1, 2, or 3: How Many MTB Chainrings Do You Need?

We’ve gotten a lot of questions from our customers lately about all the different drivetrain options available for mountain bikes. To help answer your questions, we turned to our in-house expert: Mark (some of you might recognize Mark and his mustache from our videos).

Mark knows a thing or two about mountain bikes

If you are in the market for a new mountain bike or a new drivetrain for an existing mountain bike, then the crankset and gearing options can seem overwhelming and a little confusing. Triple crankset, a double, or just rolling with a single ring…which is the right one for you? Why would you choose one chainring over three or two? Can more actually be less? Let’s take a look at the options and when it comes time to upgrade, you will have a better sense of what will work best for you and why.

For years the traditional mountain bike drivetrain consisted of a triple (3 chainrings) crankset paired with a cassette (or freewheel) that has grown from 6 to as many as 11 cogs. Fast forward to now and you still have the triple (3x) crankset option, but you also have double cranksets with 2 chainrings (2x) as well as single cranksets with just one chainring (1x). 

This FSA triple crankset offers plenty of gearing options

The TripleEarly mountain bikes used whatever components were available at the time, and at that time it was primarily touring components. The wide range of a triple crankset was also necessary because the bikes were quite heavy when compared to today’s standards and the low range was needed to get those klunkers up the hills. Over time cassette ratios were refined and the gearing on triple cranksets became more compact, with smaller jumps between the 3 chainrings. Most current triple mountain bike cranksets have gearing in the 22/32/42t, 24/32/42t, or 22/32/44t range. A triple crankset typically offers the broadest range of gears, and depending on your specific needs it may be the best option for you. Good examples for using a triple would be large changes in elevation on your trails, riding to the trailhead via the road, or the desire to have a low gear that you can “spin” up the hills with.

This double crankset from Shimano offers a wide spread of gearing and reduced weight

The DoubleBefore double cranksets were embraced by component manufacturers, many riders would ditch one of the chainrings from their triple cranksets. Some people removed the large chainring to gain some ground clearance and because they didn’t need the tall gear that it offered, while others would get rid of the small ring because their terrain wasn’t hilly enough to dictate a gear that low – or they were just strong enough to do without it. Either way it was a compromise and the rider was losing some of the wide range that a triple crankset offered. When 10-speed cassettes were introduced to mountain bike drivetrains, double crankset gearing was optimized and the gear range was expanded to rival that of a triple drivetrain. The 2×10 speed drivetrain offers reduced weight, optimized front shifting, and a minimal compromise on overall gear range. Now that there are options at most price levels, a 2x drivetrain would be a great choice for anyone looking to shed some weight from their bike without giving up much in terms of versatility.

SRAM’s XX1 and X01 systems feature only one chainring and an 11-speed cassette with a huge gearing range

The SingleJust as riders were removing a chainring from their triple cranks, some were going a step further and removing the inner and outer ring and just keeping the middle ring. The reasons were numerous – further weight reduction by getting rid of the front shifter and derailleur, simplifying the drivetrain, and reducing some of the redundancy that comes with multiple chainrings. But like the early 2x adopters, they were compromising the versatility of their mountain bikes. Folks without much elevation change could get by with it, but the reduction at the high and low end of the gear range was significant. Another challenge of a 1x drivetrain is chain retention. Without the front derailleur to help keep the chain in place you need some sort of chain device to manage chain drop. It can be as simple as a road or cross style “chain watcher” if your trails are fairly smooth, but faster, rougher trails require a full-on chainguide to keep the chain on the chainring. The Race Face Narrow Wide chainring design eliminates the need for a chainguide with 1x setup, but you are still left with what could be a less than desirable gear range.

Then came the 1×11 mountain bike drivetrain. Pioneered by SRAM, the 1×11 drivetrain offered the widest gear range for a cassette (10-42t), a narrow/wide chainring tooth profile to manage chain retention, and a rear derailleur with a clutch mechanism that also assisted with chain management by keeping more tension on the chain. This ushered in a 1x option for people actually riding in the mountains and significantly reduced the weight, friction, and noise of the drivetrain. The one caveat at present with the 1×11 drivetrain is cost – the technology is new and hasn’t trickled down to the lower price levels. If you aren’t overly concerned with the cost, there is a viable option for riders seeking a 1x drivetrain who don’t want to limit where they can ride.

Hopefully you now have a better understanding of how the mountain bike drivetrain has evolved over time, the available options, and why you might choose one over another.  If you ride in extremely hilly terrain a 3x drivetrain may serve you well without breaking the bank. If you are a stronger rider who wants better front shifting performance and less weight, you may opt for a 2x drivetrain. Or if you want the ultimate in light weight, less clutter, and smooth shifting check out a 1×11 drivetrain. Thanks for reading and enjoy the ride!

56 thoughts on “1, 2, or 3: How Many MTB Chainrings Do You Need?

  1. You should have mentioned the RaceFace Narrow Wide chain rings for 1x drive trains. Excellent for converting 104 and 110 BCD cranks to 1x without the need for an expensive XX1, XO1 or XTR group. The do not drop the chain either. Quite a remarkable advance by RaceFace. Good for CX or MTB’s.

  2. Thanks for your blog post. I would like to say that a
    health insurance brokerage service also works well with the benefit
    of coordinators of any group insurance policy. The health insurance
    broker is given a long list of benefits needed by an individual or a group coordinator.
    Exactly what a broker may is hunt for individuals and also coordinators which in turn best complement
    those wants. Then he offers his recommendations
    and if both sides agree, the broker formulates a
    binding agreement between the two parties.

  3. Those centers that do choose to train with martial arts weapons usually choose
    to do so at the more advanced levels. “[T]here is no clinical evidence to support that [cushioned running shoe] design is optimal to promote the long-term health of runner,” the
    study explains. The weapons themselves can come in many sizes
    and forms: metal, wood, plastic, rubber, and foam.

  4. You have to be able to get to it before you can use it. This is because of a
    number of reasons, which includes the training can be practiced alone as no partner is
    required. The have grand masters, and an elite group that governs them.

  5. Hey would you mind letting me know which hosting company you’re working with?
    I’ve loaded your blog in 3 completely different web browsers and I must say this blog loads a lot faster
    then most. Can you suggest a good hosting provider
    at a fair price? Thanks a lot, I appreciate it!

  6. Have you ever considered about including a little
    bbit more than just your articles? I mean, what you say is valuable and all.

    However think about if you added some great imagews or video clips to give yor posts more, “pop”!

    Your content is excellent but withh pics and
    ideo clips, this site could definitely be one of the
    vefy bsst in its field. Terrific blog!

  7. สวัสดี สวัสดี มี เพียง กลายเป็น ตระหนักถึง แจ้งเตือนไปยัง บล็อกของคุณผ่าน ทาง Google และพบ ว่า มันเป็น
    จริงๆ ข้อมูล ผม จะ จะ ระวังบรัสเซลส์ ฉันจะ
    ชื่นชม จะขอบคุณ ถ้าคุณยังคง นี้ ในอนาคตอัน จำนวนมาก คน จะได้รับประโยชน์
    จาก การเขียนของคุณ ไชโย!

  8. We can’t even ask the City’s Chief Financial Officer, Ricardo Kisner.
    Originally painted orange, he came to Vilano Beach in the 1940s to flog, guess what, Florida orange juice.
    We could go to that new little restaurant down the corner from ours,
    Panchito’s, and try those Breakfast Cakes that Julio was talking about at work.

  9. I don’t know whether it’s just me or if everybody else experiencing issues
    with your site. It appears as if some of the
    written text in your content are running off the screen. Can somebody else please provide feedback
    and let me know if this is happening to them too? This might
    be a problem with my web browser because I’ve had this happen previously.

  10. Hello this is kind of of off topic but I was wanting to know if blogs use WYSIWYG
    editors or if you have to manually code with HTML.
    I’m starting a blog soon but have no coding expertise
    so I wanted to get advice from someone with experience.

    Any help would be enormously appreciated!

  11. Great items from you, man. I’ve consider your stuff previous to and you’re just too great.

    I really like what you have got here, certainly like what you are stating and the way in which
    in which you assert it. You make it entertaining and you still take care of to keep it sensible.
    I can’t wait to learn far more from you. That is really a terrific web site.

  12. These days, there are many types of martial arts that you can choose from, if
    you want to learn and get some training. “My goal is not simply to teach the physical aspects of Korean martial arts, but to instill in my students confidence that is gained through Humbleness, perseverance, achievement, humility, and respect. A system is just the type of martial art you will be studying like Karate, Kendo, or Kung Fu.

  13. I think the time we had and that Isaac works fast and Scott
    is so talented we were still able to make it work.
    It doesn’t matter if sometimes the swords are made entirely of wood
    either since the actual weapons techniques
    will still be used in the forms. The Complete Book of Karate Weapons,
    which is still in print after 30 years.

  14. The need for protection, the need for exercise, the need for a
    little personal power these often open doors to dojos and gyms.
    The sport of mixed martial arts has evolved from the
    myths that were once believed to be true and risen into a highly respected art
    form. Once again, if you have been practicing martial
    arts hard up to this point it should be evident in being able to keep
    your cool in a fight much better than when you started and being
    able to read your opponents more.

  15. Choosing the Right Martial Arts School for your kid is very important.
    After you do complete the above conditions, Akuma will appear and challenge you to a
    fight, all you have to do now is beat him and he’s unlocked for you to use.
    So, what are you waiting for, go for right uniform and supplies as well and chose
    the right martial arts shop to fulfill all your martial arts needs.

  16. Kid’s karate and martial arts in Woodinville, WA can help a child see the beauty in themselves and learn to appreciate themselves for who they are,
    as well as others for who they are. Submission moves may not be as glamorous as knockouts, but
    they are more rewarding if you know how to do them because
    they involve a lot more skill and strategy. Martial Tricks is known for its out-of-the-box visuals.

  17. The skills taught during martial arts training helps to reinforce what
    the child should be learn at home in their personal development.
    Sakura – Sakura idolizes Ryu and follows him around the
    world, entering the same contests and hoping he’ll take her as his student
    and help her improve her fighting ability.
    s mental, emotional, physical and spiritual wellness, nowadays,
    it has become very necessary to learn such kind of art.

  18. The protective equipment is usually made of a foam
    dipped material and comes in various colors but generally the all red or all black
    sparring gear is the most popular. But you will never the true reason(s) why they
    joined. This means that our physical nature
    conforms to our intentions, and there is no
    division between our interior and exterior aspects.

  19. In Sydney seminars on martial arts are held quite frequently.
    And yes we can debate all day and night about what martial arts’ “true” purpose is.
    Being in the damage role increases all damage output.

  20. And these are not concepts that you need concern yourself with if you are in a ring with rules, time limits,
    referees, and even doctors present to help you. It is the
    study of the correct angles and the use of timing and position to pull off techniques.
    It is difficult to find employment in the field without the certificate, and the need
    for education to be more flexible drives distance learning to new levels as it accommodate both
    the teacher and student.

  21. Most fighting styles have their own casual branded
    clothing lines, for those who wish to display their fighting spirit, or just support their chosen discipline.
    So with this lesson, keep your kicks targetted at the knees, ankles,
    shins and groin. He looked to his superstar Antonio Inoki that can help him in her own journey.

  22. Being able to read your opponent is a prime example of the master martial artist compared to a novice artist.

    Although any martial art will most likely help to alleviate the symptoms of depression, the following
    have received the most attention. BJ Devine’s formula was introduced in 1974 and is
    used on many web pages today.

  23. 1x is enough for me, but for many smaller/weaker riders it is an effort. Rumour has it that SRAM is releasing a 26T front chainring next year that will make the ratios much more suitable for those who struggle with the current offerings.

  24. Hi! I could have sworn I’ve been to this website before but after
    browsing through some of the post I realized it’s new to me.
    Nonetheless, I’m definitely delighted I found it and I’ll be book-marking and checking
    back often!

  25. The elements of the spectacles that hint your skin, especially on-the-nose, may cause
    pimple because of the perspiration develop together with a skin reaction with all the elements that are pressing it.
    Especially, look for moobs prescription cups is essential for that
    cause of one’s perspective.

  26. Having read this I thought it was very enlightening.

    I appreciate you spending some time and effort to put this article
    together. I once again find myself personally spending way too much time both reading and commenting.
    But so what, it was still worthwhile!

  27. You could definitely see your expertise within the article you write.
    The world hopes for more passionate writers like you who are not afraid to say how they believe.
    Always go after your heart.

  28. Hi, i think that i noticed you visited my blog so i got here to go back the want?.I am attempting to find issues to improve
    my site!I assume its adequate to make use of some of your concepts!!

  29. Can I simply just say what a comfort to
    uncover someone that really knows what they’re discussing on the web.
    You actually realize how to bring a problem to light and make it important.
    More and more people have to check this out and understand this side of
    the story. It’s surprising you aren’t more popular because you surely possess the gift.

  30. Greetings from Ohio! I’m bored to tears at work so I decided to browse your site on my iphone during
    lunch break. I enjoy the knowledge you present here and can’t wait to take a look when I get home.
    I’m surprised at how fast your blog loaded on my mobile ..
    I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyways, great site!

  31. Greetings I am so happy I found your site, I really found you by mistake, while I was researching on Digg for something else, Regardless
    I am here now and would just like to say many
    thanks for a marvelous post and a all round interesting blog
    (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time to read it all at the minute
    but I have book-marked it and also included your RSS feeds,
    so when I have time I will be back to read a lot more, Please do keep up the fantastic

  32. My brother suggested I may like this web site.
    He was once totally right. This publish truly made my day.

    You cann’t believe just how much time I had spent for this info!
    Thank you!

  33. finding the RIGHT reader is probably where you spend a lot of your time, right.
    I do feel that there is a deeper reason for the existence of
    spiritual readings including psychic readings,
    tarot readings, medium readings and any other
    type of divination. Knowing a little part of your future, or may be just a hint,
    something like your efforts will be answered etc, and can help a person ease his stress.

  34. Paddy was not the kind of person to wait for things to happen, but as each
    of them did, he’d recall that Sandra had told him about them.
    It’s unconscionable that people could prey on others’ vulnerabilities
    and pain in this way. This is why you have to be careful
    when you call a psychic and they tell you things are going to work out just

  35. Somebody necessarily help tto make signiicantly articles I would state.
    That is thhe very first time I frequented your web age and so far?
    I amazed with the research you made to create this particular
    publish amazing. Magnificent job!

  36. My spouse and I absolutely love your blog and find almost all of your post’s to
    be exactly I’m looking for. Do you offer guest writers to write content available for
    you? I wouldn’t mind writing a post or elaborating on a lot of the subjects you write in relation to here.
    Again, awesome weblog!

  37. I’m amazed, I must say. Rarely do I come across a blog that’s
    equally educative and engaging, and without a doubt, you’ve hit the nail on the head.
    The issue is an issue that too few men and women are speaking intelligently
    about. I’m very happy I came across this in my hunt for something relating to this.

  38. Hey There. I discovered your blog using msn. This is a really well written
    article. I’ll make sure to bookmark it and come back to
    read more of your helpful information. Thanks for the post.
    I will definitely comeback.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *