Wednesday, April 20, 2011

SRAM 2 x 10 Drivetrain Review

If you believe everything that you read, supposedly the latest and greatest innovation in mountain bike drivetrains has been the new 2 x 10 shifting set-up. Frankly, I've been kind of skeptical as to if there are any real tangible benefits. In my eyes, 2 x 10 seemed to be just another gimic for the big drivetrain companies to make more money off of. Over this past weekend at Sea Otter, I was able to put SRAM's X7 2 x 10 drivetrain to the test over a 17 mile ride on hilly Fort Ord singletrack.


Yes, I was skeptical going into the test ride, but I was willing to give this new system a fair chance at impressing me and winning my allegiance. However, I did not expect to be won over quite so quickly and decisively!

I am incredibly impressed by how intuitive the 2x10 shifting system really is! 

With a regular 3x9 (or 8, 10, or 7...) I am constantly going over different shifting strategies in my head, verifying that I am in fact in the right chain ring for the cog that I want to jump into. "1 with 1-5, 2 with any cog, 3 with 5-9..." numbers seem to constantly stream through my head as I ride.

This is not the case with 2x10. Instead of focusing on picking the right gear combination, I was able to focus on the trail and maximizing my power input to the drivetrain and maintaining a good circular pedal stroke. The two chainrings do indeed easily reach each one of the 10 cogs on the cassette! All of the numbers and calculations are gone. With a 2x10, I can just focus on going up and down when needed.



Of course, for a really rolling course with big, steep climbs that come up fast it will probably still be a good idea to be in the appropriate chainring for the climb. But, I was also really impressed by how well the drivetrain shifted while under power. The chain jumped from cog to cog easily, but I was also able to shift the chainrings despite having them under a reasonable power load. I am sure that there is eventually a limit to the amount of power you can shift under, but with even just half-ways decent anticipation and shifting skills you will probably never reach it.


Also, it needs to be noted that this system is also lighter than a standard 3x9, which I'm sure all of our inner gram counters will appreciate!

The only gripes that I did have with the system were that I did notice the lack of a few of the gear choices. I noticed the higher granny gear, but since I was aboard a hardtail 29er I didn't really miss my lower option all that much. However, on the speedy downhills I was really yearning for a larger high-end gear to maximize my momentum and push that speedometer up as high as possible!


Bottom Line
You could be an absolute beginner or be a wee bit on the dumb side and still be able to shift this drivetrain like a professional! So far, SRAM's X7 2 x 10 drivetrain is hands down the best-shifting drivetrain I have ever ridden! The older high-end components (X0) comes close, but it still didn't shift as well under power or nearly as intuitively. 

I am looking forward to receiving my new Airborne Goblin in a few weeks, and then I will be able to put this drivetrain to the test over a longer period of time to see how it endures the wear-and-tear of rowdy East Coast singletrack!


Your Turn
Have you ridden 2x10? Write your thoughts below! 



10 comments:

dgaddis April 21, 2011 at 9:31 AM  

My single speed is even more intuitive than a 2x10 system! LOL. It's also a bit limited... Got me a geared frame on the way tho! No 2x10 for me, reusing my old XT 3x9 system for now.

Enjoyed the Sea Otter coverage dude!

kikemanuel April 21, 2011 at 12:55 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Greg Heil April 21, 2011 at 7:13 PM  

Yeah dude, I got a chance to truly ride singlespeed for the first time ever while out at the Otter. It was a belt drive too... I loved it! Now I need to ride one with a regular chain to compare the differences.

I'm glad you enjoyed the posts! I still have a lot more to write, haha!

Brady May 12, 2011 at 11:25 AM  

Can you really use all 20 gears? I get so frustrated on my 3X9 that I currently use because I'm always thinking about what gear I should be in, should I be changing the front etc. I tend to spend most of my time in the middle which gives me access to all 9 in the back, but there are definitely times when I should be dropping into the small ring in the front, but I don't. My concern is with the 2X10 I would want to spend most of my time in the large ring in the front I'm guessing, but can you use all 10 in the rear from there? Just wondering what your thoughts are...

Greg Heil May 13, 2011 at 11:24 PM  

So a guy named Brady had left a comment on this post, but due to the recent blogger mess up or some other random reason, it's not showing.

Here's what he said:

"Can you really use all 20 gears? I get so frustrated on my 3X9 that I currently use because I'm always thinking about what gear I should be in, should I be changing the front etc. I tend to spend most of my time in the middle which gives me access to all 9 in the back, but there are definitely times when I should be dropping into the small ring in the front, but I don't. My concern is with the 2X10 I would want to spend most of my time in the large ring in the front I'm guessing, but can you use all 10 in the rear from there? Just wondering what your thoughts are... "

Greg Heil May 13, 2011 at 11:25 PM  

In response:

Yeah dude, you can definitely use every single gear combination! I got my Goblin about a week ago, and I have been piling on the miles as fast as I can. If you are able to just leave it in the large ring on the 2x10, then I'd suggest going with a 1x9--even simpler and lighter.

TDough May 18, 2011 at 3:37 PM  

I have owned my C'dale Flash 29er with SRAM X9 2x10 for a week. I literally waited over a year to by the 2 x 10 setup (couldn't afford/ and did not need the SRAM XX)for the reasons described here. I HATE TRIPLE FRONT COGS! I have a double on my road bike and wanted the same on my Mt. Bike. I have been on four rides. The first and third my chain was thrown and got caught between the freewheel and the hub. Of course, this happened while cranking up a steep hill - horrible. I also had problems with the bike skipping in the 2nd and 3rd largest cogs. The bike shop said that the limit screws on the derailler were very easy to turn when they were building the bike, and seemed to be coming loose. The adjusted the derailler and used lock-tite on the limit screws, and today it was fine. For the moment, I've lost a bit of confidence in the X9, but hopefully with this fix it will be dependable!

Greg Heil May 18, 2011 at 3:41 PM  

Hey dude,

That's unfortunate... I hope things work better for you now! The only major problem I've had with mine was when I picked up a stick and bent the crap out of my derailleur hanger. Obviously, that's no one's fault but the stick's! ;)

According to my records I've put 120.24 on the drive train on my bike. I'll definitely keep you all posted as things progress.

Kern Lee,  July 22, 2011 at 9:59 AM  

If you are on your little ring (up front)and your highest gear on the cassette (in back) and you want to go one gear higher, then you have to shift to your big ring. My question is, do you also have to simultaneously down shift through all ten gears on the cassette to be in the next gear?

Greg Heil July 24, 2011 at 10:06 AM  

What qualifies as the next gear? It all depends on the gear inches and your shifting strategy. While you can run small to small, that's still a bad strategy if you are planning on heading even higher in your gearing due to the chain bouncing all over the place because of all the slack and the issue with continuing to shift up that you mentioned. I'd only maybe run small to small if I was only going to be in it for a second and then I thought I'd have to shift back down.

It still takes some strategy to shift well with a 2x10, just not nearly as much as with a 3 x9 or 10! ;)

Hope that helps!

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Greg Heil is the Editor in Chief for Singletracks.com. He's been writing and publishing online since before blogging existed.

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