Compass Introduces Quintuple Cranks

Seattle, April 1, 2018: Compass Cycles is proud to introduce the new René Herse quadruple and quintuple cranks. We are one of the few manufacturers of triple cranks with a wide selection of chainrings, and we’ve received requests for even more choices.

There is a historic precedent for this: Alex Singer showed a bike with quadruple cranks at the 1973 Salon de Cycle in Paris (above). The idea never caught on – back then, cyclists were conservative and unwilling to try new things. Now, I feel that the time has come to go beyond three chainrings…

But why stop at four? In addition to quadruple Rene Herse cranks, we’ll offer quintuple configurations, too. (In the photo above, the chainring teeth reflect in the polished surfaces, making it look like there are even more chainrings!)

As always with our cranks, you can freely choose their chainrings between 52 and 24 teeth. Converting existing cranks is easy, too: All you need are extra spacers and longer chainring bolts. A bit more difficult is fitting the cranks on your bike: You’ll need a longer bottom bracket spindle and a front derailleur that moves further outward to span the four or five chainrings. Both these essential components are under development – the photos show prototypes.

We have tested the quintuple cranks for many thousands of miles on several bikes. How do they ride?

Obviously, the appeal isn’t to have 55 gears (if you use a modern 11-speed drivetrain), because nobody needs that many… The advantage of multiple chainrings is that you can always ride in the middle of the cassette. If your speed changes due to terrain or wind, simply shift a few cogs on the rear to keep your cadence in its optimal range. And if you do need to make a front shift, the steps between chainrings are small – no need to ‘compensate’ on the rear, just shift and keep going. And with the chainrings spanning a huge gear range, you can use a closely-spaced cassette with very small steps between gears. After riding them for a few months now, I have to say, quintuple cranks are a gearhead’s nirvana.

I set up my prototype with a 50-44-38-32-26 combination, because the evenly spaced chainrings really highlight the beauty of the Rene Herse cranks. On the road, the 50-tooth chainring is perfect for those jam sessions on a slight downhill with a tailwind. Instead of being at the bottom end of my cassette (with a 46-tooth ring), I now can accelerate at will, knowing I’ll always have a bigger gear if I need it. The 44-tooth is perfect for fast ‘normal’ riding at 18-22 mph. The 38T is for days when I feel a bit less sprightly. The 32T gets me up most hills, and the 26T is for those really steep ones that I encounter only rarely, but where I used to walk my bike.

Drawbacks? Apart from the need for a custom BB spindle and front derailleur, quintuple chainrings add a little weight. This isn’t the crank to use for the Concours de Machines! Fortunately, the basic design of the Rene Herse cranks is so light that even the quintuple configuration weighs only 603 g – not much more than most 1980s mountain bike cranks.

The Q factor is a bit wider, but at 177 mm, it’s no worse than many modern ‘gravel’ cranks. Chainline can be a concern, but realistically, you’ll use the bigger chainrings with the smaller cogs of the cassette, the middle with the middle, and so on. It helps to use a tandem-spec rear hub with 145 mm spacing, as that moves the chainline outward to match the crank.

When can you get one? Testing of the prototypes is complete, and the longer BB spindles and chainring bolts are in production. We are now working on 11-speed compatible chainrings with ramps and pins to make the shifts even smoother. Front derailleurs are in the works – in the mean time, you can ask your builder to make a custom one, or just move the chain by hand. If you want to use brifters, we are working with Wolf Tooth on an adapter that will get four and five clicks out of a standard STI, Ergopower or DoubleTap lever. If you prefer electronic shifting, it’s easy to reprogram the software to offer more steps.

Quadruple and quintuple chainrings are fun. Why don’t you try them on your bike? And if you don’t like them, you can always convert them to a triple or double – that’s the beauty of Rene Herse’s timeless design.

Click here for more information about Rene Herse cranks.

About Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

Spirited rides that zig-zag across mountain ranges. Bicycle Quarterly magazine and its sister company, Compass Cycles, that turns our research into the high-performance components we need for our adventures.
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40 Responses to Compass Introduces Quintuple Cranks

  1. Tom says:

    Great idea!
    Any thoughts on combining that with a pinion-gearbox or e-bikes?
    The possibilities seem endless!!

    Cheers from Germany

    p.s.: Love your Snowqualmie tires!

  2. John Duval says:

    I saw a spy photo of a pro tour team testing octagonal rings. Sure to be all the rage in a year or two.

  3. Vincent Mercier says:

    That is a good 1st of April one ! 👍

    >

  4. Max Sievers says:

    I don’t see the appeal in having to change the gear by grabbing the chain by hand on a 5000 USD + bike.

  5. Steve Palincsar says:

    Brilliant! It’s about time someone thought of this. Congratulations.

  6. Keith Andrews says:

    All I can say is .. really? I just can’t see introducing further complexity to a product where I relish simplicity .. a bicycle. I recently built up a track bike and am in love with no derailleurs, shifters, brakeset. When reviewing your article I noticed the tandem photo and thought a quad might be nice there, but not my single seater.

  7. Brilliant. I wonder why it took so long for this innovation to be realized. And on this special day……

  8. Steven Krusemark says:

    Ha Ha, nice one for April 1st! Now I have an alternative! Actually we are still riding our Bill Boston Tandem with a custom T.A. quadruple originally set up for 46-43-40-20 and five speed freewheel 14-34 giving us 19 steps.. Now that were are older and still touring this summer we are trying a40-37-26-16 and a 7sp 13-34 setup giving us 20 steps. The 37t ring was not easy to find. The front record handles the spread and the rear 2nd gen Rally can provide the range for the new setup, but not the original setup. The original setup gave a “three step” gearing with the low granny and not the setup gives us a “two step” step gearing and two granny ranges with a low of 12 gear inches with the 650B tires for a low speed of 2.6mph for those 13%+ grades.

  9. David HD says:

    Another bonus is that, since you nearly always use the middle of the cassette, only two or three cogs need to be made out of steel, and the rest can be made out of wood in order to save weight (or aluminum, if you prefer the “all-metal” look).

    A variety of finishes will be made available to match bamboo, ash, and maple frames, as well as a tar-impregnated version for better performance in wet weather which also happens to look very nice with carbon fibre.

  10. David Beck says:

    April Fools!

  11. Dick Elmendorf says:

    Happy April fools day!

  12. Mike says:

    April fools

  13. oldyellr says:

    I presume these are available for one day only.

  14. Frederic says:

    Good News
    Could we expect in the future to get 11 speeds on the crankset and one cog on the
    wheel?
    It would a great improvement!

  15. john hawrylak says:

    I do not think you meant it as an April Fool joke. Very nice technical work.

    I see your 5 ring setup uses Half Step gearing (6T diff) on the front, so shifting 1 ring is approx. 1 rear cog.

    I suppose there is separate story line for the FD.

    Congratulations on the technical prowness. It ill be interesting to see where this goes,

    • All I can say is that these photos aren’t photoshopped – they show an actual crank on an actual bike…

      • Bryan Willman says:

        Unfortunately for this claim, you are known to be a Smart Person who has long sourced all manner of manufactured objects, and is known to keep company with various folks who actually make things…. (:-)

        Really nice work. Now, about a 1 tooth front chainring to get maximum leverage with the 9-22 12 speed cassette I’d like to use.

      • Grego says:

        If Daniel Rebour drew that, I’ll eat my casquette!

      • He did draw the quadruple chainrings on the Singer – that was a real bike that was presented at the Paris Bike Show. Here is a photo that Peter Thidholm posted to Facebook:

        Alex Singer with quadruple chainrings

        Many years ago, I asked Ernest Csuka (who made the bike) about this, and he laughed: “It was just done for the show…”

      • Heiko S says:

        About a year ago there was a used quadruple TA crankset sold on ebay.fr. Don’t know whether it was selfmade or originally bought like that.

      • Grego says:

        Sigh. The drawing doesn’t seem up to Rebour’s usual standards. Even the “D” box around his signature has crooked lines. Maybe he made it right at the show or something.

        Well, vinegar seems like an appropriate condiment for my casquette. Nom nom nom.

  16. Claude Gagnon says:

    Add this CVT transmisstransmission for endless possibility!

    https://rowingbike.com/en/posts/historie/thys-222-rr-versie/

  17. Ty says:

    The perfect thing for my prototype 100-speed bike. Now that Everest hill climb I am planning next winter is finally doable!

  18. Freddy Fenderwasher says:

    Will this be available in Black?

  19. Stuart Fogg says:

    Back in my college days derailleur bikes were known as “10-speeds” because, well, most of them had 10 speeds. Now that the quintuple crank is available we can recreate the 10-speed experience by using a reversible, no-dish rear wheel with 1 cog on each side!

  20. s.e. charles says:

    will this increase my Q-factor?

  21. Pol says:

    Nice cranks!

    4 rings on a tandem here:
    http://mgagnon.net/velo/pedalier4.fr.php

  22. I own a crankset with 4 chainrings riveted to it, came on a cheap Bianchi Cobra MTB (24 speed, 6×4) from the 90s that my parents got me when I was 8.

  23. Oreste Drapaca says:

    Great photos, splendid idea!

  24. Tim Cupery says:

    Will you be at Eroica California in a couple weeks to show these prototypes?

  25. Dale B. Phelps says:

    Good one!

  26. The Coasting Frenchman says:

    I always dreamed of walking like John Wayne; bike saddles are not nearly as wide as the ones on horses, but those quintuple cranks with their matching Q-factor should do the trick!
    Cheers!

  27. Bob says:

    I was hoping this year for 559×3, 584×2, and 622×1 mm supple tires. So disappointed…

  28. Jon Spangler says:

    Well done! When can we see photos of the new prototype front derailleur?

  29. DaveS says:

    DaVinci has had a quad front chain ring for years on their tandems… although their drive train is quite unique to allow independent pedaling.

  30. Doug L. says:

    Oh yah! The cyclist’s version of the infinite probability drive. Oher than possible chain angle problems this set up should run OK. A selective collective front derailleur could help with this – ha! Thanks for the article and I do remember seeing this setup back in the 70’s.

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