Should I switch to 1x?

Its been about 15 rides or so since I’ve used the small chainring in my 52/36 (11-32 cassette) setup. I’m not sure exactly why, maybe I hate dropping the occasional chain. Maybe I just don’t mind grinding at lower cadences a bit? I live in philadelphia and my rides aren’t crazy hilly but they are certainly not flat. (Not sure the convention used but I think I average maybe 500-1000 feet of altitude change per 10 miles.) Only very occasionally do I feel like easier gearing would make sense for endurance rides that have a bunch of steep hills. Further context: I’m middle age, 5’10 and 150lbs. I think that’s 178cm and 68kg.
I’ve only really been riding seriously for a little over a year so I’m not confident that I know all of the reasons why I should or shouldn’t be using my gearing the way I am, but I’ve been thinking that if it works fine to just use the 52 then maybe my next bike should just be 1x. I’d love more experienced folks to weight in.

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1x is only useful in racing, especially off-road. If you’re just road riding for health and fitness stick with what you have. Buying a new bike won’t make any difference to anything except for getting noticed at the coffee shop.

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Well I don’t race but I do enjoy going fast regardless. I am not trying to get a bike to impress people, but my current bike is from 2016 and at some point I would like an upgrade, which is why I’m asking about the drivetrain. I do take your point though, thanks!

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I ride one bike with a SRAM AXS 1x12 setup and one with a Shimano DA 2x11 setup. Both bikes are otherwise relatively similar in weight and geometries (the first is a Spec Crux, the latter is a Tarmac, both set up to be fast on the road), and they have successfully been used for short and long gran fondos, everestings and commutes.

Based on just the gearing/drivetrain, I am very happy with both, but if I’d have to choose one, I would go for the 2x drivetrain. The reason is simply that the 2x11 (or 2x12 when 12 becomes the norm) offers much more nuanced gearing, and especially on flatter terrain, I find myself shifting gears frequently in the constant search for the perfect gear. The jumps on the 1x are noticable bigger than the 2x. Somehow, it reminds me of old and new cars with automatic transmissions - the old school 5 gears feels a lot harsher than modern 8 gear transmissions.

On the other hand, you might be able to negate this issue with a relatively “narrow” cassette, and you might not miss the lighter gearing so long as you’re not riding up big and long hills.

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This makes sense to me on an intellectual level but since my experience is only with what I have currently I can’t really imagine the difference in how riding would feel.
Maybe electronic shifting would change things, I think I’m just too lazy (or my drivetrain isn’t dialed in enough) to be switching between front chainrings to make the gear feel perfect currently.
I appreciate the thoughts, thank you.

YES!

Some dude just set a 4k world record on 46x11 (equivalent). Any chainring larger than 46t is excessive for the commoner.

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Next time around try a closer spaced cassette. You may end up liking the benefits of the closer gaps. A byproduct is the need for that smaller ring for hills, and reduced weight on the bike.

I don’t know what year my road bike is, somewhere between 2014-2016. I have no intention of replacing it. I just spent well over $1000 replacing worn out components.

My main MTB is a 2018, I have no intention of replacing that bike. I bought it on clearance and have beaten the shit out of it.

My XC bike is a 2019 (because my 2015 was stolen). I will not be replacing that bike. I have a Pro XC license and would still be racing the 2015 if I had it.

You are more than welcome to replace your bike as you wish, but being 5 years old isn’t a good reason.

That’s fair, I am still riding a 2009 pivot Mach 4 26er so I am not unfamiliar with sticking with a bike :joy:
I am wanting new wheels and my 2016 tarmac is not thru axle so I was thinking of getting new frame at some point when I wanted to get the wheels. Then I was thinking maybe just get a groadie. Then I was thinking why not 1x.
Not claiming this is the most well thought out idea but just wanting specific feedback about the 1x vs 2x decision for a rider in my position.

I don’t like gravel riding (my gravel bike is my only bike purchase regret) so I can’t help you there. I would consider going 1x on that bike, but I don’t have any interest in spending money on it besides maintenance. But it is a handy backup bike so I don’t want to sell it.

For road & groadie, 2x all the way. It’s not about the easy gears or lack thereof (1x and 2x can be equivalent in range), but about the spacing between gears as others have said. I have six bikes and only one is 2x so this isn’t a biased opinion! But my next bike (groadie) will be 2x as well.

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Ever ride in the Gladwyne area? 52x36 would be a challenge for me. I never saw a downside to having a front derailleur on a road bike. I prefer 2x for gravel rides in the area as well since most have a good chunk of payment. 2x has closer spacing for the road sections with about the same high and low as the 1x gravel setups.

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About 3 years ago I switched one road bike over to 1x11 and a couple months later the other. Both are frankenstein DI2 builds that I ride on the trainer, long rides, short rides, rolling terrain, steep hills and have done a couple of multi-day mountain climbing trips. Only change I’ve made was to switch from a 46t front chainring to a 48t.

I, personally, have rarely found ‘gear hunting’ to be an issue. On the couple of occasions when I couldn’t find the right gear the incline of the terrain always changed relatively quickly and then it wasn’t an issue. I like the simplicity of the 1x setup, that was the main reason I went for it.

If you’re contemplating the change, I’d recommend the following:

  • While riding, pay attention to the smallest cog you use while in the big chainring on a regular basis. Also think what is the smallest cog you use on downhills before you tuck or coast. This will give you an idea of what top end gear you need.
  • Do the same thing, but for small chainring and big cogs. Also think about how low you would want for sustained climbs, if that is a concern.
  • Visit a site like http://www.gear-calculator.com/ so you can compare your current 2x setup with potential 1x configurations. I landed on a 46x11-36 11 speed and had roughly the same range as my 50-34x12-28 10 speed (lost a little top end I would only rarely use on descents.)

With 2x10 there were roughly 13 distinct (non-overlapping or near overlapping) gearing combinations, so I lost 2 options with 1x11, but personally it was never really an issue as they were hidden in the middle of the cluster. With 12 speed its even less of an issue. As mentioned, after my mountain trip I felt a little spun out on descents and bumped up to a 48 on the front.

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Yep, Gladwyne is a regular part of my riding. I guess I just like grinding the low cadence?
Where are you riding gravel near philly?

I think we may have a lot in common. I don’t really “gear hunt”, I just sort of change my cadence and wait a bit. And I really enjoy the simplicity on my mtb (I converted it to 1x) of just the up or down shifting.
From the on-bike attention I’ve given it, I don’t really use the 52/32 very much, usually only if I’m trying to pace myself well up a longish hill. I do make some use of the 52/11, but that’s mostly just enjoying going fast on downhills, I don’t think it would matter that much if I lost it to be honest.
Thanks for sharing your experience.

@juicetin - I’ve expressed this on this board and elsewhere: For a versatile bike, stay or go 2x. For XC or CX racing 1x actually has some performance benefits because of the constant change of pace.

Gravel bikes should also be 2x for versatility and wind-fighting “perfect” gear finding if you have any desire to group ride or gravel race… in my midwestern USA gravel experience. If your “gravel” is really “road-to-single-track” (not a criticism, just a slightly different use-case) then 1x probably makes sense as an XC bike with drop bars…

And while avoiding a rant - 1x is a specializing thing, taking some versatility out of a bike, which for all but the top race-focused riders in my opinion is the wrong direction. I’m not about to go all Grant Peterson, but if you ask me, all metallic bikes should still have braze-ons for fenders and a rack, and if a rider thinks about the weight “savings” of losing the braze-ons, that rider should probably be racing a carbon wonder bike.

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I do some of the organizing rides and also ride parts of the loops at other times. Flèche near New Hope, Monkey Knife Fight near Macungie, Brandywine Roubaix near West Chester, and Hell of Hunterdon in NJ.

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Agreed. I have 1x12 with SRAM eTap AXS. I run a 10-36 cassette with a 42-tooth chain ring, which gives me the same top gear as 46:11. I spin out at 65ish km/h, which is plenty fast.

@Juicetin
You have already kept track of the gears you use, which is step 1. If you manage all hills on the big chain ring, you can definitely go for a 1x setup. I really, really love having no front derailleur. It also isn’t expensive: just get a 1x-specific chain ring from e. g. Wolftooth or Rotor. You might also think of getting a chain catcher or a clutched rear derailleur. You don’t necessarily need a chain catcher, but it is just for peace of mind.

As far as gearing is concerned: since you currently have a 52-tooth front chain ring and you haven’t used your small chain ring recently, that your terrain is quite flat. So I reckon that you don’t really use your top most gears much either. So you could think of getting e. g. a 48- or a 46-tooth chain ring. That gives you a much lower lowest gear than 52:32 and sufficient speed at the top end. For example, I noticed that I like to ride with 95–100 rpm in my 50:13 or 50:12 when I ride about 50 km/h. This is about as fast as it gets on (false) flats with tail wind or on a fast group ride. That’s why I picked a top gear ratio of 4.2 = 42:10 = 46:11. I spin out at about 65 km/h, that’s plenty fast on public roads with traffic. IMHO top end gearing is over estimated by many. In my experience the top-most gear is an overdrive gear most people only use on the downhill sections.

As you can see these considerations depend a little on your preferred cadence in the various gears. With a cadence of 90 rpm you will do 50 km/h in 48:11. Another recommendation is to look into replacing your Shimano 11-32 cassette with SRAM’s 11-32 cassette. The gearing is a little different, SRAM’s cassette has more closely spaced gears at the top, which I prefer. But YMMV.

In my observation the gravel scene splits down the middle when it comes to 1x vs. 2x. I think many people feel comfortable riding in a wider range of cadences and thus, don’t feel the need to find go 2x to find a “perfect” gear. Moreover, when the terrain is undulating, your “perfect” cadence changes constantly, too.

Some people also dislike the front derailleur for plenty of rational and irrational reasons. I found changing chain rings very disruptive and hated the way the smaller chain ring felt. And thanks to SRAM’s 10-36 cassette you have enough range even in mountainous terrain — at least I do — while having small enough gaps between gears. My 10-36 feels like my previous 11-speed 11-32 Shimano cassette with an extra gear. So for a pure road bike, I have enough range. Since this is an aero road bike with tiny clearances, I don’t ride gravel on it. But even then I could go 1x quite easily and not have to worry about range.

Versatility is dictated by gear range to me. But the more versatile a bike, the less good it is at one specific thing — and vice versa. The largest range can be achieved with a 1x (520 %, 10-52 cassette coupled to a chain ring of your choosing). The second largest would be a 2x, 43/30 with a 10-36, about 469 %. Then there are cases where you have equivalent range done in different ways, e. g. 50/34 coupled to 11-32 gives you 420 %, very close to the 440 % a 10-44 cassette 1x gives you. If anything, I find 1x more versatile, you could have a 10-44 cassette on your gravel wheelset and a 10–36 on your road wheelset, for example.

Whether to go 1x or 2x is a matter of preference in most cases. But here the OP noticed he isn’t using his small chain ring, and it makes sense to me to think about eliminating it.

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I also live in Philly and am a similar weight. Earlier today I spent a while in 34x32 on a climb over 20%. But my friend on a 1x passed me up it. So you might be ok, especially if you don’t ride in hilly areas around here.

It is true that a compact chain set (50/34) with an 11-32 cassette will just cover most riding situations (although I think manufacturers should offer easier gearing than 1:1 on road bikes and sacrifice gears at the top end), and you don’t have to think about anything. In order to go 1x you need to know what kind of gearing you want and need. But the 360 % I have is very close to 50/34 coupled to 11-28 (374 %), so IMHO it is really close enough at this point. But even if you want something closer to 1:1 and/or you aren’t as fit as others, I’d just opt for more climbing gears at the expense of a gear at the top end.

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