1x12 Gravel Options

I’m working on setting my cross bike up for gravel riding. I currently have a Ritchey Swiss Cross Disc running 1x11 with Gevenalle shifters, XT derailleur, 38t Wolftooth chainring and 11-32 cassette. This combo is great for cross races and works fine for gravel with mild climbing, but when the trail really points upwards I find myself wanting a lower gear for climbing. As such, I’ve been looking at making some drivetrain choices. Here are my goals:

  1. Maintain reasonable jumps between gears, especially on the faster end of the cassette.
  2. Get one or two easier climbing gears.
  3. Stay 1x.
  4. Switch to a shifter that is more comfortable on the hoods for long durations. The Gevenalle shifters are great for a 45 minute cross race, but not so great when it comes to multi hour rides.
  5. Not spend a fortune.

With this in mind, I’ve settled on either a 36t or 38t chainring paired with either SRAM 10-36 or Rotor 11-39 cassette. The question then becomes, what are my options to shift this cassette?

Campagnolo Chorus 1x12 “hack” setup
Campy Chorus shifters ($240) and rear derailleur ($170).
Pros:
Lowest cost option
Meets all requirements.
Cons:
No derailleur clutch. Might be ok if I increase the derailleur tension (reposition spring) and use a narrow wide chainring (like the Wolftooth).
Campy says this derailleur only goes to 34t in the back. Maybe I can get to 36, maybe even 39? I would have to try it to see. If the derailleur can’t make it to the big cogs, then I would have to try the something like the roadlink.

Force AXS Mullet
Force AXS shifters ($710) with Eagle AXS rear derailleur ($700)
Pros:
Will certainly work
Many cassette options between SRAM and Rotor
Derailleur clutch
Works out of the box, no “hacking” required
Cons:
Costs a ton

I’m very tempted to try the Campy setup as it is roughly $1000 cheaper, but I’m a little concerned that I may end up with something that doesn’t work and just end up going AXS anyways. Has anyone tried using Campy 12 speed on a gravel bike? Were you successful in shifting a larger than 34t cassette in 1x configuration? Did you have any issues with dropped chains?

Just get a SRAM Force/Rival 1x 11-speed with the long cage and you’ll be able to run your choice of front ring with an 11-36 for flatter/road/tame gravel and the 10-42 or 11-42 if you have real climbing. Very hard to beat. . .

or, get the 1x13 Ekar groupset with tight spacing on the fast end and solid climbing jumps as well.

4 Likes

Also, I’ll add this: I’ve spent way too much time thinking about gravel gearing and have AXS 2x on a road bike. I don’t think I’d do AXS on my gravel bike. I think 1x sheds the mud much better than having a front derailleur, and I don’t think AXS 1x offers advantages over SRAM’s 1x mechanical 11-speed. In fact, the 500% range is more of a negative than a positive in my book because, even though SRAM will say you can run a larger front ring for more top-end speed and still have the climbing range, many frames that clear the type of wide rims and tires we like to run on gravel cannot handle a front ring bigger than 42 anyway.

Thanks for the input. I agree with your thoughts on the 10-50 cassette - its great on my mountain bike, but not really interested in it for my gravel bike, the jumps are too big. I like the Ekar group but my frame is post mount, so I’d have to get alternate calipers to make it work. I was hoping to go 12 speed to get a little finer jumps between cogs than 11, but if I stay 11 speed then 1x GRX is an option (again, would require alternate calipers). Maybe I need to look through the available 11 speed cassettes again…

If there’s a driver available for your hub, you could go with an XTR 10-45 cassette with an XTR Di2 derailleur and a DA or Ultegra Di2 shifter.

The Force eTap Wide setup would be a natural option: the 10-36 cassette offers virtually the same range as a 11-42 cassette (360 % vs. 368 %). If that isn’t enough, perhaps Campagnolo’s 1x13 with one of the cassette options (starting at 400 %) would be a great choice, too.

I have axs 2x (46/33 w/ 10-33) on my gravel bike and I’m able to easily swap in a 1x front ring and AXS eagle RD and 10-50 cassette from my MTB as needed. Agree that the jumps on the 10-50 are pretty extreme. It doesn’t bother me on technical up and down terrain, but it’s a bit annoying to be between gears on steady state sections.

If you have not already confirmed it, you might do a little digging on whether you can run that Eagle AXS RD with a smaller cassette. I assumed I could just run the Eagle RD with something smaller that the 10-50 and it would be fine (one RD to rule them all), but found some references online that said you can’t run eagle RD (mech or AXS) with smaller “non-eagle” cassettes. I tried running it with my 10-33 axs cassette and can confirm that it does not work. Maybe going to something with a 42 or 46 big cog would be close enough to the Eagle cassette to shift reasonably well. You also can’t run Eagle RD with a 2x setup, but I was able to run it with a 2x cranksetup with the FD stuck in the small ring. It actually shifted pretty well. Also tried the big ring and the rear shifted terrible in the bigger cogs, I think the chainline was too extreme. The following piece has a bunch of good info on hybrid gravel/mtb drivetrain options.

While I’m a fan of 1x on my MTB, I really prefer the tight gear spacing and range of a 2x on a gravel bike. I wish I had the newer AXS wide ratio RD on my gravel bike to have the option to run the 10-36 cassette. With 46/33 chainrings and a 10-36 in back, that’s a pretty great compromise between decently tight gear spacing and really great range.

Does it have to be 12 speed? GRX 11 speed can use a Wolftooth link to allow it use up to a 11-50 casssette? You’ll get some bigger jumps but I don’t notice them on the mtb (11-46).

Few other options for wide range 1x setups here: https://bikepacking.com/gear/guide-to-mullet-drivetrains/

This would be the cheapest option, my Wolftooth link was 20 quid and a Sunrace cassette is about £70. Then if you like the range you’d be able to look at GRX shifters and mech or XT and tanpan.

I have been running SRAM 1x12 with 40t up front and 10-50 in the back. It’s what came on the bike. I have never used the 50 to date. I haven’t done any sustained climbs on the gravel bike, but a few punchy 15-18% grades and still didn’t really even think about it. I don’t notice the jumps being too big, however I was previously on a 1x11 with an 11-36 in the back I believe - on that bike I never felt like I could quite find the right gear.

I am kicking around moving up to a 44 in the front to make the bike a better option for the road and for those rare, long, smooth gravel downhills with a tailwind - but honestly it’s fine as is 99.9% of the time since I have yet to ride the road this year and have no desire to anytime soon.

I guess I’m warming up to the thought of Force AXS. Maybe start with 1x 10-36 and a 36 chainring and then go 2x if/when climbing needs dictate. I just wish someone would make a cassette with similar range (350%-400%) that started at 12 instead of 9 or 10. Unless I run a relatively small chainring, I don’t have much use for the 9 or 10 tooth cog on a gravel bike. I’d rather have something like a 12-36 or 12-40 with tighter spacing - I’d use every single one of those gears. But I guess I’m in the minority and small gear jumps don’t sell cassettes as well as big range.

Rotor makes an 11-39 cassette that I believe works with the Eagle rear derailleur, but I don’t think it works with the road rear derailleur that would allow you to do a 10-36 Sram cassette as you mention with the ability to switch between 1x and 2x.

Any word on how well the Eagle AXS derailleur shifts the 10-36 cassette? I read a post in another thread that someone mentioned the last few cogs (10,11,12,13) weren’t quite as snappy as the rest. I’m considering an Eagle AXS derailleur, Eagle chain and both 10-36 and 10-50 cassettes now (I’ve made my peace with the cost). It would be nice to set the chain length for the 10-50 and simply tweak the b-screw when I swap for the 10-36.

10-50 - use for any ride with steeeeeeep climbs
10-36 - use for most everything else, flatter gravel routes, cross races, etc

take a look at that 3T article that I linked above and read through the comments. There is a lot there, but I’m pretty sure they hit on Eagle AXS RD incompatibility w/ AXS road cassettes. Not a problem for the small cogs, but the larger ones. Not a chain wrap issue obviously, but something about how the geometry of the eagle RD I assume. I don’t know exactly why it do doesn’t work, but I can confirm that it was unusable when I tried it with my 10-33. Not just poor shifting, but unusably poor shifting. Played with B gap and it couldn’t get it to a usable state. Maybe a 10-36 would be better, not sure.

Right you are! In a different 3t post (https://blog.3t.bike/2020/01/12405/gravel-bike-tech-gears-for-tough-climbs-part-1/) it says the 10-33 and 10-36 are not compatible because the B gap will be too large. It does however say that the rotor 11-39 works with the eagle axs derailleur.

A 2x force axs setup would be great for gravel, but I’d want to convert to 1x for cross season. I guess that’s not too hard with the power lock and axs, I can’t imagine the chain length would need to change.

I picked up a bike with the new AXS Wide (43/30 chainring, 10-36 cassette). So far I am loving it. A lot of people are all about the 1x on the dirt, but I am a roadie at heart and JOM (Gravel Cyclist) convinced me on one of his reviews to stay true to my 2x soul. It is great to have the ability to keep my cadence where I want it and also crank up some hills when my bike is loaded with extra water/bags.

I’ll second Force 1x11. Long cage derailleur, 10-42 cassette. 40 or 42 chainring. Assuming you can get run an XD driver no problem since you’re considering AXS or MTB parts.

I’m really considering the same setup. Do you notice the 5mm wider q-factor on the crank or has it been a non issue?

Non issue for me.

Can you not just swap the sprockets out that you don’t want? Buy a second cassette with a different range and mix them.

It seems the gravel community is quite evenly split here. While I don’t understand what a 2x soul is, with 13 gears you are very close in terms of gear spacing to 2x11 and 2x12 gearing with about 14 distinct gears.