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. 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.

  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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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,.

  6. 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..


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