If you’re in doubt about the viability of 1x drivetrains for road, consider the following list of manufacturers, which SRAM says has committed to spec’ing at least some of its model year 2016 bikes with the new single chainring system. BH, BMC, Cannondale, Merckx, Felt, Focus, Fuji, Kona, Merida, Niner, Norco, Redline, Ridley, Santa Cruz, Scott, Specialized, and Trek are among the roughly 35 brands who SRAM says have placed orders.
The type of bikes run the gamut, according to SRAM, covering everything from fitness to performance. “We also expect to see some new platforms of bikes,” said road product manager JP McCarthy.
RoadBikeReview reached out to a number of bike manufacturers, and while some were not willing to speak on the record, it’s clear the industry is indeed interested in 1x for road.
“You’re going to see 1x systems in almost every category of bike we make [next year],” revealed Mark Cote, Specialized’s category marketing manager for road. “We are pretty committed. But it will be the riders who decide.”
Besides the usual cyclocross suspects, Specialized already offers the Venge Lunch Race, which comes spec’d with an 11-28 cassette paired with a Specialized branded 52-tooth single chainring.
Cote added the Specialized has done some 1x testing at the company’s in-house wind tunnel, and that the numbers were encouraging. He wouldn’t provide further details, but you can certainly make the jump that a 1x Shiv TT bike could be in the works.
Cote himself is a big proponent ditching the front derailleur. “I’ve been riding 1x for a while,” he said. “I had a custom 52-tooth chainring made for one of my bikes and probably ride that bike 50 percent of the time. I run pre-XD set-up so it’s 52 with an 11-28 cassette. I love how quiet it is and the clean look. It feels so dialed when you’re riding. I like the simplicity of shifting and the tightness of the chain line. People may not see the value right away, but eventually I think they will.”
Scott Bikes PR boss Nic Sims wasn’t quite as gung ho, but still sees value in losing the front derailleur in some instances. “I cant tell you yet if and/or where it will show up in our product line,” said Simms. “But I could definitely see it on triathlon bikes where many riders never get out of the big ring. As long as you have the range you need you’re not really giving up anything. If you look at the average person, how much time do they really spend in the hardest gears. It’s pretty small. So why not give customers a more useful product that has a better chain line.”
Jon Swanson, Giant Bicycles senior global category manager for road, took a slightly more diplomatic stance.
“We are basically looking at five categories: cyclocross, road, endurance, tri, and gravel,” said Swanson. “For cyclocross it’s a no brainer; double chainrings are just not necessary. And for some road racing it could work. But the issue from the OE standpoint is my line-up is a global line-up and a 1x road bike just might not work in some places in the world. So that makes it hard from a global perspective because of the gearing restrictions. For endurance road I see it being more viable because you have a slant to climbing. It’s the same for gravel. They need the lower gearing, but aren’t so concerned with taller gears. Honestly, though I see triathlon as the biggest untapped market for 1x. Outside of a couple races, there’s not really much climbing. You can run a 50 or 52-tooth with anything between an 11-28 and 11-36 and you’re golden. And if you mix in electronic shifting it will be almost idiot proof.”
Conversely, Swanson pointed out that for some the aesthetics of the system might be hard to overcome.
“A lot of road riders are conservative and somewhat stodgy,” he said. “Look at the reaction to disc brakes on road bikes. I think it’s pretty clear they work better, but you’re still getting a lot of push back. People don’t want to do what seems like strange things, so even if you can match extremes of the gearing requirements, you’re still going to have some big jumps in between. And if you don’t have the gearing people are used to, some will just go buy a different bike. That’s probably not a chance I can take right now.”
But clearly, based on the list above, many in the industry are willing to take that chance.