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AASQ #12: Mixing and matching Wide Range Gearing for bikepacking with Jay Petervary

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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. AASQ is our bi-weekly series where we get to the bottom of your questions – serious or otherwise.

This week, our sole question bridged an interesting topic – compatibility of road and mountain groups to create the ultimate wide range gearing set up for bike packing. We’ve seen a progression towards 2x and now 1x, and while there are a few 1x set ups with mega range, it still doesn’t always work out. Whether the rider is looking for smaller jumps in gearing, or in this case even more range than the widest range 1x cassette can provide, sometimes more really is better…

Question: Can you run an 11speed XT m8000 derailleur and 11-40 tooth cassette, with an 11speed Ultegra 6800 series shifters? Any other good options to increase the gear range on a gravel/bikepacking bike with a 11-32 and 50/34 combo?

Shimano’s Response: Modern road and mountain components aren’t compatible with each other so using an XT derailleur with Ultegra shifters wouldn’t work. Back when mountain bikes went to 10 speed and road bikes went to 11 speed we gave up interchangeability in favor of making each group more suited to the task at hand. The result is mountain shifters that are powerful enough to pull cables through full length housing and still overcome the clutch tension and road shifters that have a shorter stroke, lighter action, and better consistency in feel across the range of the cassette. Back in the 9 speed days, there wasn’t such a difference in the way road and mountain components worked.

Actually, if you mounted up a 50/34 crank and 11/40 cassette on a gravel bike you would probably find that the chain rubs the top of the front derailleur when you are in the 50 tooth ring and the larger cogs of the cassette. There’s a physical limitation there beyond just the component compatibility. The new R8000 rear derailleur can go up to an 11/34 cassette but that’s as far as we can push it with current designs.

So that answers that. Or does it? I wondered what SRAM would have to say, so I posed the same question to them, only in terms of their own road and mountain groups to see if such a range would be attainable.

SRAM’s Response: There’s nothing in the 11 speed world that would accommodate that type of range. Our 11 speed road and MTB derailleurs use different cable pull ratios, and any road derailleur designed to take a cassette bigger than 11-32 is 1x specific. If you use 10 speed parts, you can pair a long cage MTB derailleur with a road shifter and run an 11-36 cassette with a 50-34 crank, which gets you to a 480% range. I don’t know of any way to officially achieve the whopping 535% range they’re looking for, but my recommendation would be to run a flat bar and install a GX Eagle group. That’s 500% range in a super robust package that’s designed to work together.

Again, not the answer our reader was looking for. But then, I happened to see Jay Petervary and his Salsa Cutthroat that was set up exactly how he had raced it for the Tour Divide…

Yes, that is a SRAM Force 1 long cage rear derailleur with a 10-42 cassette, matched with a 34/46t front crank with a SRAM GX double front derailleur. Technically, this shouldn’t work, though it’s not exactly stock either. When asked specifically about this combination, SRAM said, “The super offset upper pulley on a Force 1 derailleur means that if you have the b gap adjusted to keep the pulley from hitting your cassette in the small ring, when you shift to the big ring, your pulley is now a galaxy away from the cassette. Shifting would be incredibly vague. The RD really can’t handle different amounts of chain wrap on a single cog.”

To get the details I gave Jay a call – it turns out that the set up has a few custom touches including a mountain bike XX1 level crank mated to a road 110 BCD spider (and Quarq powermeter) to run the 34/46t gearing. The 46t isn’t stock either, and is technically bigger than the derailleur mount on the Cutthroat will allow for, so a custom spacer plate was made to lift the derailleur so it would shift into the big ring. Jay was quick to point out that he was told that none of this would work, but that bike packing needs wide range gears, or at least competitive bikepacking saying, “I’m a competitor. I’m a racer. It does matter if I am coasting down a hill.” He also pointed out that a rider can get away with a certain range on the first few days of a tour, but as the rider gets more tired and the days get longer, all of a sudden you’re looking for a wider spread.

As he’s known to do, Jay took it upon himself to test out the drivetrain mishmash with his own money. According to Jay, it may not be approved by the engineers, but for him it “works fine.” As in 2,745 mile Great Divide ‘fine’.

This led us to the discussion of wide range gearing specifically for bikepacking in general. Over the years, Jay has been forced to ride the Tour Divide on gearing he didn’t want to run. After trying various 10 speed cassettes with cassette adapters like the Wolf Tooth Components GC, he tried out an XD driver with the 10-42t cassette which he said worked great. How does he feel about 1x? He’s been testing it as recently as last week with a 450 mile test ride over two days, but said that the 38t x 10-42 (with a 46t GCX Wolf Tooth Cassette Cog) still left him wanting. It wasn’t until day two that he needed to use the 46t, but he still would have preferred more gears with better jumps.

That brings us to the future of bikepacking gearing. Jay says his dream would be to have a 30t up front in either a 30/42 or 30/44 with the wide range cassette out back. Obviously, current crank spider limitations and the fact that none of this is supposed to work in the first place are holding this back. But Jay strongly believes that companies are missing out by not providing wider range gearing specifically for bikepacking, though he’s happy to be in his garage tinkering with his set ups until they do.

Got a question of your own?  Click here to use the AASQ form, or find the link under the Contact menu header up top anytime a question pops into your mind!

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42 Comments
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Colin
Colin
5 years ago

You can run an Ultegra mid cage with an XT 11-40 cassette if you use a wolf tooth extender. shifting as you approach the small/small combo loses its crispness, but its still pretty good.

Rusty Knale
Rusty Knale
5 years ago
Reply to  Colin

This works.

FFM
FFM
5 years ago

Check me on cable pull compatibility but you might be able to grab an XD wheelset, a 10-42, 46/36 crank, GX 2×11 RD, and achieve roughly the same ratios (4.5/0.85). SRAM shifters of course. Or do 1x with a 42t and 10-42, compromise a little on both ends (4.2/1) and love how well your bike works all the time.

AnotherLostRider
AnotherLostRider
5 years ago
Reply to  FFM

The main question here is running drop bar shifters (Road) with wide range rear derailleurs (Mtn). Here you would not successfully mate a Mtn GX RD with SRAM Road shifters due the the difference in cable pull. I currently run SRAM road 1x 11 speed on my bikepacking setup, using Force 1 shifters and RD with a 10-42t cassette and a single ring mountain front crank and find it works great for me, but a serious racer would still want more gear range.

Seraph
Seraph
5 years ago

I run an E.13 9-44 cassette with an Eagle chain and 38t front chain ring with my 1×11 setup on my road/cross bike. With the 9t I rarely spin out on the flats or descents, and the 44t still affords me a nice bailout gear if I need it.

STS
STS
5 years ago

Not a stupid question at all. So better ask people who really know their stuff and not those guys from Shim or Sram. Jay’s take on the matter is spot on IMHO with regards to 1x drivetrains.

I regularly realize drivetrains for customers (and ride them on my own bikes) with 2x cranks with either 44/28 (Rotor REX1, Shimano FC-M985) or 50/34T (any road crank) and the Shimano 11-40 cassette. For mechanical shifting I then combine either ST-R685 or ST-6800 with FD-6800 or FD-M785 and the RD-6800 GS. For Di2 I combine ST-R785 with FD-6870 or FD-M9070 and either RD-6870 GS or RD-M9050 SGS. All of those combinations work brilliantly but I prefer the one with the RD-M9050 SGS because of its friction “clutch” mechanism when it goes onto a gravel bike.

briannystrom
briannystrom
5 years ago
Reply to  STS

Are you running the FD-6870 with the RD-M9050? I’ve read that you can’t mix road and MTB derailleurs on the same bike with Di2. I’ve considered doing something similar to your setup with my Ultegra Di2, but I don’t want to replace both derailleurs if I don’t have to. For now, I’m keeping the road derailleurs and switching to a 46/30 crank with an 11-32 cassette, which should be sufficient for the type of riding I do.

onrhodes
5 years ago

What Colin said! Wolf Tooth road link with 11×40 cassette and 6800 medium cage derailleur works just fine. Been doing it on an RLT since late Spring.

jasonmiles31
5 years ago

This is the drivetrain I would put on the worlds funnest bike.

Jed
Jed
5 years ago

Paul make a drop bar mount for sram MTb shifters. If you could tolerate that for the rear you could use run gx rear derailleur and any fd u wanted with any compatible brifter. I personally run a sugino ox901d crank with a 46-30 and a shimano cx fd and a sram gx rear with the 10-42. BUT I don’t run a traditional drop bar but rather a soma sparrow bar so I don’t need the Paul adapter. it does shift as about as well as any set up I’ve run. Of course the x shifter electronic thing is coming out soon and they say it works with anything

Brent Coe
Brent Coe
5 years ago

I’m using a Tanpan from Linderets/Wolf to run my road 11spd. 42/28, 11/40. 105 11spd shifters, 10spd XT rd. It’s awefully finicky with a clutch derailleur, but not bad at all with a regular dynasys rd.

Greg
Greg
5 years ago

TanPan, like Brent said.

Larry Kaatz
Larry Kaatz
5 years ago

Use a Paul Components SRAM shifter mount to put a GX thumb shifter on the road bar (near the stem is probably best) so you can run 2×11 GX rear der with the wide-range cassette.
http://harriscyclery.net/product/paul-component-engineering-sram-shifter-mount-31.8mm-black-sku-ld8799-qc49.htm

James B
James B
5 years ago

So thoroughly impressed with the response to my question! With it getting passed over for a few weeks for specialty columns I’m glad to see it get answered.

I got the answers I expected from the SRAM and Shimano reps but was VERY pleased you talked to Jay P. about his setup. I actually talked with him when he was in my shop but forgot to bring this point up!

Looks like I have a few options to get going now as well as waiting for “the big two” to catch up to consumer depands.

Thanks again Bikerumor, quality content as always.

Ben A
Ben A
5 years ago

With Sram this is an easy task.. Sram is correct in saying MTB 11spd and Road 11 speed don’t mesh together, although peter seems to have it working ok. What does mesh with Sram though is Road 11spd and MTB 10spd. So running any Sram 11spd road shifter you can pair it with a long cage GX 10 spd rear mech and get to use any front 2x ring combo, while using a wide range 11spd cassette ( 10-42, 11-40). I use this setup for a local race I do that’s mainly road but has some difficult gravel roads and climbs as well. My setup is Force shifters, Gx rear mech with a 53/39 crank and 11-34 cass.. Works like a charm!

Ed Ng
Ed Ng
5 years ago
Reply to  Ben A

Ben A is on-point and beat me to it; Any and all, “Exact Actuation,” components from SRAM are inter-operable, which implies 10- or 11-speed drop-bar shifters and front derailleurs as well as 10-speed MTB derailleurs and flat-bar shifters. I’ve run 2×10 setups with compact double up front and 11-42 SunRace CSMS3 cassette out back using the same GX 2×10 long-cage rear derailleur, and it works perfectly. I even ran that setup with absoluteBLACK 50/36 oval chainrings up front, and it all works flawlessly. The 11-speed MTB bits don’t work anymore with the rest, which is why they are marked as X-Actuation, same as the 12-speed Eagle parts, and different from all road parts and the 10-speed MTB parts.

The number of speeds at the shifter for Exact Actuation components determines how many gears out back, and the capacity rating of the derailleur determines the ultimate gear range/combination. Running 11-42 with compact double chainrings requires a very long chain, but it definitely works with the GX 2×10 long cage derailleur, and as Ben above stated, pairing it with an 11-speed drop-bar shifter allows this type of use with an 11-speed cassette for tighter gear spacing than I had with the 10-speed setup.

-Ed

MikeFranke67
MikeFranke67
5 years ago
Reply to  Ben A

Just to clarify, I’m a moron, but I think you’re saying that I could pair up a drop-bar 11sp shifter with my X9 medium-cage 10sp rear mech, and still enjoy 11speed shifting? I assume this is just a matter of setting the stops correctly? I always wondered if this would work….and with the broad range of rear cassettes, that would mean an awful lot of range for a 1x system. And it would change my plans for my next build, as well.

Ben A.
Ben A.
5 years ago
Reply to  MikeFranke67

Yes that is correct. Your limit with the medium cage will be chain wrap, aka how big of a difference in front rings than can be run. Sounds like you’re going 1x so that doesn’t matter. A med cage should handle a 1x w/11-40 pretty well.

MikeFranke67
MikeFranke67
5 years ago
Reply to  Ben A.

Thanks for confirming this. You just saved me money and time.

David R.
David R.
5 years ago

I tour and commute with 24-36-48 rings and 11-34 cassette, 10 speed, Ultegra mechanical shifters and an XT or Deore 9-speed RD. Gives a 6.2:1 ratio. Works very well! I have put many 1000s of miles on this bike, paved and not. It’s a Co-Motion Siskiyou.

I set up my wife’s tourer (Co-Motion Cascadia) with Di2: Ultegra shifters, XTR FD and XT RD, 26-36-48 front and 11-40 cassette. Gives a 6.7:1 ratio, and shifts flawlessly. Easily customized multishifting, with the e-Tube app. Learned about this setup from folks on a MTB tandem.

More IS more.

S
S
5 years ago

Well 3x in front will do the trick. For cyclists that are mot racers that have a more clearly defined cycling envelope, I believe the right solution is either 1x for easier maintenance and simplicity or 3x for the range we really need from lazy days to fast days. It is amazing how we stuck with 2x systems ditching both carefree maintenance and true gear range capabilities

Symon
Symon
5 years ago

Just to be awkward, I run Campagnolo on my Gravel bike. The Older 10 speed shifters have the same pull ratio as the sram 10 speed exact actuation derailleurs. It all runs extremely smoothly.

briannystrom
briannystrom
5 years ago
Reply to  Symon

I don’t blame you, as Campy’s ergonomics are vastly superior to Shimano’s, which franky suck. That’s the one thing I really miss between my old (Campy) and new (Di2) gravel bikes. I didn’t realize that Campy shifters will work with SRAM rear derailleurs, but I’ve been using an XO front derailleur and it shifts great. That bike is set up with 36/24 in front, which is a Gossamer triple with the outer ring replaced by a bashguard. I’ve been running an 11-25 in the rear, but could go up to a 29 if I really want to lower the gearing. The crank will also accept a 22t chainring.

briannystrom
briannystrom
5 years ago
Reply to  briannystrom

Oops!, Meant to say that the crank is a 39/24, not 36/24.

Itstec
Itstec
5 years ago

Currently have SLX 10spd clutch mech with sunrace 11×40 cassette shifting with Shimano 5700 sti and jtek shiftmate 6. Front ring is superstar raptor narrow wide oval. It works. The cable tension needs a little bedding in but……it works.

cdn-dave
cdn-dave
5 years ago

How about a wide range 1×9? E.g. Sunrace’s 11-40t 9-sp cassette with whatever narrow-wide chainring you want up front? Ok, I admit the jumps are huge (and also that I’m not a racer) – it did provide the simplicity that I was looking for, and worked well for my first bikepacking ride (120km / 3500m elev / 2 days) =)

MtnRanch
MtnRanch
5 years ago

Take another look at the Pinion gearbox – 636% range, 18 even steps, sealed so you can feed it mud all day, https://pinion.eu/en/p1-18-gearbox/ . The gotcha is price and the need to do some frame innovation for rear suspension. Long term this what makes sense.

briannystrom
briannystrom
5 years ago
Reply to  MtnRanch

Is there really a need for a gearing range that wide? It seems like overkill and perhaps a narrower range with smaller gaps would be better for most riders and uses. “More” isn’t always “better”.

Mason
Mason
5 years ago

I’ve just recently built my gravel touring setup with an 1×11 setup and a 11-42 in the back and 42t up front. I managed to get the 11-42 to work just fine with a 6800 med cage derealieur and the Wolf Tooth road link.

Leachim
Leachim
5 years ago

After some trial and error I found a combination that works pretty fine:

I use 11-speed shifters (Shimano 105).

On the front I replaced the crankset with a 10-speed Shimano 105 triple (50-39-30) removing the biggest ring and replacing the inner ring with a 24-teeth ring.

On the rear I built myself a special cassette (Shimano Ultegra) from an 11-speed 11-32 cassette and three sprockets from a 12-25 cassette.

Now I have a “perfect” touring range with narrow steps:

front: 39/24

rear: 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 18, 20, 22, 25, 28, 32

I rode 3500 km from Vienna to Lisbon without problems and enjoyed climbing with a heavily loaded bicycle (Stevens Namur). I never ran out of gears or experienced wide steps.

Shafty
Shafty
5 years ago

Why not just use Di2? The compatible combo is already there. XT derailleurs, 11-42T cassette, 26/36 crank, and any Di2 shifters. You can’t mix road and mountain derailleurs(due to a software limitation), but for this application, it’s not a problem. It’s quite an expensive solution, although shift quality would be great.

jwilli
jwilli
5 years ago
Reply to  Shafty

That looks like the cleanest solution to me. Now have to apply for financing!

Dockboy
Dockboy
5 years ago

*cough*Gevenalle*cough*

In all seriousness though, they make a setup that works for basically any range.

Chris A
Chris A
5 years ago
Reply to  Dockboy

Yup. Running the Gevenalle shifters with hydraulic brakes with a White Industries VBC cranks and XT derailleur and 11-46 cassette. Since the front shifter is friction, i can run a few options depending hwta gearing I need. Currently on 28-38t with xt for loaded touring, but will go to a 42-44 and a different derailleur down the road.

Lars Danner
Lars Danner
5 years ago

If my math is right, JP would have more range with an e13* 9-46 cassette than the setup he is running.

Lars Danner
Lars Danner
5 years ago
Reply to  Lars Danner

Opps. Double checking that the e13 provides a range of 5.11 (=4.6/9) whereas his setup provides a range of 5.68 (=(46/10)/(34/42)).

Compact doubles FTW
Compact doubles FTW
5 years ago

“Jay says his dream would be to have a 30t up front in either a 30/42 or 30/44 with the wide range cassette out back.”

Jay is right .. gearing choice depends on the rider but I do agree. I use a 28-40 or 30-42 10s MTB set up on my bikes with 11-32 up to 11-40 on the rear. I’ve toured, competitively raced the TDR and others and use this gear set up for most of my unloaded long rides also, it’s the right compromise for many of us. Xsynch is great but there’s no need for 1×11’s chain retention on bikes that get loaded up, a clutch RD is sufficient.

C’mon Shimano, nail home your FD advantage and keep pushing FCs in that 28-44 range. 38 outers are fine for pure MTB but too small for road links. There’s more to riding than Road and MTB, there’s a lot in between. Whoever makes the FDs and FCs to make this work, I’m buying them.

briannystrom
briannystrom
5 years ago

Sugino OX series cranks can handle any of the combinations that you mentioned, but you may have to buy a crank and an additional ring to get there.

quesnelly
5 years ago

For those of us running flat bars. My Sherpa came Shimano equipped with a 2×10 setup with a 38/24 chainring set and an 11 to 36 cassette. I’m an old guy and found I needed a lower gear yet for relentless climbs. Shimano has come out with 11sp cassettes in 11 to 42, and 11 to 46. I swapped the rear shifter to an 11sp, mounted the 11 to 42 cassette, maxed out the b screw, and now have the bailout gear I need without sacrificing anything at the top end. It works great. I am putting on new chains much more frequently, though.

Cord
Cord
5 years ago

on the subject of weird drivetrain combo’s. i have 11 speed rs685 lever/shifters matched to a modified 10 speed short cage saint RD running on an 11 speed SRAM 10-42 cassette (single ring, no front mech) With a long cage rear mech it would open up some very big ratio options. More info on velocipedesalon, Tech forum (my 1 x 11 shimano conversion) if anyone is interested.

Frank
Frank
5 years ago

#1 Y’all are genius. I’m bookmarking this post just for the clever solutions in the comments. I count no less than 3 ways to run wide-ranging, 11-speed with drop bars.

#2 I was thinking of upgrading my 10-speed, SRAM Rival / XX, 50/34, 11-36 set-up next spring. But after reeding this… it sounds like any solution I go for will be just as much gerry-rigging and fine-tuning as I already have, so, I’ll stick with what (more or less) works!

#3 Its bizarre how both Shimano and SRAM are almost intentionally making it hard to do all this. An “all-road” bike by its very nature is going to have to go fast on pavement and be able to climb up steep, gravelly hills. Maybe bikepacking isn’t a huge market, but touring has been around forever and has never been given properly wide-ranging, low-geared options. Oh and 95% of recreational riders could probably utilized a wide-ranging ‘in-between’ drivetrain option too.

briannystrom
briannystrom
5 years ago
Reply to  Frank

For #2, switch to a 46/30 crank. You get rid of the essentially useless high gears and gain a bunch on the low end.

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