Saturday, 15 April 2017

It Is Ok Being Single (chainring) ?

Straight away, there’s an appealing simplicity to a single-ring set-up. For mountain biking, a single ring chainset makes a lot of sense. Changing gears is easier with just one gear shifter, there's one less thing to malfunction, mud and ground clearance is improved, weight is lowered and suspension designers are freed of the limitations of having to factor in a front derailleur when locating pivots. And any loss in gear range is compensated for by a wide-range cassette, with SRAM’s introduction of a 10-42t cassette.

However, discerning road riders will object, citing a loss of gears and too large a jump between those that are left. Indeed a common complaint by folk out on the road is that they struggle to find the “perfect gear”. Even worse, 1x set-ups can be pretty painful for the first few rides, especially if you get the gear ratios wrong. Two or three teeth on the front chainring can make a big difference — the difference between riding up the climb and having to get off and push :D

There are advantages, and also disadvantages, so the big question is really “What is right for you?” What Is The “Best” Configuration? The answer to that question is different for each person, and often for each situation. Here are the factors (then you decide).

Why A Single Front Chainring?

The single front chainring systems offer some good advantages:

1. Lighter Weight – Loose the other chainring, but also the front derailleur, the shifter and the cable. 

2. Less Complication – Without the FD, shifter, and cable, there is less to adjust, and less to go wrong.

The main thing you give up is Gearing Range. Simplicity has its virtues. It can be a liberating feeling, and for some people, range not a big deal. For some riding situations it’s not a big deal. Yet, for others, that seriously changes the fun factor and ruins the ride.

In addition, it’s not uncommon for less experienced riders to misuse their front derailleur and find themselves cross chaining. This can cause issues down the road, as cross chaining puts extra wear and tear on a chain, requiring it be replaced more often than it would otherwise need to be. Removing that front shifting variable allows the rider to focus on only the rear derailleur and eliminates any fear of cross chaining.

Why Double (Or Triple) Chainrings?

1. The biggest advantage for multiple chainrings is range — Gearing Range — meaning more span from the lowest to the highest available gear. In practical terms, it means having lower gears that allow you to climb the longer steep sections, and having higher gears so you can pedal down the fast descents.

2. Efficiency is the second big advantage. Efficiency in 2 areas — First being able to stay in your physiological operating window, and Second, the ability to avoid inefficient situations like cross chaining that chew up your watts and spit them out as worn-out parts.

3. Confidence. Knowing that when you show up for a ride or a race you will have the needed ratio range.

Disadvantages of multiple rings are the advantages of a single: First, added weight; Second, added complication; Third, (for many situations) dealing with poor performing transitions from one chainring to the next. 

How Do I Choose?

The First Question to ask: “How much do I shift the front chainrings?”

Second Question: How much do you ride in the “cross-chaining” situation from the big ring to the biggest 2 cogs?

Third Question: How often do you shift just one gear to stay in the “sweet” spot?

If the answers to questions 2 & 3 are “Never” or “Almost Never”, then you’re a great candidate for single ring’n it. – If, on the other hand, your answers are “Frequently” or something like it, then you are probably going to ride better and faster with easy access to multiple front chainrings.


Ride On!

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