Ask Nick: Proof that running an 11-32 on Ultegra Di2 is possible

Plus: loud freewheels, how the pros keep their shoes fresh and clean and if pros train fixed in the off-season

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Editor’s Note: VeloNews tech editor Nick Legan is a former ProTour mechanic who most recently wrenched for Team RadioShack at the 2010 Tour de France and elsewhere. His column appears here every Thursday. You can submit questions to Nick at, and be sure to check out Nick’s previous columns.
I found Wayne Stetina’s setup using a 12-32 cassette with his Di2 setup very interesting. Can you tell me what cassette model  he was using? [Ultegra, DA, Tiagra, etc.?]  I can find a Tiagra 12-30, but for a road 12-32 I have to go to SRAM… and I doubt Wayne is using that.

— Antonio Salerno

Wayne recommends taking a 10-speed XT cassette and replacing the 11, 12, 14 with the 12, 13, 14 from a road cassette. With that and a 52-36 chainring set up, he gets really smooth shifting. Again, Stetina warns that this won’t work on every bike. Chainstay and dropout lengths vary a lot among different manufacturers. So be careful when trying this.

We’ve also heard of mechanics taking the longer GS cage off of Ultegra 6700 derailleurs and bolting them onto Dura-Ace Di2 or 7900 mechanical rear derailleurs. This will allow a 50-34 compact crank and a 12-34 cassette.

In the video shown here, I used a SRAM Apex 11×32 cassette on an Ultegra Di2 bike. The crank is a standard 53-39. Just play close attention to chain length. Works like a charm!

Why are high-end, “modern day” freewheels so darn loud?  The  
Regina on my vintage Masi is silent and works great.  Do the pro teams use these super loud freewheels and what must the peloton sound like  
when all the riders are coasting?

— Eric Ching

Modern freehub bodies are louder because they use larger diameter engagement rings and more pawls. More pawls means more clicks per revolution. Carbon rims also act as sounding boards (disk wheels are particularly loud) and amplify the sound of the hub.

The peloton is often loud, but it’s usually from riders chatting away or laboring with their own breath, or helicopters or cars or motorcycles… Not that riders can hear any of those things with the radio in their ears (that’s a joke).

How do pros keep such pristine bike shoes?  Multiple pairs? A saintly soigneur?  What’s the secret to cleaning them quickly so they’re ready for tomorrow’s epic ride? Especially on a multiple day race?  Julien Absalon’s look straight out of the box!

— Rick Fuentes

Some soigneurs will help a rider out with it, but mostly it’s the riders who clean them. Pros certainly have more than one pair, but they rarely switch shoes mid stage race. That said, every rider has a spare pair in the team car, following behind in case a cleat or buckle breaks.

On rest days, riders will come by the team truck and use the mechanics’ wash bucket to scrub them clean. Chris Horner, always the consummate pro, stopped by the truck on the rest day in Morzine at last year’s Tour. Horner was ready to get his hands dirty, but Glenn Fant, one of the mechanics, helped him out.

Other riders use cleaning wipes to clean them on the bus before a stage start. This keeps them looking good without soaking them for the day’s race. ArmorAll wipes work well, or a paper towel and some 409 cleaner. Keep stylin’!

Since you are so adept at answering “off topic” questions I wanted to ask if any of the pros engage in off-season fixed gear training.  Or is this something simply for hippies and guys that used to race in wool shorts?

— Mike Desmelik

I’m not sure how many pros go fixed for training, but there are certainly some. Dave Zabriskie had a fixed gear time trial bike that he trained on around Girona in 2009. Tyler Hamilton also did some pretty epic rides on a fixed gear in his day.

Mostly though, the fixie has become the domain of the urban hipster. So make sure that you differentiate yourself from them by shaving any facial hair that could be construed as ironic (that’s also a joke).

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