Budget 1×10: Making the Most of Old Shimano Tech

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Thinking about giving a 1x drivetrain a whirl for bikepacking? It’s easy to get carried away by the latest and greatest. But if you’re not ready for the investment of a dedicated 11 or even 12-speed drivetrain, there’s a budget option at hand, recycling parts close to hand. For those already running a Shimano-compatible 8 or 9-speed freehub, switching to a relatively wide range, 1×10 drivetrain is both easy and affordable.

In a world of ever-changing ‘standards’, here’s some good news! Older Shimano and Shimano-compatible hubs are mostly cross-exchangeable with new ones, so you can marry a more recent 10 (or even 11-speed) cassette to your tried and tested 8 or 9-speed freehub body. This, in turn, means there’s no need to build up a new wheel for such an experiment. The process itself is actually very simple. But with so many options and variables to consider, it can be a little tricky to navigate the waters of what you actually need, and figure out which parts work with what… So here’s how to go about it:

1. Track down a new (or second hand) 10-speed derailleur and shifter, plus chain.

First, you’ll need a replacement 10-speed derailleur, shifter, and chain. The advantage of choosing 10-speed gear is that it’s a rung down the evolutionary drivetrain ladder. This means there are often great deals to be had, whether at your local bike shop, at bikes swaps, eBay, Craiglist, or online (perhaps a friend has upgraded and you can inherit the leftovers!) And of note to those headed on overseas adventures, 10-speed parts also tend to be easier to find than 11/12 speed ones, outside of Western Europe and Australia.

Ideally you’ll want a long cage derailleur to help handle the wide range cassette and extend its life, though if there’s only a mid range on offer, it will probably work too (see below and comments too); SLX grade components are a great place to start, as they offer almost all the performance of the XT groupset at a significantly lower cost. Models with a clutch system are recommended, as this stops the chain from rattling around. Note that if you’re running an old school friction shifter, you may even be able to recycle it into glorious 10-speed. As for chains, KMC often have some affordable options.

  • 1x10 drivetrain
  • 1x10 drivetrain
  • 1x10 drivetrain

2. Fit a Sunrace CXMS3 Cassette.

Next, you’ll need to replace your cassette. More good news. Sunrace makes the CXMS3 Wide-Ratio Cassette (11-42T) in a 10-speed flavour (387g, $70) and the slightly cheaper and heavier MS3 version. Longterm feedback is really good, in terms of wear and tear, while shifting is perfectly reasonable. The downside is that you’ll be limited to a 11-42T range, rather than the 11-46T+ spectrum available for 11-speed drivetrains.

  • 1x10 drivetrain
  • 1x10 drivetrain

1x10 drivetrain

3. Swap out your chainring for a 30T narrow-wide model.

If you’re morphing from an 8 or 9-speed drivetrain, chances are you’ll be running a 104 BCD, 4 bolt crankset. Traditionally, this would have limited you to a 32T chainring as your lowest option. But if you don’t think this will provide a lower enough gear to run with a 42T cassette – and remember, you’ll be bikepacking with weight on your bike – then it’s worth investing in a Wolf Tooth Components Drop Stop 30T chainring, which uses threaded posts in order to clear the spider on your average 104 BCD crankset. Wolftooth offer two versions: steel and aluminum. Given the demands of bikepacking, for my build I went for the rather more expensive steel version ($100), as it’s claimed these rings last as much a 5-10 times longer than conventional aluminum rings. If you’re going for the 30T option, bear in mind you’ll need longer chainring bolts than usual; Wolf Tooth can provide a set of 10mm bolts for $15.

Even if you’re gearing your bike with a 32T chainring, invest in a narrow-wide model, as it help keep the chain in place, especially when used in conjunction with a clutched derailleur. Otherwise you can run a standard, cheaper chainring, like those from Surly, with a chainkeeper of some kind.

  • 1x10 drivetrain
  • 1x10 drivetrain

Gear inches

If you’re running a 30T chainring with a 11-42T cassette on a 29×2.35 tire, this will give you a range of around 19 to 79.5in. Compare this to a 22T/36T double with a 36T cassette, which comes in at 18 to 95.5in. Or, an old fashioned 22T/32T/44T triple with an 11-32T cassette, which works out at about 20 to 116in. As you can see, you’ll be matching doubles and triples at the low end but you’ll certainly be losing out on the top. Due to the less extreme angles a chain is subjected to, its life is often better too, though manufacturers claim new chains are designed with this in mind. 1x advantages include an easier setup, more intuitive use (especially for novices) and a lighter drivetrain. Note that if you’re moving to a B+ tire setup, changing to a 1x drivetrain should mean you won’t experience any chain rub in your lowest gears, as you would with a standard double. For more on the importance of knee-saving granny gears, check out this post.

4. Or… Go Frankenstein on your existing cassette and derailleur.

Already have a good quality cassette? You can also extend its range by swapping out two of the rings using one of Wolf Tooth’s GC Shimano cogs ($80) and a 16T replacement cog ($15) to smooth out shifting. As clever as it is, and as well as it works, bear in mind that it actually ends up costing conserably more than a complete Sunrace cassette. Also, you’ll need to check compatibility with the cassette you have.

Likewise, if you’re scavenging for parts, don’t turn the gift of a 10-speed mid cage derailleur down (especially a Shimano Shadow+), as it will likely work with a longer B-tension screw, to help shift into the largest sprocket. Otherwise, Wolf Tooth also offer a Goat Link extension kit, which is said to both help shifting and extend the life of your cassette.

  • 1x10 drivetrain
  • 1x10 drivetrain

In the interest of thoroughness, we should also mention that OneUp Components has a similar solution with their 42T Sprocket + 16T kit ($80). And similarly, the idea is to remove the 17t sprocket and add a 42T in the back instead – check compatibility first though. You can also swap your 15t sprocket for the included 16t to gain smoother jumps between gears. Again though, note that this works out to be a more complicated and expensive way of doing things than simply buying a complete CXMS3 Sunrace cassette, as above. If your derailleur cage is too short to accommodate the 42T sprocket, One One’s version of the Goat Link is the RADr cage ($55) which works with all Shadow+ (clutch) rear derailleurs.

In terms of narrow-wide chainrings, One Up offer a 104 BCD 30T aluminium option ($47), as well as a an oval chainring too ($47). Curious about oval rings? It’s claimed a 32T oval ring actually equates to a 30T-34T range. In theory, this should be great for this kind of setup, as it won’t suffer from the quite same top end capping of speed. Logan’s certainly a fan.

  • OneUp Components 42T Sprocket, 1x10
  • OneUp Components RADr Cage, 1x10
  • OneUp Components 30T chainring, 1x10

Wide Range 9 Speed

On an tighter budget and happy to sacrifice a couple of cogs? We’re really pleased to see that Sunrace also offer an M9 9-Speed Wide-Ratio Cassette (11-40T), which should work great, as long as you have a derailler that’s long enough to handle the extra range. If you have only have a medium cage derailleur to hand, try using a long B-tension screw to help to the chain move into the largest cog.

1x10 drivetrain

Wrap Up

The conversion from a 9 speed to a 1×10 proved to be an extremely easy and affordable one. Even with the more costly steel chainring, it like likely cost you less than $250 for a complete drivetrain overhaul – and cheaper still if you hunt around or inherit some second hand parts.

In realworld terms, I found a 30T/42T combination worked perfectly well for relatively steep, singletrack-orientated bikepacking, giving me all the lower range I need. At the top end, I definitely spun out compared to the double I’m used to. But more often than not, this was more of an issue with unladen riding. If you use the same bike for bikepacking as you do for trail riding, an 11-speed drivetrain will open up the possibility of running a 11-46T cassette, allowing you to fit a 34T or 36T cog up front, upping your gear inch range to 90-95 – which means your cruising speed won’t be capped in the same way. Note that Sunrace offer a similarly priced 11-46T cassette that will fit on your old freehub, though investing in the rest of the 11-speed components is likely to cost you more.

All this said, I’ve been really happy with an extended range, 1×10 drivetrain for the way I ride. I love its simplicity and I’ll happily spin at the top end out to gain those valuable low, hill climbing gears, especially when laden. I can certainly see a 1×11 speed setup in my future, especially as it continues to drop down in price. But for now, this conversion has proved a great budget gateway into a viable, widerange 1x drivetrain. And as much as I see the benefits of a 2x drivetrain, I definitely prefer the simplicity of a single chainring.

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  • Patrick Dowd

    I do believe Surly rings are wide narrow now and also steel.

    That 9 speed 11-40 is cool!

  • http://www.bikepacking.com Logan Watts

    I think they offer both; the stainless NW rings are pretty slick though. And you can do a 1x on the OD: http://surlybikes.com/blog/post/od_crank_and_1x11_drivetrains

  • http://www.offroute.ca Skyler

    Note that you don’t actually need a long cage derailleur for 1×10. The medium cage can handle a 35 tooth jump from smallest to largest ratio. Provided you stay within that, a medium cage should actually provide better shifting.

  • Cass Gilbert

    Hm… I tried one… and I found the long cage worked better and was easier to set up. Came together really nicely. Just screwed in the B tension screw and I was good to go.

  • http://www.offroute.ca Skyler

    Oh yeah…I forgot that with a 40T or bigger you also need a longer B-tension screw on the medium cage. Whatever works!

  • Cass Gilbert

    I believe Surly wide-narrow rings are actually OD-specific (5 arm, 58mm). I figure most people endulging in this experiment will be coming from a 4 arm, 104 BCD setup (as I was!).

    Yes, isn’t that 9 speed cool? Sunrace are doing some great stuff. If only they’d make a 11-46T in a ten speed…

  • Joe Newton

    Been running the 10 speed SunRace 11-42, mid-cage and single 30T chainring on my Salsa Mukluk for about 8 months now. I primarily did it to gain enough clearance to run 4.6 tires on 80mm rims. Works a charm.

  • Al Cowan

    Why dont they? Is a 42 the max that’ll work without messing around with the RD? even a 44 would be good.

  • mikeetheviking

    Another fan of the SunRace 11-42 cassette. Best upgrade to my bike yet. Loving the lower gearing so much that i’m considering getting a race face aeffect crankset so i can run a 26T or 28T wolftooth chainring.

  • Chris Leydig

    Not that it’s cheaper, but you can run an 11 speed shimano rear mech with 10 speed shifters. The medium cage works just right

  • http://blog.alexwebb.com alexwebb4

    You can even run a short cage. I run a Shimano Zee derailleur, which is essentially a short cage SLX with a Oneup Radr cage mod. The derailleur before mod is only 10 ounces more weight than an XT medium cage, the Oneup mod allows it to run a SunRace 11-42 with no problem. The arm is significantly shorter than the SLX that came with my Krampus. I call it my poor man’s Rohloff.

  • Jon Schultz

    I’ve had a medium cage on a 42t for a few years now, and it works fine on my Surly Krampus. I was able to use the standard b-tension screw, but had to remove the plastic captive bit to make it screw in slightly further.

  • Cass Gilbert

    Cool, thanks! Nice to know that works.

  • Cass Gilbert

    Thanks! I did hear that longer derailleurs help extend the life of the cassette. But if it works, it works!

  • Cass Gilbert

    I don’t think there’s a physical reason. I bet they’d be a demand for one if they did.

  • Pedro Blasco

    Great choice. I am using that crankset too, originally was 36T and I changed to 30T.

  • Michael Viglianco

    I’ve had this discussion with a few people but what about a 9sp long cage shimano with 9sp shifter in friction mode? What prevents this from working with 10 so cassettes…either wide range or not so wide range? What/where is the physical limitation? Follow up is would a 9sp long cage work on 10sp cassette with a Microshift 10sp friction shifter in friction mode?

  • Blake Terzini

    Seriously, the advantages of oval rings are so enormous. I just got back from a s24o in the Finger Lakes National Forest (including some trail) with a bunch of friends where the bikes ranged from 4″ fat to my 44mm Compass slicks. I was able to maintain traction on pretty much everything but unavoidable sections of sloppy mud. Pretty much everything but my singlespeed commuter has oval rings, and really it is only a matter of time before that gets one too…

  • Andrew Wade

    Those are great cranks and Race Face now makes steel NW DM rings in 28,30,32t.

  • http://www.brianmcgloin.com/ Brian McGloin

    I think a 10-speed Shimano Zee FR (short cage) derailleur has the capacity for the 42, but barely. I think the addition of a Goat Link would fix that. I went with Zee for price and outrageous durability when I went from single speed to 1×10.

    I’m running an 11-36 XT cassette and was thinking about eventually going for the lower 40 or 42t via Wolftooth or One-Up, but if the Sunrace cassette is as good as it seems, then it’s a no-brainer, saving money for extra tacos and Monster (I have a Wolftooth 30t 104 BCD stainless steel ring, mounted with WT red bolts on 165mm Zee cranks).

  • fauxpho

    I’m afraid this article is about 3 weeks too early: the new Shimano Deore M6000 stuff is supposed to begin shipping to shops in June. Finally we will have a genuine Shimano purpose-built 11-42 10 speed cassette and inexpensive 10sp rear derailleur that is designed to shift a 42T cog.
    Really surprised that there is no mention of this imminent product availability in the article, given that it will likely be the go-to price/performance option for folks wanting 1×10 relatively cheaply.

  • fauxpho

    If this is working for you, its probably luck, and/or shifting is less than optimal at the extremes. The Shimano MTB 11sp and 10sp products use completely different cable pull ratios at the shifter and different shift ratios at the derailleur. 10 sp shifters will move an 11 sp derailleur about 5% less per shift than the 11sp shifters, the opposite of what you want (the cog spacing is slightly greater on 10sp). If you want the numbers:
    http://blog.artscyclery.com/science-behind-the-magic/science-behind-the-magic-drivetrain-compatibility/

  • http://www.bikepacking.com Logan Watts

    Interesting. Well, we can’t cover it all; that’s why there’s comments… thanks for adding; perhaps Cass will want to make a mention in the article when he resurfaces into WiFilandia.

  • fauxpho

    I’ll add another observation: if the goal is 1X for a modest price, why constrain yourself to 10 speed? The article suggests that 10sp components may be available for cheaper. But I can buy a new 11sp M7000 SLX shifter, rear derailleur, 11-42 cassette and chain shipped to my door for $143. No goat links or odd cassettes or inverted B adjust screws necessary, just excellent shifting and zero DIY tweaks. For less than $100 more, I can buy a full SLX crankset and SLX 30T 1X ring (and that ring is cheaply replaced at $27 or so, unlike the expensive offset 30T models required to fit old 104bcd cranks).
    Back when SRAM XX1 was the only game in town, I could understand why people were frankensteining together 1×9 and 1×10 setups, but with the current availability of high-quality/low-cost 1×11 it just doesn’t make any sense to me anymore.

  • GreyD

    Confused by the last line “And as much as I see the benefits of a 2x, I definitely prefer it.” you do like 2x better or no?

  • Vincent Malmgren

    Is there any reason you couldn’t use that 11-40 9-speed Sunrace cassette with a 2x crankset?

  • http://www.bikepacking.com Logan Watts

    Don’t see why not!

  • Cass Gilbert

    Thanks for the info. If I get a chance to try one out, I’ll certainly add in some thoughts. Sounds like Shimano are reacting to Sunrace’s popularity.

    As it is, the Sunrace and a standard derailleur works just great. Hard to say which is better until Shimano’s version is out!

  • Cass Gilbert

    Read in conjunction with the sentence that precedes it… it refers to my preference for a 1x drivetrain. Apologies for the confusion!

  • Cass Gilbert

    Thanks for your thoughts.

    I guess the point I was trying to make is that you can recycle slightly older 10 speed components – stuff you may have around, or have inherited from a friend, or acquired a bikeswap – into a very viable 1x drivetrain that will serve you well. Personally, I like the idea of using stuff that already exists in this world, especially if it does a good job and works out well in terms of price. There’s also some other benefits to 1×10 if you’re headed overseas. And there’s the argument that perhaps 10 speed components last that bit longer – depending on who you speak to.

    But yes, if you’re buying everything from fresh, then it’s certainly worth keeping your eyes peeled for 11-speed deals.

  • Cass Gilbert

    I look forward to giving one a go…

  • Chris Leydig

    Well, you can do all that math but at the end of the day it works perceptively flawless and for many others as well. In fact, inspecting that articles #’s, the 11/10 speed MTN components are extremely close. You just can’t pass up the value on those sunrace 10 speed cassettes
    https://youtu.be/1I4WzYbOb4M

  • TriJV .

    Hmmmm, interesting.

    Myself, I took a 20-year-old REI Novara Alu-Pro that was in a sorry state, spent $400, and “Phoenix” was born. A touring/bikepacking bike…n

    Many riders said it is one sweet rig.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/5bcade1379d8b1933b6a2e48654b8855e45b64be70650a55fddbe9ad7335735b.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/365739f4aac7e70597527e8e452189839a586a961c5d5c8236a68f84eb6b49b9.jpg

  • Francisco Cánepa

    first world problems… here in argentina i recently moved from a 8 speed cassette to a 9 speed 12-36 Alivio cassette, paired with 3 speeds 22-30-40 alivio hollowtech cranks on a 26″ wheel bike and im super happy with that :)

  • Cass Gilbert

    Hey, whatever works for you, works! I definitely found Argentina tricky for spares. But Chile, on the other hand, had everything!

    Bear in mind that the 1x stuff comes into its own when you’re running mid fat tires, as fat rubber rules out standard triples.

  • fauxpho

    Just a short update. The Deore 11-42 10sp cassettes are now showing up in euro shops. Will likely be available stateside before long.
    http://www.bike-components.de in Germany has them in stock. For $25 each!!

  • Mr. Simon

    Long cage is best? A long cage is only needed dealing with a lot of excess chain, typically with 3x setups. But from 42T to 30T – that’s only a difference of 12T and that’s why a Zee short cage derailleur works so well …

    The best, though not cheapest option for the 9-speed 11-42T cassette is to get a SRAM 9 speed shifter, preferably X9 or above, and a 10 speed Shimano (Shadow Plus, > ZEE Version for 36T) derailleur.

    Else, the Deore RD-M592 SGS works OK, also consider using a 10 speed chain, it is more flexible and therefore less likely to fall down from the 42T sprocket when backpedalling.

    As for NW-chainrings – 100 bucks for a steel chainring? C’mon … my ethirteen 30T still does very well after 4000+ km and that was one of the pricier ones as 30T were rare on the European market back in those days.

    By now you can get ones from China by direct mail order for a fraction of the price (starting from as little as 10$ …), aluminium that is, but quality is decent and one of those doesn’t wear 10 times faster than steel …

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