Drivetrain Options and Selection for a Mountain Bike

Drivetrain: Which one is for you…

Over the last couple of years I have been seeing more and more mountain bikes come with a range of options when it comes to the drivetrain.  As mountain biking has become more and more popular, innovation associated with the equipment has started to increase.

This posting is hopefully going to help you distinguish between the overwhelming options and guide you in the process of drivetrain selection.

OK, so what are the options?

  • Three chain rings crankset:  This is probably the configuration that has been the most widely used until a couple of years ago. It allows you the widest selection of gears and the ability to attack (successfully I may add) pretty much any terrain out there.  What are its benefits:
    1. You have the ability to reach great speeds when you leverage the outermost 3rd ring on the crank assembly and the smallest (right most) cog wheels on the cassette;   Riding my X-Caliber Gary Fisher G2 29er in the highest possible gear and of course downhill on asphalt road,  I have been able to reach speed of 43-miles/per hour !
    2. With the same equipment, you can leverage the low gears: small front cogwheel and large cog wheels of the cassette, you can now climb a steep road or mountain trail and be able to stay on the bike;

High-range-of-gears

 

 

For the cassette – I think the 10-speed Shimano HG62 offers close ratio gearing allowing for a more efficient use of energy through finer cadence control

 

  • Double Crankset also noted as 2×10 in the bike specs:  these are the cranksets that are based on two chain rings.  In the last 2 years I see increasing number of bikes with this configuration.  The claim from the manufacturers is that the 2×10 speed drivetrain offers noticeably reduced weight, simpler front shifting, and a small compromise on overall gear range.  Now that there are options at most price levels, a 2x drivetrain would be a great choice for anyone looking to shed some weight from their bike without giving up much in terms of versatility
  • Finally, enters the Single:  Also referred to as the 1×11:  This is supposed to give you super light-weight and shifting simplicity.  That combined still with a full range of gears.   That I am not so sure – how is it being accomplished – given the wheel… Initially the 1×11 had a problem with the ability to retain control over the chain.  That however changed recently with the higher precision machined chain ring teeth – which allow for better chain control (AND OF COURSE COST A WHOLE LOT MORE)

SRAM-XX1-1x11

 

I am able to give a view of this option as well as my spouse’s bike (which we purchased last summer came with a 2×10 drivetrain and was heavily advertised by the specialist who was helping us select the bike.  On a recent ride I swapped bikes with my wife and experienced riding hers with the 2×10 configuation – long story short – the three chain ring options is a hands down winner. Why?  Because of the wide range of gears it enables.   I am able to reach much higher speeds when using the largest of the three rings and climb much more efficiently and steeper inclines – when using the small chain ring.

Both of our bikes have a cassette with 10-speed 11-36 gearing.  Hence the difference is in the crankset.

My overall recommendation – if you can find the bike with the three chain rings on the crankset – go with it.  It will give you the widest range of control in your speed and biking.