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New Rear Cassette?

Old 08-15-17, 12:07 PM
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124Spider
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New Rear Cassette?

Hi,

I'm getting to the point of needing a new chain.

I also am considering getting somewhat lower gearing.

Some key facts:

--I ride only on pavement, with a road bike.
--I have a 52/36 front ring set, and an 11-25 rear cassette (Ultegra 6800).
--I am an avid amateur who will never race, and rarely even does group rides.
--I ride 100+ miles/week, often as fast as I can go (on a solo ride on relatively flat terrain, that's about 18mph over 35 miles).
--I am 64 years old, and not getting any younger.
--I have yet to encounter a hill I cannot get up, but with the relatively high lowest gear, I worry that I may have trouble someday with a long, steep hill toward the end of a long, hard ride.
--I do like the close-ratio gear set, which allows me to keep a very steady cadence as terrain changes.

If I were to go for a lower low gear, my choices in rear cassette would be 11-28 or 11-32. I don't really want to go as far as an 11-32.

So I'm looking for real-world experience in moving from an 11-25 to an 11-28. Yes, I can do the math. What I'm looking for, really is the answer to two questions:

Will I miss the 16 a lot?
If so, will having a 28 be "worth it"?

I know these are subjective questions, but I'm looking for data.

Thanks.

Mark

Last edited by 124Spider; 08-15-17 at 12:24 PM.
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Old 08-15-17, 12:14 PM
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Have you considered a compact 50/34 crankset? That way, you can keep your cassette cluster tight and still have the lower gearing. At your age, think of your knees.
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Old 08-15-17, 12:21 PM
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Interesting!

No, I hadn't. I took up cycling last year, after a lifetime of running, because my knees ran out of cartilage (no injuries, just accumulated wear and tear from running 25,000 miles, plus innumerable hours of soccer, tennis and basketball; yes, I'm a jock).

50/34 doesn't seem like much of a change, percentage-wise, from 52/36; would I notice it, and would I miss the higher top gearing?

Thanks.

Mark
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Old 08-15-17, 12:22 PM
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If it aint broke don't fix it
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Old 08-15-17, 12:32 PM
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Originally Posted by 124Spider View Post
Interesting!

No, I hadn't. I took up cycling last year, after a lifetime of running, because my knees ran out of cartilage (no injuries, just accumulated wear and tear from running 25,000 miles, plus innumerable hours of soccer, tennis and basketball; yes, I'm a jock).

50/34 doesn't seem like much of a change, percentage-wise, from 52/36; would I notice it, and would I miss the higher top gearing?

Thanks.

Mark
From the riding you describe, I don't think you'll miss the top end. I think it's a viable solution for you.
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Old 08-15-17, 12:53 PM
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I kinda went through the same thing while deciding what gearing to get for '91 Paramount frame I used a gear calculator to help me see what I might want. I plugged in all the different tooth combinations and compared what gears and chainrings I use now for climbing, cruising and descending at my usual cadence to see what the new combinations might feel like.

I made the assumption, and I may be terribly wrong, but for a given cadence, any combination that gives you the same speed (mph, kph) will be about the same effort. If I'm wrong someone please tell me.

You can find a gear calculator at Sheldon Brown's old site.

I do agree that a 50/34 might help you in the climbing and not hurt the upper speed too much. Especially if you don't have downhills that you like to pedal. But if you DIY your own bike maintenance, changing out the individual sprockets on a cassette is cheap. Especially if you have a LBS or friends that will let you try some spares they have laying around. Though I admit lately the LBS's around here are getting stingy about that and fewer and fewer bike owners will do any maintenance themselves.
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Old 08-15-17, 12:59 PM
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if an 52/36, to fit a 50/34 all you buy is chainrings .. how about a 46 34? unless you live dangerously pedaling down mountains at 50mph.
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Old 08-15-17, 01:32 PM
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They also have a 12-30 which I just bought. Also found a medium cage derailer handles the jockey pulley to 30T cog clearance a little better.
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Old 08-15-17, 03:05 PM
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Do you find yourself in the 36-25 wishing you had a lower gear often? If not, I'd say don't bother. Maybe even consider a 12-25. 50/34 up front and 12-25 in the rear might be a good combination for you, unless you spend a lot of time pedaling at 30+ mph.
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Old 08-15-17, 03:40 PM
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I went from 11-25 to 12-28 (one 9-, one 10-speed)on two different bikes because i never really spun out the top gear for very long even on downhills. I have 11-28 Ultegra on another bike. I like the tight midrange, but i do not "miss" the extra cog on the bikes that don't have it ... I can usually find a combination which suits me no matter what. If I rode with a group, I might really need that one extra mid-range cog ... but I doubt it.

By going from 11 to 12 while staying at 25 you gain an extra midrange cog ... move up to 28 and your midrange choices probably remain the same but you get the added insurance for the tired legs at the end of the day.

I Rarely use the 28 .... I see it as a bail-out gear, for the day (which will surely come, and once it comes will surely come back more and more often) when the last few climbs of the day are just too much of a grind with a 25.

Considering how easy it is to swap a cassette and how much cheaper than changing chain rings, I'd definitely try the 12-25 or 12-28 option. Decide for yourself.
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Old 08-15-17, 04:40 PM
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I had a 39x24 low on a 7-speed. Then old age got in the way and I had to accept that it just wasn't getting it done. So bought a new 10 spd compact 50/34. It came with an 11-32 in the back but I wasn't really needing all that and swapped for an 11-26. That was working pretty well but decided to change gearing a little bit and went with 12-27 now. I do miss the 50x11 at times but the jumps on the 12-27 seem to suit me better. I use the 34 more than I did in the past.

But it isn't that big a deal to try out a new cassette, unless you have to have Red/Dura-Ace.

scott s.
.
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Old 08-16-17, 06:10 AM
  #12  
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Chains and cassettes are consumables.

If you think that you might like a wider range cassette, now (when you are replacing the chain anyway) is the time to find out because you'll probably need a slightly longer chain to go with it. If you discover that you don't like the new gearing, just go back. Sometimes other people's experience isn't very much help because they're not you.
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Old 08-16-17, 02:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Retro Grouch View Post
Chains and cassettes are consumables.

If you think that you might like a wider range cassette, now (when you are replacing the chain anyway) is the time to find out because you'll probably need a slightly longer chain to go with it. If you discover that you don't like the new gearing, just go back. Sometimes other people's experience isn't very much help because they're not you.
I agree. You'll need another cassette eventually anyway so you may as well get one now with a larger big cog so you can try it out. If you find you really prefer the tighter spacing then swap back to your current one and set the new one aside for some time when you're planning a trip in hillier terrain.
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Old 08-16-17, 02:02 PM
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Originally Posted by prathmann View Post
I agree. You'll need another cassette eventually anyway so you may as well get one now with a larger big cog so you can try it out. If you find you really prefer the tighter spacing then swap back to your current one and set the new one aside for some time when you're planning a trip in hillier terrain.
Sounds reasonable, except won't I need a longer chain if my cassette has a larger cog?
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Old 08-16-17, 02:08 PM
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Originally Posted by 124Spider View Post
Sounds reasonable, except won't I need a longer chain if my cassette has a larger cog?
You might need a couple links ... but most new chains are too long and need to be shortened.
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Old 08-16-17, 02:38 PM
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Originally Posted by 124Spider View Post
Sounds reasonable, except won't I need a longer chain if my cassette has a larger cog?
You might, depending on how your current chain was sized. But I thought your original post indicated that you planned to get a new chain anyway - so the perfect time to get a new cassette and size the new chain accordingly. The longer chain will still work fine with your current smaller cassette so you'll be able to swap back and forth.
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Old 08-16-17, 02:44 PM
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Originally Posted by prathmann View Post
You might, depending on how your current chain was sized. But I thought your original post indicated that you planned to get a new chain anyway - so the perfect time to get a new cassette and size the new chain accordingly. The longer chain will still work fine with your current smaller cassette so you'll be able to swap back and forth.
So the suggestion is that a slightly longer chain would be fine with my smaller cassette?
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Old 08-16-17, 03:39 PM
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Everyone who plans to ride a bicycle more than twice should learn how to use a chain tool and should buy a few quick-links.
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Old 08-16-17, 03:55 PM
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Tools
You need a chain whip and a cassette tool to change cassettes.

I had the nice, compact Park Tool CT-5, small enough to bring on a ride. But it doesn't have enough leverage to push out an 11-speed pin, which have the "rivet" / "mushroom" heads on the pin. I had to hold the tool arm in an adjustable wrench and crank really hard on the screw arm. (I wonder if I could do it on a ride, but I normally don't bring a chain tool.)

I just got the sturdy Park Tool CT-3.2, very strong and much longer lever arms. It's a great tool.

I use Sram Power Locks to join the chain. I've never used the supplied special pin.

Chain length

If a chain is too short, it can jam when shifting to the big cog - big chainring combination. That can cause major damage. That cross chained combo is not normally used, but it's very easy to be in the big ring and accidentally shift to the largest cog.

If a chain is too long, the small chainring - small cog combo will let the rear derailleur arm fold all the way, rubbing the outside of the top pulley area on the chain coming from the chainring. That's more of an annoyance, just noisy. It won't break anything. (My previous road bike came from the LBS like this, the chain was a few links too long. I didn't notice for a month.)

Derailleur
Your derailleur might not shift cleanly into a 32 cog -- the top pulley might not have clearance. I wasn't sure if my bike would handle it, but I got a 11-32 anyway to try it. It just barely clears, but the shifting works fine for me.

A 28 will work on essentially any bike.

Hills
With a 34-28 low, I can stay seated on 7% to 8% grades, climbing slowly with fairly light pedal pressure at a low cadence.

With a 34-32 low, I can sit on 10% to maybe 12% grades. And I even use the 34-32 on easy to moderate hills, spinning in the 80 to 90 rpm range.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

50 vs 52 chainrings
The difference is about a half shift. The 52 is 4% harder: 52/50=1.04
That's not enough to make it worth changing, unless you are really trying to get way lower gearing.

Last edited by rm -rf; 08-16-17 at 04:23 PM.
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Old 08-16-17, 04:11 PM
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16 cog

There's two different 11-28 cassettes:
11 12 13 14 15 17 19 21 23 25 28 Shimano
11 12 13 14 15 16 17 19 22 25 28 Sram

The Shimano has more close shifts in the 15 to 20 mph range, while the Sram has more close shifts in the 20 to 25 mph range -- good for fast group rides that can be over 20 mph on the flats. The Shimano format is probably better for the majority of riders, that hit the 16-20 mph speeds pretty often.

Charts
Here's the two at typical flat road cadences. The two chainrings are 36 (in red) and 52 (in black) here. A 34 & 50 would decrease each of the speeds about 1 mph near 20 mph, a half shift.
Top--Shimano 11-28
Bottom--Sram 11-28
Attached Images
File Type: jpg
Shimano 11-28 36-52.JPG (51.5 KB, 80 views)
File Type: jpg
Sram 11-28 36-52.JPG (52.3 KB, 80 views)
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Old 08-16-17, 05:15 PM
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As the graph above shows, with or without the 16, you can get into a decent rev range with the 34x11 and 34 x 12 when it is Really important. I'd still prefer the 12x28 though
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Old 08-16-17, 08:05 PM
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OP here.

I decided that (i) a cassette isn't terribly expensive; (ii) it looks like changing the cassette isn't complicated; (iii) I need a new chain anyway; (iv) I can always put the old cassette back in if I don't like this one; and (v) I really need to learn how to deal with a chain, in case i break a chain on a ride.

So I bought a Shimano 11-28T cassette for Ultegra, the appropriate tools, and a new chain.

It turns out it is simplicity itself to change the cassette, and pretty simple to change the chain (although there's certainly a pucker-factor when you punch out the links when you've decided the appropriate length for the new chain with the new cassette installed).

It's done, and the bike rides fine.

One last question: The new chain clearly is lubricated; is this just to keep it from corroding while in the package, or is it so I don't have to lubricate the new chain/cassette combo?

Thanks again for the help.

Mark

Last edited by 124Spider; 08-16-17 at 08:33 PM.
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Old 08-16-17, 08:31 PM
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Funny, I just opened and read through the thread for the first time. Happy to see that you resolved the issue in the way I was going to recommend: try an 11x28. Good work!

So far as the stuff coating the new chain, most think it's a good lube, so I just clean it off the surfaces with some WD-40 sprayed on a rag, then ride it.
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Old 08-18-17, 04:14 PM
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I've had two fairly hard rides, totaling 50 miles, on the new gear, and I like it very much. Amazingly, only very minor adjustments were necessary to have the new cassette/chain shifting crisply.
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Old 08-18-17, 06:22 PM
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I went thru the same process as you. 25 tooth cassette to a 28 and now to a 32. At ate 69 I really appreciate the larger cluster. They say the 32 tooth cassette will not work, but it does! You will have to reverse the position of the
"B" adjustment screw and maybe get a longer chain. It shifts smoothly and easily.
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