I am upgrading from a Shimano tourney bike and newbie so please be nice to me .. lol :)

I ride trails and easy bike paths and some roads. For cross country - Semi road/ Semi mountain type riding, which is better? - A 1X11 SRAM/Shimano system or do I need 2 gears in front with a front derailleur? Considering ease of pedaling, shifting and more slower shifts in gear, isn't a 2X10 set up better?


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    The question as ti stands "which is better" is opinion based and likely to be closed, especially give you have focused (unintentionally?) on the religious debate of SRam vs Shimano, and ignored Shimanos 1x11 offerings. An edit that removes this, asking for the advantages of 1x vs 2x and ignore brands is a good question though
    – mattnz
    Jun 26 '17 at 21:47
  • edited asking 1x vs 2x
    – AZSWQ
    Jun 26 '17 at 21:55

Neither system is better than the other. In some situations, 1x is better, in others, 2x is better. As cassette range expands, effectively because the largest cog is getting bigger, the advantageous of 2x (or 3x) are decreasing. (SRAM just released a 1x12 with a 10-50 cassette, which is probably the nail in the coffin of 2x in the top end gear sets on MTBs).

As a rough starting point, if you are regularly using you lowest gears, and other times your highest gears, a 1x is probably not for you. if you ride flattish terrain, or are a strong rider who climbs well, 1x is a candidate. The NX and XT cassettes are 11-42 giving a gear range of just 380% vs a typical 2x of 11/36 and 24/36 giving 470% (although 11-46 are available giving 420%)

A large reason for popularity of 1x in Mountain bikes comes from full suspension frame builders. By loosing the front shift, they free up space around the already crowded bottom bracket area. This is a very high stress area of the bike, throw in pivots for full suspension and life gets difficult. Removing the derailleur and it goes from 'impossible' to 'nearly impossible' to make a better frame.

Manufacturers love 1x as it lowers the total cost and complexity of an installed drive train, and marketing love it because is something thats clearly 'new' and therefore must be 'better' Meaning there is cost saving to be had, that does not need to be passed on to the consumer as it can be sold as an improvement.

If we put those two aside and consider just an upgrade of an existing frame

2x Advantages

  • Bigger overall gear range
  • Closer spacing between gears (if same number of gears)

1x Advantages

  • Lower weight
  • Linear gears
  • Less cluttered handle bars
  • Fewer mechanicals - less things to go wrong, less adjustment

Keep a very close eye on costs - upgrading from Tourney means the bike was not really high spec to start with. Its likely a 1x11 gear set will cost more than the bike is worth, and provide no significant advantage over upgrading just the rear derailleur and shifter (Cassette, chain, shifter cables are really consumables).

  • Good points are raised, but I don't agree that set up with 1 front gear is something new - I had it on my MTB 15 years ago
    – trailmax
    Jul 4 '17 at 18:00

More gears are not necessarily better. Adding a second (or third (or fourth!)) chainring gives more gears, but a lot of them overlap or fit between existing gear ratios.

Focusing on the top half of this image enter image description here
Adding a 24 tooth grannie chainring gave that MTB 2 additional gear ratios lower than what the 32 tooth ring could offer, for the same cassette. Likewise, adding a larger chainring adds ~2 more higher gears.

On my triple-equipped road bike, I will and do use the highest and lowest gears available, so an equal 1x setup would have to have a cassette with a monstrous range.

  • Thank you . That's very informative.. May I ask - People say don't cross your gears - 1) Don't use largest in front with largest in back 2) Don't use smallest in front with smallest in back because chain has to cross instead of being straight.. Wont that be the problem with 1X11 system because the chain moves only in the back to 11 positions stretching in a criss cross angle when its at lowest or highest gear ?
    – AZSWQ
    Jun 26 '17 at 20:34
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    Also in the graph above there seems to be bigger jumps in the gear shifts when using a 1X11 system.. 3X10 setup looks like gives more finer variations in gear shifting. - In other words, I don't have to may be shift from gear 3 to gear 8 in the back - Instead I could just shift the front gear ?
    – AZSWQ
    Jun 26 '17 at 20:37
  • You might have overlapping gears in terms of chain inches, but different sized chain rings have different torque requirements. That's something you will feel in your legs. Even if you have gear overlap, having multiple chain rings allows you to tune your effort better. It may look the same mathematically, but it's not.
    – Mohair
    Jun 26 '17 at 23:52
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    @Mohair interesting but disagree - Maths doesn't lie. However you're right in that there are mechanical advantages for using larger chainring and larger cog over a smaller that produce the same ratio, with an upper limit around the additional weight required. But (22/11) is exactly the same ratio as (44/22)
    – Criggie
    Jun 27 '17 at 2:01
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    @StarAzure That's called cross chaining and it used to be a lot more of a no-no. These days most bikes cope fine with cross chaining for a while.
    – Criggie
    Jun 27 '17 at 2:02

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