|Post Fat Bike Century condition.|
As many of you know, I have installed the SRAM NX-1 drive train and shifter on my Ti Mukluk. Recently it was flogged on my 100 mile Fat Bike Century ride on gravel roads. This is not a "final verdict" on these parts as I still want to see how the group fares through a Winter's worth of use, but this is a first impression of the group and how it performs for me.
I did do a few shorter rides to break in and fine tune the system before I did my century ride. It didn't take much, since there is only one derailleur, to get tuned into primo performance status. There is a barrel adjuster located at the exit point of the cable from the shifter pod, so adjusting this derailleur on the fly is possible as well, should you need to do that.
The conditions on the ride varied from wet, gritty gravel to dry and pretty dusty. So this was a good test of the system in those specific adverse conditions. There was a tiny bit of rough single track at the very end of the ride so I did get a taste of how stable the system is as well, but otherwise it was all gravel roads with a tiny bit of pavement thrown in.
|The heart of the system is undoubtedly the rear derailleur and cassette.|
Under pressure the NX-1 still shifts but the slower nature of the system is amplified over the higher end stuff which still will snap off the shift with a high pitched zing! sound from the chain. This NX stuff doesn't do that, and it is obvious that the shift is a bit laborious. I believe it is because the NX derailleur is not as stiff as the higher end XX-1 and the like. The shifter is really smooth, by the way. The trigger action is easy to initiate and is typical SRAM in an ergonomic sense. Whether that is good or bad is a personal preference issue.
|The X-Sync style, SRAM approved 28T Surly ring|
I will say that the chain line seems biased toward the higher/smaller cog side of the cassette more. Getting up into the lower gears puts the chain at more of a severe angle, and the lowest two cogs show significantly slower shifting as a result. I blame this on the OD crank set and its offset chain ring mounting scheme in combination with the longer bottom bracket of the Mukluk. Surly says the inner ring mounting position of the OD crank is supposed to be where the middle ring would be on a triple, but it clearly is not lined up with the middle of the NX-1 cassette.
|Gearing range for a gravel century on our course called for the fastest cogs to be employed vs the big, low gears.|
Clearly, I think it can be agreed that I am not going to be doing big gravel miles a lot with this bike. Maybe I won't ever again, since that is not what I have this bike for. The point is, I could do a gravel century with this gearing set up, and I did. Yes- I was in the smallest four or five cogs almost all day. I did reach into some of those big daddy cogs on the cassette when we traversed the Iowa River Valley, but that was it for low gearing needs.
Now this brings up a simple point. Say that I had the "proper" SRAM NX crank or lets say I had an X-1 type with the removable spider. I could swap rings for a ride like the Fat Bike Century or for an appropriate low cog for a trail breaking fat bike ride. That would "only" require some mechanical work when I wanted to switch up. But......
Again, taking a look at this from a different perspective, let's say that the 1X system existed first. There were no front derailleurs ever before this. Then some whiz-bang company comes up with this idea to mount two rings on a crank set and a chain moving mechanism so you could have a choice. Yeah! Now I don't have to chose a ring before a ride, or be caught out on a ride where I wished I had a bigger or smaller cog for a certain section. Now, wouldn't that be an advantage?
So, 1X may be the latest fashion darling of the media and SRAM in particular, but that front derailleur idea is far from dead folks. Furthermore, it is, hands down, a better idea for many. Had I been running the former 2X10 set up I had before, in proper tuned up shape, it would have made for a smarter choice for the Fat Bike Century.
When it comes to details the NX-1 is perhaps a bit suspect. The chain line is going to be compromised more at the extremes due to the larger rear cogs and that even if you get the drive ring in line with the cassette's center cog. The drive ring is going to be a compromise in terms of range and where you end up on the cassette. With a double or triple you can use the Keith Bontrager Rules for shifting and eek out the best possible combination for efficiency and shifting performance. However; that means the rider would have to actually think and use the equipment with skill.
Maybe that's asking too much in these days of ADD folks and innergoogles gaming. Anyway.......
I think NX-1 is the more reasonable choice for 1X11 since you do not have to get a different cassette driver than you already may have, nor is it prohibitively expensive to buy and maintain. Plus, with Shimano doing 1X11 cassettes with wider gearing ranges, the possibility exists to get into a better quality cassette and likely better shifting performance. Basically, there is an upgrade path that doesn't require a new rear free hub and/or a rear wheel. Obviously, a new rear derailleur upgrade path can be had as well. So, for starting out in the 1X11 world, I think NX-1 is really a great option. Just know that if you get into higher end componentry, you will probably not want to return to NX-1 again.
I'll have a long term update on these parts most likely at the end of this coming Winter.
Note- I bought the NX-1 cassette, shifter, and rear derailleur with my own damn money, and that goes for the Surly drive ring and the chain as well. I was not paid nor bribed for this post. So there.......