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Thread: Advice needed: Should I switch from 2X10 to 1X11 on a touring bike

  1. #1
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    Default Advice needed: Should I switch from 2X10 to 1X11 on a touring bike

    As some of you know, I built a custom Salsa Vaya a couple of years ago. It has a SRAM X9 mountain bike group on it geared at 42/28 double crank and a 12-36 cassette. The full build is here. THIS IS NOT A MOUNTAIN BIKE. The bike gets a lot of use and will need some drivetrain attention relatively soon so I am thinking about taking advantage for this future maintenance to upgrade. I like this setup a lot with the exception of the front derailleur. I have had issues with chain suck and jammed drivetrains over the last few months. It has been recently tuning and dialed in as well but the front of the drivetrain continues to be somewhat problematic.



    This hasn't been a huge deal because the bike generally stays in the big ring except for the worst hills or when fully loaded. But its annoying and I have been tempted to transition to one of SRAM's new 1X11 mountain bike groups such as GX or X1. My White Industries hub will accept the XD freehub body to install the 10-42 cassette and I can easily use the mountain bike trigger shifter with a Paul mount. Here is the thing: I see lots of reviews online for cross and mountain bikes but not much in terms of touring style bikes with any load. This bike functions as a commuter, loading tourer on pavement and gravel. It has done the GAP/C&O with 60 lbs. of gear. The bike weighs about 28-30 lbs unloaded I'd guess including full front and rear racks with fenders. It pedals along at 27-28 mph without much trouble and the gearing to low enough to handle pretty much anything loaded. But I hate the derailleur and simplifying is a good thing. So is considering a 1X11 setup on a bike like this a mistake?

    I want to stay with a mountain bike group for the durability and my bike is already setup for it. So, considering SRAM GX or X1 with 34 or 36 tooth crank and the 10-42 cassette. In this scenario, I would change to whole group set: shifter, rear derailleur, cassette, freehub and crankset. As long as I can pedal along on 20-25 mph I'll be happy.

    Has anyone done this? Should I ditch the front derailleur? Any advice? Too big of gaps between gears with a bike like this? Will I be walking up hills?

    Thanks in advance.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by bluerider View Post
    Has anyone done this? Should I ditch the front derailleur? Any advice? Too big of gaps between gears with a bike like this? Will I be walking up hills?

    Thanks in advance.
    I have a Fuji touring bike that I use for commuting, every day riding and recreational riding, including centuries, WABA rides, etc.. The front derailleur broke prior to Freezing Saddles last year. I put it on the middle ring and left it there all winter. In the spring I ditched the FD and went with a 1x9 with a chain protector on the outside. My smallest gear is 42/32.
    It's three fewer things to break, all of which have broken on me in the past: shifter, cable, and derailleur.

    My chain was still occasionally dropping to the inside when I hit bumps, but I added one of these the day before Kill Bill:
    Click image for larger version. 

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    That kept my chain on for the whole ride. It's only dropped 2-3 times in the 5 months since.
    I love not having to worry about a front derailleur. Having 10 or 11 gears might be better, but for me just marginally. I originally had wanted to go with 46/36 as my lowest gear, but I seem to be fine with this setup.


    The number of gears people have now seems to be out of control (although I understand the need for low gears on MTBs). My 1x9 has more options than the original 10-speeds I had back in my youth, and cyclists were winning the Tour de France on bikes like those.

    So, in short, yes. Ditch the front derailleur and give yourself 10 or 11 gears that will serve your riding needs. You don't need more than that.

  3. #3
    DismalScientist is offline I really need to log off the internet and go for a ride.
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    The only thing that I would worry about with a "touring" bike is the gear range. It doesn't matter whether it is achieved by a 1x11, 2x10 or 3x6, for that matter. I would think about just going 1x10 if you can find a chain ring that meets your needs with the 12-36 cassette. In general, with a 1x10, the only thing you would have to change is the cassette and crank.

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    I cant comment on your specific gearing question since I don't off the top of my head know the ratios your looking at good enough, but I can comment on only having 11 gears, since that's what my alfine IGH provides me. I don't find the lack of gears slows me down much at all. The heaviness of the bike I'm riding impacts me much more.

    For me, it's no issue only having 11 gears as long as the lowest gear goes low enough, and the highest is high enough for my trips. The gaps between gears can be large when you're working with fewer gears, but if it's set up right, it's manageable even when hauling a heavy load. The only time I've ever been annoyed with my lack of gears is on bigger hills, such as Wilson between Rosslyn and Courthouse, when I wished I had a tiny bit more refinement than I did between my 2 lowest gears. Otherwise I've made it up that hill, Braddock Rd between Commonwealth and King, and other decently sized hills hauling groceries and other heavy loads without problems. And my bike is likely heavier than yours to start with, so if I can make it up a hill with 11 gears, so can you.

    (in case it matters, below is the gear ratio I'm working with and have found to be perfectly adequate around DC).
    Gear 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
    Ratio 0.527 0.681 0.770 0.878 0.995 1.134 1.292 1.462 1.667 1.888 2.153

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    I run a Raceface Narrow/Wide chainring on my mountain bike in a 1x9 setup. In two years, I have dropped my chain MAYBE three times!! If you go to a 1x setup be sure to get a narrow/wide chainring up front!!

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    I'll echo Dismal: that sounds like a much bigger expense than just going with something like an 11/42 ten speed. Why not try that and see if you actually need the extra gear? If you ever use the full range of your current setup, you're going to be sad with this because you'll have a narrower range. My personal preference would be to try to tune the gearing so that you just don't use the front very often: stay in the big ring if you're unloaded, and use the small ring for loaded touring. That means keeping track of what ratios you're using, then calculating the best combination of chainrings and cassette.

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    dasgeh is offline Queen of Family Biking & All Things Kidical
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve O View Post
    Click image for larger version. 

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    This, BTW, is called a "chain watcher", in case anyone needs to google it. Took me far to long to figure that out (it didn't help that I thought everyone was saying "chain washer").

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    Thanks everyone. Still not particularly close to making a decision about this. Need to play around with Sheldon Brown's gear calculator.

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    hozn is offline I really need to log off the internet and go for a ride.
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    I switched my commuter to 1x10, using an X9 RD, a 11-36t cassette and a 46t X-SYNC ring up front. This yields slightly more range than an 11-28 with a 36/46 setup.

    I am very happy with this setup.

    The narrow-wide ring is the way to go. The SRAM (x-sync) rings shift the chainline inboard a bit, which makes for less extreme angles in the big cogs.

    Going [SRAM] 10sp let me just mix road and mtb components. I am using an Apex shifter and a S500 brake lever (basically Apex with the paddle removed). And the X9 type 2 (clutch) RD really is quite nice.

    Only downside is that the X9 doesn't have a barrel adjuster on it, so had to add an inline adjuster. Also I do notice the gaps; the 11-36 smaller cogs have 2-tooth increments and there are one or two cogs that I wish I had. An 11s might help, but would introduce way more complexity and cost.

    I love not having the FD and love not dropping my chain when riding singletrack.

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    Quote Originally Posted by hozn View Post
    I love not having the FD and love not dropping my chain when riding singletrack.
    This. I'm running a triple(!) on my road bike (I'm super fat so hills == pain) but on my fat bike I'm switching it over to a 1x10 just to get away from the chain drop. The biggest issue you might run into is tire rub but I doubt you're planning to run tires wide enough for that to be an issue.

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