With Sea Otter next month and the major European and American bike shows ramping up for the summer, brands are dropping news and hints about the big trends for 2017. As if you don’t already have enough choices to confuse you when buying a new bike, you can expect plus sizes to widen their grip on the industry as well as 1×12 drivetrains, leaving many people to ask if this will finally be the death of the front derailleur.
Currently, the biggest complaint about going from a 2x setup to a 1x is that you have a bigger jump between gears and lack of range compared to a 2x setup. But with a 12-cog pie plate in the back, will the 1x setup finally be more versatile? SRAM seems to think so with the announcement last week of their Eagle 1×12 drivetrain. Offering a 500% gear range thanks to a 10-50-tooth rear cassette, SRAM believes Eagle may have killed the front derailleur for good. Already this year, the so-called Boost standard brought wider hubs and bottom brackets to the mountain bike segment, while most component manufacturers are already deep in discussions about using the extra room to introduce a twelfth sprocket for chain shifting systems.
When I bought my mountain bike last year, I stuck with a 2x setup as I knew there would be tons of steep climbing I needed to spin up during the Breck Epic. If I lived and regularly rode someplace like Hayward, WI on the CAMBA trails, however, I would have most definitely gone with a 1×11 setup at the time.
Doing a quick and dirty gear ratio comparison between my current XTR Race setup and the new SRAM Eagle 1×12 setup, I might have been persuaded to ditch the front derailleur even for the Breck Epic. With a 36-tooth front chainring, I would get roughly the same gear range as with my current 2x setup, albeit possibly losing a gear at the top, which isn’t that big of a deal to me, and of course still a bigger jump between gears. I don’t know if I would notice the jump in a real life situation, however.
Moving on to tires. Plus sizes are rolling beyond mountain bike and gravel into road. Yes, road plus is now a thing. WTB recently unveiled a new class of road tires that are 47 mm (1.85”) wide–a format otherwise seen on the road only on comfortable city or cruiser bikes. Since WTB was the very same company that originally proposed the 27.5+ tire which seems here to stay, consider road plus a serious contender.
The new road plus tires will fit on some standard road bike frames, according to WTB. This can be accomplished by reducing the diameter of the tires and mounting them on 2.75″ mountain bike wheels. But the design restricts the selection of braking systems to disk brakes only.
As is with my laptop, phone, and tablet, looks like all of my bikes are quickly on the way to obsolescence.