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Technical FAQ: Mixing and matching 10- and 11-speed Shimano and Campagnolo drivetrains

  • By Lennard Zinn
  • Published Feb. 4, 2014
One reader wonders if the component brands will offer 32- or 34-tooth, 11-speed cog. Photo: Caley Fretz | VeloNews.com

This week we continue to examine drivetrain cross-compatibility, with questions from a couple of riders planning for exotic outings, as well as a follow-up on Campagnolo and Shimano 11-speed mashups.

A smaller granny gear for 11-speed?

Dear Lennard,
There is no way to learn upcoming news about gear up here in Juneau, Alaska.
For some years I used my old triple Campy stuff, especially for
climbing the steepest in the Dolomites like the Tre Cime di Lavaredo
and the Mortirolo. With some creative sourcing, I managed to find a 10-speed setup with highest of 53×11 and lowest gear 28×30. Great for 20 percent
 ramps at my age of 66 years.

Now my new Eriksen needs a new drivetrain.
 I hope to find the equivalent low gearing using a compact, but it seems 
that no one makes 11-speed clusters with a 34-tooth cog. Ten-speed 
Shimano XT can work, I understand. But what better use of that 
eleventh cog than a wider range? The pro peloton doesn’t need such, but
some of us do. 
Is there any chance that a manufacturer will come out with an 11-speed, 11-34 cluster anytime soon? I am thinking that the Ultegra GS 
rear derailleur could be convinced to shift to a 34, or maybe even higher, 
like a 36?

— Eric

Dear Eric,
There is no SRAM or Shimano 11-speed cogset that will fit your freehub body that has a cog larger than 32T. In answer to your question, I suppose there is a chance, but I’ve heard of nothing on the wind. SRAM of course makes 1×11 MTB drivetrains, but the 11-speed cogsets incorporated into them require an XD driver body, which of course also means a disc-brake hub with at least 135mm of rear axle spacing. Campagnolo cogs don’t fit your freehub and also don’t come larger than 32T.

And actually, contrary to what I think you were alluding to, 10-speed
Shimano XT won’t actually work unless you do something to adjust for difference in cable pull between Shimano 10-speed road and MTB shifters. Shimano 10-speed actuation ratios are different on its road and mountain rear derailleurs. I suppose you could still put a 10-speed 11-34 or maybe even 11-36 MTB cogset on there and try and boost your long-cage road rear derailleur with the b-screw turned around.

You can also set up a SRAM 2×10 drivetrain using SRAM road shifters and any 10-speed road crank. Then for your trips to the Dolomites, you could swap to an 11-36 SRAM 10-speed MTB cassette and an X0 rear derailleur or something similar. It would probably be smart to use a chain specific for each setup, so that when you swap the cassette, swap to the corresponding chain so that it’s the right length.

I ran this by SRAM MTB product manager Chris Hilton, who said, “As you know, a SRAM road and MTB 10-speed shifter share the same exact actuation, making them cross-compatible with MTB and road. Be aware though, every bike frame is different. Not knowing the exact specifications, it’s hard to determine the complete compatibility. I would make sure I did a thorough evaluation on my bike before I threw a bunch of parts on my bike and headed to Italy.”
― Lennard

Can Shimano 105 and XT work together?

Dear Lennard,
I noticed with interest your columns on Frankenstein drivetrains.

I am building a Ti touring bike for mountain touring on the Tibetan Plateau. I am taking the wheels and Shimano 105 10-speed group off my ’cross bike (a five-year-old Trek X1). However, the Bontrager ’cross crankset does not provide enough gearing for where I’m going. So, I purchased an XT 10-speed double (40-28) crankset with the HG-X chain to go with it. However, I have been reading that this chain will be incompatible with the existing 105 cassette (11-28) and derailleur, and conversely the existing 105 chain also won’t work with the XT rings. Is this right?

As I have been considering alternatives, I am thinking that if this does not work, I will instead leave the ’cross crank where it is but go with a bigger cassette on the back and a mountain bike derailleur. However, also reading that the 105 control levers will not work with a 10-speed MTB derailleur, the pull ratios are different. Argh. Could I use a nine-speed cassette/derailleur with that 10-speed lever, and if so, where does the 10th “click” go?
— Tom

Dear Tom,
Okay. A lot of questions here. First off, I would not worry much about compatibility with the XT crank and the asymmetrical CN-5701 105 10-speed chain, or the asymmetrical (“directional”) CN-HG94 XT 10-speed chain with the 11-28 105 cassette and rear derailleur. For a number of years, I had asymmetrical Shimano 10-speed road chains on the Dura-Ace 7800 drivetrain of my travel bike with a master link in them and a SRAM cogset. Sometimes in dim light in an annex of an airport or train station, I installed the chain backward and rode it that way. While shifting is not ideal, it was never bad enough that I felt compelled to stop and turn the chain around before completing the ride. And that’s the worst-case scenario — installed backwards. If you install either one of those chains in the correct direction, shifting will be acceptable.

You can also just get a symmetrical 10-speed chain. For instance, Wippermann makes no asymmetrical chains, yet it advertises that its 10-speed chains work on all 10-speed drivetrains, and that has been my experience.

As for your other questions, I doubt you’ll even have to entertain them, because I think you’ll find that your shifting is good enough for your Tibetan Plateau adventure. When you get back to flatter terrain, you can always go back to a traditional setup.

It is correct that a Shimano 10-speed MTB rear derailleur will not work with a Shimano 10-speed road shifter. And you definitely cannot expect a 10-speed shifter to work with a nine-speed cassette. However, you can use a 10-speed cassette and 9-speed Shimano MTB rear derailleur with your 10-speed 105 shifter (and a 10-speed chain).
― Lennard

What adjustments are necessary with 10- and 11-speed wheels?

Dear Lennard,
Recently I read this in your column and found it helpful as I installed a 10-speed cassette on my new 11-speed wheels:

And in case any of you were wondering, if you have a 10-speed Shimano or SRAM system and buy a wheelset now, you can still run 10-speed cogs on that wheel. To put a 10-speed cogset on an 11-speed freehub, you just put a spacer behind the largest cog. Many 11-speed wheels come with this spacer.

I have done this and all seems in working order. However, I’m wondering if any rear derailleur adjustment is necessary to ensure smooth shifting in this 10/11-speed hybrid. Thanks very much.
— Chris

Dear Chris,
Just the usual rear derailleur adjustments are all that is necessary.
― Lennard

Did I miss the Campy/Shimano follow up?

Dear Lennard,
Many months ago you wrote briefly that Shimano 11-speed and Campy 11-speed cassettes are interchangeable with a comment that you would have more on that to come. I’ve been reading and haven’t noticed any more, can you confirm that the two cassettes are interchangeable? I am curiously waiting to know if my DA9000 wheel will work on the Record 11 bike I am planning to build this year.

Thanks for your relentless compatibility answers.
— David

Dear David,
Yes, your DA9000 wheel with 11-speed DA9000 cogs will work on your Record 11 bike. Here is the follow-up article: “Compatibility hidden in plain sight”.
― Lennard

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Lennard Zinn

Lennard Zinn

Our longtime technical writer joined VeloNews in 1987. He is also a framebuilder, a former U.S. National Team rider, and author of many bicycle books, including Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance and Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance, as well as Zinn and the Art of Triathlon Bikes and Zinn's Cycling Primer: Maintenance Tips and Skill Building for Cyclists. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in physics from Colorado College. Readers can send brief technical questions to Ask LZ.

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