Jim’s Tech Talk
By Jim Langley
At Road Bike Rider, we have a special service called Ask The Coach. It allows roadies to ask any of our experts almost anything and receive a personal reply from an RBR editor if they are a premium member. Even if you’re not a premium member, we do our best to answer, or might respond to it in the form of a column.
Having direct access to our coaches and contributors is one of the coolest features of being a member. And, while I can’t speak for the entire staff, I bet everyone feels like I do – that it’s a privilege to have your confidence and super satisfying when we can solve a technical problem, help heal an injury or demystify something confusing. (If you’d like to learn more about member benefits or sign up, go here.)
Every now and then, though, a questions will arrive that mystifies us. I thought it might be helpful and interesting to walk you through how we try to answer these types of questions. This one even packs a surprise. And, since gearing is such a popular topic, you might actually be able to offer some help. Feel free to chime in with your advice in the comments.
A member named “John” asked
Here’s the complete question, which RBR chief Lars Hundley forwarded to me:
“I’m rebuilding a Serotta Ottrott Ti frame. For some dumb reason I bought a SRAM Red groupset years ago. I felt it would fit onto this frame. Apparently, I have no idea what size gear would fit this frame. The rear derailleur doesn’t reach the largest gear. Need help.”
Lars thought about it and added this note in his forwarded email to me:
“I wonder if he means that Red maxes out for the cassette size on his bike. I think old SRAM Red maxes out at 28 teeth with a short cage derailleur. Maybe he’s trying to make it work with a 32 tooth largest cog, or something. Because he says “years ago” which makes me think it was before they even made the long cage.”
Pieces of the Puzzle
There’s nothing I like better than a good bike puzzle so I started thinking about the facts of John’s situation. He seemed to think his Serotta Ottrott was part of the problem, but that’s unlikely. Most road frames even going back many years – can handle modern derailleurs and gearing.
Still, I had some nice conversations with Ben Serotta when I was an editor at Bicycling Magazine. And I knew lots of fast roadies who swore by his bikes. So, I thought even if it didn’t help me with John’s question, it would at least be fun to check out an Ottrott.
And, guess what? When I Googled the model of the bike, the number one link was to our very own Coach Fred Matheny’s RBR review of an Ottrott from way back in 2003! You can read it here.
Coach gave the Ottrott, which he explains is pronounced “Oh-troh,” a rave 5-star review. And, seeing the photo, I remembered that it was actually a carbon and titanium frame, not only titanium.
But, as fun as the trip down memory lane was, none of this helped me answer John’s question. It was great to catch up a bit with Ben on his new bicycle website, though: https://www.serottadesignstudio.com/.
Next, thinking of what Lars wrote about the first SRAM Red rear derailleur capacity, I tried to remember when that first Red component group launched but couldn’t. So I turned to the SRAM history page and learned that the year was 2008.
I got nowhere, however, trying to determine the largest cog that that first SRAM Red rear derailleur could handle. There are oodles of stories about the debut of Red, yet nothing I could find stated the rear derailleur cog capacity.
Still, from John’s question, I realized it was safe to assume two things: 1. He has a SRAM Red rear derailleur; and 2. It doesn’t shift up onto the largest cassette cog on his bike. So, I agreed with what Lars said about the derailleur maxing out on too large a cog.
That conclusion let me think about the puzzle in a new light. I had been thinking that he’d need a different rear derailleur with a longer cage to accept his too-large largest cog. But, it bothered me that John said he felt dumb for buying that Red derailleur that didn’t fit. I’ve done stuff like that, too. I started thinking about workarounds rather than expensive new derailleurs.
And, that’s when I remembered Wolf Tooth’s RoadLink, an ingenious adapter that simply screws into the derailleur hanger providing a lower mounting position for the rear derailleur (and only costs $21.95).
The RoadLink has the effect of allowing whatever rear derailleur you have to accept significantly larger cassette cogs. You can learn more and purchase the RoadLink here.
Having only recently reviewed Wolf Link’s equally ingenious Pack Hanger Alignment Tool I probably should have thought of them and their drivetrain accessories first. But, I was too distracted by John’s cool Ottrott and SRAM’s high-tech Red derailleurs.
I haven’t personally tested the RoadLink on an Ottrott with SRAM’s first Red rear derailleur, but I think there’s an excellent chance that it’ll get John back on the road with some easier gearing – and for only $21.95.
Ride total: 9,331
larry english says
seems like it would have to make the derailleur higher, not lower
there are so many hangers though, how does it fit every frame?
Jim Langley says
I am not sure the RoadLink will fit every frame, but hanger shapes where the derailleur attaches do not vary all that much. So, I bet it fits most modern hangers. If in doubt, I recommend checking with Wolf Tooth to make sure.
The RoadLink extends the hanger making it longer, that’s how it lowers the derailleur. Hope that makes sense.
Thanks for the comment!
Chuck Procner says
I too thought of the Road Link having attacked a similar problem recently. Additionally, chain length may also be a culprit. One or two links can make a world of difference.
donald ostertag says
Jim Langley says
Yes, good thought about the chain length, Chuck. Thanks for mentioning that!
Steve Andruski says
No one mentioned adjusting the B-angle screw. A longer cage version might not fix the problem, since the position of the upper pulley wheel is the thing that determines the largest cog. I would look at how close the upper pulley wheel is to the cassette and see if the B-angle can be adjusted enough.
That Wolf Tooth adapter is a nice idea that could come in handy. Thanks for that tip. Could come in handy for a 2×10 setup I’m working on with a 40-tooth low cog.
Jim Langley says
Thanks for pointing out the importance of the “B” screw adjustment, Steve. The folks at Wolf Tooth are helpful. I think if you called them and told them about your new setup, they might be able to tell you how well the RoadLink will work with it. That way you wouldn’t have to return it if it didn’t do the trick. Thanks for your comment!
Since Shimano abandoned the triple crank, to compensate for the lost gearing range, on my new (in 2016) Trek Emonda I got a semi-compact double crank and used an 11-42 cassette in back. A Wolftooth hanger extension allowed the derailleur to clear the cassette. I think it also increased the torque on the existing hanger, which broke. Luckily I was going slowly when the sudden stop occurred as the derailleur jammed between the spokes and rear seat stay. After that close call and a $2,500 repair bill, never again will I use a hanger extension.
Jim Langley says
Thanks for sharing what happened to you, Jerome. $2,500! It might have been the added leverage of the longer hanger, but it might be that the hanger got bent. Usually when the derailleur goes into the spokes, that’s what can cause the hanger to get torn off. But, either way, I’m sorry it happened to you.
Ron Wagner says
I use a road link . Allowed me to add a 32 cog. Another solution to go even lower: Wolftooth makes an adjuster to allow use of a Deore MTB cassette 11-42 with road shifters called tape on. You need a long cage deraileur and will need a new cassette. Rode with 2 people who use this and they rave about it.
Jim Langley says
Thanks for sharing that great tip, Ron!
Ralph Barone says
Was there a rule against calling up the guy who asked the question and asking for more information? That would have been the start of my investigation.
Jim Langley says
That’s a great question, Ralph. Most of the time emails come through our online form not through email. So, signatures that might automatically be provided in an email (and that often include phone numbers) are not included when the questions are received at RBR global headquarters in Dallas, Texas. All we have is a return email address and that doesn’t always work.
We always reply directly to the person asking the question. So, I could have asked John more details. In this case, though, there was a time crunch to get the story done before I left on vacation. So I chose to run with his question – with my attempt at an answer – and seek help from RBR experts. I think the comments received are always helpful and I bet John appreciates your tips as much as we do here at RBR.
Hope that explains and thanks for your feeback!
John White says
I love my Road Link. It’s important to remember though that the Road Link doesn’t expand the tooth capacity of any derailleur, it’s primary function is to place the derailleur farther away from the cassette.
I have a 2006 Lemond Buenos Aires with Ultegra 2 X 10 using a 34 tooth cassette and its works great.
However, I see that this also places the derailleur farther away from it’s normal mount and like any lever, can place much more force on the original hanger due to this. I have found that if you do not very carefully monitor this set up, you can create many devestating and expensive problems like needing a new frame for example.
All in all though,it is a great product, very robust and well designed and manufactured. Keep tooth capacity in mind when installing one of these and completely check out chain travel and derailleur position before riding then enjoy!!
Richard Fantom says
SRAM website makes it quite clear. Short cage is for max 11-28t. For the 30 or 32 tooth cassettes you need the mid cage (wifli).
I would like to add to this in case anyone is searching it
On a 2 x 10 gearset you will get chainslack using the adapter.
Great idea if you are aware of the limitations but because you are still using a short cage, the chain tension will go after the 4th largest cog. The slack will allow the chain to slip at the back.