Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Let's Start At 13

Little cog abuse is a terrible thing to behold.
One of my co-workers at the shop had a bit of a rant the other day when he was looking for gearing to set up his wife's bike. He was concerned about the jump between cogs, and this was coming from a roadie perspective, but I understood. He had another excellent point though, and that was how most cassettes we change out at the shop have almost zero wear on the 11T and 12T cogs. I have to agree there, and this seems to be mostly an issue with the more "seasoned cyclists" we service. They almost, to a man and women, never use those gears.

Now it isn't always that way. I can point to many a mid-90's to late 90's hybrid bike where Shimano offered crank sets with ridiculously small chain rings which forced most users to run the big ring all the time and the smallest cogs on the cassettes all day. This caused all sorts of excessive wear issues, since smaller cogs wear out faster than bigger ones do. In fact, another byproduct of all of that was the fact that those cranks typically had riveted chain rings and you had to replace entire cranksets when the customers wore out the big rings.

Now we have 10 or 11 speed cassettes and instead of closer ratios we get these big jumps in spaces where many folks would like tighter jumps in between gears. No where is this a bigger issue than it is with SRAM's 1X (single front chain ring) set ups which are big in mountain biking and about to set sail in the road world. SRAM made a choice to run a 10T cog, in an effort to help their single 11 speed cassette attempt to cover the typical range of a triple crank and "normal" cassette. By the way, it doesn't cover that range at all, but the point here is that since you cannot put a 10T cog on a normal cassette body, SRAM has made the XD Driver, a special cassette freehub unit, to accommodate that tiny, easily worn out, and probably hardly used cassette cog. Okay, I'm calling BS here. This is a stupid choice and I feel SRAM could have stuck with the status quo in terms of cassettes and free hub bodies and we wouldn't need XD Drivers or super expensive drive train bits. But, ya know, that doesn't make sense in the marketing department.

Gearing is an almost religious debate for cyclists, but my point is that we don't need smaller cogs that wear out faster. (Thanks for putting that out there first Suntour MicroDrive!) Especially cogs that require an entirely different system to make up for the goofy idea that 1X systems are inherently "better" than having 2X or even 3X crank sets. This idea that we have to have 10T, or even 11T and 12T cogs is not for the masses. It's unnecessary, and in the end, it will result in either waste, or prematurely worn out parts, and jumps in gearing that could be made a lot closer if we started at 13.

That's my take on it at any rate.

16 comments:

bostonbybike said...

Most people don't use 11T and 12T cogs in their road bikes because a typical road bike you can buy in a LBS is simply overgeared for an average Joe. It usually comes with a 50-34T crankset and a 11-28T cassette. 50+11 combination produces 122 gear inches of development - that's way too much for an average cyclist. We need to blame manufacturers for the lack of options here as right now they think every road cyclist is a racer and needs UCI-compliant gearing.

I use a 44-28T crankset on my road bike and a 12-30T cassette and I use all cogs evenly, including the 12T.

Doug Mayer said...

Here here! And +1 to Bostonbybike's use of a sub-compact crank for road; if only there were more available.

Michael Lemberger said...

I was only sort of joking on Facebook, because I do use my 11t once in a while. But then, my "big" chainring on that bike is a 38...

Mr. Beattie said...

Touring across Newfoundland Canada on a 30lb loaded 650b tourer I ran an 8 speed 13-26 with 50/38/24 front chainrings. I so rarely used that front 50x13 combo (downhill, tailwinds, being towed by a tractor trailer {JK} ) that I took a vow to never run larger than a 46 front again.

Heck 44/38/26 probably would have been perfect. I will say that even with friction bar ends big jump front chainring differences are trickier to get setup right and in retrospect a "compact FD" would've been a wiser choice than the old 105 double FD I ran.

Regardless, I'm all for compact doubles or triples using tighter range 8 or 9 speed cassettes. Starting with the magic number 13.

grannygear said...

Having recently began riding a gravel bike with a 46/36 crank and an 11-36 cassette, I find that most of the time that is an adequate high gear, especially on a bike with 40c tires. But if I were to run that gearing on my road bike, there would be at least one point in almost every group ride where I would be spun out and dropped. It is not uncommon to be in the 50x11 combo and spinning fast.

But the idea that, if I have an 11 or 12T cog that sees little use when paired with a 50T, it should go away seems odd. If I ran that 46CR all the time I would be running in the smaller cogs more....sooo that means even less efficiency even more of the time? And increased wear?

I would prefer to be in bigger gears like a 50x17 or whatever is the same inch wise than a 48x12. And a 44T CR? Maybe for a town bike but not for where I live on a road bike with the paces we see here.

Horses for courses.

I do agree about 1X though, even for MTB. None of the range and all of the wear + >cost + large gaps + pedaling in that 10T cog feels like death. Speaking with other journalists and industry folks lately, there is a decent amount of them that are 'done' with 1x, or at least the romance is over and the reality is that 2x or even 3x is smarter for most apps. 1X road makes no sense at all to me unless you are talking gravel bikes I guess.

gg

Kurt Fossen said...

I just bought a 1x 650b full suspension fat bike with drop bars...because someone said it was "the future".

Steve Fuller said...

It's unfortunate that this market isn't big enough for someone like Wolftooth to come in and offer in-between size cogs. It seems like it's only the bottom 3 or 4 gears that are on a carrier any more. The rest are individual cogs and spacers.

ACTUALLY, it's too bad that there isn't a way for people to put together their own cassette across all 9 or 10 cogs. I can think of some ways to maybe make that workable and remove the requirements for a carrier for the biggest 3 or 4 cogs, but since I'm not an engineer I'm not sure how practical it would be. It would also require a new hubshell. and for people to not get caught up on the extra grams of weight required to make it happen.

Souleur Jo said...

true that, most cyclists don't use the 50t or 53x11 much. I fit into this camp, actually on my road bike i run a 12-23, and usually don't need much more than the 14t most of the time. However, what a bitter taste it leaves, when I DO have a big descent...and run out of gears, or have a long stretch with the proverbial tailwind, and spin out and COULD use more.....THAT my friends are why we do carry that last gear and we guess what we may need..not that we always need. Its sorta bassackwards thinking, if we rode what we ride all the time, we would never graduate past the 16t now would we??

MG said...

Amen Brother! I agree with this 100 percent. In fact, on my 29+, I run a truncated 9 speed cassette, so it's got only 8 gears with a 13t small cog. Gives me the chai line I need and I never run out of gears with the 24x28 double on the front. Good to go. No XD driver or stupid 10t cog necessary.

Miles said...

I haven't used an off the shelf 1x system yet but coming from a single speed background I've put together a few different home brew 1x systems for myself for mountain and cross use. I've always liked them though they've of course lacked the full range of the 2x I'd normally run on a geared bike but being a singlespeeder at heart I don't mind spinning or mashing a bit.

That said while the tiny cogs on the xx1 seem silly and I generally abhor new seemingly unnecessary standards don't they kind of make sense on a mountain bike 1x system? It seems like they'd be rarely used enough that they aren't really in going to get worn out. Looking at a gear calculator all the gears you use most of the time when mountain biking are right in the middle of the cassette, those 50-60ish inch gears and then the 32-36-42 cogs you'll be using when you're climbing up those mountains which would be pretty slow to wear out....but how often can or do you really pedal a 100" gear down a mountain? Not super often at least for me. Of course this is all dependant on the terrain you ride but at least in theory I can see it making sense for the riding I do out here in California. Looking forward to trying it when I'm not broke. hah.

Also for the record, road 1x is just a dumb idea. Don't know why anyone is biting for that.

Exhausted_Auk said...

Hear hear! I don't plan to make the jump from 10 to 11 speed until there are at least some 12 up options out there. The last place I need an extra gear is at the top of my range.

Johann Rissik said...

"One buy" is the future...one buys and buys and buys. That is the marketing plan anyway. The rest is just obfuscation and justification. 3 x 9 forever.

Rannier Wolfcastle said...

1x is great for fat bike commuting since every front derailleur ive ever used gets clogged up and freezes in the winter. Road? No. Gravel? No. Mountain? Meh, sure, here in Minnesota.

Guitar Ted said...

@ Rannier Wolfcastle - Precisely why I use the Blackborrow Dinglespeed. Rear derailleurs freeze up too, as you may well know. Not to mention the corrosion issues with road treatments/salts, which can ruin a traditional drive train in short order. 1X ? No- Dinglespeed!

Unknown said...

An opinion from the other side: I'm running 26" wheels with an 11-34 freewheel and a 22-32 double. It's great for going over logs on the trail, and the 11t cog gets me home from the trailhead without spinning out too much. Hooray for the 11 tooth cog!

YtterbiumUK said...

I don't know why gearing is so big, I tried to go to smaller chain rings on the front with a 94mm spider so I could have 30t and 44t but it didn't work, I could have kept a tighter gearing say 12-26 and still have some low gears.

Shimano make 'Junior' cassettes that have good gearing like 14-28 for Ultegra 11 speed.