I have that combo on my SS (well a Hone crankset)... I run a Deore level steel chainring (it has ramps, but hasn't given me any problems) and in the rear I use the Gusset conversion kit... gearing depends on your fitness and riding conditions, since the XT has a steel freehub body...you can sun any cog you want without worries (even the thin ones that usually leave marks on alu freehubs)
another vote for Salsa Rings, and Endless Kickass cog, with fibonachi spacers, i first went with a gusset conversion, but 1: the 18T was too tough for me for NC mountain climbing and 16T was out of the question, and 2: the cog was too thin, and really gouged my freehub, the Endless cog is nice and wide.... if you want to bling it out go with a Boone ti cog, work of art.
even if you go supercheap and just re-use your old front ring (which i have done for a long time without ever dropping the chain), i would still spend the 5 bucks in a nonramped rearcog. i have never gotten a rear shifty cog to run without occasionally derailling (usually when you want it the least).
I've got a 32t Salsa and a 34t Blackspire. For cogs I've a range of old 14t-24t (from late 1980's 6 & 7 speed cassettes) Shimano non-ramped and then Surly 15t,18t & 20t. Plus two stamped steel cheeze-whiz 18t cogs that came with my GF Rig and the Rockwerks hubset I bought.
I prefer the Surly cogs when I'm really getting the bike dirty and wanting it to be trouble free. They're wider at the base and I'm pretty sure stiffer and less prone to drive train stresses. (without actually getting telemetry it's just a seat of the pants measurement)
A forum community dedicated to Mountain Bike owners and enthusiasts. Come join the discussion about bike parts, components, deals, performance, modifications, classifieds, trails, troubleshooting, maintenance, and more!