By Justin Steiner
With riders constantly pushing the limits of bike and body, manufacturers are seeking ways to stabilize our drivetrains to minimize dropped chains without resorting to chain retention systems. Last year, Shimano introduced the XTR Shadow plus rear derailleur, creating the stabilized rear derailleur market as we know it. Now, SRAM has introduced their stabilized rear derailleur, called the Type 2.
Though it’s easy to assume this was reactionary on SRAM’s part, we’ve been told this project was on the drawing board prior to Shimano’s release. What do you do when the competition beats you to market with a game-changing product? According to SRAM, you execute the concept better.
Unlike Shimano’s metal-on-metal friction band, SRAM utilizes what they call their Roller Bearing Clutch. This one-way clutch damps the derailleur’s spring force to greatly reduce chain slap and chain instability on rough terrain. Said damping is tuned from the factory, requiring neither adjustment nor maintenance through the life of the derailleur. The polymer roller bearings in the clutch are self lubricating, requiring no maintenance for the life of the derailleur.
With the increased chain tension provided by the Type 2 derailleur, rear wheel removal would be tricky without a way to lessen or disengage the feature. To remedy this issue, SRAM developed what they’re calling Cage Lock. Simply yank the derailleur’s cage forward and press the lock button to disable the derailleur and remove all chain tension.You may recognize this system from the cheeky "commercial" that leaked out online a few weeks ago.
I’m a huge fan of the stabilized rear derailleur in concept, and was no less stoked to sample a pre-production the Type 2 X9 derailleur on the trail. Despite hitting rough stuff with abandon, as well as plenty of bigger hits, I had not one dropped chain and was extremely impressed with the quietness of the ride. Chain slap was virtually non-existent in the upper half of the cassette, and minimal in the lower cassette cogs.
Shifting was as crisp and responsive as ever, with no change in feel due to the Type 2 derailleur. Shimano Shadow Plus rear derailleurs have an on/off switch for the clutch mechanism due to the increased shift lever pressure required to overcome the clutch force. No such provision is necessary for Type 2, which SRAM says increases long-term durability.
Type 2 derailleurs will be available in August in both XO and X9 models with three cage lengths for all applications. Prices will be $260 for XO and $116 for X9, both of which are identical to their clutchless counterparts. Weight increases a scant 30 grams. The XO and X9 Type 2 derailleurs are compatible with all SRAM 10-speed X-series drivetrains.
Welcome to the wave of the future. Stabilized rear derailleurs are here to stay. SRAM will produce both stabilized and non-stabilized rear derailleurs for the foreseable future, but it’s easy to see these clutched derailleurs becoming the status quo. Simply put, I see no disadvantages and a huge upside to running a stabalized rear derailleur. Look for a detailed long-term review in a future issue of Dirt Rag.