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