Double Dog Dare? Or Triple Dog Dare?

Today's post comes from Tim Krueger, Salsa product manager. -Kid

A double on the Vaya? What the $#&@?

It has been asked what we were thinking when we decided to use a double crankset as a spec on a bike intended for recreational riding and touring.

To put it simply, we were thinking! Double cranksets and modern drivetrains have come a long way since the triple was the standard for those pursuits.

Triple front cranks were intended to create a larger gear range when cassettes (or freewheels!) could only reasonably have a range of 12-28 without large jumps in ratios, or making for poor shifting. Over time, technology and engineering have allowed more gears to be placed in the same space, allowing smoother shifting over a greater range of gears. As this technology plods forward, we will eventually see less of a need for additional front chainrings.

For example, the triple used to be the standard for mountain bikes. Now we are seeing compact doubles take their place on high-end mountain bikes with the advent of SRAM XX and FSA 386 technology, when paired with large range cassettes such as SRAM's 11-36 XX cassette. These drivetrains still yield an equivalent range to a standard triple drivetrain, yet are lighter and simpler.

This is the idea with the Vaya. We took a close look at the overall ratios involved with a road-based triple drivetrain. Take our Casseroll Triple for example. With a 30-39-50 front combination, and a 12-25 rear, it has a low gear inch measurement of 32.4. For those unfamiliar with this measurement, it means that in this lowest gear, the bike will travel 32.4 inches forward with every revolution of the pedals.

On the Vaya, this measurement in the lowest gear is 29.0 inches. So while on the surface, the Vaya's double appears to have less of a climbing gear than a road triple, in practice, it actually has a slightly lower gear than a standard road triple drivetrain. Even the traditional road triple with a 12-27 on the back still only has a 30.4 inch low gear.

Now, one could argue that even though this is true, the Vaya is still not as low as a touring setup such as a Sugino XD600 crankset paired with an 11-34 rear cassette, which yields a 20.9 inch low gear. And to that, you would be correct. However, we didn't design the Vaya to be a bike solely for touring. We designed the Vaya to be more of an 'all around' bike, one good for a variety of purposes. The Vaya is our road adventure bike. If you truly want that low of gearing, consider basing your build on a Vaya frameset and choose the gearing that you prefer, or start with a Vaya complete bike and change out your crankset.

Keep your eyes open, because in the near future you will begin to see a trend in cycling towards double cranksets. Because the Vaya may be among the first, but definitely not the last to be sporting the 34-50 and 11-32 combo to give the recreational cyclist the greatest all-around experience.

Thanks to for the gear calculations.


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Tim Krueger

Tim Krueger

I come from the land of trees, lakes and cheese. I like beef jerky, singletrack and pale ale. I believe derailleurs were invented for a very good reason. Long rides with good friends and campfires is really what its all about. Oh, and if its not anodized, its worthless.


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 Tom |

Compact Doubles also give a better drive train line with more usable gears.


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 Puerto Rico |

Thanks for your post, Tim.  I think it helps folks understand the Vaya better.

So if the industry is slowly but surely moving away from triple cranksets,  what are Salsa's plans for the Casseroll Triple, considering the amount of overlap between it and the Vaya (which is arguably even more versatile) and the not-too-dissimilar pricepoints?  As you pointed out, if you stuck a 12-27 cassette on the Casseroll Triple, the lowest gear is virtually indistinguishable from that on the Vaya.  So in keeping with the industry's trend, do you then change the Casseroll Triple to a Casseroll Double with the same crankset/cassette combo as the Vaya? What is the Casseroll Triple's value proposition now that the Vaya can do everything the Casseroll Triple can do, but can also handle more dirt, load, and have a simpler drivetrain than the Casseroll Triple?  Will the Casseroll Triple's sole differentiator be the semi horizontal dropouts the Vaya lacks?  And do you keep the Casseroll Single, or do you not?  Help me sort out my confusion, por favor.

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 JeffS |

You should have just said "you're correct it is NOT a decicated touring bike".

Like when I complain about the appearance and overly high handlebars you could say: "you're right. It is NOT an attractive bike".

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 Wally Kilburg |

I think Tim, I got confused about the Vaya which fueled my other posts. In the intro it was said the Vaya came about because you wanted a "dedicated touring bike" in the line up. In this post you clarify and admit the Vaya isn't a touring bike as stated in the introduction. Its a road adventure bike, kind of a jack-of-all-trades bike. Like the "path" bikes I see being pedaled around here - 11/32 and a compact crank. I see this sort of thing a lot and have ridden a few so yeah, thats not a touring set up just a nice easy pedal sort of thing. I get it now man.
It's still not my cup of tea. I have such a bike already so I'm still looking for that "dedicated tourer" and who knows maybe a Vaya frame might work out. Got any Geo you can share like CS length?

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 Butcher |

PR - We'll do a post in the future comparing the various Salsa models.  Thanks for asking. 

JeffS - Thanks for your opinion.  We heard it both times.  Thankfully, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. 

Wally - The Vaya is a lot of things.  As I stated in the introduction post, it is a road adventure bike.  It is also a more road capable (or dedicated) touring frame than our Fargo.  We may have different definitions and needs for a "touring" bike but I assure you and anyone reading this, the Vaya is a capable touring frame & bike.

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 Jeff |

This post has been removed by the author.

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 Jeff |

The more I read about the Vaya, the more I think it's exactly the bike I'm looking for. I want something that I can use as a road bike and for light touring. And that looks nice. So far, so good.

Butcher (or Tim): Any idea on when we can expect the specs/geometry updates?

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 Wally Kilburg |

Butcher - Yes it probably is a capable touring bike. But in its complete form, its not set up in that manner. There are extra hoops to jump through and costs associated with making it a touring rig. Either that or buy a frame and build or get someone to build it.

I hope to find a frame locally so I can take a look at it. My choices are narrowed. Whats interesting is the other two bikes I'm looking at are also dark brown. Is this the "in" 2010 color?

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 Jeff |

@Wally: I have a 2008 SE Lager SS that's even browner than the Vaya. (Think milk chocolate.) Last year, SE offered the same bike in black/red or white. Have to say, I prefer the brown, although I find it kind of ironic that I'm considering buying yet another brown bike.

The other bike I'm thinking about is the Masi Randonneur, another steel-framed touring bike. It's maroon.

But I'd give up diversity of color for disc brakes…

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 frankenbiker |

I look forward to future posts with more info and the new website.The vaya may be exactly what I am looking for.Is the geometry similar to the Fargo?

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 MG |

I'll be running a double on my Vaya, even though I'm building it up from a frameset.  I'm going to run a vintage Ritchey Logic crank on that bike (110BCD) with Salsa's awesome chainrings in a 36/50 configuration.  It'll push a 9-speed cassette, the range of which I haven't fully settled on yet (and could change depending on the ride/wheelset I'm running).

Incidentally, I'm also going to be running a double on my Ti El Mariachi this season, and I'm looking forward to that.  I'll be running one of the FSA Afterburner 386 cranks on that bike in the 27/40 arrangement.

With the cassette options that currently exist, the triple chainring crank is starting to become a bit of a relic for me.  I just don't find myself using the granny, so I'm just ditching it altogether this season on as many bikes as I can afford to.

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 brad |

A 32 gear inch does not mean, as you specified, that the bike will go 32 inches for every pedal revolution. Rather it means that the equivalent wheel diameter is 32 inches, or 2 times pi times radius, it will go 100 inches per pedal revolution or 2.55 meters development in European circles.

Best regards. The Vaya still looks good but I hope that they guy who figures out gear ratios didn't also design the frame.

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 bjteel |

I'm confused now.

I've contacted Salsa before regarding their lack of mtb chainrings that would work well with a 2x9 setup. 

I was told there wasn't enough demand and it wouldn't be cost effective.  Now I'm hearing that road compacts are the "bee's knees".  What about mtb doubles?

Salsa, please think ahead and make some 104/64-bcd 40 tooth and 27 tooth chainrings (some 94-bcd 29 and 28 tooth chainrings would be great too) for mtb's.

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 Tim Krueger |

bjteel -

The lack of these types of chainrings is not because we don't believe in their use.  Trust me, I am a firm double believer, and a hoarder of the old CODA 29t 94mm rings.  Ive been running FSA's 386 27-40 double for about a year now, and find it spectacular.

The reason is that in the past there really was not enough demand to make it work.  We can't make chainrings in only a few quantity, we have to make them by the hundreds. 

However, with the rise in popularity, you may start to see some of these options from us. 

Ride and Smile,
Tim, Salsa Cycles
Product Manager

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 bjteel |


I too have been hoarding Cannondale / Coda 29t 94bcd chainrings, but I'd prefer a 40/27 or 40/26.

If you could only make a 40t ramped ring in 104bcd to sit in the middle ring location (Truvativ and Shimano already make a 26t granny), then we could have a usable mtb double on a modern crankset…

It sure beats FSA's and Sram's proprietary bcd's.

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 mander |

I like the idea of 94 bcd for road use, as a 46-29 wide range double.

TA make 94 bcd 5 bolt rings in most sizes, down to 29 teeth,  but they are dear. Salsa if you stepped in and made some too I'd be stoked.

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 jimmythefly |

Vuelta has 94bcd rings down to 30t, I believe. I'm also a 30/44 or 30/46 double user, and with a 11-28 cassette I rarely spin out, and can climb just fine.

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Mike D | June 24th, 2010

Tim!  It’s Mike D from Stout.  Just surfin’ on the Salsa site and I thought I recognized your mug.  I built up a Fargo a few months ago and I love it.  You guys make some nice bikes up there.  Anyway, glad to see you’re still riding and now in the business of making bikes.  Shoot me an email if you want to catch up.  Take ‘er easy.

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Alltone | July 18th, 2010

I have to say, this was a unbeleiveable post by this product manager. We should send him on a brevet with 15% grades, then he can talk about compacts rendering triple’s obsolete. From what I can tell, triples are still preferred by serious hill riders, and Trek / Specialized seem to have noticed. (Even though they are geared too high for touring.)  And,it seems to me the Roubaix triples are selling pretty darn well,and that’s a pretty expensive bike. I guess all those triple buyers have been ignorant of product manager talk. This looks like just another hybrid bike to me.

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