Better frame geometry, more refined suspension designs and simpler/wider gearing is the shortlist of recent advances in MTB technology. For some cycle manufactures, each item on that list is not mutually exclusive and relates intrinsically to one another when it’s time to update a model. The new Santa Cruz Nomad is a classic case in point. The engineers wanted to get more travel out of the chassis which meant using a longer lower link. They also wanted a longer top tube, slacker head tube angle and as is fashionable, bigger wheels than its predecessor.
Each of those requirements had a waterfall effect on the final outcome. The longer top tube meant shortening the chainstays to keep the bike’s wheelbase nippy, that combined with larger wheels meant the lower linkage had to be shifted forward and up above the BB shell. The concession Santa Cruz had to make to be able to tick all those revisions was ditching the front derailleur altogether. The Nomad was one of the very first “enduro specific” bikes to be sold with the intention of its user running a 1×11 drivetrain only. The wheel size debate has finally subsided with the newest ramblings in comment boards surrounding gearing. Specifically range and cassette size. Both big S’s have released their offerings in the form of SRAM Eagle which has an 10-50 (12sp) and Shimano XT which has an 11-46 (11sp).
What if though, you don’t want an expensive cassette with a low cog half the diameter of your wheel? Well good news, the Austrians have you covered! A company I’d never heard of until this morning called Vyro is making a double crankset with 24-36 rings that shifts without the need of a front mech. The inside chainring is positioned for a claimed perfect chainline. The outer ring is split into 4 equal sections which move independently of each other to pick up and drop the chain from and to the inside ring.
The movement is actuated mechanically by an inner plate that mounts to your ISCG tabs, so if you own a Nomad and want to run a double up front that will make an engineer dribble, now you can.
Clever as this system is there are a few problems. They don’t ship anywhere out of Europe so good luck getting your hands on one. If you do manage to smuggle one in, let’s hope you bought 2 so as to have some replacement parts and at the very least, spare chainrings for when they wear out. Replacement parts aside, I’d be concerned with how well the system functions clogged with mud and the fact it’s a company with no history or prior proven products. They’ve also sold less than 1000 which may mean 999 or could be 2, who knows? The biggest problem of all though is the fact it’s for engineers and not cyclists. Vyro has spent a ton of money addressing a problem that doesn’t really exist anymore. Bikes designed around no front mech aren’t going to benefit from an over engineered crankset. Furthermore, chainring and front derailleur technology have come a long way in even just the last five years. There are quite a few small companies focused just on better chainring design and function; OneUp, Blackspire, Hope, and NZ’s Revolution to name a few.
In the end, it’s a solution to a problem that I hope to see the back of in the next year or two; the derailleur.