We know, there’s no such thing as a stupid question. But there are definitely some questions too embarrassing to ask your local shop or riding buddies. Ask A Stupid Question is our weekly series where we get to the bottom of your questions – serious or otherwise. Hit the link at the bottom of the post to submit your own question!
Ever since drivetrain manufacturers started pushing the limits with “just one more gear,” riders have been hoping for a bit of backwards compatibility out of the new groups. Inevitably, you purchase a new bike with the latest drive train and are happily pedaling along until you realize the drivetrain is finally worn out and replacement parts have gotten harder to find.
That’s the case of the question this week from Dennis, stating,”I have a 2013 Cannondale SuperSix with 10-speed drivetrain. The selection of 10-speed cranksets are becoming more limited since 11-speed cranksets are popular. Can I use an 11-speed crankset with an 11-speed chain on my 10-speed drivetrain?”
For the official answer we went to both Shimano and SRAM, and not surprisingly, both said that this wouldn’t work. Providing essentially identical responses, SRAM replied,”Mixing 10 and 11 speed parts is not recommended. SRAM 11 speed chainrings sit slightly farther apart than 10 speed rings do, so running a 10 speed chain on 11 speed rings will dramatically increase the chances of jamming a chain between rings during a front shift. Running an 11 speed chain takes away that possibility, but a 10 speed shifter and FD won’t pull enough cable and move far enough to get a perfect front shift. On the rear, an 11 speed chain’s internal dimensions match that of a 10 speed chain, but the outer dimensions are thinner and the 10 speed cogs sit farther apart than 11 speed, so there’s still a good chance of chain jam and rough shifting. Better to purchase a 10 speed crank or upgrade your drivetrain.”
However, that doesn’t mean that it flat out won’t work. More than likely, you’d be able to find some combination that would have passable shifting – just not to the level SRAM or Shimano would consider acceptable.
More importantly though, depending on the reason for asking the question in the first place, a quick search online brings up plenty of options for both complete 10 speed cranksets or replacement chainrings. If you’re looking to replace the crank due to maintenance concerns, this is definitely the way go (replace the rings only if the crank is fine). However, if you’re asking because you have a case of upgrade-itis, you’re better off waiting to replace the entire drivetrain to an 11 speed group in the future – especially if 12 speed for road bikes drops any time soon which will drop the price of 11 speed.
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