Author Topic: 1X, 2X, or 3X  (Read 1226 times)

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Offline HikeBikeCook

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1X, 2X, or 3X
« on: September 17, 2021, 06:47:53 am »
I am sure that this discussion has been posted before, but I cannot seem to find a thread.

We are putting together a group for a TA next year and at least one person is looking at a new bike. Their bike of choice currently is a 1X front sprocket, electronic shifters, tubeless tires, and a carbon frame gravel bike.

I know there are a lot of opinions but does anyone have any experience touring with a 1X set up?

From what I have read here tubeless tires are not quite ready for touring, any experience?

Anyone tour with electronic shifters?

I think carbon is ready for prime time, so that was merely for background information.
Surly Disc Trucker, Lightspeed Classic, Scott Scale, Klein Mantra Comp. First touring bike Peugeot U08 - 1966

Offline John Nettles

Re: 1X, 2X, or 3X
« Reply #1 on: September 17, 2021, 09:44:44 am »
I have a few bike with Rohloffs on them so they are I guess 1x.  As far as the answer goes, it really doesn't matter.  What does matter is that you have good spacing and usability of the gears.  In a 2x or 3x setup the extreme angles (small front & rear or large front and rear sprockets) should not be used.  Do a gear charge over at Sheldon Brown's "Derailer Gear Calculator" to see what the specific gear setup looks like.  A lot of 2x & 3x setups use the same (or very close) gear but on different sprocket patterns so they are in effect duplicates or wasted gears. 

That said, I would worry more about having a low enough low and not worry about the high.  My current low is about 14.5" and the high is only 76".  If I spin out on the high at 120rpms, I am doing 27mph which is quite fast enough for me when fully loaded.  For me, anything above 75" is basically wasted gearing as I typically start to coast above 25mph when going downhill. 

The 14" low is about as low as I can go and maintain enough forward momentum without falling over.  This gets me up the steepest hills if my lungs can keep up.  Due to a medical issue, the lungs are my weak link, not the legs. But with good legs and good lungs, you should be able to climb pretty much any hill (slowly) with a 14" low.

As far as electronic gears shifting, I would be concerned if it breaks/stops working on a ride like the TA as there are places where the next bike shop is 200 miles away.  Using the tried and tested systems if probably the best approach or be prepared to fix it yourself and/or wait a few days for parts.

Tailwinds, John

Offline staehpj1

Re: 1X, 2X, or 3X
« Reply #2 on: September 17, 2021, 11:54:47 am »
Rider preference, build, and packing and pedaling style all might all come into play here.

Personally if starting from scratch I think I'd consider both 1X and tubeless, but that is for my UL packing style.  It might be less suitable for someone who packs heavier.

I was happy enough with an improvised ultra compact double on the Southern Tier.  My gear inch range was 25-88" and base gear weight was 14#.  It worked out well.

I'd love to try a carbon 1x with tubless gravel bike on my next coast to coast tour, but am too cheap so probably will use a bike I already own.

Offline HikeBikeCook

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Re: 1X, 2X, or 3X
« Reply #3 on: September 17, 2021, 12:48:24 pm »
Cross chaining has generated a lot of controversy over the years. As rear clusters have gone from 5 to 10 and 11 gears in the back cross chaining is happening no matter how many rings you have up front. Manufacturers like SRAM say is it no big deal with today's components while others like Campi say it is just not efficient. I the primary chain and cog wear on a touring bike is climbing and shifting under load - linear rather than lateral stretch.

I know the 1x became popular in mountain biking because of chain drop and one less component to smash into the rocks and trees. Gravel bikes morphed out of mountain bikes and most riders are not looking for top end speeds on gravel. Touring bikes have long relied on mountain bike components for low gear shifting and durability. While touring has been around forever it still doesn't have the sales draw of the latest fad styles of riding. How many companies really focus on touring bikes these days? When Americans were dominating the TDF, the Trek Madone was selling like hot cakes. For a while it was all about cyclo-cross, and now it is gravel and e-bikes. Touring just does not have the market share to get purpose built components and has to take the trickle down from other riding styles.
Surly Disc Trucker, Lightspeed Classic, Scott Scale, Klein Mantra Comp. First touring bike Peugeot U08 - 1966

Offline ray b

Re: 1X, 2X, or 3X
« Reply #4 on: September 17, 2021, 07:09:30 pm »
...like they said.

The reason there's not likely a useful thread on this topic is that the choice among what seems like unlimited options comes down to one's personal preference for reliability and one's abilities as a mechanic. I'm a fair mechanic, but I prefer reliability as my current 37-pound bike attests.

I personally have not run a derailleur in years. My current chainline is perfect within a mm. My rig, equipment, replacement parts, tools and water for the desert weight 260 pounds, and I stand on the hill. Happy to say my Wippermann Connex 8SX chain was not overstretched on replacement yesterday with over 3000 miles - and I often stand going up hills.


I tour 1X with three options in rear - single speed, 19 mm-wide rim with a Rohloff (14-speed), or 24 mm rim with Rohloff.  (I write this from the Hachita Community Center on the GDMBR with the 24 mm rims.)

And for those who don't want all that weight centered on their rear dropout - there's always the Pinion gearing within the bottom bracket.


Happy to say - tubeless tires with sealant are now easily set up for any tour that might be associated with sharp rocks and/or thorns. (If risk of small holes and slow leaks is low, one might not want to run the hassle of the extra steps and weight of sealant.)

“A good man always knows his limitations.”

Offline John Nelson

Re: 1X, 2X, or 3X
« Reply #5 on: September 18, 2021, 01:16:07 am »
The right answer for someone young and strong is not the same answer for someone older. I find that a 1x does not have enough range of gears for me. I want a low low, but I also want a high high for those long flat stretches with a tailwind. I don’t find it comfortable to spin at 120 for long distances.

I would normally prefer 3x for better range, but 3x seems to be going the way of the dodo bird, so I’d probably compromise on 2x.

Offline staehpj1

Re: 1X, 2X, or 3X
« Reply #6 on: September 18, 2021, 06:44:10 am »
I don’t find it comfortable to spin at 120 for long distances.
Why would you have to?

First of all just because you have a tail wind it doesn't dictate that you have to go as fast as you can.  You could just take it easy.  That said even with a crazy low high gear I didn't notice much of a problem even when riding with a strong young guy on the ST.  I was running na 87.8" high gear (39/12).  According to a gear calculator that means that I could spin a measly 80 rpm and go 20.88 mph.  At 100 rpm it would be 26.10 mph.  At 120 it would be a whopping 31.32 mph.  Heck you could even noodle along at 60 rpm and still do 15.66 mph.  This a tour after all, so if you aren't in a hurry that would be an option.

Also almost all of the newer bikes have an 11 or even 10 t cog and a bigger than 39 t ring.  Even the 1X bikes have a higher high and a wider range than I had on that ride.  Some of the gravel bikes have something like a 10-50 with a 42T ring that gives a decent high and a decent range (actually better on both counts than I had on my heavy triple touring bike).

I plugged in the numbers for the 10-50/42 of one of the new 1x gravel bikes and came up with a gear inch range of 23.2 to 116.  I don't find that limiting at all.  Granted some will find it limiting on the low end, but most won't have any trouble with using a little smaller ring given that it has a 10t cog.  You could get down into the mid teens and still have a decent high gear IMO.

Edited to add that gear spacing may be another issue, but the numbers look okay all around with some of the 1x setups given 12 speeds and really wide ranges.  Nothing is perfect, but they look pretty good to me.  Then again I never felt the need to find exactly the right gear. I can spin a little higher or lower cadence or go a little faster or slower, especially when touring.  A few gear inches one way or the other just isn't going to kill me.
« Last Edit: September 18, 2021, 09:30:55 am by staehpj1 »

Offline John Nettles

Re: 1X, 2X, or 3X
« Reply #7 on: September 18, 2021, 08:38:33 am »
I don’t find it comfortable to spin at 120 for long distances.


I don't either.  But my regular cadence is about 95 (down from 102 in my younger days).  However, occasionally, I will get a strong tailwind and a slightly ongoing 1% descent where I can spin at ~120 for 30 seconds, coast, spin, coast, etc. without tiring for an hour or more.  At 120, there really is very little resistance and ironically if I slow down, it is actually a bit harder to pedal while going slower. 

My point was, unless you are racing, a 100"+ high gear is a waste as it is rarely used.  I prefer to have more usable gears.

I know I am about at my fatigue limit when my cadence drops to 60 or below.  That is when my tank is on fumes.  It is definitely time to start looking for a place to camp.

Offline John Nelson

Re: 1X, 2X, or 3X
« Reply #8 on: September 18, 2021, 04:33:21 pm »
You could just take it easy.
I find that that doesn’t work all that well for me. When riding all day, every day on a long tour, I get into a comfortable rhythm. If I don’t have a wide enough range, it makes it hard to stay in that comfortable rhythm as the terrain changes.

Offline ray b

Re: 1X, 2X, or 3X
« Reply #9 on: September 18, 2021, 07:54:26 pm »
FWIW - typically, the most physiologically efficient cadence for the average research subject is 50-60/min.

In order to push higher work loads for extended periods, we have to increase the cadence, and lose a little inefficiency - a trade-off many of us can handle. You can't push 450 watts at 55 RPM.

In view of this old research, I've never criticized the slower folks plugging along at 60 RPM. They're just being efficient. (Of course, they'll never catch up to well trained guys like John, who push higher loads through higher RPM.)
“A good man always knows his limitations.”

Offline John Nelson

Re: 1X, 2X, or 3X
« Reply #10 on: September 18, 2021, 08:02:32 pm »
the most physiologically efficient cadence for the average research subject is 50-60/min.
Interesting. I hadn't heard that. I thought the experts were always telling us that somewhere around 90 RPM was ideal.

Offline ray b

Re: 1X, 2X, or 3X
« Reply #11 on: September 18, 2021, 09:53:19 pm »
Right - if you want to run 20 mph unloaded, 90 rpm should get it done for the average cyclist. Pedal faster at that workload, and you become even less efficient. Pedal slower and you'll grind to a halt.

On the other hand, when sprinting at twice that speed, one will need to be in the 130- 140 rpm range to keep the pedals turning. 

(Efficiency can be thought of here as oxygen uptake/ watt. )
« Last Edit: September 19, 2021, 02:49:47 pm by ray b »
“A good man always knows his limitations.”

Offline John Nettles

Re: 1X, 2X, or 3X
« Reply #12 on: September 18, 2021, 10:06:58 pm »
(Of course, they'll never catch up to well trained guys like John, who push higher loads through higher RPM.)
You are sorely mistaken that they will never catch me.  I may spin like a gerbil but I use a fairly low gear so if I top 12mph on the level without wind, I am a happy camper.  Usually more like 11mph. Now 40 years ago, yes I was a little speed demon, especially on tough climbs.  Getting old sucks.



Offline misterflask

Re: 1X, 2X, or 3X
« Reply #13 on: September 20, 2021, 06:17:40 am »
FWIW - typically, the most physiologically efficient cadence for the average research subject is 50-60/min.

I had seen this somewhere also, but can't recall the source.  Anyone help?
Lots of confusion on this point as everyone pays attention to maximum power which occurs at higher cadence, but apparently maximum miles-per-calorie is at the slower grind.  I can keep a good spin darting around on club rides, but on a tour I always end up down at 50-60.

Hey John Nettles, how'd you get to that 14.5" gear? I'm down near 20 like everyone else but there have been times...

When I was a kid I ran across a Cincinnati machinist who had married a 5-spd hub to a 5-spd freewheel.  He had 50 gears with an unusably wide gear range of something like 10"-150".

Offline HikeBikeCook

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Surly Disc Trucker, Lightspeed Classic, Scott Scale, Klein Mantra Comp. First touring bike Peugeot U08 - 1966