Specialized has been testing their unique 1 x 6 gearing
for many months now, although the Val Di Sole World Cup is the first time that it has been raced at the top level of the sport. What makes this setup truly interesting is the very special 9 tooth small cog and prototype freehub body from DT Swiss
that allows it to be used.Inside you can see photos of the works gearing and read all the details directly from the man behind the scene! *Edit - Updated with a photo of a prototype SRAM PowerDome cassette using a 9 tooth cogRead on...A Closer Look At Team Monster Energy - Specialized's 1 x 6 Gearing
Although we've known about the Team Monster Energy - Specialized team's unique gearing for some time now, the more keen eyed of you out there may have spotted it on the back of Curtis Keene's 2011 Demo that we featured months ago
, just recently has Specialized taken the wraps off of the system, partly due to some overeager journalists letting the cat out of the bag a bit early! It should be noted that the gearing that you are reading about is still a work in progress and expect it to be more polished when you see it next. Don't ever believe anyone that tells you that racing doesn't improve the breed!
1 x 6 gearing as found on a Team Monster Energy - Specialized bike. Using a smaller chainring combined with a 9 tooth cog keeps the high and low ratios similar to a standard cassette, but with more clearance, better chainline, and the possibility of less weight. Is it a win - win?
The arrangement consists of six cogs that have been spaced out correctly as on a standard cassette. The Monster Energy - Specialized team's gearing looks to use separate cogs for the larger ones that would allow them to fine tune the gearing for the course or conditions, although that must also be a byproduct of them building the gearing from scratch as well. Their spread uses a 17 tooth large cog on the low end and a tiny 9 tooth cog for the highest gear. This is where the ingenuity comes in, because as anyone who's had their cassette off may well know, the smallest cog that would previously fit would be an 11 tooth version due to the freehub's diameter. This is where the team's wheel supplier, DT Swiss, steps in with a custom made freehub body that accepts a smaller cog. As of right now the actual design of the freehub remains unknown, but to get an idea of what it may
look like, have a gander at Shimano's commuter intended Capreo group that also uses a 9 tooth small cog. I'm betting that the DT Swiss freehub is also stepped and that the bottom few cogs used on the team bikes are a single unit. The 9-17 tooth spread is combined with a smaller 30-32 tooth chainring (and a modified e.13 guide
) that delivers similar gearing to a 11-21 road cassette and 36 tooth ring. By looking at the gear comparison below you can see that both standard gearing and this new 'compact' system have similar high and low ranges, but a 9-17 tooth block would have much different jumps between gears.Gear development comparison*
• 30 tooth ring x 9 tooth cog = 7.183m
• 30 tooth ring x 17 tooth cog = 3.803m
• 36 tooth ring x 11 tooth cog = 7.053m
• 36 tooth ring x 21 tooth cog = 3.694m
*Gear development (also known as rollout) is the distance traveled by the bicycle per one revolution of the crank
Team riders always race with the 21 tooth cog locked out.
A modified e.13 guide covers up a smaller than average chainring that gives the rider more clearance and in turn, more room for error
There are certainly obvious benefits to this modified gearing arrangement, one of the biggest and most obvious being improved ground clearance. As you can see in the picture of Brendan’s bike below, today's bikes that use low and even lower bottom brackets shrink the room for error when traveling fast over rough terrain. There are certainly lines on many tracks that test a bike's clearance, especially when that rider is brave! Not only can that cause a race ending mechanical, but the bike also looses momentum every time its guard makes contact with the ground. Every advantage counts at this level and this advantage adds up to about 1/2" over a standard sized ring and guard.
But clearance is only half the story. Specialized's own Jason Chamberlain fills us in on the rest:"The gearing itself is the other half. The range of gears required for a DH course is not very wide. Road cassettes are really the only option, but that gives you 9 cogs with 1 tooth steps. With only 6 or 7 cogs, you don’t have to shift as frequently on a given course as 9 cogs. The theory is that you have the same range of gears, but bigger steps between them. This means you will shift LESS on a given course. This saves time, energy and preserves mental focus. Every time you shift, you lose time. Every time you shift, you risk a mis-shift (just ask Andy Shleck). And with World Championships being won by 0.05 seconds, riders will take every advantage we can provide. Many guys have trained themselves to “double shift” every time they shift. The Monster guys actually had to retrain themselves NOT to double shift."
This is a perfect example of the highest levels of our sport pushing for better equipment that makes more sense for the gifted riders that are using it. While you or I don't have a lot on common with Brendan Fairclough or how he rides a bike, we can certainly benefit from more reliable parts that are less likely to fail when we do mess up. I can also see the ability to run a 9 tooth cog on a wider spread cassette, picture a 9-36 tooth 10 speed block, working well on trail bikes when combined with a single ring between that ranges from 27-34 teeth. Expect more progression in the gearing department for consumers soon, but below Chamberlain lets us know what had to happen for the Monster Energy - Specialized team's gearing to see the light of day:"For the concept to work, we needed multiple vendors to all come together on the same page. DT is making the hub. The cassettes were built from existing parts, or prototyped by SRAM. The rest was developed and built by Specialized. We modified some E.13 parts to work with the smaller rings and we have Gamut guides too."
You're looking at a SRAM PowerDome cassette with a 9 tooth small cog. This is early prototype has been machined as a 9 speed unit, but expect to see 10 speeds soon. Welcome to the future.
I'll be attending the 2011 Specialized launch at Whistler in the coming weeks where they plan to release more information and photos of the new gearing system. There are also whisperings of a XC cassette in the works that incorporates that small 9 tooth cog - Stay tuned!
Brendan's Specialized Demo after a single run that ended badly. Would half an inch made the difference? It certainly wouldn't have hurt matters...