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1x conversion review/lessons learned

Old 05-25-22, 05:01 PM
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Digger Goreman
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1x conversion review/lessons learned

For whatever reason, you want to pull the trigger on your 1x commuter/road bike. I just finished the final piece in my somewhat haphazardly approached, yet successful conversion. Some things I did right and lucked through others. For those interested, I suggest the following approach:

What are YOUR acceptable limitations?
If it ain't no fun, you won't want to ride it. Whether you use a gear inch calculator, or just the way you feel while pedaling, determine what range you want. I started with a 3x9 mtb, ~99-17 gear inches. I almost never used the upper most and lowest most ends. Smartly, I fixed the front derailleur into the middle, and rode for a month. Got a great appreciation for what that range (in my case, 32x 11-34) could do for my body and terrain dynamic.

What are your priorities/what are you willing to give up?
Likely, you will compromise around prioritizing downhill speed and climbing ability. I naively went for biggest back dish and the largest chain ring that could match my climbing requirements and maximize my downhill speed. I expected there would be an easy engineering solution, and almost "screwed the pooch".... More on that in a moment.

Can I do this cheaply?
Mostly, no.... You can set the front derailleur screws, ditch the left shifter/cable and be done with it. No cost but time. Other than that, if you are going to change range, parts and labor are going to cost you.

What I want vs the drive train!
Go into this understanding that cranks, chain ring, chain ring bolts, bottom bracket, chain, rear derailleur and sprockets may all have to be replaced with associated labor/tool costs. I almost messed up by choosing 40x 11-50 without considering chain stay length and the necessary link count. Got insanely lucky to have the combination come out to 116 links. Used a standard 9 speed chain. 10+ sprockets require thinner chains. Yes, you can fit as many sprockets as your drop out will accept (common mtb = 135 mm). If you go outside your derailleur's capacity, a goat/road link will be required ($5-$35+). The basic Shimano Altus rear derailleur + $6 generic aluminum alloy "goat link" has worked flawlessly for me. Narrow Wide chain rings will prevent chain drops from foreseeable road use. Avoid a riveted crank so you can customize as needed. Chain line is very important and an appropriate bottom bracket will be required.

Sounds like not so much to consider, but doing the above homework will save you pain. And you just might decide it's not worth it.

As a counter-intuitive footnote: I actually placed a 28 tooth, 64bcd chain ring inside my 40 tooth, 104bcd. It is a manual "bail out", and certainly not unique. I call it the "Boy Scout" ring. Just in case I meet steeper hills, load my CamelTrek heavily, or get a bent outer chain ring, I have an emergency solution. Tested it today, and I get excellent operation from sprockets 1-7. Top speed is garbage, as I'm only achieving 45.5 gear inches. For hills, loads, and emergencies, acceptable.

Hope this helped amateurs, like me

Constructive questions welcome!
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Old 05-26-22, 08:33 AM
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BobbyG
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Digger Goreman What was your motivation to convert to a 1x?
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Old 05-26-22, 02:03 PM
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Originally Posted by BobbyG View Post
Digger Goreman What was your motivation to convert to a 1x?
Hey, BobbyG, my motivation was about 51% philosophical: A desire to do more with less... to simplify. Cleaned up the cockpit. Cleared out the front mechanism. Stopped me from the rare mis-shift. Brake-horn on the left hand, and brake-shift on the right. Easy-peasy. And without giving up climbing or speed.
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Old 05-27-22, 12:57 AM
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Conversion to 1x came very cheap to me. The only part I replaced is the cassette and did all the work myself. I reused the small ring and simply bolted it to the outside of the crank where the big ring used to be. The original medium cage RD worked without problem with the new 40t cassette.

Simplicity was the main reason I did this but found 1x also reduced wear on the drivetrain, Looks-wise, the chain looks like new all the time. It's safer if you use brifters because you leave one hand dedicated entirely for braking, especially, the front brake so you can brake and shift at the same time without issues.

The only problem I ever had with 1x was the chain sometimes coming off the chain ring when hitting washboarded surfaces. It never happens with 2x because of the FD working as a chain catcher as well. But no problems whatsoever on smooth road surfaces and the occassional pothole. For 1x you'll probably need a clutched RD if you ride on gravel or bumpy roads to prevent the chain coming off the chain ring.
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Old 05-27-22, 07:00 AM
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koala logs Sounds like you got a super break with the chain line falling just right And, yes, the gift of know-how mechanics saves a lot of moolah!

The Clutch Derailleur is a known (and interesting) variant to/for me. I put this thread in commuting, because this is what I primarily do with my old mtb. However, I do go off road as needed. Nothing like the true MTBers. I approached chain retention with a Narrow-Wide Chain Ring. This has sufficed through pot holes, the rare curb jump off, and lightly root-ed trails. Do you think a clutch derailleur is needed with the NWCR? I doubt for my applications, but I am curious if ever finding myself on rougher terrain.

Interesting about reduced wear, as some articles I read asserted the opposite. Steeper chain lines and not spreading the load across 2-3 chain rings, instead of one. I am mentally prepared for that, and at the same time intrigued by what you said If your truth is stronger, I am a much happier man!

I have riser bars with a friction thumb shifter. Braking while shifting is not a problem with that setup either. I have no experience with drop bars/brifters, but sounds like they achieve similar, if not same, braking synergies.

Even if 1x turns out to be a "flavor of the month", much like finding a favorite dark chocolate, I will be happily sticking with my preferred ride
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Old 05-27-22, 07:05 AM
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Clean(er) bars
Left to right: Thumb shifter, "computer", horn (switch hidden on back side).

Last edited by Digger Goreman; 05-27-22 at 07:08 AM. Reason: additional info
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Old 05-27-22, 08:27 AM
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Originally Posted by Digger Goreman View Post
koala logs Sounds like you got a super break with the chain line falling just right And, yes, the gift of know-how mechanics saves a lot of moolah!

The Clutch Derailleur is a known (and interesting) variant to/for me. I put this thread in commuting, because this is what I primarily do with my old mtb. However, I do go off road as needed. Nothing like the true MTBers. I approached chain retention with a Narrow-Wide Chain Ring. This has sufficed through pot holes, the rare curb jump off, and lightly root-ed trails. Do you think a clutch derailleur is needed with the NWCR? I doubt for my applications, but I am curious if ever finding myself on rougher terrain.

Interesting about reduced wear, as some articles I read asserted the opposite. Steeper chain lines and not spreading the load across 2-3 chain rings, instead of one. I am mentally prepared for that, and at the same time intrigued by what you said If your truth is stronger, I am a much happier man!

I have riser bars with a friction thumb shifter. Braking while shifting is not a problem with that setup either. I have no experience with drop bars/brifters, but sounds like they achieve similar, if not same, braking synergies.

Even if 1x turns out to be a "flavor of the month", much like finding a favorite dark chocolate, I will be happily sticking with my preferred ride

I only have dirt level income so I have to learn as much as I can from the internet and do things myself and sometimes with improvisation! With NWCR, you may not need clutched RD. Only consider the upgrade if you find the chain falling often on bumpy surfaces.

My chain ring is made of good 'ol steel seemingly made out of thick metal plate. I've been using it for 3 years now. Never seems to be wearing!

Increased wear from "Steeper chain line". To solve that problem, place your chain ring closer to the cassette cogs you use most of the time. As for me, I spend most of the time on the highest gears so I installed the chain ring outside of the crank so that it's closer to the highest gears. Wear for me is no worse than 2x, in fact, it seems even less.
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Old 05-27-22, 03:25 PM
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I did a one by 11 conversion on my wifeís 24 speed townie bike. It was a bigger project than I anticipated. I had to get a new pair of crank arms because the original were riveted with a bolt pattern that does not have chain rings. I reused the bb and found a 104BCD square taper crank set in my parts. I used a cheap narrow wide 38 tooth ring from Amazon. Ironically the most expensive part of the crankset was the chain ring bolts. I wound up buying a Wolf Tooth set. The shifter and cassette and derailleur were all Shimano SLX M7000. I actually started out with an NX shifter that shifted it fine but my wife didnít like it. She liked the EZ fire shifters the bike came with and the SLX shifter was closer. Even though it doesnít have the release trigger on the top, you can still reach it with your index finger. This all worked great but the bike was stolen at a campground pretty soon after. I wonder if it was stolen mainly for its derailer and etc. We found her a replacement bike that was very similar but I havenít done the conversion again. I think if I was buying everything new from the ground up I might also get her a PNW dropper suspension post. She likes to flat foot the bike.

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