Making a road bike more climbing friendly

My girlfriend and I are looking at doing some rides that would involve some long sustained climbs, we’ll be riding quite slowly so we’re looking at making her bike more climbing friendly as grinding away at 40-50rpm sucks. Currently her bike is a Trek 1.1 with 8 speed Shimano Claris (which shifts surprisingly nice) and some cheap fsa compact cranks 50/34, while it shifts perfectly fine the smallest ratio on there currently is 34/28.

Initially a 105 11 speed upgrade with a huge 40t mtb cassette seemed like the best idea until we realised those cassette cost about $250 making a kind of cheap groupset quite expensive. She’s happy to stay on the 8 speed stuff so I’m now thinking either a MTB crank like a Deore 2x10 or a touring triple with the biggest ring removed.

Will a MTB crank have a messed up Q factor that isn’t going to work without an oddly spaced BB? Are there other issues I haven’t thought of? I know nothing about triple cranksets so there could be other issues I haven’t even thought of such as FD compatibility? Preferably we’d like to just replace the cranks with something that has a 24t inner ring and whatever on the outer (Sugino XD2 triple maybe?).

Advice/crank options/other solutions I have not even thought of welcome!

I’d get a road triple (often lower end Shimano ones are quite cheap) then ditch the big ring. Leave you with 39/30t.

Existing front derailleur should shift OKish.

Then get the widest range cassette, Claris can take a 11-32 I think.

Then if that isn’t low enough get. a 24/26/28 ring to replace the 30.

Won’t mess up the Q factor and won’t need a new BB.

Edit: MTB double work fine to, although if braze on mech may not be able to get mech low enough and you’ll have to space out the BB but that’s easy.

It’s a band on FD so getting it low enough for MTB cranks won’t be an issue but from what you’re saying using the triple then changing the inner to a 24t sounds good, maybe even couple that with an 11/32 cassette if I can find it for ultimate ease of riding up climbs.

Any reason not to go with a square taper Sugino crankset? I have found a few quite cheap online.
It’s that or current gen Deore 2x10 that seems like the best value for money currently.

Sorry, thought the bike already had hollowtech.

Generally the current square taper BB will be the right length but sometimes you have you get a new shorter/longer Bb to get the chain line right.

Could you just swap out rear mech for alivio or similar and get a 36 cassette?

That’s a good simple option

Yeah but doesn’t really give a low enough ratio.

MikeD’s idea of using the inner rings of a triple is a good one.
I’ve got the Sugino OX cranks with a 44/30, and they’re essentially just a triple with no outer. With an 11/32 cassette I get a really good range.

Having been down this route with Swuzz Jnr & Mrs Swuzz, I suggest the only option to make a worthwhile difference is for GF to increase her FTP.

Being 8sp, any old ST triple setup as a double should work fine. 40/24 to 11/32 is a great setup atmo, although 39 big dog is probably easier to get. Dunno about 2x10 Deore 10sp with an 8sp rear and 8sp FD, and in my experience the Q is really wide and the chainline is hard to setup so the big dog spans the whole cassette, certainly not without offsetting it so the pedals are different distances from the bike’s centreline

Lot’s of good information/advice in here. Sounds like I’ll be chasing a triple crankset now!

got a triple you can have but the rings are worn esp. the middle
inner is 27 or 30 (?) not sure
gxp bb there too but not sure if any good to you

Can you pm me a photo? Could be keen

I’m pretty sure I put a 34T cassette on a claris mech and it was sweet, I hate going outside of specs, but I wouldn’t say a 36T cassette would be out of the question either. If you go with hollowtech shimano MTB cranks you will need spacers because they’re made for 73mm shells (assuming threaded bb?), but if you can put them all on the NDS you could maintain a good chainline, this would mean using (5mm of) spacers on the spindle, don’t use the ones shimano give you with the older 10sp era threaded bbs that go between the outboard cup and the shell (using 5mm of them on one side will reduce the amount of thread engagement catastrophically), get some of the wheels MFG spindle spacers from you LBS if you go down that route

Will most likely go with a triple crankset if I can find it, then I can use the bb we already have and not worry about any spacing issues.

As for cassettes you can almost always go bigger than what the factory specs say I reckon. 105 short cage is only supposed to take a 28t I think but I’ve used a 32t with any issues at all. I assume a Claris RD would be the same.

I’ve got a CX double on my Soma which is 46/36, with a 12-30 ultegra cassette, and seems to let me spin (slowly) up most sydney hills whilst seated.

That said, how much more than a 1:1 ratio would be required?

A bit more than 1:1 would be perfect. Getting down to about 20 gear inches is the plan.

My usual goal for a touring bike is sub-20", and close to it for anything that’ll climb a lot unloaded