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Touring with One-By Drivetrain?

Old 04-02-22, 01:23 PM
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greatbasin
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Touring with One-By Drivetrain?

What are the consequences or tradeoffs to using a one-by drive-train for touring?

I understand triples are traditional for touring, and I'm sure plenty of people have toured on road bikes with doubles. I suppose early derailleurs (60's and 70's) were not able to take up a lot of chain slack and let it out for as wide of range of gearing as we see today, but an old triple (say a Cyclone GT equipped '79 Centurion Pro Tour) might have had a high ratio 320% greater than its lowest ratio. A popular modern triple might have a spread of 545%, rivaling the Rohloff hub. I've seen gearboxes that can give an even greater spread of ratios exceeding 800%, but this is by no means intended to be an expose of technological extremes. These gearboxes and hubs are expensive and even the current-model triple chainring drivetrains, though not especially costly, are typically featured on touring-specific bicycles that aren't especially abundant or cheap and more common road bike doubles, whether they have a particularly wide range of ratios or not, don't typically dip as low as 20-something gear inches perhaps because they're not intended to be ridden with a heavily loaded bike or on extreme terrain.

Mountain bikes, on the other hand, are both abundant and feature low ratios. Current model mountain bikes all seem to feature suspension or at least forks that don't add anything to touring pavement other than expense and weight, but the mountain bike drivetrains that have been developing over the last 30 years or so are also featured on some of the 'gravel' or 'all road' bikes. Some of these mountain-bike style drivetrains have only one chainring on the front, but still have a spread of ratios around 400% and importantly, they feature low gears that might be as low as 24 gear inches.

Assuming the bike is otherwise suited to the touring a rider wants to do with respect to the frame material, the geometry, rack and pannier attachments, wheel strength, durability and so on, what are the trade-offs of building or using these "one-by" drivetains, like a 1x11 that might give a range of 24 to 95 gear inches on a touring bike? For sure it is not going to have the range of a 'modern' triple, Rohloff or gearbox, but how would you compare its use for touring to a traditional triple like the Miyata 1000LT which I think ranges from 27 to 108 gear inches. The spread of ratios is similar, but the 1x11 is doing it with a single derailleur, and no overlapping ratios. What's not to love about it?
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Old 04-02-22, 02:11 PM
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I have not used them, but they look good to me. I'd suggest that going even lower on the gearing is easily possible especially if willing to give up a bit on the top end. I have run setups that had limited range on the top end and found it easy to live with the lack of a big high gear even when there were tailwinds or long downhills. So if you need an even lower granny that might be doable. Personally I find the really low gears some people use excessive and at some point if I need a gear that low I'd just as soon walk. I have never owned a bike with a gear lower than 20 gear inches and doubt I ever will. I am pretty sure you could easily achieve that or even lower with a 1X by using a bit smaller than original front ring.

If I were shopping for a gravel bike I'd consider 1X and I'd be using the gravel bike for touring if I were buying one.

Oh, by the way as far as any problems with the relative chain line being too bad... I noticed that quite a few of the top pros (and I mean the best of the best) were climbing completely cross chained in some recent UCI races on extended climbs. It can't be all that inefficient if they were doing it. Those combinations could be locked out with electronic shifting if they were really bad. So I wouldn't sweat any worries about innefficiencies of 1X

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Old 04-02-22, 03:48 PM
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There was a lengthy thread on this some time back:
1X drivetrain for all-round gravel / touring bike?

I think that it would be hard to come up with a new topic that was not already addressed in that thread. I took a quick scan at the posts I wrote on that thread, I still agree with what I said two years ago.

Oops, just thought of one new topic in the past couple years. Campy has come out with a 1X that has a 13 speed cassette since that thread was debated. But, I doubt if anybody is touring on that.
https://landing.campagnolo.com/en/ekar

There are some ultra light bikers that carry very little extra weight for touring, for them a 1X might work. I think most of the people touring with four panniers are going to have enough weight that they are going to want a wider range of gearing than is practical with a 1X system. There is one ultra light evangelist that used to race on this board, a 1X might be something he would like since his loaded bike does not weigh very much.

Manufacturers like to cut costs of labor to build a bike where they can. A 1X system cuts out several components and cuts out the time to adjust a front derailleur, so manufacturers like that idea. And from their perspective, the replacement cost of those wide range cassettes is not cheap, thus that will generate more future revenue too.

Someone like me that does a lot of maintenance on their own bikes, the costs of components starts to add up. Those enormous cassettes that have huge ranges, they are not cheap. My derailleur touring bikes, folding bike and rando bike all use a Sram eight speed 11/32 cassette that sells for about $25. And eight speed chains are roughly half of the cost of that cassette. I am not sure what it costs to replace one of those huge 11 or 12 or 13 speed wide range cassettes and the chain for it, but I am sure it is more than I want to pay.

So, read through that older thread and see if you have any new thoughts on the topic.
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Old 04-02-22, 06:56 PM
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People can, and have, toured on fixed gears, and even unicycles. The real question is Do you want to tour with a 1x? After every tour, I have ideas about how the bike was perfect for the tour, how this or that change could have made it better, how it was completely wrong for that section, etc. Even if the bike is ideal, the tour may change you and the next tour will need a different bike.
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Old 04-02-22, 10:16 PM
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My newish mountain bike has a 1 x 12 drive train. It has plenty of climbing gears, but it doesn't have much on the top end. I spin out at a little over 20mph. I'd think that'd workout fine for a touring bike. If my front chainring was a little bigger, I'd loose a little on the low end, but gain a little on the top end. I think a one by would work just fine as long as you're alright with that. If you have one bike only, you're going to make some sacrifices. Most people on this forum have more than one bike. It's sort of like golf clubs (or skis )
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Old 04-02-22, 11:01 PM
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Shimano 12sp 10-51 with a 36 chainring rolling 42ís will get you 19-ish gear inches on the low end, and about 100 gear inches on the high side. Close enough for me. The trick is getting the parts.
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Old 04-02-22, 11:41 PM
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I tried using a 1x11 for road touring but I only did one tour with it until I swapped back to a double and then eventually back to a triple. I had a 11-42 cassette, which has much smaller gaps between gears than a 10-50, but I still found that I was always in the wrong gear. And the 10-50 is what you'd want if you want decent range in both the high and low end. People have different tolerances for cadence, but the need for optimal cadence is emphasized when riding with gear as you'll have less chance to mash up inclines etc.

So in my opinion a 1x system works on paper range wise but isn't really all that great in practice because of the large jumps between gears.
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Old 04-03-22, 06:34 AM
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^^Feel the same^^

My big legs donít like to spin faster than the need to.
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Old 04-03-22, 06:50 AM
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Originally Posted by elcruxio
I tried using a 1x11 for road touring but I only did one tour with it until I swapped back to a double and then eventually back to a triple. I had a 11-42 cassette, which has much smaller gaps between gears than a 10-50, but I still found that I was always in the wrong gear. And the 10-50 is what you'd want if you want decent range in both the high and low end. People have different tolerances for cadence, but the need for optimal cadence is emphasized when riding with gear as you'll have less chance to mash up inclines etc.

So in my opinion a 1x system works on paper range wise but isn't really all that great in practice because of the large jumps between gears.
I think that riders have very different tolerances for gaps between gears. Some have toured on single speeds and some must have tightly spaced gears so they can have the exact gear they want. There is a range of tolerances in between those two extremes. Personally I find it pleasant and healthy to ride at a range of cadences. So having an exact gear for me it isn't a big deal to have the perfect ration and one or two higher or lower gears would typically suffice in most situations unless against the limit on one end or the other maybe and even then it usually isn't all that exact of a line IME.

There is this must spin 100 rpm rule or my knees will explode thing that I think is kind of overblown and not necessarily even all that healthy. Pedaling at a range of cadences is fine and even good for you in my opinion. Yes even noodling along at 50-60 rpm or (gasp!) climbing at that cadence some of the time is fine or even good.

I am not suggesting that we should ride like a pro racer when touring, but we can learn some things from observing them. They spend a good portion of their day riding in the peleton conserving energy taking it as easy as possible while still keeping up and knocking out the miles. Which, I'd argue is sort of what we tend to do on tour. If you watch most of them not on the front are are at a pretty low cadence much of the time. Also they climb at a variety of cadences including quite low ones some of the time. Unlike us they do need the exact gear in some situations because adjusting the effort or speed to the gear just isn't an option like it is for us where going a couple percent faster or slower or working a few percent harder or easier is fine.

The ability to just go at a bit different level of effort for the gear selection may be compromised if riding with other riders due to the need to keep up, but when I toured with other riders we found that drafting was an equalizer in that. The one who otherwise might have had trouble keeping up would just tuck in close behind and draft. The exception would be on climbs, but inequalities in climbing ability are always an issue that separates riders and require stronger riders to wait after long climbs if groups are to stay together.
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Old 04-03-22, 07:03 AM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz
^^Feel the same^^

My big legs don’t like to spin faster than the need to.
I spend some of my day spinng at 90 rpm, some at 60 and some at over 100. You might catch me climbing at 50 at times.

I'v'e probably told this story before, but...
In my younger days some MTB riding buddies would marvel that I would be in the big ring on some steep climb on another. They'd say my knees would never last until I was 30, 40, or whatever major birthday was coming up. My comment was that I was saving my thumbs (thumb shifters were still the thing) and my knees would be fine. Anyway, now at almost 71 my knees are still fine and my thumbs and wrists are pretty much ruined. Arthritis in them bothers me all day and keeps me up at night.
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Old 04-03-22, 07:35 AM
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1x10, 11 offroad works great.
but heck if I'm going to be with a 11 speed, I want to take advantage of a cassette that has smaller jumps between gears. I'll be faster and my legs will be better with shorter jumps over a long day.
Sure a 11-42 eleven speed or similar, 11-36, has perfectly good jumps between shifts, compared to 9 and 10 speed touring cassettes (11-34, 36) but with a 42\28 or thereabouts, you'll have such a wider range of real life useable gears, lower low and higher high.

Pretty much the same argument every time this comes up.
And really, shifters and shifting is not a chore to do, certainly not touring.
​​​​
When i fatbike on tight, varying surfaces with all kinds of varying traction, a 1x is great, but touring it's not the same.
Bike manufacturers know this and will respond, the "dumbing down" or over emphasizing the "problems" of front derailleurs and using them has advantages in saving money, but to me if a market wants doubles, they'll show up more.
I guess the real issue is if they'll see that they'll sell more bikes, this is the issue.
Money talks but if it's not worth it for them, they'll stick to the cheaper 1x realities of less parts costs and building time by employees.
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Old 04-03-22, 07:37 AM
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I try to be open minded. I took another look.

I mentioned above that for my derailleur touring bikes, I spend about $25 for a cassette (eight speed Sram 11/32) and a chain is half that cost.

There are lots of really expensive 1X systems out there, but it looks like there is an affordable option. A Shimano M6100 10/51 cassette is roughly $100 and a chain a third of that cost. So, on the 1X system, the replacement costs for expendables are about 3 to 4 times as much as I am paying. While not cheap, it is closer to reality than some of the others.
https://www.jensonusa.com/Shimano-De...Speed-Cassette

To compare that to my Rohloff bike, the rear sprocket on the Rohloff costs a bit under $20 if you shop around a bit, the chain is an eight speed chain, thus a bit under $15. Thus, the expendable replacement costs are comparable to the eight speed derailleur bikes. The Rohloff lifespan is longer, I am still on my original sprocket, but that is off topic. I readily admit that a Rohloff hub is about $1,000 to $1,200 if you buy it yourself. Add 50 percent or more if you buy a new bike with that hub installed, thus, there are not that many Rohloff bikes around.

On my eight speed cassettes, I am wearing out the 16T and 18T sprockets first, the other six sprockets still look pretty good at that point. If I had the M6100 cassette, as Elcruxio pointed out (above) the gaps between gears are much bigger, I would probably spend a LOT of time on the 16T sprocket, very little time on the other sprockets. Thus would likely wear out that sprocket long before I put much wear on the other 11 sprockets. I assume you can't buy individual sprockets, probably would need to replace the whole cassette.

For years I have been using my own spreadsheets for gear calculations, thus these plots below are my own spreadsheet plots.

The Shimano 6100 12 speed 1X with a 40T chainring on one of my 26 inch bikes would have gearing like the plot below, note the large increments of about 16 percent between each shift:



My Rohloff bike (14 speeds) with a 44T chainring, that is the chainring I use for riding around near home but on tours I swap to a 36T chainring to lower the gear ranges. Average increment between gears about 13 percent, range is just a hair wider than the 1X system, plot is below:



And the plot below is one of my derailleur touring bikes, also with 26 inch wheels. I am not suggesting that everyone should go out and buy the parts to set up a half step plus granny system, but that is what I have. Triple crank with 46/42/24 chainrings, Sram eight speed 11/32 cassette is 11/12/14/16/18/21/26/32. The plot below does not include the two most cross chained gears for each chainring, thus it shows 18 instead of 24 gears. Average increment between the higher gears is quite small as I can shift between the middle and big rings, but the average increment between the lowest gears is more sizeable. That works for me since I spend most of my time on the middle and big rings, minimal time on the granny gear. On the plot below, the three chainrings are color coded.



So, in summary, all three systems here have about the same range of gearing, the 1X has bigger jumps between each gear than the other options. The derailleur (half step) has the closest gear steps on flat and shallow hills but the largest increments on the lowest gears for steepest hills. And the Rohloff is in between.

A few more notes on my derailleur touring bikes. Initially I was touring on a road triple but with a 24T granny gear instead of the stock 30T, that was my 2004 LHT. Then 12 years ago I built up a 26 inch touring bike with the same drive train. Eight years ago I reduced the big ring from 52 to 46 to give me the half step gearing that I now use on this bike. The LHT had a defective frame and is gone, but I used the same exact gearing when I built up my Lynskey, a 700c light touring bike that I built up five years ago. Thus, I have two derailleur touring bikes with the same drivetrain, but the 700c bike has slightly higher gearing with a bigger wheel.

I suspect almost everybody on this forum is using a nine or ten speed system, most likely using mountain bike triples with something like 42/32/22 chainrings. I am too lazy to plot up those options to plot here. I am just trying to compare the 1X against the options that I personally tour on. And I am not going to try to make a Pinion comparison.

When I first built up my Rohloff bike nine years ago, the 13 percent increment between gears bothered me as I was used to the smaller steps on my derailleur touring bikes, but I eventually got used to it. That said, if I am going to do a tour that is mostly or all on pavement and where the hills are not too steep, I will take one of my derailleur bikes instead of the Rohloff bike because of the tighter gear increments in the gear range where I spend most of my time. And my Rohloff bike is a very heavy duty bike that weighs a lot, that is used on the trips where I expect to carry more gear and need a more robust bike. Or, my Rohloff bike is my only S&S bike, I have done a few trips where that was the deciding factor on which bike to take.

One final note: Of the 1X systems out there, I personally would not tour on anything with less than 500 percent range of gears. But this Shimano 6100 cassette with 510 percent range, that range would probably work for most people if you did not mind the large increments between shifts. I am not interested in it, simply because I think my other options that I already own are better for me.
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Old 04-03-22, 09:30 AM
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Okay, having read dozens of touring gearing threads, I note that there's some amount of over-a-beer bragging about number of useful ratios, total range, fineness of steps, etc. Posters have literally written, "I can brag that...".

I personally would not tour on anything with less than 500 percent range of gears.


One wonders how it was possible that cycletouring survived its first ~100 years? It couldn't possibly have been any fun.

Oh. Wait.

https://3speedtour.com/

So anyway, to combat COVID ennui, I built up a 1X12 all-roads style bike, geared 20-90 g.i. I actually didn't think I'd like it all that much - but I do. I like it a lot. It's true, with only a 90 g.i. top I won't be able to fly downhill under power and get away from mountain scenery quicker, and with only a 20 g.i. bottom I might have to walk that steepest section of Bwlch Y Groes. I dunno. Works for me. I like the straightforward ratios, readily at hand. It allows me to think less about the bike and more about the ride.

Oops, just thought of one new topic in the past couple years. Campy has come out with a 1X that has a 13-speed cassette since that thread was debated.
Hmm. New 1X in the last couple o' years. Well, there's the SRAM Eagle SX with its 11-50, 12-speed...and the SunRace MZ 11-51, 12-speed...and the Microshift Advent X 11-48, 10-speed...and the Sensah 11-46, 11-speed. All of these are quite a bit less dear than Campagnolo - uh, I probably didn't need to say that.
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Old 04-03-22, 12:16 PM
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Originally Posted by tcs
Posters have literally written, "I can brag that...".
...
One wonders how it was possible that cycletouring survived its first ~100 years? It couldn't possibly have been any fun.
...
Hmm. New 1X in the last couple o' years. Well, there's the SRAM Eagle SX with its 11-50, 12-speed...and the SunRace MZ 11-51, 12-speed...and the Microshift Advent X 11-48, 10-speed...and the Sensah 11-46, 11-speed. All of these are quite a bit less dear than Campagnolo - uh, I probably didn't need to say that.
If I came across as bragging, that was not my intent. I was trying to be analytical about the aspects that I see as important. But, if my post offended you that much, just say so and I will erase it.

When I said "I personally would not tour with a range of less than 500 percent," since there are good drivetrains that offer that, why would I want to tour on something narrower? Yes, a lot of touring was done on narrower options when there were not any better options. But, there are those better options out there now. Yes, there are those that only want to ride a fixie. But, I did not tell them that they should not, if that is what they want to do, good for them.

Ok, when I said there was something new, I should have instead said that there is a new (in the past couple years) system that has added one more gear.
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Old 04-03-22, 03:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN
If I came across as bragging, that was not my intent. I was trying to be analytical about the aspects that I see as important. But, if my post offended you that much, just say so and I will erase it.
What you said seemed fine to me. The data was useful.

When I said "I personally would not tour with a range of less than 500 percent," since there are good drivetrains that offer that, why would I want to tour on something narrower?
I wouldn't miss the top gears on any of them, maybe even the top two. So for me those setups are overkill. No harm in having them, but not a necessity.

Of course it will always vary with the rider and the terrain, but for me I am fine without a huge top gear and at some point I'd rather walk than go lower on the low gear that point isn't super low gear since I don't mind mashing a bit.
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Old 04-03-22, 04:00 PM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1
What you said seemed fine to me. The data was useful.
...
... I don't mind mashing a bit.
Thanks. You are lucky you have good knees. My knees have been bad since I was in my 20s. I have not been able to stand on the pedals to accelerate after a stop light for over a decade, backpacking I put the Patellar bands on my knees as soon as I put my boots on in the morning. And carry two Patellar bands in my handlebar bag for the occasional time when I pushed a bit too hard on the pedal.
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Old 04-03-22, 11:51 PM
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Another factor to consider (apologies if it was mentioned previously) is ; repair/replacement. For long tours, I always consider availability of parts. My experience has been, it is much easier to find a 9 s derailleur than an 11/12 speed. The 1X system is becoming more common, but in my travels, I found it rare for a small town bike shop to carry the latest gear.
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Old 04-04-22, 05:32 AM
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Originally Posted by MarcusT
Another factor to consider (apologies if it was mentioned previously) is ; repair/replacement. For long tours, I always consider availability of parts. My experience has been, it is much easier to find a 9 s derailleur than an 11/12 speed. The 1X system is becoming more common, but in my travels, I found it rare for a small town bike shop to carry the latest gear.
That is something to consider. How it factors will vary a bit based on a few factors though. Where you travel is likely a factor. Some parts of the world will likely be much harder to source parts than others. Also how tolerant you are of a day or two of delay might be a factor. In a first world country on a multi month tour you are likely to be able to get parts shipped to you without delaying your trip too badly. Other trips it may be a bigger problem.

I tend to be pretty cavalier about this in any case though since I have found bike drive trains pretty reliable in general. In well over 60 years hundreds of thousands of miles of riding bicycles I have never had a drive train leave me stranded and completely unable to ride. The worst case was when I have a limited set or gears to ride in (or just one).

Most of the major issues weren't on tour, but I have had a wheel failure or two stop me for a bit (some were short delays on tour never a full day). I have broken a couple frames, and I broke a crank or two (never on tour). I have had brakes fail (once on tour when I realized that I was metal on metal and the pads rendered the brakes unusable. I was in the mountains, Fortunately a friend we bumped into was carrying spares). I have broken axles (never on tour). I have had several headsets fail (on MTBs, never on tour) A lot of that was in the old days even before I toured. I have had a shifter vibrate apart and screws get lost. I have had a frayed shifting cable break (the closest thing to a drive train failure I've had on tour).

My point being that tons of stuff can fail, but most of it has nothing to do with the actual drive train and you can generally limp along with most failures (maybe with an improvised temporary fix) at least until a proper fix is available. By the way that is one thing I do like about 2x or 3x systems. If one derailleur doesn't work due to derailleur, cable, or shifter fauilure, you can still shift the other derailleur after rigging up the other to be in one gear of your choice. That way you still at least have a limited subset of gears.
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Old 04-04-22, 07:20 AM
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Originally Posted by MarcusT
Another factor to consider (apologies if it was mentioned previously) is ; repair/replacement. For long tours, I always consider availability of parts. My experience has been, it is much easier to find a 9 s derailleur than an 11/12 speed. The 1X system is becoming more common, but in my travels, I found it rare for a small town bike shop to carry the latest gear.
I try to be quite careful with my bike when far from home, but when I built up my touring bikes I stressed reliability, easy to repair, easy to replace (purchase parts), and robust components.

That said, there are things that I thought I would always be able to buy, but it is getting harder to find 36 spoke rims, some shops no longer carry eight speed cassettes, etc.

I like the Shimano rear derailleur from the 1990s, I have these on several of my bikes. But I am starting to replace the jockey wheels on them.


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Old 04-04-22, 09:46 AM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN
That said, there are things that I thought I would always be able to buy, but it is getting harder to find 36 spoke rims, some shops no longer carry eight speed cassettes, etc.
Perhaps not the norm, but when I needed a 32 spoke rim for a 1990 vintage 7 speed wheel in the middle of a tour I couldn't locate one locally where I was. I was hoping for one that would lace up on the same hub with the same spokes where the old open pro was, but I couldn't find anything 32 hole. I find that a quick swap when the rm is compatible. I settled for a complete wheel that was 36 hole. It was a little lower quality parts, but okay. I keep threatening to build up a wheel like the old one though (dt swiss spokes, 105 hub, open pro rim).
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Old 04-05-22, 10:31 PM
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46T cogs belong on the front, NOT the back. That's what's all wrong with 1x.
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Old 04-06-22, 06:13 AM
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Bottom line for me.... sure you could, especially if it's what you already have. But I wouldn't purchase a bike with a one-by setup for touring... A triple or double set up with the same range as a one-by system has far less differences between gears and therefore is far better for carrying a load.
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Old 04-06-22, 02:16 PM
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When I was a kid we had single speeds, then 3-speed sturmey-archer which was a dream. Since then going through 5, 10, 12, 14, 16, 24Ö it just got better and better. Now I have 30 gears on my touring bike and still canít believe how great it is 😊 Ainít gonna be going backwards, no sir!

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Old 05-30-23, 08:01 PM
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A Deore 11-speed 11-51t cogset gives you 464% range. For light- and medium-load touring, where top end speed is relatively unimportant, I'd say it's hard to ignore.

An advantage of the 11-speed Deore M5100 part over the M6100 12-speed 10-51t part is the the former, unlike the latter, can be mounted on a standard freehub spline, and is quite a bit less expensive.

A triple crankset today? With the widening range of cogsets in the last decade, no. Today, a double at most, for sure.

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Old 05-31-23, 11:02 PM
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The trouble with those really large range cassettes is that you have huge steps between gears. It's not as comfortable to shift and often you find yourself pedaling in a gear that is less than optimal. Yes, if you are only concerned with the top and low gear inches, it might seem adequate but in real world touring, I personally didn't enjoy it. ymmv
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