First off, what is a 1x drivetrain? A 1x drivetrains is comprised of a single chain ring in the front and typically 10-12 speeds on the rear cassette. For example, a bike with a single gear in the front and 12 speeds on the back is called a 1x 12. They have been featured on mountain bikes for a number of years, but innovations in derailleurs have made 1x drivetrains a fairly common feature nowadays. Despite having less gears than a 2x or 3x setup, 1x drivetrains offer nearly the same amount of range. Whether you’re looking to upgrade your bike or purchase a new one, let’s go over key benefits to a 1x drivetrain.
1x drivetrains are more simple to use. Rather than shifting gears in the front and the rear, you only have to focus on changing gears in one place. This makes things easier. There’s no more worrying about cross chaining, which is when your chain is positioned diagonally across the front and rear gears. This also makes things more tidy on your handlebars, since you only have one shifter instead of two. Modern 1x drivetrains are typically 10, 11, or 12 speeds, which is plenty of gears for mountain biking and gravel bike purposes. 1x drivetrains are even coming stock on commuter bikes like the Specialized Sirrus X.
There’s nothing worse than having your chain slip off when trying to shift gears, climbing a hill, or going through a bumpy descent. 1x drivetrains utilize a special feature in the derailleur called a clutch. This keeps tension on the chain and helps prevent it from bouncing off. This is super useful for both mountain biking and the gravel bike, but will also give you confidence that the chain is going to stay in place when commuting through the city.
1x drivetrains are typically lighter than a 2x or 3x setup. This is because there’s no front derailleur, extra chain rings, or front shifter. For some riders, weight is a concern, so a 1x drivetrain helps to cut down on precious ounces.
1x drivetrains are a great great way to simplify your bike, make for a smoother ride, and potentially save on some weight. The top manufactures of 1x drivetrains are SRAM and Shimano but there are low-cost options from companies like Box. If you’re planning on upgrading your bike to a 1x, there are certain things to consider like rear spacing, bottom bracket size, and minimum /maximum chain ring diameter. We recommend talking with your local bike shop before taking on this project by yourself. If you’re in the market for a new mountain bike, we highly recommend looking for one with a 1x drivetrain.