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.
Jim Langley is RBR’s Technical Editor. He has been a pro mechanic and cycling writer for more than 40 years. He’s the author of Your Home Bicycle Workshop in the RBR eBookstore. Check out his “cycling aficionado” website at http://www.jimlangley.net, his Q&A blog and updates at Twitter. Jim’s streak of consecutive cycling days has reached more than 8,000. Click to read Jim’s full bio.