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Thinking of making a radical drivetrain change

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Thinking of making a radical drivetrain change

Old 06-28-19, 07:40 PM
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Thinking of making a radical drivetrain change

This is a road-bike question, but I'm posting it in the Cyclocross/Gravelbiking forum because it involves cross/gravel gearing.

For close to 20 years, I've run old-fashioned road triples on both my road bikes (one Waterford, one Gunnar) On both, I run Ultegra 52/42/26 setups with 13-36 cassettes. At age 64, after back surgery and two bouts with cancer, I can no longer push big gears. I'm thinking of changing the gears on one of the bikes to more of a cyclocross/gravel setup. I'm looking at replacing the current triple crankset with a White Industries VBC (variable bolt circle) double crankset that combines a 44T big ring with at 24T small ring. I'd couple that with 11-speed SRAM shifters / derailleurs and an 11-42T cassette.

Does anyone see any potential pitfalls in such a setup? It won't be cheap ($1k or thereabouts), but I think it will give me the low gearing I need to climb the short-but-steep hills I ride here in West Virginia. Your thoughts? Thanks!
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Old 06-28-19, 07:51 PM
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You want to use a SRAM front derailleur to shift a 20 tooth front gap?
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Old 06-28-19, 08:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Spoonrobot View Post
You want to use a SRAM front derailleur to shift a 20 tooth front gap?
I'm not sure it could. That's why I'm asking for input from people with experience in such things. The White Ind. website says the cranks are capable of 20T jumps, but I wasn't sure the FD could. Worst case, I could go 40/24. That's a 16T jump, which should be doable. My current setup makes the 42-26 jump with ease.
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Old 06-28-19, 10:34 PM
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Originally Posted by PhoenixBiker View Post
...44T big ring with at 24T small ring. I'd couple that with 11-speed SRAM shifters / derailleurs and an 11-42T cassette.
I don't think any RD can suck up enough chain to handle that. If the chain is long enough to handle 44t chainring and 42t cog, then it will be dangling in the 24t chainring and 11t cog (not catastrophic, just sloppy).

If you can fit a 44-32-22 mountain crank, with a 36t cassette (very common, unexotic setup), that gets almost as low as a 24t chainring and 42t cog.
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Old 06-28-19, 11:22 PM
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I just got my Hakka MX 1x11 bike today. I was a little skeptical about only having a single chain ring but I can tell you I love it. I have a 40t front and a 11-42 cassette in the back. I was able to spin up to 23 mph on the flat and climb an 18% hill that I use to have to "paperboy" up. This time I was able to stay in the saddle. I'm 70 and while I can push a big gear I just don't have the cadence ability anymore. I'm a diesel, not a turbo.
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Old 06-28-19, 11:43 PM
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I have a 46/30T White Industries crank with my Shimano (Di2) derailleur, and an 11-36T cassette on one of my wheel-sets. Shimano's derailleurs can handle this. My limited experiences with SRAM leads me to suggest avoiding it. They introduced the 1X because they never quite got the front derailleur thing right.

Get Shimano Di2 Ultegra. You won't regret it.
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Old 06-29-19, 07:30 AM
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I know the hills might be steep, but 24/42 @ 75rpm is 3.5mph. That is decidedly "get off and walk" pace. I would split the difference and just go 1x11 with a 38T or a 40T in the front and call it a day. Wouldn't even need to change the crankset.
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Old 06-29-19, 10:58 AM
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Originally Posted by DrIsotope View Post
I know the hills might be steep, but 24/42 @ 75rpm is 3.5mph. That is decidedly "get off and walk" pace. I would split the difference and just go 1x11 with a 38T or a 40T in the front and call it a day. Wouldn't even need to change the crankset.
This is EXACTLY my recommendation too. If this bike is for the road, and not gravel, then even on super steep hills, a low gear of 38/42 is plenty low. Yes, that doesn’t give you a ton of top end, but you won’t spin out the 38/11 until you are up above 30mph. And given what you say about your riding, that doesn’t seem like a big problem. In return, you get a MUCH simpler setup.
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Old 06-29-19, 11:43 AM
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Originally Posted by wgscott View Post
I have a 46/30T White Industries crank with my Shimano (Di2) derailleur, and an 11-36T cassette on one of my wheel-sets. Shimano's derailleurs can handle this. My limited experiences with SRAM leads me to suggest avoiding it. They introduced the 1X because they never quite got the front derailleur thing right.

Get Shimano Di2 Ultegra. You won't regret it.
My 46/30 Sugino crank with SRAM Rival 22 and 11-36 cassette works without a hitch. Following the setup instructions for the yaw FD is critical as it is slightly different from what you may be used to doing with other derailleurs.

With the White crank, you might try 26/42 rings and experiment with cassettes to see what your RD will manage. 11-42 would be close to what you wanted on the low end, but even if you had to go with 11-40 or 11-36 you would be in better shape than with the 1x setups suggested.

Last edited by BluesDawg; 06-29-19 at 11:58 AM.
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Old 06-29-19, 06:40 PM
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Thanks for your input, everyone! I appreciate it; and I'll let you know what I decide.
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Old 06-29-19, 09:34 PM
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Guys, 1x is not the solution for every situation! Especially true when addressing riders loosing power due to age or other circumstances.

He currently runs 26-36 (roughly 19 gear inches) and is asking for a combo giving him something lower. The 1x advice presented above is 23.8 gear inches. Huh? Just get off and walk?

The way forward from here is finding a long cage rear derailleur capable of the most chain wrap. Once that number is established start looking at the cassette/chainring combo that gives both a deep gear and reasonable top end speed.
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Old 07-01-19, 08:00 AM
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Originally Posted by jan nikolajsen View Post
Guys, 1x is not the solution for every situation!
Heck, it's not really a great solution for most situations. More a specialized solution for certain situations with limited use cases (CX only, singletrack only, etc). 1x is a compromise situation everywhere else, IMO.


Anyways, for the OP when you say you can't push big gears anymore, are you referring to just the 52T or do you ALSO need lower low end? Your current 26x36 low gear is too much? Reason being that there are MTB doubles with a 26T small ring which could be paired with a 11-36 to keep your same low gearing and actually not lost too much top end due to the 11T. If you really do need the lower gears, I can attest that a 42/28 crank with 11-42 cassette DOES work with a long cage RD. All SRAM parts, but it is "only" 10sp.
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Old 07-01-19, 08:09 AM
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I would look at the gears you spend the most time with now and note the ratios. Then make sure whatever you switch to has these in its range and then some.

2x11 should give you plenty of low gear climbing options if you use a compact crank and put a larger cassette on the back. I feel like triple chain rings are a hold over from the days of 53t chain rings and smaller cassettes.
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Old 07-01-19, 09:54 AM
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If you have the budget and are somewhat mechanical, think about going Shimano mtb Di2 I did and don't want to use anything else. You can use climbing shifters so no need for new brakes. You can use a Sram 10 spd crank 42/26 with an 11-42 cassette. Shopping around between ebay and the online vendors it should come in under $1500.
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Old 07-01-19, 08:38 PM
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Originally Posted by DrIsotope View Post
I know the hills might be steep, but 24/42 @ 75rpm is 3.5mph. That is decidedly "get off and walk" pace. I would split the difference and just go 1x11 with a 38T or a 40T in the front and call it a day. Wouldn't even need to change the crankset.
If you've got the gears, pedaling is nearly always easier and more efficient than walking. Even at 3.5mph. A hill that slows you down that much isn't going to be a joy to push a bike up; 3.5mph is a brisk walking pace unburdened on flat ground, it's extremely intense on a steep gradient with a bike in hand.
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Old 07-01-19, 08:59 PM
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Having walked up my fair share of dirt hills I found too steep to pedal up, no amount of gearing could have prevented it. I'm not on a mountain bike. At some point, frame geometry and the limitations of the tires become an issue, usually long before the gearing does.

I've never met a paved incline I couldn't manage with a 1 : 1 final. Even that time Google Maps tried to kill me in San Francisco, when it took 300W to do 4mph.
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Old 07-02-19, 06:34 AM
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Originally Posted by Caliper View Post
Heck, it's not really a great solution for most situations. More a specialized solution for certain situations with limited use cases (CX only, singletrack only, etc). 1x is a compromise situation everywhere else, IMO.
I disagree. 40t with 11-42 is great on road, gravel, single track and CX.
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Old 07-02-19, 06:56 AM
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Originally Posted by DrIsotope View Post
I know the hills might be steep, but 24/42 @ 75rpm is 3.5mph. That is decidedly "get off and walk" pace. I would split the difference and just go 1x11 with a 38T or a 40T in the front and call it a day. Wouldn't even need to change the crankset.
This. I'm not sure that a 24/42 is usable.


Originally Posted by DrIsotope View Post
Having walked up my fair share of dirt hills I found too steep to pedal up, no amount of gearing could have prevented it. I'm not on a mountain bike. At some point, frame geometry and the limitations of the tires become an issue, usually long before the gearing does.

I've never met a paved incline I couldn't manage with a 1 : 1 final. Even that time Google Maps tried to kill me in San Francisco, when it took 300W to do 4mph.
Ever been to Pittsburgh?
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Old 07-02-19, 12:59 PM
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Originally Posted by Hmmm View Post
I disagree. 40t with 11-42 is great on road, gravel, single track and CX.

"Great" on road to singletrack? That's a really tall order even if you have flat terrain. I honestly think even a 2x can only be *great* on half that (ie: road and gravel OR gravel and singletrack) but can be good if you are willing to accept some compromise on either end. 1x will compromise on both.


First, you're lacking top end. 40x11 @ 110 rpm on 700x44's = 33mph. So I'm spinning out early on gravel and really early on road. This is a huge dealbreaker to me.


Second 40x42 is 26.5 gear inches on the same tires. This is actually a lower low end than I usually run for gravel but a pretty high gear on a number of the hills on my local singletrack (hey, you claimed singletrack also). Especially when they are covered in pine needles and you need to apply the power smoothly, anything short of a fatbike tire will spin the tires loose with this gearing since you'll be mashing. My current gearing for offroad is about 20 inches on the low end.


Sorry, I've ridden 1x a bit and spent a lot of time on rides with other guys who have it. There isn't a single ride where the 1x riders aren't either spinning out on the downhills or running out of gearing on uphills. I mean, if you're comparing 1x to 2x7 or something then sure, 1x can cover the same range with similar steps, but a 2x with the same number of cogs in the cassette will always have better options than a 1x.
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Old 07-02-19, 02:11 PM
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Suggesting 1X to OP is crazy talk.
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Old 07-02-19, 08:13 PM
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As a guy with 15k+ miles with a 1X drivetrain, the armchair pontification about spinning out, not enough gearing range, etc... is hilarious.

Originally Posted by Koyote View Post
Ever been to Pittsburgh?
There's a local stretch of access road that pretty much goes up the side of a hill to get to a reservoir. The climb portion is 0.19 miles long, and gains 190ft of elevation. It averages just over 18% for the whole length, and kicks up to 31% just before the end. It's too steep. It's one of those things you only ride up so you can say that you rode up it. It makes no earthly sense otherwise.
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Old 07-02-19, 08:56 PM
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Sram x9 crankset with a Sram Apex 10sp might be viable since you are located in the US and these might still be available.
I wanted to try this option for a recent build, but the local distributor in Singapore does bring in X9 (or other 10sp MTB stuff) .

The X9 crank has a 42/28T option
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Old 07-03-19, 01:23 AM
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Originally Posted by Caliper View Post
"Great" on road to singletrack? That's a really tall order even if you have flat terrain. I honestly think even a 2x can only be *great* on half that (ie: road and gravel OR gravel and singletrack) but can be good if you are willing to accept some compromise on either end. 1x will compromise on both.


First, you're lacking top end. 40x11 @ 110 rpm on 700x44's = 33mph. So I'm spinning out early on gravel and really early on road. This is a huge dealbreaker to me.


Second 40x42 is 26.5 gear inches on the same tires. This is actually a lower low end than I usually run for gravel but a pretty high gear on a number of the hills on my local singletrack (hey, you claimed singletrack also). Especially when they are covered in pine needles and you need to apply the power smoothly, anything short of a fatbike tire will spin the tires loose with this gearing since you'll be mashing. My current gearing for offroad is about 20 inches on the low end.


Sorry, I've ridden 1x a bit and spent a lot of time on rides with other guys who have it. There isn't a single ride where the 1x riders aren't either spinning out on the downhills or running out of gearing on uphills. I mean, if you're comparing 1x to 2x7 or something then sure, 1x can cover the same range with similar steps, but a 2x with the same number of cogs in the cassette will always have better options than a 1x.
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Old 07-03-19, 06:06 AM
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Originally Posted by DrIsotope View Post
As a guy with 15k+ miles with a 1X drivetrain, the armchair pontification about spinning out, not enough gearing range, etc... is hilarious.
As a guy who routinely has his ass handed to him by riders on single-speed bikes, I do agree with this. But it is also somewhat dependent on the rider and terrain -- some people can spin and mash better than others.
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Old 07-03-19, 06:20 AM
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Originally Posted by Hmmm View Post
Don't worry, I'll wait for you at the bottom of the hill.
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