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A Case for... Banning the front derailleur

By Bruce Lin

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As of today (4.1.2021), the UCI’s ban on the “super tuck” and the forearms-on-bars aero riding positions will take effect. Like minimum bike weight and sock height, many riders see these rules as arbitrary. But what may shock you is what the UCI wants to ban next — the front derailleur!

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Road Bike 1x drivetrainThat’s right, pretty soon, the entire peloton will be forced to use 1x drivetrains. Oh no! Is this the work of the cycling Illuminati? An elaborate industry conspiracy to get everyone to buy new drivetrains? Or am I just pulling your leg because it’s April Fools Day?

Obviously, I’m joking. But even though it’s a joke, it highlights an interesting point. Right now, most roadies seem to hate 1x drivetrains.

Surf the forums or chat with old-timers on group rides and you’ll find plenty of 1x doubters ready to write a novel about why it’s wrong for road bikes. You see, roadies are notoriously slow to adopt new technology. How many still believe the rim brake needs saving? Most probably still keep the air in their tires with archaic rubber tubes. The front derailleur has worked for nearly 100 years, why mess with it?

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Hey, I get it. Adapting to new things costs us time, money, and patience. But for me, ongoing tech refinement brings me the most joy in cycling. Do you want to watch the same movies, listen to the same music, and ride the same bike every day until you die? Not me! Let’s innovate and try new things.

3T Strada 1x road bike drivetrainThis 3T Strada is one of only a few road bikes that come equipped with a 1x drivetrain. 

Sure 2x still works, just like rim brakes and tubes still work. But after experiencing disc brakes and tubeless tires on my road bike, I’ll never go back. I expect the same thing to happen with 1x road drivetrains. The front derailleur is already extinct in the mountain bike world and 1x is slowly becoming the dominant option in gravel too. If history repeats itself, 1x will probably endure a few more years of hate and resistance before it becomes the standard on road bikes. Personally, I can’t wait.

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Since 2015, the majority of my bikes have been 1x. Every time I hop back on a bike with a 2x, I have to reacquaint myself with the front derailleur. It’s fine, but I always miss the simplicity and convenience I’ve become accustomed to. It’s like when I smashed the screen of my iPhone X with Face-ID. I had to temporarily go back to my retired iPhone 7 with Touch-ID. I found myself constantly fumbling to unlock my phone and missing the newer, more convenient technology.

Yes, shifting a front derailleur isn’t that hard, but it still requires an extra bit of energy and thought. This is especially true when riding rolling terrain. I have to carefully plan my front shifts in that awkward transition from high-speed descent or flat into the base of a hill. With a 1x, that little bit of thought and energy goes back into pedaling or just enjoying my ride. Even if you have an electronic drivetrain that makes front shifts effortless, a front derailleur complicates things. A single chainring eliminates that matter entirely.

Time trial TT Tri bike 1x single ring drivetrainA 1x is one of the many secrets to speed for this Cervelo P5. Photo courtesy of Cervelo. 

Plus there are a few other nice benefits. Ditching a derailleur and chainring saves weight. Time trial specialists have already found that removing the front derailleur can have a positive effect on aerodynamics. And if you like bigger tires, removing the front derailleur gives you more clearance.

Mads Pedersen John Degenkolb Trek 1x madone road bike world tour pro racersJohn Degenkolb (center) and Mads Pedersen (right) riding 1x Trek Madones at the Tour of California. Photo by Ray Rogers / Flickr Creative Commons. 

I’m not the only one who is excited about the possibilities of 1x. Some big World Tour pros have already experimented with it in major races. Mads Pedersen brought a 1x-equipped bike to the race the cobbled classics. Pederson and his former Trek-Segafredo teammate, John Degenkolb, also raced the 2019 Tour of California and Milan-San Remo on a 1x. (The doubters will point out that Degenkolb dropped his chain in MSR, but any 1x aficionado knows that’s a very rare occurrence. I’ve dropped chains more on a 2x, and Degenkolb’s gaffe still was not as bad as “chain-gate”)

I got the chance to speak with another Trek-Segafredo rider, Kiel Reijnen, to see why he’s also become a 1x believer.

“I actually had my Paris-Roubaix bike set up with 1x last year,” Reijnen says. “Unfortunately, Roubaix didn't happen. But in the classics, if you never have to go down to the inner ring, and you get to skip that little hesitation or pause where you shift up into the big ring at the crest of the climb, that can be the difference between staying attached and losing a couple of bike lengths.”

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Kiel Reijnan 1x road bike trek madoneKiel Reijnen's teammates used 1x at the 2019 Tour of California. Less than a month later he chose to race the 2019 Unbound Gravel 200 on a 1x and became a convert. Photo by Ray Rogers / Flickr Creative commons.

Despite his eagerness to use 1x, Reijnen agrees that it will probably be a few years before 1x really takes over in the pro ranks.

“Especially on the European pro side, it takes a lot of time for everyone to adjust and adapt,” he says. “Change happens slowly and technology is available before the riders are willing to accept it. Right now, I don’t think anyone is daring enough to use it for a mountainous Vuelta stage — I'm thinking of those 90-kilometer Andorran stages we've done a few times. But, if you’re just going to go do that on your own, for fun, a 1x drivetrain is perfect.”

Cannondale Synapse SE 1x sram road bike drivetrainMy simple and lovely Cannondale Synapse SE tackled everything I wanted to ride with a 1x drivetrain. 

I’m reasonably (not extraordinary) fit and I’ve never had issues climbing on my 1x. I’ve done many of the hardest climbs in Colorado on a Cannondale Synapse with a 46t chainring and 10-42t cassette. It was comparable to a 2x drivetrain with 52/36t chainrings and an 11-32t cassette. If I ever needed easier climbing gear for a mountainous day I could swap to a 44t or 42t chainring in only a few minutes. And there was always enough top end to go well over 30mph with the 10t small cog.

“At home, I pretty much exclusively ride on a 1x,” Reijnen says. “Now, I definitely think it’s the future, especially with wireless drivetrains. Everything becomes an interchangeable, modular system. In pro racing, we are seeing everything get more course-specific. Riders already switch between climbing bikes and aero bikes. I think as 1x gains traction, we'll continue to see that trend translate not just to the frames, but drivetrains as riders and teams match them to different profiles. I literally do that now. Depending on where I’m riding, I like to swap chainrings, then cassettes and derailleurs to get the perfect range for climbs, crits, mud, or whatever.”

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The fact is, most of us aren’t World Tour pros, and the vast majority of cyclists are out riding for fun. There’s no reason we everyday riders need to wait to experience the simplicity 1x offers. Thanks to SRAM’s latest AXS drivetrains, there are multiple great 1x options for the road. If you’re worried about gear range, the 10-50t cassette and Eagle derailleur will let you granny gear up the steepest climbs without spinning out on the way back down.

I’m surprised by how little I missed 1-tooth jumps between gears. Reijnen agreed with me. But if you are worried about the gaps, the 12-speed 10-33t cassette Pedersen chose for the cobbled classics has five 1-tooth jumps. A bigger 10-36t still has three 1-tooth jumps right where you need them, between the four hardest gears.

Here is my prediction. In a few years 1x will get even better. They’ll get even lighter and more efficient. We’ll have even more range and even more 1-tooth jumps. Like with disc brakes and tubeless tires, the critics will fade away as their concerns are addressed. Plus, exciting new technologies like the Classified Powershift hub could speed up the process and kill the front derailleur sooner than expected.

1x road bike drivetrainRIP my old friend.

The days of the front derailleur are numbered, and I think instead of fighting it, we should start making arrangements for when it finally passes. We can cherish it while it’s still here, and celebrate its long and fruitful life. But we should also look forward to a brighter, simpler future without it.

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“A case for…” is a place for unpopular opinions, weird ideas, and unloved bikes and components. For every cyclist who rides to the beat of their own drum, there’s a case for you.

Do you think I’m a dirty, foolish mountain biker and that 1x drivetrains have no place on road bikes? Or have you already seen the light of the great 1x? Let us know in the comments!


57 comments


  • enjoyed most if not all comments, unfortunately people can not refrain from " force it upon us, shove down our throat" comments…it’s not a covid forum dingus’s…it’s a trend not an absolution, and as long as we can still buy 2&3x gruppos w/corn cobs we will ALL be ok…okay?…luv me sum 1x though if I’m tossing my rudy P’s into the ring!

    andrew on

  • Well heck, if it works for the author then it must work for everyone. After all, what’s better than an n=1 sample size?

    I use far more gears on my bike than can I ever get on a 1x, and my front derailleur works great. What am I missing? A minuscule reduction in weight? So what, the influence of weight on bike performance is far overstated, especially if we’re talking about a weight difference of much less than 1% of the total bike/rider system weight. A minuscule reduction in drag? Seriously, that little drag is important? Less effort and thought? Really? If thinking about and performing a front shift is that taxing, it might be time to think about whether cycling is right for you.

    Robin on

  • All six of my bikes are now 1x’s. Both mountain bikes started that way but swapped in 28 oval chain rings. One cassette 11 cogs 9×46 (replaced 11×42) and the other came with 11×50 cassette (12 speed). Set up an older road bike for climbing with a single 28 oval chain ring and 11×46 cassette. Other road bike with the same cassette and a 34 wolftooth chain ring. Grave/cross bike, 28 round with 11×46 cassette.

    On my in town bike (inexpensive mtn bike), pulled off a tripe chain ring, went to a single 34, kept the mtn bike cassette, whatever it was, in the back, and now just ride it almost exclusively in flat areas (10 speed)

    I’m happy with all the modifications. Got rid of the drop bars also on three bikes and put in flat bars.

    Davis Straub on

  • They don’t make bicycles for geriatric riders. I’m 76 and my legs have no torque so a 1x is unreadable for me. I build my own bikes. My mountain bike is all carbon, including the crank and has a double chainring, 34×21. Rear 11×46. The bike weighs a round 20 pounds, is rigid, not slack and has 26 + wheels for my shrinking short body. My gravel/touring bike has a vintage Panasonic frame, widened stays to accept 40mm tires, click shift brake levers, cross top brakes and tripple chainrings. I just got back from a gravel camping trip and the bike weighed over 76 pounds. There is no way I could ride hundreds of miles without constant gear shifting throughout the whole range. I would have to go electric if my only option was 1×.

    Clyde Hecox on

  • I use 3 gears my entire ride – up hill, downhill, level. so a 1x will be fine provided I can line up my preferred gear ratios in advance. Might make for an interesting rear cassette though. I prob only need three gears but then I might be accused of being a Schwinn 3 speed sting ray kid.

    As for disc- I like discs – you can set them up as you like them – but — to be clear I like the mechanical disc sets – with a metal mechanical brake line – much easier to carry a spare and it weighs nothing – I am NOT a fan of hydraulics – just another system to fail. JASTF.

    Joe Farrell on

  • I have an actual question, not an opinion: why don’t we see road bikes with a 1 x set-up of 46 to 50 teeth up front, and 10-50 (or 51, 51, whatever) in the rear? Is there some kind of chain length limit you’re going to run up against pairing the 50T front with a 50+ tooth rear?

    OK, now for a quick opinion: I do like having a sub-1:1 on my road / gravel bike (I often carry panniers) and also to have a nice beefy top end so I can keep up with the Joneses adding power down roads at 35mph, so I’m kinda waiting for a road 1x with more range than the current 42 × 10:42 before I take the plunge.

    LMK what you think.

    David Saxton on

  • I only read the first 10 comments and already the naysayers are out in force. My advice to them? STFU and be happy with their ‘old’ bikes while I enjoy my modern Pinarello Grevil+ disc brakes and Campy Ekar components – that’s a 13-speed 1×. Cheers!

    Joon Lee on

  • Too simplistic. Ride pavement in an area where 1x 11-28 is enough? Go for it. Otherwise, the huge jumps in gearing/cadence of a wide range cassette are not worth what 1x provides.

    Mark on

  • Tubeless low pressure tires, disc brakes and now 1x drivetrains are industry driven changes to turn over rider equipment. The pros don’t care because it’s free for them. We should care because most of these changes are needless. Disc brakes on dirt bikes make sense in the mud. Road bikes rarely are in the mud. Larger diameter tubeless tires are a huge pain to install, change and fill with sealer. They absorb shock better but are slower. How many time trials are ridden on them? One x drive trains will create power losses from greater chain angle from front to rear.
    Change is inevitable, but it should be an improvement instead of a $$$ hustle.

    Roman Kalyniuk on

  • While they’re at it, maybe they should add a drop post to get around the top tube tuck rule. My new bike is a 3x so pricks like you can point and write 2,500 words on why I’m wrong. Then again, I also have a bike with one gear that’s a blast to ride. Hopefully, people will just ignore this and buy the right tool for what they want to do. As for you Bruce Lin, I hope you can reflect on all the productivity the world has lost because you spent the time to write this article and others took the time to read it — time that could have been used for positive change in this world.

    Benjamin Kirk on

  • I am a mtn biker & have been for 24 years. I recently had a chance to ride a 2020 Giant Trance Sram 1X12. I had shifting issues the entire time. I’m a slow climber, a decent descender, & I use every ring. On long climbs I missed having a granny gear, the 1X12 wasn’t low enough & I had to stop to recover. 1X12 may work in Fla or Kansas, but if you pedal near real mountains, 2X12 would be fine.

    Sam Hollis on

  • Please be an ambassadoe for all technologies or be silent about the ones you don’t want. Stop trying to be a media organization. Help us get safe cycling laws universally like a safe passing distance for cars. I’m on tubes, rim brakes, mechanical, and 2X aren’t I allowed to prefer these without hearing others hate about me being wrong? My bike is 17 poounds with suspension stem and shock absorbing seatpost, and I’ve ridden 80 miles in a day and wouldn’t change any of the standards. I nither hate your bike, you, nor the choices you make. I just dont see the value or performance for road riding.

    Rick Everett on

  • The only argument I have heard against 1X that warrants consideration is that the greater power loss of 1X due to chain alignment. I have seen very few people talking about this. I would love to hear people chime in.

    lars strong on

  • And then remember how Aqua Blue Sport riders made 3T add Strada model with 2x drivetrains.

    Michael on

  • I’m sorry but it really sounds like your sponsored by sram or others, my knees love a 2x or even an xt 3×. One of my riding bros went from a stk 32t 1x to a 28 for climbing on his 29” HE ibis I ride with a 26/36 11spd 27.5 and absolutely smoke him with gas left at the end, we are over sixty , and any mechanical engineer should cringe at that driveline nonsense lol

    Edward on

  • You should just use Di2 full syncro for the same experience

    Jon on

  • South Florida rider on a complete Campy flatbar performance hybrid set up with a 1x (42T) 12-25 10Sp.
    Couldn’t be happier.

    Joseph Truscello on

  • I’ve had 2x and 3x road bikes. There were so many wasted gears. I never really had any shifting issues though and only a few dropped chains over the years. When I bought my Salsa Warbird last yeaL I quickly feel in love with the 1×. The drivetrain is very quiet, shifting is reliable and the simplicity is wonderful. I do wish I had one lower gear for some of the steep climbs I encounter and I know I can accomplish that with a second rear cluster or just swap out the lowest gear with something lower. For now I’m really happy with the simplicity of my 1x and the desire to go back to a 2x or 3x is non-existent.

    Michael Erb on

  • Mountain bikes get a big design benefit from 1X since it removes several significant constraints from the design of the rear suspension and pivot points, especially around the bottom bracket. Road bikes? I read your whole list and all I came away with was “I don’t have to think as hard”. You’re seriously going to talk about the weight savings of 1X, and then a few paragraphs later talk about a stack of rear cogs that go up to 50T?

    EddyKilowatt on

  • This article is so poo poo
    Not cuhz im against 1x but so many unexplained claims.

    1. Gravel and mountain use 1x because on those rough parkours, you dont have to worry about chain drop.
    2. TT a 1x is more feasible because you are just maintaining pace, most TT dont go up hills and if they do, youd either swap bikes or wish you have a 2×.

    3. The weight drop isnt as much as youd think because that weight goes to the bigger, heavier, rear cog youll have to have.

    4. Actually the aerodynamic claims are weak and ceramic speed actually showed that you get more favorable chain positioning with a 2×.

    Sure there are situations where a 1x is better, but once again its situation specific.

    Also dont do things cuhz pros do it. Youll have a bad time. They run 11-28 rear 38-58 front on mountain stages.

    Sky on

  • When I got my Salsa gravel bike three years ago it had a 1X and I asked my LBS if I should put a front derailleur on it. The said, “Ride it first and then let us know if I wanted them to do it.” Well, one year later I was removing the double from my Specialized Diverge. And one year ago, we went to a 1X on our racing tandem. With a 42 chainring and a 11×42 on the rear, we have no problem climbing and have never dropped a chain. I only use wide-narrow chainrings.

    Jim on

  • If you’re really using the whole range of your rear cluster, the chainline issues or 1X aren’t going away. 2X is so good at managing chainline issues (when on the big cogs (left), use the small chainring (left)), and on the road the roughness of adverse chainline is more obvious and annoying (and watt-draining). Plenty of 1X setups are really clunky in the biggest cog, even when well-adjusted and lubricated…and that is where you’re likely to be putting the most torque into the drivetrain. So for an all-around road bike that I actually climb and descend and cruise on the flat? No 1X for me, thanks.

    Duncan on

  • Dr. Alex Moulton: high performance 1X road bikes since 1965.

    Tom Shaddox on

  • TPC: “Roadies are notoriously slow to adopt new technology,”
    Also TCP: ‘Steel is real’ when roadies gave it up decades ago.

    ivan on

  • Respect your opinion, but love my double Cervelo and Serotta and love my triple Colnago even more. All riders are not the same, please don’t shove your opinions on others. Agree with Paul Rinnehart’s comment. At one end of the riding spectrum are single speeders, at the other end are electric bike riders. Plenty of room for all of us to enjoy the sport in our own way.

    Ron Phifer on


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