9 Speed NSMB AndrewM.JPG
EDITORIAL

Does The Future Have Fewer Gears?

Words Andrew Major
Photos Andrew Major
Date Oct 23, 2019

Or Maybe...

Perhaps just less complexity? Or maybe more complexity with basically zero maintenance? To be honest, I've lost the plot when it comes to mountain bike drivetrain evolution. Surely we aren't just going to add one more cog every couple of years? How much longer can derailleur cages get? I love the idea of a quiet, efficient, and simple drivetrain on my full suspension bike so much that I tried single speeding it! At this point however, the industry seems to be putting effort into maximizing the number of batteries that can be put on a single off road bicycle.

I saw the release for the SRAM EX-1 groupset and I was bloody excited. I wrote an article about it, and then SRAM promptly started selling Eagle 12-speed systems with single-click shifters for the motorized market. Disappointment. My longtime dream of a clutched, wide range, 5-spd drivetrain seems ever farther away and then Box releases a 9-speed set up along with their cheeky 'Nine Is Fine' tagline that plays on Shimano's 'Mine Is Nine' marketing program from 1999.

SRAM EX1 NSMB AndrewM (3).jpg

SRAM immediately grabbed my attention with the EX-1 groupset with an 11-48t cassette delivering 436% range over 8-cogs.

This isn't a review of the Box's 9-spd drivetrain, but kudos to them for thinking outside the... general trend of drivetrain development. I'm also very excited to see Box, FSA, TRP, and SunRace stepping up to engage SRAM and Shimano but one drivetrain has caught my attention recently; the new Shimano SLX 12-spd. It's so good that once I get my hands on it, I'd have a powerful min-max argument to upgrade every other component before stepping up the drivetrain.

I've been shifting the mid-level Box Two drivetrain for a couple of months. This isn't the premium 630 USD Box Prime drivetrain that's been showing up in various reviews but rather the reasonably budget 270 USD Box Two drivetrain which includes the shifter, derailleur, chain, and an excellent SunRace 11-50t 9-spd cassette.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that NSMB's first experience with a Box One drivetrain was significantly sub-par but this is an updated lineup and I'd love to read Tim's thoughts comparing his first review to a new Box drivetrain. But I’ll say right now, for the price I’m happy with Box Two performance; it’s been solid to date.

Box 9 NSMB AndrewM.JPG

The shifter is available in a single-shift version like the EX-1 or a multigear shifter.

Box 9 NSMB AndrewM.JPG

The Box Two 11-50t cassette delivers a 455% range over nine cogs: 11 • 13 • 15 • 18 • 22 • 28 • 34 • 42 • 50

Rotor already has a 13-spd drivetrain and I imagine e~bike compatibility and chainline are the only things that will keep other companies from building wider cassettes and/or thinner chains but if Box derives some success from 9-spd disruption I'd love to see other companies jump off the one-more-cog bandwagon.

Nine Is Not Five

In my house, jumping on a Box 9-spd drivetrain isn't a matter of dropping 3 gears but rather a single cog. On multi-geared bikes, my wife and I both run a hybrid of a 10spd Shimano Shifter, 11-spd Shimano Derailleur, and a fantastic 10-spd 11-46t SunRace cassette. I think the cassette jumps are as optimized as I'm going to get hitting a 418% range over 10x cogs: 11 • 13 • 15 • 18 • 21 • 24 • 28 • 34 • 40 • 46. It's still possible to buy this whole drivetrain new in boxes with my choice of high-end Shimano shifter but the days are certainly numbered as even SLX is a 12-spd package now.

Shimano 10 and 11 NSMB AndrewM (3).JPG

Shimano XT M8000 11-spd Rear Derailleur.

Shimano 10 and 11 NSMB AndrewM (1).JPG

Shimano Dynasis 10-spd Shifter.

Shimano 10 and 11 NSMB AndrewM (2).JPG

Shifting an 11-46t SunRace MX3 10spd cassette.

My other comparison point is the simplicity, perfectly straight chainline, low maintenance, and quiet performance of my single speeds. I recognize that I'll never get that drag-free performance out of a multispeed drivetrain but improving chainline would be a start and the only ways to do that are to narrow the width of the cassette or have the chainring floating in a derailleur-in-a-box setup like Petespeed.

To me, a bolder product than a 9-spd drivetrain would be to jump way back to 5-spd with the 8-spd or 9-spd spacing standard. Stronger wheels, much better chainlines, and enough cogs to hit all the gear ratios that I need in the mountains. Let's say 13 • 18 • 28 • 37 • 46 or something of the like so I can still use a 30t or 32t ring up front which plays nice with more bikes anti-squat numbers. As an added bonus, a really nice 9-spd or 8-spd chain costs significantly less than a decent 12-spd chain.

Single Speed NSMB AndrewM (1).JPG

One ring, one cog...

Single Speed NSMB AndrewM (2).JPG

...and lots of chains.

If I can't have my simple 5-spd drivetrain then I find myself going entirely the other direction. I'd love to see a crank-contained gearbox system that can be mounted on any bike with a similar 354% ratio to my dream 5-spd setup but then I already wrote a 'what if' piece about Hammerschmidt dying on the vine.

Revolution Vs Devolution

When I read that Hayes had bought the Petespeed derailleur-in-a-box system in 2004 I was excited. The potential to carry the drivetrain weight low and centered on a bike, sealed from the elements, and with the efficiency of a derailleur system, is rather beautiful to consider. I know it never would have worked as the space required to get a trail-bike gear range, and shock and a water bottle into the front triangle would have required everyone to ride an XXL frame size. There's also that whole issue of having to buy a bike designed around the system.

My experience with hub gearing - Nexus, Rohloff, Alfine - has long made me skeptical of other types of gearbox systems but I like to think I'm open-minded enough that I'd get on board if they approached the efficiency and shifting quality of a derailleur system with the aforementioned improvement in weight distribution. Still, not being my area of passion or expertise I'm going to defer to Perry here from his Zerode Taniwha review:

"I've been a rabid fan of gearbox transmissions since the first embryonic designs emerged nearly 20 years ago. It's been a long time. If you'd asked me then where I thought we'd be now in terms of drivetrain technology, I would have said with a fair bit of confidence that gearboxes will be standard fare on high-end aggressive mountain bikes. Alas, progress has been relatively slow, and gearboxes have yet to be adopted by any of the major players. So it's been up to courageous small companies - the likes of Pinion and Zerode - to drive the evolution of the species. While the Taniwha isn't perfect, it offers some significant benefits in the realms of durability and suspension performance, wrapped up in a great handling platform, that I found really compelling."

In Defense of HammerSchmidt AndrewM

Despite the best of marketing the rear derailleur still reigns.

In Defense of HammerSchmidt AndrewM

In Defense of Hammerschmidt, I'd have loved to have seen the system evolve.

Aside from the fact that boutique trendsetting brands haven't jumped on board with gearbox fitment, the biggest issue with the bikes is the parking lot test. Again I'll tap Perry here to sort it out:

"There's no question that the Pinion requires an acclimatization period to come to grips with its idiosyncrasies and realize all of its potential benefits. Those who jump on board for a parking lot test are quick to criticize the bike's weight, and reluctance to shift under load - and, to a lesser extent the additional drivetrain drag in higher gears. I certainly had mixed feelings based on my first couple rides. After more time on board, which entailed remapping some well imprinted shifting behaviors, my perspective began to change; the reduction in pedal pressure required to shift became second nature, and much more subtle, and I quickly became accustomed to the additional mass. I never did find drivetrain efficiency losses to be particularly detrimental.

It didn't take long to come to grips (ha) with the oft-maligned shifter. It's a fairly unobtrusive thing, though I did find in some gnarbar scenarios, you really don't want to be rotating your grip position forward (ie, to drop into a taller gear), so your shifting is sometimes delayed. Similarly, in some tech climbing scenarios, you don't have the opportunity to indulge in just in time shifting into a lower gear, so have to pre-plan a gear drop which isn't always optimal. The ability to grab a handful of gears any time (without pedaling), or preshifting, is certainly a selling feature, however."

It occurs to me if one could purchase a Pinion gearbox mounted in a Toyota-Tan Megatower or a Turquoise SB150, enough people might commit to that 'acclimatization' period that the things could catch on.

nsmb_2018_gearreview_zerode_taniwha-6816-20.jpg

Pinion's tensioner is tough, works fantastically, and moves in the direction of impacts. I used one to single-speed my FS bike for a time. Photo: Dave Smith

nsmb_2018_gearreview_zerode_taniwha-6833-29.jpg

"Because the shift indexing occurs within the gearbox, not in the shifter, the transmission always shifts perfectly." - Perry Schebel. Photo: Dave Smith

Let's face it if ShRAMano can find a way to make the chains for 14-spd drivetrains strong enough to work for e~bike applications they'll be on 100% meat-powered bikes any month now. Perry's gearbox fandom and my Hammerschmidt fantasies seem much less likely to occur than 157mm frame spacing opening us up to 20-spd derailleur systems. My 354% 5-spd drivetrain? HA!

I told you I've lost the plot. Where are drivetrains going?

Trending on NSMB

Comments

Timer
+5 Ron Chang Skyler sansarret AJ Barlas Andrew Major
Timer  - Oct. 23, 2019, 1:26 a.m.

Looking at the issue from the other side, the ability of the derailer to shift under load is pretty amazing for mountainbiking and i totally get why shimano focused on that for their new groupsets. Imagine we were all riding gearbox bikes and someone came along with a cheap, lightweight drivetrain that shifts under load. Wouln't we be all over that?

I do agree that we don't need more cogs, 12 might already be too many. But the eagle range is necessary to cover a wide variety of riding areas and fitness levels.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 twk
Andrew Major  - Oct. 23, 2019, 6:12 a.m.

I often make that argument about budget drivetrains. Instead of thinking of XTR as the pinnacle because it shifts the best at minimal weight, look how good a clutched Deore system is comparatively at a tiny fraction of the cost.

Looking at a mid-level FS bike, Min-Maxing a Deore drivetrain with a set of Magura MT5 brakes, 170mm Aeffect post, and a Fox Van RC coil leaves enough dollars to get a really nice rear hub, top tires, and good suspension fork which are going to make a big difference. The shifting and dropper post are usable/reliable and the brakes are excellent.

Reply

gotama
+2 Pete Roggeman Andrew Major
Gotama  - Oct. 23, 2019, 2:56 a.m.

Re the box drivetrain - are you finding an increase in reliability over a 12 speed set up? Better performance when coated in filth and less susceptible to a less than good set up? I'm tempted but only if it gives me a more durable drivetrain that offers better performance in manky conditions. If it still carries the same issues as a 12 speed then i struggle to see the point. 

On a gearbox front there is also the Effigear which allows you to customise the number of gears. Less gears equals less drag and weight as far as my understanding goes. There is also a trigger option for shifting the effigear. Joe at Starling Cycles as a proto knocking around i believe using the Effigear. 

That said, based on the shifting issues with GX on my Levo i suspect it will be e-bikes that finally drive the gearbox shift. 

If only someone could persuade Sturmey Archer to upgrade the seals on their three speed hub. Relatively light weight and you'd have down, flat and uphill gears.

Reply

Tremeer023
+2 Cr4w Andrew Major
Tremeer023  - Oct. 23, 2019, 3:20 a.m.

Had a Raleigh Grifter with the 3 speed Sturmey Archer when I was a kid.  That thing was HEAVY!

I've flicked between 9 / 10 speed and single speed over the past 20 years (on ht and sus), but enjoy ss more so have stuck with that mostly (currently 4 yrs on ss).  However, a modern version of a hub based 3 speed would be of great interest to me.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+2 Cr4w Tremeer023
Andrew Major  - Oct. 23, 2019, 6:22 a.m.

I’d like to see it in a crankset (three speed Hammerschmidt) as, especially on an FS bike, that’s a way better way to carry all that weight. As long as the three gear ratios were tuneable I could do 3spd for sure!

Hard to say anything definitely about Box Two vs mud other than with 9-spd  the highest quality chains (which do make a big shifting difference in all situations) are much cheaper compared to 12-spd. The mud we have eats drivetrains but doesn’t really gum them up like other places.

I did have to pop up to a 32t oval ring to find my magic gear ratio in the stack (too much single speeding does that to you). 

Despite the bigger jumps shifting under load is good but it isn’t SLX 12-sod good. But the it also uses a standard HG hub so for a replacement drivetrain it has a lot of potential.

I know that’s not a perfect response to your question but it’s where I’d be at if this was a drivetrain review. The value vs performance on Box Two is fair - I’d need a lot more hours to talk about durability.

Reply

gotama
+1 Andrew Major
Gotama  - Oct. 23, 2019, 6:45 a.m.

Thanks, that's helpful. I'm a mix of singlespeed FS and ebike FS so sounds like the new Shimano is the way to go for the latter.

Reply

tashi
+2 Jerry Willows Andrew Major
tashi  - Oct. 23, 2019, 10:59 a.m.

Let's see that drivetrain review, and get the Microshift Advent 9-speed in the mix too!

(Please)

I want my next drivetrain to be 9-speed, wide-range and cheap!

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 tashi
Andrew Major  - Oct. 23, 2019, 2:44 p.m.

The Microshift derailleurs look great, but the ones I’ve played with haven’t been ready for the big leagues. Really hope that changes - their thumbies and good quality and more competition is always a win.

Reply

tashi
0
tashi  - Oct. 23, 2019, 10:59 a.m.

This comment has been removed.

fartymarty
+2 Tremeer023 Andrew Major
fartymarty  - Oct. 23, 2019, 4:52 a.m.

I'm currently running Shimano 10 speed 11-42 cassettes on both bikes (FS and rigid) with Zee mechs and XT shifters.  I found the Shimano cassettes shift smoother than the 11-42 Sunrace.  That said the rigid bike is about to be single speeded again for winter / fitness.

I would be all over a 5 speed wide range cassette.  I could probably even live with a 36 big cog and just mash a bit harder on the pedals on the steeps.  I seem to get up most things on my FS bike with 32/42 altho the climbs aren't overly long here (Surrey UK).

I used to be a big gearbox fanboy but this has waned over the last few years as their progress seems to have stalled.  Maybe one day we will finally get there.

Edit - I'm not a weight weenie but my 10 speed 11-42 Shimano cassette weighs circa 420g.  Also it's £30 for a cassette.  

I am wanting less gears for 2 reasons - 1) reduce unsprung weight, 2) because I don't really need 10 gears.  Less gears needs to be lighter and reasonably priced or there is no point in changing from what I have (which works quite well).  If someone made a £50 5 speed cassette at about 250g I would be happy.

Reply

WheelNut
+1 Andrew Major
WheelNut  - Oct. 23, 2019, 3:09 p.m.

Miche sells individual Shimano compatible cogs in sizes 11-34. You could build your dream cassette with those cogs, possibly combined with cogs from another cassette to go above 34t. Surly has their 1x HG driver adapter that can be used to space the cassette to where you need it. Use a 10 speed chain and shifter and away you go. 

11-15-20-26-34

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 Cr4w
Andrew Major  - Oct. 23, 2019, 4:54 p.m.

I had a custom cassette made out of a XT 9-speed cassette machines down to fit an SS hub. Cool concept but the jumps were still tight and the range wasn’t big enough. 

My custom five would range maybe 13-46t.

Reply

goose8
+1 Andrew Major
goose8  - Oct. 23, 2019, 6:20 p.m.

Ditto. I'd love that range. I wonder about the derailleur interfering the cogs though. I tried to move the chainline on my hardtail outboard for winter use by moving some of the smaller cogs on the cassette inboard of the largest one (46t) and then cranking down the limit screw to keep from shifting too far. The issue was the body of the shimano derailleur hitting the cogs themselves. Has anyone else encountered this or found a workaround?

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Oct. 23, 2019, 6:22 p.m.

The Five system would definitely need a specific derailleur with its own architecture to shift those jumps!

Reply

GiveitsomeWelly
+1 Andrew Major
Karl Fitzpatrick  - Oct. 23, 2019, 5:33 a.m.

Wait wait wait... 10spd shimano shifter on 11spd derailleur? I love a good hack... might be upgrading from my wide range deore soon...

Like you I'd have loved to upgrade (downgrade?) to EX1 (wider chain, all steel cogs, lower maintenance? Sign me up...) but the price?! Tell them they're dreaming...

I've always got my ear to the ground for wider range with fewer cogs. Box 2 is another serious consideration. 

Sadly my knees or back aren't up to single speeding anymore...

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Oct. 23, 2019, 6:25 a.m.

EX1 also suffers from single-click shifting but for the right price I could have remapped my brain. Like that it uses an HG cassette standard as well. Sadly I think it’s been given the Hammerschmidt treatment in the face of the e-eagle setups.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 Mammal
Andrew Major  - Oct. 23, 2019, 6:30 a.m.

Shifting is really good combining a 10spd Shimano shifter we already own with the 11-spd derailleur. I know the cable pull ratios are technically slightly different but in practice it means one slow shift in the stack (we sacrifice 11-13 which is still a solid shift just slow.

Another cool hack is to mate a top end 9-spd SRAM shifter with an 11-spd Shimano derailleur and a wide range 9-spd cassette (this Box 9-speed cassette could be fun?). It isn’t Eagle-XX1 perfect shifting but it’s pretty good.

Reply

hankthespacecowboy
+1 Andrew Major
hankthespacecowboy  - Oct. 23, 2019, 6:03 a.m.

I'm still on the 10 spd bandwagon, mostly because I'm reluctant to add a long ol' dangly derailluer to my bike. The "short cage" offering on the new 12 spd XTR has me intrigued; I'm bummed this option doesn't seem to have trickled down to the XT/SLX level.

Reply

fartymarty
+1 Mammal
fartymarty  - Oct. 23, 2019, 8:58 a.m.

This is why I have a Zee mech.  Cheap, short and strong.

Reply

Masacrejoe
0
Michael Klein  - Oct. 23, 2019, 10:40 a.m.

Same here: Saint shifter, Zee short cage derailleur, 11-40 Sunrace cassette and a 32 (Renthal XR1) chainring. Works a treat.

Reply

Masacrejoe
0
Michael Klein  - Oct. 23, 2019, 10:40 a.m.

Same here: Saint shifter, Zee short cage derailleur, 11-40 Sunrace cassette and a 32 (Renthal XR1) chainring. Works a treat.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+2 pdxkid twk
Andrew Major  - Oct. 23, 2019, 4:56 p.m.

32-40t is a bit steep for regular humans turning DH tires up our local climbs (especially 29”) but I’m with you on preferring the short cage.

Reply

LoamtoHome
0
Jerry Willows  - Oct. 24, 2019, 12:16 p.m.

Use a DD tire in the rear, EXO Plus up front, lose the Cushcores and use RimPactMTB inserts.  Save around 1.5 lbs or rotational weight.

Reply

twk
0
twk  - Oct. 24, 2019, 3:23 a.m.

I min-maxed my drivetrain out of a SunRace 11-46 10 speed cassette (can't remember the exact model), a Shimano Deore M7000 derailleur that manages that oversized cassette just fine, and a Saint shifter.

Doesn't really qualify as "not dangly", but IMO goes to show that 10 speed should remain rideable in a variety of configurations for years to come, as I don't expect downhill bikes will get more gears, so shifter availability won't be a problem.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 twk
Andrew Major  - Oct. 24, 2019, 7:26 a.m.

As new product, it will be interesting to see if Saint/Zee are continued or refreshed or if Shimano - pushing XT and XTR for Enduro racing - follow SRAM with a limited 7spd system with 12-spd spacing and their new chain/ring architecture.

Reply

Vikb
+3 Tremeer023 Andy Eunson Andrew Major
Vik Banerjee  - Oct. 23, 2019, 6:13 a.m.

5 gears sounds great to me. Like you I have a couple SS bikes and had a couple FG bikes before that. Once you appreciate how much riding you can do with one gear 12 or 14 or 20 seems silly and a wide range 5 gear drivetrain seems logical.

That said in ShRAMano's defence the 11speed XT and 12 speed GX Eagle drivetrains I have on two mountain bikes are working well with good durability and reliable shifting. Riding in Coastal BC most days I use the lowest 5 gears and ignore the rest of the cassette since I don't have high speed pedalling sections of trail on my menu often.

Reply

andy-eunson
0
Andy Eunson  - Oct. 23, 2019, 9:37 a.m.

Which leads me to say it’s not range we want, it’s usable range. I found that with 11speed Shimano I needed a 30 tooth ring with 42 low to climb around here. But that did not give me a high enough gear for those times I was riding with others on pavement and I got dropped. 10 - 50 with a 34 ring seems to be good for me. Current XO1 is very durable for me. I have two seasons on my cassette and three chains and rings. XO1 chains seem to become more flexible laterally rather than elongate. Shifts pretty well. No real complaints. Could be better for sure as there are the odd clunky shifts. I’m not sure I would like bigger jumps between gears.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Oct. 23, 2019, 2:49 p.m.

I’m not suggesting five ratios is right for everyone and I can only imagine some companies have looked at 157 as a means to cram a few more cogs on with a slight change to flange spacing.

But I think - especially if the ratios are tuneable that 5-spd would be perfect for me and I’m guessing I’m not alone looking for a wide-five option.

Reply

geraldooka
+1 Andrew Major
Michael  - Oct. 23, 2019, 3:13 p.m.

Plus "Wide-Five" come on! You've just handed the marketing campaign over, I'd copyright that now and get a little coin for your efforts ;)

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Oct. 23, 2019, 4:57 p.m.

Ha! ‘They’d’ call it ‘Wyde-V’ and mail me a list of the lawyers they have on retainer.

Reply

Vikb
0
Vik Banerjee  - Oct. 23, 2019, 6:13 a.m.

This comment has been removed.

MTBrent
+2 Tremeer023 Andrew Major
MTBrent  - Oct. 23, 2019, 8 a.m.

As long as I'm riding consistently (i.e. staying fit/strong), I don't think I'll be coaxed back to a derailleur-based geared system any time soon.  Singlespeed is just too damn fun and hastle-free each and every ride.  Incredibly cheap to maintain and "rebuild" to boot.

You can reduce the number of gears all you want, but you still have a dangly, vulnerable gear changer hanging in the line of fire that, at least in my experience (poor luck?), will always find a way to ruin a ride or four at some point during peak riding season.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 MTBrent
Andrew Major  - Oct. 23, 2019, 8:55 a.m.

Totally; I found the perfect setup to run my FS bike single speed but it was a middling experience at best. If it was a shuttle/park bike then it would be 1fg for sure.

On an FS trail/enduro bike I’d love to see a drivetrain that splits the difference between SS and 14-speed AXS.

Reply

MTBrent
+1 Andrew Major
MTBrent  - Oct. 23, 2019, 10:44 a.m.

I think the "crank-contained gearbox system that can be mounted on any bike" is the holy grail.  Emphasis on the "mounted on any bike."  If you could squeeze a cassette's worth of range into a package that you can take with you from bike to bike, oh man...

I'm a structural engineer, but I think I've burned through the most lead sketching ideas for this very concept.  I think it's possible.

If you finally got it figured out and had a functioning prototype, the hard part would be deciding whether to actually manufacture it for the good of the MTB community, or deciding how many zeroes the big S would write on a check for the patent!

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Oct. 23, 2019, 5:03 p.m.

I always go back to wondering where Hammerschmidt would be with the extra decade of development that’s passed. 

It already had lightning fast shifts - including when not pedalling, weight distributed as spring mass, super low and easy maintenance. Look how far Pinion has come in reducing drag and I just think even if it was still combined with a short cage rear derailleur and 5-spds that it could have been impressive. Plus, need bikes designed around the effective ring size for proper suspension geo - but that’s easy enough.

Reply

Andeh
+2 Ron Chang Andrew Major
Andeh  - Oct. 23, 2019, 9:23 a.m.

I rode with a former product manager from Zerode this last weekend, and had a chance to play around a bit on his Taniwha.  He noted that people who have experience driving manual transmissions have an easier time grasping the concept.  As someone who occasionally murders gears shifting under load on my X01 Eagle, I see the appeal.  A gearbox either shifts perfectly or not at all, and all that's required to get it to shift is momentarily reduce pressure on the pedals.  It's pretty cool to be able to dump a huge range instantly, such as going into a big dip/reverse.

The weight didn't bother me.  His medium Taniwha was lighter than my Sentinel with a coil, and the suspension also felt pretty nice.  ~32 lbs for an enduro bike is not unreasonable.

However, I hated the grip shift.  What gearboxes need are an electronic paddle shifter (like AXS).  That would get me to seriously consider it.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Oct. 23, 2019, 5:05 p.m.

Yeah, lots of folks list the shifter as the biggest barrier to their interest. A cable (or AXS) trigger shifter could be the difference maker.

Cool notes on your Zerode experience - thanks! Their new 29’er looks wicked fun.

Reply

Timer
0
Timer  - Oct. 24, 2019, 1:38 a.m.

Probably not terribly relevant for MTB, but Rohloff make an electric shifting system for the Speedhub.

It only works with E-bikes, though, the motor automatically cuts power when shifting. Similar to automatic transmission in cars.

Reply

twk
0
twk  - Oct. 25, 2019, 1:39 a.m.

There was also some german(?) dude building conversions for a variety of SRAM shifters for speedhubs, so I suspect something similar should be possible for Pinion's design as well. Can't find a link however, sorry.

Reply

morgan-heater
+1 Andrew Major
Morgan Heater  - Oct. 23, 2019, 9:53 a.m.

I spent a couple of months on a zerode until it got stolen. I was completely sold on the pinion benefits. I honestly couldn't feel any hit to efficiency when I was climbing, which is really the only time efficiency matters, in my opinion. The reduced maintenance, increased clearance, and unbelievable traction were amazing. It was sooooo much faster and easier to shift than a derailleur system, too. I found myself shifting way more often, even when climbing, than I do on my hardtail bike. Alas, a bike thief took it away, so now I'm back in the old paradigm. Cycling is no less fun, but I've been stalling on replacing my worn chain and front chainring for almost a month now, and my shifting is going to shit.

Honestly, I think if pinion was able to get a pound out of their design, most of the neigh sayers would evaporate. Less gears might mean less drag. The C1.12 range was completely unnecessary for me.

I could be completely happy with an 11-42 equivalent pinion that weighed roughly the same as current eagle drive-trains, had higher engagement, slightly less drag, and only 6 gears.

Oh, and I also didn't mind the grip shift, kinda liked it, actually.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Oct. 23, 2019, 5:06 p.m.

Sorry about your bike :-(. What an awful feeling.

Interesting note on range. You didn’t need the % of change or could have done with less stops in between?

Love the idea of the reduced unsprung weight.

Reply

morgan-heater
0
Morgan Heater  - Oct. 24, 2019, 9:36 a.m.

The easiest gear was ludicrously easy. I find that anything much bigger than 11-42 trends into the "might as well get off and walk" territory for me. It was something like 11-54. I would only use the 11th & 12th gears when I was riding super slow with my kids.

Reply

mammal
+1 twk
Mammal  - Oct. 23, 2019, 12:49 p.m.

Interesting overview of the madness. Because we're both coming from builds that involved 10spd SLX derailleurs, my GF and I both run the 10spd shifter/derailleur with the WT GoatLink and the SunRace 11-46 10spd cassette on our suspension trail bikes. You gotta hand it to SunRace for absolutely nailing the ratios on that cassette. 

I can't compare these setups to 12spd, because I don't own anything current enough, but I did build up my latest hard tail last fall with an 11spd SLX groupo (Swapped the cassette for SR 11-46 11spd). Performance is a mostly a wash for me, making me wish the 10spd stuff was continually available. I'm not sure about the 5spd business though, as those would be some tough ratios to swap between when I'm dying on my way up No Quarter. Probably not an issue for a single speeder, but I love my smooth transitions in moments when I'm trying to suck air through my eye sockets.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 Mammal
Andrew Major  - Oct. 23, 2019, 5:11 p.m.

How often do you really shift on No Quarter? Most folks I see going up there are spanking themselves or doing a coasting-recovery on the flats in full Granny. 

Exceptions for sure - but I never said Wide Five was for everyone!

Reply

mammal
0
Mammal  - Oct. 24, 2019, 7:11 a.m.

Not a tonne of shifting, but I guess relatively often for that kind of terrain. It's usually only between 34-40, with a few between 40-46. If I only had 5 gears, I probably wouldn't shift.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Oct. 24, 2019, 7:32 a.m.

Say the jump was 37-46 and then three ratios below? I think the system works best if there’s some level of customization. Although, it would cool if all five gears were on a single carrier - no more freehub wear.

Reply

twk
0
twk  - Oct. 25, 2019, 1:43 a.m.

I'm no mechanical engineer, so take it with a heaping load of salt, but if a configurable system with as many constraints already imposed by the number of gears and derailleur system is discussed, and no super small cogs (say, below 13t) are necessary, why not mount said cogs to a single carrier directly via a clever mechanism -- maybe take a page out of e*thirteen's two-part cassette design.

Obviously has the drawback of being incompatible with other cassettes etc, but how likely is it you were going to swap all that much anyway?

Reply

andy-eunson
+1 taprider
Andy Eunson  - Oct. 24, 2019, 8:42 a.m.

A wide range 5 speed, as in 10 - 50 will have huge steps between gears so shifting will be a challenge. You’d be better off with less cassette range and a double on the front. But a Hammerschmit type front is intriguing.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 Andy Eunson
Andrew Major  - Oct. 24, 2019, 8:59 a.m.

My 13-46t range isn’t an accident. It’s under 7t per shift.

Reply

BertLTP
+2 tashi twk
Albert Steward  - Oct. 23, 2019, 1:32 p.m.

Sunrace have a wide-range 9sp clutch-equipped rear deraileur (RDM900) and matching cassettes 11-50T / 11-46T / 11-40T cassettes (CSM993) on the way also

Reply

goose8
+1 twk
goose8  - Oct. 23, 2019, 6:24 p.m.

That sounds promising!

Reply

mammal
+1 twk
Mammal  - Oct. 24, 2019, 7:14 a.m.

Cool. The RDMS10 looks like a budget version, and can still reach 11-46. Maybe there's hope for me and my stubborn cheapness...

Reply

Pnwpedal
+3 twk Morgan Heater Andrew Major
Pnwpedal  - Oct. 23, 2019, 1:46 p.m.

On 11sp and 12sp, I'm rarely shifting one gear at a time. More like two or three. Our climbs are either grinding up a logging road for 30min (no shifting), hitting a short punchy climb mid trail (drop a bunch of gears at once) or the very rare climbing trail (pick a gear and pedal). And the descents rarely involve much pedalling as they're steep enough to keep momentum. I'm really interested in the Box Prime 9 system.

Reply

geraldooka
+1 Andrew Major
Michael  - Oct. 23, 2019, 1:56 p.m.

I'd be all over a wide range 5 speed for sure. I practically live in the top 3 or 4 as it is occasionally I will dip into the high gears. I have not yet tried SS, honestly not sure how anyone can do that on trails here, impressive for sure.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+3 twk Tremeer023 Michael
Andrew Major  - Oct. 23, 2019, 2:52 p.m.

Brute force and ignorance at first... then at some point it’s brute force and stupidity. 

Start at 30:22t gearing for a bike with mean rubber. You’ve got this - welcome to single-speeding!

Reply

BkrAdam
0
BkrAdam  - Oct. 23, 2019, 6:25 p.m.

On that hybrid drivetrain your wife is running, is she personally invested in it? Or is that what happened to end up on her bike after you worked on it?  In my riding groups it pretty much ends being the latter.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+3 twk Mammal BkrAdam
Andrew Major  - Oct. 23, 2019, 6:43 p.m.

We run a similar setup on both her bikes, my bike when I’m not on something else, and my brother runs the same setup but with a Saint shifter.

In all but one case it was a matter of already owning 10-Spd drivetrains and wanting more 1x gear range and the combination of an XT 8000 derailleur and SunRace 11-46t cassette being the best quality/performance for the money.

One of the drivetrains I got a free 10spd rear shifter from a friends spares box and again the 8000 der / SunRace 10-spd cassette just made sense.

No reason to ‘upgrade.’

-

*edit: if the question was about who set it up, my five year old and I do all the wrenching in our house.

I learned a long time ago that if you aren’t going to be handsome then you’d better be handy.

Reply

mammal
+2 twk Andrew Major
Mammal  - Oct. 24, 2019, 7:19 a.m.

Same reason my household is on that combo (but with 10spd deraileurs). Already had 10spd. But with regards to "upgrading", we certainly can't be arsed to drop $250 or more on a replacement cassette and chain, when a desirable spread exists for around half that. That money goes toward other fun stuff.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 Mammal
Andrew Major  - Oct. 24, 2019, 7:38 a.m.

Obviously more true of this environment than for other locals, but when I see bikes with high end drivetrains and totally-meh brakes, tires, or forks it always makes me scratch my head.

Reply

alexdi
0
Alex D  - Oct. 23, 2019, 6:45 p.m.

At 170 lbs and riding mostly XC in dry conditions, I find XX1/11 the best drivetrain available. Still haven't burned through the X01 cassette in over 2500 miles. Derailleur, shifter, good as new. It never misses a shift and nothing ever needs adjustment, just new chains every 1000 miles or so. Eagle is a downgrade to me.  

If I were heavier or riding in mud and rain all the time, I'd be all over the wide-range 9-speeds. Probably Advent over Box; it costs and weighs less for what I assume would be similar durability. Nine on a full-suspension means you can still sit and spin on the flats and hills, which is, to me, a big reason to bother with FS over HT. Going down to five or whatever would bring you closer to the SS experience: always out of the saddle to finesse a gear that's never quite right. Fun, but exhausting.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Oct. 24, 2019, 7:36 a.m.

Really disappointing that the big cog isn’t replaceable on the Eagle cassettes. I know a few guys with XX1 who have worn out multiple alloy big cogs and still get beautiful shifting out of the rest of the cassette and they’re all multiple chains in.

Reply

morgan-heater
0
Morgan Heater  - Oct. 24, 2019, 9:54 a.m.

I wish shimano sold replacement XT cogs. I use my hardtail as my commuter, and use up the bottom three gears three times as fast as the rest.

Reply

alexdi
0
Alex D  - Oct. 24, 2019, 6:07 p.m.

OneUp, WolfTooth, and Hope all have replacement alloy sprockets, though they're $90 or more. When I replace mine, I'm probably going to try something from ZTTO. They have an 11-speed 10-42 that's all steel, XD, 305g, and $170 or so. Lots of interesting alternatives here.

Reply

geraldooka
0
Michael  - Oct. 24, 2019, 7:27 p.m.

305g for all steel and 170 that’s pretty impressive actually.

Reply

kurt-adams
+2 ManInSteel Andrew Major
Kurt Adams  - Oct. 23, 2019, 9:28 p.m.

Wow! Fantastic read.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 Kurt Adams
Andrew Major  - Oct. 24, 2019, 7:33 a.m.

Thanks!

Reply

WheelNut
+2 Andrew Major Andy Eunson
WheelNut  - Oct. 24, 2019, 9:55 a.m.

(Trigger warning: Anecdotal evidence ahead) I personally think rejecting 12 speed is non-sense. It makes the bike so much more usable and dynamic in its range of capabilities. I certainly would never want to go backwards just to shave off 100-200g from the rear of my bike. Weight savings is typically a fruitless as far I'm concerned. My bike plus gear total weight is about 95kg, so 200g is 0.2% of the total weight. I'll take a 0.2% increase in weight to allow me to ride further uphill and faster on the flats. I haven't seen many instances of broken derailleurs, premature chain or cassette wear on my bike or my riding friend's bikes (mostly SRAM). Perhaps in some parts of the world there are trails that destroy these parts more often though, but I don't ride there.

Reply

twk
+1 Tremeer023
twk  - Oct. 24, 2019, 12:07 p.m.

Attention: even more, opposing anecdotal evidence follows.

On today's group ride, on a relatively mellow part of trail, a 12 speed SLX RD spontaneously decided its cage would be better off with a 90° twist. The owner's ride was ruined, but it's unclear what caused the issue.

So I'd argue rear derailleurs are indeed quite fragile almost everywhere ;)

Regarding the weight savings, one could surely argue that rotating weight matters more for acceleration behaviour, and unsuspended weight affects suspension performance negatively.

I personally would be happiest with a wide-range, few-gears-hence-robust kind of system on my FS.

The hardtail's fine as a singlespeed. On that note -- maybe it's just us singlespeeders who go back to a geared bike once in a while and get annoyed by how finicky and fragile chain-based shifting systems tend to be :)

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 twk
Andrew Major  - Oct. 25, 2019, 8:18 a.m.

And the noise! Nothing is as quiet as a single speed no matter how hard I try.

I mention weight savings because some folks care but I run DH rubber and CushCore on my single speed so I think I can back up that I really don’t.

Unsprung weight is a real thing but so is how nicely planted heavy wheels/tires feel.

Reply

geraldooka
+1 twk
Michael  - Oct. 25, 2019, 9:06 a.m.

Ya, I too prefer the planted feel of nice chunky well damped rubber, but I also notice how less playful and nimble said rubber feels. Honestly depends mostly on my mood, if I'm looking to overland and juggernaut through terrain on a long ride I'm ok with the greater weight which sounds counterintuitive but having that increased stability when I'm getting tired and sloppy helps. It's been many months since I've been on such a ride though (sadly) so for the 2-3 hour sprints at our local I slot in when I can I want lite n' sprite.

Reply

fartymarty
+1 twk
fartymarty  - Oct. 25, 2019, 10:37 a.m.

As you say it depends on your mood whether you want to monster truck or pop down a trail.  At least with a light cassette you can throw the weight into tyres / inserts etc rather than a heavy cassette you don't need.

Reply

geraldooka
0
Michael  - Oct. 25, 2019, 9:06 a.m.

This comment has been removed.

twk
0
twk  - Oct. 25, 2019, 11:37 a.m.

Yeah, my geared setup is a terrible noisefest compared to the singlespeed. I currently run relatively light and narrow tyres everywhere, as my hardtail has limited clearance in the chainstay setting I currently use, and I need to wear out that EXO Agressor before investing in fresh rubber. I wonder how a wider tyre works in the rear on a 23 id rim, Chris Porter of Geometron fame at some point experimented with such a setup if memory serves me right.

Reply

WheelNut
0
WheelNut  - Oct. 25, 2019, 10:11 a.m.

There is certainly a place for single speed and low gear count setups. I guess the implication that was odd to me in the article is that one to nine speed gear trains are possibly "the future" which seems regressive to me. That being said we did get rid of the front derailleur not so long ago, which temporarily removed some of the range available until we got to larger rear cassettes. The set of compromises that we make in component selection is always a balancing act between many things like weight, cost, pedaling efficiency, muscle efficiency, bike maximum capability, intended terrain, etc. If this set of compromises was simpler then there wouldn't be such a wide breadth of bikes available.

Reply

fartymarty
0
fartymarty  - Oct. 25, 2019, 1:49 a.m.

It's the unsprung weight that is the killer - overall weight I don't care about.  I would happily remove 200g from my cassette if money were no object.

Reply

ManInSteel
+1 Andrew Major
ManInSteel  - Oct. 24, 2019, 5:37 p.m.

Great topic!  I wish Shimano & Sram can provide high quality (higher end) groupset for 9 speed, or 10 speed. They simply abandoned 9 speed when they moved to 10 speed; then abandoned 10 speed when they moved to 11/12 speed.   Say, if I want a 9 speed derailleur, Shimano now only offer in Alivio/Altus line...they don't look too good when your friends have XTRs or Eagles.

We still have 3 bikes in 9 speed.  I will definitely upgrade to a 9 speed XTR or XX1 without hesitation if Shimano/Sram offer one.

Reply

fartymarty
0
fartymarty  - Oct. 25, 2019, 1:53 a.m.

I think you can run a 10 speed mech with 9 speed.  Getting a quality shifter is the problem.  10 speed is still fine for shifters.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Oct. 25, 2019, 8:14 a.m.

Actually SRAM 9-Spd is close enough cable ratio to drive a Shimano 10/11-sos derailleur over nine gears. ShRAMano both have no forward compatibility from their 9-Speed setups.

I haven’t been able to confirm that BOX-9 matches SRAM-9. It does not match Shimano-9 (plugged in a shifter I had to see).

Reply

fartymarty
0
fartymarty  - Oct. 25, 2019, 1:28 a.m.

Reply

geraldooka
0
Michael  - Oct. 25, 2019, 9:10 a.m.

I run one of these, yes its very pricy but fabulously light and has performed amazingly.

Reply

taprider
0
taprider  - Oct. 25, 2019, 4:02 p.m.

38:14, 32:20, 26:26 and 20:32 that is 4+4 not 4x4.

12 speed lateral spacing front and rear with room for wide tires (that is accepting a non-roadie Q factor) and no cross chaining. Basically 4 single speed set ups in parallel (and the front rings would not be as wide as old 3X, since you don't have to account for cross-chaining and rub on the next biggest ring)

Shimano front pull side swing type derailleurs front and rear for hard tail (and you could probably get away with only one pulley for the rear derailleur on a dual suspension bike).

Cable from the front derailleur would continue from the mounting bolt to the rear, so both derailleurs would be controlled with only one cable (or possibly a splitter but still only one shifter, and the springs of each derailleur would cancel each other out for lighter feel at the shifter).

This would be useful to me for Fromme rides, or bikepacking routes where there is a lot of lifting and/or strapping the bike to one's back for long portages (every gram counts, since I have been at my limit with a 24lb bike plus camping gear, food and water, and lighter drivetrain would equal a dropper post, warmer clothing, funner tires or a beer).

Could be ~150 gm for chain rings, ~150 gm for cheap rear cogs (without getting into crazy spider-like milling or carbon carriers), ~110 gm each derailleur and ~80 gm for a simple shifter with no clockworks (so still lighter than Eagle or XTR 1X, plus single speed efficiency and no dangling cages)

Reply

taprider
0
taprider  - Oct. 25, 2019, 4:23 p.m.

While checking on the weight of an old Huret Jubilee derailleur (145 gm  http://www.disraeligears.co.uk/Site/Huret_Jubilee_derailleur_2248.html ), I came across this

"Brian Eno once confessed that he liked to explain to ‘young people’ that, back in the bad-old-low-tech-flared-trousered-analogue days things were so backward that you could fly from London to New York in three and a half hours and men regularly walked on the Moon. He might have added that you could buy an off-the-peg touring derailleur that weighed 145g."

Reply

LAT
0
LAT  - Oct. 26, 2019, 4:41 p.m.

Does anyone know if the box/sunrace 11-50 9 speed cassette work with Shimano or SRAM 9 speed derailleur and shifter combos? 

Ta

Reply

LAT
0
LAT  - Oct. 26, 2019, 4:41 p.m.

This comment has been removed.

swain
0
swain  - Oct. 27, 2019, 9:17 a.m.

I like changing gears on speed so amazing

Reply

swain
0
swain  - Oct. 27, 2019, 9:17 a.m.

I like changing gears on speed so amazing

Reply

kos
0
Kos  - Oct. 28, 2019, 4:26 p.m.

Right there with you on the H-Schmidt, Andrew.  When I first rode one, I figured there would be a lighter version within a year or two.......and, poof, they were gone.  Awesome concept.  Sprung weight FTW!

Side note: After three seasons, the 42-50 Eagle jump still drives me nuts.  I'd be fine with 11-48 cassettes and tighter spacing.

Yes, the opposite of your article's position.

Reply

Golem
0
Guillaume Désy  - Oct. 29, 2019, 8:31 a.m.

I'm all for simplicity and I'm wondering if a manual centrifugal clutch could be used as a gearbox?

In the mean time, I'm giving my 11speed SLX to my wife and getting a 9s 11-50 sunrace cassette, thumb shifter and a old XT 10 speed derailleur.

Reply

Golem
0
Guillaume Désy  - Oct. 29, 2019, 8:56 a.m.

Forget about the centrifugal clutch I was talking about, it is the wrong term I used.  Why not use a belt CVT as a gearbox?

Belt CVT

I don't think it could be made any simpler.

Reply

Please log in to leave a comment.