Shimano Prototype Cassette
Photo Credit: Instagram @willowmcevoy

Ever since SRAM released its original 11 speed drivetrain in 2012, a whole industry has cropped up around creating either more affordable or wider range solutions.

When Shimano released its first 11 speed mountain bike drivetrain last year, I was a little disappointed to see the widest range cassette was an 11-40. The new XT Cassette helps push things a little further in the right direction with an 11-42, but some of us (myself included) could use a little more help, so we were excited to hear rumors circulating that Shimano was testing a wider ratio cassette. How wide?


Rumor has it that Shimano is working on an 11-46 cassette, and if the photo (far left) taken of a Shimano Rep’s bike during the Downieville Classic is any indication, they’re close.

For the purposes of slightly more scientific rumor mongering, we did a quick photographic comparison between the prototype Shimano cassette and several wide range options we have in for review. From left to right (next to a 160mm rotor): the prototype Shimano Cassette, a 10 speed Praxis 11-40T cassette, and a OneUp 44T.

Currently, OneUp offers an 45T sprocket for Shimano 1X11 drivetrains, which helps increase the stock range by 12.5%. According to them, Shimano 11 speed derailleurs do not have the capacity to run a 2×11 with an extended 11-42 cassette, but can easily accommodate a 45T within their normal operating range.

If Shimano does release this 11-46 cassette, the range would be 418% – which is almost identical to the 420% range of SRAM’s 10-42 – without utilizing a proprietary freehub standard!





  1. Shimano is trying to be your best bud and let you huff and puff your way up the highest climbs without being too shifty. But let’s be blunt, that huge cassette is going to weight a ton and need a special derailleur with the proper range. And as much as they are trying to harsh on SRAM, 418 ain’t no 420.

  2. I really like this for backward compatibility, but other than the XD driver is there some downside to the 10-42 SRAM setup that this is fixing? 11-46 is going to take a heavy weight penalty no? I’ll cop to having never used the SRAM XD driver myself…

  3. Personally, I dislike conventional freehubs. Now almost every freehub is made of aluminum, which means it can be sliced by small cogs like butter. After 3 years on my Hope hub, I have problems with removing the cassette from the freehub, because smallest cogs (which are not on alu carrier even on XTR) sliced it hard and now stuck easily.

    Looking forward XX1 casette + Shimano derailleur combo, as it works with XTR:
    If you like Shimano derailleurs and shifters, I believe this is the perfect setup.

  4. The XD driver is hardly a “proprietary freehub standard”. Pretty much EVERY hub manufacturer worth their salt is making one (except Shimano, for obvious reasons)…

  5. Regarding weight- yes that is a major issue given the M8000 XT 11-42T weighs 450g! An 11-46T would therefore be in the region of 500g… almost double the XX1 cassette…

  6. Who needs this? Why not blow all the stops and start threading the chain over the rear tyre, this will provide “super low gearing” and as a bonus excellent snow traction?!
    Why not improve the front dérailleur concept instead and return to double / triple chainring cranks?

  7. I would like to see the SRAM Dual Drive system taken further – lighter, higher end 2 or 3 speed internal gear hub with a 10 or 11 speed cassette. This keeps the simplicity of 1x drive train but give you the range of a triple in front.

  8. @frippolini has it right, mtb bikes w/ single chainrings look cool but it creates problems that didn’t exist prior. 3x and 2x makes the most sense for most riders in most of the U.S.

  9. See, here I was upset that the only cassette available was an 11-40 because I really wanted a 36, or better yet a 34. I’m finally ditching XX1 after a bit more that a season because of the absurd jumps between gears.

  10. What would really be cool is a TRIPLE w/ a 46 TOOTH cog and an ELECTRIC MOTOR!

    Seriously, just get stronger, get lighter, or get off and push.

  11. Interesting, as Shimano was somewhat raining on the 1X parade while pressing really hard on their 2X solution.

    If I see anyone with this 46T cassette on a 3-ring setup, I will tell them to give up and just go buy an e-bike.

  12. Pyros here — 32 x 10-42 SRAM. Who in the world needs an easier gear?! If you desperately need an easier gear, drop the front ring to a 28 or 30 and sacrifice your hardest gear because you sure as hell don’t need it if you’re crying for a grannyer granny.

  13. Not the e-word, with the aging/fattening population it could be eride or golf for many in the near future. Who wants to bet that SRAM is letting Shimano catch up just a little and maybe even think they have something new then bam SRAM will add another cog in back and Shimano will be ‘off the back’ again. We don’t need more 1X range, that’s what doubles are for as there is plenty of ‘low’ gear with a 28/30 on the front of a 42 but those companies are as competitive as any two on a group ride. Hang on to your wallet hahaha

  14. 1x has been a bit of a lifeline for SRAM but if you look at the history of the industry you’ll see Shimano putting other companies out of business (remember when Avid brakes were more common?). They were caught off guard by 1x but they’ll catch and surpass quickly. Don’t be surprised if front derailleurs come back with programmable Di2.

  15. aah, the shimano vs sram comments fights.. or more the shimano vs comments anything fights
    cuz brand allegiance and stuff, so important

  16. There seem to be two types of complaints about a 46t rear cog:
    1) “If you need one, you’re weak.” I find this silly. It’s supposed to be used with a single front chainring. The big complaint about single front chainrings is that they have too small a gear range. Using a 46t cog out back solves the problem.
    2) “It’s heavy.” This is a reasonable complaint. Overall weight savings will be low if, after eliminating one front ring, a front derailleur, left shifter, and cable and cable housing, you add a 450g cassette.
    Me- I like the added option of 1x drivetrains. They’re light, and if you’re strong and/ or live in not so mountainous areas, they have enough range. But I never understood the hate for front derailleurs. They shift pretty darn well, don’t add THAT much weight, give you the possibility of making a pretty big gear change with a single button push, and allow a very wide gear range. Long live the front derailleur, and long live 1x drivetrains. (Unless a miracle happens and someone makes an affordable IGH or gearbox that can easily be adapted to modern standards like Boost).

  17. If one gets bigger sprockets to the cassette, then one can also get a bigger crank ring and have a more higher ratio gearing. Its not always about the lower gearing ratio!

  18. i like the idea of a wider range cassette from shimano (cause directly compared sram shifts like shit imo), but unfortunately the gear steps increase also.
    i love my 11-40 xtr cassette over any other wide range cassette cause of the smart gear steps. so i pray, that this will be a 12 speed cassette to keep the smaller gear steps and i pray that di2 gets an update to 12 speed also 🙂

  19. How can people ride around with 32×11 as the hardest gear? Do you live in the mountains and only coast down hill? Do you drive to the trail head all the time? Seriously, I use a 40-28 with 11-36 on the back on a 29r and often run out of gears on the road to and from the trail. I’ll drop to the 28 up front maybe two or three times per ride.

  20. Everyone seems to overlook vulgar’s comment which is correct. Adding a 46T just gets Shimano close to matching the range of a 10-42 cassette.

    As for all the people saying “finally! a low enough gear!”, unless you’re running the smallest possible chainring already, you can go lower by using a smaller ring.

    An 11-46 is almost exactly 10% lower gearing than 10-42. So use a 10% smaller ring with a 10-42 and you have the exact same gear ratios.

  21. Shimano getting into wide range cassettes is good news for everyone, if only because it will hopefully stop SRAM trying to sell XO1 cassettes for $465 here in Europe.

  22. @inspector gadget. We ride around by spinning our legs. I ride a 32×11-36 and can easily maintain speeds of 30-35km/hr. With 40×11 you’re already hitting 40km an hour at just 80rpm. Pro xc racers don’t even use a 40 upfront, you’re either delusional or Julien Absalon of you think you run out with a 40.

  23. “How can people ride around with 32×11 as the hardest gear?” Because it is enough, that’s how.

    Tooth count is only part of gearing anyway. If you aren’t considering wheel size (and crank size) you aren’t seeing the whole picture.

    A 29er has a 10% larger wheel than a road bike and a whole lot more rolling losses. A 32×11 on that bike is like a 50×16 on a road bike, plenty for most people and most riding.

    Now, if it’s not enough then you’d need a bigger chainring and if that keeps you from climbing effectively, then you might be a candidate for a wider range cassette!

    420% gearing range is plenty for many trail riders. For those a 1x drivetrain is the best choice. A conventional 2x drivertrain with an 11-36 only has about one more gear’s worth of range anyway.

  24. Shimano still trying to play catch up. But it’s too late SRAM 12 speed is coming. Hopefully this will finally kill off the front dérailleur for good. Mtn and Road?

  25. These comments can basically be read like this:

    “How can anyone [insert whatever here], because, yes, I’ve assumed that my bike, terrain, ride style, ride lengths, and loads are exactly the same as everyone elses…”

    As for the 46t. It’s for a higher gear ratio, not lower. I’m reluctant to go 1x on my Shimano dt because I’d have to run a 26t chainring on 11-42 to maintain my bailout (which I rarely use – but is a ride saver when needed). A 46t cassette would allow me to run a 28t or even a 30t. Giving me 15% more high end on the road to the trail.

  26. @Bikethrasher, no way! At least for road. No right thinking roadie is going to go for 1 gear up front and a boat anchor of a cassette on the back.

    Also, I’m not into the whole SRAM vs. Shimano bike war thing, but competition is good, so I hope both companies do well.

  27. I’m of the view that if you need this large of a range, 2×11 makes more sense, and will be lighter and cheaper. But the people are calling for 1xWIDE so Shimano should give it to them I guess. Personally, I’ve always run 1x for racing cyclocross, but 2x for everything else where I don’t want to be pounding at redline the whole ride.

    @Bikethrasher I know folks who have used 1x road setups for crit racing. I could see a 1x for flat TT courses too, but there would be way too much weight penalty to get the range needed for the road in a 1x setup in most circumstances. Problem is that the range of speeds over which you have to pedal on the road (at least racing) is MUCH larger than mountain or cross.

  28. I get guys in the shop all the time that say they need more gears with their 2×10. They say it won’t go fast enough,I ask so how fast are you trying to go. 40×11 isn’t enough ? They tell me I can’t get to twenty miles per hour. Jaw drops…..they’re peddling at 50rpm most of the time. I’ve raced xc for years with a 32-36 front and 11-32,34 or 36 rear as we’ve added more gears. I’ve never needed more even in the 30mph plus sprints we start with

  29. LOL guys, we get it.

    By the time you spin out your little 32 tooth ring, speeds are already too high. This cassette takes away your excuse from running a man sized ring.

    Don’t be scared little fellas!

  30. Gear Ratio: 1146 vs 1042 is identical. Only cassette to have an advantage is Leonardi Racing 9-42

    Weight: it is just a matter of $$$, 1146 vs 1042 built with the same materials are within grams of each other.

    Range: enough? not enough? Nothing can beat a dual (think 24+38 x 1142) but for many a single is enough.

  31. It’s not about high or low gearing. Range is what we need to consider. Pick at front ring or two and see if the cassette will give you the range you want ( On my 140mm trail bike I can stay with 1×9 but on the race bike I need to get up steep climbs after 5 hours and sprint on roads, then I need 2 x10.

  32. I wish you tough guys would get out of my way when I’m pedaling and you’reoff the bike and pushing on the steep techy stuff.

    I thought you said pushing was faster.

  33. I am running 1145 and it is great but heavy as I started with XT an added the One-up 45 cog. A XTR level 1146 can be in the mid 300. Perfect timing to buy it if it comes out in 2016!

  34. Shimano should just admit defeat on this one and embrace the XD body. Even if it means paying royalties to Sram. The weight of these cassettes is ridiculous.

  35. 500grams heavy to get u up a steeper hill.. whats the point !!! thats almost another frame weight ..ill stick with my 11-36..

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