Jim’s Tech Talk
Ride total: 8,849
Your Tips on Customizing Cassette Gearing
Last week, we ran a tech Q & A, based on a question from reader Tom Lowry, who asked whether it’s possible to use cassette gearing combinations other than what’s available from the usual suspects, such as Shimano, Sram and Campagnolo. He wasn’t happy with his Shimano 11-32 cassette and wanted to customize it by changing out the 11 for a 12 and adding a 30-tooth cog between his 28 and 32.
You can read the original question and answer here.
Before the Q & A was published, I heard back from Tom, who thanked us for answering and continued, “Hopefully a cassette solution will come soon. FYI – my old cyclocross bike is now my gravel bike. I changed out the crank to a Praxis Alba 48/32 https://praxiscycles.com/product/alba-m30/ and the cassette to a 12-30. With Ultegra 6700 derailleurs, this setup has been a good solution.“
Nice way to get the gearing more to your liking, Tom. Good job. As one takes their road riding to the gravel, custom gearing for the bicycle and the gravel roads travelled makes a lot of sense because it takes more effort to ride the rough stuff.
Once the Q & A ran, we received 14 comments with a lot more ideas for Tom on how he could actually customize his cassette. Thanks for sharing! Let’s look at some of your clever solutions:
Drilling out the cassette cog carrier rivets
In my answer to Tom, I mentioned how the largest cogs on cassettes are usually riveted onto a carrier, which means you can’t simply separate and replace them individually.
So, it was nice to hear from “Tom” in Minnesota who provided a link to a blog post where he shows how he drills out the rivets so he can remove and replace the individual cassette cogs on the carrier.
Miche makes individual cassette cogs
Then, three readers recommended Miche cassette cogs. Chris VandenBossche wrote,
“Miche makes Shimano-compatible cassettes made of individual cogs and they can be configured for more even gearing spacing. Here’s a link.
Doug Kirk agrees. He explained, “I have purchased and put thousands of trouble free miles on a Miche 11-speed cassette with Shimano Ultegra components because I have no use for an 11-tooth cog and use the 16-tooth lots. My choice is 12-13-14-15-16-17-19-21-24-27-30.”
And, “Downtown Dave” added his thumbs-up on Miche and also mentioned another advantage of having individual cogs.
He said, “I’ve run 9 and 10sp Miche cassette cogs for over six years, on several different bikes, in conjunction with Shimano, SRAM, and SunRace shifters and derailleurs, and a variety of chainrings. I can run whatever gear ratios I want with Miche. An incredible variety of cogs is available, typically in one-tooth increments, and they are reasonably priced and widely available (see photo of cog board).
I’m not a racer, but I ride a lot, over 7,500 miles a year, about twenty 100+ mile days per (Minnesota) season. The Miche cogs shift accurately and well. And when it comes to maintenance, I’d much rather clean a cassette that comes apart.”
That’s an excellent point about cleaning, Downtown Dave. A flat individual cog can be brushed and wiped clean quickly. The cogs on the carrier take much more effort.
A vote for 8-speed and another for Miche
Roadie David Frost chimed in with, “You can call me a retro-grouch, but I like 8-speed cassettes that are assembled from individual cogs. My “flat road gears” are single-tooth spaced with wider gaps at the low (more teeth) end.
Combined with my equally retro triple cranks, my gearing has worked well for rides throughout the highly varied terrain of the Pacific Northwest as well as Europe, from fast group rides and centuries+ to self-supported tours.
BTW, I don’t notice any shift degradation by mixing Shimano, SRAM (both brands from disassembled 7- or 8-speed cassettes) and Miche cogs.”
Thanks, Dave! You pointed out something I hadn’t thought of. Which is that if you’re willing to go back in time with your equipment to previous components (still available on eBay.com, etc.), you can find cassettes with individual cogs that are customizable.
A callout for today’s stock cassette options
Meanwhile, “Fixieguy,” doesn’t have a problem with what’s on the shelf today.
He explained, “A shift from 11T to 12T is 1/11 (9.09%) easier gear. A shift from 28T to 32T is 4/28 (14.3%) easier. If one had a 30T gear, from 28T to 30T would be only 2/28 (7.1%), less than the 11T to 12T change and not worth the difference in low gears. Cassette cogs increase in increments of 1, to 2 to 3 and then 4 teeth because as the cogs get bigger, the percent change decreases.
While a 4 tooth jump will feel significant in shifting down from e.g., a 12 to a 16 gear, shifting from 28 to 32 is considerably less significant. So I think that standard choices available make sense. That having been said, if I were to eliminate the 11 cog, like Tom wants, I’d prefer a cassette with 12,13,14,15,17,19,21,24,27,30,& 34 cogs. Using a 34T small chainring, a 34-34 gear would likely get me up anything.”
The last word goes to a roadie named “Bill,” who recommended a company called ActionTec. All Bill wrote was “Single cogs up to 39T and he provided the link. Curious, I followed the link and found that ActionTec makes titanium cassette cogs.
In case you haven’t purchased any titanium bicycle components, they are significantly more expensive than steel parts and much lighter. So you can build yourself a featherweight custom cassette if you don’t mind the price. One caveat, though, in my experience with ti cassette cogs, they didn’t last nearly as long as steel ones for me.
Very interesting. For the folks who buy the Miche parts, where do you order from? I am actually looking for a replacement middle chain ring (39 t) for a Duracell FC7803 triple. Can’t find them anywhere. List time I needed one I had to replace the entire crank-set for too much money. The biggest issue, as Sheldon Brown said “Instead of using a crankset with two sets of mounting holes, as with other modern triple sets, the 30 tooth chainring attaches to the 39 tooth ring, rather than to the crank itself”. Looks like Miche might carry what I need, even if I need to replace all 3 chain rings to insure performance. Any advice?
Jim Langley says
Here’s an online source, Mukiboy: https://www.modernbike.com/miche-cassette-cogs
I also had one of those Dura Ace FC7803 triple crank-sets and wore out the middle 39T chain-ring several years ago. I found that parts were no longer available. I found a 39T on eBay for around $90 and decided that wasn’t the way to go so purchased a new Sugino triple. crank-set. Since I only seem to use the 39T chain-ring, I’m thinking of converting to a 1X drivetrain.
Westly Windsor says
Im surprised no one mentioned the company IRD for specialist cassettes
Jim Langley says
Good one, Westly! I had forgot about IRD. Thanks for adding that tip!
Brian Nystrom says
For Miche parts, I just search online until I find what I need. Although I’m in the US, I often end up ordering from the UK or even continental European sources.
David Frost says
I get Miche single cogs from Universal Cycles (Universalcycles.com), who also carry complete Miche cassettes, freehub bodies and other parts. Unfortunately, they don’t show chain rings in that brand, although they do carry many other brands of rings. BTW, Universal is an excellent source for new and very inexpensive Shimano and SRAM 7- and 8-speed cassettes that I mentioned in last week’s comments as sources for loose cogs. They also have a Dimension and Sunrace cassettes that I haven’t tried.
I love my TA chainrings from Harris Cyclery. They are pricey but last a very long time.
Tom Lowry says
Thanks to all for the cassette information and ideas. I have found that, over the years, RBR has been a great source of information and often exceeds what I can get from the LBS(s). This is yet one more example.
Kerry Irons says
I actually collected some data on Ti cog wear. I had a Campy Record 9s cassette with the biggest cogs as Ti Then I got an all steel Veloce cassette with the same tooth set. The 18t was my standard flat land gear, and where I lived then was dead flat so I rode in that 18t a lot. The Ti cog lasted 1/3 as long as the steel cog.
Tom in MN says
Glad that I could help, but I’d like to clarify a couple of things:
The link is not to my blog, I just added a couple of comments at the bottom of that page.
Carriers for cogs must be avoided to build a custom cassette, so you need to know which models of cassettes (not the higher end ones) have separate cogs. Typically some of these cogs are still connected with rivets, but are stand alone cogs, so you can drill out the rivets. I even found an SRAM model that used a bolt instead. These models are listed in my comments on the page I gave the link for.
I’m still waiting for the snow to melt so I can go out and try the cassettes I put together this winter.
Alex Wood says
No one mentions issue with Shimano ramps on individual rings aligning for chain guidance when shifting. Once removed a ring to make space for a 12 tooth as highest gear. The shifting between 17 to 15 was terrible. Regretted not buying complete cassette with the range I wanted.