I like 2 Chainrings, Even 3

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I was just reading an article at Velonews this morning and according to the review, the big “failure” of the new XTR trail group was that they don’t have a 42 tooth rear cog, thus makes it unacceptable for a 1x setup on a MTB.  I don’t get 1x.  Not at all.

The article says that 1x allows a wider range of gearing.  That is complete bullshit.  I hadn’t raced a MTB race in a really long time and happened to be out in Vail for the GoPro games this past summer, so I decided to ride the race on the spur of the moment.

I had a couple issues, but finally got into the top 15.  After the race, I was talking to a guy I was riding with at the end and he told me that he didn’t have enough gearing for the climb and he wished he would have put on a 30 in front instead of a 32.  I was riding 1998 XTR 9 speed, with a 34 in the back, but a 24 in the front and had no trouble climbing.

I remember Jimmy Mac telling me that the 1x setup doesn’t work for the weekend guy because of the same reason.  But, that might have been before the 42 rear cog and 10 tooth  small cog Sram has now.   But, I still don’t understand it.

I love front chainrings racing MTB.  I think it is awesome going hard into a climb, just a little overgeared, then just one shift in the front and be in the perfect gear for the start of the climb. Honestly, I don’t really understand getting rid of the granny gear in front.  I was riding a 24 x 40 up Powerline in Leadville.  I didn’t plan to be in that gear, but I didn’t plan to be all cramped up and barely moving.  If I would have had a 30 x 42, I would have been dead in the water for sure. The extra weight of having a 2nd, or 3rd chainring in front, then obviously a front derailleur and shifter, is well worth it in relation to have the options of having a wider selection of gearing.

Plus, who wants to be going and changing their chainrings for different riding?  I don’t.  I do a lot of MTB races that start out on pavement.  Races such as Chequamengon, Lutzen, Leadville, a lot of them.  And I’ve noticed that the rollouts are super tame compared to historical starts, not that I’ve done Leadville and Lutzen more than once.  But Chequamegon this year was much easier than the past.

And the reason is that the biggest gears that most of the fast guys have is a 32 x 10.  These guys are all spun out.  I feel undergeared with a 42 x 11 and well even more so with only a 38 x 11.  I don’t think a 32 x 10 is a big enough gear for lot of longer MTB races I do.  That is like the gear of being between a 53 x 16/17 on a road bike.  I would never start a road race with only a 17 in the back as my hardest gear.

Even in longer off-road races, like Berryman that I did last month, I was riding pretty fast on the open road sections.  Fast enough that I needed a 42 x 11.  Plus, the jump in the back from a 36 to 42 is huge.  That is 6 teeth.  XTR is bad enough going from 35 -40, a 5 tooth difference.   I don’t know that the rpm difference of shifting between a 36 to a 42, but it is huge.

I’ve ridden single rings in the front a lot.  My A bike in cross used to be one chainring in the front.  But on the starts, I’d be on my B bike with double rings and then switch once that initial start surge was over. But cross is completely different that racing MTB.  You might run into the situation where you need that other ring 3 or 4 hours into a race.  And you don’t know how you are going to be physically when you get there.

The biggest downside to all the different choices in front chainrings is how many different front derailleurs there are now.  I have 4 different Shimano front derailleur in boxes and none of them fit my MTB.  There are 2 and 3 chainring derailleurs, plus top pull, bottom pull and front pull, then low band and high band. They use shims so there aren’t so many clamp sizes, but still it is really hard figuring out what derailleur to order by the specifications.  And this isn’t really such a big downside, is it?

So, by now, I think you understand, I like the options that front chainrings offer, like 2 front chainrings, sometimes 3.  You’ll have a hard time convincing me otherwise.

This was a great crankset.

This was a great crankset.


106 thoughts on “I like 2 Chainrings, Even 3

  1. Fritz

    I don’t understand 1X as well. The only advantage of 1X is you don’t have to worry about your front derailleur being out of adjustment and a small weight advantage. I did a race a couple of years ago and rode away from everyone on open road sections primarily because I had a big chain ring and they did not.

  2. Paul

    I suspect a lot of it is people being preferring low maintenance bikes. I have plenty of pals who’ve got back into cycling and don’t have a clue how to index gears, change cables any of that stuff. They’d prefer a 1x on an MTB as they can probably handle adjusting the cable tension. Just hope the limits are set up correctly.

    I rode in Spain recently with some friends and fixed up their bikes for them in the evening. Nothing special and they were grateful, but making sure a front mech is parallel because it wasn’t shifting properly took about 3 minutes and saved them from a trip to the shop.

  3. Bill V.

    Specialized is giving it a shot on the road as well:

    The 1x movement seems pretty useless. With the amount of time and money a person spends on training and equipment, I can’t understand why they’d want to handicap themselves on race day by reducing their options. It seems like another step towards the “I am trying to look like I don’t take this seriously and I’m a hip dude, but deep inside I really do…” attitude that is so prevalent in cycling nowadays. I think they label it “Grassroots” racing. I know many a road racer who says they race cross in their offseason to take the pressure off and just chill and have fun. Every one of them I know ends up way more wrapped up in cross than they did for road season.

  4. Joe C

    I built up an extra Scott CX bike as a 1x to commute on, and its one of my favorite bikes. But when I’m riding dirt, or for a workout, I can’t stand big gear jumps. I’m so old fashioned, I put a triple crank on my Ridley Noah.

  5. Stoney

    I love the simplicity of the 1x system. For those of us who work full time jobs and have kids at home the reduced time spent on the maintenance of the bikes means more time to ride. Steve, you sound like you may get free stuff from Shimano since they’ve been the biggest holdout on the 1x movement. Cheers!

    1. Jim

      What about the time you save while RIDING because you have the correct gearing available that a 1X setup does not provide?

      1. Stonyspider

        Don’t worry. We will see 10 – 45 cassettes soon. If you check the gear ratios, the setup will only be sacrificing about a gear and a half total over a 2x setup.

  6. Fergie

    I 100% agree..so I’m not going to try and convince you otherwise. I have not actively MTB’d in a few years now,but want to get back..and just can’t get my head around this new “industry push”.
    For cross I hear riders rationalize that they will “have it covered”.. as in have the gear they need for the steepest section and have enough gear for the longest pave stretch with an 11…
    ..But even with 11 cogs how about the go to gears for the meat of the race?
    I know with my 20 cog gear selection I am covered for any venue.
    Gosh with the time-crunch of race day of course time, tire/psi selection I wouldn’t want to be swapping out a chainring.
    …so why don’t you just keep this a secret for the old guys that need every little advantage we can get? 🙂

    1. Linda DuPriest

      One can only assume that this “industry push” for 1x on mountain bikes comes from guys who don’t ride in actual mountains, and/or that have a dozen different bikes through the bro deal gravy train. I went to my local shop recently to purchase studded MTB tires for Montana winter riding on my fabulous 26″ hard-tail, since it serves as my car. Dude said, “Just get a fat bike.” Hmmm….$50 tires or $1000 new bike meant only for winter? This assumption that everyone can afford to buy, maintain, store, and haul around a highly targeted bike for every possible type of riding is not only arrogant but offensive, and is why many people I know will not step foot in a bike shop. And I even adore my bike shop!

      1. El Tejan

        I spend a good portion of my summer in summit county Colorado. I ride a 1x. Love it. If you calculate the gear ratios and the delta in those ratios, you lose very little by going 1x.

        Most people I raced with at telluride did too. Most people I saw at breck epic did too. So I’m not convinced it’s a matter of “cramming” from the industry as it is people choosing it.

  7. Bryan DuVall

    Thank you! I to am blown away by this latest industry phenomenon being crammed down our throats. Stupid! On a side note, good to see you in Tulsa Saturday.

  8. SpeedyCx

    No 1x here. Like the bailout option. It doesn’t see much use but sure is good to have it there when you want it.

    Know you’re ramping up the CX actions but keep watching your posts for more from you about your new 27.5 FS Eriksen mountain bike….

  9. Carl

    You guys are sooooo not the demographic here. Not to say 2X, etc doesn’t have it’s place there are numerous advantages to 1X in MTB – most are well outside evaluating just the gearing range.

    A reality check shows that most riders only use a few of their available gear ratios – most of the overlap/similar ratios and oddball cross chain ones limit the practical 2X/3X quite a bit. 2nd removing front der support allows frame designers to construct better full suspension designs – accommodating a well working front der is problematic. 3rd – mtb suspension designs are actually tailored to a particular sized front tooth size – most mfgrs are tailoring their suspension to 30/32 teeth. 4th a huge problem with front ders is dropped chains and other malfunctions – the wide narrow single chain ring (with clutch ders) solution all but eliminates this problem.

    I know there’s some legit backlash as not all solutions are best for everyone but if you follow this blog you know that Steve is not exactly on the cutting edge (or even 2000s tech) of current mtb trends and usages. Trail riding has taken massive leaps resulting in well working technology – suspension and geometry is night and day compared to even 10 years ago. Hate to say it – but if you can’t work a dropper post and/or don’t see the point – you are not anywhere near the universe of what is happening on trail/enduro/all mountain mountain biking which is the by far the largest segment of usage.

    Ride what works for you but discounting this tech on ratios alone is bit naive.

    1. jon r

      Thank you for providing some balance here. Taking tech advice from “old dogs” and their fan boyz can be less effective at times.

    2. channel_zero

      but if you can’t work a dropper post and/or don’t see the point – you are not anywhere near the universe of what is happening on trail/enduro/all mountain mountain biking which is the by far the largest segment of usage.

      Sorry sparky, but dropper posts were called “hite rites” a long time ago and were of no particular advantage then. That has not changed.

      The industry thrives on sketchy stuff like dropper posts and non-round chain rings. Velonews is right there fanning the flames of all that nonsense. It all goes in and out of fashion and the only thing that happens is many consumers feel like they’ve been taken advantage then leave the sport.

      Deny it all you want a dropper post does not make you a better descender.

      1. timm

        Zero, this is so blatantly false. You have never tried a dropper, never on a mountain anyway. Tell me how getting the saddle out of the way doesn’t improve a technical decent?

      2. Jared Neff

        A dropper post doesn’t make you a better day sender, but it makes you a FASTER, and to a certain extent, a SAFER descender. I would choose a dropper post over rear suspension if I had to.

      3. channel_zero


        It was called a Hite Rite when I used it. There was one steep, narrow hiking trail that I rode where it helped. One. Mountain bikers are not allowed on trails like that now, so no need for a dropper.

        To be perfectly clear, I’m not winning any downhills anytime soon, but modern official, trails just aren’t that hard. I can’t help you with your lack of descending ability. A dropper post certainly isn’t the answer.

      4. Carl

        CZ: “There was one steep, narrow hiking trail that I rode where it helped. One. Mountain bikers are not allowed on trails like that now, so no need for a dropper.”

        This overall post wins the “I don’t know what the fk I’m talking about” award. Seriously? Every single DH rider uses a lower seat height, EVERY Enduro rider (where ups and downs are relevant) uses a dropper. Every-single-one. Ignore the fact that saddle height optimized for pedaling is entirely different than that of so-called technical riding, and there’s a product that accommodates both – that is well accepted among every user (and pros) who are experts of the above disciplines and there’s not a single skills coach who advocates the high saddle position – somehow, this guy still comparing current dropper relevancy to a 26 year old hite-rite demands to be the authority. Just stop. You are out of your element, Donny. There’s arguments to be made (healthy in general) but not “learn to ride better” around a well debunked poor position. Your arguments are similar to debating the proficiency of the penny-farthing and how it will relieve the Vapors provided we don’t sleep with the window open cause a cat might steal your breath position.. Please, don’t continue.

      5. Andrew Norris

        the same people that go on about the advantages of 1×10 being lower maintenance and less weight – hark on that dropper posts are amazing.

        Yet several times I have seen them lock up mid ride. They cannot cope with Uk conditions. Plus the owners are constantly having to get them serviced.

        Then you get comments like “how can you not argue that it’s better to keep the post down on a long technical descent”

        Have they not heard of a quick release seat clamp?

      6. Andrew Norris

        I do not lie when I say that I often overtake people on rocky descents with my post fully up. And they are on full sus much more expensive bikes. And have a few year’s experience.

        you can still get your weight all the way back. You just don’t have as much room to shift the weight about.

        you need to be aware of where the post is to not collide with it, so it takes more “skill” (practice) in that sense.

        Just a few days ago a mate had his dropper lock up on a ride. It’s a problem for Uk conditions. And they are not cheap or easy to service. Even the people that had droppers were at that point complaining they can be a pain and may not be worth it. Good for them for having the honesty for saying that. As another mate told me recently ask a person what the best bike etc is for the money and it’s the one they have.

        In fact that same mate fell off when it came to a steep drop as he just was not used to getting his weight back while the saddle was up. Thankfully he was ok, although he did bang his balls !

        So those that say it’s essential for a dropper for anything technical just don’t know what they are talking about. As that’s simply not true. A have seen this in reality.

    3. Steve Tilford Post author

      Carl – I have no use for a dropper post in what I do. I don’t have an all mountain or trail bike and as of now don’t have any extra time for it. My new Eriksen dual suspension bike is great, but I’m not putting a dropper post on it for any reason.

      The largest segment of usage isn’t what most of the guys I hang with are doing. They are racing up and down hills. Sure it is great riding a big movement bike with a dropper post, but that bike is valueless for the racing I do. It weighs close to 30 lbs and is mainly created to go downhill quickly.

      I admit, I’m not “anywhere near the universe of what is happening on trail/enduro/all mountain biking”. The 1x is probably great for that. It’s not great for what I do.

      1. Carl

        Hey Steve..No doubt. Not saying your view points are baseless – just not all encompassing as there are many, many reasons that the bulk of mtb users love these products. Depends on your slice of life and perspective. Been around the block a few times myself – these days my main whip is a 27lb 6” bike but I have 19 lb hardtail w/ dual rings too and probably everything in between; but I ain’t giving up the squish anytime soon – nor the dropper and the single ring.

        Just bringing some balance to the conversation – these products are popular for a reason. Have over 30 years on mtb so “other guy’s” hite rite comment is somewhat funny – in pretense of educating me, as if there hasn’t been a HUGE improvement in that “springy” tech nor people actually knowing what it means to ride a mtb w/ proper technique. This may not apply to your happiness and that’s great but no need to be frozen in your view point and potential experiences; it’s a multifaceted sport.

        I stand by my overall theme: if you can’t use a dropper or you prefer locking out your FS, make up your ground on the flat fire roads, you are niche these days. That’s ok but it is what it is.

  10. Spinner

    I have ridden a couple of MTB one bi’s and I like them. No issues with a “rubbing” front chain ring, no real cross-chaining issues, and a nice set of well spaced gears. I look forward to trying a road version. While I’m not a fan of electronic shifting (yet), the versions of that tech that I’ve ridden automatically center the front change; a VERY nice feature. I made it a point, in the ancient days, to buy the widest caged front changer I could find so that I wouldn’t have to contend with rubbing issues when riding on the “marginally” accepted rear cogs.

  11. rob parniak

    A 10-42 cassette with a 32t chainring would remove a gear on each end of a “classic” 24-32-42 triple with 11-36 cassette. A theoretical high gear of 42×13 (on the single) is still pretty tall. It knocks off around 3/4 of a pound from the bike and really reduces clutter (if that bothers you.)

    I wrestled with the arguments you’re presenting here, then finally gave it a shot. I can’t imagine going back now. For the reasons above and also the overall feeling of simplicity — I like how the bike rides with shifting happening in one place… When I was considering the switch I think I overestimated just how much time I spent in my absolute top gear. I did a bunch of the same races I usually do this season and never spun out in any significant way.

    I also really like not wearing out XTR chainrings.

    1. channel_zero

      It is quite true that most people do not particularly need the tallest gears.

      I ride a 46T outer and tuck in behind the people churning huge gears while I spin-coast-spin-coast to stay in the draft when riding road. I didn’t imagine that would be the case. Yes, I can pull and do, but the spinning looks a little comical. I could see a road race situation with the right road/wind conditions I would be spit out the back. But, I’m not racing road and even on my best days, I am average at best.

      Would I ever go 1x? No. I have no problems with front mechs.

  12. rob parniak

    I guess I should also add that I don’t intend to do Leadville (or races on similar terrain) any time soon. If I did, I’d probably want a double (based on what I’ve seen of the race.) I did do BC Bike Race this summer and the single was ideal. “Horses for courses” and all that.

    1. El Tejan

      I raced telluride – arguably harder than Leadville – on a 1x (32 x 10-42) without issue. Most others were running 1x setups.

    2. El Tejan

      I raced telluride – arguably harder than Leadville – on a 1x (32 x 10-42) without issue. Most others were running 1x setups. So it’s definitely a viable option, even with 12k of climbing.

      1. AC

        Judging from finish times, I don’t think there’s any arguing that Telluride is tougher than Leadville. I haven’t done either and find Telluride a much more interesting proposition. Either way, I’d be on a 2 x. 1x is almost as silly as droppers.

  13. JD

    Guess I’m in the same old-guy-curmudgeon camp. I’m fine with doubles or triple.

    The one issue we used to have with MTBs is catching the rear derailleur cage on trailside stuff – rocks, shrubs, whatever – and bending or breaking derailleu, hanger or both. With a 1x steup and a 42, you now put that derailleur even closer to the damage-causing bits. This does not make sense to me.

    It hey, I’m tempted to run a dropper post on my CX race bike. What do I know?

    1. Carl

      No offense but this is wrong. A 3X system requires a long cage der which aside from contributing to issues like chain slap and chain suck – is waaay more exposed as a dangler than a 1X der which is closer to a mid-length cage.

      Good luck w/ the dropper. I’d totally try that.

      While not the topic, a dropper is a weight penalty and potential failure point – but my mtb experience tells me I can save minutes on a tech decent while reducing crash risk so the overall benefit contrasted w/ hauling the weight around has been huge for me. Expect to see them en mass in coming years on WC XC. YMMV.

      1. ZigaK

        Don’t get me wrong, I’m all in favor of droppers, but …
        If you’re saving minutes on the descent you could take 10 seconds or so to lower your seat post before the descent.
        In my opinion the dropper comes in handy when you have a lot of variety, you’re climbing one minute and then a crazy steep descent the next minute. And every time you use the dropper you gain half a second. You do that 60 times and you saved half a minute.

      2. Carl

        Not saying that I couldn’t do that( re drop before a decent)…In fact, that’s what I used to do some 15 years ago before there was a product that did exactly what I wanted. I learned thru using droppers (did I mention I was skeptical as to how well it’d apply at first?), that lower the seat provided massive benefit in many areas – cornering , high-low transitions, flat land trail obstacles- you name it, not strictly descents. At this point (and I know you are a convert since you’re trialing one in CX), it’s like arguing cantilever brakes over disks or well tuned dampers – it’s not disputable anymore.

  14. Dan Dittrich

    Ive been one by on my fatbike for simplicity. This summer i went one by on my road bike and hated it. Too big of gaps between gears. One was too slow, next one was too fast. I’ll go back to two by on the road. I think thats a fad that will fade in time.

  15. Brad

    I bought a new bike and it has the double. Great bike, but the gearing is too low for the flatlands. I’m going to wear out cassettes way faster now. I’m looking into a change for the front chainring.

  16. Donkybhoy

    Cycling has long started trying to develop trends, fixie being one, 29″, fatboys etc it is all to sell more product.

    Jeez the new carbon frames are x times stiffer, lighter, save watts blah blah blah……..

    So many suckered into it too.

      1. channel_zero

        I would argue it’s the industry’s response to ignorance and/or fashion. We’re all human beings, so we all have changing wants and novelty is appealing.

        Rags like VeloNews really, really misinform their readers on product evals to the point most consumers figure it out after spending $10,000-15,000 and then leave the sport. They are choosing their advertisers over their own brand.

  17. Krakatoa (East of Java)

    This is hilarious. Bike and component manufacturers no longer deserve the right to utter the word “simplicity” in a sentence. It’s absurd to pursue this line of thinking while they simultaneously chase increasingly complicated technologies that accomplish nothing but increased complexity and cost. First there was the asinine obsession with microgram weight savings (at the expense of durability and economy), and now there’s this.

    1. Andrew Norris

      yep only reason they want simplicity here is to get us all to buy new 1×10 shifters, chains, chainrings,, as you need more gears to cope with a 1x

      and others will upgrade their bikes because of the hype that a 1x system brings.

      just another way to try and get more money out of us.

      magazines, getting most of their income from advertisers, want to encourage us to spend to put up good reviews.

  18. timm

    It’s a matter of simplicity. Yes there’s a maintenance issue. Adjusting an ever narrowing deraileur across a 10/11cassette can be a pain. But, cleaning up the cockpit, shifting from the right only and moving the dropper remote to the left simplifies things dramatically. This isn’t racer driven. If you ride for enjoyment, it is an improvement. No doubt.

      1. Krakatoa (East of Java)

        If you’re dropping your chain due to f. derailleur shifts, the problem is you, not the equipment. Learn to ease-up on the fuckin’ gas and baby that shift. You’re riding a fine piece of machinery, not a porn star! You won’t get better results by simply hammering away!

    1. Andrew Norris

      I used to have problems with chain rub but once I learned how to set up a mech it has not been a problem. Some people don’t pick the right mech for their bike so it can never be tuned right. e.g. mech for a 1×10 will easily rub on a 1×9 system.

  19. Chris Reid

    “I was riding a 24 x 40 up Columbine in Leadville. I didn’t plan to be in that gear, but I didn’t plan to be all
    cramped up and barely moving. If I would have had a 30 x 42, I would have been dead in the water for sure.”

    I agree with almost your whole arguement but the track racing part of my brain is pretty sure that that example is nearly an identical gar ratio

      1. Mark

        24×40= 15.76 Gear Inches
        30×42= 18.76 Gear Inches

        It’s a difference that can be felt but it’s not crazy huge.

        I like 1x for it’s simplicity. No, it doesn’t have all the answers but then again neither does 2x or 3x setups. On a mtb I personally prefer bigger gaps in the cassette. I also like having a smaller front chainring as it is less likely to get caught up on technical features. I also ride SS a lot and have a different perspective on how low of a gear you need to get up a hill.

        Think about how close Peat Henry was behind you guys at BTE with just 1 gear!

      2. Krakatoa East of Java

        “24×40= 15.76 Gear Inches
        30×42= 18.76 Gear Inches”

        In other words, a toddler’s tricycle (either way). I think at that point, I could go faster on foot!

  20. Carl Sundquist

    “Plus, who wants to be going and changing their chainrings for different riding?”

    Welcome to the bane of track cycling (and rain for most tracks).

  21. Josh

    I rode 9spd 1x at Ouachita on 2 different occasions. About 7-8years ago with a 34t up front and an 11/34 in back. Only hiked briefly thru a boulder field. Was able ride up all the difficult climbs. I may be more of a ‘masher’ than a ‘spinner’…And Arkansas has no switch backs. I’ve raced and ridden my 1x set up for almost 10 years now. Never been under or over geared at any cross country or marathon mtb race either.

    Just got a new Santa Cruz TallBoy that is set up 1x as well. 11spd. It came with 32t up front. I switched that out immediately to a 36t because I have the 11/40 in back. Better gear ratio than my 9spd hard tail.
    I’ve ridden 1x set up in Colorado and Crested Butte several times on the 9spd 1x with no issues. However I’ve not raced there.
    I briefly tried a 2x set up last year. Lasted 4 rides and I went back to 1x:)

    Ride what works for you…

    1. Charlie

      This is kind of what I was thinking, too, but you summed it up better than I did. I can see both sides of the argument here. My old 3X9 26″ mtb is fun to ride. My 2X10 road bikes and fat bike are fun to ride. My 1X11 cross bike is fun to ride, and I like the fact that it cleans up a lot easier after mud. The simplicity of 1X is really appealing to me. I don’t really race anymore, though, so maybe I just don’t care enough about having the absolute best gear for any possible scenario.

      1. Andrew Norris

        You’re totally right, what people ride is up to them.

        But I think it’s OTT to accuse people of being “angry”.

        It’s equally a backhanded anger yourself at those that are “angry”

        Yes we are all really angry and are thumping our fists at the table as we type!

        It’s just a debate, chill …

        Personally I don’t race, and I still find 3×9 very useful.

        I see my mates struggle up steep hills, and wonder why they spent that money.

        I often get them shouting behind me “go faster” and getting frustrated bc they might stall and stop if they go slower. I hear them panting. I let them go by. But at the end of a long hilly ride they are done in. And have to walk if there’s climbs at the end.

        I ride it lots of Uk MTB mud, forests in winter, and cleaning and adjusting the front mech is no problem.

        If you in a not in hilly area then no front mech is good.

        It’s no big deal, have a front mech or not..

        Trouble is some people end up “upgrading” after reading all the magazines who make out it’s the cool thing. And gush too much over it. That’s where the problem is.

        Each to his own I’m having a go at anyone, other than the mags, and our materialistic society which seems to encourage endless spending,.

  22. JB

    Do whatcha like, but I think it’s the pendulum swinging back from the single-speed trend from 5-ish years ago. People figured out that SS wasn’t enough for most, so come back halfway to 1X.

    Also, it looks cooler since it looks like you’re always in the big ring… 😉

    In 10 years: “Hey, do you want more gears? Add a second chainring up front!”

    1. Andrew Norris

      i don’t think anybody looks down to see what chainring you are in and then judge you’re “looking cool”.

      also fixies are for city commutes, or flat terrain MTB, or nutter on an mtb.

      1×10 is ok. but it’s no major thing whether you have a mech or not. mates do struggle on 1×10 getting up steep stuff. they have to go flat out. and it leaves them tried at the end of rides, where they have to walk sometimes.

      I can tune my front mech no problem.

      but it’s no big deal either way.

      cannot see the point of spending lots of cash to “upgrade” to it.

  23. George

    I also don’t see the need for 1X and the insistence that everyone else would be better off getting rid of their front derailleur.

    I don’t care what other people ride but why should I be limited to less gear choices? I live in AZ and we have climbs that I like to shift in the small ring for.

    I bought an Eriksen Bingham FS bike last February. I put Shimano XTR 2X on it. I haven’t had my chain drop in more than 2000 miles on the bike. I haven’t had to adjust the shifter cables either. I have changed the chain once and I lube the chain every 2 or 3 rides.

    My tubeless tires require more maintenance than the drivetrain. I’m on my 3rd set of tires and have to add sealant once a month (I’m in AZ).

    My daughter races on the local HS MTB team. Some of the kids on our team ride carbon hardtails with 1X drivetrains, they tell her she needs to get a carbon hardtail. Her bike is an aluminum FS with a 3X. She never dropped a chain in a race or practice this year and was State Champ in her division.

    I don’t get the argument that the weight of a front shifter and extra ring on the crank makes any difference to 99.9% of the population. A morning dump will take more weight of the bike/rider combo than the components weigh.

    As far as racing goes, one of my friends rode Leadville SS. Just because it can be done doesn’t mean everyone is going to run out and buy a SS bike and only have one gear ratio per race. It was his choice to run SS and he doesn’t go around telling everyone else they need to get rid of their geared bikes.

  24. David N

    Once “they” figure out 14speed with a shortish cage, everyone will be 1x… That’s probably what Shimano is holding out for, seeing as they have the 14s patent. Or maybe “they” will just continue to increase cassettes 1 gear at a time to prolong the absurd necessity to upgrade otherwise perfectly capable components every few years. Just like many big capitalist ideas, “they” want to increase gains for as long as possible. At some point the “innovation” of cycling components will dwindle. ATMO, there is only so much that can be done, and only so long that it can be prolonged… don’t put your stock in cycling companies.

  25. Davey Simon

    I run 1X on my DH bike. Downhillers have been running 1X for decades. For one simple reason. The chain won’t fall off. The reason many don’t understand 1X is that you don’t ride DH aggressively enough to knock the chain off. That is perfectly fine. When I peddle uphill I use 2X because I’m not strong enough to run 1X and my chain falls off sometimes.

    Regardless. No one is making you do anything. Ride what you want.

    1. JB

      I’d say there are 2 reasons. The other being that downhillers didn’t need any climbing gears – they got a ride to the top of the hill.

    2. Andrew Norris

      “my chain falls off sometimes”.

      (on your 2x)

      we all want to beleive beleive it fell off b/c we rode “aggressively”

      are you shifting to the big ring for the descents?

      and (more likely) – is your rear mech got enough chain tension. often a fall will bend it back and reduce the power of the spring. plus old mechs lose power in their springs.

      a clutch mech will help too.

  26. Fahzure

    Sounds like a crusty crew of mostly hardtail riders. No one has mentioned that almost all suspension designs use pivots precisely located to relate to chain tension (anti-squat). 1X drivetrains minimize the difference in antisquat characteristics between gears and free up the clusterfuck of pivot/bb/chainring/f.der/tire for better optimization (elimination) of those placements. A wider range would be helpful. Canfield Bros. used to make a 9T driver, like many bmx bikes feature. Get the right tool (drivetrain) for the job.

    1. Andrew Norris

      technically correct. but the reason no one mentioned it is b/c it makes little difference in the real world.

      full sussers would have been using them ages ago, and no one complained of this problem, no mags, no riders..

      it’s only since it became the “fashion” that full susser started using 1×10. A good excuse by the industry to get people to buy new mechs, chains, chainrings, shifters.. or even a new bike..

  27. Liam

    I have found that bad techs and riders always wanting an excuse prefer a 1x setup. One that can’t properly adjust a front derailleur will always say they are finicky.

  28. Paul Biskup

    The industry wants the front derailleur to go away and has for over 20 years. There are a million ways to screw up specs on a front derailleur on a $700 bike, they dictate chainline, limit suspension design, rear tire specs, cable routing and gobs of other stuff. Plus, a big manufacturer like Trek probably will have models they make 100,000 of. Save $5 by eliminating derailleur, shifter, cable and labor and you’re talking real money. And that’s just one model and not mentioning saving headaches for their precious large dealers that can have a revolving door service staff.

  29. Carlos F

    I’m a huge fan of 1X but Steve’s post makes an excellent case for 2X and its advantages.

    I’m still running a 32T N/W front and 11-34 rear 9 speed. May change to 30T front or 11-36 rear sometime.

    One advantage of not having a large front ring is no more getting hung up on logovers. Simpler drivetrain = longer life. Races and rides can get ruined every so often from broken chains – most of these are a result of wear from front shifts or dropped chains – 1X reduces chain wear considerably I find.

    Perfectly happy with 1X now but might reconsider if I moved to CO. Longest climb I have in the midwest is 2.5 minutes. If I was a candidate to win the hole shot at races I might go 2X also. As it is I tuck in and try to hit top 10 or so.

    I prefer to have large gear jumps because terrain changes so much and so rapidly – just a couple of jumps are needed. Don’t understand desire for small gear jumps – never have enough time to find a rhythm – just adjust cadence to suit.

  30. Fausto

    Do I put the 1x on the 29r which I was told is the best wheel size or the ……Maybe on my power assisted Fat Bike with Di2. Can’t use that because it was the generation without thru axles. The industry keeps pushing out product is search of sales to make money, fine, that is what they do. The business is not growing right now, especially on the high end. Just don’t fall for all the marketing crap and make up your own mind for your own riding. The past 10 years have brought us how many bikes? I need an aero bike, a sub 800 frame, electronic shifting, deep carbon wheels, 11 speeds, a stiff bike, a compliant bike, a fat bike, a gravel bike, a power meeter, a gps, a 1x drive train, a Wifli, a wax coated chain, a compact sub compact, a cross bike, a classic bike with suspension, a new custom steel, the new aluminum, a 29 inch wheel MTB. Did I miss anything? I respect Steve that his legs and lungs and experienced head and heart win races, not his overweight titanium mix and match groupo bike.

    1. Larry T.

      Dead right! In a mature (marketing-maven speak for saturated) market, the sales come only from convincing consumers already into the stuff to get yet another one. Whatever you have now is obsolete and you’re missing all the big fun if you don’t have the newest-latest. Very little of the newest-latest stuff is any real improvement. Sadly, cycling these daze is way too much about shopping vs actually riding.

  31. zeke

    1X works for some people, and not for others. Fine. But just like many other “new” developments, this will run its course. Someday in the future, someone will “discover” that two (or three) chainrings give them more and better gearing options than a single chainring, and everyone will get back onboard with multiple chainring setups. I’ve see the same thing with saddle height (high versus low) and pedalling cadence (fast versus slow) over the past few decades; it’s a cyclic thing (no pun intended).

  32. Tom

    As a shop employee it is my job to understand Sram and Shimano. Most of the post were baseless and totaly off the mark. Steve is sponsored by shimano and has many friends who work for them. His opinion is very bias.
    Not all 1x is the same. Srams derailleur is designed around x-horizon. That is the marketing name. What it really is the derailleurs straight parallelogram design. This limits the derailleurs movement in a horizontal plane. The limited movement along with a wide narrow chain ring eliminates dropped chains.
    If you are not familiar with this next time you are at your shop go feel the clutch tension of even a GX-1Rear derailleur. Sram has developed a product that solved a true issue in mountain bike gearing.

    Shimano has taken a different approach to their new components. They offer gearing in 1,2 or even 3rings. The rear derailleur moves in a parallel direction. However the new Shadow Derailleur is a bit limited in its ability to run 1x as it will only go to a 37T. However like i said you can get a a front crank in 1-3by. This gives each rider a option of gear ratio.

    I could go on and on but it is getting late.

    You guys making claims about number of rings just do the math to figure out gear/inches and you will see for yourselves.

    Steve keep on trucking

    1. Craig


      Even the new Shimano M8000 1x does not shift as well as any generic SRAM Type 2.1 on large cogs. I am running a 1×11 on my trail bike with XT and it works amazingly well. Since none of my wheels are compatible with XD driver I cannot convert to SRAM 1×11 without a major dump of cash and the 1×10 conversion just don’t shift as cleanly as I want.

      To Steve’s point, there is one thing I haven’t seen in the discussion … wheel size. 1x on 26″ and 27.5″ are much less useful than on 29″ … I have yet to find anyone who needed a lower gear (okay, Steve’s example is a good one) consistently but I have found many who have tapped out the top end. On a smaller wheeled bike this becomes even more apparent.

      If I had to have only one bike for all duty it would probably be a 2×10 or 11 but I am not that guy so I run what is fun …

      1. xanthoptica

        This “problem” is why you get to choose the size of your chainring. And if you end up putting a bit bigger ring on a 26″ bike, your chain should have just a little less load and last a little longer.

    2. rob parniak

      37t cog? Shimano’s 1×11 system includes an XT cassette with 42t cog. I own two of them and my XTR M9000 derailleur shifts very well across it. Best shifting I’ve experienced, actually. Much lighter feel at the shift lever than M985.

  33. Tom

    For what it is worth i ride a worn out Niner with 2×9 with dumpster tires and tubes. I enjoy every minute in the woods on that thing. I am slow and not very skilled. No amount of gears is going to change any of that.
    Remeber to have fun

  34. barb

    I think I understand 1x pretty well. It was just another equipment iteration like press fit, which we didn’t need and which they are now admitting doesn’t work well and CK and others are soon going to be introducing oversize threaded bottom brackets. They created 1x to sell more bikes and more bike parts. It’s the corporate way. Keep the equipment “evolving”, phasing out legacy equipment and heaven forbid anything new is backwards compatible, and keep this process going ad infinitum, to ensure an ongoing income stream in high end, expensive equipment that only people who are independently wealthy (or sponsored) can keep up with. When 1x came out, I was just wondering to myself, “what were they thinking?” I’d rather have the extra ring(s) on the front than the back, personally;.

  35. notold

    Hey Steve, no where in the article did velonews claim 1x has a wider range of gearing.

    You are all Fucking geezer roadies.

  36. Tom

    Sram created their 1x to to improve shifting. Which it does. Sure they profit from selling new equipment. Isnt that the point of being a for profit business?

  37. Jackie Gammon

    Well, since we all live in different areas, the choice in cranks might be useful. I live in the mountains, so will always ride a 2x or 3x.. it isn’t simply for the gearing . In my area, I can be trying to ride over roots, stumps in addition to climbing … that is what works for me. If I lived in an area where trails were manicured for no better description, then I would probably ride a 1x system. It’s all about choice folks. Thanks for posting this Steve!

  38. xanthoptica

    First off, the folks who point out how 1X opens up suspension bike design are right on. If you know pretty much where the chain will be pulling, you can design suspension that pedals better. In addition, you don’t have to accommodate the front derailleur when squeezing linkages in around the BB; just look at how asymmetric and contorted (and flexy) some links are to make room for a front shifter! With time, those benefits will become more apparent in “1X-only” trail and downhill bikes.

    However, the other thing going on (as Mike Ferrentino pointed out in Bike this month) is that with enduro and trail bikes dominating the scene, bikes in general are getting longer and slacker, which is not a recipe for a fun climber. Around Portland (OR), I see less folks on the epic XC loops that require really low gears (and where I *use* my triple), and many more on fun purpose-built downhills that can be accessed by mellow paved or gravel road climbs (Sandy Ridge, Black Rock, and Syncline) or shuttle (Post Canyon). I love riding in those places, too, and I never end up using the granny for those climbs, so I’m not surprised to see folks running 1X if that’s what they ride every time.

    1. xanthoptica

      BTW, little to none of the benefit of 1X mentioned above applies to road bikes (or hardtails), which is probably why roadies aren’t exactly clamoring for it.

  39. Alice N 3/32" Chains

    The reason for the x1 is so in 4 years SRAM can revolutionize the bike industry with its ground breaking crankarms with 2 and 3 chainrings.

    1. AC

      Nah, it was so that SRAM could offer a group where the front shifting actually worked.

      SRAM engineer #1 “we’ll never get this front shifting to work….”
      SRAM engineer #2 “let’s just take it off and see if marketing can spin it as a technologic advance”

  40. Jordan

    What I learned today:

    1. We are so fat we can only race Enduro
    2. I could have spent more time with my kids if I had made a 1x years ago
    3. I need a “crit” bike, the road bike won’t do it

  41. Caley Fretz

    This his hilarious. I’ll ignore the fact that Steve put words on my mouth (my story doesn’t say 1x offers wider gearing) and stick to a simple truth: The industry is not shoving 1x down riders throats. We’re asking for it. Product managers are speccing 1x SRAM systems with Shimano brakes — not because that makes any financial sense (it doesn’t), but because it’s what riders are asking for.

    If you don’t understand dropper posts, you don’t understand modern mountain biking.

    If you don’t understand 1x, you don’t understand modern mountain biking.

    If your stem is longer than 65mm, you don’t understand modern mountain biking.

    This is not necessarily a bad thing. Mountain biking was awesome long before droppers, 1x, long top tubes, efficient 6″ travel bikes, and 50mm stems. But it’s even more awesome now. It’s best to know what you don’t know, you see?

    1. Steve Tilford Post author

      Caley – I didn’t mean to put “words in your mouth”. In the last paragraph you were addressing the lack of a 42 on XTR and that if they had that it would be a much better 1x setup. And you stated you were “an admitted single chainring devotee”.

      The point of my post is I don’t get it and it wouldn’t work for me and the races I do. I’m not a 1x devotee and from my personal experience, it makes no sense for guys like me.

      You say in your article that the guys riding with you were envious of your 26 x 40 gears. Are you riding a 26 as a single front ring? That really wouldn’t come close to working for me.

      I agree that is Shimano is making a XTR race group and a XTR trail group, then maybe they should take into consideration the weekend warrior. But, XTR is the top end group that Shimano produces for MTB and it is mainly designed for racing. And for racing, this 1x, as of now, doesn’t cut it in my opinion.

      I do think the industry is “shoving 1x down riders throats”. I think I do understand 1x. It doesn’t have enough gearing for most people on either the low or high end for most people.

      I readily admit I am behind the times in what is up to date in the MTB industry. This year I raced The Winterpark Freeride Games, The GoPro games, Leadville, Lutzen, Chequamegon and The Berryman Epic. 4 of those races are what might be considered marathon distances and the GoPro games in Vail is an old-school type MTB XC. Winterpark was just a XC.

      I didn’t see one lining up with me riding a dropper post. Not one. So no, I don’t understand dropper posts because I really don’t have any use for them in what I do.

      And I’m not sure I saw anyone at these races with a stem as short as 65 mm.

      I think we are trying to compare two completely different aspects of the sport. Riding a XC racing. No enduro racing, cross country.

      Jimmy Mac told me a few years ago that the reason that cross country mountain bike racing is dead is because the bikes that are the best to just ride, the most fun, are not race bikes. They are the bikes with big movement, dropper posts, and now, I’m going to include a 1x drivetrain.

      Those are the bikes that the industry is concentrating on, the ones that the majority of the public should be riding.

      I guess I’m a “devotee” to front shifting. Guess that should have been the title of my post.

      1. rob parniak

        Dropper posts and 65mm stems are still rare in XC racing, but I’d argue that single-ring setups are the norm for racing. SRAM was certainly first out of the gate with it (and the Shimano racers scrambled to cobble together something comparable to XX1) but now it’s pretty much universal, as far as I can tell.

    2. Larry T.

      I’ve always wondered about claims that the “market demands it” when they’re followed by relentless attempts at MARKETING. Seems if the market was so demanding this stuff would be snapped up without the huge marketing expenses. I can’t help but notice increased advertising for crap like the latest I-phone and seem to remember the early ones had hipsters lining up for ’em before they were even available. Now every other TV spot is hyping this or the latest competitor’s version. Perhaps the market really DOESN’T demand it? They’ve had enough of it? But the product makers and their marketing mavens need to keep pushing ever more consumption and with a mature market that can only be done by making everyone’s current stuff “obsolete?” Perhaps you can explain it all when you (like so many VN guys before you) are working as a marketing maven at one of these companies?

  42. RGTR

    Wow, 77 comments (I’m 78 unless someone slips in on me). I didn’t know 1x was such a polarizing topic. I would think this was another post on PEDs.

  43. euro

    I ride a 42×52 front with 13-17 in back of my 1977 Conago. Works great. Besides, I run so much with this setup that I’m a faster runner than any of my friends!

  44. Joe


    Here’s how you start your post: “I was just reading an article at Velonews this morning and according to the review, the big “failure” of the new XTR trail group was that they don’t have a 42 tooth rear cog, thus makes it unacceptable for a 1x setup on a MTB. I don’t get 1x. Not at all.

    The article says that 1x allows a wider range of gearing. That is complete bullshit.”

    VN didn’t say that the lack of an XTR-level cassette with a 42T cog was a “failure.” That word never appears. Not sure why you quote something they didn’t say.

    VN also does not say that 1x allows a wider range of gearing.

    I’m not totally sold on 1x either, although for some applications I’ve found it to be great. 1x for road seems a stretch to me. But while much of your post makes sense, it also makes unfair criticisms of the VN review, which I found to be quite balanced and, several times, gave Shimano plaudits for even offering a 2x system, which SRAM no longer does for its top group. You guys are on the same page here: yay for drivetrain choice. Not sure why you felt it necessary to call elements of their article bullshit.

  45. The Cyclist

    I hate 4-armed cranks no matter how many chain rings. A crank should have 5 arms and at least a chain ring.

  46. Stonyspider

    I have held out on 1x for 2 years now as well. I always thought that I would be unhappy without the range. There are still strong arguments for such as well. I think this may be a situational approach, though 1x has a lot of strong arguments. I believe that we will soon see a 10 – 45t cassette. This will bring us nearly to the full range of a 2x setup on an 11 – 36t cassette. So the sacrifice of the 1 1/2 gears may be accounted for in other aspects. First off, the weight loss is more than front deraileur and shifter, the cranks are also significantly lighter, particularly direct mount. Another bonus is that chain drop is much less likely. The 30 to 60 seconds you gain on a gravel descent doesn’t do you any good if you have to put your chain back on in a rough descent. There is also the strength factor. If one is to switch to 1x and sacrifice the low gear, after training with such, power will increase, making for a much improved rider. As stated earlier, I have held out on 1x setup till recently, and I think there are just as many positives to the switch as there are negatives brought up in this blog.

  47. Alice N 3/32" Chains

    I think the answer is another bottom bracket standard. How about 2 or 3 speed bottom brackets? Whatever size will accommodate a reliable design.

  48. M P

    “XTR is bad enough going from 35 -40, a 5 tooth difference.”

    You can’t look at the absolute number of teeth, you have to look at the percentage difference. The change in gear ratio of the 35-40 jump is about the same as the 13-15 jump.

  49. Stonyspider

    Yes MP, you got it right. There seems to be so much lack of knowledge, application, and experience of the products being criticized here. I feel like this has become a less than thoughtfull discussion on drivetrains.

  50. The Cyclist

    Yeah, totally forgot to add that shiftin up on the big ring after a climb is imho the most rewarding thing you can do on a bicycle. Wouldn’t trade that for anything. Plus it gives my left thumb somethin to do which adds even more to the total experience of a highly satisfying ride.


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