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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi guys, I'm running a SRAM X9 1x9 drivetrain on my hardtail with a 32t chainring, BBG bashwich and 11-34 cassette. It works great for the trails in the areas I ride most (Austin and Tallahassee), but I've been traveling more to ride lately and tackling some longer, steeper, more technical climbs, which has me wishing for slightly lower gearing.

The eventual answer is 1x11 once prices continue to drop, but I'm cheap, which puts converting everything to 1x10 and a 42t cog out of the picture as well, and the larger cogs don't seem to work properly with the short cage 9 speed derailleurs. Grrrr.

I started looking at the front end of things and found that a 26t chainring would give me the same low gear as a 42t rear cog with my current chainring would, while only effectively losing my highest gear. I could live with that but can't run that small of a middle chainring unless I switch to the SRAM direct mount cranks and chainrings (not the cheapest either yet, but more affordable and not already outdated.)

My current idea is running a 26t chaining in place of the inner bash guard, without a front derailleur or shifter. For local trails I can run on the 32t chainring, when I ride somewhere with a lot of long steep climbs I can just lift the chain and move it to the 26t ring by hand. The short cage derailleur has enough capacity to handle every gear combination, and I wouldn't have to swap the chain back and forth during the ride as I would still have higher speed ratios when on the smaller ring.

There are a couple issues, the first being chain retention. I could swap the 32t ring to a narrow wide if it was getting bounced off without the inner bash guard, and run something like a jump stop to keep the chain from coming off to the inside. The second issue is cross chaining. Most of the time the chain line will be fine, but I will want to be able to run it on the "granny" gear while using the smaller cogs on my cassette. I won't have to use the furthest outside one, but I would like to use most of them. I realize that the chain won't last as long, but it won't be constant use like this, under climbing the chain line will be straight, and chains are cheap. Are there any other issues or options I'm not aware of, or is this the best route to go without spending a ton of money replacing the whole drivetrain? Thanks.
 

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I use the manual granny gear in the winter, and definitely recommend a narrow/wide for the bigger ring. For some reason my 26t granny never drops the chain (I think it's just an old raceface), but my 32t was a problem until I switched to n/w. And I don't think chainline is an issue. I'll use mine with the cassette crusted in slush and ice, and the small-small combo still works fine.
 

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The only issue I can see is chain wrap. You will need a medium cage RD to do the 2 ring front.
 

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As far as chainline goes the small ring position will be at least as good as the middle one, probably better.

For the rest- why not a front derailleur and shift lever?
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I really don't want to go back to the weight, clutter, and complexity of front shifting, and I wouldn't need to stop and switch them during rides. If the trail has a lot of climbing, I would leave it on the 26t ring, if it's more flowing I would leave it on the 32t. The short cage derailleur has enough capacity for a 26t ring by my calculations, SRAM claims 32t. 34-11=23 on the cassette, 32-26=6, together that is a 29t spread.
 

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I don't think a mere front derailleur and the associated cable and trigger are that heavy, and a lot of the clutter and complexity can be eliminated by taking your time to adjust them properly. The difference between a mediocre and good FD setup is huge, the good one is barely noticeable when riding. If you could push the chain from one chainring to another without stopping, you could go with 26 and 36 in the front, gain faster high gears and still be within your RD capacity.

However, if you wish to do it manually, I think your solution is a good one. If the granny ring is not often in use and you stay off the very small end of the cassette, I foresee no problems.

Another good way to make technical climbs easier is to hit the gym and do squats, deadlifts and core training. Pick a program, get someone to spot for you to get the moves right and remember to eat and rest. You'll notice improvement in just a few months.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I agree a front derailleur isn't the end of the world, but with this gearing combination there is so much overlap it hardly seems worth switching back and forth on the fly. Basically the gear ratios with the 26t chainring give up my 32x11 gear in exchange for 32x37 and 32x42 gears, the others are the same.

Strength and conditioning are obviously key as well, I've been riding a single speed a lot lately which has helped, and the long flat climbs are easy now when standing and mashing. The trouble comes on the climbs where I feel I have to stay seated and hunched down over the handlebars and spin smoothly over the loose rocks while maneuvering between obstacles.
 

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Yes, those situations do call for a smaller gear than what you'd normally be able to push. The overlap between 26 and 32 is quite big, which is why I suggested 26-36 as an alternative.

My Moonlander has a dinglespeed setup, which requires dismounting and manually moving the chain. I'm running 36/18 as the faster ratio and 33/21 as the slower one at the moment. It's not as big of a hassle as one might think and greatly reduces frustration on long, flat sections.

In a nutshell, go for it.
 
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