SRAM’s Inevitable 11

It’s two and half weeks until the Sea Otter Classic, which has become something of a pre-season trade show for the cycling industry. But apparently even that is not soon enough. There have been sneak previews as early as December and January for companies like TRP. And just today, this little tidbit hit the interwebs:

In case you don’t watch the clip for fear of sparking an epileptic seizure due to editing pace that makes any Jerry Bruckheimer seem as staid as a Jane Austen film, then let me just save you the eye strain: SRAM will imminently introduce 11-speed to their road groups. Um….(ehem)……uh, hurray? I’d like to chalk it up to April Fool’s, but I’d already heard about it through other bike company insiders.

I’m sorry, but I just don’t see another cog being that important. But what could SRAM do? What with Campagnolo and Shimano already with 11sp, it must suck to be that last kid on the block to have what no one really needed. I was far more keen on SRAM announcing something of that would be a little more cyclocross oriented, something which everyone is talking about anyways and also would without a doubt have a vastly larger effect on the road bikes should it prove to be a successful development. I just hope that SRAM hasn’t been delaying that introduction just to synch it up with their 11sp introduction.

Now I recognize that by expressing disdain for an additional cog in the cluster, I am repeating a pattern that has been well established by legions of mechanics that have come before me. So I will not be so presumptuous to think that my voice will matter to the industry. But there is such as thing as the concept of diminishing returns. Six cogs is undoubtably better than five, and I firmly believe nine is better than eight. I feel pretty good about saying that some riders will appreciate ten cogs versus nine in certain conditions with certain range cassettes. I can see SRAM’s XX1’s use of 11sp as having an advantage because it makes a single chainring a viable idea in a wider variety of riding conditions. But for road conditions, I just don’t care much….ok, if you push me then I think it marginally improves the use of 11-32 wide range cassettes for road use. That would be an performance advantage primarily to non-racers, but a liability for service life due to the thinner cogs and/or chain. And those drivetrain components are certain to be more expensive.

So for you nerds out there who think that having an 18T cog in your 11-28 cassette will enable you to set a new Strava record, rejoice!