Why 1x11 Mountain Bikes?

Wed, Mar 21, 2018

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Eleven gears doesn't sound a lot for a mountain bike, but it's plenty and a 1x11 setup has a lot of advantages.

Why 1x11 Mountain Bikes?

Our Voodoo Bizango hard-tail mountain bikes have what’s known as a 1x11 drive train. What this means, simply, is that they have just one chain ring at the front and a cassette with 11 cogs on the rear wheel. Just 11 gears doesn’t sound much, but in the world of gears, more isn’t necessarily better.

The first mountain bikes, “Klunkerz”, had just one gear. But over time more gears were added, first at the back and then with the addition of up to three chainrings on the front. The addition of gears to Klunkers turned them into mountain bikes that could be ridden up hills as well as down them.

The development of rear cassettes with 10 gears and triple chainrings on the front means there are mountain bikes with 30 gears. But, in practice some of these gears duplicate each other, meaning a 3x10 setup has around 18 effective gears and a few downsides:

  1. The rider has to operate two levers and be aware of the chain position at both the front and the rear.
  2. The less moving parts on a bike the better, a front shifter is another part that can fail (for example with a cable breaking) or go out of alignment.
  3. When riding in muddy conditions the front shifter can easily get clogged with mud.

So a 1x11 setup offers 11 useable gears, with none of these downsides. The SRAM NX11 cassette used on the Voodoo Bizangos offers a 42 tooth easy gear and an 11 tooth hard gear. The easy gear will get you up any slope that is rideable (based on condition and incline), the hard gear will propel you as fast as you need to go on a mountain bike (it would probably not be adequate for a road bike).

For hire bikes we think a 1x11 setup is especially attractive, given that we want to minimize the chances of a “mechanical” on a ride, which spoils the day for the customer and requires us potentially to have to collect bike and rider.