After riding 2x9 for close to 10 years, the move to 1x9 surprised me and I suddenly found that not having a granny gear was not limiting. But with a derailleur crapping out after 2-3 weeks (it was years old) the jump to 10-speed came about quicker than I expected. And it was a welcome change
I took the bike to the shop for a tune up and a drive train overhaul. Knowing that a derailleur needed to be changed out, it made going to 10 speed a bit more affordable, especially because the 30T crank ring could handle 10 speed as well. 11 speed, while appealing, was a bit too expensive, so it looked like 10 was the best course of action. And I am glad that I made the choice.
I have always been a SRAM guy ever since the days of Shimano's crank ring problems. With 10 years of happy service under my belt, I was hesitant to go to a Shimano, but several had commented that there were SRAM problems. The shop didn't seem to care one way or another, so I went the Shimano path for the first time since my old Gary Fisher.
The Shimano derailleur has the feature I was most interested in, the clutch. Once the gear is selected, the clutch holds the chain tight. VPP bikes are notorious for chain slap, so having the clutch means that your chainline is nice and tight and you get no drops. Combine that with a narrow-wide chainring and everything is tight and in place at all times.
The other big feature is the "shadow" design that pushes the derailleur in under the cassette. Because it does not hang out as far as other models, it prevents the derailleur from catching rocks and roots.
The shifter was a a Saint instead of XT, and I am not sure that I like it. The shop said that it has a more definite "click" to it, but my gripe is that it is plastic. One good crash and I could be riding a singlespeed back to the trailhead. The one nice feature is that on the lower shift lever it can be moved forwards and backwards to shift, so that those coming from SRAM will feel right at home.
Overall the shifting is accurate, the drivetrain is quiet and the gear ratios are perfect. Almost too perfect. The 11T-36T cassette works well, but with the 30T up front, it almost has too much spin in the biggest gear. I am thinking that a 32T up front will help. I find instead of riding in my 3 largest gears (1x9) I am now favoring the middle of the cassette. That says a bigger ring up front could be helpful.
If you carried a SRAM power link for chain repairs on the trail, you'll need to get a new 10-speed specific chain link replacement. The 10-speed links are intended for 1-time use only. And they are harder to put on. You need to install it, then bring the link around on the chain to the top between the crank and cassette. Then push the pedal forward firmly to click it into place. You will need a tool to remove it after it has been installed. The old days of popping a chain on and off are over. For now.
Product: Shimano XT 1x10 drivetrain.
Rating (1-10): 9 of 10
Pros: Good range, solid shifting
Cons: Saint shifter feels cheap (go with an XT)
Configuration: 1x10 with a Race Face 30T on the front.
Verdict: Definitely worth the upgrade