Monday, April 30, 2012

Skidding Sideways to the Grave is Expensive, and some words on running 1x10

It's been said that "I don't want to reach the grave with a well preserved body, but rather slide into it sideways with a well used one."  I like to live my life with that attitude.  Living a life full of trepidation is no way to really live. After all, what are you really doing?  I don't want my life to be about the things I've not done, but rather the things I kicked ass doing (or the things that kicked my ass while I was doing them!)  Either way, I want to have scars and stories to tell my grandkids about what crazy adventures I had.

This doesn't come cheaply, however.  It's important to remember that any action has an equal and opposite reaction, and breaking a bone, cutting your skin, or concussing your head is as good a way as any to realize how expensive medical care in this country can be, particularly when you don't have health insurance!

Of all the crazy things I do, and all the crazy things I've done, I've been lucky to have had few injuries.  I've busted my face, gotten stitched up a bit, and incurred other non-lifethreatening trials and tribulations, but I, fortunately, have remained largely unscathed for the amount of craziness I've subjected this body too.

My current injury is costing me north of $2k.  Not a light sum by any means.  I could go on and on about what I might have done differently to change my fortune, but there's no use in spending time pondering something that can't be changed.  There's not time machine and there's no way to do it differently.  The only thing I can do is learn from the mistakes I made and attempt not to come across the same mistake again.

"Live and learn"- One of the truer statements muttered.

1x10 Gearing:
If you don't know what 1x10 gearing is, and you ride a mountain bike, get to hitting the books (mags) and learn what it is you're missing.  I've ridden mountain bikes exclusively for a few years now, and in that time, I've tried just about everything available.  I've owned more bikes than I'm comfortable confessing, and I've bought into just about every hype and trend there is.

When I began riding, 29ers were just hitting the scene in a big way.  I got a single speed 29er (which I later switched to a geared 29er) and went to work on learning how to ride.  Soon I was on to 26 inch wheels, going backward from what the current trend is.  Then, just as I got used to the 26ers, I went back to 29, and then, in an act of genius, I went back to 26.  Follow?  The flip flopping had more to do with the type of riding I was doing, but nonetheless I got to ride all kinds of bikes, play with all types of components, and learn what it was that fit my riding style the best.

In my 'mountain bike journey', I've now come to the range of riding mostly trail and all mountain bikes.  These are the most versatile of all bike types in the mountain bike world, and with that, have the most technology imposed on them.  For example, take a look at an XC (cross country) bike from the mid 90's and then take a look at what guys are riding these days.  With the exception of bigger wheels (29ers) and disc brakes, not a whole lot has changed.  Sure suspension has gotten more advanced, but not by much when you consider the drastic changes that have come in downhill and free ride bikes.  To think that guys were riding downhill courses in what most people would race cross country on now is a frightening thought.

The result of the changes in technology generally trickle down from the downhill market to the all mountain and trail categories of bikes, and it's there where we find ourselves.  The idea of running a single ring setup on a downhill bike is not new.  After all, it doesn't make much sense to run a surplus of gears when you're only going to need the biggest ones for pedaling downhill.  With the availability of 9 and 10 speed cassettes and derailliers, the gear ratios have become high enough to make it not unreasonable to now run a single ring, 9 or 10 speed setup on a trail or all mountain bike.

Before I decided to try this out for myself, I was afraid not because of the fact that I might run out of gears and have to walk, but for the fact that I was afraid to have someone see me run out of gears and have to walk.  I'm no stranger to hiking my bike up a steep grade to rip back down.  I find a sense of pride in having to walk up something that is too steep going up, but super rip-able from the opposite direction-I'd say all mountain bikers do.  No, it was in contending with the long climbs I was concerned.  The climbs that are not particularly steep, but seem to go on forever.  Completing these with a lightweight XC bike is often hard enough, but what about when it comes to slogging a ~30lb "big bike" up these monsters?

I'm happy to say that my fears were completely unfounded.  Soon after my first ride I came to realize that small chainrings mated to big chaingrings (see 2x10) have a home on road bikes with road gearing but not necessarily on their studded tired cousins.  Even on my biggest bikes, I've found gear parings that allow me to climb easily and smoothly, yet have enough range to get me moving on the flats, and never leave me feeling like I've run out of gears.  And best of all, at least in my mind, there are no duplicate gears.  I'm able to use the full cluster of gears as they were meant to be used.  It's a small victory, but one that does mean something.

In all this, the most important thing is to know what you're looking for.  I personally run a 12-36 cassette on my heaviest bike with a 34 tooth chainring up front and have no problems.  I'm happy with the simplicity of not running any front dearailliur, and more than happy with the resulting lighter weight of the bike-not that it's all that much though.  One other benefit is that I have fewer controls to distract me when riding.  Now, instead of my left thumb being responsible for shifting and hitting my dropper post remote, it's only responsible for the post remote.  Seems like a small thing, but when you're forced to make a quick decision on the trail, less is always more.

Finally, I'm not insisting that 1x10 is for everyone.  Although many XC racers run 1x10 setups, many more don't.  I have a feeling that will soon change though, as the ever slow to adapt XC'ers find that they can save precious grams from their carbon race rockets when running less gearing.  Just tell a roadie or XC mountain biker that you have a way for them to make their bikes lighter and they'll do anything.  Anything.

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