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  1. #1
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    Jul 2003
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    Can I change my rear cassette to get lower gearing?

    Hi,

    Tech. question here. My Trek Pilot currently has a 12-25 cassette (10 speed) in back with Ultegra derailleur. It's a triple in front (I think it's 30/42/52 but haven't actually counted). In lieu of springing for a new road bike right now, I would really like to change out the cassette for a 12-28, which I assume would be pretty easy. However, I'd love to go even lower (12-30) if my derailleur could handle it. I'm pretty sure it's a medium cage simply because the bike has a triple crank (and from its appearance).

    What's the upper limit on what rear cassette I can put on with my current setup without having to go to a long-cage derailleur?

    Thanks very much in advance!
    Emily

    2011 Jamis Dakar XC "Toto" - Selle Italia Ldy Gel Flow
    2007 Trek Pilot 5.0 WSD "Gloria" - Selle Italia Diva Gel Flow
    2004 Bike Friday Petite Pocket Crusoe - Selle Italia Diva Gel Flow

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2008
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    northern Virginia
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    I made a similar change to the cassette for my road bike last year:

    http://forums.teamestrogen.com/showthread.php?t=55780

    The short version is: I went from 11/26 to 11/32. I did have to change the derailleur, from short cage to mid-cage so you might be okay with the one you currently have.

    At the time one of my friends encouraged me to get cassette with a 36 cog. I think that would have necessitated a long-cage derailleur but am not sure.

    My components are all SRAM, and IIRC I was able to find good information about compatibility with cassettes and derailleurs on their website.

    p.s. I am SO happy that I made these changes. Totally worth it.

    - Gray 2010 carbon WSD road bike, Rivet Independence saddle
    - Red hardtail 26" aluminum mountain bike, Bontrager Evoke WSD saddle
    - Royal blue 2018 aluminum gravel bike, Rivet Pearl saddle

    Gone but not forgotten:
    - Silver 2003 aluminum road bike
    - Two awesome worn out Juliana saddles

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Location
    north woods of Wisconsin
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    I agree with NY that changing from a 12-25 to a 12-28 is probably doable without a derailleur change, but, to be honest, that's not much of a change. Personally, if you're going down this road, I'd go all the way to at least a 30 and a 32 or 34 is even better and Shimano does make a 10 speed cassette in those. Might have to change out your derailleur, but that's still a lot cheaper than buying a new bike. For sure, though, find a bike shop with a mechanic that knows the ropes on Shimano.

  4. #4
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    northern Virginia
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    Another thing to look at is the specific sizes of all the cogs on your current cassette vs whatever you're thinking of replacing it with, to see what you will lose when you add 28 and/or others. I actually had wanted to go with a 12/32 because I really don't use the 11 cog all that much, but due to a failure to communicate with the LBS I got the 11/32 instead, which meant I lost one around 15-17, I think.

    As is often the case, Sheldon' Brown's gear calculator can help you figure out the before and after scenarios. And I think the number of teeth should be stamped on each of the current cogs, though I needed a good light and reading glasses to read mine.

    I just looked up my old road bike, which had a triple (vs the current one which has a compact double).

    Chain rings: Shimano 105 52/42/30
    Cassette: Shimano HG-50 12-25, 9spd

    I ran Sheldon's calculator when I bought the current bike to compare the lowest gears for the old and new bikes, and as I recall the 34-28 combination on the new one was about the same gear inches as the 30-25 combination on the old one. Either was ok for the short steep hills around here, and adding the 32 cog made them significantly less difficult.

    I will look to see if I still have the emails that some of my friends sent last year with details on their touring bike gears, which they use for riding up mountains.
    Last edited by ny biker; 02-21-2017 at 04:28 PM.

    - Gray 2010 carbon WSD road bike, Rivet Independence saddle
    - Red hardtail 26" aluminum mountain bike, Bontrager Evoke WSD saddle
    - Royal blue 2018 aluminum gravel bike, Rivet Pearl saddle

    Gone but not forgotten:
    - Silver 2003 aluminum road bike
    - Two awesome worn out Juliana saddles

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Concord, MA
    Posts
    13,394
    I am not an expert, but I made the change you are talking about on my last bike, with not a lot of work, according to DH. My new (not so new now) Trek came with a compact/11/32, which I really like, but is missing the 15 cog, I was always in, on my triple. I got used to it, but I change gears a lot more. My custom Guru was bought before they had lower gears for road bikes. I have a long cage, mountain bike derailleur with an 11/34 on my compact double.
    I am hoping to upgrade my Trek to the 34 in the next year or 2.
    2015 Trek Silque SSL
    Specialized Oura

    2011 Guru Praemio
    Specialized Oura
    2017 Specialized Ariel Sport

  6. #6
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    Thanks all!

    I should have mentioned that my setup is all Shimano. I don't even know what SRAM looks like...lol!

    I am not planning to change to a compact double up front since that would be a much more significant change. I just want to keep my triple and see what I can do in the back. I'll take it by the LBS and see what they have to say. Even one more low gear would be helpful, but if I could get the 30 without changing the rear derailleur, I'd do that in a minute. I can probably live without a 32 or 34 in back as I do have a mountain bike and Bike Friday with mountain gearing in back, so I can always ride one of those bikes if I think I'll be climbing huge mountains.

    As it is now, I feel like I run out of gears on the middle ring quicker than I'd like, and I hate having to go to my granny chainring. If I had one more gear to shift to, I could stay in the middle ring more and only rarely have to go to my granny on my road bike, which is mostly what I'm looking for. And yes, occasionally I would like one more gear even in my granny chainring on that bike, but not often.

    I'll let you know how it turns out!
    Emily

    2011 Jamis Dakar XC "Toto" - Selle Italia Ldy Gel Flow
    2007 Trek Pilot 5.0 WSD "Gloria" - Selle Italia Diva Gel Flow
    2004 Bike Friday Petite Pocket Crusoe - Selle Italia Diva Gel Flow

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2016
    Posts
    18
    Quote Originally Posted by emily_in_nc View Post
    Hi,

    Tech. question here. My Trek Pilot currently has a 12-25 cassette (10 speed) in back with Ultegra derailleur. It's a triple in front (I think it's 30/42/52 but haven't actually counted). In lieu of springing for a new road bike right now, I would really like to change out the cassette for a 12-28, which I assume would be pretty easy. However, I'd love to go even lower (12-30) if my derailleur could handle it. I'm pretty sure it's a medium cage simply because the bike has a triple crank (and from its appearance).

    What's the upper limit on what rear cassette I can put on with my current setup without having to go to a long-cage derailleur?

    Thanks very much in advance!

    According to the Shimano specs for the Ultegra 10-speed rear derailleur (aka Ultegra 6700), your bike probably has the GS shifter (designed for road triples). The maximum capacity is 39 teeth and the maximum rear cog (which is kind of dependent on the B-screw adjustment) is ~28 teeth.

    Using the capacity spec, you could use cassette with 17 to 18 tooth difference between the largest cog and the smallest cog (max rear tooth difference = total capacity – front tooth difference).

    Since you want lower gearing, using a 12 to 29 (or 12 to 30) cogset would be within the limits. Shimano does make a 12-30 10-speed cassette. This would give you one step lower gearing using the “30 tooth front x 30 tooth rear” combo. This ought to be low enough for road riding.

    If you do an internet search, you’ll find that some people have successfully exceeded Shimano’s capacity spec.

    P.S. If you decide to replace you current cassette, you should also get a new chain.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Location
    north woods of Wisconsin
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    Wow! Great thread, everyone.

    Emily, I have three MTB/fats with the 1x systems and love it. They have huge rear cassettes of 10-36 all the way up to 10-42s. Love the simplicity of this system, both for the sake of operation and one less thing to go wrong, plus front derailleurs do tend to be more of a headache than rear derailleurs. Don't know if the system will ever make it over to drop bar bikes, but, right now, it's taking the MTB/Fat world by storm. All my future bikes, when possible, will be 1x systems.

    As for standing in the pedals, probably as a result of all my MTB work where I am up off the seat so much, I now stand to pedal quite often, even with the roadies. You do have to develop both the skill and the strength to do it on a regular basis, though. You're working a different set of muscles and so on. I find myself standing on the road bikes to mostly avoid having to shift a lot. Don't know about the rest of you, but on a long ride, I find a lot of shifting to get tiresome and annoying. Usually use standing to crest short humps or the top of hills to avoid another shift. Sounds counter-intuitive, but when I stand to pedal, even on a hill, I often shift up, not down, to be in an efficient gear. If I time it right, my speed either stays the same or actually increases, compared to remaining seated to pedal.
    Last edited by north woods gal; 02-23-2017 at 08:46 AM.

  9. #9
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    I agree, NWG, I stand with some frequency to crest a smaller hill just because it's easier than shifting, often. It does take more upper body strength and aerobic capacity than sitting and spinning, so I find that if I am getting tired on a ride, I stand less and less than when I'm feeling "frisky" and energetic.

    I think it would be great if the 1x gearing system would come over to the roadie world! I guess the key would be getting the right size ring in the front for your style of riding, strength, etc. It might be more difficult for manufacturers to choose a chainring that would work for most riders in that kind of setup.

    Crankin, I do know about downshifting to the granny by first upshifting ahead of time. When I first started riding fairly seriously on the road, I did a lot of reading on proper techniques and also learned a lot from my DH and folks in our club. So I actually do do that frequently when approaching a hill that I know is going to require the granny. A few in our old neighborhood in NC come immediately to mind.

    I think part of the issue here is that we are traveling most of the time, so I am very often riding in unfamiliar areas on roads or paths I've never scoped out before. Sometimes, especially on a new route, it can be hard to visually judge a hill on first sight, or if it curves partway up. To me, part of becoming stronger and faster is not to use the granny unnecessarily and be spinning crazily, but of course to have it there if I need it. If I see a monster climb coming up, like some of the ones we did out west and in the northern plains last year (Teddy Roosevelt NP Scenic Loop springs to mind -- ack!), I shift to the granny in plenty of time. I think my issue is more with hills that look doable in the middle ring, but they end up being a bit longer or steeper than expected, so my cadence drops, and I think "shoot, I should have shifted to the granny back aways...but if I just had ONE more gear, I would be fine in the middle chainring. I am definitely a spinner but have been very fortunate not to have any real knee issues even if I do have to mash a little to get over the occasional hill.

    The 42-25 (middle ring to largest in back) combination does not sound like cross-chaining (i.e., no ugly noises result). My understanding of cross-chaining was always that it occurred when in the inner ring up front and outer 2-3 gears in back, or the outer ring in front and the inner 2-3 gears in back, but that in the middle ring all gears in back were fair game. Not so? If that's the case...I've been doing it wrong for a few decades. It's certainly possible!
    Emily

    2011 Jamis Dakar XC "Toto" - Selle Italia Ldy Gel Flow
    2007 Trek Pilot 5.0 WSD "Gloria" - Selle Italia Diva Gel Flow
    2004 Bike Friday Petite Pocket Crusoe - Selle Italia Diva Gel Flow

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jean_TZ View Post
    Since you want lower gearing, using a 12 to 29 (or 12 to 30) cogset would be within the limits. Shimano does make a 12-30 10-speed cassette. This would give you one step lower gearing using the “30 tooth front x 30 tooth rear” combo. This ought to be low enough for road riding.

    If you do an internet search, you’ll find that some people have successfully exceeded Shimano’s capacity spec.

    P.S. If you decide to replace you current cassette, you should also get a new chain.
    Thank you very much, Jean. This is exactly the kind of information I was trying to find out. I would love to be able to go to a 30 in back and agree that a 30x30 should be fine as my lowest gear. If not, I will walk!

    My DH is going to be unhappy if I have to get a new chain. We always buy expensive stainless Wipperman chains, and it hasn't been that long since he replaced mine. But I know that you are right. I'll get him to look up when he last changed it out -- perhaps it has been longer than I think.
    Emily

    2011 Jamis Dakar XC "Toto" - Selle Italia Ldy Gel Flow
    2007 Trek Pilot 5.0 WSD "Gloria" - Selle Italia Diva Gel Flow
    2004 Bike Friday Petite Pocket Crusoe - Selle Italia Diva Gel Flow

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
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    Yes, you will have to get a new chain...
    I had a compact with an 11-30 on my Trek Madone rental on my trip to France and it was fine.
    Cross chaining does not necessarily mean noises, although that certainly is a sign! If you see your chain in a diagonal position, you are cross chained. Maybe not one cog past straight across, but usually with the 42 middle ring, in the 25 you are definitely at risk of dropping the chain. I say this from experience.
    2015 Trek Silque SSL
    Specialized Oura

    2011 Guru Praemio
    Specialized Oura
    2017 Specialized Ariel Sport

 

 

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