Winter; when roads covered in ice mixed with salt, is frequented by crazies on bikes looking for fresh air. Conditions like these are not great for metal grinding on metal, ie, your bike’s drivetrain. During these wet seasons, we run our components into the ground, figuratively and literally. We don’t realize; we could have saved cash and had fun piecing together a unique piece of drivetrain history. Check out these tips and suggestions on how to build a bomb proof winter drivetrain and save some money for summertime shredding.
When looking for a chain for you bombproof build, source out manufacturers that you trust or currently ride. Personally, for a winter drivetrain, I seek KMC or Shimano lower end chains, something like the bulk chain your local bike shop has. Look for chains that have decent shifting groves but are NOT hollow in any way. This style of chain will add weight but will most likely hold lube longer and get more extended wear.
Replace: XX1 Eagle chain – $85.00
We suggest: SRAM GX1 Chain – $30.00
With the advent of one by drivetrain systems cassettes have quickly become a more expensive purchase for a drive train; sometimes most costly. Well, that doesn’t always have to be, especially if you don’t mind trying out new gear other manufacturers on your winter rig. SRAM offers lower-end cassettes that will shift similar to higher end but may not be snappy or lightweight, Shimano as well. We suggest looking into the Sun Race, BOX and other manufacturers for a cost-effective solution. Run Race makes a 12 speed 10-50T cassette that will fit a Shimano freehub body; pretty cool if you’re looking to run a winter wheel set too.
Replace: XTR 11 Speed M9001 – $237.00 or XG1299 – $428.00
We suggest: SunRace MZ 12-Speed Wide-Ratio Cassette – $110.00
This little but integral piece of cycling equipment is a mainstay in winter cycling woes. That’s because most rear derailleurs we not built to take on the rigors of a Minneapolis winter or take hit after hit of being locked up outside your office. I suggest getting something that will accept a larger cassette (from above) and doesn’t mind taking a crash or two when slipping and sliding in the snow. Both SRAM and Shimano lines offer lower end derailleurs that have some trickle down characteristics of the top tier. Mostly what separates them is weight and construction materials i.e., no carbon backing plate or ceramic pulleys.
Replace: SRAM XO1 Eagle – $227.00
We suggest: SRAM GX1 Eagle – $105.00
Rings and Front Derailleurs
Front derailleur for winter riding tend to cause many problems; on the trails mud and slush freeze making shifting near impossible, road componentry shifting can become delayed after miles of grit and road debris. There are a few different avenues that we can take from here; keep the same front derailleur and let the season have at it, replace with something lower end or do away with it all together. You can find many economical options from Salsa, Surly and many others for no shift ramp rings that will work for the winter and last many, many miles. You can also check out Wolf Tooth, or many single ring manufacturer specializing in “non-drop” front chainrings. One by shifting will free up a component that is known to cause trouble in freezing conditions and lower your cost.
Replace: XTR Front non-Di2 – $110.00
We suggest: Wolf Tooth 30T Non-Drop Ring – $60.00
Just because you have a XX1 Eagle on your trail bike doesn’t mean that you have to get an XX1 Eagle cassette for your winter training wheels. Companies like BOX, SunRace, eThirteen and Full Speed Ahead will work nicely together with Shimano, SRAM and Campagnolo. Be sure to do your homework, because most work well together, but not all.
SunRace RS3 Wide-Range Road 11sp Cassette – $40.00
E*Thirteen TRS+11 Speed Cassette – $249.00
Box Two 11-46 Tooth 11 Speed Cassette – $100.00