Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Front Derailluers Are Dead- Long Live The Front Derailleur!

SRAM XX1 Crank (Image courtesy of SRAM)
You may have seen this the other day. SRAM's newest "innovation" called XX1. It is an 11 speed drive train featuring several proprietary parts, and no front derailleur option.

Leaving aside the many concerns over "unnecessary technology" or issues with proprietary parts, I happen to think XX1 is a bold stroke. Front derailleurs are difficult beasts. Especially so on mountain bikes. Getting a system whose aim is to rid the mountain bike of this component is appealing to my dislike of those dratted things.

Now- I do not think all front derailleurs are evil. Just the ones that don't work all that well, which is a lot of them. "Momentum suckers", now that is a name I could apply to a front derailleur. "Noise makers" is another. Maybe that's why I like single speeds so much.

Here's one that works pretty good...

That said, many upper end front mechs work just great. The 2X ones especially so. Why, I can pop off shifts with these like nothing else, but at what price? Oh my! Yes- you have to not only have a great front mech, but the cranks and chain rings to go with that. Things can get pricey real quick-like.

Your average drive train doesn't work quite so snappy up front, and when you add in nice little gremlins like Dirt, Gravel Dust, and the really nasty one, Mud- well you can get all kinds of Mayhem going on with those!

So, while proprietary free hubs, wheels, derailleurs, and all that maybe are not that great, the idea of a chain guide-less 1X system is very appealing to me. Simple, better shifting, a wide range of gearing, and with the new derailleur cage arresting technology for rear mechs, the chain doesn't slap your stays and doesn't whip the chain off your front ring either.

I've been running a 1 X 10 set up on By-Tor the Titanium Mukluk, and I like it a lot, but the range of the gearing is not as wide as I would like. Plus, I have to use a chain guide and my chain slaps the chain stays,making racket.

I will say that the final complaint there was a universally accepted trait of mtb drive trains for eons, but have you ridden a bike with the new rear derailleurs featuring the cage arresting technology? It is amazing. The amount of noise you don't hear is very apparent. Why didn't they come up with this before? I highly recommend you try one of these newer derailleurs out. Well worth the paece and quiet, and chain retention! 

But I've gone off point- The death of the front derailleur may be at hand for some like myself, but trust me- There are a lot of folks that won't ride a bicycle without a front derailleur and three- count 'em- three front rings! They demand "all those gears" because of the hills, and even if your compact double shifts better and has as wide a range, they ain't given up their triples, much less ever thinking about a 1X set up. May as well shoot them now as to consider that one.

So, Long Live Front Derailleurs! (Now where is that single speed.........)


Velocodger said...

I hope this leads to lots of nifty crankset choices for my SS. The older I get, the more I appreciate a low q-factor.

Dave said...

I love my SS too.

But on the rear mech, which are the ones that have the new, anti-slap technology? I lose track of all the marketing terms to know which ones have it.

Exhausted_Auk said...

Two comments:

1. The "new" design of the XX1 rear derailleur, with an offset upper pulley, and a non-angled parallelogram, looks an awful lot like the Campagnolo Rally derailleur I had on my bike in 1981! Suntour patented the angled parallelogram in 1964, and Shimano (and everyone else) famously copied the design once the patent expired in 1984. So why are we now going backwards?

2. Shimano Alfine 11 offers the same range, and uses no derailleurs at all.

Guitar Ted said...

@Dave: Shimano has this technology on XTR Shadow Plus derailleurs, (you'll notice a gold-orangey anodized clutch switch on the derailleur which identifies it as having this technology), and SRAM's new device is coming out for 2013.

I suspect this will eventually trickle down to lower component levels soon.