Guide to Mullet Drivetrains: Pairing Road Shifters with MTB Derailleurs/Cassettes

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Let’s be honest, road 1x drivetrains just don’t cut it. The ideal 1x for gravel bikes and drop-bar bikepacking rigs comes in the form of a road shift lever paired with a mountain bike rear derailleur and/or cassette. For the past year and a half, we’ve been experimenting with various hacks and drivetrain modifications to achieve the best of both worlds: a wide gear range and an appreciable granny gear. We’ve fully tested eight solid “mullet” drivetrains for this in depth guide…

First off, what exactly is a mullet? That endearing term—made famous by the 90s Beastie Boys song “Mullet Head”—was recently reappropriated to describe a hybrid road/mountain drivetrain. To clarify, the mullet drivetrain configuration uses a road shifter (business in the front) to control a mountain bike derailleur/cassette (party in the back). Makes sense, right?

So, why the mullet? For those unaware, there’s been a lot of demand for wide-range 1x drivetrains on drop-bar bikes. Gravel cyclists simply want more range, and bikepackers often need a granny gear that’s low enough to tackle steep climbs with loaded bikes, which is where the mullet comes in. For reasons I’ll explain, most road 2x systems don’t quite cut it. And as of right now, there aren’t too many wide-range 1x drivetrains on the market, either. Most road one-bys (such as the popular SRAM Rival 1 and Apex 1) are limited*** by SRAM’s 10-42-tooth cassette and provide a slim 420% range. The newer GRX 1×11 can operate a bigger 11-46t cassette, but it still maxes out at 418%. Furthermore, when paired with a 38t chainring up front (the GRX, Apex, and Rival crankset minimum chainring) and 700c x 45mm tires, the net result is a 25 gear inch granny gear (23 for the 46t GRX combo). That’s often a little too high for pedaling a loaded bike up super-steep hills for most of us mortals.

Yes, we know there are great 2×10 and 2×11 road drivetrains out there, but most still don’t achieve a really good, climbing-friendly bailout gear. For example, Shimano’s most compact GRX gravel double crankset (30/46T) paired with an 11-34T cassette and the same 700c x 45mm tires still only gets you a bailout gear with about 25 gear inches.

Enter the mullet. Theoretically, pairing a road shifter with a semi-standard mountain 1x (a 34t chainring and a 50t cassette cog), you’ll have a bailout gear that nets about 19 gear inches using the same tire size (a 36t ring will achieve 20 gear inches).

The Great Mullet Quandary is that most road drivetrain components don’t work with mountain components. They have different cable pull ratios and other such discrepancies, though there are exceptions. One is the brilliant SRAM AXS system (full review here), which allows the AXS Force wireless shifters to communicate with the AXS Eagle rear derailleur—“business” (Force 1 road shifters) in the front, and “party” (MTB Eagle derailleur and cassette) in the back. It works extraordinarily well, but it’s also quite expensive—starting at about $1,450 for just the Force shifters and AXS derailleur. The price tag alone makes it a non-starter for many of us. And the fact that it’s electronic makes it a no-go for anyone who has even the faintest whiff of luddite blood.

But don’t fret! There are several options out there, some of which are better than others. We’ve compiled a list below with notes, pricing, testing and install notes, and pros and cons for each. They are listed in the order of range, from widest to most narrow. We’ve also included some additional mix and match options to expand the range or reduce the price tag. Plus find a wrap up with comparisons of some of our favorite options.

511%1×11

SRAM Road Shifters with 9-46T Cassette

Rival 1 + e*Thirteen

Brake compatibility: Mechanical or Hydraulic Disc
Hub driver: SRAM XD

SRAM Rival 1 Road Shifters with e*thirteen 9-46T cassette, Mullet Drivetrain
Component
Grams
Price
Shift Levers: SRAM RIval 1 (mech brakes)
332
$120
Derailleur: SRAM Rival 1
280
$115
Cassette: e*thirteen 9-46t TRS+
339
$249
Total
951
$484

The first (and widest) drivetrain in this bunch is also probably the least mullet, or MTB. In fact, aside from a different crankset, the only change from a standard SRAM Rival 1 road drivetrain is the addition of the e*Thirteen TRS+ 11-46t cassette. However, this makes a very big difference. The magic of the eThirteen cassettes comes from its 9-tooth cog. Most other cassette manufacturers use an 11-tooth cog (the minimum allowed on a standard Shimano HG hub driver). However, smaller cogs became possible with the advent of SRAM’s threaded XD Driver. SRAM uses this to offer a minimum 10-tooth cog on their cassettes, which alone gains about 42% more range when comparing an 11-42 cassette vs 10-42.

  • thirteen 9t cog
  • SRAM Rival 1 Road Shifters with e*thirteen 9-46T cassette, Mullet Drivetrain
  • e*thirteen 11-speed cassette, 9-46t

What exactly will a 9-tooth cassette cog get you? Well, when comparing the range between a 10-42 cassette and a 9-42, there’s a difference of about 47%! The 10-42 has a range of 420% and the 9-42 has about 467%. That’s a big difference. With that, e*thirteen’s 12-speed 556% 9-50t TRS+ cassette is the widest on the mainstream market. That’s massive for a single cassette. There’s one other that’s a little wider: KCNC’s 9-52T 12-speed cassette boasts a whopping 578%. Of course, KCNC isn’t a well known company and the cassette is a little hard to find, and it’s perhaps not as compelling as the offerings from e*thirteen.

However, the one shown here is the 9-46T TRS+ 11-speed model. And even though it has four fewer teeth on the big cog than the aforementioned cluster, it makes the widest range option for an 11-speed drop-bar drivetrain at 511%. That said, one could easily use the 9-50 with one of the 12-speed configurations listed below, but we think this is a good place to start.

  • SRAM Rival 1 Road Shifters with e*thirteen 9-46T cassette, Mullet Drivetrain
  • 2020 Kona Sutra LTD Review

This drivetrain is not only the widest range option listed here, it’s also the one we’ve put the most miles on—and is my personal favorite. I’ve put well over 1,000 miles on this drivetrain and it’s still going strong. The SRAM Rival 1 derailleur works flawlessly, and even though SRAM specifies the max capacity at 42-tooth cassette cogs, it has no issues with a 46. It’s fairly smooth and has the perfect range. I’ve been using it with a 32t chainring on a 29er, which does very well while pedaling a loaded bike on steep climbs—well enough for Colombia’s insanely steep dirt roads—and doesn’t spin out too quickly when going downhill.

Pros

  • Massive range (the biggest here)
  • Crisp and accurate shifting
  • Reliable and durable

Cons

  • Requires SRAM XD Driver
  • Cassette is relatively expensive

500%1×11

SRAM Road Shifters with 10-50T Cassette

Rival 1 + Garbaruk

Brake compatibility: Mechanical or Hydraulic Disc
Hub driver: SRAM XD

SRAM Rival 1 Road Derailleur with 11-50t cassette, Mullet Drivetrain
Component
Grams
Price
Shift Levers: SRAM Rival 1 (mech brakes)
332
$120
Derailleur: SRAM Rival 1
280
$115
Cassette: Garbaruk 10-50T
339
$254
Mod: Garbaruk Derailleur Cage for SRAM
$38
Total
951
$527

This Mullet is based on a derailleur cage and cassette made by Garbaruk, a Ukrainian company that’s been making bike components for about a decade. We actually took a look at this system in our wide-range 11-speed article back in 2018. They offer several wide-range “precisely crafted lightweight 11-speed MTB cassettes,” including an 11-50T Shimano/HG compatible cassette and the 10-50T XD-specific model shown here. The smaller 10 cogs (10-12-14-16-19-22-26-30-36-42) are made of a single piece of machined chromoly steel, and the 50T, 7075-T651 aluminum alloy cog is secured to the cluster with three Torx screws. It’s available in multiple anodized colors.

Alongside these cassettes, Garbaruk also offers anodized alloy derailleur cages for both SRAM and Shimano that replace the standard rear derailleur cage and allow it to work with the massive 50T cog on their cassettes. By repositioning the upper derailleur pulley closer to the small cassette cog and farther from the largest cog, Garbaruk cages allow rear derailleurs designed to be used with 11-42T cassettes work with 10-50T cassettes.

  • SRAM Rival 1 Garbaruk 10-50T cassette, mullet drivetrain
  • SRAM Rival 1 Garbaruk 10-50T cassette, mullet drivetrain
  • SRAM Rival 1 Garbaruk 10-50T cassette, mullet drivetrain
  • SRAM Rival 1 Road Derailleur with 11-50t cassette, Mullet Drivetrain
  • SRAM Rival 1 Road Derailleur with 11-50t cassette, Mullet Drivetrain

The machining and construction of the cassette is impressive, and considering that it’s mostly steel, it’s incredibly lightweight. Having tried it with multiple drivetrains in this roundup, I also think it shifts fairly smoothly. Perhaps not as quite as smooth as high-end cassettes by SRAM or Shimano, but it holds its own.

As mentioned, the design of the Garbaruk Read Derailleur Cage changes the cage the derailleur to work with their cassettes’ large 50T cogs, so I was happy to see that it was possible to use on one of my favorite road derailleurs, Rival 1. The Garbaruk cage was pretty straightforward to install, although getting the system in tune was a little finicky as it seemed extra sensitive to clicks of the barrel adjuster and cable tension. It’s worth noting that you can technically use the same pulleys from the old cage, so using their wild looking, large anodized cages aren’t necessary. But they sent them along to test, so I thought they were worth trying as well.

  • SRAM Rival 1 Garbaruk 10-50T cassette, mullet drivetrain
  • SRAM Rival 1 Garbaruk 10-50T cassette, mullet drivetrain

On first ride, I felt like this system didn’t shift as crisply as some others. However, after a couple rides, it started to come into its own and actually get smoother, crisper and more accurate feeling. In the end, I’m quite impressed with what Garbaruk is doing and feel like their cassettes are one of the few I’d trust on a big ride, in addition to e*Thirteen, SRAM, and Shimano.

Pros

  • Solid 500% Range
  • Pretty good shifting
  • Mostly steel cassette
  • Custom color options

Cons

  • Requires SRAM XD Driver; however, Garbaruk also makes an 11-50 for an HG driver (shown in lower photos above).
  • Relatively expensive
  • Aluminum derailleur cage might be more fragile than a steel cage

500%1×12

Bar-end Shifters with Eagle 12-speed

MicroShift + Eagle

Brake compatibility: Mechanical or Hydraulic Disc
Hub driver: SRAM XD

Bar-end shifter with eagle 12-speed
Component
Grams
Price
Shifter: MicroShift BS-SR-M12 (bar-end)
150
$57
Derailleur: SRAM Eagle GX
290
$125
Cassette: SRAM Eagle GX 10-50T
450
$215
Total
890*
$397

*Doesn’t include the weight of your choice brake levers

Microshift’s BS-M12-R simple-yet-effective bar-end shifter allows either friction or indexed shifting for MTB 1×12 gearing, and is a great solution for those interested in running a 1×12 SRAM Eagle drivetrain on a drop-bar bike, without breaking the bank. Aside from running a thumb shifter at the stem position, this is actually the only other shifter that can currently enable Eagle on a drop-bar bike. Another great perk is the ability to run the BS-M12-R in either indexed or friction mode. This means that if your derailleur hanger gets bent, you can switch to friction mode to dial in the chain-to-cassette interface and keep riding until you get the derailleur repaired.

  • Bar-end shifter with eagle 12-speed
  • Bar-end shifter with eagle 12-speed
  • Bar-end shifter with eagle 12-speed

If you’ve never used a bar-end shifter, it can take some time to get accustomed to. The need to change hand positions to shift could be daunting to some, especially while pedaling on rougher terrain. Also, the shifter is a bit more susceptible to damage if the bike falls over or is involved in a crash. And, some folks who use narrower handlebars might complain about knee interference.

Bar-end shifter install is pretty straightforward, requiring a re-wrap of the handlebars and slightly longer derailleur cable and housing. One thing to note is that an in-line barrel adjuster will have to be installed with the new cable housing to allow fine tuning of shifting. Most mountain derailleurs these days don’t come with barrel adjusters due to the fact that MTB shifters have built-in barrel adjusters, whereas road shifters do not.

Overall, the Microshift BS-M12-R bar-end 1×12 shifter performed great. Set up was easy and the shifting works fairly well. This is a great product for those who want to have SRAM 1×12 group on a drop-bar bike without shelling out the cash for SRAMs AXS group. – TJ Kearns

Pros

  • Full 500% Range
  • Inexpensive
  • Ability to switch to friction shifting offers bailout for bent hanger
  • Can be even cheaper with SX Eagle components

Cons

  • Requires SRAM XD Driver
  • Not ideal hand position for shifting
  • Knee interference with narrower bars
  • Shifter susceptible to damage
If you are using a standard/HG hub-driver, note that on either of these two Eagle 12-speed options you could substitute Eagle NX or SX cassettes for a 454% 11-50T 12-speed.

500%1×12

Gevenalle Shifters with Eagle 12-speed

Gevenalle + Eagle Derailleur/Cassette

Brake compatibility: Mechanical or Hydraulic Disc
Hub driver: SRAM XD

Gevenalle GX Shifter with Eagle Derailleur, Mullet Drivetrain
Component
Grams
Price
Shift Levers: Gevenalle GX (12-speed/mech)
346
$169
Derailleur: SRAM Eagle X01
276
$225
Cassette: SRAM Eagle X01 10-50T
354
$385
Total
976
$779

Gevenalle—Dutch for “Give All”—is a Portland, Oregon-based business that makes cylcocross-specific derailleurs, brakes, and shifters. The company offers a line of unique shifter lever sets designed to accomplish two things: 1. Allow you to shift through multiple gears with a single lever rotation (instead of the 2-3 clicks at a time to go lower, or one click per advance toward the bottom of the cassette), and 2. Eliminate lever rotation while braking (most common on Shimano STI shifters). While these two features were conceived with CX in mind, another benefit is that Genevalle shifters offer a range of options to work with MTB-specific derailleurs. These include Shimano Dyna-Sys 11-speed (XT/SLX/XTR) and SRAM 1×12 Eagle. And the versatility doesn’t stop there. They are also configurable to work with hydraulic or mechanical brakes, and if you pick the latter, they can be further configured to operate short-pull mechanical calipers (MTB) or long-pull road calipers. Find the full compatibility chart here

  • Gevenalle GX Shifter with Eagle Derailleur, Mullet Drivetrain

The pair we tested was the Gevenalle GX 1×12 shifter/brake levers configured for SRAM 1×12 and short-pull MTB mechanical brakes. In a nutshell, this enabled a full 12-speed Eagle drivetrain on a drop-bar setup without dropping the serious cash needed for AXS. The levers consist of two Tektro mechanical brake levers with the right lever modified to house a MicroShift index shifter at its top with some clever machining to make it fit and operate. A new shift cable is included in the kit, but you’ll have to supply your own cable housing, brake cables, and inline barrel adjuster to dial in your shifting. We chose the short-pull option to work with the TRP Spyre mountain brake calipers, which worked perfectly.

  • Gevenalle GX Shifter with Eagle Derailleur, Mullet Drivetrain
  • Gevenalle GX Shifter with Eagle Derailleur, Mullet Drivetrain
  • Gevenalle GX Shifter with Eagle Derailleur, Mullet Drivetrain

Installation was straightforward, although the brake cables can be a little tricky to fish through the lever and into the housing. The overall shifting performance was pretty good once we got used to the semi-awkward placement of the shifter. But after a while, it became pretty natural. The hoods are comfortable, with my only complaint being that they could be a bit taller for when the gravel gets rough and the terrain gets steep.

Overall, I came away pretty impressed with the Gevenalle 1×12 GX levers. They’re a simple and effective solution to enable a wide-range 1×12 Eagle drivetrain with drop bars. Although the shifter placement is awkward at first, its performance has been flawless. – TJ Kearns

Pros

  • Full 500% Range
  • Pretty good shifting
  • Can be even cheaper with SX Eagle components

Cons

  • Requires SRAM XD Driver
  • Awkward shifter placement, at first
  • Can’t shift while in the drops

Budget Alternatives

If you’re using a standard/HG hub driver, you could substitute a SX Eagle 11-50T cassette, which would save a little money, although it’s also a bit heavier and you would lose about 46% in the overall gear range.

454%1×11

Shimano STI Shifters with Dynasys 11-spd Derailleur

Shimano 105 + SLX + TanPan + Sunrace

Brake compatibility: Mechanical Disc
Hub driver: Standard (Shimano HG)

Shimano STI Road Shifter with SLX Derailleur, Mullet Drivetrain
Component
Grams
Price
Shift Levers: Shimano 105 STI Levers
486
$200
Derailleur: Shimano SLX (RD-7000, GS Cage)
306
$51
Cassette: Sunrace CSMX80 11-50T
512
$100
Mod: Wolf Tooth TanPan
17
$45
Mod: Wolf Tooth Goat Link
19*
$30
Total
1321
$426

Despite the fact that it looks idiosyncratic, this drivetrain has two proven and reliable Shimano components at its core: the venerable SLX mountain derailleur, and the reasonably priced 105 road 2×11 shifter set. Note that the left 2x shifter is useless as this is a 1×11 drivetrain. You could also substitute a single shifterless left brake lever, but the $200 price tag for the set is still more approachable than other Shimano levers, and it has mechanical brake pulls, which is likely preferable for many long-distance bikepackers. If you’re interested in hydraulic brakes, you could substitute GRX shifter levers, which will set you back about $475.

  • Shimano STI Road Shifter with SLX Derailleur, Mullet Drivetrain
  • Shimano STI Road Shifter with SLX Derailleur, Mullet Drivetrain
  • Wolf Tooth Goatlink Tanpan
  • Wolf Tooth Tanpan
  • Wolf Tooth Goatlink 11

To make the road levers pair well with the SLX mountain derailleur, we used the 17g USA-machined Wolf Tooth Tanpan. This interesting, quarter-sized widget installs at the derailleur and uses two pulleys of varying diameters and a ramp between them to wrap the cable and amplify the road shifter cable pull, allowing it to communicate with a mountain derailleur. It was fairly easy to install with the directions from Wolf Tooth, although there are a couple things to note. First, there’s a tiny screw that secures the cable in place so the pulley is properly clocked for the right ratio. You’ll need a jeweler’s Phillips-head screwdriver for this, so be careful not to strip it. Also, if you’re building a large bike, the cable will need to be extra long as it has to wrap the two pulley diameters before connecting at the derailleur.

To complete this drivetrain, we used a Sunrace 11-50T cassette for a proper 454% range. To ensure the SLX derailleur had the reach for the large 50-tooth cog, we employed the Wolf Tooth Goatlink 11. This hanger extension replaces the “B-knuckle” on the derailleur and offsets the derailleur’s position to allow a wide-range cassette. It worked like a charm and the SLX derailleur comfortably shifted to the 50 without having to max out the B-gap screw.

  • Shimano STI Road Shifter with SLX Derailleur, Mullet Drivetrain
  • Shimano STI Road Shifter with SLX Derailleur, Mullet Drivetrain

While it appears that there’s a lot of stuff going on with this drivetrain, it’s actually fairly simple. At first, I thought I’d have to worry about having more parts to break, but the Goatlink 11 just replaces another link, and the Tanpan is simple and very well built. In use, it worked remarkably well once tuned properly. Shimano STI shifters are significantly more sensitive to pressure when upshifting than SRAM DoubleTap, but the 105/Tanpan/SLX combo shifted quite well. I only put a few rides in on this system, so if anyone has any long-term experience with the Tanpan, please leave a comment below…

Pros

  • Decent 454% range
  • Good, accurate shifting
  • Reliable and proven components (SLX and Sunrace)

Cons

  • Slightly more involved to set up (requires a little patience)
  • TanPan might be subject damage from crash or rocks/sticks/trail debris

454%1×11

SRAM 11-speed Road Shifters with Eagle (11-speed!)

Rival 1 + Shiftmate 9 + SX Eagle

Brake compatibility: Mechanical or Hydraulic Disc
Hub driver: Standard (Shimano HG)

SRAM road shifters with Eagle Derailleur, Mullet Drivetrain
Component
Grams
Price
Shift Levers: SRAM Rival 1 (mechanical)
332
$120
Derailleur: SRAM SX Eagle
341
$85
Cassette: Sunrace CSMX80 11-50T
512
$100
Mod: Jtek ShiftMate 9
17
$40
Total
1202
$345

This is perhaps the second most eclectic drivetrain of the bunch. And not just because it uses another pulley widget to adjust the cable ratio, but for the fact that it’s the only one here to use a 12-speed derailleur with an 11-speed drivetrain. Fortunately for us tinkerers, both the SRAM 1×11 and 1×12 drivetrains use the SRAM “X-ACTUATION” technology, meaning they both have the same cable pull ratio. That allows you to use SRAM 11-speed trigger shifters with 12-speed derailleurs (effectively operating them as 11-speed derailleurs). NOTE: photos show this drivetrain with the Garbaruk cassette, but it’s specced with the Sunrace 11-50T cassette to make it the second-most affordable option in the list.

  • SRAM road shifters with Eagle Derailleur, Mullet Drivetrain
  • SRAM road shifters with Eagle Derailleur, Mullet Drivetrain

So, how do we get a SRAM DoubleTap road shifter to speak the same X-ACTUATION pull ratio language as a mountain derailleur? Enter the Jtek shiftmate 9, one of 11 different Shiftmate “bicycle gear shifting adaptors” that allow certain shifters to talk to certain derailleurs. The Shiftmate 9 translates SRAM road to SRAM mountain and allows our favorite Rival 1 shifter to work with an Eagle rear derailleur. This not only opens up several derailleur options, but also enables several wide-range cassettes, such as the 10-50T Garbaruk shown here, or the Sunrace 11-50 if you have a standard/HG driver. In short, the Shiftmate 9 works much like the Wolf Tooth Tanpan. There are two pulley diameters with a ramp between the two to change the pull ratio. It’s worth noting that Jtek is based out of the UK and only sells the Shiftmate through a few online retailers. We recommend SJScycles.co.uk, which is where we bought ours for this test.

  • Jtek Shiftmate 9
  • Jtek Shiftmate 9
  • SRAM road shifters with Eagle Derailleur, Mullet Drivetrain
  • SRAM road shifters with Eagle Derailleur, Mullet Drivetrain
  • Shimano SX Eagle Derailleur

To keep this on the affordable end of the mullet drivetrain spectrum, we opted for the Eagle SX rear derailleur, which also happens to have a better cable entry angle than the GX and X01 derailleurs we had on hand. The Shiftmate 9 installed relatively easily and I’m happy to report that it shifts beautifully with the Garbaruk cassette. As noted, a more affordable option might be the Sunrace 11-50T MX cassette.

Pros

  • Decent 454% range
  • Crisp and accurate shifting
  • Very inexpensive
  • Durable steel components (Eagle SX and Sunrace)

Cons

  • A little more involved to set up (requires some patience)
  • Shiftmate might be subject damage from crash or rocks/sticks/trail debris

454%1×11

Shimano Shifters, GRX Derailleur & 11-50T Cassette

Shimano GRX + Goat Link + Sunrace 11-50T

Brake compatibility: Mechanical or Hydraulic Disc
Hub driver: Standard (Shimano HG)

Shimano GRX with 11-50T cassette, Mullet Drivetrain
Component
Grams
Price
Shift Levers: Shimano 105 STI Levers
486
$200
Derailleur: Shimano GRX 11-speed RD-RX812
267
$114
Cassette: Sunrace CSMX80 11-50T
512
$100
Mod: Wolf Tooth Goat Link
19*
$30
Total
1265
$444

When Shimano’s gravel-specific GRX drivetrains were released last year, the company touted wider range and more versatility. However, a lot of folks scratched their heads when they realized that the new clutch-based, 1x-specific RX812 derailleur offered similar gearing capacity to SRAM’s Force 1 and Rival 1 derailleurs, with the max cassette cog specced at 42 teeth. Fortunately, it was soon realized that an 11-46-tooth cassette was an option with the RX812.

  • Shimano GRX with 11-50T cassette, Mullet Drivetrain
  • Shimano GRX with 11-50T cassette, Mullet Drivetrain

One little easter egg in the RX812 is that its axle bracket link (“B-knuckle”) shares the same design as Shimano’s mountain derailleurs—namely XT and SLX. When I first heard that, the Wolf Tooth Goatlink 11 immediately came to mind. As mentioned above, the Goatlink 11 hanger extension replaces the link on the SLX and XT 11-speed derailleurs to offset the derailleur’s position and allow a larger cassette. We tried the same approach with the RX812 derailleur and were pleased to find that it worked perfectly and allowed with derailleur to easily shift into the 50T cog on the Sunrace 11-50 cassette. This allows the GRX 1×11 to achieve 36% more range than with the standard 11-46T cassette.

  • Shimano GRX with 11-50T cassette, Mullet Drivetrain
  • Shimano GRX with 11-50T cassette, Mullet Drivetrain
  • Shimano GRX with 11-50T cassette, Mullet Drivetrain

In effect, this is probably one of the simplest “hacks” in this guide, second only to the Rival 1/e*Thirteen drivetrain which only really replaces the cassette. It’s also one of the better options if you prefer Shimano STI shifters over SRAM’s DoubleTap. It was easy to set up and shifted fairly smoothly once tuned. To dial it in and make it a little crisper when shifting to larger cogs, I removed the clutch plate and turned the clutch tension adjustment screw counterclockwise about a quarter to a half turn. I’ve only gotten a couple rides in on this system as it’s the newest one here, but I look forward to putting some miles on the GRX derailleur and reporting back…

Pros

  • Solid 454% range
  • Shifts very smoothly and accurately
  • Clutch GRX derailleur is quite nice from first impressions

Cons

  • Pricier than some options, but not bad

418%1×11

MicroShift drop-bar 1×11

MicroShift XLE + XCD

Brake compatibility: Mechanical disc
Hub driver: Standard (Shimano HG)

Microsoft drop-bar 1x11, Mullet Drivetrain
Component
Grams
Price
Shift Levers: MicroShift SB-M110
378
$184
Derailleur: MicroShift RD-M865M
330
$64
Cassette: MicroShift XLE CS-H113
618
$59
Total
1326
$307

While the Microshift XLE/XCD hybrid doesn’t quite have the range we are looking for, it was one of the first options I tested and I’ve put a lot miles on it, both loaded and unloaded. In addition, it’s also the least expensive mullet drivetrain listed here, so we thought it was well worth including.

Most of what’s used here is from the Microshift XCD line, which was the company’s high-end drivetrain line until the recently announced Advent X (which we’ll be reviewing soon). The two main components used from this line are the CS-G113 11-46T cassette and the RD-M865M, an on/off clutch 1×11 derailleur, which is specced for a large 46T cog, but I think it could probably squeeze a 48 or 50, even. The cassette features 9 steel (11/13/15/18/21/24/28/32/36) and two aluminum alloy cogs (40 and 46). The larger four cogs are on a spider and the remainder are separate.

  • Microshift drop-bar 1x11, Mullet Drivetrain
  • Microshift drop-bar 1x11, Mullet Drivetrain
  • Microshift drop-bar 1x11, Mullet Drivetrain
  • Microshift drop-bar 1x11, Mullet Drivetrain

At the helm is the SB-M110 shift/brake lever set, with a rather unique brifter controlling the derailleur. The SB-M110 shifter is shares the same pull ratio as a Shimano MTB 1×11-speed shifter, which makes it the perfect candidate for a mullet drivetrain. However, it has a couple other unique features that you might like or dislike. One is the shifter lever’s unique cable routing. Instead of going through the lever to be taped to the bar, it extrudes from the inside of the top of the brake lever. You might think that this could be an issue when mounting a bag, but I found it to be quite the contrary. When running the cables, I left the shifter cable long. When using a 70mm stem, there is plenty of room to mount a large bag (I used a BXB Teardrop mostly) and have the cable route in front of and around the bag. Those running shorter stems or larger bags might have an issue, but I suppose you could use an old metal cable noodle to force route it downward.

  • Microshift drop-bar 1x11, Mullet Drivetrain
  • Microshift drop-bar 1x11, Mullet Drivetrain
  • Microshift drop-bar 1x11, Mullet Drivetrain

The other slightly odd feature on these shifters are the rather bulbous hoods. At first I thought this was an odd feature, but after using them I quite liked the shape. I often rest my hands just behind the hoods and felt like they had a well-conceived ergonomic shape, despite the fact that it’s unlike any other hood I’ve seen.

ALl in all, I’ve been quite impressed by Microshift’s $300 mullet drivetrain. It was easy to set up and tune, it shifts fairly accurately, although maybe a little more clunky than some others, and the odd-shaped hoods and cable routing had some unexpected benefits. The clutch derailleur functioned surprisingly well too, with my only complaint being in the tension screws require a flat-head screwdriver instead of a small hex key. Aside from the very attractive price, perhaps one of the more intriguing aspects of this drivetrain is the fact that the SB-M110 levers can be paired with a Shimano SLX or XT derailleur as well. So if you have one of those lying around your shop, it’s pretty easy to create a wide range mullet with a Goatlink 11 and Sunrace 11-50T cassette.

Pros

  • OK range for the price
  • Very inexpensive

Cons

  • Cable routing has some good and some bad for running with bags
  • Flat-head tension screws are kind of annoying

Wrap Up

Despite the fact that there aren’t too many on the market, there are a lot of solid options for a wide-range, drop-bar drivetrain, most of which are currently in the form of a road/mountain hybrid mullet. With that said, as demand increases, I expect more off-t the-shelf options to spring up over the next couple of years. In closing, here’s a comparison list of the brake/shifter (“brifter”) options featured here, ordered by shifting accuracy and smoothness (rated 1-5 in the “smooth” column). Note that these all shifted quite well, and there are more notes in each mini-review, but for the sake of comparison:

Component
Smooth
Range
Grams
Price
Rival 1 + e*Thirteen 9-46T
4.5
511%
951
$484
Rival 1 + Eagle SX + Sunrace 11-50T
4.25
454%
1202
$345
Shimano 105 + GRX/GoatLink + Sunrace 11-50T
4.25
454%
1265
$444
Shimano 105 + SLX/TanPan/GoatLink + Garbaruk 10-50T
4.0
454%
1321
$426
SRAM Rival 1 + Rival 1/Garbaruk Cage + Garbaruk 10-50T
4.0
500%
951
$527
Microshift XLE + Microshift XCD + Microshift XLE 11-46T
3.75
418%
1326
$307

If you have any experience with any of the mods, hacks, or parts listed here, please let us know. And if you have a suggestion for other mullet drivetrains that are worth investigating, drop us a line in the comments below…

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