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Technical FAQ: 10- and 11-speed compatibility

  • By Lennard Zinn
  • Published May. 27, 2014
Lawyer tabs keep the front wheel from ejecting should the quick release open up. Photo: Caley Fretz

More on 11-speed/10-speed compatibility and skewer life

Dear Lennard,
Shimano recommends that you do not use a link for their 11-speed chains. But will a missing link like KMC type 11 that is made for Campagnolo 11-speed chains work with Shimano 11-speed chains?
— Henrik

Dear Henrik,
I haven’t tried the 11s KMC link yet, but I bet it will work fine. I’ve used SRAM 11s (silver) PowerLock connecting links on many Shimano 11s and Campy 11s chains without problem. We supply all of our 11-speed coupled travel bikes with this link, no matter whether the drivetrain is SRAM, Shimano, or Campagnolo.
― Lennard

Dear Lennard,
I wanted to share my 10s / 11s compatibility adventure.

My bike was set up with the following: SRAM Red 2012 10s shifters/derailleurs, Praxis Works rings, 10s Dura Ace chain/cassette. The right shifter broke, and instead of getting another 10-speed shifter, I did the following: replaced right shifter with new SRAM Red 22 right shifter, installed new Dura Ace 11s chain/cassette (wheels were 11s ready), already had Praxis Works rings on there (10/11s compatible), and left everything else the same (SRAM Red 2012 10s front/rear derailleur and left shifter). It works like a charm after a month of abuse. Just had to adjust the rear limit screws a bit.
— Brian

Dear Brian,
Yes, SRAM did not change the cable pull ratio when going from 10-speed to 11-speed, so a 10-speed SRAM road rear derailleur will work quite well with an 11-speed SRAM road shifter. And as I’ve discussed here, the spacing between chainrings is the same with 11s as with 10s, so the Praxis rings will work the same with either system. I have exactly these same chainrings on a couple of my 11s bikes, and they work nicely.

Since you haven’t changed the chainrings, there is no reason to change your SRAM road 10s front derailleur and shifter, either. The difference in chain outer width between Shimano 10s and 11s chains is under 0.4mm, so from center, that’s under 0.2mm narrower, and I doubt you would notice any shifting difference in front between the 10s and 11s chains. And, finally, Shimano and SRAM 11s cogsets and chains are cross-compatible, so no problem with your choices there. It’s good your rear wheel was already 11-speed compatible. Your broken 10s shifter allowed you to end up with an 11s system with a moderate investment.
― Lennard

More on lawyer tabs

Dear Lennard,
A couple years ago, absence of lawyer tabs, a brain fart leaving me with a loose quick (really quick, I guess) release, and a speed bump in the parking lot of a shopping center got me 6-1/2 hours of surgery, a week in ICU, lots of titanium (medicine hasn’t caught up with carbon fiber technology yet) plates holding my face together, 8 weeks in a neck brace (hard to see where you’re going on a bike), and 2 months of near complete absence of memory (I know I rode a bike in the neck brace only because of some Strava postings). And, the pretty picture below.

A year later, it was quite a surprise to me that I was able to race ’cross again (though to celebrate my return to cycling, I had warmed up by riding from Seattle to Yorktown, VA).
— Rick

More on hub skewer life

Dear Lennard,
Well, my experience with Bontrager XXX Lite titanium skewers…

I have purchased 3 Madone special-order Treks through the Project One site. I hear a creak on my bike and couldn’t find the noise, finished a Grand Fondo and parked my bike. The next morning went into the garage to clean my bike, picked it up and heard a metal noise, which was the lever end of the skewer falling to the concrete floor- sheeted off the skewer! Then I checked the back skewer, and it was broken also! I actually rode 100miles the day before and hit 50mph downhill…geez that really would have hurt!

I called Bontrager; their response wasn’t “OK sir, we will take care of this, since you’ve spent 30k on 3 bikes.” No, it was send them in, we will evaluate then let you know if we will replace! Unbelievable.

This is the front; the back is identical; absolute failure.
— Scott

Answer from Bontrager:

Thanks for bringing this to our attention. We take any and all failures very seriously, and we regret that Scott had such a poor customer experience.

We’ve reached out to him directly and are working to resolve the issue. A new skewer is on its way, and the head of our warranty dept Jason Schumacher is working with him directly to bring this issue to a close immediately.

Like any failure, we are requesting return of the skewer immediately for further evaluation. Situations like this cannot be taken lightly.

We understand his frustrations, and we’re evaluating what exactly was mishandled in the communication process.

— Michael Browne
Bontrager Marketing Director

Dear Lennard,
With regard to Tom’s comment that his titanium skewer allowed his rear wheel to slip, I do not think this was a matter of skewer fatigue or wearing out.

Although he does not specify, Tom was likely riding a frame with horizontal dropouts, as it would be exceedingly hard to pull a rear wheel to where it hits the frame on a vertical dropout frame, even with a faulty skewer. Sheldon Brown summarizes the reasons why a lightweight “boutique” skewer is not appropriate for use with horizontal dropouts here.

Also, when I started racing nearly 30 years ago, it was generally accepted that titanium skewers would stretch under load, and potentially allow the rear wheel to slip during hard efforts with horizontal dropouts. Horizontal dropouts were, of course, the norm at that time. While titanium alloys are generally more flexible than steel in an application such as a skewer, I don’t know for a fact that a properly tightened titanium skewer can stretch enough to allow a wheel to slip under load.

In any case, I think these points speak to the importance of choosing skewers appropriately for each individual application.
— John

Dear Lennard,
The only wheel skewer I have seen fail was a titanium hex head bolt-on skewer really designed for time trialing.

It was being used at the track where quick release is not allowed, and the repeated (over) tightening caused fatigue failure of the rod or the threads stripped. It was kind of exciting, but it didn’t happen at speed the rider was lucky. Glad it wasn’t me.

The issue with the hex-head skewers like this is that it is too easy to
overtighten.
— Stephen

Dear Lennard,
I have broken at least two Campagnolo Nuovo Record quick releases. The shafts fatigued and broke. Granted, they both were well over 20 years old and had a number of years of 15k+ miles on them. But they did break. Both times while tightening during wheel installation not during use.
— Greg

Dear Greg,
This lends more support to the manufacturer recommendations I posted a few weeks ago to replace your skewers when you replace your wheels. Campagnolo Nuovo Record components haven’t been made since the 1980s, so you’re tempting fate using them that long.
― Lennard

FILED UNDER: Bikes and Tech / Technical FAQ

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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