It's here! The dreaded day has come when your 9 speed stuff is "old school". Yep, that's right my dirt bikin' friends, you are off the back now with the introduction of Shimano's XT Dyna-Sys 10 speed, and SRAM's already famous XX 10 speed. SRAM is also set to soon be flooding the market with 10 speed groups all the way down to its X-7 level. New XTR is, of course, 10 speed, and so is Shimano's workhorse SLX group. Yep! You can officially start hording 9 speed stuff and call yourself a "retro-grouch" if you are into 9 speed stuff.
Of course, I jest, but to some degree, this is our perception of the new 10 speed, no? I recall when 9 speed XTR came out. Wow! There was a lot of grousing and folks murmured how they were "never going to ride 9 speed", and how Shimano was "ramming it down our throats". Hmm..........I wonder how many riders still feel that way about 9 speed in 2010? Especially now that 10 speed mtb is a reality.
And I'll be the first to admit that I have been on record as saying this 10 speed thing was/is a bad idea. Road 10 speed is none too impressive, in terms of durability and wear life. I was and still am expecting that 10 speed mtb stuff will also fall short of 9 speed in this critical area. One thing I will also admit is that the SRAM XX 10 speed stuff I have ridden is dreamy! The best shifting I have experienced in the field yet, hands down. Especially the amazing front changer. I used to hate front derailleurs until I met the XX front derailleur and shifter.
My co-writer on Twenty Nine Inches and The Cyclist, Grannygear, and I talked about the implications of 10 speed groups for off roading just the other day. He wrote this excellent post on his blog about the subject, which I highly recommend reading. I pretty much agree with his estimation that the biggest downfall of the ongoing race to add another gear to our cassette, (and in many instances, take away a chain ring too), isn't so much about lack of performance, but about cost of ownership. This stuff will be expensive to replace once the parts wear out.
In the end, the riders will decide what will happen. Will Dyna-Sys be a Dyna-thud, or a huge hit? Riders embraced 9 speed eventually, and the market fully supports it now. However; if the cost to replace an XT cassette and chain, not to mention that composite middle chain ring, is astronomical, and we find ourselves racing to replace those XT bits with Deore, or SLX just so we can afford to ride, it isn't going to go over too well. The flip side is how will those lower priced 10 speed options perform? It's going to be hard to accept an X-9 cassette that doesn't shift as well as a high dollar XX 10 speed one, even if you did save some money. Maybe that gulf between the lower end's pricing and the upper end's will just be too much to take, or maybe it won't.
At any rate, it's a new day. A 10 speed mountain bike day, and you can choose to not play along, but it isn't going away any time soon. I'll have the XT Dyna-Sys group on test on Twenty Nine Inches and locals can check it out in the flesh. Just give me a shout out here in the comments or by e-mail, and I'll be glad to let you check it out.
Hmm...........I think I'll go for a ride on my single speed today! Have a great Wednesday!