How to Find the Best Mountain Bike Derailleurs
Biking in difficult mountain terrain requires that you equip yourself with the proper tools, equipment and best mountain bike derailleurs needed to ensure that you remain safe while on your ride. There are a lot of different mountain bike models and options available on the market thee days, all of which will help you tackle specific obstacles that are unique to the trail you are on.
The most important tool that you’ll need to have access to when mountain biking is, of course, a mountain bike. Mountain bikes come in many different configurations and styles which allows you to find the perfect fit for your particular riding style and preference regardless of what trails you are on.
Mountain bikes come with many different components and parts that all work congruently to provide you with the level of performance that you need when taking on intense terrains.
Components such as the wheels, saddle, rails, gears, and more all play a critical role in determining how easy it will be for you to move through the various features and moguls that are presented on the trail.
Derailleurs are rear mountain bike components that serve the sole purpose of helping your bike change gears by facilitating the movement of your chain from one sprocket to the next. There are also front derailleurs however, unlike the rear derailleur, the front one only moves the top part of your chain.
When your derailleur begins to malfunction, it can be a serious issue and affect your ability to properly handle and manipulate your bike. The operational impairment due to a faulty derailleur will be evident while riding and will not allow you to shift gears.
To solve this issue, you need to replace your existing derailleur with a new more durable one that you can rely on for performance and handling while taking on any challenges that the trail may throw your way.
If you’ve been looking for a new derailleur that will help to improve the overall performance and stability of your mountain bike but haven’t been able to find the right solution, you’ve come to the right place. In this guide, we’re going to go over all of the most important information that you need to know as it relates to finding the right derailleur replacement for your specific needs.
To begin, let’s take a look at exactly what a derailleur is so that you can have a better idea as to how they directly benefit your riding performance and capabilities.
Our Top Derailleur Selection
The Shimano Deore XT Shadow Mountain Bicycle Rear Derailleur – RD-M772 comes packing a low-profile design that helps to improve and sustain the overall durability of the derailleur. It also comes with a low-profile enhancement that reduces the amount of RD damage which occurs in narrow passageways when riding.
It has a strong return spring that provides a crisp and smooth shift action to help support you while riding. The bike uses direct routing which reduces the odds of snagging occurring while riding. Check out the Shimano Deore Derailleur here on Amazon.
What are Mountain Bike Derailleurs?
Every mountain bike comes with a set of front and rear derailleurs that are attached to the front and rear chain on the bike. At the core, derailleurs serve the sole purpose of helping your bike change gears and they do so by moving the chain from one sprocket location to the next. Derailleurs play a direct impact on the maximum speed that your bike can achieve at any time.
This is due to the fact that they work in direct synchronization with your chain. When your mountain bike is going as fast as it possibly can, that means you are in the highest ratio which is achieved by the chain being on the biggest sprocket on the gear of your bike while being in the smallest sprocket on the rear of your bike.
Alternatively, when your mountain bike is going as slow as it possibly can, you’re in the lowest ratio which means that the chain is in the smallest sprocket in the front of your bike while being in the biggest sprocket near the rear of your bike.
Both the front and rear derailleur perform very important functions as they relate to the operation of your bike which is why we’re going to cover the main purpose of each individual part below.
The purpose of your front derailleur is to move your bike chain between the three front sprockets, the front derailleur only moves the top portion of your chain which helps to produce the tension needed to propel your bike forward when pedaling.
The rear derailleur serves the purpose of adjusting it’s positioning to sustain the proper tension needed for acceleration regardless of what gear your bike may be in. The rear derailleur works by moving the bottom part of your chain from one side to another which allows your bike to switch gears.
The rear derailleur remains stationary when you’re pedaling your bike which keeps the bottom part of the chain free to move from one sprocket to the next under heavy acceleration and speed.
Both of these components are extremely important when it comes to the operation and functionality of your bike. If one of these fails to operate properly while you’re out on the trail it can spell serious trouble for you and the overall condition of your bike if not fixed in the appropriate amount of time.
It’s always good to know exactly what the parts on your mountain bike are responsible for so that you will be able to identify how to solve issues that may arise during operation.
Now that we’ve gone over all of the main functions of derailleurs on mountain bikes, it’s time to take a look at what you should look for in terms of quality and compatibility when trying to find the right derailleur replacements for your bike.
Key Elements to Look for When Choosing the Right Mountain Bike Derailleur
When it comes to finding the right derailleur for your mountain bike, there are several different factors and elements that you need to consider. Every mountain bike comes with its own unique configuration of wheels, gears, etc. all of which must be taken into consideration when choosing the correct derailleur for your mountain bike. Derailleurs are made to meet these specifications which means that you’ll have a variety of different models and options to choose from.
Before making your final purchase decision, you need to ensure that the derailleur you choose is not only compatible but also beneficial to the overall performance of your bike when in action.
In this section, we’re going to cover the most important factors that you need to consider when choosing the right derailleur for your mountain bike to ensure that you will experience the performance boost and stability you deserve while out on rides.
Every mountain bike derailleur will be made from a different material and use a unique design blueprint to deliver the type of performance it delivers. As a best practice, you should always choose a derailleur that is made from highly machined metal materials that are known to last for long times such as steel.
You also need to make sure that the components that come with your derailleur are made to resist the onset of rapid wearing so that you will be able to ride for a long time without having to worry about the conditioning of this part. Ceramic bushings are also a very durable and long-lasting material option for you to look for when choosing the right set of derailleurs for your bike.
While appearance won’t directly impact your bike’s ability to operate successfully, you don’t want to install a new set of derailleurs on your bike that make it look bad or odd. Luckily, derailleurs come in many different finishes and polish types so you will be able to choose the right look for your bike regardless of how it may be set up.
Commonly, you’ll find derailleurs that come in anodized finishes, polished panel finishes, and a lot of other options. These types of finishes can add a really nice touch to your bike’s look overall.
One element that you can inspect to determine the quality of any derailleur that you may be interested in is by analyzing the overall weight of the derailleur. High-quality derailleurs will tend to be much lighter and weigh less than those derailleurs made from cheaper heavier materials.
This is one of the Bonafede ways to tell if a derailleur is worth the money or not because a low-quality derailleur is made to bog down your bike.
Typically, the higher quality derailleurs will be made from materials such as titanium pivots or carbon cages that provide your bike with ultimate durability and longevity without restricting or weighing down your ability to ride fluidly on various types of terrains.
Some derailleurs are made from a combination of both aluminium and steel, if you want a high-quality derailleur you may need to shell out a lot of cash to get your hands on one, but if you are a serious rider, it will be worth it.
One of the most important factors that you need to keep in mind when choosing the right derailleur for your bike is its compatibility with your bike in particular. Most derailleurs are made to work with 8-speed mountain bikes are also compatible with 9-speed mountain bikes even more so if they are SRAM.
These types of derailleurs will also be compatible with 7-speed, 8-speed, and 9-speed bikes which makes it easy for you to find a compatible fit. For best practice, you should never combine parts of different generations or components to ensure that you don’t experience any performance problems while riding.
Derailleurs made to work with 10-speed mountain bikes will also be compatible with road shifters. If you’re unsure about whether or not your desired derailleurs are compatible with your existing mountain bike, you should ask a specialist or expert to make sure before finalizing your purchase.
Every derailleur requires a different installation method which is something you’ll want to keep in mind when choosing the right model for your specific needs. You need to ensure that your selected derailleur is easy to install and adjust once installed because if not, you will have to pay for separate professional installation assistance.
To ensure that you can easily install your new derailleurs they should come with all of the tools and equipment needed to assemble and install them in their factory packaging. Make sure you can install the derailleur you choose before making your final purchase decision so that you can begin experiencing the difference that they will provide to you while out on the trail.
Cages come in a wide range of different lengths including short, medium, and long. All of these different sizes serve the purpose of enhancing your overall riding performance and stability while out in nature. Short cages are ideal for single front chainrings, medium cages are great for doubles, and long cages are great for triples.
You should also consider the shifting action of your bike, there are two different options for you to choose from. These are index shifting and friction shifting, both of these methods will provide you with distinctive benefits while out riding so the choice is really yours.
Clutches are a fairly new design integration for mountain bikes that serve the sole purpose of keeping the chain on the gears when encountering large jumps or bumps while along the trail.
Commonly, when sudden changes in the amount of force being applied to the pedal and overall weight can cause your bike chain to slack a little which will negatively impact your riding ability significantly.
The clutch is designed to eliminate this issue by sustaining the appropriate tension in your chain at all times so that you don’t have to worry about your chain coming off.
Mechanical or Electrical
A lot of new mountain bikes out on the market today use an electrical shifting mechanism that facilitates the operation of the bike. There are plenty of companies out there who also produce electrical derailleurs that are designed to be compatible with this electronic shifting function.
If your bike does not currently support electronic shifting but you’re interested in upgrading, you will need to replace your existing shifters, brakes, and front derailleur to ensure that it will work properly.
Electrical derailleurs provide more precise shifting action and gear control however some people still prefer mechanical shifters and derailleurs over newer and improved versions. The ultimate decision on which one is best for you will ultimately rest on your preferred riding style and what you’re trying to accomplish.
Now that we’ve gone over all of the most important features and elements that you need to consider when choosing the right derailleur for your mountain bike, it’s time to take a look at how to asses which bike derailleur is perfect for your bike according to the specifications of your existing bike setup.
Mountain Bike Derailleur Groupsets: What are they and how to choose one
One of the common terms that you’ll notice a lot when out looking for the right mountain bike derailleur for your specific needs is the fact that the word “groupsets” is used a lot when talking about the parts.
The word groupsets refer to all of the components that come with your derailleur which are things such as bottom brackets, chains, cassettes, brakes, shifters, and more. Make sure you look for a product labeled mountain bike groupset to ensure that you’re choosing the correct type of attachment for your bike.
The name chainset will also commonly be used when talking about all of the parts which compose the entire setup of your chain structure which includes the bottom bracket axle, crank arms, and front chainrings. A lot of modern chainsets come with either a double chainring or a single front chainring.
Chainrings come in many different sizes all of which are determined by the number of teeth that the ring is comprised of. The more teeth that your chainset has, the harder the gears will be for you to switch however you will gain a lot more speed.
Chainsets of smaller sizes will give you easier gear actioning which allows you to climb a lot easier, for higher speeds, you should consider using a double chainset which will spread your gears out much more so that you have a solid balance between speed and climbing prowess.
The best chainring for your mountain bike will be determined by the overall style of your bike, bikes that are designed for more rugged performance standards and handling tend to have small chainrings which makes it easier for them to climb and adapt to virtually any type of environment or terrain that you may be encountering.
Bikes that are designed with short travel or cross-country riding will tend to have larger chainrings which allow them to achieve high-speeds with ease.
All of these various terms are something that you’ll want to keep in mind when choosing the right derailleur for your bike so that you can make sure you’re selecting a derailleur that will provide you with actual benefits while out on the trail. Now that we’ve gone over these important facts, it’s time to take a look at some of the top derailleur brands on the market.
Top Derailleur Brands: Main Differences and Similarities
When you begin looking for the right derailleur to fit your mountain bike, one of the things that you’ll notice is that the market is dominated by two main companies.
Those two brands are SRAM and Shimano, both of these companies make a wide range of different mountain bike derailleurs and other components which help to improve the overall performance and sustainability of your bike.
One interesting fact to note about mountain bike derailleurs is that the current models in use do not vary that much from the first original production models which were released during the 1920s. This is something that even further emphasizes the importance of derailleurs and why they are required to ride any bike of any sort.
Derailleurs look like very complicated pieces of machinery however they operate suing very simple and basic principles. One of the core differences that you’ll find in derailleurs today when compared to older models is the fact that most derailleurs now come outfitted with very strong and resilient springs which help to assist in chain retention while also minimizing the amount of chain bounce experienced while riding.
Shimano and SRAM are the top dogs in the mountain bike derailleur industry and all of their products come with unique design elements that will provide you with enhanced benefits when compared to other derailleur options.
One of the advantages that Shimano has over its a competitor is that their derailleurs come with what is known as Shadow+ System which allows you to reduce the amount of chain tension by using a simple switch. This system also makes it easier for you to change and remove the wheels when you need to.
SRAM has its own derailleur enhancement which is known as the SRAM Type 2, this system uses a mechanical pin that can hold the derailleur in a de-tensioned manner so that it can facilitate easy wheel removal. Shimano currently still produces front derailleurs for all of the groupsets that are offered by their product line.
SRAM however only produces front derailleurs for basic groups which is something that you’ll want to keep in mind before making your final purchase decision.
Shimano vs. SRAM Mountain Bike Derailleur Differences
- Shimano produces front derailleurs for all groupsets, whereas SRAM does not
- SRAM uses a system known as Type 2 for its derailleurs, whereas Shimano uses a unique technology known as Shadow+ System
- SRAM only produces front derailleurs for the most basic groupsets
- Both companies provide a wide variety of different derailleur models and options for you to choose from
These are some of the main differences that you need to keep in mind when choosing the right derailleur for your mountain bike. Make sure that you consider the setup of your existing mountain bike to ensure that you can choose the right derailleur that will be compatible with your bike and preferred riding style.
Now that we’ve gone over all of the main differences that you can expect to encounter when choosing between all of the various mountain bike derailleurs out there, it’s time to answer some of the most commonly asked questions that people have when it comes to mountain bike derailleurs.
After reading the section above, you probably still have some questions you need to be answered about mountain bike derailleurs as it relates to the overall maintenance, installation, and upkeep of them.
In the following section, we’re going to answer some of the most commonly asked questions that people have related to mountain bike derailleurs. Make sure you read this entire section in full so that you will be able to make an educated decision about which mountain bike derailleur will be perfect for you.
To ensure that your desired derailleurs are compatible with your existing bike setup, you need to check what speed the derailleurs are rated for. If you have an 8-speed mountain bike, you need to purchase a derailleur that is compatible with 8-speed bikes.
The right cage size for your bike will depend on its existing setup taking into account its length, size, and wheels.
All mountain bike derailleurs have different installation methods and procedures which are required to ensure that it works properly once on your bike.
Now that we’ve answered some of the commonly asked questions that people have when it comes to choosing the right derailleur for your mountain bike, it’s time to look at some of our top mountain bike derailleur recommendations that you can choose from on the market right now.
Our Top Mountain Bike Derailleur Recommendations
At this point, we’ve covered all of the most important information and facts that you need to know about when choosing the right derailleur. In this section, we’re going to give you all of our top recommendations for mountain bike derailleurs.
Keep in mind, all of the recommendations listed below will come with different installation requirements and design elements, so this is something that you need to consider to ensure that you’re selecting a derailleur that is compatible with your existing mountain bike setup.
#1 SRAM GX Bicycle Rear Derailleur with 1 x 11 Speed Long Cage
The SRAM GX Bicycle Rear Derailleur with 1 x 11 Speed Long Cage comes outfitted with a large upper pulley offset feature which helps to automatically adjust the chain gap at any given time during your ride for sustained performance capabilities and overall power.
This derailleur features an X-HORIZON design which helps to reduce the amount of shift force and ghost shifting that commonly occurs with derailleurs. These derailleurs are also using advanced Type 2.1 technology which employs the use of a roller bearing clutch and cage lock in addition to 12-tooth X-sync pulley wheels which help the component operate in a much more efficient and seamless manner. You can find the SRAM GX here on Amazon.
#2 SRAM X.9 Rear Bicycle Derailleur
The SRAM X.9 Rear Bicycle Derailleur is made from a very durable aluminum alloy material that has integrated links and a forged B-knuckle in addition to a strengthened grillon p-knuckle which provides increased stability and performance longevity.
These derailleurs also come with a cage made from aluminum that is available in two separate sizes which are medium and long. The short cage variant is made from a composite material as it’s the only option, this derailleur is compatible with gear ratios of 1:2 which makes them very efficient in terms of performance and handling when out on the trail.
This particular derailleur model was specifically designed to work with 9-speed bikes so keep this in mind before making your final decision. Check out the RAM X.9 Rear Bicycle Derailleur.
#3 SRAM X.4 Rear Derailleur (Black, Long Cage)
The SRAM X.4 Rear Derailleur (Black, Long Cage) comes with Shimano SRAM 9 drivetrain spacing configuration that uses a 34-tooth design for enhanced riding functionality and capabilities. The front and a rear derailleur that comes with this set uses a gear ratio of 1:1 and has a variable speed of 7/8sp.
This derailleur model weighs a total of 310g so it’s a rather medium-weighted option that will provide increased riding capabilities without impacting your mobility. SRAM X.4 Rear Derailleur (Black, Long Cage)
Throughout this guide, we’ve gone over all of the most important features and factors that you need to consider when choosing the right mountain bike derailleur for your intended use and purpose.
Before making a final purchase decision, you need to make a complete assessment of your existing mountain bike setup. This will allow you to go out and begin looking for the right mountain bike derailleur that fits according to the specific parameters and detailed specifications of how your mountain bike is currently set up.
Use all of the information that we’ve to give you in the guide as a vital resource point that you can utilize to ensure you optimize the way your mountain bike performs on any terrain!