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Sram Apex 11-32 10 speed cassette + Shimano shifters & rear derailleur = fear no hill

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Sram Apex 11-32 10 speed cassette + Shimano shifters & rear derailleur = fear no hill

Old 08-08-10, 09:16 AM
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Sram Apex 11-32 10 speed cassette + Shimano shifters & rear derailleur = fear no hill

Sram introduced its Apex drivetrain group this summer. It’s meant to compete with Shimano 105 in terms of price and performance. The group provides 20 speeds, a triple is not an option from Sram. To provide a wide range, an 11-32 10 speed cassette is available. Sram and Shimano cassettes use the same hub design. I knew the cassette would fit on my Shimano 105 hubs.

I was less certain that the 11-32 cassette would fit the rear derailleur or would shift well. I have an Ultegra 6600 “GS” rear derailleur, this has a longer cage than the usual Ultegra. Chain wrap would not be a problem, the GS can handle a triple crankset. The rated capacity on the rear cog is 28, so fitting a 32 might not be possible. The derailleur upper idler wheel must be able to float below the cog when on the largest cog or the rear hanger and/or the derailleur will be damaged. Much to my surprise, the derailleur has the capacity for 32 when installed on my Lynskey road bike. A shorter hanger could reduce the capacity, so this may not be true for all bikes.

Sifting quality was my next concern. Was the cassette going to provide the smooth shifts I had with a 12-27 shimano cassette? The cog spacing on the Sram Apex is greater than the Shimano, with a 11-12-13-15-17-19-21-24-18-32 cog set. Would the indexed spacing provided by the Shimano shifters provide the right increment for the Sram cassette? The Sram cassette provided the same fast & smooth shifts as the Shimano cassette, another pleasing result.

On the road the spacing of the cogs is noticed. If I’m at 20 mph, I can use a 34 chainwheel in combination with 12 cog, and have an 11 or 13 cog to use as the terrain changes. The spacing on the 50 chainwheel is 15-17-19 at the speed range, and the change in cadence in noticeable on the larger chainring.

But the total range in huge, greater than a 50, 39 & 30t triple crankset with a 12-27 cassette. Climbing steep hills at very low speeds is smoother and easier on the legs with the 34 & 32 gearing option. High speed descents at 35 mph can be cranked using the 50 & 11 combination.

This might be the best set-up for hilly century courses.

Last edited by Barrettscv; 08-08-10 at 09:26 AM.
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Old 08-08-10, 01:19 PM
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good info

Wow that's a useful bit there.. I just got my drivetrain installed on my cross check today. TA 52-42-30 (though I would've loved the 39 in the middle) & a 12-28 rear. But there was only a Sora GS RD available, so I got that installed and since it's cheap I could probably try up your setup .
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Old 08-08-10, 06:07 PM
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Originally Posted by kk27
Wow that's a useful bit there.. I just got my drivetrain installed on my cross check today. TA 52-42-30 (though I would've loved the 39 in the middle) & a 12-28 rear. But there was only a Sora GS RD available, so I got that installed and since it's cheap I could probably try up your setup .
What shifters are U using?
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Old 08-08-10, 08:03 PM
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i'm using Downtube shifters.. Dura Ace 9spd downtube want a classic style.
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Old 08-08-10, 08:34 PM
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Originally Posted by kk27
i'm using Downtube shifters.. Dura Ace 9spd downtube want a classic style.
As long as they are friction style, your golden.
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Old 08-08-10, 10:52 PM
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i used the compact/mountain setup on a recent trip in California and was motoring up a 20% grade on dirt outside of Pacifica, and used it for (ultralight) offroad loaded touring in the Marin headlands.

I've had a shimano road long cage derailleur set up on large ("mountain" range) cassettes on two bikes now, and seen at least another like it. works fine on some bikes.

i hear its fairly common in cyclocross but have never raced.
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Old 08-09-10, 01:48 AM
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Here's my 2 cents on the SRAM Apex setup and gearing combinations:

The cadence jumps between 21-24-28 are not huge, but I still don't find them ideal; I prefer closer gears to choose between on long climbs.

The lowest gear of 34-32 is OK for shorter climbs, but when doing mountain passes that take 1 or 2 hours to climb, I often want something that gives me a 1:1 ratio, or at least have that available as a bail-out at the end of a long day. With a triple crankset (as long as it is not Dura Ace or Ultegra 6700), I can switch the inner ring to a 26 or 28 tooth ring and achieve this with a road cassette that has decent cog spacing (a 12-28 cassette made by IRD or BBB is my current favorite). With the compact crank, you can switch the stock 34-tooth ring for a 33-tooth, but you cannot go any lower than that. Using a cassette with an even larger big cog makes the spacing issues even worse, so that is not a good solution to this problem.

Give me a 14-tooth cog instead of an 11-tooth, it's far more useful. I don't spin out a 50-12 gear until I'm doing over 60 kph / 40 mph, I don't need a gear that is any faster than that. This problem is easily solvable if you have 12-13-14 tooth cogs from another cassette available, but the shifting ramps and gates might not match perfectly and so shifting might not be as smooth as if SRAM had offered a stock 12-32 option.

Therefore, the triple crank and road cassette still has many advantages over a compact crank plus MTB cassette, which include: closer gear spacing (at the low and high ends), the ability to get seriously low gears, and you're guaranteed to be able to use a road RD.

If you have to use a MTB RD to shift the MTB cassette, which many people will have to, then the 30-50 grams extra weight for the RD plus the 30-50 grams extra weight in the larger cassette cogs will make the compact crank + MTB cassette + MTB RD combination equally as heavy as a road crank + road cassette + road RD combination. Don't get misled by the advertised weight difference between the SRAM Apex groupset and Shimano 105 triple groupset - that is due in large part to the reduced weight of the SRAM brake/shifter units, and not due to the weight differences in the drivetrain itself. If you're adapting your current drivetrain to the compact + MTB cassette combo then those advertised weight differences should be ignored; only pay attention to them if you're replacing your entire groupset.

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Old 08-09-10, 06:49 AM
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Hi Chris,

I'm using both a 105 road triple (50, 39 & 26t) with a 12-27 ten speed cassette on my Cyclocross/touring bike and the 50 & 34t compact with the 11-32 Apex ten speed cassette on my road bike. I agree the 30 speeds available provide a much tighter range than the 20 speed drivetrain. I also find the 39t chain-ring very good to use on flat terrain.

All of my hill climbing comes in short 15 to 22% bursts, the longest such climb is less than two miles. I'll attend a 200k next week with 13,500 ft of climbing, but the steepest climbs are less than a mile long each. The longest decent will be 3 miles. For this event, I will be above 25 mph for 1/3 of the ride, below 10 mph for a 1/3 of the ride and the rest will be in the 10-25 mph range. The compact gearset has benefits in this rolling terrain. While heading down hill, I shift to the big chain-ring and can stay on cadence at any speed above 15 mph. While rolling uphill, I shift to the smaller chain-ring and stay on cadence from 6.5 to 22 mph. While my cadence will range from 85 to 100 rpm, I find this acceptable.

I will continue to prefer the triple on the CX/touring bike when most of the route is not very steep. On flatter routes, that include a few sharp climbs, the smallest chain-ring is used as a "bail-out" option. Here, the 39t chain-ring is king, and can be used most of the time. It allows a narrow 90 to 100 cadence from 10 to 25 mph. The 50 chain-ring is only used on longer downhill descents.

My preference is to shift less often while remaining on cadence and having the range of gears needed. Sometimes the wide range double is the solution, other times the triple is better. If I had to use only one, it would be a triple.

Michael
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Old 08-09-10, 07:55 AM
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Originally Posted by Barrettscv
My preference is to shift less often while remaining on cadence and having the range of gears needed. Sometimes the wide range double is the solution, other times the triple is better. If I had to use only one, it would be a triple.
I totally agree with you about choosing gearing to minimize front shifting. One of my problems with compact cranksets is that you need to shift between chainrings so much more when using one than when using a standard double or triple - the 34 is often too small and the 50 often too big for most people when cruising on flatter terrain, so people end up cross-chaining and double-shifting a lot. Using a wide-range MTB cassette with the compact rings certainly reduces these problems, and so this setup is good in that regard.

Despite all of my criticisms of compact cranksets, I actually recently bought one. I immediately switched the chainrings to 33-48 to make each ring as usable as possible given my cadence preference (85-95 rpm) and fitness. Depending on the expected terrain, I now choose between the 33-48 compact (lightest & stiffest because of the carbon arms), 26-38-49 triple (most versatile), and 28-46 "super compact" (lighter than the triple, still with a decent low gear); changing between them is not too much of a hassle because I use a non-indexed down-tube shifter for the front derailleur (and an STI for rear shifting). My 10-speed cassette is either an 11-26 or 12-28.

The popularity of compact cranks still bothers me because compact cranks are useful in some situations, and are occasionally the best choice, but I think they are very rarely the best choice as someone's ONLY crankset. The compact cranks plus MTB wide-range cassette reduces some of the problems (it reduces the frequency of front shifts and it gives a decent low gear), but it does not solve all of them, so a lot of people who use only a compact would still be better off with a triple. A lot of those people need to get over the stigma attached to using a triple crank - it may indicate that you are a weaker rider, but it may also indicate that you are a strong rider who loves riding in mountainous terrain all day - the latter reason is not un-cool and should incite respect.

Last edited by Chris_W; 08-09-10 at 08:01 AM.
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Old 08-09-10, 09:49 AM
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FWIW, it seems to me that compacts are gaining in popularity mostly because it's a little trickier, and requires a touch more maintenance, to use a triple with indexed shifting / brifters.

For my part I'm using a 9-speed 11-34 cassette on my triple. IMO as long as the shifting is smooth, worrying about teeny gaps in a cassette is a bit silly and fussy unless you're in a competitive context.
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Old 08-09-10, 09:56 AM
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Thanks for this update; I've been wondering about this.

Just to add fuel to the fire -- I got a "tweet" from Velo Orange that their long-awaited "Gran Cru" cranksets have arrived. Those are the ones with the 46-30 chainrings. One of those with the SRAM Apex set-up in the rear would seem to be a great hillclimbing combo.
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Old 08-09-10, 12:58 PM
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Gearing is very individual and it's really difficult to give advice unless you really know the strengths and skill of the rider. Is the rider a spinner or a masher, strong or weak? Gearing should really be very individual. For me, it depends on my conditioning as well as the event I'm riding in. I generally use three cassettes on my bikes, 11-23, 11-25, and 11-28 for steep climbing (even on the tandem) depending on the event I'm doing. I really hate the big jumps on the larger cassettes. I also prefer triples though I have a bike set up with a compact. I rarely ride it though. I haven't found anything I can't get up with the 30-28 combo. I did the Auburn century (140 miles 17,000ft of climbing) on my tandem with a 30-28 low gear. I also have a box full of chainrings that I swap out for different rides. I generally run 32-42-55 chainrings but I have one as small as a 24 and as large as a 60.
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Old 08-22-10, 10:33 AM
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I thought I would do a follow-up report on the Sram Apex 11-32 ten speed cassette in combination with a compact crankset.

It performs on rolling terrain perfectly. I'm able to use 34t chainring and the nine of the rear cogs (12-32) for any uphill situation at speeds less than 20 mph. Steep hills are easy, with a smooth 60 rpm cadence @ 5 mph. That's a real knee saver and makes a long, hilly day much easier. I'm also able to use the 50t chainring and nine of the rear cogs (11-28) for any downhill situation at speeds over 15 mph. As long as the terrain is rolling, up or down, the gearing is golden.

The problem is on flat terrain. Even small changes in speed create the need for shifting of the front chainrings and double or triple shifts at the rear. It's too easy to cross chain on the small chainring or to be on the 17 or 19t cog while on the big chainring.

Next weekend I have a flat 200k in Illinois. I've already put a 11-23 cassette on the wheel. I've also put a standard crankset with a 50 & 39t chainring set on the bike. I'll be able to stay on the 39t chainring up to 25 mph. This will reduce the need to shift to the big chainring to a few times an hour. I'll have four hills that I'll have to grind out on the 39 & 23 combo, but these are less than 10% and less than 1/2 mile in length.

There is no one-size-fits-all in gearing.

Last edited by Barrettscv; 08-22-10 at 10:45 AM.
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Old 08-22-10, 10:51 AM
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I'm a fan of low-geared mountain-ish cassettes mixed with road double setups, rather than compacts or triples. I call it "Macro Drive"because you are getting a bunch of the same gears as a compact, but with more teeth for greater durability. I use a long cage XT derailer to shift the cassette and everything's copacetic. To keep the jumps smaller, I start with a Shimano 14-15-16-17-18-19-21-23-25 cassette and modify that so that there are still lots of gears for the flats, but a few super low bail-out gears as well.
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Old 08-23-10, 01:08 AM
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You've discovered the biggest problem with the compact crankset: No middle ring to cruise around on, which causes lots of double-shifting on front & back at the same time.

Based on your opinion of the 50-34 plus 11-32 and 50-39 plus 11-23, it seems that if you used a 28-39-53 triple plus SRAM 12-26 cassette, then you'd never need to change your gearing between rides and would always have the gear you need easily accessible, with close spacing between them, and would rarely need to double-shift.

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Old 08-23-10, 08:30 AM
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Originally Posted by Barrettscv
There is no one-size-fits-all in gearing.
OK, I'll bite. Why isn't 9sp or 10sp a triple with a relatively wide cassette not a decent "one size fits all" for randos?

With 9sp or 10sp cassettes, the gaps aren't that huge -- probably comparable to or better than a 12sp or 14sp bike. (Remember those fossils? ) The granny covers you for steep hills, the big ring for fast descents. I spend most of the time in the middle ring, and don't run into lots of issues with cross-chaining.

The only situation I can imagine it not quite working for is if you're feeling competitive on a flat route. Or if you're super-fussy with your cadence, in which case you'd really need a continuous variable transmission. But that's another story....
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Old 08-23-10, 08:48 AM
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I went with 52-39-26 and 12-25 for a climbing bike. The small granny ring and close ratio rear work very well together. Makes more sense, because one is apt to stay in any one ring for a while and want make fine adjustments to get correct cadence. If one had really steep climbs, then 12-27 in the back. Or if one were strong or climbs less steep, then a 10 speed with 12-23 is almost a straight block.
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Old 08-23-10, 09:24 AM
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One of my goals (as a gear geek) is to have multiple gearing combinations available to me. I seek ideal gear selection, perfected for each ride!! My motivation for this obsession is my age, size and interest in mechanical stuff. If I was younger, lighter and stronger cyclist, I would just ride a bike like everyone else.

I can easily provide myself seven useful gearing options by having a triple on one bike and a double on the other. I use one triple crankset and both a compact and a standard double.

Bike#1(A). Triple crank with 50, 39 & 26 chainrings in combination with an 11-23 ten speed cassette.
This provide close gearing on flatter rides but still offers low enough gearing for moderate climbs. Very tight gear spacing is available from 15 to 35 mph. Frequent changes on the front chainring are avoided, the 39t chainring is good up to 25 mph and covers all flat terrain riding. The 26t chainring can cover most of steeper climbs, up to about 14%

Bike#1(B). Triple crank with 50, 39 & 26 chainrings in combination with a 12-27 ten speed cassette.
This provide close gearing on flatter rides but still offers low enough gearing for difficult 15-20% climbs. Very tight gear spacing is available from 16 to 31 mph. Frequent changes on the front chainring are avoided, the 39t chainring is good up to 23 mph and covers most flat terrain riding. The 26t chainring can cover all of steeper climbs, up to 18% or more.

Bike#1(C). Triple crank with 50, 39 & 26 chainrings in combination with an 11-32 ten speed cassette.
This provide useful gearing on flatter rides and offers low enough gearing for loaded touring with difficult climbs. Gearing spacing is twice that of the other cassettes, larger changes in cadence are required with almost all gear changes. Frequent changes on the front chainring are avoided, the 39t chainring is good from 10 to 25 mph and covers all flat terrain riding and even is good on moderate hills. The 26t chainring is the ultimate bail-out option, this offers a huge gear range. I need to avoid the big-big gear combination since this exceeds the chain wrap capacity of the Ultegra GS derailleur.

Bike #2(A). A standard double with 50 & 39t chainrings in combination with a 12-27 ten speed cassette.
This provide close gearing on flatter rides but still offers low enough gearing for moderate climbs. Very tight gear spacing is available from 16 to 31 mph. Frequent changes on the front chainring are avoided, the 39t chainring is good up to 23 mph. Super steep climbs are a challenge for all but the fittest riders.

Bike #2(B). A standard double with 50 & 39t chainrings in combination with a 11-23 ten speed cassette.
This provide close gearing on flatter rides but still offers low enough gearing for moderate climbs. Very tight gear spacing is available from 15 to 33 mph. Frequent changes on the front chainring are avoided, the 39t chainring is good up to 25 mph and covers all flat terrain riding. Steep climbs are a challenge for all but the fittest riders.

Bike #2(C). A Compact double with 50 & 34t chainrings in combination with a 12-27 ten speed cassette.
This provide close gearing on flatter rides but still offers low enough gearing for moderate and steep climbs. Very tight gear spacing is available from 16 to 31 mph. Frequent changes on the front chainring are required on flat terrain, the 34t chainring is good up to 20 mph. Super steep climbs are possible for moderately fit riders.

Bike #2(D). A Compact double with 50 & 34t chainrings in combination with an 11-32 ten speed cassette.
This provides low enough gearing for the steepest climbs. Tight gear spacing is available in a limited range from 18 to 22 mph. Gearing spacing is twice that of the other cassettes, larger changes in cadence are required with almost all gear changes. Frequent changes on the front chainring are required on flat terrain, the 34t chainring is good up to 22 mph. Steep climbs are possible for all riders.

I’ve actually used 5 of these options this summer. I only need to change crankset & cassettes. The front 105 derailleurs and the rear Ultegra GS derailleur don’t even require adjustment. Replacing the 50 & 39t standard crank with the 50 & 34 compact is easy also. The 50t chainrings on both help avoid the repositioning the FD and the Hollowtech outboard BB stays in place. I just remove the left hand crank arm, remove the crankset & reinstall.

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Old 08-23-10, 09:36 AM
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I've edited the above post
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Old 08-23-10, 06:12 PM
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Originally Posted by Barrettscv
One of my goals (as a gear geek) is to have multiple gearing combinations available to me. I seek ideal gear selection, perfected for each ride!! My motivation for this obsession is my age, size and interest in mechanical stuff....
I think that just plain makes sense and not just because that's what I do. If you can afford it, it's just the smart thing to do.
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Old 11-05-10, 06:25 PM
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Originally Posted by Barrettscv
Bike#1(C). Triple crank with 50, 39 & 26 chainrings in combination with an 11-32 ten speed cassette.
This provide useful gearing on flatter rides and offers low enough gearing for loaded touring with difficult climbs. Gearing spacing is twice that of the other cassettes, larger changes in cadence are required with almost all gear changes. Frequent changes on the front chainring are avoided, the 39t chainring is good from 10 to 25 mph and covers all flat terrain riding and even is good on moderate hills. The 26t chainring is the ultimate bail-out option, this offers a huge gear range. I need to avoid the big-big gear combination since this exceeds the chain wrap capacity of the Ultegra GS derailleur.
Did you make the is crankset? I am looking at altering my CX rig. I am not a CX racer, I like the variety of terrain I can cover on the CX bike. But I encounter some steep hills. I have torn the chain in half once already-and can tell it is really getting a lot of torque on two of the climbs. I have a std 105 triple (50/40/30) and 10 speed cassette (12/27). the 50/39/26 sounds ideal - is it just a matter of chainrings?
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Old 11-05-10, 07:01 PM
  #22  
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Originally Posted by danec99
Did you make the is crankset? I am looking at altering my CX rig. I am not a CX racer, I like the variety of terrain I can cover on the CX bike. But I encounter some steep hills. I have torn the chain in half once already-and can tell it is really getting a lot of torque on two of the climbs. I have a std 105 triple (50/40/30) and 10 speed cassette (12/27). the 50/39/26 sounds ideal - is it just a matter of chainrings?
Yes, I replaced the 30 with a 26t from Harris: https://harriscyclery.net/itemdetails.cfm?ID=1776

The downshift to the 26t can cause the chain to drop, I recommend a dogs fang or some other guide to keep the chain from dropping onto the BB. https://www.jensonusa.com/store/sub/1...0&pricemax=200

The std 105 triple (50/40/26) and 10 speed cassette (12/27) is a great combination. The std 105 triple (50/40/26) and 10 speed cassette 11/32 is overkill.

Last edited by Barrettscv; 11-06-10 at 07:29 AM.
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Old 11-07-10, 04:41 PM
  #23  
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I started doing something like this a few years ago with my 9-speed Ultegra-mix drivetrain - installed an 11-32 MTB cassette for my significantly hillier long rides. It worked well enough - the gotchas were NO CROSS CHAINING, especially if I didn't also lengthen the chain, and the annoying gaps in shifting on flatter terrain. But another cassette, maybe with a few chain links added (thank you SRAM quick-links) is much cheaper and faster than changing cranks for the couple of times a year I needed it. I rode a very hilly (Civil War Century) using my commuter (50/34) and the 32t MTB cassette - the big climbs were hard but generally manageable.

I upgraded the road bike to 10 speed drive train last fall, so was awaiting availability of the Apex cassette to try it out. As it turned out, the one hilly century I did this year was one I knew I could manage with a 39x28 low gear, so I haven't tried Apex yet. For long-term use, I'd want a high-capacity derailluer. For a quick swap for a couple of rides, the mid and even short cage (don't tell Shimano what I put a short cage DA derailluer through) seemed to work acceptably, at least with 9-speed.
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