Running a single chainring on your standard 10-speed drivetrain is nothing new. But could you get the gear range and chainguide-free performance of Sram’s XX1, XO1 or the new X1? Now you can, and the performance is not bad at all.
Sram should be credited for both popularizing a single-ring setup with a practical gear range and also slowly adding more affordable options of XX1. X1 is their newest, least expensive option – but $231 for a rear derailleur is still rather dear.
All it takes is one nasty rock to destroy that beautiful piece of engineering. Or, if your 10-speed drivetrain is still perfectly serviceable, it’s tough to justify the $900-or-so that Sram’s X1 shifter, crank, chain, derailleur and cassette costs. Plus, it won’t work with your garden-variety 10-speed hub.
Having grown to love the simplicity and chain security afforded by a one-by setup, we were excited to experiment with Wolf Tooth Components’ narrow-wide chainring and OneUP Components’ 42t sprocket.
Wolf Tooth Chainring: $75
Most chainring reviews are centered on the ‘ring’s shaping, intended to facilitate moving a chain on or off of it. Quite to the contrary, the Wolf Tooth employs the same shaping as Sram’s X-SYNC chainring to mesh tightly with a chain. The wide tooth fits into a chain’s outer plates, the narrow tooth squeezes between the rollers.
Does it work? When coupled with a clutch rear derailleur, it does.
After a few months of riding, we did have some difficulty with occasional chain drops. Fortunately, the issue was remedied by tightening our Shimano XT rear derailleur’s clutch tension – the tighter the better.
Newer chains will always work better on this chainring technology because a worn chain will fit more loosely.
OneUP Sprocket: $100
When Sram released their XX1 components, the cassette was shockingly large, and understandably it required an eleventh cog to accommodate the ridiculous range.
It seems too easy to simply toss a 42-tooth cog on the back of your 10-speed cassette, remove the 17t cog, fiddle with a few spacers an crank your rear derailleur’s B-tension screw.
But it is that easy. We were astonished by the One-Up’s easy installation, and shifting performance was not significantly compromised.
Our long-cage Sram X9 rear derailleur had to work a little harder to click into the largest cog, and the missing 17t cog was sometimes noticeable. Fortunately, OneUp now offers a 16t cog with all of their large cogs, which allows you to replace your 15t to smooth out the gear range.
How picky are you about shifting performance? Are you a DIY-er? Do you have a lot of money to spend? A combination of a narrow-wide chainring and a 42t rear cog is a perfectly effective way to achieve nearly all of the performance benefits offered by Sram – and now Shimano’s – single-ring component groups.
Plus, a variety of manufacturers, like RaceFace, e*thirteen and others, are offering these chainrings and cogs, all at similar price points.
Not every mountain biker will give up their front derailleur, but given the performance benefits, we think that most of you should.
Price: OneUp 42t cog: $100; Wolf Tooth chainring: $75
Weight: OneUp: 71g; Wolf Tooth: 56g (36t)
Pros: An easy way to convert your 10-speed set-up to a single-ring, minimal compromise in shifting performance, affords a simpler setup with generally better chain retention.
Cons: Chainring not entirely foolproof as chain wears or if clutch derailleur isn’t tight, shifting into the largest cog is a little clunky.