One of my teammates asked about a single ring setup so I figured I’d blog about it. First, I’ll tell you about what I race. My A bike has a 38/44 with a 12-27 cassette and my B bike has a 38/46, also with a 12-27. I prefer the 38/44. I stay in the 44 most of the time but have the 38 when I need it, like at Horning’s. I’ve stuck with double rings because I didn’t have to spend any extra money and I’ve had no compelling reason to swap to a single ring.
I don’t have a lot of discretionary bike money so I like to make sure that when I change something on my bike, I’m going to be buying some increased performance. I don’t look down on people that swap stuff out because they feel like trying something different and have the disposable capital to do so. But that model just doesn’t work for me. Lately, I’ve sunk my bucks into tires. IMHO, going tubular and getting good rubber will have the greatest impact on performance. So if you’re thinking about going single ring but aren’t running tubs, the choice is clear.
But we’re talking about single ring here so I’ll get off of the tubie soap box. First, lets examine the reasons for going to a single ring:
- Lighter. If you do things correctly, you can shave some grams. The total weight is going to depend on the overall setup but you might save a many as 200 grams (see plusonelap.com for some info). Many single ring rigs won’t save you any weight though.
- Less likely to drop a chain. There are two popular methods to set up a single ring. The most popular is to use a guard in place of the outer chain ring and set up a chain watcher on the inside. I don’t think this setup is any more secure than a double ring — and if you have a derailleur, there is at least the possibility of shifting the chain back on. The second most popular setup is to use double guards. This is more expensive and more trouble since you’ll need a new bottom bracket and chain ring bolts (longer ones in both cases). It’ll keep your chain on pretty well though.
- More reliable. This is really an extension of the previous point. With a single chain ring, you won’t have to worry about bad shifts or the front mech getting gunked up enough to prevent shifting altogether. I’ve had that happen but both times I was in the 38 on a heavy course so I wasn’t significantly disadvantaged. However, I think this is a rather important point in favor of a single ring. If you select a ring that works for the course there is no possibility that you’ll get stuck in a ring that is either too big or too small for certain portions. Suppose you are stuck in the 38 and there’s a long paved section. Getting dropped from the group just because you didn’t have quite enough gear inches would be a hard pill to swallow. The same can be said when caught in a 48 (or 46) and having to hoof it or grind it up the hill that the group spins up and out of sight.
- Gearheads. Let’s face it, there are some people with a burning desire to fiddle around with their setup just to try something new. If that’s you, then go for it and see how you like it.
I’m getting along so well with my 38/44 combination, I can’t see a reason to change. And let’s face it, it’s way cheaper to replace a 48 with a stamped 44. You don’t need a fancy pants pinned and ramped outer ring with one that small. We’re only talking 6 teeth differential here. Maybe a single ring is calling your name but I’ll stick with my pair.