During one of our regular trawls of the US Patent and Trademark Office, we stumbled upon something rather interesting regarding SRAM's derailleurs. This patent in particular raises the question, "is SRAM gearing up for the death of the mech hanger?"
Dealing with bent or damaged mech hangers was, and actually still is, one of the biggest headaches in mountain biking. Even the slightest bend can lead to a range of shifting woes but it's actually replacing the things that's one of the more frustrating parts of the repair.
Before 2019, derailleur hangers were far from standard with each bike model requiring its own hanger and that's still the case with recently designed bikes too. That's all well and good until you mangle yours out on the trail and only have your local bike shop to rely on if you're looking for a quick repair. With the absolute mass of bikes on the market, it was only by sheer luck if the shop you strolled into stocked the hangar for your particular rig and got you rolling off into the distance.
That was until SRAM introduced the UDH (Universal Derailleur Hangar) mech hanger; another new standard but one that was surprisingly widely adopted. This allowed many bikes to run a standard or universal mech hanger, upping the chances of quick and easy replacement when the need arose.
Now, it looks as if SRAM is aiming to take this one step further with a new direct-mount derailleur design that bolts the mech directly onto a bike's frame, seemingly by making use of the existing thru-axle assembly. It looks like it uses its own bolt that joins the mech directly to a bike's chainstay, and in that bolt doubles as the thread for the thru-axle.
2022 sram direct mount derailleur close.jpg, by Liam Mercer
Time for a bit of speculation. The advantages of this could be boosted stiffness, improved shifting and of course, it negates the need to sift through a range of hangers to find the one for your bike. Downsides, well the chances of having to replace your whole mech in the event of a derailleur ending crash would be higher unless this new design makes the derailleur that much stronger.
The design does mean that bikes will have to be made to accommodate the direct-mount derailleur but hopefully, traditionally connected derailleurs could still be installed with the use of adaptors. After all, it would be an awful lot to ask of brands to create specific rear ends for this new tech, throughout a range of a bike model's builds, assuming the direct mount derailleur would be kitted on higher-end bikes to start with.
It's exciting to see SRAM further pushing the boundaries of its drivetrains to create something that is at least more convenient. We'll keep our ears to the ground and update you if more pops up on this.
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