XTR at half price? Sunrace MX8 cogset and CN-11 chain review

If you have been following our reviews, you are likely aware that we’ve taken delivery of some components from Sunrace. Recently a MX8 cog set and a CN-11 chain turned up at our office. These are not the tidbits that perks the attention of a cycling journalist, nevertheless drive components do wear out, they need to be replaced, and top-end stuff is not inexpensive.

Looking at the price tag of these parts, I realized how low-cost they are compared to other drivetrain alternatives. The MX8 cog set costs HUF 19,900 and the matching CN-11 chain is 15,000. Previously I have used a Shimano XTR cog set and chain, so I’ll be to comparing the Sunrace parts to the best in the industry. Mind you, a lot of the major bike brands (e.g. Merida) source parts from Sunrace, we’ve tested some of them, and they offered very decent performance.

Obviously I didn’t have the chance to measure every aspect and feature of these components. For instance, I can’t tell you exactly how much friction they have compared to XTR. Relying on 25 years of biking experience of which the last two was spent pedaling top-end Shimano components, I mounted these Sunrace parts on to my trusty enduro bike, and simply went out on a ride. I might be stoned for saying this: I felt very little difference in shift quality and drive feel. Upshifts, downshifts were just fine, fast and smooth. What else does the rider need?

This observation brings up some questions. Presently an XTR cog set would set you back HUF 80,000, for 330 grams of hardened steel, titanium and aluminum! The MX8 cost a mere quarter of that, and weights in at a portly 485 gr. There is some difference concerning the gear range: the Sunrace goes from 11 to 46T instead of 11-40T for the XTR. The weight difference for equivalent gear range would probably be somewhat smaller. Assuming you need the lightest cog set available, you’ll have to choose the Shimano’s top-tier offering. On the other hand, you can save a whopping 75% by mounting a Sunrace MX-8, and suffer around 100 gr weight penalty. This seems to be a good compromise to me, especially considering that I really felt no difference in terms of performance between the two setup…

Therefore it’s up to the reader to decide which component line offers a better deal. I wouldn’t like to sit in judgement on any bike rider, and there are many things to consider when picking drivetrain components. Moreover, the options are not only limited to the Shimano XTR and the Sunrace MX8. There is the reliable XT range from Japanese brand which retails for just over HUF 30,000, provides an even wider 11-42T range and measures 447 gr on the scales. So it cost 60% more than the Sunrace, holds comparable weight, last but not the least, it’s time proven piece of equipment.

Which brand of chain to pick as a replacement for the worn out one is even thornier. The Sunrace CN-11 chain is only marginally less expensive that the Shimano XTR: that is HUF 15,000 vs. 18,890 respectively. The XT model is actually less expensive at approximately HUF 14,000. The XT weight 257 gr, the XTR 242 gr, and both are a fraction lighter than the CN-11, which shows 266 gr on my scales. This is quite surprising, since the Sunrace has cut-out side plates, so one would assume that it’s the lighter option.

Shimano stresses the importance of installing all the components within a group set. They were designed to work in perfect harmony, mixing and matching often leads to worse performance, and may even cause malfunction and lead to injury. Even putting on an XT chain on a XTR cog set might compromise shifting performance – according to the manufacturer’s information. For instance, the new 12-speed XTR chain can only be used with the one and only compatible cog set in the range.

I pretty much adhere to these recommendations, and never felt the urge to experiment with mixing brands and group lines. So it makes perfect sense for me to mount the Sunrace matching chain to the cog set, despite the weight penalty and the meager price difference. However, there is another alternative: the Sunrace CN-11A chain features solid side plates, it’s said to be 100% compatible with the MX8, and costs only HUF 9000. This might be the best budget option in my opinion!

As these components were installed on an enduro bike, the test didn’t involve excessive mileage: only about 1000 km. On the other hand, these were very tough kilometers, with lots of steep climbs in the granny gear. Such riding generally wears out chains quite quickly. Nevertheless, measuring the chain wear at the end of the test period, the tool showed less than 0.75mm elongation. I made notes of mileage for the previous XTR chain as well. The tool indicated more wear after the first 1000 km, it was at nearly 0.1mm. I have to stress that chain wear depends mainly on regular maintenance, cleaning and lubrication after each ride. I do my maintenance religiously with all my equipment, so the above results I believe are comparable.

From the present test we can safely conclude that Sunrace drive components do perform well and seem to hold up to tough riding. They cost a fraction of the top component manufactures high-end products, moreover they are significantly less expensive than Shimano’s second-tier offering. This is a valid argument for using the Sunrace MX8 cogset and CN-11(A) chain as a replacement for worn out drive parts. On the video I show you how I mounted these components to my bike, including the use of the most ingenious chain pin ever devised!

You can find Sunrace products at the local distributor’s website.




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