A Red Kite Prayer for Compact Cranks

RKP on a Ride

A personal Red Kite Prayer

On a 45 minute climb up into the Santa Monica Mountains, Patrick O’Brady half-wheeled me for approximately 44 and 1/2 minutes. During the time, I studied his kit, his pedal stroke, and asked him after every switchback how much longer we had to go. We’d turned off from the longer ride, both nursing war wounds, and feeling old. The guys on the long ride were 1/2 our age, had more to prove and still making a name for themselves in this business. For us it was stories from the past, what’s happening now, and what we’re going to do with ourselves, as our earning years dwindle like the energy in tired legs.

Shifting up and down on the new 22 from SRAM cross-chaining every possible combination, I said, “can’t find the right gear on this 52/36!” Patrick replied, “you got to get over that man, Tyler rode that drivetrain.”

“He was on dope!”

“Yes, but a fast doper….”

That I believe compact cranks are like clip-on ties, they work, but require less effort or skill Patrick would and will disagree with. He has a hundred stories to prove me wrong. That’s cause he’s a storyteller, one of the bike industry’s finest and has collected his best tales into a book. You can join the crowd on Kickstarter and fund it further.

Then ask him about his ride with me someday. He never saw me again until after the descent where I wished I had a 53 x 11 the whole time.

Note: the Red Kite Prayer happens at the end of the ride, or the race, when you see the Red Kite. It’s the final milestone before the finish and seen at the 1K to go mark.


Huh, the 52/36 is mid-compact is my favorite gearing up front (with 11-28 on the back) on all my road bikes.

I found that 50/34 I rode for a few years could spin out, especially in road racing situations (it worked fine in cyclocross) and I’ve found 53/39 painful for spending 3hrs of a ride climbing coastal mountains. The mid-compact is just right for me, offering enough top end for 25-30mph racing (53 vs 52 is barely noticeable) as well as enough low end to spin all day on steep climbs (36 is a lot easier to push than a 39).

You and Patrick are right; however with tens of thousands of miles on 53/39, muscle memory can’t find the gear it’s looking for.

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