Cranks: Shimano XT 175
Rings tested: Shimano 32 tooth/Salsa 36 tooth
Cassette: Various 11-36 10 speed
Guide: MRP G2 Mini (36 tooth max)
Rear Derailleur: X9 10-speed short cage
Rider Weight: 190 lbs.
Rider experience: Riding / racing 10 years
Arguably, the worst part of the modern mountain bike is the front derailleur. Even the top-end offerings don’t work all that well. They add a bunch of noise to the bike, do little to really keep the chain where it is supposed to be, and when you give them a hard look, it’s apparent that they haven’t changed much in the last 20 or 30 years.
On the flip side, anyone who has ridden a bike with a modern chain retention device can attest that, although they can be finicky to setup, once they are on the bike, they do their job very well. They always keep tension on the chain, they quiet the bike, and they give your drivetrain a more solid overall feel.
Problem is, despite my overwhelming affection for climbing in my middle ring at a slow, Jan Ullrich-like cadence, there were a few rides every year that warranted the use of my granny gear on my 9-speed setup. Whether it was one of those unrelenting climbs, a morning ride after being “overserved” the previous night, or simply when I’d already completely blown up my legs on a big ride, I needed a little lower gearing than I could get in my middle ring with my 9-speed setup.
Thankfully, both SRAM and Shimano introduced 10 speed setups that expand the low range of the cassette to 36 teeth, up from the 34 teeth offered in the 9-speed stuff. This 5.4% lower gearing—coupled with my obsession to have the quietest bike possible—was just what I needed to give a single ring setup a go.
When I made the switch to a single ring setup, I was fortunate to be living in chainguide manufacturer MRP’s backyard in Grand Junction. Hence, it wasn’t hard to decide what guide to go with, since many of my riding buddies worked at MRP. I just asked, “What guide…” and before I could even get out the rest of my question, I had an MRP Mini-G hanging from my bike.
Installation was very easy, forgoing the use of the improperly clocked ISGS tabs on my Reign X and using instead the bottom bracket (sans one spacer) to secure the guide to my bike. It literally took 15 minutes to put on. The hardest part was removing the extra two chainrings from my XT cranks, but that’s hardly rocket science. Compared to setting up guides in the past, this was a welcome surprise.