2011 – The Year of 10 Speed Mountain Biking

2011 Shimano XTR 10 Speed MTB DrivetrainI’m sure you have already seen the spy pictures and specs. Shimano and SRAM are both making a push on the new 10 speed platform for 2011. So…it begs the question…do we really need 10 speed mountain bike drivetrains?

First off, I completely agree with a 2x setup on the front. I have been running this setup on my 9 speed stuff for a long time with the aid of a bashguard. There are a lot of benefits to running this setup when you go with a slightly larger middle ring unless you are riding a lot of forest service road where you need the big ring to keep momentum. So…simpler is better up front and I am completely on board. Bring on the two rings up front for production component groups…I am ready for it!

My Thoughts On 10 Speed Mountain Bike Drivetrains

Well…we are introducing another standard in mountain biking. With the industry moving towards the tapered headtube, we are now tackling the idea of all of our high end component groups making the switch to 2×10. My issues with the move are really several fold, but here are the highlights.

10 Speed Mean Tighter Tolerances

We are asking for adjustment issues on the trail with tighter tolerances between gears. Some would argue that 9 speed is actually too many, so why the move to 10? With tighter spacing between gears (remember, frame widths and cassette bodies didn’t change), any bump on the rear derailleur or gunk in the shifting cable can have more of a dramatic affect on your shifting performance on the trail. This is not a road bike. We are going to hit things along the way and we are going to run into dirty as hell trail conditions. It is just part of mountain biking.

With many riders still fiddling with 9 speed drivetrains, I believe that making the jump to 10 is asking a little bit much of the average rider. Do I think it will shift like a dream and perfect every time when setup correctly? Sure! Every drivetrain setup on a mountain bike works great on the stand and with the absence of debris and cable stretch. How is it going to do after I throw it into a tree or two in not so satisfactory conditions?

Price Is Through The Roof

2011 SRAM X.0 10 Speed MTB DrivetrainThe X.0 10 speed cassette is over 200 dollars and that is a wear item! All of these components from the chainrings to the chain and finally the cassette are all wear items that we are used to replacing for a reasonable cost over time.

With the introduction of the 10 speed drivetrain, we also see a drastic increase in price on parts that we are going to have to eventually replace. I don’t know about you…but I do not want to drop over 200 dollars to replace a cassette. That seems a little extreme…even for top of the line mountain bike components.

Once Again…Not Backwards Compatible

The industry is introducing more parts that are not compatible with each other. While we are pretty used to brands not being compatible (SRAM’s 1:1 vs. Shimano’s 2:1), now we have a whole host of new components that are not compatible with our current systems. Hopefully, both SRAM and Shimano will release 9 speed versions of their new components so you can go purchase a new x.0 derailleur if you want to without having to replace everything you own.

I am all for progression in the sport. I am even a parts whore who will justify even the smallest purchase because I just hope and pray for the UPS guy to show up early to my house. I am just starting to get confused on the thought process of going with 10 speed drivetrains on mountain bikes. Of course, we could probably rewind time and listen to everyone say the same thing about the switch to 9 speed. I might be eating my words several years down the road, but there are going to be growing pains in the process.

What do you think of the new 10 speed drivetrains for mountain bikes?

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