Spin Doctor Tech Tip – 10 Speed MTB Drivetrain Compatibility


The 2 snarling dogs of mountain bike components (SRAM and Shimano) have decided that 9 are just not enough. Yep, they are telling us that our mountain bikes need 10 gears in the back.

The first whisperings came in 2008 when bike mags and blogs hinted at the change. Late in 2009 SRAM trotted out its high-zoot XX 2×10 drivetrain. Then in 2010 SRAM expanded their 2 x10 offerings to include their X0, X9 and X7 groups.

Then the cold war turned hot! Could or would Shimano stand pat? No way, and in 2010 out comes Shimano’s 10-speed Dyna-Sys drivetrain in their top shelf XTR and XT cross country groups and in their SLX all-mountain group.

According to the early reviews these groups work great but what about compatibility? We’ll try to answer those questions but first let us introduce the new…

SRAM 2×10. The 2×10 is so-called because it pairs a double chainring crankset with a 10 speed cassette. The surprising thing about SRAM’s 2×10 drivetrains is that they have pretty much the same range of easy and hard gears as traditional 3×9 systems.

How is that possible?  First, the 10-speed cassette has an extra cog and a wider range (11-36 vs. 11-34 for the old 9-speed). And second, the double cranks have a wide jump between small and large rings.  The double is available in either a higher 28-42 or a bit lower 26-39 tooth combinations.  Traditional triples are 22-32-44.

SRAM XX 10-speed Cassette – Item #50-7639

Here’s SRAM’s take: “2X10 gives you the same amount of useable gears of a 3X9 system but with lighter weight, faster front shifting and less complexity.”  According to SRAM the 2X10 would not be possible without their new X Glide chainrings (which use a unique 4-bolt 120/80mm bolt circle diameter). These specially mated rings are sized so every tooth on the small ring lines up perfectly with a tooth on the big ring. Plus the teeth are shaped to facilitate each shift, either up or down.

SRAM XX 39/26 BB30 Crankset – Item #50-7620

The good news is that 2×10 is lighter, simpler and its shifting is synapse-quick, but there are compatibility issues. SRAM’s 10-speed drivetrain components are all cross-compatible, with a few exceptions:

1. The 2×10 drivetrains require a double left hand shifter, double crank with the X-Glide rings, 10-speed chain and double front derailleur.

SRAM XX Low Clamp Top Pull Front Derailleur – Item #50-7635                                  (next to old X9 triple front derailleur)

2. Their 3×10 drivetrains require a triple left hand shifter, 10-speed triple crank, 10-speed chain and triple front derailleur.

3. In a switch, SRAM’s 10-speed mountain bike derailleurs (XX, X0, X9 & X7) are now compatible with their 10-speed road shifters (Red, Force, Rival & Apex). So you can use Rival shifters with a XX rear derailleur and wide range X7 10-speed cassette for mountain centuries.

SRAM XX Rear Derailleur – Item #50-7616

4. And the bummer, their 10-speed MTB derailleurs are not compatible with their 9-speed MTB drivetrains!

SHIMANO Dyna-Sys. Shimano revamped all the key parts of their 10-speed Dyna-Sys drivetrain. They have created cassettes, front and rear derailleurs, shifters, chains and cranks that are unique and essential to the operation of the system.

The rear derailleur got a more direct cable routing (like SRAM), their shifter actuation ratio got tighter (like SRAM), their cranks got redesigned chainrings (like SRAM), their cassette got a wider range (11-36 like SRAM) and their D-S cranks are available in both 2X10 (D-S XTR only) and 3X10 (like SRAM). They also redesigned their Dyna-Sys specific asymmetrical chain (not like SRAM). The D-S chain got 4 distinctly different outer plates to speed shifting. Their triple cranks got tighter ratios (24-32-42 vs. 22-32-44) and their brand new D-S XTR double is available in multiple combinations (28-40 & 26-38 are options, with 4-bolt 88mm BCD) with ranges like SRAM.

As far as compatibility, Shimano’s Dyna-Sys products are only compatible with components in the Dyna-Sys lineup, from XTR to SLX. They are not compatible with any other parts, such as using a Dyna-Sys derailleur with 9-speed shifters.  The only part that has not changed is the front/left shifter.  It has remained the same and does not include a Dyna-Sys logo.

1. The Shimano Dyna-Sys XTR 2×10 drivetrain requires a Shimano D-S XTR left hand shifter (that is convertible for double or triple), Dyna-Sys XTR double front derailleur, D-S 10-speed chain and Shimano XTR double crank.

2. Their 3×10 drivetrains require a triple left hand shifter, 10-speed D-S triple crank, 10-speed D-S chain and Shimano D-S triple front derailleur.

3. In a switch, Shimano’s D-S 10 speed rear derailleurs (XTR, XT and SLX) are NOT compatible with Shimano road shifters nor with other non-D-S MTB shifters.

We hope that this clears up some of the questions you’ve got about these new 10-speed mountain bike components, but if you need more help be sure to give Spin Doctor Product Services a call; they’ll be happy to help!

You can find all of our 10-speed mountain bike components in one handy group here.

66 Responses to Spin Doctor Tech Tip – 10 Speed MTB Drivetrain Compatibility

  1. Doug Straub says:

    Spin Doctor,
    Who (besides SRAM custom for Specialized) is making a 24T/38T Double for 29ers? Does SRAM offer this OEM?

  2. Sean Laughlin says:

    I see that SRAM has X glide on the XX, XO and X9, but what about the Noir cranks? They seem to be a heck of a bargain, can I simply swap out the rings? I hear the X glide is really really nice. Any reviews of how X glide and Dynasys measure up?

  3. keith says:

    Can I upgrade my current rear drivetrain to Shimano’s D-S 10 speed rear derailleur & shifter and leave a front tripple 9 speed shimano Deore crankset and shifter?

  4. Rudy says:

    I am running the 3×10 dyna sys and like how fast it shifts and the range of gears. I do want a 46 or 48 outer for the front. Does anyone make one or will it even work?

    • Lumberjake says:

      Bit late, but check out after market chainrings that are 10 speed compatible which match your BCD or the spacing between the bolts on your chain ring. There are many companies out there, Race Face, FSA, Shimano, Praxis, Wick Werks the latter which are pricier BUT are made of premium metals and military grade anodizing plus a slick coating that admittedly won’t last forever but is nice.
      I find it odd how some companies claiming to use the same alloys in their rings yet they have a weak reputation while other don’t. My WickWerks have lasted as long as any chain ring I have tried. Is it the alloy, the treatments or they know where to put the material design wise, I dont know?
      The BIG reason for upgrading to their rings and especially a big ring, was the increase in shift gates. I went from about 4 on my FSA (which is a solid ring thick with lots of machining/not pressed) to over a dozen on the Wicks! this translates to immediate front shifts both ways.
      When I want to shift onto the big ring, they actually encourage you to shift firmly as you will definately meet a gate whereas with others you end up pressing the chain against the ring momentarily then grabbing a pin which felt clunky or worse hitting a sudden incline and being stuck in some ring because the tension is too high to be pulled down. This isn’t a issue anymore and to me these are both significant drivetrain improvements.

  5. Pablo Esteban says:

    Excellent article.
    Just wanted to confirm your statement that “SRAM’s 10-speed drivetrain components are all cross-compatible”, because I want to change my X9 42-28 chainrings to 39-26 by fittiing the SRAM XX Chainring & Spider to the X9 cranks. ¿Is that possible?

  6. Al says:

    Does anyone know the compatbility of the sramm XO rear derailleur with a shimano XT dyna sys cassette , chain and cranks?

  7. Pingback: Nirve Classic 1 speed Bicycle (Red) Review | Mountain Bike Review - MTB Review

  8. Bumblebee says:

    I’ve just bought a X0 9 speed gripshift and a X9 10 speed rear derailleur, but they do not works together with my first attempts, the X9 10 speed derailleur cannot reach the whole range of the cassette, (my cassette is Shimano SLX M660 9 speed 11T-34T, )

    I wish it’s not because an inaccurate installation.

    If they are really incompatible, can I just by and XT 10s derailleur, use with my X0 9s gripshift ? somebody told me Shimano 10S use the same actuation ratio 1:1 now, just as SRAM 9s ‘s.

    Thanks in advance

  9. Bumblebee says:

    I’ve just bought a X0 9 speed gripshift and a X9 10 speed rear derailleur, but they do not works together with my first attempts, the X9 10 speed derailleur cannot reach the whole range of the cassette, (my cassette is Shimano SLX M660 9 speed 11T-34T, )

    I wish it’s not because an inaccurate installation.

    If they are really incompatible, can I just buy a XT 10s derailleur, use with my X0 9s gripshift ? somebody told me the Shimano 10S uses the same actuation ratio 1:1 now, just as the SRAM 9s ‘s.

    Thanks in advance

    • David S says:

      Hey there. 10 speed SRAM components (shifters and derailleurs) are not compatible with their 9 speed counterparts [although, as an aside, the 10 speed X series rear MTB derailleurs are now compatible with SRAM’s double tap road shifters.] You’ll need a 9 speed X series rear derailleur, like the SRAM X9 Rear Derailleur (Item #50-6630).

  10. Steve says:

    Can a 9 speed xtr shifter, 9 speed xtr cassette work with a 10 speed xtr RD?

    • David S says:

      Hey Steve – Shimano 10-speed MTB components will only work properly with other 10-speed equipment. Basically for Shimano, if it says “Dyna-Sys”, it only works with other “Dyna-Sys” components.

      • Steve says:

        Thanks david.

        Is there a difference of pulleys between 9 speed XTR RD and 10 speed XTR RD?

      • David S says:

        Hey Steve – 9 speed and 10 speed replacement pulleys are different parts in Shimano’s replacement catalog, so there must be some minor differences between them.

  11. Steve says:

    Thanks David, this help me a lot.

  12. Rob. says:

    Hi folks,
    Does anyone know if a 10 speed Shimano shifter will work with a 10 speed SRAM XX rear derailleur & SRAM XX cassette?


  13. Fabian says:

    hi folks,
    does anyone know what specific chainring or chainring set can i use if i want to change from 3 x10 to 2 x10 im currently on shimano xt with 10 speed DYNA sys ? im looking for the 24/36 combo.
    is there anything in the market that would work?


    • Dave says:

      I have a 3×10 shimano crank(non-series) and I bought a 24/36 chainring set with a bashguard from Raceface. It works great. I was told it would work with the xt cranks also.

  14. Dean m. says:

    Hi folks,
    Anyone know if 10 spd gripshift can be dialed in with xt dyna sys rear deraileur and cassette.

    • David S says:

      Sorry we missed your comment on here, but as a commenter mentioned below, SRAM & Shimano mountain bike systems use a different cable pull ratio, so you can’t mix them their shifters and derailleurs.

  15. Pingback: Sram compatibility | Bestofcorpusch

  16. Mr. Perry says:

    Unfortunately not as the cable pull ratios are different for SRAM and Shimano. You would need to replace both the rear shifter and rear derailleur to SRAM. Keep a Shimano chain with the system and all will be well.

  17. Tban says:

    Question, will an XT m780 will work with Shimano 5700 front and rear derailleurs? Is a commute bike 2X10 set up with everything Shimano road components but looking for flat bar shifters and wondering if XT m780 may work since it can be accommodated to double?

    • Tban says:

      Sorry, XT m780 shifters

      • David S says:

        Hey there – we checked with our Spin Doctor Technical Support team, and they said that it wouldn’t work. The cable pull ratios aren’t the same, so it would not shift correctly.

  18. Tban says:

    ok thank you

  19. Eric King says:

    I have a 3×10 Dyna-Sys XT, SL-M770 front, that I’m changing to a 2×10 Dyna-Sys. I’m told that the front shifter is convertible from 3×10 to 2×10. If so, how?

    • David S says:

      Hey Eric, the newer SL-M780 XT shifters have that capability (via a small screw under the shifter labeled “2X or 3X”), but the SL-M770 shifters that you have unfortunately do not. XTR 10-speed shifters can also be switched from 3×10 to 2×10.

  20. Jos Koopman says:

    Does anyone know: Can I combine X0 gripshifters 3X10 (MTB) with a SRAM red rear derailleur (road) ?

  21. Jos Koopman says:

    Nobody ?

  22. Mr CSharp says:

    Does anyone know or does the Spin Doctor know if the 3×10 SRAM Crank/cassette, SRAM 10spd chain, and an SRAM front derailleur will work with Shimano XTM786 rear derailleur and a pair of XT M780 10spd shifters?

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  24. floydo says:

    If you have a xtr M980 26 38 (AH series) and want to go to 24 tooth small ring, what are the options? Shimano Aneheim tech support says you cannot use an XTR 24 tooth (AE series) or XT (AE series) due to the indexing. Some reports in forums seem to report inconsistent success. Thanks

    • David S says:

      Hey Floydo, there might be some hesitation with that shifting combo, but you would also need to check the “Front chainwheel tooth difference” for your front derailleur to make sure that it can handle a 14 tooth jump. Although Shimano does make an XT level 38-24 complete crankset: http://ow.ly/q9hOL

      • floydo says:

        The front der is an M986D which says it can handle 12, 14T.. The interesting thing is the xt 38 24 big ring ramping looks different than the ramping on the xt 38 26 or xtr version. .So we shall see how it shifts…….Thanks

    • ccarl says:

      Did you try the 38/24 combo? How did it work? Thanks

  25. pete says:

    do you know of any brands selling 1×10 mtb’s?

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  42. Steve says:

    Hi, do you know if my XT SL-M770 front shifter will work with a Dynasys M-780 triple front derailleur? I believe the SL-M770 shifter is 9 speed, correct? Is there a difference in the pull ratio between the 770 and 780? I know there is with the 9 speed and 10 speed rear shifters.

    • Mr CSharp says:

      Shimano front shifter pod should work with any front deraileur, even SRAM front derailleur. The front derailleurs do not have ratio pulls as do with the rear derailleurs. So, it shouldn’t matter.

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  48. juergen dickenson says:


    i am planning to equip an old rr steelframe with sram components.

    i fell in love with those sram mtb grip shifters (x0 2×10), using those with a flat bar on my rr steelframe is my main goal.

    what i can’t seem to find out (internet, local dealers) is, whether or not i can use those grip shifters with say sram’s apex group and to make it even more complicated a mtb cassette (PG 1030, 11-36). so basically: can i mix sram’s mtb and rr 10 speed components in any way possible?

    from what the article says (rr shifters with mtb parts is fine) my plan should be good to go but i’d like to have this confirmed before i spend money on parts.

    is the left x0 gripshifter compatible with any sram 2x crank set (pre-10 speed) and any 2x front derailleur?

    that’s about it :)

    hope somebody can help me here.

    so long,

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