Compact or Standard?

In a nutshell, that's the question facing me at the moment. Stick with my Standard crank set up or move to Compact?

Since moving to Pittsburgh I've come to learn respect for short but incredibly steep hills. Prior to living here I'd always thought that there was nothing short but steep that I couldn't just blast my way up. Sure, long climbs required a different approach, but my trusty 39x23 was surely enough for any long climbs or short but incredibly steep hills/walls.

Well, I was wrong. Anything above 20% deserves respect, and I don't care how much speed you hit it with, slopes that steep have a neat trick of smacking you right between the eyes and saying "Hi there, now let's settle in for a long chat and see how strong you really are"

My initial response was to go big, as in shove a 14-28 cluster in the back. I'm not racing at the moment, so don't really need a top gear that big, besides, I can spin a 53x14 up to a decent speed. That 39x28 is a friendly gear and gets me up most things (Canton Ave aside)

But, having said that, I am keen to race this year, am starting to think that those bigger gears might be handy and am toying with the idea of a shift to a compact setup, but I am not totally sold on the idea.

Some more background.

  • The bike in question is running Campy Chorus 9 speed - I don't see myself upgrading this bike to 10 (or 11) speed any time soon. I'll probably get another bike instead.
  • I use a separate bike for commuting and it has a triple, so I am familiar with that world. My road bike is near and dear to my heart. It is an Italian, hand built, lightweight steel stead, sporting Campy Chorus/Record. Putting a triple on it would be borderline sacrilegious!
  • my cycling tendency is to spin on the flat roads (100-105), but my cadence drifts towards 65-70 when climbing (not too sure why, but I've never been able to hold a high cadence when climbing), but again, there are just too many short and nasty hills around here.

So what is the consensus of the PDC? To Compact or not? To those that have made the move, any feedback? Things to look out for?

To those that have only ever known a compact setup, please don't tell me that, it will only make me feel old... Yes, people even used to have to reach down to levers mounted on the downtube to change gears, can you imagine!?!

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