Touring/MTB gearing with drop bars - help!

Hi all,

I’ve ordered a new frame (Kinesis Tripster) for a gravel grinder / light touring bike and trying to figure out how I want to build it up. Things I want are: drop bars, STI levers, hydraulic disc brakes, a big enough gear to sit comfortably at ~ 45 km/h if I have a tailwind, and a small enough gear to twiddle up a steep hill at walking pace. Shimano seem singularly uninterested at providing such a setup as standard, and the aftermarket options are bewildering. In terms of the gearing I’m wanting, that’d be at least a 38T big ring and something equivalent to a 28x32 or 28x36 low gear. I want this bike to be capable of a light touring load (bikepacking style) but also something that feels fun to ride unloaded on a big day out with a mix of road, dirt, hills, etc.

Here are the options I’m considering but not totally happy with any of them -

Unhappy Compromise I: Classic touring setup with 9 speed triple, bar end shifters, TRP Hylex brakes. I’m sure this would work and get my ideal gearing range but I’d rather not have bar end shifters and triple shifting is a big clunkier than I’d like. Probably heavier than ideal, too. (This is what I currently have on my Vivente tourer, only with rim brakes.)

Unhappy Compromise II: Full Ultegra hydro groupset would Just Work, but wouldn’t give me the low gears I want. At best (pushing the claimed limits of the derailleur) I might be able to get an 11-36 cassette on there. I want an even lower gear than 34x36! (This is similar to what I have on my roadie, with 34x32 low gear. Definitely not low enough for touring and not really as low as I’d like for steep gravel hills, even unloaded.)

Unhappy Compromise III: The oh-so-trendy 1X. Something like 38 / 11-46 would give me the range I want, at the cost of outrageous gaps between the gears. I don’t know what I’d need to buy to make this work, but I assume it’s possible somehow? Using a Wolf Tooth pulley I could run an MTB rear derailleur with drop bar levers. Not sure what crankset I’d need to buy to get a 38T chainring. I also think it is ridiculous that I can get a more suitable gearing range with 1X than I can with 2X. (Ideally sticking with Shimano over SRAM because I don’t love SRAM’s double tap levers and also SRAM are arseholes who won’t let me buy cheap kit online. Also SRAM brakes use DOT fluid which is gross.)

Unhappy Compromise IV: I could fit flat bars or alt bars like the Jones loop, and just run an MTB double crank with standard MTB components. Despite my initial comment that I wanted drops, I’m now seriously considering this. With chunky bar end grips I’d have a few alternative hand positions for long rides. I could add clip-on aerobars to add an aerodynamic position. Flat bars are also better for bikepacking luggage, i.e. more room for hanging tent and sleeping bag under the bars. Might require an outrageously long stem to get the reach I want, since the Tripster frame is designed for drops. Might also suck a bit for on-road riding which I think would be at least 50% of what I’d do.

At the moment options III and IV look the most promising. Any opinions? What kind of crank would I need to run 1X? Are there any other options I’ve missed (e.g. can I use an MTB crankset with a road front derailleur, or a mountain front derailleur with STI levers)? Tell me how to spend my money please!

You could do option II with a Wolf Tooth Road Link and run an 11-40 cassette. https://www.wolftoothcomponents.com/products/roadlink

Oh nice, 34/40 would be a decently low gear! Wolf Tooth say “be sure not to exceed the derailleur capacity” which would mean I’d be limited to a 10T difference up front… could always throw caution to the wind and try it with a compact anyway. It would mostly affect small/small cross-chaining, right?

Run a MTB double? 26/38 with a 11-32 cassette. It’ll shift with a road mech probably not great and getting the front mech low enough can be hard depending on frame size with bottle mounts etc but i think it’s the cleanest solution

Other option is get a triple road crank and ditch the big ring and get a 24t inner ring. Making a 39/40-24 crank.

Ahh I’d wondered whether that would work. Bonus round, can I get away with running a 10 speed mountain chainset with 11 speed road components? 11 speed mountain all seems to have 10T differences between rings.

Prefer not to do a triple-with-big-ring-removed because I think it would look ugly (if I’m imagining it right). But good to keep in mind as a fallback option.

If you need a low q-factor you could get a nerd crank/subcompact and that will give you the 28/38T setup you want or close to it. (usually supplied as 46/30 or 44/30 but can easily change rings).

Another option is to get an older HTII road triple that doesn’t hang the granny off the middle ring (eg FC-6603, FC-5603) and ditch the big ring. Then you can fit a 39+ “big” ring (130BCD) and whatever granny you want (74BCD). Then use a suitable FD (FD-4703 maybe? old road triple FDs will be short arm and may not work ok.) Get a bashguard for the big ring to make it look less bad.

If you don’t care about Q you could just get a shimano MTB double, 38/28 or 40/28 are stock options. 10sp M785 M615 cranks would have cheaper rings. Probably a nicer chainline than road cranks too.

An MTB FD miiiiiiight work acceptably with 11sp road shakes on MTB cranks, compare the arm lengths and parallelogram. Old 9sp MTB FDs had longer arms than 9/10sp road FDs.

Most road FDs won’t work well on MTB cranks due to cage shape. The new 105 11sp FD is better shaped by the looks for smaller rings and CS clearance, so may work acceptably with subcompact or not super small MTB rings (if the lateral throw is enough). Otherwise CX70 FD has better shaping, but might not work best with 11sp levers, (again with the lateral throw.)

Flat bars are clearly the easiest answer for affordable hydro brakes and wide range/low end gearing. But did you size the frame for drops? Reach/stack change might be an issue.

MikeD’s suggestions are what I’d do and have done, not with 11sp though. Ultegra hydro is pretty sweet (from the brief ride I’ve had on it).

Edit: Or what Blakey said

AL9000, I will admit I don’t understand half of that. Does “nerd cranks” mean something like the White Industries VBC or Compass Rene Herse Heinecranks? Those are priced higher than I can stomach for a chainset.

I’m happy with the Q of a touring triple so I assume I’d be okay with an MTB double?

Yeah, I noticed they’d changed the FD shape with new Dura Ace / Ultegra, nice to see it’s trickled down to 105 too. The current/previous 11 speed FDs are a pain in the arse to set up properly even running standard Shimano everything. So basically you reckon the newer shape is better for non-standard gearing?

Yeah, I think I’d need to be running a 14cm stem or something ridiculous for flat bars on this frame, which might feel weird. Not sure if I could get away with less if I went for Jones loop bars.

@WestToastPete - cheers. Haven’t ridden Ultegra hydro but I’ve ridden Ultegra and I’ve ridden Rival hydro and by all accounts the Ultegra hydro brakes are even nicer.

If your frame is BB/PF30 praxis make a crank that is 32/48 https://praxiscycles.com/product/alba-m30/

Nerd cranks are road q and allow a double with smaller than a 34t. Heine second mortgage cranks/sugino ox601d/repurposed sq taper 94/58 or 110/74 mtb cranks on the cheap end.

Road triple is about 10mm wider than double, mtb is another 10 to 20mm wider again (xtr/some sram excepted)

That praxis locks you into specific small rings, as does the FSA adventure bb386 cranks.

5801 looks promising for sub compacts but no evidence yet. It might be the early indication of a shimano subcompact crankset and gravel group…

The cage curve certainly looks tighter

Okay cool, this is starting to make some sense. So am I right in understanding that 10 speed chainrings and cranks are fine to mix with 11 speed everything else?

I have no objection to square taper - the one on my tourer has been way less hassle than the pressfit BB on my roadie - and the frame I’m getting has a standard BSA thread so no worries there. So… 110/74 cranks - those are normally triples, right? And you’d just stick the two inner rings on, with a chainguard or spacer or something. Which I know I rejected earlier in the thread 'cos aesthetics, but maybe I was being a bit hasty. Would this Spa Cycles super compact chainset (rebadged Sugino by the looks of it) be a reasonable pre-made solution to this?

If I got that 26/42 chainset and the rest of an 11 speed road group, how much of a risk of not-working would that be? Are we talking “can’t do it, things are touching that aren’t supposed to be” or “front shifts are a bit clunky” or “cross chaining sucks more than usual” or what?

Why not sram x9 rear mech, x9 front mech, mtb double cranks, sram shakes?

The OP said they don’t like SRAM double-tap.

That, and because as far as I know, 10 speed hydraulic shifters aren’t a thing?

Yeah but Giant Conduct semi-hydraulic are a thing so you could have 10spd with hydro and no ugly, oversized hoods - just an ugly oversize bar clamp instead. Don’t know about compatibility though.

As far as I’m aware you could use 11 speed hydro shifters with 10 speed mechs.
This will probably limit cassette choice to a 36 or you could go full 11 speed and still get a 36.

There are 10 spd hydro SRAM shakes, but not many around

11 spd much easy to get, but if you dont like dbl tap, then stick with Shimano IMO. Personally I prefer dbl tap, so hydro me up!

As above, subcompact cranks and maybe a goat link or whatever its called to extend the range of your rear derailleur for a bigger cassette should be all you need.

I am in the process of putting MTB spider & rings onto a set of SRAM road cranks atm with 40/28 rings, so ill let you know how that goes if you are interested.

Are they? Shimano or SRAM?

Shimano just brought out a 11-34 11spd cassette (hg800) that fits on 10spd freehub bodies after that your jumping to 11-40+ in MTB cassettes.

SRAM have 11-36 cassette which apparently you can get a ultegra 6800 or R8000 mech to shift with some futzing, pair with a sub-compact crank and your away I reckon.

A little bit of thread deviation but are the new Campy Hydro shifters shimergoable?