So SRAM got there first. 10 speed for MTBs has long been a foregone conclusion and it was just a question of who would be first. Note I don’t add it’s a desirable outcome, merely that marketing pressures led inevitably to that outcome given the success of 10 speed systems on road bikes in recent years.
To get there though, SRAM have had to get radical. Mindful of space limitations with fitting 10 speeds into a cassette space originally designed for five to seven gears, 10 is impressive. But in order to maintain a semblance of sanity with the chainline and prevent a good half the gears from duplicating each other or being unusable they’ve dropped a front chainring.
After introducing one new front transmission last year with Hammerschmidt, this year they’ve thrown out the inner ring, leaving the rider with a choice of 26 & 39, 28 & 42 or 30 & 45 tooth chainrings. With cassettes covering anything from 11 – 32 or 11 – 36 teeth at the rear it’s possible to have a range of gears that pretty much covers that of a current ‘standard’ triple equipped bike.
What’s the significance of all this? Well firstly, this technology is likely to filter downward; maybe not quickly but steadily over the coming years so despite eye watering prices now maybe we can look forward to being only averagely fleeced in the future. Secondly, it’s time to look again at the standard triple.
I’ve been wondering for some time now why I actually have a 42 teeth chainring on my bike. I mean, how often does it really get used (as opposed to allowing you to rest in a lower cadence on the descents)? I certainly can’t pull that gear when I’m on level ground and with my recent experiences of singlespeeding I’m starting to think a more limited gear range is desirable, especially since I can replace the outer ring with a chainset protecting bash ring. Much more confidence inspiring over logs.
SRAM have also used the XX introduction to emphasise their all-round componentry muscle. Not only is this a full groupset including front mech (which has not always been the case with SRAM) but they’ve extended the meaning of the term further to include brakes and forks owned by SRAM brands. So there’s Avid Elixir XX brakes with magnesium and carbon bits, a range of XX badged forks including reworked SIDs, Rebas and Revelations and so on.
In fact this is one area I’m interested in as SRAM have picked up on Hope’s lead by enabling the shifters, brakes and lockout levers to be incorporated into one adjustable clamp assembly, massively freeing up space on the bars. I’d be very keen to have some of that; I thought it was an interesting idea when Hope recently starting producing machined integrated clamp assemblies in Shimano and SRAM flavours for use with their brakes.
One final thought about the XX groupset. Does it imply that the Cannonadale BB30 ‘standard’ is now game on? The XX chainset uses it to presumably provide a massive increase in BB stiffness and if we’re lucky, BB life. With SRAM behind it fully I’d expect frame manufacturers to really start producing compatible frames from the turn of the year onwards. Could be interesting times ahead.
Photos are adapted from Singletrack which has a lot more information about the new XX groupset press launch in sunny Tuscany. Here’s some links: