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  1. #1
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    Can't decide on drivetrain

    Hi all,

    After years of commuting and over thinking it, I came to the conclusion that the best commuter (for me) was a drop bar CX/road bike with discs and an internally geared hub. Value is of no concern to me as I keep the bike indoors at both end of the commute.

    - Drops because I have a windy commute at times so I'd like to be able to get low.
    - CX (style) to allow for a little bit more upright position, and also to allow for fatter tyres (700x38c) as half of my commute is on gravel and even more can be on trails if I have time.
    - Discs because I am a mountain biker and I can't accept the stopping power of anything less
    - IGH rather than a derailleur setup because it's low maintenance.

    As it comes time for me to build this bike however, I am having concerns about the drivetrain. I love simplicity, I have even considered singlespeed but I know my commute is just too long and hilly to do it.

    IGH's are heavy, but worse than that I am concerned about drag. I was hoping that someone else here could raise some points that I might not have already considered. At the moment I am toying with the idea of a 1x10 setup.

  2. #2
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    You sound in the same boat as me. My call is wait on the new Shimano 105 announced last week. Hydro discs with mechanical shifting. 105 has always been the solid workhorse in the shimano range. Well worth a look. I know it's not the simplicity of IGH/SS but after years of SS I'm looking for a change and gears aren't really that much work. A good IGH setup costs some coin too plus finding compatible frames can be an issue. A 1x setup would be nice but I'll most likely be going 2x to get the full range for dirt and road. One thing with a standard geared bike is you could luck out and find something off the shelf on sale (though I would miss the pleasure building my own bike). Happy shopping and I'll be watching this thread with interest.

  3. #3
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    my favorite set up yet was a 1x10 XT set up.so little drag. forgetable, in a good way.

    Right now I'm riding an alfine 8. and it's a mixed bag. I like the clean look. low maintenance. shifting while stopped. but the drag is a bit distracting. especially on hill climbs. I've only got 300 or so miles on it. So I hope it gets better with time. I am also told that repacks help this too. and again, I am told the 11 speed has less drag.

    all that being said I am looking into getting a 2x10 105 drivetrain. with either flat bar shifters or downtube shifters. My SLX hydraulics will hopefully be here by weeks end. I will say that I found the shimano CX-77's to be lacking in power. I'm 270 pounds. so I ask for a lot from my brakes. I doubt they'd be an issue for the under 200 set.

    I am also currently running Schwalbe Little Big Bens, 700x38 and I love the tire. though I wish I had bought the black instead of the brown.

  4. #4
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    I have a 1x10 mixed bag drivetrain and I'm pretty happy with it. SLX 9spd shadow rear derailleur and XT 11-36 cassette with a 46t chainring and Retroshift cx1v levers (they are a 1x10 lever with long pull brake levers for mtn pull cable discs).

    Shimano has me tempted with their new hydro brake levers with mechanical shifting because I've been wanting hydros on my commuter for awhile, but an appropriate solution didn't exist at the time. The price hurts. And they are 11spd. I'd have to go 2x11 if I wanted to make it work, and essentially it'd be a whole new drivetrain. And probably wheelset. I don't think my wheels are 11spd compatible.

  5. #5
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    Was in the same boat as you. Current ride is a 2013 Jamis Nova Race. I ditched all of the Tiagra 4600 running gear and went 1x10 with a Rival rear shifter, X9 Type 2 short cage, XT 11-36 cassette and XTR chain. The new RaceFace N/W CX rings work great. So far, the BB7 road calipers have proved adequate after bedding in some new rotors, but I'm thinking about the TRP Hy/Rd or Spyres for a little more power. Very happy with the result though.

  6. #6
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    I had a 'cross bike commuter with drops and discs (mechanical BB7's) for a long time... I had a 1x8 set up on it, but it wasn't really 1x8...I kept the granny ring on the crankset, and kicked the chain down with my toe for big climbs or monster headwinds...no front D. Worked really well.
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  7. #7
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    ^ the fake-1x setup is what I use for winter on my 29er, although I never got the kick to work. I just accept that for low gear ratios I have make a quick stop. Running a double with the narrow-wide rings could work: a big ss ring for road, and pricier 36 narrow-wide for offroad.

  8. #8
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    So OP, what kind of gearing are you using now ? Can you get that range with like an alfine 8 or 11? I'm running 38-48 with a 30-12 cassette on the cross check. Will a 1x10 get the range you need for hills+ wind?

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by jasevr4 View Post
    Hi all,

    After years of commuting and over thinking it, I came to the conclusion that the best commuter (for me) was a drop bar CX/road bike with discs and an internally geared hub. Value is of no concern to me as I keep the bike indoors at both end of the commute.

    - Drops because I have a windy commute at times so I'd like to be able to get low.
    - CX (style) to allow for a little bit more upright position, and also to allow for fatter tyres (700x38c) as half of my commute is on gravel and even more can be on trails if I have time.
    - Discs because I am a mountain biker and I can't accept the stopping power of anything less
    - IGH rather than a derailleur setup because it's low maintenance.

    As it comes time for me to build this bike however, I am having concerns about the drivetrain. I love simplicity, I have even considered singlespeed but I know my commute is just too long and hilly to do it.

    IGH's are heavy, but worse than that I am concerned about drag. I was hoping that someone else here could raise some points that I might not have already considered. At the moment I am toying with the idea of a 1x10 setup.
    When I built my commuter i was pretty fed up with all these finicky derailleur systems and how many gears does one need really?? I was running a gt avalanche expert with salsa cromoto and 1x9 (36x11-32) for a couple of years but thought it was to much of a hassle to continue with. Especially hydro brakes, had shimanos and formulas, too much service imo.

    So I also considered going the igh route, but the more I read the more it became clear that they are inefficient and break quite easily. except the rohloff of course. But thats expensive.

    In the end i went with a drop bar 26er (due to the availability of tires, everything is available in 26, no toe overlap either), and a 6sp drivetrain, consisting 9sp xtr shifter, a jtek pull converter to make it pull 8sp cassette spacing, 2 8sp cassettes (with no "carrier) that I made one 6sp of (13-28 currently), and a 42 up front, 8sp kmc chain, their best one.

    I can't imagine any other system more reliable, durable, unfinicky, smooth and tolerant than this. The first time I built it up I only eyeballed all the settings on the RD, tightened the cable and I was off for a spin (to adjust everything). To my surprise there was nothing to adjust! It shifted perfectly. Thats 8sp

    I run bb7 roads, and thoseI can really recommend to someone wanting discs but is tired of all the crap with hydros.
    Rule #9 // If you are out riding in bad weather, it means you are a badass. Period.

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  10. #10
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    I have 6 bikes and 3 of them are single speeds, but derailleurs really aren't that tricky or difficult to maintain. Front derailleurs can be tricky to set up, but once they work they usually go on working for a very long time. Really, what maintenance is there? A little cable tension adjustment once in awhile? Big deal.

    Personally I'd stay away from hydraulic disc brakes on a drop bar commuter for awhile just to make sure the bugs are worked out. Avid BB7s are good enough.

  11. #11
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    ^ yeah, I like fixed and ss, but have to admire the rear derailleur as a beautiful piece of design. The front derailleur on the other hand is all inelegant brute force, and most people would be much happier without it.

  12. #12
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    Well I'm blown away by the replies so far.

    To give you all a heads up, I'm planning on building up a Transition Rapture (the same as a Traitor Crusade).

    As far as brakes go, I am 90% sure I will be running BB7's. I have some BB7 MTB brakes here that my wife used on her commuter for years, I might try my luck with brifters to see if I can make them work but from what I understand there isn't enough cable pull to get sufficient power out of them.

    I think I have dropped my plans for an IGH.

    As far as gear ratios go, I don't have a good test case. I haven't had a sole commuter for a good few years now, so I have only been using my MTB for the ride. To be honest when commuting I'm not one to push hard - if I spin out, so be it.

    The crankset I have for the build (SRAM X01, surplus from another build) comes with a 32T which is I know is very easy, but I might still give it a shot to see how bad it is. I was thinking of running an 11-25 cassette. Indeed I could likely get away with going 1x8 or 1x7 but honestly nowadays the price and weight difference is negligible, with the major benefit being chain wear I suppose.

    Is there any consensus on which brand cassettes are best for road/cx?

    Given that I am planning a 1x setup, I am thinking that I may try running a short cage SRAM rear mech, to take advantage of the clutch. There's one rocky trail that I know I will inevitably ride on the way to work from time to time, so long as my wheelset can take it, I will probably drop a chain without some sort of retention system.

    What a essay, I think that is all for now!

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by car bone View Post

    In the end i went with a drop bar 26er (due to the availability of tires, everything is available in 26, no toe overlap either), and a 6sp drivetrain, consisting 9sp xtr shifter, a jtek pull converter to make it pull 8sp cassette spacing, 2 8sp cassettes (with no "carrier) that I made one 6sp of (13-28 currently), and a 42 up front, 8sp kmc chain, their best one.
    Sounds like my kind of set up. So what cogs are you running on that custom 6sp cassette?
    To chime in with the others, all my bikes are currently single chainring (1x1, 1x7, 1x9). I might be simplifying my gravel grinder to 1x6 with a friction shifter.
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  14. #14
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    If you go SRAM, you will have an easier time with shifter/derailleur compatibility. When Shimano changed cable pull for Dyna-Sys, they f'd up the compatibility they had.

    With a 32t ring and an 11-25 cassette, you're giving yourself a pretty small range, and neither terribly low nor terribly high. What is your terrain like? You mention gravel and possible trails, but no word on hills?

  15. #15
    jrm
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    The range of your gearing will need to be adjusted to run 35 + sized tires. On my CX bike I run a converted ultegra triple and run a 42/28/bash guard - 12/32 set up using 35c clement ASH tires, TRp skype mech discs & sora STI and the cowbell 2. Frame is a swobo crosby.
    Wreck the malls with cows on Harleys

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by NateHawk View Post
    If you go SRAM, you will have an easier time with shifter/derailleur compatibility. When Shimano changed cable pull for Dyna-Sys, they f'd up the compatibility they had.
    Ditto, this. Here's the compatibility chart from SRAM's website: Exact Actuation | SRAM Mountain | SRAM

    Go for the clutch, your drivetrain will be silent. To echo others, I think we need to know a little more about the terrain and the bike's intended use, but it sounds like you might need more range if you're sticking to the roads.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by nemhed View Post
    Sounds like my kind of set up. So what cogs are you running on that custom 6sp cassette?
    To chime in with the others, all my bikes are currently single chainring (1x1, 1x7, 1x9). I might be simplifying my gravel grinder to 1x6 with a friction shifter.
    I use the best 8sp shimano cassettes as donors, i think hg60 or 61 or whatever they're called. The actual cogs i don't remember but I started out with the smallest one and tried make an even jump in % onto the next each time.

    I snapped some pics today of the setup, I just need to resize them. There are some potential problems you will run into with a setup like mine, you need to make spacers fore verything to work. I'm gonna post some pics up in an hour or so with explanations.
    Rule #9 // If you are out riding in bad weather, it means you are a badass. Period.

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  18. #18
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    Allright this is my bastard. Its orange.
    You are not supposed to do this obviously

    Can't decide on drivetrain-dscmtbr1.jpg

    First problem is getting the actual chainring to fit without rubbing. It needs to go in the outer position to do this, and this creates a problem with running a chainguard. I machined custom spacers for the bb, the cranks are off center 5mm out on the nds side. my spacers were as thick as the stock ones but made from metal instead, but i think i made some oversized and undersized ones too.

    Here I can choose to move the cranks to the center by putting one 2,5mm spacer on the other side, but the chainring only moves in 5mm steps! Inner or middle pos. This was good enough.
    Can't decide on drivetrain-dscchainringclearance.jpg
    Can't decide on drivetrain-dsccrankspacers.jpg
    Can't decide on drivetrain-dscchainguardspacers.jpg

    Then we have some cassette spacers, these don't necessarily match up to the width of the cogs removed, since the 11t cog sits halfway outside of the freehub, and I opted for not running a 11 since it starts getting inefficient there, bigger is better. The last spacer needs to be conical onthe inside since the hub has a concial section where the splines start and before that is tubular of a smaller diameter. Also you can't make it too big outer diameter since it will interfere with the chain on small cogs. Also here you can see the stepping in cog size kinda. and the current chainline which lines up on the second smallest cog (best i could do), it works fine on the biggest cog even though chainline is biased outwards on the cassette.

    When positioning the cassette on the hub you need to consider and weigh things such as wanted chainline, how big cog can the rd take and at what position can that cog be. I ran a 30 in the same position where you see the biggest one now and it worked fine. I'm guessing my (shortest cage) tiagra can take a 34 if in the correct position. 100% certain it takes a 32. Not sure if it could take a 32 in the place of the 28 where it currently sits, and my biggest cog is a 30 so I haven't tried it.

    I run a stealth hub so my drivetrain is totally silent. Also the tiagra rd is quite nice, the cage is steel on this one so its much stiffer and more durable than alu. Thats why I chose it. Even though my chain is too long for this setup (42 in the front and 28 in the rear), i have never dropped a chain, nor had any chainsslap. No need for clutch rd's imo. I run a non ramped blackspire front ring

    Can't decide on drivetrain-dsccassettespacing.jpg
    Can't decide on drivetrain-dsctrickiestspacer.jpg
    Can't decide on drivetrain-dscsteelcagetiagra.jpg

    The jtek/xtr and some more spacers!! Spacer mania! I know this wasn't really how it was supposed to go together when the people at chromag designed this frame frame was made for a 5 inch fork, and definitely not a drop bar... Needed to go ultra short on the stem too obviously. I like my xtr shifter though, all thumb shifting, and I can shift up or down and brake at the same time, which i often do. These are totally separate controls.

    Can't decide on drivetrain-dscshifterjtek.jpg
    Can't decide on drivetrain-dscmorespacers.jpg

    Everything is running really good!
    Rule #9 // If you are out riding in bad weather, it means you are a badass. Period.

    Quote Originally Posted by iheartbicycles View Post
    Specialized sucks ass.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by jasevr4 View Post
    As far as brakes go, I am 90% sure I will be running BB7's. I have some BB7 MTB brakes here that my wife used on her commuter for years, I might try my luck with brifters to see if I can make them work but from what I understand there isn't enough cable pull to get sufficient power out of them.
    I've been using "mtn" BB7's with road levers for years, and I've never had an issue. 1 finger lock-up from the hoods, no problem. If you keep them in adjustment it will work fine.
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  20. #20
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    I use the road version with cane creek levers and its works as supposed. I have never tried the mtn version.
    Rule #9 // If you are out riding in bad weather, it means you are a badass. Period.

    Quote Originally Posted by iheartbicycles View Post
    Specialized sucks ass.

  21. #21
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    Work has been really busy so I haven't progressed much with my project. I was decided on 1x10 then I came across this Surly Straggler: https://www.flickr.com/photos/circles-jp

  22. #22
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    I tried 1x8 on my Surly ECR commuter and didn't like it because of the challenging chainline, then figured I'd try it as a SS while deciding what IGH to use (already had a wheel from my 1x8 experiment, just needed spacers to go SS). I'm still running SS on my 16-mile mixed (on/off-road) commute with no plans to do anything different. Try it, you might like it!

  23. #23
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    Properly adjusted cantis or v-brakes work as well or better than cable actuated disc brakes. Also, the pads on the former last longer. Think about it, a rim is a giant disc brake; a 700c rotor with cable actuated caliper.

  24. #24
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    Re: Can't decide on drivetrain

    Quote Originally Posted by rogbie View Post
    Properly adjusted cantis or v-brakes work as well or better than cable actuated disc brakes. Also, the pads on the former last longer. Think about it, a rim is a giant disc brake; a 700c rotor with cable actuated caliper.
    True until you hit icy wetness. I lost my brakes several times (a couple times a winter) before switching to discs on my commuter. Also, I trashed a set of rims in 8k miles since my city eschews salt for grit in the winter. For perfectly dry, Sunny days, rim brakes are great. For those who commute year-round, this argument breaks down over a good portion of the country.

    Sent from a one-finger keyboard...pardon my autocorrect

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