These cranks are 11-speed compatible and work with any drivetrain. I’m using a 10-speed Campy right now and am moving to an 11-speed group soon.

  • Bil Thorne

    This gearing is so fucking reasonable and not stupid. It’s like Easton doesn’t care if we race.

    Now bring on the ea90/70/whatever and make the price reasonable to match.

    • colavitos_ghost

      I definitely agree with the sentiment of your comment, so please don’t take this as a know-it-all/gotcha-type response… But! hear me out… rolling 700x38s, at 90rpm, in 47×11 you’re going over 31 mph! I think for true “un-racers,” 42 may be better as a “big” ring. But of course, YMMV.

      • Bil Thorne

        Some nerds pedal downhill even though it’s obviously break time.

      • Check out that White Paper I linked to. So much pedal nerding.

    • I too would love to see EA70 crank arms on the Cinch system. It would make a lot of sense as a complement to the EA70 AX wheels and bars. Keep talking, they’re listening!

      • Tim Guarente

        It might not be a deal breaker, but I love my 180mm crank arms, and RF/Easton aren’t doing any 180s right now. I’d love a CINCH 180 alloy armset. I’ll ride 175s, but don’t feel as at home there.

      • Bil Thorne

        I guess people running 170 or 175 cranks could get the Easton spindle on Turbine cranks, but that’s a lot of work for non bike geeks.

        • DominicBruysPorter

          Also that leads you to mtb q-factor. Unless i missed something somewhere the Eastons are a more road q factor. This is because there’s different amounts of outward curvature to the arms, not because of spindle length. Though they may have used both to get there?

          • Bil Thorne

            Yeah you’re right. I forgot how straight Easton arms are. Less of a Q factor than Turbines and a regular spindle but a lot more than regular Eastons.

  • Dave Pelletier

    that’s a lotta lobster! Great looking rig. I love the idea of 1x, but it just doesn’t feel right to me on a road-style rig. All technical considerations aside, I feel a bit trapped by it if that makes sense.

    • Thanks! Yeah, it’s huge. It’s the first bike I’ve ever slammed a stem on, 200mm head tube!

      • Frank

        Hi Morgan.
        Can we talk about your Rock Lobster? I’m thinking of getting Paul to make me one as well and as well.
        I’m franktoman at yahoo.com (so that I don’t bore all these good folk)
        Best. Frank

        • Absolutely, Frank! But I’ll let you know I’m not the original owner of the bike, so I won’t have much input on the custom process.

  • alex

    Knew this would come back. Now all I gotta do is wait another lil’ bit and my ’99 IF with a triple will be looking pretty good

  • Dr J

    This is a welcome addition to modern crankset options but it’s still a bit too conservative by my standards. I’ve been successfully using Sugino’s “Compact Plus” OX601D (unfortunately, no longer manufactured) since 2013, first in 44/30T combo, then 44/28 and now 42/26T. While this may be too low of gearing for those who race on gravel, for the rest of Average Joes like me, it’s perfect. I’m using the full range of 11sp cassette with the highest gear of 42/11 resulting in 106 gear inches. More is not necessary for my style of riding.
    https://www.instagram.com/p/BhUjeT5gBnG/?taken-by=drj.bbb
    https://www.instagram.com/p/BhUxoDggc6S/?taken-by=drj.bbb

    • Definitely potential for smaller combinations as well. The spiderless system would work perfectly. I would guess that the response to these new ring combinations would determine whether engineering gets the go-ahead to develop more new doubles.

      • This just in: apparently Race Face’s mountain doubles will work with the EC90 crank too!

        • Tim Guarente

          And vice versa if you want some budget crankarms at the cost of q factor.

        • macatarere

          I’ve been using a RF 120/80 spider for quite a few months now, EC90SL wide axle’d with a RF134 spindle. WickWerks 42/28 or 40/26 rings or TA Specialties 44/30. For road disc, derailleur spaced out with SRAM wide adapter or 3D printed spacer. It wasn’t easy getting there but well worth it.

          • That’s rad, good to know someone else is getting in deep on this stuff. Clamp on FD or braze?

          • macatarere

            For road clamped braze-on I’ve used SRAM part 11.7618.000.003. On an Open UP I’ve used a 3D printed spacer behind the bolt-on braze-on, the spacer is long enough to provide a second lower position for smaller rings. The dropped drive side chain stay is perfect for this. T47 2.5mm spacers each side of the EVO386 bb adapter places the bearings a little further apart, no extra spacers needed on the spindle.
            For mountain the derailleur adapters are already properly spaced.
            Swapping the road and mountain spindles is easy, no LBS or Easton needed. Powered meter maybe, some day.

        • mrbiggs

          A tangential aside: I was wanting to run Easton’s crank with their narrow Q on a drop-bar trail bike that has a 73mm BB shell, but Easton/RaceFace couldn’t make that combination happen. I would have had to buy the Easton cranks with the 68mm spindle, and then a separate $75 spindle from the RaceFace side. So the mountain stuff works with the road stuff, but I suppose unless you’ve got people at Easton, it’s not easy.
          I wish they were seeing this for what it is, which is not exactly road, not exactly mountain, and offered choices on the spindle for both the RF cranks and the Easton. I’m a mountain biker so the 168mm Q doesn’t really bother me, but the Easton cranks are 14mm narrower which would have been perfect on this bike.

    • Peter Chesworth

      Yes to 42/26. And an 11/28 at the other end. And 9 speed. And square taper. I’m amazed at the ability of people to spin out their gears. Perhaps it is my age … 52, so I have more yesterday’s than tomorrows. Perhaps spinning out would occur riding in a bunch but unless on a steep descent I have no chance of spinning out a 42/11. Lots of choices out there now, White VBC for me, Herse, Sugino, and frankly more useful for most people than sparkling new 12 speed road kit.

      • Andrew Neville

        “Perhaps it is my age … 52, so I have more yesterdays than tomorrows” I’m 52 as well and thats a fucking depressing statement.

        • macatarere

          Yes, but a day tomorrow is worth twice as much as yesterday :).

        • Peter Chesworth

          Cheer up Andrew … we 52 year olds gotta stick together, and deep down we know we’re totally brilliant in every possible way 🚴🏼

    • Masterchief

      Could not agree more. I choose a Deore 38/24 double combined with an 11-32t casstte for my Trek 520 commuter build a year ago, and it has been absolutely perfect. I actually get use of the 9th and 10th cog on my cassette.
      edit: pretty bike, btw.

    • skog_smog

      I’ve been successfully using a Sugino XD triple crankset set up as 44/28 (All-City Crossing Guard in place of the big ring, a 44T Sugino single-speed “middle” ring, and the 28T granny that came with the crankset) paired with a 9-speed 11-28. Front shifting is fine, even without ramps/pins on the bigger ring. But it doesn’t matter to me because it effectively operates as a 1x system 95% of the time, with a bail-out granny ring if I ever really need it. Yes, the Q-factor is about 160, but it’s a super cheap way to get into super-compact, especially if you skip the Crossing Guard (which would also shave a few grams). And it’s still square taper, which to some people is “better.”

      Rivendell offers a set-up like this, based on the Sugino XD crankset, but I don’t like the gearing combinations they selected (or the Schwinn-looking chain guard they put on there). I’d suggest starting with bare crankarms and selecting exactly the rings you want.

      (Sorry about the weird, crappy photo…it’s all I could find. Yes, I’m wearing SPD shoes on flat pedals. Yes, the chain is missing. Yes, I’m inside my house and not on a trainer).
      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/7cfc0221752817e00d0763d8d30facc35bd7a854acbd10076d03e265b50d91ae.jpg

  • Jordan Muller

    I love the double. I currently run SRAM 44/26 up front with an 11-34 in the back. Day to day riding I am always in the big ring up front regardless of the terrain but once I go out for a loaded tour, the 26 is perfect for spinning up stupid gravelly climbs.

    • colavitos_ghost

      Pro Move right there.

    • Our touring and commuting bikes still have mountain doubles on them. We live up a big and steep hill, so the small ring is appreciated!

  • nothingfuture

    Yes.
    My gravel bike (which runs unfashionable 26 x 48 wheels and tires) has been served exceptionally well by using an old MTB triple crank as a double. The 44 x 32 combo with an 11-28 cassette gives me an excellent range for noodling about and having adventures.
    That said, the crank and bb are square taper, and… yeah. I wouldn’t mind being able to be a little more modern on that bike- so having options like this is fantastic.

    • Not to mention the Q-factor of a road crank is generally about 20mm narrower. People who are accustomed to riding mtb cranks don’t tend to mind either way, but people coming from the road side are often more particular.

      • rocketman

        If you prefer low Q the Ritchey 94BCD cranks will fit 46-30 rings with Q of about 140mm if you run a shorter BB. Lots of people cobble 94 BCD cranks together to achieve the same drivetrain Easton is now selling. It’s a good thing to have choices!!

  • Nick Erickson

    Sugino have been making these cranksets for a quick second. The idea that these cranks/ratios are new or novel is probably due to traditional standards which are more exclusive than inclusive for most riders.

    • For sure. It’s not new, but it’s packaged in a way that has the potential to reach more people.

      • Nick Erickson

        Easton is a big deal….

  • Harley Raylor

    Awesome white paper by Easton! Thanks for drawing our attention to it. The analysis of a larger circumference tire making the gearing higher was enlightening. I’ve been running white industries 46/30 with 11-32 and have been happy with shifting performance. Do you have any experience with white industries cranksets to compare to the Easton shifting?

    • I’m super into the White Paper! It looks like something I would write, even. But I cannot take credit for this one. I’m glad I’m not the only one doing this kind of thing.

      I haven’t spent much time on White Industries VBC rings, as in, I’ve never had them on my own bike, but here’s my take:

      White Industries VBC are more of a traditional rando style ring set, where you can mix and match small and big rings, and have as much as a 24 tooth difference between rings. Because of this broad compatibility (like you could run a 46/24 or a 46/36 with the same big ring), the rings are not engineered to optimize shifting with ramps as modern road rings are – as that would mean making dozens of different rings. They do have a handful of pins which help pick up the chain. Because of this, you can expect slightly slower shifting, where you have to let off the power a bit to get it to shift smoothly.

      In contrast, the Eastons (and other modern performance road stuff like SRAM/Shimano/Campy) have a combinations of pins and machined ramps that pick up the chain more quickly than a ring without ramps. This lets you ram the shifter under some load and it still goes. In racing, that’s what people expect. Day to day, it’s less important, but does result in quieter shifts.

      Let’s be clear: you won’t have bad shifting with White Industries rings. But you need to be a bit more precise with your shifts – kinda like friction shifting versus indexed. And the larger the spread between chainrings, the more likely it is you will have slow shifting.

  • Jake Kruse

    big thumbs up. i have been running a 46×30 combo on sugino cranks for a long time and it is great. cool to see practicality and a break from racing influenced traditions from a big player.

  • Donald Stevenson

    It just seems like Easton is offering what people have cobbled together on their own and taken credit for it. I’m sure the cranks and rings work great, but the marketing “white paper” is hardly new thinking and the price point doesn’t make it any more available.

    • Bert

      ^Ditto. I don’t think it’ll be long before someone makes a simple Cinch compatible 100/74 BCD double spider so that you’re able to swerve the $$$ Easton jobbies use ‘normal’ (read affordable) chainrings. Pretty much what PVD and Engin Cycles have been doing for Sram Xsync road cranks… https://www.instagram.com/p/BheRLI-hKR6/?taken-by=engincycles

  • Adam Leddin

    Thanks for this Morgan, looks like a good offering from Easton. I’d be interested in hearing how that Campy combo works out for you, I’ve been looking for a rival to a top-pull SRAM Rival front mech and looks like you’ve nailed it with this setup!

    • Even as it sits it’s shifting decently. The front shifter should ideally be able to shift from small to big in one single swing of the shift lever, which is 5 clicks. Unfortunately, so far I’ve only been able to tune this one to work with 6 clicks. So it’s two half-shifts and a very positive move to the big ring, both with the 47/32 and the 46/30.

      I’m sure the wider spindle isn’t helping, even though neither limit screw is completely bottomed, but the bigger problem right now is the derailleur can’t get low enough on the braze-on mount. I’m not tied to this 9-speed Mirage derailleur by any means, and will see if I can find one that mounts lower.

      I’ve got a Super Record 11 group to go on the bike, but the front derailleur is a clamp, so I’ll have to get a different derailleur anyway. Even though it’s a ‘cross frame, I think the braze-on mount is set for a standard road crankset, as the original owner didn’t order it as a ‘cross race bike.

      • Adam Leddin

        Thanks Morgan, that’s awesome. Love your work!

  • jk123

    Thanks for the review, interested in these at 47/32. Curious, do they offer aluminum crank arms that are compatible with these rings? Say, EA90? Would rather not spend the $$ on carbon cranks.

    • donnie

      You can always use a RaceFace MTN crank and use their 129 spindle ( for Road) or the appropriate mountain spindle for your bike. That’s the great thing about Easton / Raceface, so many possibilities

    • Nothing less expensive at the moment, but fingers crossed! As noted, you can run Race Face arms on a Cinch road spindle if you want to shave 5mm of Q-factor from a mountain setup.

  • shezz

    Anyone know any reasonably affordable alternatives to get a 46/30 Chainring setup on a road bike/English BB? Seems like all cranksets offering this gearing are 300-600 bucks. 50/34 is decent for gravel racing around New England, but if I just want to tool around for 4-5 hours it becomes pretty brutal even with a 11-32t in the back when you are hitting 20% grades up loose dirt over and over.

    • FSA makes a number of options in their Adventure series. Like many in this comment thread have done, you could probably cobble together an old mountain triple on a narrow square taper BB if you were industrious and had access to someone’s hoard or a community bike shop.

      • shezz

        Yeah I checked out some of the FSA stuff, looks like they have a Gossamer crank for like 160, but it only goes down to 32t and I think its an oversized spindle for BBs like BB30…(which makes little sense to me seeing how popular trad 68mm English BBs are with adventure bikes at the moment). Sugino has one but its like 350-400 iirc.

        • sturtlovinggood

          I use the FSA Omega system, which came stock on my new Space Horse. It uses the (proprietary?) BB386EVO FSA spindle standard but in a 68mm English shell. The Adventure series goes down to a 46/30 combo, but I run a 46/32 and it works just fine. I don’t see anywhere that sells the 46/30T with the crank arms, which is unfortunate. Mine came 50/34 and I ordered new rings through my LBS. Maybe your local shop can order the whole system with 46/30 out of the box

    • Dr J

      I guess the lowest cost would be to get a road triple crankset and just remove the largest ring. Use middle and inner position for chainrings you like. The Q-factor will suffer a little and you may have to experiment a bit which front mech would be the best suited for this setup, but it will work.

    • skog_smog

      Unless I’m missing something, this crankset is pretty reasonable at $150, comes in 46/30, and Easton offers a 68mm English bottom bracket. http://www.gravelcyclist.com/bicycle-tech/press-release-easton-launches-new-gravel-shifting-rings/

      • jdb

        $150 is for the chainrings only, EC90SL cranks are $400 MSRP :(

        • skog_smog

          That’s….absurd.

    • Specialites TA 50.4 bcd square taper. With 46 and 30t rings.

    • Jeff McAllister

      http://store.somafab.com/irdwicorodoc.html

      or take a widely available 110/74 triple and use only the inner and middle positions.

    • macatarere

      Middleburn from Betd in the UK, square taper and x-type cranks. Their square taper 110/58 bcd spider on an x-type crank will get close to a mtn chainline.

    • Rory Woods
    • I just put a praxis works ALBA on my monster cross. It’s $175, but 46×32 is the smallest option. https://praxiscycles.com/product/alba-m30/

  • I can see the obvious benefits to this crankset, but for those of you looking to be able to get the right gearing with a double on the cheap, wouldn’t the classic TA 50.4 bcd crankset be a really good choice? TA still makes rings, and they go down to 26t.

  • Stuart Hanson

    I’m running a WI 48/32 front setup- totally would have gone with these in 46/30. Nice to see reasonable gears for more than just race-inspired hammerfests.

  • Stefan Haverkamp

    Would be awesome to see more solutions like these, across a wider price range. Currently my gravel bike sports a 30/42 combination up front, using an ancient Shimano XT M737 crankset with a shortish 107mm square taper bottombracket and Specialites TA chainrings which have the drawback of being strictly 9-speed compatible. So it is getting harder to find useful cassettes with useful ranges. That said, I rarely feel in need of more than the 42/12 terminal gear….

    • Let’s keep our fingers crossed! Agreed about not needing the top end gears, even on club rides.

  • Jim Porter
    • I’m actually gonna give one of these a go, but I think the wider chainline might also be giving me a bit of grief on this setup. I’ll update when I write up the whole bike with its own gallery.

      • Jim Porter

        Cool, please send me the link when done!

  • In the UK Spa Cycles offer triples with the outer ring replaced with an aluminium chainguard & ring sizes of 46/30T down to 40/24T in various crank lengths:
    https://www.spacycles.co.uk/m2b0s109p3383/SPA-CYCLES-Super-Compact-Chainset-with-Zicral-Rings

  • Fasar

    For me gravel is only 1×11. But anyways this crankset makes a lot of sense.

  • Ken

    Morgan…nice write-up. Did you notice much difference between 47/32 and 46/30 as far as gearing goes? I know the % difference, but am curious on your thought as you’ve ridden both. Thanks.

    • Going to the 46/30 I definitely felt the easier gear at the low end – two teeth is something any mountain biker with a single ring drivetrain gets used to the difference of. And then the next thing I noticed was the larger jump between the rings.

      The top speed I don’t really notice, even though I’ve only got a 13 tooth small cog on this drivetrain. 47/13 or 46/13, they’re both relatively short, but I have no problem riding with folks with 52/11 top gears on this one. Brings me back to the days of riding fixed and having even less top end.

      • Ken

        Appreciate your thoughts.