A few newsletters back, RBR author and contributor Coach Rick Schultz offered tips on expanding your gearing with WolfTooth’s Road Link (his article is in the form of a downloadable PDF, in case you missed it).
This week, we’re very pleased to add a related gearing tip from RBR founder Ed Pavelka. While he was recovering from hip replacement surgery, Ed recently purchased a custom Independent Fabrications randonneuring bike equipped with SRAM’s eTap wireless electric shifting components. He loves his IF and wrote to share how easy it was to go super low with his eTap gearing. Here’s what Ed wrote:
In hopes of taking strain off my new hip and my soon-to-be 72-year-old pistons, I thought it would be wise to lower the gearing on my randonnee-style bike.
The original build was with a SRAM 22-speed drivetrain – 46/36 chainrings and an 11-32 cassette. 32 is the max cog that the eTap “medium cage” rear derailleur can accept. Or so SRAM says.
I bought the WolfTooth Road Link derailleur hanger extender after reading Rick’s RBR article a few weeks ago. The plan was to us the Road Link to lower the mech so it could handle an 11-36 cassette and give me a tree-climbing 36×36 low gear. Not that that’s even remotely necessary in Florida, where I live most of the year. But, the lower the better for my annual visits to Pennsylvania and upstate New York.
Before going to work, I watched several YouTube videos about eTap installation, tips and tricks. I learned that the 32T max could be successfully exceeded even without a Road Link.
Sure enough! By turning the derailleur’s B-tension screw way in (SRAM provides a real long B screw), I got the recommended 6-mm of clearance between the top jockey wheel and the 36T. A longer chain was required, but nothing else. Shifting was spot-on in the work stand and on a test ride.
Every gear combo from small/small to big/big (in my case 36×11 to 46×36) is scrape- and rattle-free, with no need to trim the front derailleur. In fact, the eTap “yaw” movement is self-trimming, and it works.
The B screw was the key to the whole thing. SRAM makes 2 eTap rear derailleurs, a short-cage that it claims can take a max 28T cog and a “medium” cage that can take a 32T. Simply by running the B screw way in, on the medium-cage a 36T is easily accommodated, and it looks like a 40T might work, too, even without the Road Link. It probably won’t be too many more years before I’ll need to try that.
I guess the lesson here is not to take manufacturer limits as gospel.
However, in my case, I’m using 46/36 chainrings instead of the traditional compact 50/34. To get the chain length right I wrapped it directly around the 36T cog and the 46T ring (bypassing the rear derailleur), pulled the ends tight together and added 2 links. This meant cutting only 2 links from the new chain.
It makes me wonder what would happen if I did have a 50T big ring. Would a standard road chain be long enough to accommodate accidental shifts into the 50×36 cross-chain gear without jamming the rear derailleur? Would the chain be so long that it would overlap at the jockey wheels in the 34×11 opposite cross-chain? In other words, would rear derailleur capacity come into play?
It’s an art, not a science!
Thanks for sharing, Ed!
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.
Rick Burneson says
I have the shorter cage E-Tap derailleur and I’m using an 11-28 cassette. Do you think a 32t work with that
set up and an aggressive B-Setting?
Jim Langley says
Based on Ed’s experience I bet it will work, Rick, but the only way to know for sure with any derailleur and gearing change is to try it. Manufacturers typically put conservative numbers on their maximum sprocket sizes. And, part of whether or not a gearing change will work is the dimensions/design/shape of the derailleur hanger on the frame. I realize that you may not want to pay for a new cassette before knowing if it will work. To get around that you might see if any of your riding buddies have a cassette with a 32T you could borrow. Or, you could ask a bicycle shop to let you try one which you will return back in its packaging if it doesn’t work. That’s the best way to figure out if it’ll work. As Ed wrote, it’s more art than science. Good luck! Jim
Rick O says
I am running an 11-30 cassette on a short cage SRAM eTap equipped Pinarello Dogma F8 with no problems whatsoever. I haven’t tried an 11-32 but may have to do that.
Len P says
Thx. Rick O, I am running 11-28 on a short cage eTap on my and my wife’s bike. She will be over the moon happy if she can go to a 30 or 32 cog. Cheers;
John Schbert says
Great to hear from our old friend Ed!
Bob Hanlon says
I have a recently built custom Bill Holland Ti frame. Iit was built up with Sram E-tap medium cage. I’m running 52-36 on the front and an 11-36 on the rear. I love the ultra-wide range without having to go to a triple. The shifting has been absolutely flawless.
I have a Calfee tandem 3X10 speed, Ultegra STI + XTR, 28-37-52 and 11-34 cassette. I want to try 2X11 speed with the same or better low gear (needed!). Is this possible: 30-46 super compact, XTR rear (with TanPan), Ultegra, 11-36 cassette?
Im running a 34/50 chainring with a Etap short cage with 30T cassette. It works but sometimes i get some front/rear clash issues. Could you use a wolf Link with the short cage to up the cassette to a 32T. any advise appreciated.
Leon Hilfstein says
Hi, I have the eTap road system on a lovely Motobecane Le Champion CF Disc Inferno, hydraulic brakes, naturally. It came with an 11-32 cassette, medium cage, 50-34 up front. SRAM insists that this is the ultimate cassette for this system. I was hoping to move to a lower gearing for climbing as I did this with my other carbon frame bike using Ultegra 6800 with success. If you haven’t guessed, I am a senior bike enthusiast. After reading this article I determined that increasing to an 11-34 cassette would be a benefit since I love the wireless process and there are several challenging rides coming up this spring and summer. I went with a Shimano 11-34 cassette that I had extra. The change required some experimentation with adjustment of the B screw as I was unsure how far in it needed to be turned. I finally settled on the screw turned nearly to the end stop, then backed out until gears changed smoothly. I did not see the need to add links to the original chain as there appeared to be normal chain tension. Testing this arrangement on the work stand produces smooth changing with one gear occasionally lagging but not hanging up. I’m still experimenting with the B screw adjustment, The final step will be after weather permits me to ride outside (10 deg. F this morning) for a lengthy test..
Leon Hilfstein says
I have rethought using an 11-34 cassette and went back to the 11-32. It seemed that certain combinations would not run smoothly, jumping back and forth between gears. I tried different b-screw settings to no avail. I did not try to micro adjust those gears as the SRAM service manual directs when needing to make a gear combination run smoother. An experienced bicycle tech looked at my setup and was unable to successfully adjust. My solution is to adhere to the velominati rule #5, that is, to harden the f _ _ _ up. I may attempt to try again sometime in the future after I get comfortable with micro-adjustments. The original setup always worked perfectly so I didn’t want to do anything at this time that would require extensive re-calibration.. Not during prime riding season. Any suggestions would be welcomed.
Leon Hilfstein says
OK, I followed my intuition, re-read this article and thought through what I had experienced. I paid more attention to chain length as I couldn’t find any other aspect of my work to identify a fatal error. Meanwhile I purchased an 11-36 SRAM cassette (1170) in case I wanted to venture a change. BTW, I have those same legendary 72 year old legs and do a lot of climbing here in the northeast. So, today was the day to follow to the letter recommendations in this article. Fortunately I had on hand a brand new Wipperman 11SX to try. After some experimentation it was clear that I did not need to shorten the chain right out of the package, since my crank is a compact 50/34 it ran true. I turned the B screw all the way to the end. Everything fit perfectly, acceptable clearance of the rear unit and no more skipping as of this writing. I took a very short spin on my road after bench testing and am satisfied that everything is in order. I follow my motto to never give up, never give in.
I’ve been running the SRAM eTap WiFli derailleur on my Devinci Hatchet now for about a year, and have successfully run it with 50/34 chainrings (Rotor crankset) and an 11-36 SRAM cassette. I am also using the Kogel oversized derailleur pulley wheels which helps make it smoother. I think I had to remove just one link from the standard SRAM Red 22 chain. I’ve just received the 46/30 chainring for the crankset and plan to run this as my standard set-up on this bike with the 11-36 SRAM cassette, as it is my gravel bike. Previously, it had been doing everything from road to gravel, but a new road bike is coming, so I can dedicate this to just gravel. Prior to putting on the Rotor crankset, I had been running with a 46/30 Shimano 105 + Absolute Black crankset with no problems.
I’m planning a bikepacking trip here in Ontario in mid-July, which will be mostly off road and with a fair bit of trail riding, so am going to see if I can get the set up to run with the 46/30 crankset and an 11-40T Shimano cassette. I’m hoping to run it without the roadlink, but have one just in case. Will post once I have tinkered a bit, but this forum has definitely been helpful.
Hi. Did you simply add the Kogel pulleys to the existing derailleur cage or replace the cage assembly as well? Thanks Mark
Phil Young says
Finally some GREAT NEWS on SRAM lower Gears for etap AXS!
I’ve been talking to SRAM product managers for over 2 years about this and finally it is here.
SRAM Force AXS “Wide” Group with 43 / 30t chainrings and 10 – 36t cassette
Most road race bike gearing is just too hard to push.
SRAM finally made a group set that average riders can actually push the pedals up steep hills and have a fast top end: 114 gear-inch to 22 gear-inch
It’s about time we had modern lower road and gravel gear sets with AXS.
SRAM Force AXS “Wide” Group – Road and Gravel
cnt 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
t 10 11 12 13 15 17 19 21 24 28 32 36
43 114 103 95 88 76 67 60 54 47 41 36 32
30 79 72 66 61 53 47 42 38 33 28 25 22
The crank spindle is 2.5mm/2.5mm wider for using larger width tires. Smoother riding for both road and gravel bikes.
Hopefully, we will see road and gravel bikes in the stores soon with this new SRAM etap AXS Wide Group.
Aye-Htun Ohn says
Have you tried the 40T yet? I am a paracyclist. I recently got myself this same eTap derailleur. Running of 11-36 Cassette but I would like to try 40T cog as well. My Chainring is 50/39, so 40T on the cassette would be a dream. Otherwise I will have to see if I should run 50/36
Ted Seyler says
I am currently looking for 11 speed sram red etap blip box for an aero setup.. If anyone has one and would like to sell it please contact me at [email protected]
Seth Stingley says
Hey guys, does anyone know if red etap 11 speed can fit an 11-42t sram casssette?
Leon Hilfstein says
Based on my experience with 11-36 with a red etap, I may venture a guess that a 42 tooth might work. That is quite a jump, however, so, proceed with caution. You might want to look at pulley wheel size. Mine was a medium and it presented gear jumping and shifting issues until I replaced with an oversize set.
Leon Hilfstein says
Hi, Its been a long pandemic haul with a lot of solitary riding. I’m using the SRAM 11-36 with success after adding a large pulley wheel set. It seems that the large pulley wheels smooth out all gears on both the 50 and 34 and eliminate any extra chain related noises. These seem to have a positive effect on chain tension across the gear range. This is my observation and experience over two years.