Im new to the gravel game and soon to pick up my first bike. Hoping to get some gearing insight. Yes, I have run the calculations to compare but more interested in real-world thoughts on this… Love the idea of gravel racing, as it seems like a safer way to stay competitive with bike racing but not bumping elbows at 30mph in a crit
The age old question… 1x vs 2x. Im quite interested in a few new bikes that are 1x only as well as the Canyon Grizzl that can be fit with grx 2x. Is the deciding factor the type of race youre looking to do? Something like BWR that has a lot of road segments, it seems to make sense to even use a road bike with 30s over a gravel specific bike, but what about on a “all gravel” race? Better off with a 1x and wide range cassette? I suppose on a 1x setup I could have multiple chainrings/chains to swap out as the course may dictate, but it still seems like youre better off on a 2x system? Im well versed with 2x on road as well as 1x on my mtb, but im just plain stuck on which direction to go on gravel!
I’m interested in this as well. I’m sure we’ll get lots of opinions .
My current thinking: it depends on two things:
What kinds of rides/races you’ll do
What your other bikes are
I have a great 1x XC hardtail, so if I’m going to do something more adventure-y, significantly more off-road than on, I’ll probably take my hardtail.
The way I see it, the kinds of rides where 1x is valuable (trails are bumpy enough that you don’t want to deal with a front derailleur) are they same kinds of rides where wide tires and some suspension are valuable. And I have my hardtail for those.
I don’t have a road bike anymore, and if I do a mixed surface ride, I’ll probably use a soon-to-be purchased gravel bike.
The kinds of rides where a drop bar, rigid bike are best, are also the ones with the highest speeds and the greatest need for pace lines - where a narrow-range cassette would be most useful.
I have a 1x and like not having to maintain the front derailleur. I don’t really feel like I’m missing much on my top end speed but I’m not racing with the lead pack so take my perspective with that in mind. I do occasionally miss the smaller gaps between gears with 1x. I think the maintenance thing is a biggie for me. But I would like to upgrade to a 1x 12 speed electronic shifting system
What maintenance does a FD need? 15k miles on my gravel rig(GRX Di2) and then don’t think I’ve ever touched it other than washing it when I wash the bike…
That said, what do you value in your drivetrain? 1x is easy to change where your range goes with a change of the front ring, throw a 44t+ on there for a flat race, next weekend swap to a 36 or 38 for some loaded bikepacking.
I think it is fair to say that the gravel scene is split. In my experience, athletes coming from the mountain bike side tend to prefer 1x while roading tend to prefer 2x. Terrain is also a big factor, the gnarlier it gets, the more shifts in undulations you have, the less tightly-spaced gears are important as you have to vary your effort significantly anyway.
I’m firmly in the 1x camp, for even my road bike is 1x, and I love it. (And I do proper climbs with it.) I have always hated switching chain rings. (My previous MTB was 3x10 Shimano XT, my last road bike was 2x11 105/Ultegra.) But that’s just my personal preferences. And ultimately, it is personal preference.
Essentially, you can get the same range with 1x or 2x, so that’s not a distinguishing factor either. Shimano’s drive trains are more restrictive when it comes to that, SRAM has many more options in terms of chain ring sizes (1x and 2x) and cassettes.
Put another way, do you want a do-it-all bike or a more specialized tool? Just keep in mind that nothing comes for free. The widest range is with a 1x mountain bike setup. But do you need that range?
As long as you are using a 10–36 cassette or smaller, you have tight steps between the gears exactly as on a road bike. (I have a 10–36 on my road bike and had 11–32 Shimano and SRAM cassettes on its predecessor: it’s identical in terms of feel, except that I have one more gear.)
Think about the gears you actually need. People often focus a lot at gears on the top end and are worried about them being tightly spaced. For a gravel bike that need not really be important as your average speeds are lower. On my road bike even when traveling at speed (37–50 km/h) I’m in my 50:18 to 50:13 at 100 rpm (or equivalent on my 1x setup). I’m only in my top gear when the road is pointing down, and then I usually use it as an overdrive. In that respect my 1x setup fares better than my previous 2x setup on my road bike, I have more tightly spaced gears where I need them. So think about that when you pick gears on your gravel bike. 38:10 may sound slow, but you’ll do 51 km/h at 100 rpm at the crank. So I find Shimano’s 2x gearing way too tall for gravel riding with not enough climbing gears. Note that this applies to 1x and 2x alike.
The gearing calculation might change if you also want to ride on-road. But even then I think most people are fine with less tall gears at the top end.
I have 1x12 SRAM Force eTap AXS 1x on my road bike, and it has been flawless so far. Shifting just works, it is faster than any mechanical groupsets I have tried. And I have plenty of gearing options to suit my needs. With the 10–36 cassette, I have the same steps between gears (give and take a few %age points) as my previous 11–32 cassettes. In fact, it feels very much like my SRAM 11–32 cassette.
I don’t know whether a 36-tooth cog is small enough for your rides, and I don’t know how the 10–44 cassette feels. But I’m super happy. I have always struggled/disliked Shimano’s STI lever layout and lever shape. (I very much like their mountain bike groupsets and brakes, though.) One of my favorite unexpected features is being able to trim my rear mech while riding. That’s a game changer. (Sometimes when I switch from my direct drive trainer to my wheel, I need to adjust the trim slightly.)
My other bike is a Canyon Aeroad that’s pretty much maxed out with 28s so using that for anything more than light dust isn’t really an awesome option.
Have a 130mm FS MTB so that’s kinda the other end of the spectrum
No concerns with FD maintenance. It’s kinda a set it and forget it item. Leaning towards di2 or axs so rear maintenance isn’t really a thing either.
I’d kinda like this bike to double as a “welcome back to CX” bike as well. Havnt raced cx in the better part of a decade so if that itch catches on, I’ll probably get a purpose built bike for that but this would be ideally used for a few seasons of that if I keep it going
I’ve never had anything but 1x on my gravel bike. 1 x 11 on my first bike and now 1 x 12 on my new one. I like the simplicity of the 1x set up and the range is plenty for me. I wanted low gearing for climbing and the widest range I could get so I went with a SRAM AXS Mullet setup with a 10-50 cassette. I have 38, 40 and 42 chainrings - I go with 38 for tough courses with lots of climbing and 40 or 42 when there is smoother gravel or more pavement.
The gaps between gears is a very small issue for me - I occasionally notice it when riding in group rides but I can vary my cadence to match speed just fine.
When “racing” I’m no where near the front though so that might change things although I know there are pros out there who have run the mullet in some races.
I have a 2X Grizl. I used every single gear at BWR SD this year. They added a new dirt climbing section right before Bandy Canyon with some very steep sections. Steeper than Double Peak. If had 1X with a large-ish chainring, I would definitely have been overgeared. I also used my highest gear on a lot of the road descents. I had zero mechanicals that weekend and completed the Dubbel. Nearly shook my teeth out descending Black Canyon but never dropped a chain.
I really don’t think you can go wrong with 2X. 1X makes a ton of sense on full suspension MTB since designers have a lot more freedom in suspension design when they can get rid of the FD. Makes less sense on a gravel bike.
I currently have sram rival mechanical on my lauf true grit but would likely upgrade to sram rival etap xplr axs as it seems the only thing I’m losing is it being heavier and I don’t think it’s blip compatible. I think the shift levers for the rival are smaller too which I like. I don’t care much for my current levers coming from shimano which I miss but I’m not spending Di2 money when sram xplr axs is so inexpensive.
It depends a lot on what type of gravel you are into. If we are talking about smoother flatter gravel, 2x makes sense because you can make use of that big ring more often. If we are talking about rougher double digit grades, then 1x makes sense because you’re going to be too busy trying not to hit the deck on the descents to think about using the big ring to go faster.
Either way, always go for deeper gears than you think that you are going to need. It’s not just about how strong you are, it’s about being geared deep enough to not over power the amount of traction available on the ascents.
I think it is blip compatible if you use SRAM’s wireless blips. But you are right when it comes to cabled blips. I would have considered Rival eTap AXS with a Red crank, but that didn’t exist when I ordered my bike. (Although it did come out in between ordering the bike and delivery.)
I’m in the 2x camp for gravel bikes. I think the closely spaced gears are useful for smoother gravel or even road sections where I want my gearing to be similar in feel to road gearing. I’m sure I could live with 1x, but I’ve never had problems with front derailleurs so the main advantage of “simplicity” isn’t much of a draw for me.
Frankly I only dropped the front mech on my mountain bike to clear up my bars a bit since you’ve got a dropper lever there as well, not because the mech itself was any trouble.
It wouldn’t be a deal breaker either way for me on a gravel bike but I’d tend towards the 1x for rougher terrain/gravel simply because of better chain retention with narrow/wide chainrings on those setups.
This is the statement I was going to make as I scrolled through the answers, which was close to some earlier comments but not on point enough.
The answer is ultimately it depends on a) if you have a pref (see comments re mud, roadie pref v mtb pref, etc), and b) where will you be riding. If you’ll be riding where I am, I’d say wider tires and 1x and preferably the mullet setup (currently 40 & 10-52, but have a 42, too) because my gravel is generally 1k-1.5k / 10mi. The gravel scenes I see in the US (I’m an American living in Switzerland) look, um, very different.
Here’s a GoPro composite (sorry for the transitions, I didn’t pay attention to that this time… video is 4k so change your setting as necessary) of some of my local terrain from Saturday’s 50mi / 5.6k’ of climbing on my 3T with 47s (I was prepped for an 80+ mi ride, hence the top tube bag, but weather over the target area – with the main climb that was the objective of the ride – didn’t look fun):
There was road time, more than normal, but for my use, I wouldn’t select my gearing for the road, but that’s my use case, not yours. All the replies above are good advice, but the best answer for you depends on where you will ride and how you want to ride. Good luck and enjoy!
Think it depends how you are using your bike. If it’s a pretty much 100% gravel bike, limited tarmac use than a 1x probably makes the most sense. If you’re expecting a more even split between tarmac and off-road then I’d go 2x.
Range is now a wash between the two options so its down to cadence sensitivity and finding that right gear for how you want to pedal for a sustained period. For me that’s only really a factor on tarmac or washboard smooth gravel (of which I have very little). My Aspero is about to start doubling as a winter road so I’m running 2x.
As others have said, it really comes down to how you plan to use your gravel bike and the terrain you ride.
For me personally, my gravel bike is an all rounder and is the least likely bike I’d consider making a 1x. I have 7 bikes that I regularly use for different disciplines, and 5 of them are 1x, so I’m certainly not against them.
My gravel bike has a classic 50/34 paired with an 11-32 cassette and it really does cover all the bases for gearing and I don’t see any negatives. I frequently use it on fast group rides, mixed surface rides and more trail oriented terrain. This bike sees the most extreme speeds from fast pavement to steep off road, so it only makes sense to have a 2x to address that.
I have 2 x on my trek checkpoint for two reasons but mainly because I am very cadence sensitive due to a ton of knee surgeries. If I can’t find the exact gear I want to keep comfortable cadence I get very uncomfortable very quick. Secondly I wanted to stick with shimano because I had a mtb once with sram and it never shifted that well (not a good reason I know but it is what it is).