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Pros and cons of 1x groupsets/systems

The cycling industry, mostly for marketing reasons, moves towards an ever-increasing “number of speeds” at the back. However, there is also a trend of having fewer front chainrings. First, the triples were extinct from high-end groupsets of big manufacturers, then they came for the doubles… 🙂 

Today’s modern thing is the 1x – bicycle groupsets with only one front chainring. SRAM was the first to announce “the death of the front derailleur” when they made the first 1x groupset, while other manufacturers joined the race. This post will give an objective overview of 1x system pros and cons, compared to 2x (double), and 3x (triple) systems, so you could easily decide whether 1x is an optimal choice for You.

1X, 2X, and 3X cranks
1X, 2X, and 3X cranks

When “weighing” pros and cons, it is important to note that, while they are objective, their significance depends on particular cyclist’s priorities and riding conditions, even preferences, budget etc. Likewise, the number of pros and cons is irrelevant – it matters how much they affect performance, which entirely depends on riding conditions, as will be explained. In those terms, at the end of this post I’ll give an overview of some typical cases and what I think is the optimal choice for each, based on my knowledge and experience. Still, it’s best to weigh the pros and cons personally and decide for and by yourself what works for you.

Table Of Contents (TOC):

  1. Pros of 1x systems
  2. Cons of 1x systems
  3. Further differences
    3.1. Large gear ratio “jumps”
    3.2. Overlapped gear ratios
    3.3. More rear sprockets = weaker wheel
    3.4. Ground clearance
    3.5. Total number of teeth for a given gear ratio
    3.6. Chain line and cross chaining
  4. Typical cases – when is which system an optimal choice

1. Pros of 1x systems

  • Lower overall groupset mass (“weight”) – there’s no front shifter and derailleur, only one front chainring, no front shifter cables/housing.
  • Simpler shifting – only one (rear) shifter, up-down, faster-slower.
  • Better overall aerodynamics – the effect is very, very small, but for time-trial, rear derailleur is “tucked” behind riders’s legs, while extra front chainrings do create some, slight additional air drag. Yes, it sounds almost ridiculous, but for a TT trial, it might just make a split-second difference (all else having been made as aero as possible – helmet, clothes, frame, wheels, riding posture…).
  • No problems with the front derailleur – when riding through sticky mud, it can pile up on the front derailleur, creating drag on the rear wheel and also hampering front derailleur operation. Rear derailleur is away from the tyre and less likely to get soaked in mud.
  • Gives more freedom in frame design – important for full suspension off road bicycles. This leaves more room for wider tyres and rear suspension connecting linkages.
  • Less chain drop on off-road riding – while well set up multi-chainring system doesn’t drop the chain every day, it can be said that modern 1x systems are a bit more robust when it comes to not dropping the chain when jumping over bumps (and shifting).
  • One fewer lever at the bars – with no front shifter, there’s more room on the bars for other gadgets, such as suspension and dropper seatpost lockout levers, which are used on many modern MTBs.

– T.O.C. –

2. Cons of 1x systems

  • Smaller gearing ratio span – 2x and 3x systems (doubles and triples) generally give a larger gearing range, that is the difference between the “slowest” and the “fastest” gear.
  • Greater adjacent gearing ratio differences (gaps) – in order to get somewhat usable gearing ratio range, tooth count difference of adjacent rear sprockets needs to be relatively high, since the “tool” for getting a wider gear range (front derailleur and multiple chainrings) is thrown away.
  • Necessity for an outrageous number of rear sprockets – for the two reasons stated above, 1x systems require 11, 12, even 13 sprockets at the rear to get the sufficient gearing ratio range and “tightness” that is otherwise easily achieved using a 3×7 (7 sprocket) system.
  • Shorter chain and sprocket lifetime – will be explained later.
  • Higher price – generally, a good quality 1x groupset costs more than a 2x, or 3x system of similar quality.
  • Greater drivetrain mechanical losses – because of more severe chain angle (cross-chaining) and fewer chainring teeth in some gear combinations.

– T.O.C. –

3. Further differences

3.1. Large gear ratio “jumps”

Systems with multiple front chainrings allow for large changes in gear ratio by doing only one front shift. With 1x systems, this is not present.

With modern “compact” (50-34 toothed) double cranks this can be a problem. Especially if using common 11-28 cassettes (and the like). For riding on flats, 50 is often too large, while 34 is too small. Rider ends up riding severely cross chained most of the time.

With standard doubles (53-39 for road, or 26-36 for MTB), this is not a problem. With triples even less so. There you can usually find an optimal chainring for climbs, flats and downhills, without much cross chaining. In this situation, greater gear ratio change when shifting up front is often beneficial. When starting going up a hill, one front shift gives a significantly “easier” gearing, while fine tuning can be achieved during the climb with rear shifts. Same goes for reaching a hill top – one front shift puts you in a flat/downhill gearing range rather quickly.

So, large “jumps” are not always a bad thing, as some advocates of 1x systems claim.

– T.O.C. –

3.2. Overlapped gear ratios

Often used argument in favour of 1x systems is that “double and triple systems have a lot of double (overlapped) gears, with only about 10-15 really different gear ratios).” This is used in a context that, for example, 2×10 doesn’t offer 20 different gear ratios as if it’s some kind of fraud.

Modern “compact” double cranks, with their large difference in chainring tooth count have very few overlapped gears, but that precisely is their main flaw, as explained in chapter 3.1. They do give a wider gear ratio range, but at the cost of more cross chaining and less practical shifting. Trying to emulate a triple with only two chainrings.

Standard doubles and triples have more overlapped gear ratios. For example a combination of 53 teeth up front and 19 teeth at the rear, gives approximately the same gear ratio as 39-14 combination. If a hill climb is approached, one can ride 39 up front, then make smaller adjustments by shifting at the rear as the climb starts. If riding on a flat, or expecting a downhill, one can use the big ring up front (53), making smaller adjustments with rear shifts. The lack of these overlapped gears is the main nuisance people have with compact doubles.

1x systems have a slight advantage here – no need for planning, or thinking ahead, just shifting up and down. Price paid for that are the 1x systems cons noted in this post.

– T.O.C. –

3.3. More rear sprockets = weaker wheel

Sketch 1 is used to demonstrate what I mean:

Wheel dish difference of a 7 and 12 speed sprocket freehub. Sketch 1
Wheel dish difference of a 7 and 12 speed sprocket freehub.
Sketch 1

The sketch is exaggerated to show what the problem is. Angle that right hand spokes make (A and B). Cassette with more sprockets ends up taking more space, being wider and requires either a wider overall hub (which is limited for most bikes), or weaker wheel due to very sharp angle of right hand spokes. Such wheels can’t take nearly as much lateral load coming from the right hand side. Also, spoke tension differences between left and right hand side spokes are huge, which makes other problems, mostly resulting in a wheel that is less strong and less durable.

7 speeds at the rear has been phased out by manufacturers – who would want a strong, long lasting wheel with cheap components? Not the manufacturers.

Hubs for 8 to 10 speeds (and 11 speed MTB, but not road) have slightly worse right hand spoke angle.

12 speed hubs (and 11 speed road hubs) are even worse.

All this while modern hubs for hard off road riding conditions are made up to 157 mm width! Which makes frame design very difficult, since rear chainstays have to be wide, without pedals (rider’s legs) being too widely placed and without hitting the chainstays at the same time.

1x systems can’t provide useful gear ratio range or “tightness” without at least 11 sprockets – preferably 12, 13… 14? Draw your own conclusion.

– T.O.C. –

3.4. Ground clearance

Same maximum gear ratio can be achieved using a 36 tooth chainring and 12 tooth sprocket, as with a 30-10 combination. Since 30 T chainring has a smaller diameter, ground clearance of such bicycle will be greater than of the one using a 36 T chainring. Where that is important, this is a logical choice (off road). It needs to be said that old MTBs had smaller 26″ wheels and triple chainrings and still got everywhere – now they use standard 28″ wheels (labelled 29″ when placed on a MTB) and clearance has become a problem somehow?

– T.O.C. –

3.5. Total number of teeth for a given gear ratio

In addition to the example from the previous chapter, another one would be that achieving lowest gear ratio of a 30-45 combination would require a 54 toothed largest rear sprocket if used with a 36 toothed cranks. This explains why 1x drivetrains have required having a smallest sprocket of only 10 (or even fewer) teeth. so that a decent top and lowest gear ratio can be achieved without outrageously large sprockets (well, 40+ teeth is outrageously large if you will, but it’s still below 50 teeth).

In the previous chapter, (questionable?) advantage of using 30-10 combination over 36-12 combination way of achieving the same gear ratio was explained (more clearance). What is the (unquestionable) downside? More mechanical losses and faster chain and chainring wear. When a chain is bent over a chainring that is too small (in these terms anything below 13 teeth is very small), there are more mechanical losses due to increased friction and chainring and chain wear is increased, because 1, or 2 teeth carry all the load.

This can be considered to be a flaw of 1x systems.

– T.O.C. –

3.6. Chain line and cross chaining

When advertising 1x systems, one of arguments is also there is “no worrying about cross chaining”. With double and triple setups it is possible to severely cross chain – if using an outer most front chainring with two most inner rear sprockets (big-big combination). The same goes for small-small combination. So yes, this should be avoided and thought of when using these systems. However, it can be avoided. With 1x systems, severe chain angle in highest and lowest gear ratio is unavoidable, as shown in sketch 2.

Chain angle in highest and lowest gear ratios. 1x system - top 2x system - bottom Sketch 2
Chain angle in highest and lowest gear ratios.
1x system – top
2x system – bottom
Sketch 2

So it can be said that with 1x systems there’s no “worrying” about cross chaining – you get what you get, whether you like it, or not.

Greater chain angle leads to higher mechanical losses, chain is more likely to start making noise when working and both chain and chainrings will wear faster. If it’s any consolation, 1x cassettes, with the largest sprocket having 40+ teeth are more expensive, at least.  🙂

Update, May 2022:
According to these submitted patents – Shimano pat. US20170167542A1, and SRAM pat. US20170167590A1, it appears that the manufacturers are aware of this poor chainline problem of 1X systems.

Apparently, they are trying to fix the problem by designing a chainring that rotates left-right, so it can follow the line of a badly angled (crossed) chain.

I expect that in 5 to 10 years’ time, manufacturers will “discover” something like a “front derailleur” and “more than one front chainring” (ofcourse, marketing departments will surely come up with some very cool-sounding names for these!). 🙂

– T.O.C. –

4. Typical cases – when is which system an optimal choice

Here I will list some typical cycling use cases/scenarios, with system that I think is an optimal choice. With a brief explanation why. Of course, it is best to choose for yourself.

  • Road bike for sports/recreation riding – 2x systems give a wide gearing range, that is also tight enough, at a relatively modest price.
  • Sport riding off road in lots of mud – this is where 1x makes some sense and could be a good choice, although 2x and 3x systems can also serve well.
  • Loaded touring – triple (3x) without further ado. Triples offer wide gearing range with any old cassette that can be found along the way, allowing for fewer sprockets to be used for a more robust system, allowing the use of friction shifters as well.
  • Grocery/errand  commuting bicycle – cheapest and simplest possible. If your town is flat, single speed is perfect. If not, get the climbing gearing you need, whether it’s a 1×6, 3×8, or some other system. If theft rate is very low, it makes sense going for a higher quality, more durable (and more expensive) bikes and components.

Useful tool for choosing a cassette and/or gearing setup is “on line gear calculator“.

This concludes the list and explanation of pros and cons of 1x systems compared to 2x and 3x ones. I tried to provide all the info objectively as it is. If you have any questions, corrections, or comments, use the section below.

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– T.O.C. –

Relja Triple Novović

44 thoughts on “Pros and cons of 1x groupsets/systems”

  1. Thanks for this info. A good read.

    Typo alert:

    With modern “compact” (54-30 toothed)

    • English is not my native, so any grammar/typing corrections are more than welcome.

      What better way would be to say “A crank with 54-30 teeth combination”, apart from using a sentence that long?

    • 🙂 Lol – the laugh is on me. Thanks. 🙂
      The definition of not seeing the forest from the trees. 🙂
      Fixed – finally.

  2. Spot on.
    1x = cheaper bike to build more profit. That’s the #1 motivator. The company, not the rider.
    3x = most diversity, which is what riding dirt is all about, massive amounts of change. Straight up, straight down, everything in between.
    I still ride a 3x, still ride 26″ (Specialized Epic S Works Carbon) and am still faster than almost anyone else up climbs here in Sunny Santa Barbara.
    Skip the hype. Save some dollars. Get the amazing 26″ front mech frame sets no one wants because marketing convinced them it’s uncool and ride like the wind. 🙂 – AB in Santa Barbara, California and Sabah Borneo

  3. I’ve tried a number of gear combinations, but the one I really like is a triple (48/38/28), with a 7 speed cassette (14/16/18/20/22/24/28). It avoids all the hassle of constantly shifting between inner and outer rings on a 2x system, whilst giving me a nice two tooth gap between 14 and 24 on the middle ring, which equates to a speed range of 11.4 – 19.6 mph at 90 rpm on a 700×32 tyre. In other words, the speed range that I will be in most of the time on a ride, without having to double shift, but having the ability to change up to the 48 ring on fast descents, or down to the 28 ring, in the hills. And crucially, avoiding any sprocket lower than a 14 avoids the efficiency losses associated with smaller sprockets.
    Ok, I’m old-school, and I don’t race, but 3×7 can be extremely fast, and there’s something inherently nice about about a 3×7 set-up, that avoids many of the disadvantages of both 1x and a 2x systems. In fact I’ve been happy enough with 3×7 that I’ve accumulated a few chainsets, some cassettes, and and about 20 chains, all NOS, so I’ll probably be quite old before I have to worry about gears again.

  4. Thanks Relja,

    I’ve read so much opinionated superficial rubbish on this subject with no real effort to delve into the broader mechanical pros and cons of the subject. You can’t help wondering sometimes what motivates reviewers / forum members! – Great job!

  5. 1x is a marketing scam to help boost sales for the most part. Outside of Q factor widths and minor frame design changes, 1x is just a choice and it is not better. 2x and 3x gives more gear options and spreads chainring wear so rings will last longer. Even if there is some gear overlap, unless front derailleur is rubbing the chain, 3x and 2x gives better gearing options. Even if gear inches are the same or close, a big ring and a small ring feels different even though rear gears can make the gear inches equal. In regards to 50/34 road, yes that combo can be problematic. The solution is 50/36 with a cassette with appropriate low gears.

    In regards to weight front shifters, cables, and derailleurs do not weigh much. Alloy chainrings do not way much. People are willing to use dropper posts on mtbs and those things are heavy. MTBs bikes are very heavy today, so have more front gears is not going to make a difference weight wise. I never drop chains when the chain is the correct length on 2x and 3x. If one had chain drops, they can install a chain catcher.

  6. i actually prefer one chain ring at the front and a custom 5 speed cassette at the rear,my front chain ring and crank is a single speed crank 42 teeth and in theory this should not even work but its very trouble free riding,i used alloy spacers before i put the custom 5 speed cassette on to bring the chain line into the middle of the rear cassette.i dont even have any chain guide up front,i am not a fan of extra chain rings up front,your rear cassette can be modified to climb any hills,if you cant climb hills with a 32 tooth rear cog then its time to do some more hill training,i call front triple or double chainrings chain breakers,they are just too much messing around,too much extra chain never comes of or breaks.if you are racing bike then you will probably like two or three chain rings up front

  7. fantastic job and analysis as usual. thanks a lor Relja.
    in particular I appreciated the good insight on strenght and width od rear hub.
    in terms of strenght and durability, for little drops and rought terrain, which rear hub would you suggest?
    I’m a fan od cup/cone bearing from Shimano. What are your ideal/stronger hub you will suggest to us?

    • I’ve had a good experience with Shimano Deore hubs (135 mm wide OLD).
      Higher-end than those (XT, XTR, etc.) offer lower weight, but not more durability.
      Lower-tier Alivio, and even Acera are also OK.

      With cup and cone cups, the problems usually happen when they aren’t serviced (overhauled) regularly – once a year, or about every 5000 km, whichever comes first.
      With regular service, they can last a decade, or longer.

      Cartridge bearing hubs (like DT Swiss and similar) require special tools for bearing replacement, but even in case of no maintenance, won bearings get replaced, without requiring the whole hub to be replaced.

      So each option has its pros and cons (I prefer cup and cone though).

      Practically no manufacturer now does the ratcheting mechanism reasonably well – with just two relatively large ratchets (not sure if that’s the proper English term) placed at an asymmetric angle (not at exactly 180 degrees from each other). But, in spite of that, ratcheting mechanisms don’t get busted too quickly, they often also last for a decade or more.

  8. Hello Relja, I’m glad Shimano Deore are ok: they will be my choiche for the rear wheel I’m planning to build.
    I like service cup and cone bearing so it’s not a problem for me.

    Regarding the last thing about the ratchet system, what do you mean?
    Are you referring to Shimano type, the similar one like Hydra or the DT Swiss type?

    • By ratcheting system I mean the system used to make the cassette turn the hub when the chain pulls on it, while also allowing for any back-pedalling.
      Manufacturers throw marketing terms like “small angles of re-engagement,” “many teeth for a better load transfer” etc, but I don’t think any of those make much sense technically.

      Until I write a complete article on that (esoteric 🙂 ) subject, I briefly mentioned it (and included a promotional video) near the end of the 3rd chapter in my Shimano XTR M9100 groupset review.

      The “trick” is – steel does elastically deform, hence, on a microscopic level, is more similar to a rubber band, than to a hard object, when put under load. That’s why only one ratchet tooth carries most of the load at any given time (unless some preload is used). Hence, fewer, larger “teeth” are a better, stronger option – but it’s become obsolete. Likewise, “only” two “teeth” that are not set at exactly 180 degrees from each other can provide for very few degrees of re-engagement, without having to use more than two “teeth” (thus allowing for them to be larger and stronger).

      That at least is my opinion and analysis. I am not a mechanical engineer though, so it is possible (though probably not very probable 🙂 ) that I’m wrong.

  9. I understand better now and I think, considering your experience, precision and intelligence, your final analysis coud be a breakthrough regarding this particualt topic: I think it was never analyzed from a non-marketing related way.

    The things to consider are, (a part from the pros that can change entire wheelset like a woman changes her shoes) how much it will impair the durability a system wil smallest pawls [from Google: “a pivoted curved bar or lever whose free end engages with the teeth of a cogwheel or ratchet so that the wheel or ratchet can only turn or move one way”].

    Are you familiar with DT Swiss system? [used even by ZTTO and other Chinese factories] And what about Chris Kings (and the “similar” system Scylence by Shimano -discontinued for problems in the timing needed for the engagement)

    P.S. I’ll send within this night my material (pics and pdf) on these systems.

    • I am familiar with those systems.
      DT Swiss creates no preload, in spite of all the fancy marketing talk.

      Chris King RingDrive seems to work using a similar design to Shimano’s Scylence – increasing engagement preload as more torque is applied (from what I could see in the pics and tech. drawings).
      The marketing team did call their roller bearings “needle bearings,” which is a standard mistake in the cycling industry. In and of itself it tells nothing for, or against the engineering behind the patent.

      My “intuitive” impression is that both RingDrive and Scyclence are needlessly complicated and expensive to manufacture compared to a two-large-pawl system (for minimal, if any real gains).

      As for the standard Shimano freehubs – they last OK, in spite of the design imperfection. In the worst-case scenario, there are replacement freehubs (though, and this is not very nice, they aren’t always readily available).

  10. hi Relja,

    I am looking for a 1×11 bike with 27.5 wheels and 21″ frame with preferably 130/140mm travel.
    I have looked on ebay and gumtree for about a year now and cannot find any bike made in the last two years that is in good condition. Partly, this is because manufacturers are making only 1×12 drivetrains. Therefore, if I want to buy a used bike without building my own, it is most likely I will have to buy a 12 speed. According to this video
    shimano freehubs accept 8,9,10,11 and some sram 12 speed cassettes. Does this mean the spoke angle on the driveside is the same for all shimano standard freehubs? Also, according to sheldon brown shimano “11-speed cassettes will fit only 11-speed bodies”. Can you please clarify which one is correct?
    I do not know how an 11 speed cassette can fit on my 9 speed bike because the cassette is wider?

    Also, according to the same video, the Sram XD driver accepts 11 and 12 speed sram cassettes. Does this mean the spoke angle is the same for 11 and 12 speed bikes with this freehub? I am thinking of buying a 12 speed bike with this freehub and putting an 11 speed cassette on it because they are cheaper. What size spacer do I need for this?

    • Hi Alexander,

      Short answer:
      11-speed XD the cassette should fit a 12-speed XD hub with the same spoke angle (a hub needn’t be replaced or altered to fit a different cassette). As far as I know, you needn’t use any spacers.
      You would need a 1.85 mm spacer for fitting an XD cassette (both 11 and 12-speed ones) to an XDR freehub (the road bike version of XD).
      (The same width as used to fit any 10-speed, or an 11-speed Shimano MTB cassette on an 11-speed Shimano road freehub).

      Longer answer:
      You can see my article about freehub compatibility and let me know if you have any questions. I’ve explained the hub versions, including the 11 and 12-speed hubs.

      As for the spoke angle – 12-speed cassettes (and 11-speed MTB cassettes for that matter) are designed to fit a bit closer towards the wheel. A larger inner-most sprocket (34 teeth and more) can “avoid” hitting the spokes while being closer to the inner-most side of the wheel, compared to an 11-speed road cassette for example. Thus, the spoke angle isn’t much (any?) worse compared to the 8-9-10 speed freehubs. Not sure how well I’ve explained this – let me know if you have any more questions. 🙂


  11. Hi again. thanks for the quick reply. I wonder if you can help me with my problem. Like I said, I need a new bike. 27.5″ wheels or 29. 21″ frame for 6 foot person. Aluminium or titanium but not carbon. No dropper post needed. Under £3000. Fork travel preferably 130mm but will accept 100mm-130mm. Obviously need quality components. Hardtail made within the last 3 years. Every bike made within the last two years has been a 1×12 drivetrain. I do not want a 12 speed drivetrain as it is too expensive to replace. I would like a 1×11 or 2×10 drivetrain. Please look at this chart.
    According to this review
    The author says NX is not as crisp shifting as Shimano Deore and would spend his money on Shimano SLX. Therefore I do not want cheaper rubbish SX, NX. Therefore for Sram I would have to buy GX or above. For shimano I would like SLX, XT or XTR.
    According the video I mentioned previously
    there is HG, XD driver and microspline interfaces for cassettes. I cannot have microspline as it’s 12 speed. Shimano HG accepts 7,8,9,10,11 cassettes and SRAM SX and NX because sram had not yet developed XD driver. When they had, the cassettes that will fit on it are above SX and NX in specification level, meaning GX or above (as I understand). Therefore ton buy a new bike made in the last three years means I have to buy a bike with a GX or above interface and swap the 12 speed cassette with an 11 on the XD driver. OR I have to buy a bike made in the last three years ago (but not available in the last two years) with an 11 speed shimano HG freehub. I don’t want to convert an old 3×9 bike to 1×11 or 2×10 because this will cost a lot for replacement of many parts and I don’t think will be as accurate as a bike that is built as a 1×11 bike.

    I have searched the whole ebay listings with £800 – £3000 and “mountain bike” for what I want and cannot find one bike that meets my desired specification.,000&_ipg=200&rt=nc

    I am coming across bikes like “Whyte 901 Mountain Bike Size L” but with NX groupset or “Grand Canyon 7” with SX. I did find a 2019 specialized chisel that would have met my demands but it is gone now.

    What do you suggest I do?

    • Hi Alexander,

      I’ll start by referring to the rear-hub compatibility article again. Hyperglide + (Micro Spline) cassettes are made for 11 speeds as well as for 12 speeds. Even more details on that are in the Shimano XTR M9100 review.

      The advantages of either SRAM XD or Shimano Hyperglide + for 1X systems are they provide the smallest sprocket with fewer than 11 teeth, which provides a wider gearing range, so you can have “slow” enough speed with the largest sprocket that’s not 50+ teeth, while still having a decently “fast” top-speed gear ratio. The downsides of those 1X systems are explained in this article. I find prices of that stuff, even for 11 speeds, to be outrageously high. 2×10 provides tight gear spacing, wide gear range, longer durability, at a lower price of maintenance (cassettes and chains).

      When it comes to Shimano, Deore has served me perfectly fine. With higher-tier groups, you get lower weight, but I wouldn’t say shifting or durability are improved (my 2 cents on groupset classes).

      27.5″ wheel bikes (and tyres for that matter) are less widely available compared to 29″ (and even 26″ when it comes to tyre choice), but they do have their pros and can be a good choice (for details, see: 26 vs 27.5 vs 29).

      I’d have to google what’s available in the market for any recommendations, will see that when I find the time (27.5″ to 29″ wheeled 1×11 or 2×10 hardtail, with 120 to 130 mm fork travel?). For a start, I wrote a comprehensive MTB buying guide, where I tried to provide info on the pros and cons of various parts and setups, so readers can see for themselves what the best option for them is. It’s quite long, but it condenses over 20 years of experience by the two authors (Miloš and myself) in one web-page format instead of a whole book. 🙂

      One of the reasons for writing the article like that is the global shortage – waiting times on orders seem to be over 6 months for many models, so I thought it’s best to provide detailed info for readers to assess what is available when they are buying, by themselves.

      For me personally, especially with the parts shortages over the past 2 years (the flu and all), I very much prefer 2x or 3x systems with friction shifters – so I can pack any chain and cassette I come across at a reasonable price and use my old stock in case I can’t find anything. But I understand that’s not everyone’s cup of tea.


  12. Ok, I have read your article on rear hub compatibility and I find it hard to understand. I’m sure you know what you’re talking about but it is not simple and ordered enough in my opinion. I’ve read the article on XTR review and now know there is a 11 speed microspline XTR freehub and cassette but these are not available online. I still don’t understand whether 7,8,9,10 and 11 Hyperglide freehubs are the same length?

    I don’t want to know interchangeability between XDR and XD or between shimano road and mtb cassettes. I don’t want to know the spacer widths. I don’t want to know how or why they’ve designed it that way. I just want a 2×10 or a 1×11 drivetrain on a new bike. Please give me a link to where I can buy any bike today that has this.

    Please also correct this table if it is wrong.

    Shimano HG freehub accepts:

    8,9,10 speed Shimano cassettes
    8,9,10 speed SRAM cassettes
    11 speed Shimano cassettes
    11 speed SRAM NX cassettes
    12 speed SRAM NX Eagle cassette
    12 speed SRAM SX Eagle cassette

    XD Driver freehub accepts:

    All 11 speed SRAM cassettes EXCEPT NX
    All 12 speed SRAM cassettes EXCEPT NX AND SX

    • My philosophy is “give a man a fish and you’ll feed him for a day – teach him how to fish and you’ll feed him for a lifetime.”
      This goes double for the past few years when parts and bicycles have become rather scarce (supply problems on a global scale).

      That’s why I wrote a very long MTB buying guide, instead of just recommending “best 10-20-xx bikes to buy in 202X.”
      I did recommend some models in the article, but I’m well aware that they may not be available at the time of shopping.

      The situation hasn’t changed. I’ve spent about an hour Googling and looking at current offers matching your criteria and couldn’t find anything worth mentioning.

      MTBs that have good quality suspension and brakes seem to most (all?) come with 1×12 drivetrains (marketing, sales, capitalism?).
      Those that come with 1×11 or 2×10 drivetrains have 100 mm suspension travel. Replacing a suspension fork with a model that has travel of up to +-20 mm from the original is generally safe (larger difference can noticeably affect geometry and handling, as well as cause frame damage). However, I don’t suppose having a bike with a max. fork travel of 120mm (with that being 20mm plus over the factory design) is a very good long-term option.

      So no luck there. 🙁

      Thank you very much for the feedback. I see your reasoning with the table – and I think I understand what’s confusing.

      When I find the time, I’ll create a similar table and include it in the article.
      If we consider freehubs and cassettes from the last 5 years, and disregard road bike cassettes, I would say your table is correct (though SRAM, for example, does make 11-speed cassettes that fit HyperGlide hubs and have as much as 32 teeth largest sprocket – technically MTB cassettes).

      It’s a hell of a mess – with every manufacturer making different patents (the word “standard” can’t apply when they switch and make stuff that only they produce) and apparently trying hard to force us to buy all the equipment from them (so derailleurs, freehubs and even cassettes aren’t interchangeable from one manufacturer to the other).
      With parts and supplies in my country being scarce for as long as I remember, I made a series of notes (and later published articles) to help me sort it out and find a working solution. It’s far from perfect, and it needs to be kept up-to-date with new stuff coming out. And the hub compatibility article could use an easy to read table/chart. Just need to figure out how to format it, so it is easy to read, but doesn’t miss any combo or provide and wrong info (since I’m among those using these articles when mix-matching 🙂 ).


  13. Thanks for posting Mike. Can u use any old Rear derailleur for this set up? Any pics? I am interested in doing this for a road bike. I am not worried about the riding part of making big jumps between gears, just worried about the mechanical aspect and hoping the gear changes can still be crisp.

  14. hi again. I am grateful for the time you spend helping people and this helps to improve my knowledge to help my friends and family and anyone on the street who’s bike has broken. I spent many hours trawling every popular mountain bike manufacturer’s websites for new bikes and this is my summary. They all have 1×11 drivetrain and available to buy.

    Specialized Chisel Comp X1 2019
    kona honzo but is too heavy size large is 14.7kg, other bikes too rubbish
    marin san quentin 2 2022 extra large is 13.6kg
    orbea laufey h30 too heavy rubbish components
    jamis highpoint a1 but rubbish

    I will therefore be looking for only the top two bikes because they have 120 or 100mm fork travel and are light at about 12kg. I saw both these bikes on ebay a couple months ago but didn’t buy them because I didn’t know exactly what I wanted. I have seen this bike however
    [BikeGremlin edit: removed the, now broken, link]
    that the owner tells me has had a bike shop convert the original components to SLX 1X11 drivetrain but is unsure how that has been done.
    The original spec is
    SHIFTERS Shimano XT SL-M8100 12-Speed
    BRAKES Shimano XT BR-M8120 4 pot / metal pads / cooling fins 180mm rotors
    CASSETTE Shimano XT CSM8100 10-51 12-Speed
    REAR DERAILLEUR Shimano XT RD-M8100 12-Speed
    CHAIN Shimano XT CN-M8100 12 Speed

    The new spec is 1×11 speed SLX drivetrain. Bike is otherwise standard. The Rear Hub – Shimano XT M8110, Centre-lock, Micro Spline. Is it possible that the bike shop removed the microspline 12 speed freehub and replaced it with a hyperglide freehub?

  15. i basically use any rear derailer with a 6 or 7 speed indexed thumb shifter or 7 speed indexed down tube shifter,i have tried alot of different rear derailers and it does not make any difference get a long cage rear derailer that fits your bike and it should work.some rear derailers have a wider range but that does not really matter as it will only go as far as your indexed click shifter allows it to go,my best advice would be just to try a few things on your bike and see what works,thats pretty much what we all do,you only fail if you dont try,anything technical your better off asking Relja,i just custom build some old steel bikes for myself ,cheers bobby

  16. indexed click shifter,shimano hyperglide hg40 chain,shimano hg50 casstte modified to what ever speed you need,5,6,or 7 speed you will get very smooth fast shifting,if you can find those older rear derailers that were called indexed rear derailers that were manly used on the older 6 and 7 speed bikes are the best trouble free ones but any should work,also use new shimano stainless steel shifter cable and shimano 4mm shifter housing and you will have the smoothest trouble free system,shimano hyperglide stuff gives you the best gear shifts i think

  17. i also used alloy spacers behind the custom made cassette to line the cassette up with any rear derailer and to get the correct chainline ,chop those 3 rivets on the cassette off with a hacksaw blade and make it any size you need to,you will damage just one of those composite spacers so you do need to have some spares laying around,i run a single chainring on the front with 7 speed at the rear and i dont have any issues at all with this simple setup,no chain dropping off,gears shift fast and smooth,very trouble free setup,i also used the older type crank axles and cup and cone system so i could also adjust the front chainring to exactly where it needed to be,those older crank axles come in so many different lengths.i also did this same setup on an older mountain bike but the only issue i ran into there was finding the right single speed crankset for that bike so i just put a double crankset there and just used the smallest chainring,i will eventually pick up an old bike with the right crankset,those older steel road bikes are very easy to customise,i like the old 1 inch steerer ones as you can even toss away those old steel racing bars and change them to a modern flat bar alloy system,the ideas are endless on those older 1 inch steerer bikes

  18. you can even do just a 3 speed if you like,i have tried all speeds on a shimano 8 speed freehub body i dont know what size your rear dropouts are but i am using older racers with 135 mm rear dropouts.the real older racers had 126 mm rear dropouts.

  19. Thank you for your very informative website about bicycles in general. I’m glad I found it. I’m a total recreational bike rider so my knowledge level is entry level at best. In regards to your article here about 1x drive systems I can share my own experiences with this system. My previous bike which I owned for 12 years was a mountain bike with a 3x gearing up front and a 9x gearing cassette on the back wheel. (I read your very informative article about how to use gearing with a 3x or 2 x system and I never thought of using the gearing that way). For the most part, I left the chain on the middle front ring and left it there pretty well all the time and then switched between the 9 rear gears. Part of the problem was the front derailleur on my bike would go out of adjustment on a regular basis so I found it a pain to use or get it properly adjusted myself.

    Earlier this summer I bought a new bike, more of a hybrid road bike and mountain bike which came with a 1x system with a 10x cassette on the back wheel so essentially a 10-speed bike. I have to say after riding this bike for the past month I have found the 1x gearing system far more practical for the kind of riding I do and I really like it. There are quite a few hills in my neighborhood and it makes it easy to shift up or down and I only have to think about the one gear shifting knob on the right side of the handlebars. How long it will last in terms of mechanical reliability I guess I will find out as I pedal the bike down the road into the future.

    Also, I found your article about disc brake rub good to know, I heard a very tiny bit of rub on my new bike and wondered if there was something out of alignment or the wheel was not trued up properly (it was out of true a little bit which I had fixed). It’s the first time I have owned a bike with mechanical disc brakes, my previous bike had rim brakes. Each did or does the job of stopping me and the bike.

    • Hi Gary,

      Thank you very much for taking the time with this feedback. 🙂

      You mentioned your FD coming out of adjustment often. It may have been to poor setup, not to improper use. For some reason, many mechanics have problems with properly adjusting front derailleurs (don’t understand why, it’s a fairly straigh-forward process) – I see it way too often.

      As for the 1x – the simplicity of use (once tuned and set up properly) is one of its strong points.
      As for the durability – it won’t self-destroy in a month, nor cut the cassette and chain life in half or similar.
      Where I live, a decent quality wide-range 11-speed cassette (for example) costs almost the average monthly pay. So it is a thing to consider. But it’s not the same for every cyclist and in every country.

      The most expensive and the worst bike is the one that is not ridden. 🙂

      Having said that, I very much prefer the simplicity, cheapness and robustness of 2x and 3x cranks with 7 or 8-speed cassettes, paired with friction shifters.
      They allow me to make any parts that I come by work fine – since parts scarcity, along with higher prices, has been affecting me for most of my life.
      It’s also useful when cables freeze during winter cycling – friction shifters allow me to be more “persuasive” without risking to damage anything. 🙂

  20. Wonderful. I’d say you nailed it. Planned obsolescence is real.
    Question, does wide narrow chainring matter to avoid throwing the chain off the chain wheel in a 1×8 setup? What about chainring size/tooth count, does that matter? Does a narrow fitting chain help to avoid this situation on the front chainring? Or is a bottom bracket replacement better?
    So what I’m asking is there a priority for one solution first then the next then the next? I guess I’m asking you to help with this problem even though you’ve thoroughly explained why 1x isn’t ideal.
    Thanks in advance for the thorough answer to a vexing problem.

    • Hi James,

      I understand the question – and it’s a good one.

      So, we basically have three “variables:”

      1. N/W chainring
      2. Chainline
      3. Chainring size

      The first two are of the greatest importance when it comes to the chain retention (i.e. not dropping). The third one is about gear ratios, and the required gear ratio range would be my first priority when choosing the chainring size.

      Regarding the first two, I’d say that narrow-wide chainrings will make more of a difference, unless the front chainline is too far off (5 mm or more from the ideal).

      As for the chainring size, this gear calculator can help a lot to see what your ideal gear ratio range is with various chainring sizes:

      Having said that, if the terrain is not very rough (i.e. if you ride on paved roads), if your chainine is good, and if you don’t use some extremely large rear sprockets, you might be fine with a normal chainring (i.e. no narrow-wide one) for cassettes with fewer than 11 sprockets (they are narrower). It’s definitely worth a shot if you already have a chainring. If you are shopping, then I would recommend going with a N/W right away.

      Hope this helps.


  21. Relja,
    So chainring size doesn’t matter as much as large cogs, say 40T or larger, in the back to avoid dropping it in front? Or do I misunderstand?
    Front chain line of 5mm or less is what I am shooting for?
    And the chain width itself can’t be optimized beyond buying a chain for an 8 speed setup? I was trying to better grab on to the front ring.
    And I’ll try the current chain ring before buying N-W. Save some $$$ is always good.
    Grateful for your help and patience. I like the way you think about this.

    • Good questions – best to confirm and clarify.

      Chainring size:
      A very large rear chainring can put the rear derailleur near its limit. If it is a lot larger than the front chainring, it can also reduce the amount of chain wrap around the front chainring (it’s a relatively small change, even with short chainstays, but worth mentioning). Not a very big concern though and, along with the front chainring size, the choice boils down to the needed gearing. Just make sure to use a rear derailleur that can handle huge rear chainrings (not sure if many 8-speed options exist, but a 9-speed should work fine and those just might be available for the huge rear chainrings – would have to check the current Shimano MTB lineup and offers).

      I wrote an article and made a video about chainline. In the video, I discussed my “wrong chainline” and why it can be good in my use-case, as well as how it could be wrong with a different size of front chainrings:
      Bicycle chainline video (see the “Playing with the chainline section starting at about 27 minutes… yes, it’s not very short 🙁 )

      For 1x systems, especially if using the huge rear chainrings, it helps when the front chainline is about 2 mm larger (further outwards) than the rear chainline. It prevents the chain getting caught in the teeth of the next larger rear chainring in some gears. However, even with 1x systems, I would say that 5 or more mm “off” (even towards the outside, for the front chainline) is “pushing it” and could cause shifting problems and probably won’t help in keeping the chain in place (though, it would probably first cause chain shifting at the rear when back-pedaling).

      Keeping the chain tight on the front chainring:
      With an 8-speed cassette, you could use a 9-speed chain. It is narrower on the inside (smaller roller width) so it should hang on to the front chainring more tightly. I’ve used a 10-speed chain (same internal roller width) with a 7-speed cassette (a bit wider chainrings compared to the 8-speed cassettes) – had no problems (though that was for an experiment and I see no reason to use a 10-speed chain on an 8-speed cassette, a 9-speed chain will be just as narrow internally, and is cheaper).

      Sorry for the long answer, but I hope I explained it clearly enough. If you have any other questions – shoot. 🙂


  22. Thanks so much. I’ll give it a try and report back. It’s for my daughter who probably won’t tolerate having her chain fall ever fall off. So you see I’m working with a hard task maker. Nothing worse than a daughter’s scorn. JimM

    • Here is my experience, if it can help:

      Last Saturday, my kid fell spectacularly off his bike while we were riding off road (all ended well, with some scratches, a bruise and some laughs afterwards). When he got back on the bike, it would not go. The chain had dropped off during all the tumbling.

      That was a good “excuse” to guide him through the process of reinstalling the chain on the front chainrings.

      I try to make it as a puzzle-game. No pushing, just “throwing the hook” (“can we figure out what’s wrong and maybe fix it?”) and offering tips and encouragement. It doesn’t work the same with all the people (nor all the small people for that matter), but it often does, you just adapt your approach depending on the temperament, experience and inclinations.

      Confidence grows with more experience and skills – so it’s best to start with the easiest, simplest fixes and maintenance.

      Similar approach works well when managing people at work too: when people get involved, invest their time and effort into something, they start caring more, and become less criticizing (criticize as the unproductive form of constructive criticism, English is not my native). Imperfect but involved beats perfect 9 times out of 10.

      Is that good or wise? I’m not sure – we’ll see in about a decade or two. But it is fun and feels rewarding.


  23. Hi,i run a 1×8 home made system,my chain never drops off while riding along but it can drop off over rough bumpy ground if i dont peddle along,i am not using the narrow wide cog,on bikes with 1×8 i see in the bike shops dont have narrow wide system either but new bikes run a round alloy or plastic gaurd around chainring so the chain does not drop at all cheers

  24. an old front mech set in fixed position would also stop a chain bouncing off in 1×8 system,would have the same result as the double sided chain gaurd,i did not do anything special with my 1×8 system its a very basic setup,,39 tooth standard chainring,8 speed cog,32 teeth biggest cog,very good for city riding and the odd off road adventure,the chain bouncing off while not peddling does not bother me as i have a waxed chain and it does not bounce off alot,cheers

    • there is a ready made product on the market called a chain guide,some may refer to them as chain catchers,mountain bikers use them on 1×8 systems,they are double sided composites ones and there is no way your chain is going to drop using one of these,i might just get one myself to fix my chain drop issue,they bolt onto the seat tube just like a front mech does

  25. As above, narrow wide chainring and 9 speed chain and smaller largest cog all combined to solve the problem.

  26. 1. Three mm spacers can help with the chain line. Cheap from Amazon.
    2. Next in cost is new 9 speed chain
    3. Next is a narrow wide chain ring.
    4.A slightly smaller large cog on the cassette, say 36 teeth instead of 42. 36 might work with your current rear derailleur. It did with my project.
    5. Clutch rear derailleur but about $50 or $60.
    Thanks Relja. Your advice worked well for my daughter.

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