Force 1 Arrives at Kona

Kona 1x

Two athletes running Force 1 this weekend at Kona

Ironman Kona is the World Championships for long-course triathletes and increasingly where manufacturers show off their tech as the road season winds down for the year. Today, in SRAM’s Kona PR, spotted an interesting bullet point:

SRAM Force 1 is a single chainring drivetrain that delivers the perfect gear range in a simpler, quieter and more secure design.

It’s interesting to note that Force 1 evolved from MTB and Cross to Tri bikes and not the other way around, as we’ve seen with wheels and aero road bikes. One chainring systems are really being pushed across the board for performance, even for cutting edge road bikes. As Mark V has chronicled, we’ve been running various 1x iterations with SRAM road levers and MTB derailleurs for years and are currently running aCX1 setup with hydro for cross. Off-road, 1x was done to avoid derailleurs getting torn off in muddy conditions; you don’t need that many gears for what amount to grass crits, and when cold hands turn to frozen blocks, shifting a front lever can become nearly impossible.

As much benefit as was derived from these early drivetrain hacks, they required finesse to get the right shift, were finicky, and sometime under geared on hilly course. Chains tended to fall off, too! CX1 from SRAM was welcomed; 1×11 brought us more gears and pie-plate cassettes to fix that undergearing problem. The new single-specific chainrings and clutched-derailleurs keep the chain on in even apocalyptic conditions, and as a system it just works. CX1 does what we wanted the hacks to do, but much better.

Photos: Andy Bokanev

Allez Sprint with Force 1. Photo: Andy Bokanev

We didn’t expect to see Force 1 spec’d on triathlete bikes or crit bikes, but it makes sense in these days of a bike for every niche. We’ve rarely had to shif a front derailleur in a crit and while not triathletes, we’ve ridden the roads of Kona and that’s as long and lonely a stretch of lava field highway as one could ever encounter. Simplification makes sense. One less thing to worry about while trying to ride, eat, and keep focus on the 112 mile bike race to the marathon start.

New Addict CX with CX1 and Hydro

It’s a different way of doing things, and it’s probably not something you’re going to wind up with on every bike in your garage, but when 1x is the right choice, it’s the perfect choice. No extraneous distractions or complications, just the gears you need. Make sure you spend time on it and get used to the feel, and that you’ve got all the gear ratio bandwidth you’re going to need if (or when!) you bonk, though. No more bail out gear safety margin. Cards on the table here; multi-sport racing isn’t our thing, but so much tech carries over now, we’re paying attention to the racing this weekend.

SRAM’s Kona involvement is extensive, and includes Zipp wheels, cockpits, new eTap electronic shifting, and power meters from Quarq.

Follow the action from Kona on Twitter and Insta. I’m watching for what ZippSpeed teased last week. What can they do after Firestrike?

For a recent take from me on getting in race shape with Quarq, see my Swakane Canyon story in Issue 25 on iTunes, the Web, or Medium; and Mark’s posts on 1x

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