SRAM 1x Rekindles College Love of Single-Ring Speed
I get curious looks on group rides. You’re going to get that when you run a giant 10-42t cassette on a deep Zipp 808 Firecrest. That 42t cog extends kind of close to the edge of that 82mm carbon rim. I call it my "virtual disc wheel."
My current rig – SRAM 1x on a Scott FOIL Team Issue aero-road frame with 808 Firecrest Carbon Clinchers – is the result of two personal goals. First, I had an immediate attraction to a SRAM 1x™ single-chainring setup from my time on the Cutters team racing Indiana University’s Little 500 on a single-speed setup. My desire was to create a simple and elegant road bike that was purpose-built for the group rides where I spend most of my time these days.
Second, I wanted to discover the limits of a 1x drivetrain as a viable road application. Interestingly enough, I’ve only been able to satisfy the first goal of feeling like I’m on my Little 500 bike again. My second goal of finding the limits of 1x has proven elusive. I run a beautifully machined 52-tooth SRAM Force 1 X-SYNC™ chainring up front and an XG-1199 10-42t cassette in the back. This bike was a “hop-up” project, so I kept my RED 22 shifters and crankset. I’ve been taken aback at how seamlessly this bike matched my style – I love an attacking, punchy ride. All out up the short steep hills around Bloomington, Ind. As a track racer, I also love all out speed and sprints.
(Kevin Depasse in action back in the day for the Cutters in Indiana University's Little 500.)
I have yet to find the limits of 1x on the road for two reasons. My Zipp Firecrest wheels with the new 77/177 hubset are compatible with an XD Driver Body, allowing me to run a cassette with a 10t cog on the fastest wheels around. The second factor is my SRAM Force 1 Long-Cage Rear Derailleur, which is able to provide buttery-smooth shifting over the wide-range cassette. I have more range on the top and the bottom relative to a standard 53x39 chainring setup with an 11-28 cassette.
The truth is, this is something of an extreme setup, and my gearing choices are probably not the best for everyone. A 52x10 top gear is roughly equivalent to a 57x11! Anyone wanting to use a 10-42 cassette on the road probably doesn’t need to go above a 48t chainring, which would give a top gear equivalent to a 53x11. Another option is a 52t front ring with the SRAM PG 1170 11-36 cassette. Use a gear calculator to find out the 1x setup that would work best for you.
But I knew it was a bit crazy before I built the rig, so that was no surprise. What has been most surprising is the high level of performance in every situation. I like to be able to respond quickly to moves within the group while riding or racing, and with SRAM Force 1, I can react quickly with access to every gear I need. Attacks. Climbs. Descents. TT efforts. Sprints. I have yet to find a scenario where I’ve been left wanting more. Even here in mountain-less Indiana, I’ve found specific situations to drop into that 52-10 monster… a tailwind sprint, closing a gap in another strong tailwind, and a short but steep descent – all on Wednesday Worlds-type group rides.
Some also may wonder about the gear-ratio jumps (10-12-14-16-18-21-24-28-32-36-42) for high-speed road riding. But this setup fits my style incredibly well. I get a few funny looks and hear people cracking jokes before group rides, but when my 1x bike and I go up the road, they are often the ones that have not reacted quickly enough and have missed the selection.
SRAM 1x is one of the most purpose-built products SRAM has ever developed. It started by satisfying a need in the mountain bike realm, then cyclocross, and now road. Yet that purpose is entirely relative to each individual rider’s perspective and style. I can say I have achieved the elegant 1x machine I sought out to build to match my style. But I still haven’t found its limits.
Kevin Depasse is a Territory Manager for SRAM’s North American Aftermarket Sales. As a student at Indiana University, he rode for the Cutters in the Little 500 from 2011 to 2013, with his team winning the famed race in 2011.
Read more My 1x stories from: Grinduro!, Open the Road Gloucester, Gloucester GP CX Race, The JAM Fund Grand Fundo, German National TIme Trial Champs, 70.3 Ironman® U.S. National Champs, and the Dirty Kanza 200.
Learn more about SRAM 1x Force 1 and Rival 1 groups in the video below.