What setup is best for you?
Finally, another Gravel bike post! And a quite techy one too... If the word "gear ratio" rings no bell at all, this article is for you. And if you are an absolute expert already, but just want to have the pros and cons of single and double shifting systems on gravel bikes presented at a glance, then you are also in the right place.
Shirin has taken a closer look at the two possible setups for gravel bikes and helped you determine which one suits you and your riding style best. We do it again today and start directly with the question: What is a 1x or 2x circuit at all?
1. What is a 1x or 2x circuit anyway?
A 1x shifting system combines a single, front chainring with a rear cassette of 11, 12, or even 13 sprockets. Sprockets here are nothing more than the "rear chainrings".
A 2x setup, on the other hand, has two front chainrings, each with a specific number of teeth, such as 46/30t - meaning nothing more than that the large, outer chainring has 46 teeth and the small, inner one has 30 teeth.
1x setups offer a relatively wide gear range and are popular for their simplicity, while the large chainring on a 2x allows for higher speeds on flat or downhill trails. On the small chainring, you'll ride at a higher, lighter cadence, ideal for climbing or demanding terrain.
So let's keep in mind that the primary difference between the two setups is the number of gears they offer you. 2x gears allow for more gears. It's a bit more complex than that, though, which is why we'll next take a look at the gear ratio.
2. What is the gear ratio?
The gear ratio indicates the ratio of the teeth on the front chainring to the teeth on the rear sprocket and refers to the number of revolutions the sprocket makes per full revolution of the chainring.
Gear ratio = teeth chainring : teeth sprocket
e.g. A chainring with 30 teeth and a sprocket with 11 teeth gives you a gear ratio of 30:11 = 2.73
The gear ratio is critical to understanding how a bike's gears affect its performance. And seems complicated at first, but it's not all that much.
The different combinations of chainrings and sprockets (see table) create a variety of possible gear ratios, which in turn determine your gear range. The wider this gear range, the more choice of high or low gears you have and the more finely you can adapt your gear selection to respective terrains, gradients and driving conditions.
A high gear ratio (e.g. 4.18) offers more speed, but also requires more pedal power - perfect for flat stretches and descents. Conversely, a low gear ratio (e.g. 1.5) allows for easy pedaling but results in slower speed, making it ideal for climbs and rough terrain. The greater the intervals between gear ratios, the greater the increments between gears will be. Which will be especially relevant to you if, when choosing your next bike, you want to know how precisely you can shift and to what extent the possible gears will give you the adaptability you want.
But if we take a closer look at the different combinations, we find that certain gears are identical or very similar. Now, we did claim that 2x setups offer more gears.... well, almost. However, due to gear overlap, a 2x11 setup, for example, doesn't offer you the full amount of 22 gears, but rather 14 or 15 gears.
3. Advantages and disadvantages of the 1x circuit
Now that you're good to go with the technical basics, we can start comparing the two shifting systems. What can a 1x shifting system do for you and how do you benefit from a 2x shifting system?
You have the following advantages with the 1x setups: First, they simplify the shifting process. Because individual gears can't overlap, you don't have to worry about potential cross-shifts and can fully focus on shifting the rear gears. Fewer components also means less maintenance and less services required, as the complexity of the drivetrain is reduced.
A 1x shifter reduces the weight of the bike and increases efficiency when riding on gravel, so it's ideal for gravel bikes. Also because a single chainring improves ground clearance and reduces the risk of the chain falling off thanks to the narrow, wide teeth. Thus, the chain can not slip sideways or fall off the chainring during the ride. Last but not least, a 1x setup gives you a cleaner look.
A 1x-shifting also brings some disadvantages:
You have a comparatively narrow gear range and a small transmission bandwidth, so it may well be that you do not have a sufficiently high gear available on flat stretches. Or that you don't have a low enough gear on steep climbs... Especially if you want to ride fast or want to control your cadence precisely, it can be annoying that the gear increments are so large and you therefore cannot really shift in fine intervals. However, you can solve the problem relatively quickly by choosing a 1x12 or even a 1x13 shifting system, where the increments are smaller.
Especially if you spend a lot of time in hilly terrain, are fast on your ways downhill and definitely do not want to get off the saddle on climbs, you are safe with a 1x circuit. So if you are an adventurous gravel rider who values uncomplicatedness, a clean look and can also deliver high performance with less gears to select from, a 1x setup is definitely the right choice for you.
4. Advantages and disadvantages of 2x switching
With 2x11 or 2x12 gears, you have a wider gear range, which allows you to shift more precisely and adapt to different terrain conditions. With so many gears to choose from, 2x setups are especially worthwhile for riders of long tours and for all those who value fast and generous gear changes. So it comes as no surprise that 2x gears have been the standard setup on most gravel bikes for years.
The disadvantage, however, is that you also carry additional weight with you thanks to the additional components. What can, unfortunately, happen more often is not only faulty shifting (even if you're an experienced driver), but also the chain slipping due to incorrect guidance over one of the chainrings. The derailleur is also quite susceptible to errors. Especially if you fall, it is often the first component that is damaged.
If you want versatility and a somewhat larger selection of gears, want to shift precisely in a wide variety of terrain and be able to master everything from steep climbs to fast descents, you'll be in wonderful hands with a 2x shifting system. For drivers who want to adjust their cadence and power in exact accordance with the respective driving conditions, the 2-speed shifting is definitely the right choice. Plus, switching from a 2x to a 1x setup always works and it's relatively uncomplicated to boot. The other way around though... that's difficult.
Let's be more specific: For slightly hilly terrain, quieter roads or cruising through the city a 1x11 setup is a great choice. For trails or for all those who are racing through bike parks at full throttle, a 1x12 shifting fits perfectly with the spirit of adventure.
Whoever wants to be fast on flats and effective on climbs, almost channeling road rather than gravel riding styles, is best equipped with the 2x setup.
The perfect bike with the perfect shifting group is waiting for you on buycycle.com... Among the over 17,000 available bikes there is certainly one for you: Pre-owned, in top condition and for up to 60% less. Browse through offers, set filters for your favorite groupsets and find your next dream bike. For questions about groupsets or gravel bikes our team is always there for you, but you can also find information about all things bikes on the buycycle blog. For now, we wish you, as always: Happy browsing, happy cycling!