Technical FAQ: Cassette options, crank sizes, and more

This week, Lennard Zinn answers readers' questions about the size of cassettes and cranks, rubbing chains, and more

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Larger cassette options

Dear Lennard,
I’m riding Shimano 9000 with 50/34 and 11/28 on a Litespeed Tuscany. I went to the Garrett County Gran Fondo in Maryland a couple of weekends ago and got creamed. I was only able to do 50 miles and 7000 feet. There was some really steep stuff! I am 62 years old. Do I have any options for a larger cassette cog and a longer derailleur cage? I did the Horribly Hilly Hundred in Wisconsin the previous weekend and was fine.
— DeWayne

Dear DeWayne,
You could get a SRAM 1170 or 1190 11-speed cassette in 11-32. You could try maxing out your b-screw on your existing Dura-Ace 9000 derailleur to see if it will shift it. It may require removing the b-screw and turning it around so the head of it contacts the tab on the rear derailleur hanger of the dropout. You will also need a longer chain.

Eventually, I imagine Ultegra will be available in an 11-speed triple configuration. At that time, you could buy an Ultegra 11-speed triple rear derailleur and interchange its jockey wheel cage with the cage on your Dura-Ace 9000 derailleur. Then you could run it with the b-screw in a more standard adjustment position. It will of course require a longer chain yet.
― Lennard

Compact or triple?

Dear Lennard,
My first race cycle was a Shimano Ultegra with 52-42-20 on 12-27t. I prefer riding this cycle as it has the all rounder edge. My newer race cycle is a Scott Addict (to help me climb). SRAM Force Compact 50/34 with 11-28t. I got this in October 2011.

On the triple bike I love how much faster I can go downhill the 52 t12 is fantastic. However, the new Addict with 50 t11 gearing is slower on downhills.

Problem: Downhill speed seems far less on the Addict the SRAM Force small crank 34 on t11 helps climb, as it’s steep.

What would you think of the 52/36 (32-11 wifli) on t32 cog be like a 50/34 on a 28 cog? Or would the climbing be even easier?

I will consider the WiFli SRAM Red on the rear with an 11-32 SRAM Red cassette, it seems a good idea. Should I go for the SRAM Red 22? Or would this mean having to change the shifters and front derailleur?

My current SRAM Force crank length is 172.5 on the BB30.

Summary of what I am contemplating:
1. 52/36 Crank SRAM Red (your guidance)
2. SRAM Red WiFli Aero Glide (medium cage)
3. 11-32 Cassette XG 1099 on a 10 Speed cassette
4. (I already have a chain with 260kms on it, its a SRAM for 10 Speed)

To confirm this is all I need to swap out SRAM Force and add more Speed on downhills but also help on climbing?
— Niaz

Dear Niaz,
I suggest you look at a gear chart or use a gear calculator. That would answer a lot of your questions.

If your Scott with the 50 X 11 high gear is slower on the downhills than your Ultegra triple bike with a 52 X 12 high gear, it’s not because of the gearing, as you seem to be implying. A simple look at a gear chart will show you that the high gear on the Scott is higher (125 inches vs. 119 inches on the Ultegra bike).

And the chart will also reveal that a 36 X 32 low gear is lower (30 inches) than a 34 X 28 (33 inches).

If you want to go to SRAM 22, obviously you would need a new shifter, chain, cogset and rear derailleur, because it is 11-speed, and your Force is 10-speed.

Yes, going to a 36 X 52 with an 11-32 WiFli cogset will give you a higher top gear and lower low gear than you currently have. You will need a longer chain and a mid-cage rear derailleur in 10-speed. You are certainly welcome to upgrade the entire crank to the SRAM Red you mention, or you can simply buy a pair of chainrings and put them on your existing crank.
― Lennard

Chain rub on chainstay

Dear Lennard,
I have a 5-year-old SLC01 BMC frame with Campy Record 10 and Easton components and wheels (EA90SL) — this was a BMC team bike that was not used during the 2008 season. After riding the bike for many miles and changing between my three wheelsets countless times, I recently began to notice that my chain comes in contact with the drive-side chain stay when back-pedaling. Closer inspection showed that my cassette lock ring is rubbing on the inside of the dropout every so slightly. I removed the wheel and inspected the frame. The area where the axle contacts the dropout is slightly indented from the pressure by the QR. It is enough that the lock ring on my EA90SL wheel touches the frame. The frame hasn’t been damaged from this, but I want to remedy the problem immediately. My first thought is to find a way to extend the axle cap very slightly so that it protrudes out from the cassette a small amount more. After taking the hub/cassette apart and inspecting how it is assembled, I’m not sure how to do that.

What suggestions do you have?

The cassette lockring on my other wheels (both Mavic Ksyrium SLs) are ever so close to the frame, but not yet touching, so I’m riding those wheels for the time being, but would like to use the Eastons too. My other thought was to use a sander on the lock ring to make it thinner, which for geometry reasons would be the best answer, but I’m not sure how thin I can make it and still be safe.

I have sent several e-mails to Easton technical help but received no response.
— Bill

Dear Bill,
First off, you could just get a flatter lockring that comes with the Easton wheels, rather than grinding yours down.

Next suggestion, if that one is insufficient, is to simply stack a thin spacer against the end of your axle. It will slow your wheel changes, and if it causes your wheel to be off-center, you may need to put another one on the other side as well. If you have indented one or both dropouts from frequent wheel changes, this may not cause any spreading of your chainstays on insertion of your wheel. You’d just have to try and see what happens.
― Lennard

More on tubeless road tire mounting

Dear Lennard,
In response to the writers having trouble mounting tubeless tires, I also had extreme trouble mounting tubeless tires on Dura-Ace tubeless rims, and once mounted I had trouble pumping them up due to air leakage. Then I switched to Stan’s Alpha 340 road rims. I can now mount the same tires easily by hand without soap suds as Stan says in his video, and with a few strokes of my floor pump the beads seal easily. I think it is because his rims have a deeper channel in the center of the rim and a flatter table where the beads can seal even before they pop into place.

Just as a side note, I flatted, hissed, and sealed in seconds at Ironman Louisville (tacks) last year and 70.3 St. Croix (rocks and gravel from rain) this year and finished third and first in my age group, respectively. I’ll never go back to tubes.

The only reason I use tubeless is because way back when … you said you used them. Thanks! Because of your advice I got a slot to Kona.
— Andrew

Dear Lennard,
Tubeless tires often require more leverage getting the bead over the rim than many plastic or metal core tire levers can handle. JH in your recent column seems to have problem here. I broke several lever varieties before I tried the Quick Stik, which is durable plastic and long-handled. You only need one of these levers.

Also, pumping with a floor pump through the valve stem with the core removed will allow more air to move faster and have a better chance of seating the bead for the first time.
— JP

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.