Hybrid bikes make riding easy and fun. There are many options, too, from handlebars to geometry and even the drivetrain. But how do you know which drivetrain is best for your hybrid bike?
For hybrids, a 1x drivetrain makes your bike lighter and easier to shift. It will also reduce the chance of dropping your chain. Sometimes, though, a 2x is better. You will have more gears, and might also experience that finding the perfect cadence is easier.
In this article, I’ll talk about the pros and cons of a 1x drivetrain for your hybrid bike. I’ll also talk about the difference between a 1x drivetrain and a 2x drivetrain so that you can understand them better. But first, I’ll talk about what a hybrid bike really is.
What Is a Hybrid Bike?
If you aren’t sure what a hybrid bike is, you’re not alone!
It’s hard to understand this category of bikes because it encompasses such a wide array of characteristics.
Think of a hybrid bike as the best components of all disciplines: a little bit of mountain bike, a little bit of road, and maybe even a little bit of gravel biking. All the best parts of each type of bike are combined to make a hybrid bike.
So what does that actually look like?
Well, it depends.
A hybrid bike is also known as a fitness bike. It isn’t meant for road racing, although you can ride it on the road.
And it isn’t made for hardcore mountain biking, although you could do a little bit of single track with it. A hybrid bike kind of does it all, although it doesn’t do it all super fast.
Typically, a hybrid bike has chunky tires, flat bars, and an upright riding position, although these things can be changed or adjusted.
It’s usually meant for short neighborhood rides to the ice cream shop, riding the trails with your kids, or commuting over various types of terrain. It probably has flat pedals, not clips, and plenty of mounts for your water bottles and work gear.
What Is the Drivetrain on a Hybrid Bike?
The drivetrain on a hybrid bike works just like any other bike.
First, you push down on the pedals. Next, the pedals turn the cranks, which move the chainring. Next, the chainring pulls the chain through the system.
Finally, the chain spins the rear cassette, which is attached to the rear wheel. As the rear wheel turns, your bike moves forward. There are a few other parts, but this is the basic idea.
A hybrid bike will likely have a double chainring in the front, known as a 2x drivetrain.
On the other hand, it might have a single chainring, known as a 1x drivetrain.
In addition, it will probably have a cassette on the back wheel, with a variety of gears, although sometimes, a hybrid bike will only have one speed.
What’s the Difference Between 2x and 1x Drivetrains on a Hybrid Bike?
Standard 2x Drive Train
Most popular hybrid bikes are available in a standard 2x drivetrain.
As mentioned before, this means you have two chainrings in the front: a large chainring and a smaller chainring. These are accompanied by a block of cogs in the rear, known as the cassette.
Levers on the handlebars, or grip shifters on a flat bar bike, control the gears.
The combinations of cogs and chainrings that you select will make it harder or easier to pedal the bike.
A 2x drivetrain will give you a wide variety of gears to choose from, so you can shift to an easy gear when going uphill or to a harder gear when the terrain is flatter.
2x drivetrain will generally encounter less friction, and so are more efficient. (Source)
If you have a 1x drivetrain, you only have 1 chainring in the front rather than 2.
This gives you fewer gears to choose from and makes shifting a little simpler since there are fewer options to choose from. You’ll only need to worry about shifting through the cogs in the back to find the gear you like best.
Now that you can understand the difference between a 1x and a 2x drivetrain on a gravel bike let’s look at how a 1x drivetrain might be better for your needs.
Pros of a 1x Drivetrain on a Hybrid Bike
A Lighter Bike
Using a 1x chainring rather than a 2x means your bike will be a little bit lighter.
However, since hybrid bikes aren’t known to be racing bikes, that small 200g savings of weight might not make much difference to you, especially if you’re just riding for fun.
Less Shifting Worries
On a 1x, you shift to an easy gear when the terrain gets tougher and to a harder gear when your pedals start to spin too fast because the terrain is easier. You’ll either have a lever or a grip shift, which is very easy to use.
On a 2x setup, though, you usually need to shift the rear cassette in the opposite direction when you shift the front chainring. This is because several of the gears are duplicated in each chainring, and to keep the chain tension just right, you’ll need to stay out of those duplicated gears.
You won’t have to worry about crosschaining or duplicated gears with a 1x, and you only have to worry about shifting up and shifting down.
Fewer chain drops
You’re less likely to throw your chain on a 1x than on a 2x.
If you accidentally cross-chain, shift under tension, or shift too many gears at a time, you can drop your chain or even get it jammed dup in between 2 gears.
This is much less likely to happen on a 1x bike.
Clearance for bigger tires
If you have a 2x drivetrain, you’ll also have a front derailleur that moves the chain from one chainring to the other. The front derailleur limits the width of the tires that you can use on your bike.
If you have a bike with a 1x drivetrain, you won’t have a front derailleur, which will give you more room for even wider, cushier tires.
This will provide you with a more comfortable and more stable ride over rough terrain.
Less muddy build-up
If you are a serious commuter, you might be riding your bike in all kinds of weather. Mud and dirt can easily build up on a front derailleur, making it difficult to shift.
But on a 1x bike, you won’t have a front derailleur, making it easier to shift even under wet and muddy conditions.
Fewer parts to break
Of course, if you have a 1x drivetrain, you’ll have a few fewer moving parts on your bike.
And of course, fewer moving parts means there are fewer parts to break or maintain. As a result, you’ll spend less time with your bike in the shop and more time on the road.
So while there are lots of reasons you might want to have 1x gearing on a hybrid bike, there are a few reasons you might not want to have it, as well.
Cons of a 1x Drivetrain on a Hybrid Bike
With only 1 chainring, you’ll have a more limited choice of gears to use when compared to the number of gears on a bike with two or even three chainrings.
For example, you may have a 40t chainring in the front with an 11-34t cassette in the back. This will help you over some minor hills, but you won’t be a climbing machine, and you won’t be able to go super-fast on the flats, either.
On the other hand, bikes like the Sirrus X have a 40t chainring in the front but an 11-51t in the back.
This gives you a really wide range of gears to get you over the hills, but you’ll have to match your cadence to the gear rather than matching your gear to your preferred cadence.
You might have trouble finding a comfortable cadence on a 1x drivetrain.
Many road riders find that the most efficient cadence is somewhere around 90rpms.
They change gears to keep this nice, steady cadence over the terrain.
However, if you’re riding a 1x, you’ll have a lot fewer options, so your cadence might suffer. Also, if you have a wide range of gears, you’ll have to adjust your cadence accordingly because the steps of the gears will be very far apart.
So when you’re climbing up a hill, you might have a very low cadence because you don’t have enough easy gears to keep spinning.
On the other hand, you might need to have a very high cadence to go fast enough on a flat surface because you don’t have enough hard gears to keep that steady 90 rpm cadence.
Too low or too fast of a cadence can tire you out prematurely.
Slower speeds on the flats
If you don’t have enough hard gears on your bike, you won’t’ be able to go as fast on the flats. And this means you might get dropped if you’re out riding with some fast friends.
Less efficient drivetrain
I was surprised to learn that a 1x drivetrain is actually less efficient than a 2x. This is because the angle of the chain is greater, putting more tension on it.
On a 2x, you have more choices, so you can keep that chain a little bit straighter, putting a little bit less tension on it.
A Few Examples of Hybrid Bikes with 1x Drivetrains
- Sirrus X 5.0. This bike boasts a slightly upright riding position and beefy tires for comfort and stability. It also has a 1 x drivetrain with a 40t cog in the front and a widely spaced 11-51t cassette, giving you plenty of gears to choose from for both hills and flat roads.
- Bianchi Siena. This very affordable bike from Bianchi comes with flat pedals and relaxed flat bars. It boasts a 1x drivetrain with a 42t chainring and 14-34t cassette in the back.
- Co-Motion Pangea. This steel bike is built for touring just about anywhere. It is available in a SRAM 1 x 11 but also can be built up with several other options.
- Specialized Turbo Vado SL 5.0 Ebike. This hybrid bike is also an e-bike with a 10-45 cassette for a wide range of gears.
Final Thoughts on Hybrid Bikes and Their Drivetrains
If I were going to purchase a hybrid bike, I would probably choose a 1x drivetrain.
Hybrid bikes aren’t created to be super-fast bikes, nor are they created for hill climbing or even serious mountain biking on rough terrain.
They were designed to do a little bit of everything, from light gravel trails to commuting to tooling around the park, so a beefy drivetrain just isn’t required.
However, gearing choice is very personal and if you want to push the speed limits on your hybrid bike, go for it! Or, if you want to turn your hybrid bicycle into a hill-climbing machine, go for it!
If you are used to mountain biking on a 1x, you might prefer a 1x on your hybrid bike.
On the other hand, if you are used to flying on your road bike with a 2x, you might also prefer that.
And if you are going to take your hybrid bike bikepacking or on long trips, a 2x might give you some extra gears to make hauling all your stuff a little bit easier.
Now that you know some of the pros and cons of a 1x drivetrain, you’ll be able to figure out which one is best for your hybrid bike.