Hammerschmidt 1 Year Update…

27 04 2011

SRAM Hammerschmidt....

It’s been nearly a year since I installed a SRAM Hammerschmidt 2 speed bottom bracket & crank set on my Santa Cruz Nomad mountain bike. As a disclaimer I am not a great mountain biker nor do I trail ride 24/7 so please keep that in mind. I am a pretty average weekend dirt warrior!

Here are my thoughts:

  • HS has been maintenance and hassle free as advertised
  • shifts from high to low range are very fast and reliable
  • you can shift HS while coasting or back pedalling
  • low range is direct drive with no power loss
  • high range is not direct drive and there is noticeable power loss
  • HS provides very high ground clearance compared to a standard crank & chain ring setup
  • HS treats your suspension like it’s in the granny all the time
  • HS allows you to run a short cage rear derailleur to limit chain slap
  • HS is expensive
Dealing with the negative aspects first I will say that there is definitely room for improvement in this 1st generation product. The power loss in high range is enough you will not want to ever climb a hill in that setting. On the downhills it’s not noticeable as you pedal to gain speed so I basically keep my HS in low range for technical sections and flip to high range for bombing down a trail. This works fine, but it would be great to feel less drag in the high range. The high cost and the impacts on your bike’s suspension are things you need to consider before making the leap. Both will be solved in the same way – by having companies design a HS specific bike with the HS provided as OEM equipment. This will lower the cost of the HS for a rider and ensure the suspension design works well with a chain that’s always on the granny.

Hammering the Schmidt...

On the positive end of things I think the HS is a great concept and SRAM got it 75% right in this first generation product. That’s impressive. I think you’ll see the HS and possibly a Shimano equivalent on a number of high end all mountain/free ride mountain bikes in the next few years. In technical terrain I keep my bike in the 2nd biggest cog on the rear and just shift the HS to deal with the terrain going up and down. This is fast and easy. It puts me in a useful gear every time and is far more reliable/fast than trying to shift the front rings. When I’m on easier terrain I use the HS and cassette like a normal bike shifting both as needed to fine tune my gear. Given the high range drag I won’t use high range unless I’m pointed down at least a little bit.

I love a clean drivetrain...

So what’s the bottom line?
  • if you ride all mountain or free ride terrain the HS has a lot of potential
  • HS is expensive and probably will get better and cheaper in future product cycles
  • HS would be best on a bike designed for it and purchased as a lower cost OEM part
  • if you can accept the cost [ie. your kids won’t go hungry!] it is a very sweet after market upgrade
I’ve seen a lot of nutty bike products being flogged by manufacturers that are fairly useless and carry a high price tag.  SRAM must have invested a lot of time & $$ in the HS which is risky, but the result is great and offers game changing performance for a big segment of the mountain bike riding population. While the HS is not perfect the level of maturity in this product is impressive and SRAM deserves some kudos for their efforts. I’m quite excited to see what will happen for the Hammerschmidt in the next few years.