Since then, Cannondale has been purchased by a global sport conglomerate, and that factory was closed, with the firm opting to move production to Vietnam. Simultaneously, the bike industry has also seen prices for their products quadruple in the past four years, with some bikes retailing for over ten thousand dollars. And this is for products that are mass produced in south east Asia.
I'm bringing all this up, because over the past year or so, I've been thinking about getting a new bike. However the combination of financial constraints, along with romantic ideas surrounding my existing hand built bike made me strongly reconsider purchasing a new bike. That is, I'd spend more to get a new bike that was probably "less than" the bike I was currently riding. But there were features coming on new bikes that I definitely wanted. Over the course of a few months and a little bit of research, I'd find out that these features could be purchased for the fraction of a new bike.
The new parts I were interested in including a 1x ("one by") drive train and a dropper seatpost. The 1x drive trains were an innovation of SRAM. During a test ride a year ago on a high end mountain bike featuring their XX1 brand drive train I got to see first hand that it provided ratios low enough to climb trails in Steamboat Springs, CO. I was really looking to change over to this style of drive train for a few reasons. One of the reasons was simplicity.
The removal of the front derailleur would also eliminate the front shifter on the left side of the handlebar, improving through simplification the "user interface". I noticed even on a demo bike that I was no longer thinking about shifting. With a 2x or 3x system, you're often thinking about what combinations of gears you should be running between the front chain ring and rear cogs. I noticed on the demo bike equipped with a 1x drive train that all of that thinking just didn't need to happen. You shifted up or down on one shifter. That's it. Easier user interface and more thought going toward the ride. Or less thinking! Either case is a better deal.
With this in mind I started looking into the SRAM 1x drivetrains that were available, but I found them to be overly expensive. So, I started looking into conversion kits for 2x10 drive trains. I found the various conversion parts relatively inexpensive, but many of the reviews I read indicated that while the conversion kits appeared to be an inexpensive "stop gap" for getting to 1x, they weren't as good as a true/pure 1x system, as they were stressing some of the components involved, namely the rear derailleur. On top of this, I would be purchasing new drive train components, and purchasing a conversion kit on top of this added expense and all had the appearance of "bail wire and duct tape" solution to my end goal.
A few months ago, I read of Shimano's new 1x drive trains that were coming available in XTR and eventually XT brands. As the XT 1x drivetrains were released, I saw that they were pretty inexpensive compared to their SRAM or Shimano 2x drivetrains (+ conversion kit).
I found the XT 1x drivetrain for about $400, and the online retailer allowed me to customize the bundle. I had been looking at online gear ratio calculators, and with some of the steep climbs on Colorado's front range, I opted for a 30 tooth front ring and a 42 tooth rear cog. This was as low as the Shimano 1x system offered, and it would provide a similar ratio to the 34 tooth cog and 22 tooth chain ring in the legacy 3x9 drivetrain it would be replacing.
Since my existing drivetrain included Shimano's integrated "Dual Control" shifters/brakes, I would have to get new brakes too. Dual Control was an innovative idea from Shimano about ten years ago, an idea that didn't quite catch on. It was the mountain biking version of STI shifting, where the brake levers were moved up or down to shift the bike. The concept simplified the controls a bit, and I felt it worked well, but I always preferred the separate triggers and brake levers on other hard tail mountain bike. So, the upgrade on the Prophet would allow me to replace the controls with a more traditional and preferred trigger and brake lever set up.
As I started shopping for brakes, I noticed that Shimano released a new brake to go along with the release of their new drive train. The M8000 series brake looked great, but I also noticed that it was selling for considerably more than their previous release, the M785 series brake. I did a bit of research online, and folks were saying that there was minimal (no?) difference in the brakes between M785 and M8000. Made sense to me, as they probably focused their engineering efforts on the drive train, and adjusted the look of the brake (more black!) to release it simultaneously with the updated drive train. So, I opted for the older but very similar M785 series brake, and found them from a store online for about 60 dollars less than the M8000 per brake.
Lastly, I shopped around for a dropper seat post. Unfortunately most of the modern dropper seat posts come in diameters to large for my Cannondale's 27.2 seatpost will allow. This limited my options to the Gravity Dropper Turbo or Gravity Dropper Classic. Luckily my research on dropper seat posts found that the most reliable dropper seat post on the market was the Gravity Dropper series of posts. It turns out that the modern hydraulic actuated dropper seat posts are very easy to use, however they tend to have issues with durability and reliability. That is, they fail often, and leave their users with the seat post stuck in the lowest position in the middle of a ride. Meanwhile, the Gravity Dropper post uses a cable, mechanical switch, and spring to actuate the dropper mechanism, all of which provide a more robust solution to a component that's under a lot of stress and strain. So, I found a great deal on a Gravity Dropper Classic in the 27.2 diameter.
So, with the parts ordered and waiting for them to come in the mail, I started taking the bike apart, removing all of the legacy drivetrain components. The bike was essentially stripped down to the frame with the exception of the front fork. I took the opportunity to thoroughly clean the bike, getting into all the hard to reach places. I even took the time to put two coats of wax on the bike, improving the paint's sheen a bit.
|Bike is stripped down the frame, cleaned up, and even polished!|
|New brake lever mounted beside the XT 11 speed rear shifter.|
|New rear brake caliper mounted.|
|New crank mounted.|
|One by! Very clean up front without the front derailleur.|
|New XT cog set on my wheel. That 42 tooth cog is huge! Pie plate!|
Lastly, I mounted the dropper post. I ran the cable for the dropper post along the top tube, and secured it with some black mini zip ties. I've heard some folks bemoan the lack of internal routing for the Gravity Dropper post, but I like that I'll be able to maintain the cable with very little fuss.
|The Gravity Dropper seat post mounted.|
|Checking the chain line. The 1x drivetrain can create some extreme angles for the chain!|
Lastly, with the bike on the floor, I adjusted the angle of the levers, ensuring a comfortable 45 degree angle as well as adequate spacing between the levers and grips. I like a nice "moto feel", with ample space between the grips and levers. I also adjusted the location of the dropper seatpost trigger and shifter trigger to ensure they moved freely and were in a comfortable location.
|New brake lever beside the trigger for the dropper post.|
And now, for a test ride. Unfortunately, the front range has been hit with plenty of snow, which makes for great skiing... as well as the need for some terrific patience, waiting for drier weather to run this new/old bike for the first time!
|Upgrade to V3.0 completed!|
|Upgrade to V3.0 completed!|