SRAM 1×11 review

Hi peeps! It’s been quite a while since I had done a gear review. As 2015 comes to a close, the past 11 months had been a blast for all of us in IronProject. Some of us had set new PBs, some had took part in more races than the year before, I along with Ian and Craig experienced Roth, some new members joined us and the best of all was the tie-up we’re having with Club Rainbow now. We’re all set for an exciting 2016!

Over the course of the year, the relentless wave of new technologies and enhancements continued in the biking scene. New products were introduced, some were even made available to the market already. Examples like road bikes with disc brakes, more options of budget powermeters, wireless and hydraulic gear shifting, more radically designed bikes, etc, etc. Most of them would probably require you to take up a mortgage. However, there’s one new product by SRAM that raised many fevered brows and the best of all, won’t cost you an arm or a kidney. It’s the new 1×11 road groupset from SRAM.

 

2015-10-25 10.43.55

1×11 on my DIMOND

 

I would be wrong to say that the concept is totally new, because SRAM had the 1×11 system for MTBs for a while now, and it had been used to great effect. Races and championships were won on the 1×11. So no question about it’s pedigree then. So SRAM decided to have it for cyclocross. And again, it had good results to show. So sometime early this year, SRAM made the 1×11 available for road bike applications.

Some of us may go: “Hey, there’s no way I can handle a single chainring at the front! How am I going to climb?” That’s a valid concern, especially for most weekend warriors or CAT3 cyclists. But ask yourself this; What’s the most common drivetrain set-up amongst your two-wheeled brethren? 53/39? 50/34? or the newly introduced pro-compact gearing of 52/36? What’s your rear cassette ratio? close like 11-25? or wide as 11-28?

Next question. How many times do you really have to drop down to the smaller ring at the front? Especially while riding in Singapore? And ask yourself honestly, how many times had you crossed-chained out of pure laziness? (i.e. Big ring with the biggest cog) Once I had to ride home for 40km on the 39-teeth because I hadn’t shifted the front derailleur for a few weeks from all the fast, flat riding. Gunk, grime and crystallized sweat had jammed up my derailleur, preventing it from shifting back up to 53… From that episode, I made it a habit to ‘exercise’ the front mech just to keep it in working condition. But I have to say it’s fault on my part that I didn’t make the necessary routine maintenance on my bike.

 

2015-10-30 17.43.07

Even sleeker now on the 1×11 without the front derailleur.

 

So with all that mentioned, my take is; As long as you don’t do a lot of hilly riding, or take part in hilly races or races with lots of rolling terrain, and your bike is just mainly just used for social, or average paced rides, you won’t really need double gears at the front. Worried about ratios? SRAM has front chainrings ranging from 38 teeth all the way up to 54 for big gear mashers, and rear cassettes with cogs up to 36 teeth. SRAM provides gearing solutions for cyclocross riders all the way to tarmac-tearing triathletes. Just take your pick. For the geeks out there searching for their ideal config, just google Sheldon Brown 😉

And there’s no worry of chain drops as well due to SRAM’s X-SYNC teeth design for the 1×11 system. They simply made the teeth taller and wider on the alternating teeth to make the the chain sit snug on the chainring. And to further enhance the security of the chain to a greater effect, you can have the option of using SRAM’s CX1 rear clutch derailleur. It gives a greater piece of mind if you’re riding on gravel or rough and uneven roads.  And good news for you guys who still have a 10-speed cassette on your precious wheel that you can’t bear to part with. The CX1 11-speed rear derailleur is 10-speed compatible. Sounds like magic? Go check out the SRAM webpage for all the info you’d like to know about the 1×11.

 

2015-11-07 15.10.39

This fella here just craves for attention…

 

And I haven’t even mentioned about the reduced costs of not requiring to buy a front derailleur. The left lever’s sole function, which also costs less, will only be just used for braking. Not to mention a cheaper front crankset as well. The upsides simply outweighs the negatives. The only disadvantages I can think of is that you’re fixed with one ratio at the front and it would have it’s limitations somehow, but this really depends on what kind of riding you do most.

Secondly, if you DO happen to take part in any UCI-sanctioned road races, the long teethed chainring is deemed to be too dangerous if there’s a crash… A bit funny that they allow disc-brakes for now. Seems like it’s SAFE to the UCI, that red hot discs under braking can cut through flesh like a hot knife on butter. Well, not up for us to decide eh? But good news for short course triathletes taking part in ITU draft-legal races. The 1×11 is allowed (Phew!)

I got the 1×11 from T3 Bicycle Gears and had the drivetrain set up on my DIMOND, in preparation for IM70.3 Mandurah. The race had a flat bike course and the drivetrain worked flawlessly. One less component to worry about and there’s proof that without a front derailluer, there’s less aerodynamic drag also. Initially I had my worries of drivetrain friction with the taller and thicker chainring teeth but I had experienced none of that, in fact the system actually felt smoother and quieter due to the snug chainline. A brief description of my set-up are as follows:

  • SRAM FORCE22 crank with QUARQ RIKEN powermeter 130BCD
  • SRAM CX1 54 teeth chainring
  • SRAM FORCE22 rear derailleur with CERAMIC SPEED pulleys
  • SRAM PG1190 11-28 cassette
  • SRAM RC1190 R2C shifters (Left one as dummy)
  • KMC X-11SL chain

To summarise, there’s simply no reason not to consider SRAM’s 1×11 if you’re in the market to change to a new drivetrain. It’s simpler, cheaper, and less maintenance in the long run. Especially for keen cyclists that adhere to the n+1 rule, you can save quite a bit on your new build with the 1×11. I shall conclude this review by listing out the pros and cons.

 

1179_016000

1×11 coming through!!!

 

PROS:

  1. Cheaper to build and run
  2. Shave weight without hurting your wallet
  3. One less component to worry about
  4. Wide range of ratios available
  5. 10-speed compatible
  6. Long cage derailleur available for those running wider ratios
  7. Smooth and reliable drivetrain
  8. You become stronger cyclist (Explained by point no 3 under ‘CONS’)
  9. You and your bike will look cool…

CONS:

  1. Swapping out the front chainring can be a chore, only IF you have to keep changing it.
  2. Wide ratio cogs may need some getting used to.
  3. Steep climbs will be more daunting.
  4. Having to train more for steeps climbs as a consequence.

In one sentence:

“Cycling just got simpler and the 1×11 is here to stay.”

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