Monday, February 10, 2020

Mullet Gearing?

So, here's a new one on me: Mullet Gearing.

Business in front,
party in the back.
I was scanning some of the other bike-related websites - industry cheerleader blogs, etc. - when I first encountered the reference to a "mullet bike" or "mullet gearing."

I assume most people are familiar with the frequently-ridiculed hairstyle it takes its name from, epitomized here by the David Spade character, Joe Dirt. Short in front and on the sides, but long and cascading down in back - like a hair waterfall.

Well, apparently, this is now the name given to a recent trend of putting MTB gearing on a drop-bar road bike. Typically it would have the drop-bar road controls (business in front?), and a 1x11 or 1x12 drivetrain (party in the back?). And for the true full-blown mullet in all its enthusiastic glory, it should have a cassette with a range of something like 10-50 teeth.

Holy cow. People must really hate front derailleurs.

An SRAM-equipped  "mullet bike" - from the SRAM website.
More than anyone else, they seem to be embracing the trend.
Yes, with 11 or 12 sprockets on a cassette, and with some of today's MTB derailleurs being capable of shifting to that 50-tooth sprocket, one can obviously get tremendous gear range with a single chainring, and no "duplication" of ratios.

Having such a wide range on a cassette would, I expect, mean pretty large jumps between gear ratios. But with 11 or 12 cogs, proponents say that effect is minimized (note: minimized). And apparently, at least one company (Spanish component maker, Rotor) is now offering 13 cogs! Jeezus.

Fans of the mullet tout the weight savings of losing a chainring and the front derailleur, although that's got to be mitigated at least a little by the huge cassette cogs, not to mention adding more (and still more) of them, which are more likely to be steel than aluminum. And then there's the issue that as chains and sprockets keep getting narrower, the shifting has to be much more sensitive to misadjustment, dirt, and wear. And yet, this seems to be where we're going.

Good or bad, I don't know, but I guess it's the hot new trend for "gravel" and "adventure" bikes.

As for me, I'm still unsure where all the hatred for front derailleurs comes from, but I'm still more than happy with a compact double crank and 6 cogs in back.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got a leather saddle and a can of Proofide waiting for my attention.


  1. I reckon the main reason why people like 'mullets' is because you get the simple shifting of a 1x combined with the wide gear range you can get with a 2x or 3x. I've never ridden a bike with a modern wide-range 1x drivetrain, but I can very much understand wanting to just have one button or lever direction for easier gears, and one for harder gears. I almost got rid of the big chainring on my commuting/everything bike for this reason!

    1. With brifters of trigger shifters on an MTB, it's not like shifting between chainrings is exactly hard. Friction shifting requires an experienced touch, yes, but indexed shifting makes it much easier. Now it seems that even clicking two triggers is too much work. What's next, fully automatic shifting (and don't think that Shimano isn't thinking of it!) It's for the reasons stated above by Brooks that I'm keeping my 3x7 drivetrain.

  2. As a retro-grouch who still rides an 80's era steel frame touring bicycle with half-step plus granny gearing, I have been watching this trend continue for years.
    On one hand: only one shifting lever/device (I have Simplex bar-ends of course).
    On the other hand: what is the actual weight difference? There are a lot of small factors that need considering. Shorter BB axle but wider rear hub/axle, etc.
    Being optimistic, say the weight difference is negligible (that is optimistic: I believe 1x?? gearing probably adds weight)... why?

  3. 1x is just makes sense on a mountain bike, where the gradient may change radically up or down over short distances, highest pedaling efficiency does not really matter, and you may not have the time to faff about with proper front-shifting technique. The modern 12 speed SRAM and Shimano groups have as much range as a triple without the faff. They also have clutched derailleur systems that prevent most chain slap and dropped chains. It really is a case where the new stuff just works better.

    1x on a road bike is really, really annoying, though.

  4. Around these parts, a mullet bike is a bike with a disc in the front and a rim brake in the back. Usually done when you need extra stopping power on a bike without disc tabs (just replace the fork and you're on your way). Saves a bit of weight too, and not many situations require a rear disc.

  5. Yet another 'innovation' whose sole purpose is solve a problem that doesn't really exist and get people to replace perfectly good components with the latest thing. Which is great for those of us who are happy to get good deals on last years used components that are now hopelessly outdated.

    But seriously - I can kind of see the appeal of 1x drive trains for mountain biking (although I am perfectly happy using a double or triple), but for road biking (including gravel) I just don't get it.

  6. Wishing a company would come out with this 9-speed combination 12-13-15-17-19-21-23-25-27 for road riding. With a triple front.

  7. SRAM makes a 12-26, which might be pretty close.

  8. Yeah, I don't get it (1 x) for road or gravel riding. You end up with extra weight at the rear wheel—not a good place—and bigger gaps between gears. Pointless.

  9. I think the biggest issue is the cost of those cassettes, which is astronomical. I can't see any reason for them to last any longer than standard cassettes, especially under road use. I totally get the benefit for MTB use in highly variable terrain, such as we have in the east. Personally, I prefer the now-defunct triple for road bikes, typically a 30-42-52, with a 13-27 cassette, when I can find it.

  10. Somewhere I saw an opinion that SRAM pushed 1x gearing because it's hard to design a good front derailleur without violating a Campy or Shimano patent.