Sure, I veered off bikes a fair amount last week. I guess I was waiting for somebody to invent a new rear axle or bottom bracket standard, but SRAM trumped all that with those spy photos of a prototype 1×11 drivetrain that showed up on BikeRadar, and ignited a shitstorm of speculation and armchair product managing across the Interwebs.
As evidenced by the condition I’m in after last Saturday’s ride with the Portland Velo crew, I am old. I am, in fact, old enough to remember the invention of the “cassette body,” not to mention the shitstorm that was the eventual transition to a new, wider cassette body. Ah, the good ol’ seven and eight-speed days, a special time when there were still genuine freewheel mountain bike hubs out there, mingling freely with the chaos of different hub flange spacing and cassette body widths. Or something like that. I’ve repressed most of it successfully.
Many youngsters out there have no idea just how nice you’ve had it what with all these extra gears getting crammed onto cassettes without requiring entirely different cassette bodies and pushing the hub flanges even closer together.
But maybe it’s time. Like one of those B movies where someone can’t leave well enough alone and messes with a sacred tomb or something, SRAM may have unleashed all hell in their pursuit of the ultimate simple single chainring.
As someone who hates triples, I feel I owe SRAM a great debt for introducing 2×10 and forcing Shimano to get on board with doubles, too. Triple cranksets in any and all forms are the work of the devil.
But at what cost? If we really stand on the verge of a new hub “standard,” I’m afraid the whole universe might plunge hopelessly into chaos. Seriously. Wheelsets have been our sanity throughout all the headset and bottom bracket changes over the past few years. Sure, there are all those axle options now, but to their infinite credit, the wheelset manufacturers have done a great job of building adaptability into their hubs as quickly as possible. If DT really does already have a completely new cassette body in production and we’re going to see wider cassette bodies and new cassettes that won’t be compatible with any previous hub, it’s going to be really interesting to see how consumers react.
Would you move to an 11-tooth mountain cassette that let you go single ring up front if it meant having to buy a new rear hub or entire rear wheel, new derailleur and new shifter?