HG Eagle 8spd Freehub NSMB AndrewM (2).JPG
EDITORIAL - DOES THE FUTURE HAVE FEWER GEARS VIII

Jailbreak Your Rear Hub (or don't)

Words Andrew Major
Photos Andrew Major (Unless Noted)
Date Jan 17, 2022
Reading time

HG Freedom

I originally intended to write this piece in the heart of the COVID parts shortage. Back when folks were willing to trade their souls for a just peak at a fresh 12-speed cassette. It was going to be called '8-Speed Your 12-Speed.' A few things stopped me but chief among them was a good friend pointing out that the vast majority of 12-speed drivetrains are attached to bikes with either Shimano Micro Spline or SRAM XD freehub drivers.

Whatever the pros and cons of the various cassette mounting standards, when it comes to adaptability and experimentation the 35-year-old HG freehub body is where it's at. The other standards are newer and the manufacturing of compatible cassettes is tightly controlled. The limited splined area on XD drivers, relying on the structure of the cassette when pedaling in higher gears, makes respacing them impossible, and on Micro Spline cassettes the smallest cogs interface with each other, making reorganization impractical.

Indeed, when it comes to a stock 12-speed mountain bike, only those equipped with SRAM NX Eagle drivetrains, and thus an HG driver, would be applicable without swapping the freehub body. I imagined this would be too far for most folks to go since it would require two acts of faith. First, buying the HG driver and then, since no 12-speed cassettes were available, period, trusting that the different spacing of a 9, 10, or 11 cog unit would work with their drivetrain.

12to8 NSMB AndrewM.JPG

A smaller ring is pending, still with the stock 52mm offset, but in the meantime I've been running the Chameleon MX with a 32x11-36t setup. For the record that's with a 27" rear wheel and I'd be dying running the same on a 29'er.

HG Eagle 8spd Freehub NSMB AndrewM.JPG

The 11-36t cassette is a 10-speed unit with 2x cogs pulled out to make it an 8-speed with the 36t big cog spaced outboard for better chainline. I was originally running this cassette setup on the Banshee Titan and my SB104 with a 28t ring installed.

Before I chase the rabbit any further, there are undeniable advantages to Micro Spline and XD drive systems over HG. Their raison d'être is that they can both use 10t cogs where the smallest option on HG is an 11t.* The other factor is the durability of an aluminum driver body. XD has no freehub splines to chew up in the high gears and Micro Spline relies on the freehub design and cassette interlocking to also negate the number one complaint assigned to HG.

* I think that's phooey personally

Further, swapping your 12-speed Shimano bike from a Micro Spline to an HG driver, even while keeping an 11-51t cassette like a SunRace MZ, means giving up the under-load shifting advantages of the new Shimano HG+ drivetrain architecture. I don't ever bang off shifts under load anyway, but if you do then Shimano HG+ is your drivetrain. On the SRAM front, ditching XD means surrendering the pile of weight savings, or at least potential weight savings for us GX users, of an X0 or XX one-piece cassette compared to pie-plate equipped HG options.

It's also not really possible to talk about the cost of swapping to an HG driver with any kind of universality. Comparing the swap of a Chris King hub from XD, or Micro Spline, to HG with, say, the cost of swapping a Bontrager is like trying to have a generalized discussion about the cost of buying a house. Are you buying in North Vancouver, BC or Saskatoon, SK? There's going to be an upfront cost to swapping a hub to HG and if you add on buying a new HG compatible cassette, this could cost more than buying an equivalent quality cassette that fits your existing driver.

HG Eagle 8spd Freehub NSMB AndrewM (1).JPG

Stock 12-speed SRAM Eagle chain.

HG Eagle 8spd Freehub NSMB AndrewM (2).JPG

Stock 12-Speed NX Eagle derailleur.

HG Eagle 8spd Freehub NSMB AndrewM (3).JPG

Stock 12-Speed NX Eagle shifter.

Now that SRAM has opened things up, the support for XD drivers has been growing. In theory, supply issues aside, you can now buy an 11-speed or 12-speed XD cassette from SRAM and SunRace. And don't forget e13's novel two-piece solution. Will Shimano open up Micro Spline the same way? Time will tell. Also, with Shimano manufacturing a substantial lineup of intercompatible HG+ products, it is hard to imagine that inventory issues will persist as Micro Spline enjoys a few birthdays. I mean, unless they go all I-Spec on it with Micro Spline-A, B, 2, and EV within a decade. Now that the worst of the product shortages seem to be over, there's probably no justification for folks that 'just want to ride bikes' to bother switching over.

But for the bikes nerds, interested in experimentation, an HG freehub opens up a whole world of experimentation. Looking at the price of basic HG cassettes I'd even go as far as to call it affordable experimentation. One of my favourite examples from the Covid-shortages is not to let your quest for perfect keep you off your bike when there are good options. Despite the different spacing between cogs, a SRAM Eagle 12-speed drivetrain does a lovely job of shifting most of a 10-speed cassette - from whatever brand. On the Chameleon MX I haven't even shortened the stock chain.

But it's deeper than that. Ditch a cog, improve your chainline. Without having to widen the back end, reducing trail clearance. Try single speeding. Yes, sure, even with a full suspension bike. Build your own fabulous-Four, wide-Five, or sexy-Six speed cassette made up of the gear ratios you actually need to ride the trails where you live. There are limitations in the size of cog-to-cog jump any derailleur can handle as well as the ability to take up a certain size of cog at any point along it's path. But, how do you know until you try? And heck, if the derailleur won't cooperate and line up with enough cogs, you should try a friction thumb shifter.

Banshee Titan NSMB AndrewM (1).JPG

I've used this 10-speed stack, converted to 8-speed by removing a couple cogs and spacing it outboard, with a whole variety of different drivetrains. Shimano, SRAM, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12-speed. Depending on the audience member, that either sounds like fun, or a waste of time, and either way that's okay.

I think it's really important to note that if you like your bike the way it is, that's awesome. No one should feel bad because they just want to ride their mountain bike, or because it's enough work to stay on top of maintenance without making the time to play around with mix-matching standards just to see what happens. But, if your bike is down, it's Friday night, there's a ride you don't want to miss tomorrow, and all you have are some 'incompatible' spare parts and your beverage of choice, good-enough can get you back in the saddle. I now know more than one person who discovered their love for mullet bikes or running really-long travel forks on their hardtail exactly that way.

For folks looking to add some bike nerdery to their lives, or some interesting projects to try with the kids using stuff they already own, or wanting to own the ultimate in adaptable drivetrains, I think an HG conversion makes a lot of sense as a jumping on point. Will it save you a few bucks in the long run? Could do, but probably not. So, whether it's worth it to you or not is going to be a personal decision. If you have any questions maybe we can figure out how to jailbreak your hub or maybe start figuring out if your future has fewer gears.

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Comments

DanLees1978
Dan Lees
4 months ago
+5 Andrew Major Mark AndrewR Nologo nothingfuture

The whole 10T vs "only" 11T free hub body argument for 99.9% of riders is totally pointless.

If you are spinning out 34x11T on vaguelly technical trails, you either need to reassess your definition of Tech or race in the EWS...

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
4 months ago
+2 Greg Bly roil

Yeah, smaller cogs (9t on e13) are just the easiest way to expand the gear range of a 1x system. Gotta have that 500% plus range?! 

But yeah, aside from the road, it’s phooey even for most riders on a 30x setup.

Reply

cooperquinn
Cooper Quinn
4 months ago
+1 Andrew Major

Bike park.

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
4 months ago
0

Definitely, but easy enough to swap a ring out for a bike park visit. 5-10 minute job with most systems.

Reply

andrewbikeguide
AndrewR
4 months ago
+2 Andrew Major PowellRiviera

And 36-16 gives a better chain line than 30-10T.

In addition to lower chain wear

Reply

cooperquinn
Cooper Quinn
4 months ago
+1 Andrew Major

Chain length, buying more chainrings, don't shift to low for that hill up to Schleyer...

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
4 months ago
0

Just turn the low limit screw a few times when swapping the ring. You don't need the 2,3,4 largest cogs in the park anyways. 

And anyone who can swap a chainring can figure out derailleur limit screws (anticipating follow up comment).

taprider
taprider
4 months ago
+1 Andrew Major

or ride to the ride

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
4 months ago
0

I ride to many of my rides spinning along in a 22t. I think that's having high gears to push comes more down to mindset than necessity.

Reply

roil
roil
4 months ago
+1 Andrew Major

Totally. Usable range is more important than total range. 

For all the money bikers spend on weight savings, it's pretty ridiculous that these huge 12 speed cassettes are even a thing. They just add a ton of unsprung rotational mass to the rear suspension. 

I have been thinking that a high pivot bike would let you run an even smaller chainring so you could further shrink your cassette.

Reply

syncro
Mark
4 months ago
+4 Lynx . Mammal Jerry Willows Vik Banerjee

The cheapest fix for expensive drive trains and a shortage of the latest greatest mega wide range whiz-bang sorcery shifting magic is to improve your legs and lungs. You might even surprise the bejeezus out of yourself and find you can ride better and even have more fun at the same time.

Reply

zigak
ZigaK
4 months ago
+5 Etacata Andrew Major Peter Appleton taprider bushtrucker

The cheapest fix for that would be 3x10 (or 9).

I'll see myself out.

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
4 months ago
0

In 2011 I had this weird feeling like maybe 3x solved a lot of problems (chainline, efficiency, maybe even drivetrain noise) and converted my bike back to a big-ring-smoking three-ringer. Have a photo somewhere, same bike I’d spent much effort getting running as a 1x.

If Shimano had come up with a shiftable narrow-wide ring set I’d certainly still be 2x curious. Really enjoyed my 2x7 (manual shift) setup in Spring.

Reply

NotMeAtAll
NotMeAtAll
4 months ago
+1 Andrew Major

If there was a 2x chainring narrow wide, I would certainly be on it. It sereously reduce sprung weight of the cassete, shorter cage RD, "fast" droping a ring because of surprise hill, If DI2 could be ran with 6 gears at the back to get a wide ratio and low cadence difference between gears, wider hub flanges without a wider rear altogether.

I still dream about a definitive Hammerschmidt, or the Vyro front thing crankrings.

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
4 months ago
0

I know most folks think I'm crazy, but I would have loved to see where the savvy Schweinfurters at SRAM would have taken Hammerschmidt. I'd have liked the two ratios a bit closer together (or for the gap to be adjustable) and a reduction in drag in the overdrive gear would have been necessary. Also, the bottom brackets were shit. But it was so durable, so tough, shifted so quick, and was really so easy to keep working nicely. 

I wrote about the system in 2018, but I'd love to get my hands on a fresh setup and do a proper review a decade on from when it came on quite a few bikes.

Reply

morgan-heater
Morgan Heater
4 months ago
0

A two speeder hardtail with a dragless hammerschmidt would be the most amazing thing. A 32-42 equivalent climbing gear and a 32-15 descending gear. Literally my dream set-up for both hard-trailing and banging around town.

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
4 months ago
+4 Lu Kz Mammal nothingfuture Endurimil

The cheapest fix for an expensive drivetrain that’s skipping gears because it needs a new cassette is to improve your lungs and legs?

———

You might even surprise the bejeezus out of yourself and find you can ride better and even have more fun at the same time.

This makes more sense - clearly you’re pitching single speeding, which I can totally get behind! But, while there are limited XD and MS options, it’s probably best to convert to HG here too.

Reply

syncro
Mark
4 months ago
+2 Greg Bly Andrew Major

Ha! on the ss thing. I get you and agree with on the other stuff tho. My mini-rant wasn't directed at you in particular, but at the bike industries need to continually stuff change down our throats  wrapped in the guise of "it's better". If a drive train is performing poorly then yeah, being a stronger rider won't fix that. BUT, replacing drive train parts has become a game where people may be forced to upgrade to newer and more expensive components because their older stuff isn't working, or it's not compatible with their new frame.

People can get way more improvement/fun in their riding by improving their fitness/skill than trying or being forced to buy it via the next generation thing - whatever it may be. I can have a great ride on my 26" wheeled Explosif, but it's at a point of needing a new fork and choices in the 1-1/8 straight steerer that work for a 9mm QR hub are decidedly rare.

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
4 months ago
+1 Mark lewis collins WyOh

Rigid forks still come in 1-1/8” and QR. though I have to say I ditched 9mm for MTB ~ as soon as possible even for rigid. Seen enough broken QR axles. Nice 27+ tire up front… yum.

Kidding aside, if you can find a good condition 1-1/8” fork that’s 15mm it’s a relatively cheap, actual, upgrade to sort out a front hub.

I think it’s sad that 1-1/8” steerer suspension forks aren’t being supported. Wrote an appeal to SRAM about it even.

Reply

syncro
Mark
4 months ago
0

@AM - Re the fork I've thought about going 27.5 up front with a new fork and could possibly squeeze a 27.5 in the back. But of course that means new fork, new wheels, new tires and probably the desire to upgrade a few other bits. Where does it end? Is it worth spending that much $$$ on a 20yr old XC bike?

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
4 months ago
+3 Tremeer023 Vik Banerjee Metacomet

The impossible query. Working in shops I've seen many a project completed out of nostalgia. Just ask Toxik Harald how many classic 'the bike I wanted when I was younger but couldn't afford it' Rocky Mountains, or Brodies, or whatever he's repainted in the factory tints. 

Personally, I'm not terribly nostalgic for the equipment itself and have no desire to collect old bike stuff. I wouldn't put a dollar into a bike I wasn't going to ride. Put a different way, I would ride a 20-year old hardtail as a commuter for sure, and love it, but I would never own one for the sake of owning it.

In my experience, new hardtail geometry is so, so much better I would be saving my coins for a new rig. Not because I'm in the you-have-to-get-a-new-bike-because-it's-new camp but because I know how much better my hardtail riding experiences are now compared to the past.

mnihiser
mnihiser
4 months ago
0

I had an old hardtail (2000 Bianchi Superbee )that was in great shape but needed forks, brakes,tires to be a good ride today. I laced up new rims in order to fit bigger rubber, found close-out Shimano brakes on Alixpress, and a fork for cheap from  Suntour. This is a fun bike on certain trails but keep in mind things aren't too chunky here in SW Ohio. I was really watching the budget but was shocked to find I'd spent $900. Doesn't make sense but now I look forward to riding it.

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
4 months ago
0

I also don’t think any/many people, at least locally, are forced to upgrade drivetrains actually. Covid supply aside, most old standards are supported or easily adapted.

Put another way, I’ve heard WAY more people use drivetrain ‘stuff’ as an excuse to upgrade their bike than I’ve seen any issues finding backwards compatible shifters, chains, cassettes, etc. 

And, at any rate, that’s the point of this piece. Trading some performance aspect (weight, shifting under heavy loads) for flexibility/experimentation.

For most of us, mountain bikes are just a toy. Sure some of us commute on them a bit too. On the North Shore, in regular use, I’d bet the average age of said toys is under 5-years. Certainly 10-year rigs are rarer than e~bikes. 

What drivetrain parts are you having a hard time finding?

Beauty of the sliders on that Explosif - can always go #1FG! Will look good with your rigid fork.

Reply

syncro
Mark
4 months ago
+4 Andrew Major Vik Banerjee kcy4130 Endurimil

Mine is an earlier gen Explosif (2002) I think - so no sliders, just regular QR dropouts. RE nostalgia, this is just about ready to ride again.

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
4 months ago
+1 Mark

That’s something else! My last Honzo (170mm fork, -2* headset, 29’er) was sort of a modern take on the idea.

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
4 months ago
0

Also, it’s clearly noted that what I’m proposing - [buying a HG driver + cassette v. just an equivalent cassette for the current driver] - will likely cost more upfront and in the long run possibly too.

It’s about accessible bike nerdery and better chainlines, not the cheapest drivetrain option.

Reply

Lynx
Lynx .
4 months ago
0

Now why would they do that when the industry has gladly and willingly accepted "their" $$ to make them the easiest gears so they don't have to put too much effort to get to the top, because most it seems these days, "live for the downs" :skep: Can't imagine WTF a 30-51 gear combo would feel like, even on our most steep and technical trail, even with my bum knee, 34-46 is about as easy as it needs and that's on 29x3.0" tyres :skep:

Still rocking 10spd on all my loaner/rental bikes and 10spd with an 11spd RD on my FS and full 11spd on my rigid. 10spd is plenty good enough, but no sense buying a 10spd Shimano RD when an 11spd will work just fine and the geo is corrected to run a big cog, bigger than 36t. Won't lie and say that if supplies and my wallet allowed, I wouldn't love to try the new Shimano 12spd in the 10-45 variant.

Reply

HollyBoni
HollyBoni
4 months ago
+2 Andrew Major taprider

I don't live for the downs, i'm fairly sure I pedal a lot more than a lot of MTB bros, and my easiest gear is a 30-50 (that's how my bike came from the factory). I'm not afraid to say it, I use 30-50 a lot, and not just on super techy stuff. Maybe i'm a whimp, don't know, don't care to be honest. I try to push my limits sometimes but i'm mainly out there to be out in nature, explore new places, have fun, not to go all out all the time and kill myself on every climb. Personally I wouldn't be too happy to give up my 30x50. But sadly saying that probably makes me around 18% less manly. I'll go out and chop some firewood, hopefully that will offset things.

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
4 months ago
+1 Cr4w

What bike do you have? Cool that it came 30x50t as most rigs have a 32t or 34t. I know plenty of fit folks (including Deniz@NSMB) running 28t rings with their 50/51/52t cassettes. It’s great to find yourself using more gears and in the middle of the cassette more often.

I also think as STAs get steeper more riders are finding they’re spinning higher cadences? At least it’s something I’ve noticed.

As to your bro-card… bro-status… bro-ness… have you considered a barb wire tattoo and some NF pants? I’m taking it for granted that you already own a Tacoma. (Hahaha)

Reply

HollyBoni
HollyBoni
4 months ago
+1 Andrew Major

Radon Slide Trail 8.0. Cookie cutter German direct to consumer stuff. I think all their "bigger" bikes come with 30T chainrings.
When the NX cassette wears out i'm probably going Shimano 12spd, and since 30x11 is plenty high I might even go down in chainring size since i'll have a 10T at the back. Planning to try bikepacking this summer, i'm terrified in advance of climbing with a loaded bike. 😁

I just don't think i'm cut out to be a bro. No hope for me.

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
4 months ago
0

Don't give up so easily! There's always hope when you keep your eye's on the prize.

Start here and then order some pants if you need a bro-boost:

craw
Cr4w
4 months ago
+1 Andrew Major

Harsh call-out my bro brah.

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
4 months ago
+1 Mike Bergen

Around here average fitness and steep, tight, often technical climbs combine for many riders wearing out their 1-2 big cogs before the rest of the cassette even looks used. It makes sense that riders want a 50t+ cog for local terrain if they’re going to push a 32/34t ring. Hence my ceaseless quest to get more folks thinking about smaller rings and inboard chainlines.

The 10-45t 12spd stil has an ugly chainline. Smaller jumps for tighter shifting make sense where riders are putting in the long distance bikes though, so I can see why some folks wish it came at more price points.

Reply

Hollytron
Hollytron
3 months, 3 weeks ago
0

Also if you lose your keys make sure and check your pockets. -Dad

Reply

Vikb
Vik Banerjee
4 months ago
+2 Andrew Major utopic

The geared portion of the fleet is mostly Shimano 11 speed on HG drivers. It falls to hand pretty easily even during the pandemic. Cost is reasonable. Gear range is good if you are running a sensible front ring. Doesn't require any hacking. Cross compatible with SRAM 11 speed. I plan to play in this end of the pool as long as Shimano lets me. 

If I am spinning out in the 11T cog I can just coast at that point. I'm not paid to race my bike. I rarely find the small end of my cassette even running 28T rings. Mostly it happens commuting to/from the trails and the difference in top speeds between 10T and 11T is just not that important.

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
4 months ago
+2 Vik Banerjee Mammal

It will be interesting to watch the adoption rate of 11-spd Shimano LinkGlide as the drivetrains come available. They’re claiming significant enhanced product life over HG+ For no difference in performance than what I’m talking about giving up here anyway.

Personally, driven by e~bikes, I could see a 5-6 cog LinkGlide in the future. You don’t need the micro-range adjustments when your bike multiplies you x4.

Reply

xy9ine
Perry Schebel
4 months ago
+2 Andrew Major Vik Banerjee

i've intentionally stalled the familial drivetrain progression at 11 spd for a combination of value & cross platform emergency swapability (both shimano & sram bits). don't really see any benefit to going 12. 

i'm also a fan of compact geartrains (for our local riding, anyways). currently running a 26t ring w/ 10-42 & mid cage mech (on a 29'er). great bang for the buck, relatively light & robust. contemplating a 36t cassette w/ short cage (on 27 wheel). curious if a zee will work on 11spd spacing...

Reply

Lynx
Lynx .
4 months ago
+2 Andrew Major Vik Banerjee

Haven't tried the ZEE, but  know that to/for me it seems like for Shimano at least, an 11spd RD will work just fine with a 10spd shifter and cassette, you can't tell they're not the "right" combo, however, going the other way 10spd RD with 11spd cassette and shifter doesn't seem to play as nice, not by a long shot.

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
4 months ago
0

Interesting, I’ve not noticed any issues going the other way. Was it only in certain gears - like at the end ranges of the 10-spd der - or generally it didn’t shift well? Just one experience or repeatable over multiple drivetrains?

Reply

Lynx
Lynx .
4 months ago
+1 Andrew Major

Wasn't on any of my bikes, was a friends (most all of mine run just straight 10spd or 11spd RD with 10spd drivetrain or straight 11spd.), checked hanger alignment etc, but nothing seemed to solve the issue. Not sure if the actual derailleur was maybe bent by the previous owner and straightened on trail and hence, fvcked. He bought a in good condition used 11spd setup and everything worked flawlessly - think that 10spd RD maybe was fvcked thinking about it, might have to give the 10spd RD on 11spd cassette a go just to see for myself.

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
4 months ago
0

I’ve seen a lot of issues with Shimano derailleurs that could be traced back to the clutches needing a service or the pivots being semi-seized. Actually amazing how many derailleurs have seemed write-off-ready that came back to life with a thorough clean and lube (and sometimes a clutch swap).

If you try it out please follow up and let me know your experience! It’s nice for me to be able to talk about this stuff from multiple peoples’ experiences. The more the merrier.

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
4 months ago
+1 Vik Banerjee

In practice, in my experiences, Shimano 11-spd and 10-spd derailleurs are interchangeable.

I love my Zee derailleur. I think it’s the pinnacle of Shimano’s drivetrain manufacturing - quality of manufacturing and materials v. longevity v. price v. performance.

Reply

xy9ine
Perry Schebel
4 months ago
+2 Andrew Major tashi

agreed. love that wee thing (the zee). had them on previous bikes (mine & kids) & feeling a need to rekindle the relationship. is it weird to be enamored by a simple bit of relatively pedestrian tech?

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
4 months ago
+1 Perry Schebel

Hahahaha… you’re asking me?! I’m passionate about simple machined aluminum cogs.

Hell, I included them in my best of 2020 and they made it into my best of this year too.

Reply

Vikb
Vik Banerjee
4 months ago
+1 Andrew Major

Huh. I learned something. I have a Zee 10 spd shifter and derailleur sitting in my parts bin waiting for the right time to triumphantly return to action. If I can use the derailleur with 11 speed cassettes/shifters that makes it easier to use. I think that Zee has the WT Goatlink and was used with 42T cassettes before so should handle what I want.

Reply

fartymarty
fartymarty
4 months ago
+2 Andrew Major Vik Banerjee

Vik - I run a Zee (stock wide range) on my Murmur and Krampus with 11-42 and it works fine.  You just need to have your chain length bang on.

Reply

Vikb
Vik Banerjee
4 months ago
+1 Andrew Major

Yes I recall the chain length was a bit finnicky with my Zee. I was running a 10 spd cassette with a WT GC Cog [42T I think?].

xy9ine
Perry Schebel
4 months ago
0

that's an 11 speed 11-42 you're running?

fartymarty
fartymarty
4 months ago
+1 Andrew Major

Saint look nicer than Zee (I have a Saint on the Murmur) but the holes in the jockey wheels just collect crap.  I like the jockey wheels on the Zee (on the Krampus - when not SS) which are solid and easier to clean.

I also love these little short cage mechs altho they were nearly impossible to get hold of when I last needed one just over a year ago due to Brexit / Covid.  Hopefully Shimano keeps a wide range Zee / Saint in their line up if and when it gets revamped.

Out of interest has anyone recently tried a short cage road mech?  Pre-clutch I use to swear by Dura-Ace / Ultegra (older ones off ebay).  They used to work ok with a narrow wide.  I had one on my HT for a while and didn't used to drop chains that often.  Cassette size was limited but this was when I used to run a tiny road cassette 4x style.

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
4 months ago
0

I'd love to try a new SRAM Force short(er) cage derailleur with their flat bar shifter. It's an 11spd setup with a clutch, a barrel adjuster on the derailleur, and they make multiple cage lengths. I really think it could be the mountain bike drivetrain a lot of folks are looking for. 

I haven't tried one of the new Shimano clutch road derailleurs. I do anticipate a new Saint groupset this year (next year?) that will include a short cage derailleur. I imagine it will stay 11spd.

Reply

Shoreloamer
Greg Bly
4 months ago
+2 Andrew Major Endurimil

Cam thank you for allowing Andrew to write about something, anything other than that new and improved part. 

I have a friend that runs a 48 tooth out back with a short cage XO derailleur. 10 speed I believe . Anything is possible but as Andrew pointed out first you have to experiment.  

Has anyone tried shifting a narrow wide 2 x system. I run a single speed Saint ring . No shifting ramps . It's not narrow wide . I can shift both ways . I use a grip shift just for the front derailleur.  I currently use a SunRace m 90.  If I use the bike this summer for treking I'll upgrade to clutch. 

I stockpile brand new hubs for my needs . Same with cassettes , tires.  

Did a full ride yesterday , dirt felt so good. Then I rode home from the mountains.  Never did I desire a 9 tooth for more speed.  Maybe it's luck I have rarely ever  had issues with hg drivers . Exept minus 10 and colder they can freeze up . 

Only issues with wide range HG driver cassettes. Weight. I have a 11 36 SunRace 8 speed cassette.  Not the aluminum spider type. 490 grams . 

Upgraded to SunRace 11 42 cassette aluminum carrier I believe it's lighter .  Stamped steel cogs are unfortunately very heavy.  Then I read about 26 up front 36 in the back . Maybe 8 speed. Maybe if someone gets China to whip up some aluminum cogs for the big plates .  

The weight penalty is compensate for the fact that one could mix and match size and speed to your riding style which is very attractive to me.  

The amount of comments thrills me to realize this community is open minded to alternative ideas on what mountain biking can be for the individual.  

Andrew did Fox and Manitou compleaetly give up on 1 1/8 steer tube forks ?  I think they may still have suspension forks for the DJ bikes . The Manitou circus  comes to mind .

Update. 5 1/18 models left and looks like it's old stock .  I know dirt jumping is rather rare but pump tracks are a blast.  26 inch rules on pump tracks ... Any one try wagon wheels in a pump track ?

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
4 months ago
+1 Greg Bly

You can still get some shorter travel 1-1/8” steerer forks yes. But for most the otherwise good, or good-enough, bikes being retired the forks available aren’t long enough travel. 

Rings that offer true narrow-wide chain retention do not shift. I’ve tried with a couple different generations of front derailleur. But, manual is great if you aren’t racing or trying to shift more than a few times a ride.

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velocipedestrian
Velocipedestrian
4 months ago
+1 Andrew Major

The most attractive option (to me) is the 130mm travel Circus w/ straight steerer.

20mm hub might be tricky for some folks forks, firm damper tune, tiny wheel - 27 might fit? 

I'd love a couple to spice up a pair of old frames in the house, but as Andrew pointed out, the geo makes me reluctant to drop the coin.

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Lynx
Lynx .
4 months ago
+1 Greg Bly

Hey Greg, yeah I did it with actual narrow wide rings and people were all up in arms, doesn't shift fast enough, but worked fine for me, I'm no racer looking to win any podium, wasn't shifting really that much as the smaller ring was really a big time bail out gear, stayed mostly in the bigger ring, only went to the smaller for those silly super steep or extended climbs - this was about 6 years ago.

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Shoreloamer
Greg Bly
4 months ago
+1 Andrew Major

I love watching people's horrific concern for doing what is " in theory" not going to work! 

You can't shift narrow wide rings! 

Apparently. Until some one does. 

Short cage derailures don't work with huge plates on the cassete. So I thought.

Andrew your point is still valid probably a very agressive profile narrow wide tooth chainring would be very difficult to shift. But if you can knock it off with your foot ? Then it will shift . Right?  Shifting back up is a bitch . Thats why I use the grip shift.  I have a narrow wide waiting for mounting. I assume my Saint ring will last me about another 3 years .

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flattire2
Brian Tuulos
4 months ago
+2 Andrew Major Andy Eunson

Instead of eliminating cogs and mussing about with the cassette, I prefer to space my front chainring as inboard as possible, prioritizing the chainline for the lets say biggest 5 cogs on the cassette. This is where you spend most of your time climbing and pushing hard. The smallest cogs can have a poorer chainline as you don't put relatively many hard hours on them.

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mammal
Mammal
4 months ago
+1 Andrew Major

That's a great option for those with traditional 4-bolt cranks, but not so much for the newer attachment methods.

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
4 months ago
+1 Vik Banerjee

Or buying a ring with more offset for Cinch or SRAM 3-Bolt. But either way the frame has to clear the more inboard ring.

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maximum-radness
Maximum Radness
4 months ago
+2 Andrew Major fartymarty

For years, we all were just tryin to ride and do anything to keep the clap-traps from incinerating themselves on the first climb or jump. 

But that knowledge seems lost on the consumer culture. I realized the other night while negotiating a pesky (steel hardtail- straight steerer- 104 bcd) chain line…. that this art is all but faded. 

So I, a semi retired bike mechanic, dad with old shit mixed with the newest shit, guy on the trail with all the tools helping strangers- I applaud you Andrew.

Just keep writing this stuff: I’m loving it and obviously we are all enjoying, learning, and practicing the CRAFT of BIKE CULT.

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
4 months ago
+1 fartymarty

Cheers!

Love this self-description: "a semi retired bike mechanic, dad with old shit mixed with the newest shit, guy on the trail with all the tools helping strangers."

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fartymarty
fartymarty
4 months ago
+1 Andrew Major

This is another prompt for me to get off my ass and take the 11-36 10 speed HG cassette I have lying around and cut it down to a 5 or 6 speed.  I'm on Hope stainless HG freehubs anyway so the single cogs shouldn't bite into the freehub too badly. 

The big advantage of 10 speed (or less) HG cassettes is they're readily available and cheap as chips.  Ditto 10 speed chains.  The only thing that is harder to get hold of is XT 10 speed shifters - multi release is too good not to have - altho may not be necessary with 5-6 speeds.

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
4 months ago
0

Yeah, wide spaced cogs are basically one-click multi-release anyways. Can get through a 5-6 pack pretty quick. 

Get in it!

What are you aiming at for a low gear? You can move a fairly big cog fairly outboard with a 12-spd derailleur designed around a 51/52. Not as easy with older derailleurs.

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fartymarty
fartymarty
4 months ago
+1 Andrew Major

I'm using a Zee / Saint at the mech.  I will probably use a 36 as the low gear with a 30t chainring (I have a WT stainless 30t that is pretty fresh).  The 36t works as 2nd gear on my 11-42 - not sure how much further it will go out from there tho.

The aim is to reduce some weight and have less gear changes.

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SteveR
SteveR
4 months ago
+1 Andrew Major

More drivetrain nerdery. Love it.

Long live 10 Spd!

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
4 months ago
+1 bushtrucker

Or at least 10-speed converted to 8-speed! Hahahaha. I love the adult-Lego factor. Cheers!

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derek.richards
derek.richards
4 months ago
+1 Cr4w

Andrew... I absolutely love your techy articles! I read a similar article you wrote a few yrs ago about removing some rings for a 2x system and have been hoping to make up a 1x with a Deore Linkglide 10sp cassette (once finally available in North America) with a couple rings removed to improve the chainline... hoping this will be a very strong and durable setup. I currently have a nearly new GX Eagle setup that cam on my recently purchased used bike but I am so afraid of breaking it! I cringe every time it cracks and pops! 

Thanks for posting these nerdy articles!

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oldandfun
oldandfun
4 months ago
+1 Andrew Major

I converted an older dual suspension to single speed about four years ago. Great fun relearning tactics to get around the local trails with it and the simplicity is refreshing. After two summers riding it, I took my time collecting a brand new 1x10 drivetrain using the "mini-max" approach. Below is the cost of the Shimano 10-speed HG drivetrain I put together in the fall of 2020 for $131.92 USD. This entire drivetrain cost less than the XT 12 speed cassette alone I just bought for my other more modern bike! 

Zee 10-speed shifter = $22.99

HG-500 11-42T 10-speed cassette = $34.99

Deore 5120 clutch derailleur = $49.99

SLX HG601 11-speed chain w/ quick link = $23.95

** I am likely going to convert the older bike back to single speed because it was more fun to ride that way in the "it's different and challenging" sense... and I do have another bike with gears for longer adventures.

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mtbman99
mtbman99
4 months ago
+1 Andrew Major

I have been running hg forever and don't see a need to change. Currently on 11-51 Deore (12 speed derailleur 11sp shifter) and before that with sunrace cassettes. A bit heavy but I can buy a drivetrain for the price of most cassettes.

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
4 months ago
0

What prompted you to go with a Deore cassette rather than SunRace this time?

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Lynx
Lynx .
4 months ago
+1 Andrew Major

I'm going to guess it's the same reason as why I'd  probably go for the Deore as well, the all steel construction, especially for the big 51 cog. Wish they offered the 10-45 option in Deore all steel.

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
4 months ago
0

Deore over the rest of Shimano’s cassette lineup for sure. But aren’t all the SunRace cassettes all steel as well?

*Correction: some SunRace cassettes use aluminum low gears, but they have all steel 11-spd and 12-spd cassette options.

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mammal
Mammal
4 months ago
+1 Andrew Major

Yep, you can get both from Sunrace, and sticking with 11spd cogset (to go with the shifter) you'd think would be lighter than a 12spd Deore cassette.

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mtbman99
mtbman99
4 months ago
+1 Andrew Major

Steel cogs, availability, and wanted to give something else a try.  The sunrace shifting is pretty good but the shimano cassette shifts slightly better through out the range.

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craw
Cr4w
4 months ago
+1 Andrew Major

God I love this stuff. And yet don't experiment at all. Still using 32t NW ring, HG 11spd XT 11-42 cassette for cheap relatively long lasting convenience. I considered swapping to 12s last time I needed a complete drivetrain but the $300CAD price tag to upgrade my WR1 I9 Hydra driver to Microspline ended those plans. If I tried to pedal 30x52 I'd fall over. The benefits of running a 34t or 36t chainring on a 12s cassette might be worth it if I had long fast road miles between me and the trailhead. But I don't. So I didn't.

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
4 months ago
0

You could go 12-Spd if you wanted without converting to Micro Spline. You know how to shift a bike so HG+ would be of little/no up-front advantage.

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craw
Cr4w
4 months ago
+1 Andrew Major

I have zero desire to do that. I don't need closer gears, wider range, the tighter tolerances or higher prices. I'm sticking with XT M8000 11s 11-42 cassettes as long as they're available. It makes way more sense to me to make sure my suspension is well tuned, and more finely dial my bike's fit/ergonomics and get fitter on and off the bike.

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craw
Cr4w
4 months ago
0

This comment has been removed.

Lynx
Lynx .
4 months ago
+1 Andrew Major

Here's some bike nerdery for you to think about Andrew....Way back in the day (2008) I got a Hope SS hub so as to build the strongest 29er wheel I could and ran it with 6-7 cogs, depending on if I machined the alu carrier of an XT or not. This thought has come and gone for me over the years since, but would it be possible to get a custom machined axle made to extend it to be either a 148 or 157 wide hub, running a full length freehub body, but haven't really sat down in any programs to do any drawings or calculations to see if it would be possible.

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
4 months ago
0

Waltworks used to machine 9-speed XT cassettes (where 5-6 cogs were on the single aluminum carrier) to fit Chris King single speed hubs - which have uniform splines. Lots of people out there doing cool experiments… at least, enough that it was worth it for Walt to offer the service.

———

Chris Kings original 150/157mm hubs (there are two generations) share the same hubshell as their 135/142 single speed hub.

Certainly lots of opportunity to use existing stuff!

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Lynx
Lynx .
4 months ago
+1 Andrew Major

Yeah, think he caught onto the idea after a few of  us on MTBR started doing that. I used to manage to fit 6 easily on my Hope SS using the M760 XT cassette, could in a pinch, fit 7.

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
4 months ago
0

Hope SS is longer than King or my P321 I think. Currently playing with what I can fit on my P321 SS for use on my ‘commuter.’

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trumpstinyhands
trumpstinyhands
4 months ago
+1 Andrew Major

I have to ask......is "phooey" good or bad? I've only ever seen the word in this context ;) 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6dum1WJXJMA

There's something to be said for having a HG freehub and a friction shifter at the bottom of a drawer for emergencies (or two bikes, but one is significantly cheaper than the other).

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
4 months ago
+1 trumpstinyhands

Phooey = Nonsense with extra salt + vinegar.

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earleb
earle.b
4 months ago
+1 Andrew Major

I have a 10spd Microshift Advent-X 11-48t drivetrain here I need to get on a bike and see how it does. Kinda think I am going to mount it up rather than the new 11spd X01 I have hoarded away in the stash. 

10spd with the 11-48t just seems like it's the best balance gears and spread.

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andy-eunson
Andy Eunson
4 months ago
+1 Andrew Major

Right on. I’d rather see usable range in a 12 speed. Marketing sells us more range because that’s an easy metric. Like light weight or suspension travel. In theory, a 12 speed where you actually use the whole range will wear better as you spread that wear over 12 cogs. I’m running Eagle XO1 and I’m not seeing much wear. I would have replaced the three season old cassette last season but there were none. The old road racer in me wonders why we don’t have cassettes available in various ranges. I also don’t have issues with my chain line.

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tashi
tashi
4 months ago
+1 Andrew Major

Don’t know if the is is totally relevant but I thought I’d share my recent discovery with the drivetrain nerds out there:

Microsoft now does wide range, clutch-equipped drivetrains in 8, 9, 10 AND 11-speed now!

https://www.microshift.com/products/groups/advent-x/

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maximum-radness
Maximum Radness
4 months ago
+1 Andrew Major

I might add that single speed was king for a reason and then I moved to Colorado and all but quit that garbage. Then I started messing with manually shifting my old SS Bike and it opened all kinda of weird trail experiences up. 

WEIRD TRAIL EXPERIENCE IS THE SOUL OF MTB!!!!

Where should I shift back to my 18t?

When should I put my seatpost back to full hight?

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D4nderson
D4nderson
4 months ago
+1 Andrew Major

My 2019 Instinct BC came with NX cassette (HG) and GX everything else, kind of lucked out. At the time (right before the shortage) I was thinking to myself "hmm should I ditch the HG and get newer standard shimano or sram"? I didn't end up switching anything out as I wanted to keep the large steel ring and beefy cassette which has performed very well considering the heavier weight (I don't notice the weight really). The only thing driving me crazy is the cassette is eating the driver body and its linked to a DT swiss 370 hub.

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
4 months ago
+1 D4nderson

The new guts for the DT 370 (previous 350 guts) are far, far, superior, and certainly worth the upgrade if the rest of your wheel is in good condition. 

I'll take some freehub wear as part of the deal, but certainly the XD and MS freehubs don't get bitten quite the same way.

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D4nderson
D4nderson
4 months ago
+1 Andrew Major

Very interesting, I should look into the upgrade. Do you know if there is a specific kit? I love these articles as tinkering is almost as fun as riding. Love the content!

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
4 months ago
+1 D4nderson

Cheers!

Yes, there is a package - it's called the Ratchet LN Kit

I would recommend having a shop install it, versus buying the necessary drive-ring installation and removal tools. I've had some 370 hubs fight very hard to hold on to their drive-rings (which also need to be removed to replace the driveside hubshell bearing) to the point that I had the wheel strapped to a fixed-in-place Park stand, a blow torch, and a disgustingly long breaker bar. One of those jobs just better left to someone with the tools, space, and experience.

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D4nderson
D4nderson
4 months ago
+1 Andrew Major

Sounds like good advice!! thanks!

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j_from_Belgium
j_from_Belgium
4 months ago
+1 Andrew Major

At the risk of sounding very stupid: when you speak of 'spacers', are those single speed spacers? Or what do you use for 8-speeding your 10-speed?

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
3 months, 3 weeks ago
+1 Brandon Sommerfeld

I have a pile of spacers. From years of single speeding. The ones I used here are from Wheels Manufacturing. Standard cassette spacers work great too.

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j_from_Belgium
j_from_Belgium
3 months, 3 weeks ago
+1 Brandon Sommerfeld

Thanks!

I'm only just getting into understanding chainlines and why you would (not) follow manufacturer's chainline recommendations depending on your usecase.

These articles are helping out greatly with that, thanks for writing them!

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253Nick
Nick Seavello
4 months ago
+1 Andrew Major

Loved this article. In the garage right now, I have:

A wheel with a GX 10-52 cassette waiting for my Highlander to cross the pond.

An Intense Sniper T run in singlespeed mode which is so much fun to ride—using the Problem Solvers Zinger to run one cog on the XD freehub.

An 1998? Fisher hardtail that I’m going to attempt to make into a 9 speed using a collection of modern/semi modern Sram / Shimano parts. And if that doesn’t work, the thumb shifter I’ve never used might come into play.

Thanks for the inspiration!

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rainozeros
rainozeros
3 months, 3 weeks ago
+1 Brandon Sommerfeld

I have been riding 5 gears last season. I found it to be working quite well since I have always been bothered by the many gears I had to shift over to get to the right one. Why not skip all the sh*t inbetween and get to the right gear immediatly? 

I agree it might not be for everyone but trying is better than philosophizing…

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B_Badonde
Harry Barnard
4 months ago
0

This comment has been removed.

Endurimil
Endurimil
3 months, 3 weeks ago
0

Andrew, Just did a drivetrain swap a week and a half ago on the Wideangle.  8 speed rear cassette with thumbshifter. Don't really notice any difference between it and the 10 speed had on earlier. Though would say that depending on where one lives and terrain the gearing will be different to meet those needs.

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recyclingday
Brandon Sommerfeld
4 weeks, 1 day ago
0

I have also been flirting with the world of chain-line improvements after ripping off two rear mechs recently during the most intense g-outs (one was a good rim dent, dd dhr2 + cushcore @ 26.5). Chain had been finding its way off the 50t, towards the inboard side with the spokes.

In an attempt to improve the 50t performance of my sram nx cassette / nx chain / deore m6100 rear mech / deore shifter, I have removed two cogs from a nx pg1230 casette, effectively bringing the 50t around .300" further outboard. There is a considerable immediate improvement to 50t stability, along with the chain-line being visibly better.

As a few others have mentioned above, having a larger skip in ratio isn't really a negative. Its kind of obvious the cassette tooth-form isn't design for the larger jumps, but it works fine. It also surely is a reliability improvement so I'm stoked.

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