Maybe it’s just me, but the whole “1x” revolution that has been going around lately, has been the best thing to happen to mountain biking since dropper posts. It’s amazing to drop the front derailleur, shifter, cable, housing, and all the hassle that goes along with front shifting. No more chain suck, less weight, and now thanks to Wolf Tooth Components, no more chain drops, even without a front chain guide.
While SRAM came out with XX1 (which is amazing in it’s own right) there are a lot of riders who either can’t afford, or don’t want to upgrade their whole drivetrain to benefit from dropping the front derailleur. That’s where Wolf Tooth Drop-Stop chainrings come in. They are made for just about any BCD (88,104,110,120,130, or GXP direct mount) and along with a Type-2 or Shadow+ rear derailleur, allow you to run 1×9/10/11 without having to use a chain guide. They use an alternating pattern of wide and narrow teeth to grab a secure hold of a 9, 10, or 11 speed chain and prevent it from coming off. We’ve been running their 104BCD 34T ring for the last 4 months and it has been everything that was promised.
To start testing, we threw the ring on the “endurance” Salsa El Mariachi. It’s been setup now with a number of drivetrains, and the Wolf Tooth ring excelled in every iteration. To start off, we ran a regular 1×10 with a SRAM X9 Type 2 rear derailleur and an 11-36 cassette. I figured a hard tail would actually be a better test as it would bounce the chain more than a full suspension bike. We took the bike through our local singletrack trails with all their choppy sections and rock gardens. We raced it in a super nasty 6 hour race, and we also spent some time in the Pinhotis and the Tanasi trail system in TN. No drops. Sweet! A good bonus point to mention is the lack of chain suck. With a muddy race and horrible conditions, anyone who tried to shift a front derailleur got chain suck. We had no such suckage. Next up, although not a real test of chain drops, we ran it with an 8 speed chain and single speed setup when the weather got a bit nasty. Compatible, quiet, and flawless.
Next, we upgraded the bike to SRAM XX1 but we kept the Stylo crank and Wolf Tooth ring. The 10-42 gearing pairs nicely with a 34T front ring on a 29er and gives the bike great gearing. It’s got enough oomph to take the mountain bike on road sections and get some speed, and the 42T is easy enough to bail you out in the mountains. It’s a bit too hard for bikepacking with a fully loaded bike though, so we also picked up a 104BCD 30T Wolf Tooth ring for the times when we just need to climb climb and climb. (As an aside, the 30T is my favorite ring for a 1×10) Just like before, flawless. Not a single chain drop!
Lastly, we went ahead and threw it on the 2011 Trek Remedy with 1×11 for a Pisgah ride. Didn’t really need to, but I was in the testing mood, so what better place to give this ring a proper test than some Pisgah gnar. It passed the Pilot Rock test with flying colors. Pilot Rock doesn’t mess around. It’s not the most technical trail in Pisgah (Farlow gap has that title) but it’s very fast, rocky, and unforgiving. It’s a perfect test for a Drop-Stop chainring and this one passed with flying colors. We came down with our teeth chattering and numb hands from the rough trail, but the chain was solid the entire time. Impressive.
So in the end, most things made for a mountain bike have pros but also cons. Well, I can’t find any cons with this product. It’s awesome, it’s priced well, and it works exactly as advertised. Hasn’t let me down once. The only reason I put the “Value” score at 90 was that nothing is “perfect”. Get one, pair it with a clutch type rear derailleur, drop the front shifter mess and enjoy riding your simpler, quiet and lighter mountain (or cross) bike. You won’t be disappointed.
Check them out and get your own at wolftoothcycling.com.