This post compares the advantages and disadvantages of 1×10 and 1×12 MTB drivetrains.
The Advantages of 1×10
- Affordable 1x
The main advantage of 1×10 is that all the parts cost less than those designed for 12 speeds.
If you want to put, a 1x drivetrain on your bike, you will need the following.
- New rear shifter (if you are going up or down in speeds)
- New derailleur (if the existing one doesn’t have the needed capacity to cover a wide-range cassette)
- New wide-range cassette (otherwise the gearing will be limiting)
- New chain
- A narrow-wide chainring to ensure decent chain retention
All those parts, apart from the chainring, have a higher price tag when designed for 12-speeds.
If you’re on a budget, the 1×10 is a clear winner.
When all parameters are equal (materials, build quality… etc.) 1×10 will be slightly lighter because the cassette has fewer cogs.
That said, the difference is minimal and disappears when a mid-range product is compared to a high-end one.
- Stronger Chain
Chains have an inner and an outer width. The inner width is the distance between the inner plates, whereas the outer width is the total width of the chain.
Chains get thinner as the number of speeds increases. This is necessary because manufacturers are trying to keep the inner width of the chain almost the same despite the gear increases or decreases.
The inner width is preserved because the thickness of the cassette cogs changes little among cassettes regardless of speed number. However, the distance between the cogs gets smaller with each gear increase.
If the outer chain width is kept the same with each gear jump, the outer plates of the cassette will rub against the cogs. To avoid that, the outer plates are thinned out with each gear increase.
As a result, chains designed for more gears get weaker.
When all properties are equal, a 10-speed chain is stronger than a 12-speed chain because it’s thicker.
- Faster Shifting From One End to The Other
Since the cassette has fewer gears, it’s quicker to reach the smallest or the largest cog.
The Disadvantages of 1×10
- Limited Gearing
1×10 cassettes have a smaller first gear that usually goes up to 46 teeth. The smaller first gear limits the climbing capabilities of the bicycle.
To understand how that happens, it’s necessary to become acquainted with the term gear ratio.
The gear ratio indicates the number of rotations that the rear cog and wheel make per 1 full revolution of the cranks/chainring(s).
For example, if the chainring has 36 teeth and the rear cog has 42, the gear ratio is 36/42=0.55. In other words, one spin of the cranks results in 0.55 rotations of the rear wheel.
A higher gear ratio results in greater top speed that can be reached via pedaling whereas a low gear ratio makes climbing easier because the rear wheel doesn’t have to perform many rotations per 1 crank spin.
The gear ratio can be increased by getting a larger chainring and/or a smaller rear cog.
The gear ratio can be decreased by getting a smaller chainring and/or a larger rear cog.
12-speed cassettes are considered high-end. As a result, they offer a larger gear range (e.g., 10-52). Consequently, the rider benefits from a higher top speed and very low climbing gearing.
The table below compares the gear ratio of 1×10 and 1×12 setups.
The 1×10 is equipped with a 34T chainring and an 11-46 cassette.
The 1×12 uses a 34T chainring and a 10-52 cassette.
Conclusion: The 1×12 setup offers a 10% higher top speed and a 12% lower climbing gear ratio. It’s possible to acquire the minimal gear ratio of 1×12 + 10-52 cassette with the 1×10 setup by using a smaller chainring, but that change would lower the top speed of the bike and increase the chances of spinning out.
Spinning out happens when the rear wheel of the bicycle is rotating faster than the speed that one can reach via pedaling. In such a situation, it’s pointless to pedal as the motion doesn’t contribute to forward movement.
The next table compares the top speeds that the above setups would produce at 70, 80, and 90 RPM (rotations of the cranks per minute). The tires are 29″ big and 2.2″ wide.
|RPM||Drivetrain||Combination||Speed kph||Speed mph||Difference|
- Large Jumps Between The Gears
The other major issue with 1×10 would be the larger transitions between the gears in comparison to 1×12.
The more speeds/cogs there are on a cassette, the smoother the transitions can be when the range is the same or at least similar.
For example, the gradation of a 10-speed 11-46 cassette is:
Meanwhile, a 12-speed cassette with the same range would have the following jumps:
However, that advantage disappears when going for a 10-52 cassette. Those units usually have the following jumps:
The benefit of smaller transitions is that the user has an easier time maintaining a smoother cadence after switching from one gear to the next. Having a high cadence such as 90RPM continuously is associated with increased energy efficiency and a higher average speed.
The Advantages of 1×12 Drivetrains
- Wider Range
1×12 cassettes offer a wider gear range as explained above. If the user needs maximum top speed and climbing capabilities in a 1x format, 12-speed cassettes are recommended.
- Smaller Jumps Between The Gears
When the gear range is the same, a 12-speed cassette offers smaller transitions between the gears thanks to the 2 extra steps. Smaller jumps result in a smoother cadence.
- Higher-end Parts
1×12 drivetrains are saved for higher-end bikes. As a result, manufacturers implement the latest production technologies into the involved components.
The Disadvantages of 1×12 Drivetrains
- Very expensive
A high-end 1×12 drivetrain could cost as much as a mid-range bicycle. If the budget is limited it makes more sense to invest money into other parts of the bicycle that have a more essential role (e.g., frame, suspension, wheels)
- Weaker Chains
All things being equal, a 12-speed chain is weaker than a 10-speed one due to the thinner outer plates.
- Slightly heavier
The extra two cogs could make the cassette heavier.