Since the release of XX1 by Sram I’d been intrigued but skeptical, I am typically a gear masher, run a 42/28 combo in the front and love to crush the flats in mountain bike races, how would this work for me…I didn’t think there were enough gears. I spent a few hours over a period of time looking at gearing charts and pondering what to do.
The Bianchi Methanol FS I have now is such a great bike, and I wanted to get it as light as possible to keep the lightweight feel of my outgoing hardtail, but still benefit from the suspension now on offer. The front derailer arrangement gave me a weight weenie headache as the high direct mounted derailer options were slim and pretty heavy. I went partway down the road of converting the front mech to a road Sram Red derailer, but the angles and possible functionality would be poor.
Along came Wolftooth. These guys make non drop chainrings to fit most cranks and the longer toothed profile is supposed to hold your chain on. They certainly work with a chain guide and a Clutch or Type Two rear derailer setup in 10 speed systems – negating the need to change over completely to XX1. I was running XX with Gripshifters and this does not include a clutch mech at the rear, I got an E-13 XCX chainguide for some insurance and then chose a Wolftooth direct mount GXP ring.
Weighing only 68 grams this replaces the entire spider and both rings including chainring bolts on a SRAM XO crankset. Although its labelled GXP it will fit both the XO GXP and BB30 cranksets, but the chainline is designed for GXP. Since I was running a BB30 version I had to rework the spacer setup on the cranks to get a good clearance between the rings teeth and my chain stay. I achieved this by moving the adjustable standard spacer from the non drive side, and replacing it with two 2mm aluminium spacer rings, and then using the adjustable spacer on the drive side instead set at 10mm wide. This gave me enough clearance and a decent chain line too.
The result is what I call “Tenglespeed” not singlespeed or ten speed but a mix of the two! I chose a 34T ring and I run a 11-36t cassette on the rear.
The first signs of greatness were found on the scale: The front twist shifter including cable outer and inner weighed 144g. The Sram X7 high direct front derailer weighed 135g and the Sram XO spider and 28/42 rings came in at 226g. That totaled 505g of weight loss, less the 68g ring going on and you have a 437g diet. I also took two links out of the chain but had to run a slighter longer grip on the left handlebar probably averaging 15g more. Still 420g is a lot to drop on already lightweight machine!
My initial ride was amazing, I wanted to test the gearing ratio for climbing and set off to the Tokai Mast, a mix of gravel and tar, averaging ten percent but ramping up to 17% in places. I had enough gears in the 34/36 but thought one more would be nice if I was tired or if the terrain on the steep slopes was loose. The BB area looked so clean and uncluttered and the handlebar felt empty on the left. Then it was time to hit the descent and into the rough. I went through some seriously rocky jeep track after the rains had washed big ruts into it. No drops. On the flats or descents in the 34/11 I could still turn the pedals under load at 40kmph which should be enough on any open sections.
Along the saddle I could easily pedal along and I felt like the front 34T gave me a ratio that put me into a zone and cadence that I haven’t experienced before, it just seemed so easy, it was nice and quiet too! So far so good.
In testing I have since climbed the Mast and Noordhoek Peak twice and ridden every XC singletrack in Tokai both up and down which is currently pretty damp and very rocky and rooty, ramped speed humps and taken jumps. In probably 15 hours of riding I haven’t dropped a single chain. Every now and then I feel the chain touch the inside of my heel over some gnarly stuff but the Wolftooth keeps it on! Another great plus is the ease of cleaning a dirty BB area without all the mechs in the way!
Even without a chainguide or clutch its been superbly functional. I will most likely get a 32T ring as well and use that on steeper courses or when I know I’ll be running out of legs.
For anyone looking the add all the benefits of an XX1 system at a fraction of the cost the Wolftooth chainrings are superb.