Are XTR and X.0 Mountain Bike Components Really Worth It?

by Robb Sutton

A reader of Mountain Biking by 198 sent me an email over the weekend that had a very simple question that plagues the minds of many riders out there as they put together their first high end mountain bike build.

I had a random question… i was in the market for a new bike. I have a Trek 8000. I wanted to go for FS and I was checking out the FS Santa Cruz Blur XC Carbon. Do you think XTR is worth the money or is XT the way to go?

Shimano XTR Carbon Cage Mountain Bike Rear DerailleurThe simple answer…NO! Yes, the latest and greatest from the top of the line components from SRAM and Shimano look incredible on the bike and gain you trail cred from riders who really don’t know what they are talking about, but in all reality…the comparable models from the XT and X.9 groupos perform just as well at a fraction of the price…even if they weigh just a few grams more.

In my opinion, it is much more beneficial to resist the urge to throw on that carbon caged rear derailleur and take that dollar savings (around 150 bones) and put it towards a higher quality wheelset build. Transferring this money in your bike build budget to your wheel build will have much more benefit riding than a cool carbon cage. I notice very little difference on the trail between X.0 and X.9 or XTR and XT, but I notice a HUGE difference on the trail between a budget wheel build and a medium to high end wheel build.

It amazes me all the time when I see fully kitted out riders sporting their high in rear derailleurs and really cheep wheels…sorry in advance if you are one of those riders…

When you have a budget that you are trying to keep during the build process, it is important to see the cost vs. benefit of each component you are planning on installing on your new ride. In some cases, you might not have a real choice as the bigger bike companies tend to pick the build for you. Even in that case, it might be better to step down one notch in the lineup and use that savings for wheels, gear, shoes, suspension upgrades, etc.

XTR and X.0 provide SRAM and Shimano with the necessary marketing push as they race to see who can produce the coolest new component. For the average rider, you are not going to notice the difference on the trail and the replacement cost is far too high. I have found that properly adjusting and maintaining your drivetrain will far out perform high end components.

So next time you are picking out your brand new bike build, think about where your money will be best spent and try to ignore the temptation to create trailside drool on your rear derailleur.

64 comments

64 comments

Treadly January 3, 2011 - 9:47 am

Carbon rear derailluers are stronger than aluminium ones and will stay in shape if they get a hard knock. Aluminium ones bend and never work properly again, it’s impossible to straighten them out properly. I will always use carbon armed rear derailluers. Also Sram is much more reliable then Shimano because the cable is longer travel and not as subject to problems caused by movement in the cable.

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Rod Y October 14, 2010 - 7:20 am

or…u could just remove the whole thing and get replace it with single speed with good wheels and frame=]

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Discount Bike Parts: Where To Find and What To Trust | Mountain.Bike198.com July 21, 2010 - 7:16 am

[…] hundred bucks or less and jump out to buy the top of the line X.0 or XTR rear derailleur (Related: Is X.0 or XTR Really Worth It?) and that…in my opinion…is the wrong move. In the mountain bike component market, […]

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Stefano July 20, 2010 - 2:27 pm

X9 and X0 perform exactly the same. But the difference isn’t only in the weight, the X0 is more durable and serviceable. Examples: in the X0, both jockey wheels run on sealed bearings, while in the X9 only one (the other one is on a bushing), and in the X7 none. Also, The pins of the linkage of the X0 RD are held by seeger rings, while in the X9 they have their head flattened so they can’t be removed or serviced or disassembled without virtually destroying them.
Not sure if this applies to Shimano product, as well.

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198 July 20, 2010 - 5:58 pm

On paper…I completely agree. But I have actually gone through 2 of the X.0 carbon cages while all of my X.9 RD’s are still running like new after some serious abuse.

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Stefano July 21, 2010 - 6:58 am

Makes sense. I guess the carbon cage is the weak spot of X0, an that I’m lucky to have an alu cage ’07 X0 🙂

Also, it has to be said that it’s cheaper than but 2 X9 RDs than to buy 1 X0 then rebuild it.

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Russ March 5, 2011 - 7:50 am

its cheaper to by an X9 RD than just the cage for X0!!

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Charlie April 27, 2010 - 12:04 pm

I am an intermediate biker, and was wondering what is the performance difference between the lowly LX and XT? The retail price for an XT rear derailleur seems to be about double the price of the LX. For an average rider is it worth the cost on a stock bike?

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Chris March 16, 2010 - 8:48 pm

Thanks for pointing this out for people who weren’t really sure. I’m the kind of rider who likes to balance cost vs. benefit. sure I have some really nice parts on my bike, but not all MTB parts suit everyone who can afford them. example:…. I can afford a carbon frame (not bragging), but if I crash (sometimes do) I dont want a part of the carbon frame stuck in my neck or something when the frame comes apart. (I’ll stick with Aluminum or Cro-Mo Thanks!)Titanium is way too pricey for me still.:) I’m a 5’7″ 220LB pedal masher, and carbon is not for me. It’s not important WHAT you ride, more importantly THAT you ride. Have fun! and Please wear a helmet!

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bobby hynson January 17, 2010 - 4:26 pm

I’ve heard there is a noticeable difference between the xt and the xtr rapidfire shifters. Would you consider this a true statement?

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Cale February 6, 2010 - 3:59 pm

yes XTR shifters w/any shimano RD are way better than the XT ot SLX etc…I love the triple shift option and crisp shift action once you have them you’ll never go back, and remember you dont have to have XTR RD or FD to make it work all you need is the shifters

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Borrego January 6, 2010 - 3:29 pm

How much would you say a high end wheelset should cost? I guess what I’m asking is what is considered mid or high-end?

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198 January 6, 2010 - 4:19 pm

350.00 and up would be a reasonable estimate.

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Eric August 4, 2009 - 1:54 pm

I agree with the above, although I often get sucked into trying the latest and greatest. As far as SRAM stuff goes – I bought a Rocky Mountain Element TSC in 2000. It came with SRAM 9.0 SL stuff on it. This is about a year or two before they came out with XO. I am still riding that bike and have done 8 Leadville 100s on that drivetrain and it still works beautifully. I just ordered an new Pivot Mach 429 and spec’s it with XO. I found that it is about $200 cheaper if you run it with the Gripshift version instead of the triggers. I love the Gripshift setup, so I jumped on that. If you do not have a major need for triggers, it is a great way to get their top of the line stuff for a lot less $. It made the gap between X9 and XO a lot smaller. FWIW, the SRAM front derailleurs are not that great and I would recommend running an XT or even LX as not much has changed up front in 15 years.

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djorzgul July 1, 2009 - 7:34 pm

my first post 🙂

I have x0 rear d. but older version with aluminum cage (not carbon) and I like it soo much. in fact complete sram’s 1:1 ratio thing is in my opinion superb comparing to shimano’s 1:2.
On the other hand I have x9 shifters since x0 are to pricey (more than double)… although I heard here and there that shifting is better with them, meaning that lever travel is a bit shorter, and by that shifting sensation is snappier… I’d like to try them anyway.

On the other hand everytime xtr/xt discussion is started I remember an article in some old national geographic bout several guys who rode across the alaska (or something like that), and they all had old-school black shimano lx components… so… you never know whats best until you test it really hard.

that’s the reason why I still ride my cnc machined avid ultimate v-brakes… they work sooo good… and I don’t feel like changing them soon…

bottom line… x0 is good, maybe just a bit better then x9. xt is better than xtr. slx is super good (my girl has it). only “bad” thing is heavy drive train…

huh… enough… I could write about bike all night long..

respect to all of you 😉

dj.

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ajy129 June 5, 2009 - 9:56 pm

Interesting article.
Have just gone to X9 RDR with X9 shifters. Previous XT. Am looking forward to see how the sram works.

Now how about a comparison of forks….. what of the various shades between reba/sid/fox rl100 etc etc. (My son keeps drooling over sids…)

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198 June 5, 2009 - 10:25 pm

Unless he is going to be a serious XC racer…steer him away from the SID. The Reba is a much better fork for regular riding. The SID is a purpose built component that is intended for primarily xc racing.

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brad gatewood May 28, 2009 - 2:02 pm

Thanks for the article.

Actually I have the same question about Thomson components. I don’t get it. I mean they look nice, and I understand the strength issue, but we’re talking about components with zero moving parts. And most people could ride the same seatpost or stem for their entire life without breaking it.

Enlighten me.

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198 May 28, 2009 - 2:11 pm

When it comes to stem and seatpost decisions…stiffness plays a huge factor for me. I find that the Thomson products are stiffer on the bike making them more predictable.

From an aesthetics standpoint…they look just like the day you bought them 8 years down the road. While I love the adjustment on the Race Face posts…they look old after one day on the trail because I move the seatpost all the way down on dh sections. This wears off the logo almost instantly.

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foxiu May 15, 2009 - 8:21 am

if you want to have some ‘pro’ componets from top level groups in your bike buy… shifters. Rear derailleurs are expensive, and you can’t FEEL if they works better. And shifters – you touch them many times, everytime you ride your bike, and you can feel the difference between “they works good” and “they works great”

sorry for my english, and greetings from poland 😉

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198 May 28, 2009 - 2:13 pm

I will agree that they have a better feel to them on the bike (the shifters). It also seems that the price gap on the shifters is not as high as the RD’s. Maybe that is because they are out of eyesight in most cases.

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Russ March 5, 2011 - 7:45 am

definitly there is a big difference with shifters. the pressure neded and the speed of action is noticable,
X9, trigger format have a tendancy to multi shift if your finger stays on the leve too long changing into a higher gear. Twisting trumps it all, is cheaper, lighter and more controlled. You will also have less fatigue in your thumb/hand on very long rides or races where shifting is needed more. Very difficult to shift and break at the same time though.

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HAROMAN May 15, 2009 - 6:38 am

I’m a huge SRAM fan and I think the x9 performs like the xo minus the carbon cage, it’s a matter of grams less weight but huge price difference better stick to x9 for the same performance and a bang for the buck! +1 for x9!!

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198 May 15, 2009 - 8:03 am

I have been saying that for awhile too. Add to that…the aluminum cage of the X.9 is a lot less prone to breaking. Why do you think they went to an aluminum backing with carbon outers on the ’09’s? Too many breaking on the trail…

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benj.nazareno May 15, 2009 - 3:08 am

i too am saving up for a good set of wheels. currently use XTs and have to frequently have the bearins greased and serviced. no complaints but am looking at a red metal 1 or hope pro2 + DT Swiss rim set-up.

recently purchased an X9 set but the shifters kept on getting stuck after only 2 mos. of riding. and we usually ride on light to moderate terrain. with a couple of my riding buddies sharing the same experience in the past, decided to return them and trade up to the X0. will wait and see how they perform…

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198 May 15, 2009 - 8:02 am

Ah! When you move off of XT hubs…you will never go back. It is one of those ignorance is bliss things…you don’t know what you are truly missing out on until you switch.

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Paddy D July 6, 2009 - 12:09 am

So, I am trying to do a custom wheel set and am having a difficult time researching hubs. Can you please help me with the top end, my son dosen’t REALLY need to go to college hub, the almost top end, we can eat ramen noodles for a couple of months and the middle of the road not xtr from shimano hub? I would really appreciate a little input from you guys. Thanks

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198 July 6, 2009 - 6:41 am

Paddy D

Take a look at the Hope Pro II hubs. The engagement is not at the level of the really high end (Chris King, I9, etc.) but they are high quality hubs that make for a great wheelset. If you want to drop a little bit more coin…check out the Hadleys. 72 point engagement.

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Paddy D July 6, 2009 - 9:33 pm

Sweet thanks for the help…

Paddy D July 9, 2009 - 11:24 pm

Something I forgot to add to my previous query. I am running a 26 v-brake set up. Does the Hope II hubs come in a non-disc friendly set-up? Should’ve mentioned this before. Thanks guys…

Kiwirider May 15, 2009 - 2:19 am

It’s not an issue on single speeds
Get back to basics, Enough said,

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198 May 15, 2009 - 8:02 am

LOL…I have a rigid ss just for that reason! Keeps me honest.

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D Hauck May 14, 2009 - 8:25 pm

Interesting article. I would agree that money on wheels is a better spend, but then again, if you have the wrong frame, none of it matters. What I do not like about the article is putting SRAM and Shimano in the same bucket. Yes, they do have versions based on price that mostly come with minor weight and blink improvements along the way. However, I think Shimano has goofed where I believe SRAM has proven the value. I have XO, X.9, XTR and XT. I have been through most of the versions of LX and XT during my 20 years of mtn biking. I have found that SRAM XO is not just bling. It is faster, lighter and rugged. XTR however is lighter, but is not much more than bling (even worse in some cases than XT). X.9 is good agreed, but XO is better. SRAM simply has more value in the RD and shifter arena than Shimano IMHO and the choice should be between XTR vs XO or XT vs X.9.

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198 May 15, 2009 - 8:01 am

I have found SRAM to be more bullet proof on the trail requiring less need for adjustment over time.

I also like the design of the SRAM front paddle (closest to the front wheel) on the shifter over Shimano’s. When Shimano went to the dual direction paddle…its not as hand placement friendly. The SRAM paddle is right where I want it.

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Luke S May 14, 2009 - 3:17 pm

Spot on in regard to where to spend the money. High end rear D doesn’t hurt ya but $ into a better wheel set is a definite improvement. Same theory as a good fork upgrade. Money well spent.

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198 May 14, 2009 - 1:21 pm

@ Andrew

The Saint group is purpose built for FR/DH so I can see the justification there. If there were multiple lines to that group…then things may be different.

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Andrew May 14, 2009 - 12:24 pm

What would you say about specs like saint… worth it or just a overkill buy. This is more of a AM/FR/DH question but I’m just curious.

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Robert House May 6, 2009 - 8:21 pm

Personally I feel like the best place to spend the money is on a wheel set, then frame, then components. I tend to keep wheels longer than frames, which I keep longer than components.

The law of diminishing returns governs all of those things though – you wheels can only feel so good, and you frame can only be so light and stiff, etc. before the difference is negligible.

Right now I have a mix of XT and XTR components on the primary ride — the difference between the two is very small anymore. They both shift very well and quickly (although since I put the xtr rear derailleur on I have yet to experience any chainsuck, but that may be the new chain too).

I have a wheel set from Dave (http://www.speeddream.com/mountain_disc.php) that outperforms any others I have had — makes a big difference and real lightweight. But, I’ve said it before (and I say it again) the best way to reduce the weight on your bike is usually by taking it off of your own ass.

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198 May 15, 2009 - 7:59 am

A high quality, hand-built wheelset can make all the difference in the world. Even some of the best frames out there perform poorly under bad wheels. People tend to forget that your wheels are your only contact with the ground.

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Scott Doran May 6, 2009 - 3:03 pm

Like the way he thinks, I gave up on XTR and XO years ago and yes I have very nice wheelsets on all my bikes.

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Rajko Hlisc May 6, 2009 - 3:02 pm

Damn and i have X0, heheheheh.
But it’s true what they are saying.

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Derek May 6, 2009 - 3:01 pm

I run only XO drivetrain. Wish they would make a better front D so in the mean time XTR. Is it worth it at retail -no, shop cost -yes.

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Yasser Dahab May 6, 2009 - 2:56 pm

good points. I don’t think XTR and XT used to be so similar in performance. In the past 5 years, that’s certainly changed.

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198 May 6, 2009 - 2:58 pm

@ Yasser

I 100% agree with you. It is a great time to be a mountain biker as the technology and performance has improved rapidly.

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jason griese May 6, 2009 - 2:34 pm

I’ll wait by the mail box for delivery.

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Kris Cunningham May 6, 2009 - 1:45 pm

I run X.0 on my my V10 and i love it! Also the carbon XTR on my XC bike, i just bought a SLX deralieur(sp) and can’t wait to see how it runs, i think SLX was a great move by Shimano.

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198 May 15, 2009 - 7:58 am

I completely agree. The SLX package is supposed to be pretty smooth…but more durable than XT. Let me know what you end up thinking about it.

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Aaron June 29, 2011 - 2:25 am

SLX package is indeed a good move by Shimano.

It’s surprisingly crisp shifting, durable, and reliable.

Only negative thing is; it’s noisier when dirty compared to others.

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jason griese May 6, 2009 - 12:50 pm

I was thinking that if shimano were up to it I’d be willing to donate my time racing with top end bike with full xtr this year then the same bike next year with same bike an d full xt. Just trying to help

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198 May 6, 2009 - 1:13 pm

@ Jason

Great idea! We can start a full XTR team just for that purpose!

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Chris May 6, 2009 - 12:37 pm

Also consider that every time XTR and XO get better so does the rest of the line. So this years XT or X9 is as good or better than XTR or XO of a couple of years ago, just without the carbon bling factor. And I totally agree with the assessment of where money is best spent on the bike upgrades.

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Kevin May 6, 2009 - 12:36 pm

I actually hang back from the bleeding edge a little more – I still like the reliability of an 8 speed, so I went with X-7 components since that was as high as I could go at the time w/o jumping to 9.

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jason griese May 6, 2009 - 11:57 am

thanks mann I had this discussion a few years ago when I got my 8500 with the XT. And same answers get good wheels for weight savings. I however am limited on this as I am 205 lbs and push the recommend limits of high end non cheap wheels. Maybe that would be a good review , Wheels /bike builds for the plus 200 crowd. anywhere from pedals to bottom brackets, wheels, girlfriends,high paying jobs where you can ride all day, good fishing spots, best pizza…

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Russell May 6, 2009 - 10:27 am

What bugs me is the complete bikes sold with high end derailleurs and mid-level shifters. You really can tell a difference in the feel of the different level shifters.

I am proud to say I have never splurged on an XTR front derailleur. Rear, yes, but I cannot find a way to justify the expense for the front.

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FarmerG May 6, 2009 - 10:27 am

I agree 100%. Been completely happy with XT and 9.0 stuff.

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Robb Sutton (198) May 6, 2009 - 10:27 am

@ Mark

pretty much the same deal Mark. And from what I am hearing (and my limited experience with) that SLX package is pretty sweet too.

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Mark D. May 6, 2009 - 10:26 am

and,if im not mistaken,this years XT was last years XTR anyway.Not sure how the sram compares.

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Mark D. May 6, 2009 - 10:25 am

its not about value its about BLING !!;-)

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Jason Milliron May 6, 2009 - 10:25 am

*pfffft*

All rear derailleurs are overrated.

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Ken Hurd May 6, 2009 - 9:59 am

I gave up the dream of a full top-spec bike many years ago, and I agree with you that the money can definitely be better spent elsewhere (wheels, tires, heck, even a better saddle), but I think that the one piece that is often worth is (for me, anyway) is the rear derailleur.

Everything else, I can hardly tell the difference, but the crispness you get with an XTR/X.0 derailleur, especially when things get nasty and mucky is worth it for me.

With that said though, I go in know that this extra performance comes as a price… Both out of my wallet, and in longevity (as I find the higher end a part is the shorter it’s lifespan)

Depends what you’re looking for, but I guess unless you’re racing, XT/X.9 is way more than reasonable for most.

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198 May 6, 2009 - 10:23 am

@ Ken

Thanks for your input! In your situation (racing) the extra can be justified.

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Aaron Mielke May 6, 2009 - 9:52 am

Thanks for this. I hope you have a lot of readers that really understand this. I built my Ellsworth Evolve, which is a pretty high-end frame, with X9 and my last ride was all X9. the wheelset is where you will realize your biggest gain in dropping weight. 100g of rolling wheel is much heavier than 80g of a rear derailleur!

Nice post!

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198 May 6, 2009 - 9:54 am

Thanks Aaron. It surprises me when riders have RD’s that are more expensive than their entire wheelset. That money can be spent better in other areas of the bike

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Paul W January 4, 2010 - 10:32 am

carbon derailluer on a mountain bike…bad idea. With less than 200 miles on a brand new truth I managed to get a small stick caught in the cage of my SRAM X.0. Shattered it. Replacement cost: $220. Picked up an X.9 for $61.00. As far as performance I can’t tell the difference except that it’s still in one piece.

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