If SRAM’s 11-speed drivetrains are out of your reach – and the £1,000 XX1/X01 probably will be for most people – then your single-ring drivetrain options are rather limited.
This titanium cassette from KCNC still costs a lot, but aims to offer some of XX1’s advantages for considerably less money. Conventional 10-speed cassettes offer a 36t largest sprocket (the easiest gear), but this titanium-toothed cassette features a 38t big cog. That’s still shy of the 10-42t spread that SRAM’s dedicated single-ring system gives you, but it usefully expands your gearing to give a proper vertical winching gear with a single (or double) ring.
It’s also very light at just 190g – Shimano’s part steel, part titanium XTR unit tips the scales at a smidgen over 250g. It worth noting that if you’re running a Shimano mech you must replace their hanger mount to give the extra clearance needed here, but KCNC include the correct one.
Shifting isn’t as crisp as with XTR, and anyone with an ounce of mechanical sympathy will want to back off the power when moving through the gears, as failing to do so makes some awful noises, especially at the upper limits of the block. Our test sample is showing no signs of wear so far, though it hasn’t seen huge amounts of winter mud yet.
It doesn’t offer the spread of XX1 (and in turn, XX1 still can’t touch the range of a triple or double front-ring drive) but if you’re committed to going single-ring this gives you a usefully low get-out gear for when your legs are tired.
Combine it with any of the SRAM-alike thick and thin toothed single chainrings (see p12) and a clutch-equipped mech and you have a rough approximation of XX1, without having to invest in the rest of its dedicated parts.