2×10 vs 1×11 Ratios, What’s best?

For the first time in several years, probably not since the advent of 10 speed, the mountain bike world is seeing a revolution in drive train technology. Not only has 1×11 been fully embraced by several brands and is readily available, least of which being the somewhat infamous “big S” of Shimano, but the boys from Osaka have finally got around to producing the much anticipated XTR version of the electronic Di2 gruppo as well. And now we are beginning to hear rumblings of other manufacturers making electronic gruppos. But…that discussion is for another time.

More importantly lets talk cogs. How many do you want, 10 or 11, and paired with how many chain rings? Dirt TRI is currently in the process of evaluating the options and will be giving you a full review in the coming months as the ratios pertain to off road multisport, since we well know, Dirt TRI and straight MTB aren’t quite the same animal.

But, the first question to be answered is just what exactly is the difference in gearing between 1×11 and 2×10? And this is a big question.

Luckily the guys over at Swithchback Bikes have created a chart (see above) with the help of, you guessed it, a forum nerd called Daryl Smith. (Don’t take that wrongly, I use forum nerd in only the highest regard…I’m looking at you Slowtwitch)

Its pretty simple as far a charts go. The bigger the number the higher the gear etc. But, it is invaluable if you take the time to consider what gears you currently spend the most time in and how that would translate to a change to 1×11.

In short, most people worry they won’t have the appropriate high and low ends of the spectrum if they drop a chain ring. However, its important to remember chain ring size has much less effect on gearing than does cog size. So, if you spend most of your time in the middle gears you will probably find you won’t notice much difference in jumping to 1×11. In fact you might notice you actually have more gears you like since you now have 11 cogs. But its all down to personal preference. This chart just gives us a cool way to easily compare the options.

Much more to come on this topic. Stay tuned to Dirt TRI and feel free to comment if you have questions.



Jimmy Archer

Founder and Editor at Jimmy has been a professional athlete for over 18 years as a runner, cyclist, mountain biker, cross country skier, and primarily, triathlete. Jimmy has a degree in exercise science from the University of Colorado and is a USA Triathlon and USA Cycling certified coach. Jimmy became a freelance writer in 2000 while competing and covering the ITU Winter Triathlon World Championship. Since that time Jimmy has been head editor at two magazines, been published in numerous publications within the endurance sport, recreation, and travel segments. Currently Jimmy is competing professionally in off-road multisport. In his spare time Jimmy passionately follows Formula 1, Moto GP, and is an avid cook.

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  1. I’m loving the 1x system I got set up. It’s a 1×10 with a wolf tooth giant 42T and 16T cog and 32T chain ring in the front (so I basically have the same range as an 11 speed but spent a tenth on getting it set up). I haven’t had any issues with not the right gear or not enough gears. The drive-train is also quieter and there is little chain slap because of the narrow wide ring. I’ll be writing up a personal review at some point and would be absolutely willing to share if people are interested.

  2. I built up a 2×10 last year, was still on 3×10 before that…
    Wish I had gone with no front derailleur or shifter as I never use the bigger ring on new build anyway. Live and learn 🙂

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