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  1. #1
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    Help Me Choose My SS Drivetrain

    I am putting together a 2012 Salsa El Mar SS. This is my first SS build and I am wondering what most run for a chain, chain ring, and cog. I have looked at Surly, RF, Chris King, and Endless. I really want to go Endless everything but right now I am leaning towards a RF N/W chain ring and a Surly cog just for mere price. Any input on what size chain I should run (9spd, 8spd etc)? Also, I am a Clyde at 210 pounds and I want a solid set up so any advice is appreciated.

  2. #2
    Downcountry AF
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    just to add to your confusion i'll throw out Absolute Black oval chainrings. they're awesome for SS's.

    part of the beauty of SS bikes is their simplicity. you don't have to use a bunch of fancy, expensive components to get a reliable drivetrain.

    I use a AB oval on my 29er with an 8 speed chain, and a WI freewheel (not relevant to your setup). my other bike uses RF NW chainring and surly cog and 8 speed chain. my cross bike uses a standard non-ramped chainring and surly cog with 8 speed chain.

    they're all completely trouble free. get your chainline right and parts properly installed. that's it.

    32:18 is a good general starting point. if your fitness is lacking or you have huge steep hills adjust accordingly. 32:20 example, i don't like to go too small with either chainring or cogs.

    I'm 205 lbs and not gentle on stuff.
    Rigid SS 29er
    SS 29+
    Fat Lefty
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    Full Sus 29er (Yuck)

    Stop asking how much it weighs and just go ride it.

  3. #3
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    following for additional info. Looking at doing a 29erSS on my Kona Unit. Thinking I'll be good with 32/20 because I do have some hills and 240lbs.
    "a hundred travel books isn't worth one real trip"

  4. #4
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    I like absolute black chain rings and a steel rear cog like Chris King and Surly. The endless cogs are super nice but they seam to wear fast. IMO

  5. #5
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    Came here to recommend that AB oval ring. Second most noticeable part I added to my most recent build.

  6. #6
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    Any input on chains? Looks like im going with an 8spd...

  7. #7
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    I don't know if it's true but I read that the 10 and 11 speed chains are some of the strongest out there.



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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by CB2423 View Post
    Any input on chains? Looks like im going with an 8spd...
    Quote Originally Posted by MTBMILES View Post
    I don't know if it's true but I read that the 10 and 11 speed chains are some of the strongest out there.
    either and/or any of those makes a perfectly acceptable chain for a SS. the minor differences (that matter to me) are that yes, maybe 10 and 11 speed chains have more modern engineering in them and are 10% "better" (totally random estimate) but 8/9 speed chains are dirt cheap and plenty durable.

    I've tried a SS chain, and done a bunch of reading about various setups. unless your chasing some fantasy "ideal" setup, it really doesn't matter much and you'll get the same result/performance from a $8 chain that you will and $80 chain.

    the only thing that kind of matters is that it's best to use a chainring/cog combo that is matched width wise to your chain. 3/32 vs 1/8.

    8/9 speed chains are extremely common and dirt cheap. if you want to spend more, you can but there's little or no benefit IMO.
    Last edited by *OneSpeed*; 01-21-2017 at 04:44 AM.
    Rigid SS 29er
    SS 29+
    Fat Lefty
    SS cyclocross
    Full Sus 29er (Yuck)

    Stop asking how much it weighs and just go ride it.

  9. #9
    SS Pusher Man
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    If you run the correct chain tension.....a Narrow/Wide ring is not necessary.
    Bicycles donít have motors or batteries.:nono:

    Ebikes are not bicycles :nono:

  10. #10
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    For chain ring, try Renthal gold. Just put a 32t on my SS. $29 from Ebay. The color is gold. Weights less than 70g. Very stiff and solid. For the chain, try these... YBN MK747 Kool Chain | Chain Reaction Cycles

    I am currently using a black one. I like their connecting pin since it includes with the chain. These are 1/8" chain and so they are bigger. Surly makes nice single speed cogs and chain rings but they are generally for 1/8" chain, not narrow chain.

  11. #11
    WillWorkForTrail
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    I'll throw Wolf Tooth in as a one stop shop. I run one of their 32 tooth ovals and one of their stainless steel cogs on my SS with a standard KMC 10 speed chain. You can get a 10 speed chain cheap just about anywhere, and that's the part on a SS you're most likely to have problems with, in my experience. I wear out/break more chains on SS than I get flat tires, etc.

  12. #12
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    I haven't used a single chain from SRAM that I was disappointed with. I generally run the SRAM 8spd, only because it's like $10 at my LBS. I was forced to run an 1/8" SS chain on my fixed gear 29er because that's all the threaded rear cog would accept. Never had a single issue with that one either.

    Unless you are constantly bashing them on rocks, I think MOST chains will be suitable. The biggest difference you will find is how much one stretches vs another... which is a big deal for some people who are extremely particular about their wheelbase, but for most people it's just a matter of tightening your chain twice rather than once after you put it on.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by SingleSpeed73 View Post
    For chain ring, try Renthal gold. Just put a 32t on my SS. $29 from Ebay. The color is gold. Weights less than 70g. Very stiff and solid. For the chain, try these... YBN MK747 Kool Chain | Chain Reaction Cycles

    I am currently using a black one. I like their connecting pin since it includes with the chain. These are 1/8" chain and so they are bigger. Surly makes nice single speed cogs and chain rings but they are generally for 1/8" chain, not narrow chain.

    I have been running the Renthal SR4 rings for a few years now. They are light, but they are not very durable. I have cracked 3 of them. One ring actually had 2 cracks. I still run them, but I know that I will swapping them out every 4-5 months.

    Bicycles donít have motors or batteries.:nono:

    Ebikes are not bicycles :nono:

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtnbikej View Post
    I have been running the Renthal SR4 rings for a few years now. They are light, but they are not very durable. I have cracked 3 of them. One ring actually had 2 cracks. I still run them, but I know that I will swapping them out every 4-5 months.

    Interesting....hmmm....

  15. #15
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    I'm running a Surly ss 32T chainring and ordinary 16T cog with a KMC 810SL chain. I like the way the chain looks. I have about 150 miles on it and little stretch. I'll be switching to 34x18 soon, supposed to be better. This is on a El Mar SS, and I'm 220.

  16. #16
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    Being a heavier rider, your're probably better off sticking to steel cogs. Also, you may want to consider using larger chainrings/cogs to slightly improve drivetrain lifespan and reliability. For example 36/20 gearing is the same as 32/18, but it will result in 11% lower chain tension and this force will be distributed over more teeth.

    Single speeds are (in theory) less stressful on chains than a derailleur bike since larger chainrings are used (usually) and they have a better chain-line. So don't be afraid to use a 9 speed chain that was designed for a 250 lb rider on a 22 tooth granny gear with a crappy chainline. If your setup is bad, you can break any chain though. The only chain I've broken on my single speed was caused by a tensioner failure.

  17. #17
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    After some more research I think I am going to go absoluteblack oval and surly steel cog with a Surly spacer kit...unless someone has a better choice of spacers? I would like to order everything from one place and so far Jensen has everything I need if I can just decide on a chain.

  18. #18
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    Very happy with shimano XTR chains. In my experience, they require a lot less adjustment than KMC. Seems like I was adjusting KMC every 2 or 3 rides and I only weigh around 155.

  19. #19
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    On my Carve SL I'm still rocking the stock stamped steel 20T cog. I swapped the chain ring to a regular anodized gold Race Face one for vanity. I run a gold KMC 9 speed chain for vanity reasons as well. Very bullet proof but my hub is getting chewed up a little. On my other SS converted bike I'm using an old Shimano non ramped chain ring and a Problem Solvers cog setup. I think the PS cog because it spreads out the load on the hub. That hub is in perfect shape. I also like the way they change gears, I have 18, 20, and 22 tooth cogs. I use a cheap 9 speed chain and an Alfine tensioner. BTW - I'm a low power fat ass.

  20. #20
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    Basic 8 speed chains always work great for me. The KMC 8.93 seems to last longer for me, but a cheap SRAM works good too. Just get a basic chain. Heck, get a couple - they'll be handy as you swap cogs and rings trying to find that perfect gear combo that suits you.

  21. #21
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    [QUOTE=pulsepro;13002839]Basic 8 speed chains always work great for me. The KMC 8.93 seems to last longer for me, but a cheap SRAM works good too. Just get a basic chain. Heck, get a couple

    And half-links are great to have on hand to get the shortest wheelbase (can't use a N/W ring though).

  22. #22
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    what front chain rings are not N/W?

  23. #23
    Downcountry AF
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    Quote Originally Posted by CB2423 View Post
    what front chain rings are not N/W?
    a quick search turns up few results, seems like there used to be more.

    example: Surly Stainless Steel Chainring > Components > Drivetrain > Chainrings | Jenson USA
    Rigid SS 29er
    SS 29+
    Fat Lefty
    SS cyclocross
    Full Sus 29er (Yuck)

    Stop asking how much it weighs and just go ride it.

  24. #24
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    Surly wadsthe only one I saw too. That's why I was asking.

  25. #25
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    Raceface used to make them, i think i have one around here somewhere, but i just checked their website and couldn't find them so maybe they don't make them any more. I would guess Blackspire still makes them and a few others but didn't search specifically.
    Rigid SS 29er
    SS 29+
    Fat Lefty
    SS cyclocross
    Full Sus 29er (Yuck)

    Stop asking how much it weighs and just go ride it.

  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by CB2423 View Post
    what front chain rings are not N/W?
    There are a few out there from the smaller manufacturers. I was hunting them down a few months ago. Unfortunately, for me, none of them are cinch-compatible (without using the BCD adapter).

    I even tried to talk some of them into making me one, but the costs to custom design a single ring were just too high to bother.

  27. #27
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    I know folks love choices but the Surly rings have always worked for me. I pair them with Surly cogs and ride!

  28. #28
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    Will a N/W still help with chain drop once the chain stretches even on a SS though? Also, cant you only run a certain type of chain with a N/W? I ask due to the half link comment about with N/W rings.

    Thanks guys

  29. #29
    western NC
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    I'm in clyde territory, at 205lbs. Currently running an Absolute Black oval 32 on my primary SS, and I'm a big fan of the Q2 Avery cogs. Nice wide base, aluminum for light weight, and I haven't managed to break any of them, nor do they show any excessive wear. I really like Endless stuff as they're built in my home state, but I can buy two Q2 cogs for one Endless, and the Q2 seems to be a beefier part though I have nothing other than my eyeballs to verify that. I also run the cheapo $9 chains, only one I ever had fail was a defect in the chain itself.

  30. #30
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    I've used FSA DH chainrings that are not NW with success in the past. They are 7075 aluminum which makes them a bit more durable than some.

  31. #31
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    I like SRAM 10speed chains because i like their master links. If I was doing it again, I wouldn't spend big bucks. In fact I would spend as little as possible. Also I would not use N/W. I run a half link - it allows me to switch gearing without having to change both a cog and chainring, so it winds up being a bit cheaper.

    I currently am 32/20 with a cheap (actually off a bikes direct bike) stamped steel chainring and a surly cog.
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  32. #32
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    I hate all the choices. I thought this was supposed to be an easy decision. I am always overthinking things. I only want to do this once. I know 32x18 will be the only gearing on this bike. I have a buddy with the exact bike, year and all running 32x18 RF N/W and a Surly rear cog with a Sram Chain. I wanted to do something different but his has worked great and he is a bigger boy that I am so this may be my safest bet. I still may go absolute oval just because the concept makes since to me and it will be a touch different than his.

  33. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by CB2423 View Post
    I hate all the choices. I thought this was supposed to be an easy decision. I am always overthinking things. I only want to do this once. I know 32x18 will be the only gearing on this bike. I have a buddy with the exact bike, year and all running 32x18 RF N/W and a Surly rear cog with a Sram Chain. I wanted to do something different but his has worked great and he is a bigger boy that I am so this may be my safest bet. I still may go absolute oval just because the concept makes since to me and it will be a touch different than his.
    Sounds like you had the answer all along. Copy your buddy, maybe get a different color ring. If I was getting a narrow wide I'd look at Wolftooth. USA!

    Personally I see no need at all for narrow wide. Surly rings are fine long lasting and readily available.

  34. #34
    Downcountry AF
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    Quote Originally Posted by Matterhorn View Post
    Personally I see no need at all for narrow wide. Surly rings are fine long lasting and readily available.
    i agree. it's funny how on a super efficient and quiet drivetrain a NW mildly ruins both. I notice the little bit of resistance when spinning the cranks (not when pedaling though) and i hear the noise of the NW on the chain (only on pavement at low speed or really quiet place). it's super minor but noticeable at times.
    Rigid SS 29er
    SS 29+
    Fat Lefty
    SS cyclocross
    Full Sus 29er (Yuck)

    Stop asking how much it weighs and just go ride it.

  35. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by *OneSpeed* View Post
    i agree. it's funny how on a super efficient and quiet drivetrain a NW mildly ruins both. I notice the little bit of resistance when spinning the cranks (not when pedaling though) and i hear the noise of the NW on the chain (only on pavement at low speed or really quiet place). it's super minor but noticeable at times.
    Unfortunately, for me, NW rings are the only option on cinch cranks (without using a BCD adapter).

  36. #36
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    Absolute Black oval and Surly cogs here!

  37. #37
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    My latest setup is a 165mm Canfield crankset running an AB oval direct mount ring, Lunar cog, and 11 speed Sram chain. 11 speed chains are supposedly as strong as 8 speeds (no issues yet), but because they are narrower, there is less side to side rock on the ring and cog. If you haven't ever seen a Lunar cog, they are super cool. An aluminum carrier holds a ss cog in place with spring rings. You can change cog sizes without changing the carrier.

    Other stuff that I have had good luck with is Stylo cranks, E13 rings, and 8 speed Sram chains. If you are using chain ring bolts, a simple security measure is to put zip ties through the bolt holes to keep them from loosening up. This is very important on Surly ss rings. Those suckers may last a long time, but they will fold over if loose.

  38. #38
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    Oh sweet jeebus, just get a geared drivetrain and end this madness.

  39. #39
    Downcountry AF
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    Quote Originally Posted by Matterhorn View Post
    Oh sweet jeebus, just get a geared drivetrain and end this madness.
    I'll pretend i didn't hear that.
    Rigid SS 29er
    SS 29+
    Fat Lefty
    SS cyclocross
    Full Sus 29er (Yuck)

    Stop asking how much it weighs and just go ride it.

  40. #40
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    Quote Originally Posted by *OneSpeed* View Post
    I'll pretend i didn't hear that.
    K.I.S.S.S. Keep it single speed stupid is really my motto but this one seems easy enough and yet the thread continues. Lots of good solutions/advice above.

    To be fair I did learn about Lunar cogs which can be removed using a fingernail! That sounds....good?

    OP--what did you decide? Surly ring and cog with an 8 speed chain. Really, good choice now getting riding.

  41. #41
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    Just to keep things rolling, I just setup an 18t King Kog with a 32t AB Oval and a 9 speed SRAM chain. Good luck!
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