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If your objective is to ride on green-blue and perhaps the easier single-black-diamond trails, do you really care about having 1x12 rather than just 1x10?

They share exactly the same middle cogs (18-21-24-28).

The 1x12 replaces (11-13-15) with (10-12-14-16), and one could argue this is not a big deal, because the 10t is meaningful on XC stretches, not on actual trails.

The 1x12 also replaces (32-37-46) with (33-39-45-51), and unless one is in a very hilly area, having the 51t doesn't mean that much. The 1x10 does introduce a huge 9-tooth gap between 37t and 46t, but that's clearly designed to keep a very large cog (46t)) to ensure the drivetrain is useful uphill.

I am very familiar with 1x10 and in XC riding found it lacking. The large gaps are painful, because every up-shift is another fight to up the cadence again. The big cadence changes mean that the leg muscles are stressed much more than necessary.

And so the reasoning above suggests that only 2x or 3x front gearing will improve the gaps. It's pointless to insist on 1x12 and hope that it will solve 1x10's gaps problem.

Do the arguments above hold?

Related:

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  • 3
    Categorizing trails as green, blue, or black in a general sense is meaningless. A Squamish, BC green is a Bend, OR black. What kinds of trails are you really talking about? What are the characteristic grades? How large are the obstacles? What kind of elevation gain/loss is typical?
    – Paul H
    Aug 25, 2022 at 23:31
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    A 51T cog in a “not very hilly area” would allow you to size up your chainring, and thus have more top-end speed in your 10T cog if you had a decently long road section to get to your trails. The premise of this question is severely flawed. Run the equipment you prefer. You don’t need permission from anyone.
    – Paul H
    Aug 25, 2022 at 23:33
  • @PaulH Right... every trail uses these color markers individually. No one wants to say "in the grand scheme of things, we're just a beginners' trail (or ski slopes) and we just have green and blue trails." Conversely, no one wants to admit they're really for advanced riders. And so the color graduation is done to distinguish trails within the same region. There appears to be a numeric gradation that's somewhat objective, methinks.
    – Sam7919
    Aug 26, 2022 at 2:44
  • @PaulH "would allow you to size up your chainring" Perhaps. Probably not. If the chainring is at 32t, we may have already maxed out.
    – Sam7919
    Aug 26, 2022 at 8:53
  • The Scott Spark can take a 40T chainring. Ibis Exie 36T, Ripley: 34T. Pivot Mach 4: 36T. And in any case, prior to 12 speed drivetrains, a 30T chain ring was the standard spec. 30/11 -> 2.72 ratio vs 32/10 -> 3.20, which is a significant jump, IMO
    – Paul H
    Aug 26, 2022 at 13:51

2 Answers 2

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It doesn't matter. If you don't ride competitively, it's not a problem to not be at the most optimum ratio, or even lacking range.

Intermediate steps are less critical on trails than on road/gravel (slopes are changing fast, the optimum ratio can only be valid for 20m). To little range may force you walk to sometimes, but on some technical segments, you may need to walk anyway if you don't have the skills.

That doesn't answer the question directly, but provide elements to weight in the two options:

  • intermediate steps matter for all the rest, if you plan to use the bike for other purposes.
  • 1x10-speed MTB are also in a strange position now, and only used on entry-mid-range. 9-speed still hold a strong position on entry level ranges, and 11-speed is moving down in ranges. Already now, you only have one supplier for some cassette sizes (one range in Shimano or one range in Microshift), and supply is discontinuous. It will only get worse if these ranges will be out of production.
  • Some 10-speed derailleurs (Deore 4120/5120, maybe 5100) are also able to use 11-speed cassettes, with a change of shifter.
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  • Good points. I was hoping you wouldn't agree with me though, but that you'd provide a compelling counterpoint. In a sense the argument "1 × n is as good as 1 × m for n = m - 2" has to be wrong, for otherwise we'd repeatedly reapply it one side or the other and reach an absurd conclusion.
    – Sam7919
    Aug 26, 2022 at 9:08
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    @Sam I start to know when it's better that I don't answer ;)
    – Rеnаud
    Aug 26, 2022 at 10:33
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Renaud concurs with the premise of the question. I'll offer here a counterpoint. Namely, I'll argue for when it would matter.

As the question suggests, if you're in the middle of the cassette's range, it makes absolutely no difference. The cogs are identical.

If you're in the top gears (smallest cogs), having access to four gears rather than three and having access to a 10t cog may be an advantage, but for it to matter you have to be doing about 40 km/h on a mountain bike with heavier, knobby tyres, which is no small feat.

Even if you're not racing, the bigger advantage of a 1x12 cassette is if you're on more challenging terrain when you'll be on lower gears (larger cogs). Having access to a 6-tooth separation between cogs (33-39-45-51) will be kinder to your leg muscles than the rather large 9t jump on a 1x10 derailleur (32-37-46).

And in any case even 1x12 is still not as nice as having a basic 2x9 MTB gearing from a few years ago.

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  • On the 2x9 vs 1x12, I do have a compelling argument. Overall range is the same, you have the same apparent number of speeds. The overlap is in the most used area, but is very narrow, and would require you change from one extreme to the other (in term of chainring/sprocket) to access the "intermediate" steps, so not usable in practice. So 1x12 if the budget allows it
    – Rеnаud
    Aug 27, 2022 at 6:53
  • When I wrote that the "overlap zone" is not usable in practice: I meant that one can't take advantage the steps would 1-5 2-2, 1-6, 2-3, 1-8, 2-4. I just don't see myself changing chainring and 4 sprockets to benefit from a 6T step, especially in an trail environment.
    – Rеnаud
    Aug 27, 2022 at 7:07

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