Tech Corner #4: 1x Drivetrains
Why do 1x drivetrains shine on gravel? This week, Randall discusses the benefits of a 1x drivetrain for folks looking for their next gravel bike.
This is Tech Corner, a mini-series we're doing with The Gravel Ride Podcast, garnered from Randall's 18 years as a mechanic, racer, product developer, and industry insider. Tune in at the beginning of every episode to catch Randall's 60 second tech tips.
RANDALL: In recent years, 1x drivetrains have taken over the mountain biking world. Today I’m going to argue why 1x should also be the default for most gravel riders.
1. With no front shifting, there’s less to go wrong, and less skill needed to dial things right.
2. With 1x, the user interface is vastly simplified. There’s no possibility of rubbing or cross-chaining, and you can just focus on the terrain ahead.
3. 1x drivetrains are cheaper to buy and generally cheaper to maintain.
4. In the case of some mechanical front shifters, you can modify them to activate a dropper post. This is actually super slick because it puts your dropper post at your fingertips at all times, whether you’re on the hoods or in the drops.
Now there are two primary objections that I hear. First is range. This one’s actually a non-issue. You can get the same or greater range these days, with consistent jumps between gears as well.
The second thing that often comes up is gear spacing. However, on dirt, the terrain is generally changing so frequently that you’re never at the same cadence for very long. Additionally, many riders, especially those of shorter stature, are running cranks that are too long for their inseam. Having a crank length that’s proportional to your inseam will allow you to spin at a wider range of cadences, which would in turn cancel out much of the perceived benefit of tight jumps.
So that’s why, for most gravel riders, I recommend a 1x drivetrain.
I’d love to get your feedback on this topic. In the meantime, back to Craig and this week’s guest.
The Gravel Ride Podcast features conversations with the athletes, product designers, and iconoclasts who are most influential in the growing world of gravel cycling today. You can follow The Gravel Ride Podcast on their website, Facebook, and Instagram. Join us again for the next episode.