Mountain Bike Gearing

I just got my first mountain bike! A simple khs Aguila hardtail. I’m super excited for the spring and to let it loose!

I’m doing a deep clean/overhaul on it and I was wondering your opinion on something.

It’s a 3x9 currently… what are your thoughts on on a 1x9 setup? Is that too few gears? I like the concept of a super simple bike but don’t want to be limited just because 1x’s are cooler haha

My rear cassette is 11-34and for front chainrings I have a 30 or 32 chainring available.

Also would a narrow/wide essential or can I get away with a “normal” middle ring of a 3x?

Also I know just running the bike as is without changing out of the middle ring makes sense to determine if it’s all the gears I need. Unfortunately I can’t get the full range of the rear cassette without a lot of rubbing.

Anyway any thoughts or opinions are appreciated!

Congratulations on the +1!
If it were mine I think I’d leave the drivetrain alone for now, and then upgrade it all at once in the future if you still want to run a 1x setup. The reason I suggest this is for a few reasons 1) without a clutch-type derailleur, chain retention is going to be an issue, even with a narrow-wide chainring, 2) the 11-34 cassette isn’t much range (and may lead to some tough climbs with that 30t or 32t chainring, depending on your fitness level and the size of the hills you’d like to ride it up, and 3) upgrading any of these parts a little at a time is going to cause compatibility issues with the other parts.
When/if you’re ready to drop a few sheckles on a drivetrain upgrade, I’d look at the SRAM NX Eagle group; it’s inexpensive compared to a lot of other groups out there, has an 11-50 range, is compatible with the wheel that’s already on your bike, has that clutch-type derailleur, etc. Despite it’s price (about $275 for the chain, shifter, and derailleur - just keep your cranks and bottom bracket and add a narrow-wide chainring), it’s a pretty good setup.

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Honestly, just because 3x drivetrains aren’t trendy anymore doesn’t mean they don’t work. A lot of us learned to ride on similar bikes, and it was just fine.

So I have two conflicting thoughts on this. One is that it makes sense to ride what you have, and not worry about putting money into a basic hardtail. Put that money in a new bike fund instead, if you really want something fancy after you’ve been riding for a while.

And if you’re still interested in modifying your ride anyway: Consider putting a wider range cassette on the back. You can get an 11-40 9 speed, if you don’t mind a bit larger steps between gears. Normally I’d say you can just run the middle ring and put a wide range cassette on, but if you’re rubbing, you’ll probably want to figure that out. If it’s rubbing on the front mech, you can just take it off. You may also need a different rear mech, if your cage isn’t long enough for a wider range cassette. YMMV here.

And then the cost effective simple option is to run with what you have now, but with some elbow grease. Pull off your front mech and shifter. Go ride for a while. See if you’re happy with the range. You can always put stuff back on, if you find it limiting.

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Thanks! I like the sounds of that… I’m a ways away from any major upgrades but would you recommend putting money into the bike at all down the road or just saving for a new bike down the road? I’d imagine a new fork would be high on the list as well as well as a new group set.

All that being said, I can’t imagine the bike would be a limiting factor for me for quite a while until I get more fitness and a lot more technical skills.

@roflsocks and @nforrest nailed this one IMO.

I figured that I would add my 2 cents on chain retention really quick just to clear things up.

The middle chainring of a triple has ramps built into it that are designed to help the chain come off of the chainring. On a one-by, this is the opposite of what you want, and will result in dropped chains on a very regular basis.

For acceptable chain retention you have a few options:

  1. Narrow wide chainring and clutch rear derailleur.
  2. Narrow-wide chainring and chainguide

In some cases, if you’re mecchanically savvy, you might be able to get your front derailleur to work as a chainguide by fixing the limits centered over a narrow wide chainring, but this will depend on the derailleurs limit range and cage shape. That being said, even if you are able to get it to work, it will pretty noisy and I wouldn’t recommend this as a long term option.

Enjoy the new bike!

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Don’t worry about it too much for now. Just ride it as much as you can and if at some point down the road you feel like the bike is holding back your progression then think about either upgrading that bike or getting a new one. One think to think about if/when you’re contemplating upgrades (and this is just in general, not just for this bike) is keeping in mind how compatible the parts you’re considering are with any future bikes. In this case, I think this KHS has QR hubs and a straight (non-tapered) headtube. With those, most any wheelsets or forks you could buy wouldn’t be swappable to a nicer/newer bike so I would have a lot of heartburn about spending money on things like that.
One item that I would recommend you think about is a dropper seatpost. You should verify this, but I think your frame takes a 31.6mm seatpost; there are lots of droppers in that size so it would be easy to move it to another bike at some point if you want to. A dropper post will make your riding a lot more fun and also safer going downhill and they’re getting cheaper and more reliable all the time.

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