1x or 2x Cranksets / Drivetrains for Gravel Bikes?

There is a dilemma in the world of gravel cycling relating to the crankset / drivetrain. Admittedly, it is a first world problem but the question being posed is:
1x or 2x drivetrain? Or single or double chainring?… if you prefer.
JOM of the Gravel Cyclist crew canvassed a stack of riders on the start line at the 2017 Rebecca’s Private Idaho with this very question.

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  1. Avatar Greg Cook

    I guess folks don’t get asked that question much , hence the hesitation in the answer . 1x by the way .

    • JOM JOM

      Greg, it was an idea I had the morning of the event. Definitely caught a few people by surprise but I think it went well. I cut the editing down to the bare minimum else the video would have run for about eight minutes!

  2. Avatar Eric P

    Good to see a good pool of answers.

    I’m really hitching to go 1x next year. At this time running 2x 46/36 with 11-36.
    Don’t use the 46-11 much even downhill. Thinking of losing that high gear and going 1x 42 and 11-40.

    Do keep info like this flowing through.

    • JOM JOM

      May have to conduct this survey again in the future… I think it made for a fun video.

  3. Avatar Steve

    Overwhelming 2x contingent at RPI, yet it looks like the entire podium from last weekend are 1x users… Interesting.

    • Avatar Craig Roomer

      Actually, either the 60 or 100 female division was won on a 2X. Saw the bike and talked to person.
      1x is a joke on a ride like Rebecca’s. I have done it three times. How are you going to go 35 to 40 mph in a group with a 1x. You will be spun out and out of gears and off the back. I talked to a few people on 1x after and they all wish they had taller gears. I run 50/34 with 11/32 and it works great. Plenty of low for the climb and great at top end. 1x for cyclo-cross, for anything else just a fade and rather limited use, even in mountain bikes. The range on the cassette, say 11-42, has big gaps between gears and makes it tough to find right gear. Just put the dam 2x on and deal with occasional mud issue. Just a way to sell us something new.

  4. Avatar Greg

    For an old timer who is always looking for a gear with the right cadence 2x is the ONLY choice.

  5. Avatar The Dude

    I think the right answer depends a lot on several factors.
    The most important one being – what range do you really need? I’m a slow rider, riding in Minnesota. We don’t really have hills. I coast down hills standing up, stretching my legs and giving my bottom a relief from saddle pressure. What do I need gears for? 1x is great for me.
    If you’re a fast rider who wants to bomb down those hills you might really want a 50+ tooth crank. If you live in a hilly area, you might really want some extra low gears to spin your way up those hills. If you’re sensitive to cadence and really want to be in a comfortable rpm range…
    There are many reasons why you might choose 2x. I can see why it’s the more popular choice, especially at Rebecca’s.
    I don’t want to mess with any more derailleur adjustments than I have to. And when I come out of a mud pit road in the rain and muck and mud at a wet ride, I don’t want anything more complicated than necessary. So – 1x for me.
    But 2x for you? Yep! Go for it. I love having the choice. I really hope people don’t choose their drivetrain based on what the cool folks are doing. Do what’s right for you.

    • JOM JOM

      I raced the Almanzo 100 this year in pretty bad conditions. Perhaps you, The Dude, live elsewhere in MN, but there were plenty of hills, and I was all over my 46 / 30 2X setup! Mind you, I live in north central Florida and I’m not exactly the speediest uphill haha. But you are spot on… choose whatever is right for you. Drivetrain naysayers need to ride their bikes a bit more 🙂

      • Avatar The Dude

        Good point. Around the Twin Cities there aren’t much in the way of hills. When you head southeast into the river valley area, there are hills. And Chris searched out all of the nastiest ones in the area, as far as I can tell. (I only managed the first 50-odd miles when I tried it in 2013. Next year…)

  6. Avatar Edward Ng

    It’s not so much maximum gearing range that matters as much as how badly the rider of the bike can handle in terms of cadence range. As a rider, personally, I am extremely happy anywhere in the 70-100rpm range, which gives me huge flexibility in gearing range. I currently run an 11-46 with a 44T narrow-wide oval on my road bike, and am in the middle of an experiment to upgrade it to 11-50 with SunRace’s new MX80 cassette. My chain turned out too short last night on initial attempt, so I’ve ordered an additional chain to take links from plus a Wolf Tooth RoadLink. If it works, I am debating if I want to keep the 44T ring (since I can already ride the vast majority of hills on the 42T second largest cog this way and save the 50T as an oh-sh!t gear), or if I then want to upsize to a 48T ring. I have one or two instances on downhills where I spun out the 44×11, but at that point, I’ve been reasonably happy to just get into an aero tuck and coast, so perhaps the 48T ring isn’t a necessary upgrade.

    But yes, if your idea of cadence control is never riding anything lower than 80 or higher than 90, 1X is probably not going to be your best friend.


  7. Avatar Beargrease

    Just replaced a 50/34 crankset with a 46/30. Made a big difference in the climbing department for me. I vote 2x 46/30 11-32. With 38mm wide tires this gives one a low gear of 25.83 gear inches. I’m from Minnesota too, but still appreciate the lower gearing. I spun this out just once doing 35 mph downhill on pavement. Still plenty of range IMO.

  8. Can you send or post me a clip of Yuri saying 1x is the wave of the future? Thanks, Otis

    Ps- we met at the Rockstar breakfast two years ago. I am friends with Kristi Mohn and just started my own bike shop in Ohio, Dirty River Bicycle Works. @dirtyriverbikes

    Keep up the good work

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