This post addresses bicycle crankset compatibility in terms of mixing various speed cranksets with other components. For example: an 8 speed crankset on a bicycle with 10 rear sprockets and a 10 speed chain (a), or a triple chainring with a front derailleur (FD) constructed for double chainrings (b). It will also address mixing road cranksets with MTB FDs and vice versa (c).
Before you start, to avoid any misunderstanding:
please take the 5 minutes needed to read the compatibility articles use instructions.
Separate posts explain: standards of bottom bracket (crankset) bearings (and axles), as well as bottom bracket compatibility). That will not be taken into consideration in this post, but when acquiring a crankset, make sure that it’s bottom bracket (BB) standard is one that can be mounted on the bicycle frame.
In the post about FD compatibility, other factors important when matching FD and crankset are described. So, even if number of speeds and type of crankset and FD are the same, those factors should also be matched. In short: FD cage shape and number of large chainring teeth it is designed for should match the teeth number of the largest chainring on the crankset it is combined width. Detailed explanation of things one should pay attention to and try to match are listed in the post:
Compatibility – front derailleurs
1. Different number of speeds for crankset and the bicycle
Typical example: can a crankset for 9 speeds be used with a bicycle that has 11 speeds (rear sprockets) and an 11 speed chain (for 11 sprockets)? Or vice versa: can a 10 speed crankset be used on a bicycle with 8 speeds?
All the “speed” chains have almost the same inner diameter (roller width). Despite the fact that chains for more speeds have thinner plates and are therefore narrower (on the outside) than chains for less speeds, the inner width is the same. For detailed explanation look here: Compatibility – chains.
Because of this, teeth thickness of crankset chainrings doesn’t vary much. Also, adjacent crankset chainrings have great difference in diameter and are not as tightly spaced as rear sprockets. So there is no risk of chain, being to wide, to get stuck between two chainrings.
All this enables crankset chainrings to be freely combined with all kinds of chains (and, over the chain, various numbers of rear sprockets). The only complication is the thinner cage of the FDs designed for more speeds. This means, if using a (wider) chain for less speeds, chain will rub the cage with less cross chaining then if a wider cage FD was used. Cross chaining is not advisable anyway, so one can consider this and early(er) warning. Explanation of gear changing and cross chaining is here:
Bicycle gear ratios
Exceptions to this are single speed chainrings, made for wider, 1/8″ thick chains (they won’t work with multi-speed chains) and Shimano IG chainrings (that work only with chains for up to 8 speeds).
2. Mix-matching various types of cranks (chainrings)
2.1. Combining double chainring cranksets with triple FDs
Explanation of important attributes and differences of FDs can be found in these posts:
Compatibility – front derailleurs
Triple FD has a longer cage (than a double FD), with inner part of the cage being a bit lower, to catch the chain off the third, smallest chainring. If the two chainrings of a double don’t have a big difference in number of teeth (14 or less), triple FD should work just fine on a double (with correct setup of the limit screws and cable, of course). Typical examples are standard road doubles 53-39 (14 teeth), or 46-36 (10 teeth) – a typical cyclo-cross crankset.
If using a popular “compact” crankset, with a large difference in number of teeth between the big and the small chainring, like 50-34 (16 teeth), or 46-30, shifting will be slower, with more possibility of dropping the chain when shifting onto the smaller chainring.
However, even if chainring difference is large, front shifts are usually quite rare (compared to rear shifts), so even then it might work acceptably well (depending on one’s criteria).
2.2. Combining triple chairing cranksets with double FDs
The biggest problem with this combo is that double FDs don’t have a long enough cage, with inner part lowered enough to catch the chain off the smallest, third chainring.
The quality of this pair functioning is affected by the following two factors:
- The lower the difference in teeth number between the largest and the smallest chainring, the better.
For example: 48-38-28 (20 teeth difference) is better than 44-32-22 (22 teeth difference).
Or: 50-39-30 (20 teeth difference) is better than 53-42-30 (23 teeth difference).
- The number of large chainring teeth the FD is designed for should match the number of teeth of the largest triple chainring, or be slightly lower.
For example: FD for 50 tooth chainring on a 50-39-30 triple.
Or a FD for a 46 tooth chainring on a 48-38-28 double.
Bad idea is a FD for a 53 tooth chainring on a 44-32-22 triple.
2.3. Combining MTB cranksets with road FDs and vice versa
Road and MTB cranksets have slightly different chainring spacing. Still, this doesn’t cause much problems even to shifters and FDs when mixing them, as is explained in these two posts:
Compatibility – front shifters
Compatibility – front derailleurs
Difference definitely doesn’t bother the FDs. If the shifter, cable and screws for limiting movement are properly set, there won’t be any problems.
Related post – Bottom bracket compatibility:
Compatibility posts are also available in eBook (printable and Kindle) and paperback editions on Amazon:
39 thoughts on “Compatibility  Cranks(ets)”
I didn’t know that road and mountain cranks have different spacing between chain rings. Any technical reason for this or just a deliberate attempt to make this less generic and compatible?
I have a doubt about chain ring spacing, has it changed over time as more speeds were added to drive trains? Sprocket spacing was the same up to 8 speeds, then sprockets get closer with every new sprocket added, but what about chain rings?
I want to recycle a triple crankset shimano DX from a 7 speed drivetrain, would it work fine with a modern 3×9 speed indexed shifter?
Friction shifters don’t have any problem, it may be the way to go.
As for sprockets, that too has varied from the start (6, 7…). See the post about cassette compatibility, or cassette standards.
For cranks, manufacturers claim they aren’t compatible, but I’ve had good results mix-matching MTB ones with road shifters and derailleurs and vice-versa.
I have a Shimano Claris 2×8 system and wonder if i can keep the 8s chainset from Claris and upgrade the rest to 10s Tiagra, including chaing.
People told me that i can face problems with the bigger space between chain rings of Claris compared with Tiagra chainset.
Switching to the 10 speed Tiagra would require you replace shifters, derailleurs, chain and cassette. You could keep the cranks (front chainrings), they will probably work OK, not perfectly, but OK.
hi, may i know can i use a 4700 tiagra or 105 crankset with my stock 8 speed shimano cassette & the stock 8 speed chain? the setup will be 1 x 8 without fd, and i will be only using the outer 52t chainring, mainly just because i like the looks of the crankset.
With such setup (I suppose using the outer chanring of a double set), the front chainring will be very far out – not sitting in the middle of the cassette.
So, when using the lowest gear, the chain will be at a great angle (“cross chaining”). 1x setups are far from perfect, even when the front chainring sits right in the middle of the cassette.
Whether that will pose a problem, or not, it depends on the frame’s chainstay length as well (the longer it is, the less of a problem it will be).
Yeah i understand the cross chain effect, but thats how my folding bike comes with 1 x 8 setup with square taper bb. So it is possible to use 8 speed chain on a 10 speed tiagra crankset right ?
Since you are using the larger ring, there is no risk of the chain rubbing it (using the smaller might require also using a narrower chain to avoid that – depending on the chainline, of course).
With this setup, since the chain pitch and its inner width are the same, I don’t see why it should not work. That is – in terms of chainring compatibility. Though 1x setups are always tricky. Clutch rear derailleurs and narrow-wide chainrings were made to help those setups be less problematic.
I am finding it hard to find an FD for my triple chainring with the largest ring being a 44t to a 9spd cassette. There seem to be a few which specify 40t maximum. Would using this work or should I keep looking for the correct size?
I would try to find the closest match and see what can be done.
If the only option is “unmatched”, I’d choose larger, rather than smaller (again, if available and unless it’s not way off in size).
That is, for a 44 chainring, I would try with 48 T FD, before settling with a 44 T FD.
The closer matched it is, the better it works, usually. But it can work quite decently, depending on the particular setup and one’s criteria.
as I thought, but was hoping otherwise! I’ll just have to keep looking, although I’ve not found anything larger than a 40T so far. The retro bikes are a bit of a labour of love I guess. Many thanks for your help.
Have you tried asking in bikeforums.net?
It is the contemporary aggregate of human knowledge of cycling and bicycle mechanics.
That is: no one person knows everything, but there’s always someone who knows. 🙂
I’m not sure what mount your frame uses, but if it is “retro”, I suppose something like this could fit, just choose the appropriately sized clamp:
Out of stock at the time of checking: model 1 (it’s marked 6/7 speeds, but should work with 9 speeds, 42 teeth max size).
Model 2 – “9 speed”, 40 T max chainring, just confirm that the seatstay angle is matched as well (this one is for 66 to 69 degreees). Also out of stock at the shop, when I checked. Comes with adapters included, for 28.6 and 31.8 diameter tubes (34.9 without adapters).
Hope this helps at least in pointing you in the right direction.
Awesome, will check those out. I may yet be able to repair my existing one. I could also look at upgrading to a modern drive train too. Just keen not to overspend if possible. It’s an early 2000’s gt i-drive 2 btw. Good bikes in their day. Remembering past glory!!
Forgot to mention the local (Serbian) 1st choice for components: look at the 2nd hand market, broken frame donors etc. 🙂
Getting a new drivetrain is also a viable option. Just a note – my personal opinion and experience, from a point of view of an avid cyclist, not a competing one where each split-second counts. Not directed towards you (or anyone else in particular), but when I hear “upgrades” (and I hear it a lot, it’s really pushed on by marketing), it often makes me consider the “real, objective needs” – let me explain:
When bicycles are in question, “upgrades” seldom improve (upgrade) anything, or, a bit differently put: not all the upgrades change anything for the better for the user.
They do increase the budget (amount of money spent), so are very beneficial to bicycle (component) manufacturers.
They also often make maintenance more complicated, or at least require different tools and that’s how upgrades bring more business to bicycle repair shops (but also increase their expenses for tools and even storage, mechanics education etc.).
I’d even argue that most improvements that came after the introduction of “threadless stem” (also called a-head) have been mostly to benefit manufacturers.
(This paragraph does relate to your question)
I wouldn’t shy away from sourcing 2nd hand derailleurs, as long as they’re in good shape.
Front hub of the bicycle I rode to work today is from 1974, or 1975 at “best”. 🙂 Friction shifters and derailleurs from the 80s. Frame from who knows when. It rides very nicely, shifts, brakes – what more would I need / ask for? Have at least one more set from a thrown away bicycle, so if any of the drivetrain components get damaged, donor parts are waiting.
It’s about riding, about joy of going faster than on foot, but still experiencing and feeling every scent in a forest, every, even the smallest incline and down-slope (on a bike you feel and appreciate those better than you do on foot 🙂 ). And about improving the “engine” – for challenge, fun and health. The bike itself is good as long as it steers, brakes decently and is the right size to not cause discomfort.
Many people I see worry too much about the bike.
Of course, having said all that, I fully understand, enjoy and appreciate the whole process of bicycle maintenance and, especially, bringing an old, thrown away bicycles back to life. See nothing wrong with that as long as one enjoys it. Likewise, I see no problem with buying the newest, most expensive frames and components – as long as one feels good about it (and can afford it). Just that I don’t consider those things real “upgrades”, they are often a purpose in and off itself. Call me a retro-grouch, conservative.
Sorry for the long “rant”.
New shimano GRX RX810 front derailleur allows 17 teeth difference and It looks like a triple front derailleur. I think someone should give a chance
I currently have a Sora FD and a Sora 50/34 crankset, and a 9v 12/36 cassette with Deore RD.
A close friend of mine would give me an FSA carbon crankset at a very convenient price but this is for 10/11 speeds. Do you think it will be compatible with the setup I have?
When talking about cranks, there are several things to consider, I’ll start sort of “from the ground up” – hope you won’t mind if I state some things that are obvious and you have already checked – I think this way is safer than telling you to “just go ahead”, then figure out it doesn’t really fit.
This is all with an assumption that your current setup is shifting nicely.
Things to consider:
– Bottom bracket – does the FSA crank fit your current bottom bracket? If not, is there a compatible bottom bracket for that crank that can fit your frame?
– Chainring size – FD that works well with 50/34 will handle 52/39 with no problems, as well as 46/30. But going below 45, or over 53 on the big ring, as well as going below 30 on the small ring might make shifting a bit slower.
As far as the speed count is concerned, the fact that crank is 10/11 speed one is not a problem – at least in my experience (though, just as a disclaimer, I haven’t tried the combo with an FSA cranks, only with Shimano). Yes, 11 speed cranks usually have chainrings put at a slightly larger distance from each other, yet I haven’t seen that affect shifting – think it is done primarily for a better chainline when riding in large-small, and small-large combos.
PS – this is my personal opinion:
Sora is a great quality groupset and I wouldn’t go out of my way to replace it unless the chainrings are worn, or the cranks are damaged. Of course, going “lighter and stiffer” at a bargain price doesn’t sound bad. Still, unless one is competing, there’s really not all that much to gain in my opinion.
Thanks so much this clarifies a lot.
Agree Sora is a great group, I was just evaluating my friend’s offer but thinking twice I’d rather save for a new wheel set than in a new crank set 🙂
Spare wheels are a handy thing. Especially if riding daily, year long and in bad weather. In case of any damage – there’s a spare wheel while the damaged one is rebuilt.
Also, if switching from fair to poor weather (and/or snow) tyres, one can do so quickly, at one’s own convenience (weather in Serbia is crazy, as in ranging from nice and sunny in the middle of the winter, then snow the following week, then sunny again).
Man, I totally understand English is not your native language. After reading your comment a couple of times I totally agree especially in regards to the 48-28=20 is far less taxing than 44-22=22. But I think a better example is 42-22=20 vs 44-22=22. That would’ve made more sense even though you were on par with 48-28=20. That’s all.
I see your point and it is a fair one. For purely educational purposes, it would be easier to understand if I had used 42-32-20 as an example. However, I opted for using (more) widely available cranks (and chainring tooth counts) for the examples.
Your feedback is very much appreciated. Will give it some more thought. For now I’d keep the examples as they are.
As I was reading the article one part of it didn’t make sense to me and its this passage:
“The lower the difference in teeth number between the largest and the smallest chainring, the better.
For example, 48-38-28 is better than 44-32-22.
Or: 50-39-30 is better than 53-42-30.” (https://bike.bikegremlin.com/1619/bicycle-crankset-compatibility/#comments)
There’s nothing wrong with the second example but the first example makes no sense, and the example is contradictory of itself a 48-38-28 crankset is not better than a 44-32-22. You’re saying the opposite of what you mean you’re really saying: “The higher number of teeth between the largest and smallest chainring the better.” When what it really should say: “The lower the difference in teeth number between the largest and the smallest chainring, the better, for example, 42-32-22 is better than 48-38-28.” I would also add another example like 40-30-20 is better than 42-32-22. Also list your examples 1,2,3 or A,B,C. Just saying.
English is not my native, but what I tried to say is this:
44-22 = 22 teeth difference
48-28 = 20 teeth difference
20 teeth difference is less taxing on a double FD than 22 teeth difference.
The lower the teeth difference, the less likely a double FD is to have problems working with it.
I have an old mtb triple crankset FC-MT60 and am having trouble shifting to the lowest chainring using a FD7803 triple 10 speed front derailleur, but it’s not moving the chain over enough and can’t move further as it hits the frame.
There are some spacers I can remove between the rings – what is the right distance between chainrings to adjust it to?
If the FD can’t move any closer to the frame, in order to shift to the smallest chainring, then I would first see about the chainline (how to measure the chainline, and how to set a correct one).
Suppose that using a longer BB axle would solve the problem.
I have a shimano FC TY301 48-38-28T on a 3×8 gear trekking bike and would like to keep it while I upgrade to 3×9 gear. Whould that be possible? I have already bought a SHIMANO ALIVIO RD-M4000-SGS 9sp MTB Rear Derailleur and a SHIMANO CS-HG400 9SP 11-32 Τ. Should I opt for a 116 or 118 HG chain by yhe way?
Harry – Athens
Those cranks should work fine with the 9-speed drivetrain.
As for the chain length – it depends on the bicycle. See my article about chain sizing for bicycles with derailleurs.
I bought a Shimano 12 speed rear to upgrade from a 3×9 Shimano Deore group, I’m using the same crankset and 40 tooth chainring at the front (designed for the 3×9) but I moved the large chainring to the inner side of the spider and even added some washers to move it as far in as possible and get a decent chain line. The question is: Are 12 speed front chainrings narrower by design than a 9 speed? I feel a little more strain on the system when using the largest cog in the rear and it seems to comes from the front. That stresses me.
I like to joke that 1x drivetrains often “solve” problems that wouldn’t have even existed without them. 🙂
Generally: they work a lot better with narrow-wide chainrings designed for the 1x drivetrains.
This especially helps reduce (prevent?) any chain drop from the front chainring.
I’m not 100% sure I fully understand what you mean by feeling a “little more strain on the system.”
What I would check first is how tightly the front chainring is attached.
The next thing to check is the chainline.
The largest rear cog is used with a lot of torque, and if the front chainring isn’t aligned at least with the middle of the cassette (if not even a bit more inwards, towards the frame), I would expect the chain, and the chainrings to suffer and just not feel right under the pedal as you push down on it.
Regarding the front chainring width:
Some manufacturers of narrow-wide chainrings state they are compatible with 9 through 12-speed chains.
Like this from Blackspire.
I haven’t measured Shimano 2×12 chainrings to tell if they are narrower than the 9-speed, or even the 11-speed chainrings, but I don’t think that chainring width is the problem cause in this case (or, in other words: I’d first check the chainline).
Thank you Reija!
It took me years to finally move on from 3×9, there is no way 1×12 will have the same gearing options as a 3×9 but I understand the world is dumbing down and one shifter as opposed to two will make life easier to most people by limiting their options and like you said, solving a problem that doesn’t exist. I figure within 10 years or so someone will “discover” how cool is a 2×10 and God forbid a 3×9 lol
Haha. Yes. 🙂
They might even “discover” the friction shifters! 🙂
Can I use a Shimano Mt210 (3x) with a Deore M4100 (10 speed cassette, 11-42T)?
Do you mean if you can use “9-speed” cranks with a 10-speed cassette (and chain)?
If that’s the question, my answer is yes – it works quite well. That is: a 10-speed chain with 9-speed cranks is OK.
Will a campy triple crank, with the triple front derailleur work in conjunction with a campy cassette that has 12 cogs?
I haven’t tested that combo. I’d expect it to work, but haven’t tried it to be certain.
Great article! I have dilemma if the 9 speed system will work with 10 speed crankset. Technically it should, question is how. I have really old bike but really great components that i use for more than 17 years. The FC-M540 crankset needs to be replaced but I cannot see on market something similar. I’m not inerrested in Alivio but in Deore or higher sets. The Shimano FC-T551 looks like good alternative but it is designed for 10 speed system. I’m not a fan of 10+ speed system because of the durability of the material.
I use the old Deore LX dual control shifting system and it work without any problem since 2005. Didn’t had better equipment. The todays “equipment” last for one or two seasons and then it needs to be replaced. I have friends who replace the chains 4 times per season. My Durace CN7701 was replaced after 5 years and still it was usable for emergency purposes.
I would expect the 10-speed Deore cranks to work fine, as long as the largest chainring size matches your FD (i.e. is similar enough to your current largest chainring size, assuming that works well).
You might see some chain rub on the larger chainrings happen a bit sooner (when not severely cross chained), but if that is an issue, it can be fixed by using a 10-speed chain (with the 9-speed cassette, it should work fine), or by placing some shims between the chainrings and their mounts (0.5 mm or similar width) to increase their distance.
Another note, just in case it helps: FC-M540 chainrings can be replaced without replacing the cranks (unless there is some other damage).
Regarding component durability – I haven’t done any objective testing & measuring to confirm, but it seems that the more-speed-stuff doesn’t last longer (if not shorter, can’t confirm that 100%), while costing more.
Hi, I have a gravel bike with a 2x FSA crankset 48t/32t with a Sora 9 speed drivetrain. I wanted to switch my 32t to a 30t which has a 4 bolt 90bcd. I saw that the FSA Omega/Vera Pro Chainring has the same bolt pattern and bcd. The description says for 10/11 speed, but no mention of 9 speed. I went to my local bike shop that had the part to inquire and the person indicated that it would not work due to the different spacing. However, based on some forums that I’ve read, it appears that this chainring should work, at worst, it might require a 0.6mm chainring spacer. What do you think?
Unless your cranks have some very exotic chainring mounting system, I would expect spacers to do the job.
What worries me is the difference in chainring size. 48-30 combo is 18 teeth of size difference. Modern compact cranks, with 16 teeth difference, is already what I’d call “pushing it a bit.”
46-30 cranks still usually cost an arm and a leg, but that would be my first choice.
Having said that, my current “gravel” build is with 50-34 cranks, since those I got dirt-cheap and my old setup was 53-42, so I hope the gearing will be acceptably low, even though I find the 50T (and 48 for that matter) chainring to be a tad too large for the flats with some headwind, and 34 T way too small for the flats. Still, I went with bar-end friction shifters, so in case of any problems, I can always mount triple cranks with an MTB FD and call it a day. 🙂