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I currently have an old 3x7 speed quasi-all-terrain bike (a CUBE that is somewhere between a city bike and an all-terrain one). I need to get a new one and the general options are 1x10 or 2x9 shifters.

My commute is 60% streets, 40% forests paths and mostly flat (not Netherlands flat, but almost). I used to bike quite a lot and want to get back to commuting at 50 years old. I am looking for a bike that would force me to do some effort.

Which version (1x10 vs. 2x9) is more recommended for this kind of activity?

3 Answers 3

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2x9, because

  • Replacement parts are cheaper;
  • Tolerances are higher, meaning your drivetrain will not need to be adjusted as often. More importantly, it is easier to do it yourself. If you depend on your bike every day, you cannot always wait for an appointment at the bike shop;
  • Chain lasts longer.

For the kind of activity you have in mind prety much any commuter/hybrid bike will do, and the difference you mentionend has little relevance. More important parameters are:

  • Suspension (or lack thereof - usually preferable on good paved roads)
  • Drivetrain type (chain or gear hub)
  • Commuting gear (such as light, mudfenders, rack)
  • Tires: pucture resistance and profile (depends mostly on the state of the unpaved roads you will be riding on)
  • Price: both purchase and expected maintenance costs

But actually, if your old bike is in working condition (or can be put so with a reasonble budget), my advice is to start commuting with your old one (especially now that summer is comming to the northern hemisphere), see for yourself what makes and does not make sense for you, and let that knowledge influence your new bike purchase decision at a later stage. You will then be able to make a much more informed purchase, which is always preferable.

One word about cycling accessories: if your bike is reasonable, they become the deciding factor of your cycling experience, so do plan and budget for them.

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No practical difference between 2x9 and 1x10. Personally, all else equal, I would swing to 2x9, but choose the bike based on price, comfort, colour etc before using the gear set as the deciding feature. Some will say 1x because 2x is sooo... 2010's, shop will sell you a 1x because they charge the same for a service and 1x (arguably) needs less servicing more often (more sensitive to tuning, chain wears faster, but no front derailleur).

Gear ratios are more important that 2x or 1x - you may find a 1x10 have to close spread and may not have a high enough or low enough gear - especially if a MTB crankset. If 1x10 has enough spread, the jump between gears might be larger than ideal.

Effort is not a function of the drive train. Position (therefore aerodynamics), tires (rolling resistance) are most important, followed a long way back by weight (only affects accelerating and hills).

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Assuming that this is the only difference and a similar range, I'd go for the 1x10. Simple reason: 1x10 are usually Deore (or Advent X), while 2x9 would be Acera/Alivio. There's a significant in reactivity between the two, and it's much nicer to use. My experience is that Acera/Alivio develop some play over time, and you need to change 2 gears then back to change gear, while Deore remains more consistent. They also require less "pressure" to operate, so that kind of mitigate one advantage of 2x: changing to the small chainring at traffic lights. But as mentioned in other comments, if there are other differences, they can make the difference.

That being said, if the current bike is in good order, except for the transmission, I'd go for a third option: replacing only the transmission with a Shimano Linkglide (new range targeting commuters and e-bikes, with a focus on durability). A new bike with a 1x10 or 2x9 won't be very different from the one you currently have (in terms of frame), and that would allow you to have components that are in higher ranges. The main point I would see where a newer would be better is about brakes: a new one would have disc brakes, while the old one has probably rim brakes. But there's a catch: good V-brakes with good pads are to my opinion better than entry-level mechanical disc brakes, and on-par with entry-level hydraulic disc brakes.

A note about: I am looking for a bike that would force me to do some effort. Taken literally, it's not the best approach. If you want to exercise, it's always best to choose the bike that requires the least effort: it's more enjoyable to use (so you'd use it more often), and if you want to make more effort, there's always the option to pedal harder or make detours. It's also not linked to the transmission, unless you take unsuited ratios (but then it would not be enjoyable).

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