Say you have a Strada and are planning a trip to a very mountainous area. Or say you LIVE in a very mountainous area and want to add some 1x simplicity to your cycling life. Here is now to do it.
1×11 mountain goat solutions
This applies to Stradas with Force 1×11 (Strada Pro, Strada Team Force1, etc). They come standard with an 11-36T cassette, great for flat and hilly areas but if it gets super-steep, you may want something more.
Option 1 – Reduce the chainring: This is the lamest option, but I do want to mention it once again because sometimes we let our egos get in the way of the simplest and best solutions. Do we really need that biggest gear? 50×11 is pretty big when you consider people win the Tour de France on 53×11. And they have traffic-free roads, have domestiques, and put out a hundred or more Watts beyond mere mortals.
Even for the descents, the advantage of having a large top gear is limited. If your terminal velocity on a descent is 50mph/80kph, you won’t be pedaling anyway. The top gear only determines at what point you can stop spinning, you’ll keep accelerating regardless. That last little push with the bigger top gear provides just a small advantage, after that any gear is rendered useless.
I have a gravel bike with 34×11 as my biggest gear. Even when I ride that on the road, I rarely miss having a bigger gear (sometimes I do of course, but it’s surprisingly rare). At 120rpm it gets me to 45kph, more than enough. Beyond that, I’ll just enjoy the scenery as gravity pulls me towards that 80kph.
I’m not suggesting you go down to a 34T, but there is room to reduce your top gear and gain a much more useful bottom gear. Maybe you could run 46×11 or 44×11 as your biggest gear, or even 40×11. These options would immediately give you an 8%, 12% and 20% smaller smallest gear too.
Option 2 – Increase the cassette range: If you don’t want to reduce your top gear, this is your solution. Sounds simple, but there is some good-old hacking involved. That is to say, you get to do something that the main powers in the bike industry (Shimano & SRAM) don’t want you to do, but it doesn’t actually require any fiddling. So it’s “hacking for lazy people” or more cycling-appropriate: “hacking for riders in a recovery phase”.
What are the options for 11-speed cassettes? The 11-36T standard cassette is great, but there are wider cassettes available: 9-32T, 9-36T, 11-40T, 11-42T, 10-42T even. The first two are a little counter-intuitive as their biggest cogs aren’t bigger than you have already. but the smallest cogs are 18.2% smaller so you can really cut down on the size of your chainring, which helps your smallest gear without giving up your top gear.
The other options all offer a “bigger biggest cog” so clearly that gives you a smaller gear even without changing the chainring. But the rear derailleur you have on your 1×11 road bike is a so-called medium cage derailleur, meaning the maximum cog it can handle is 36T. That may make going with a bigger cassette sound like an expensive proposition – except it isn’t!
A medium cage derailleur with a 10-42 cassette? No problem!
We’ve been testing all sorts of combinations in the lab and on the road, and this is what we found. With a medium cage SRAM Force1 cassette, rated for 36T max cogs, you can shift all of the aforementioned wide range cassettes, if you take good care of the chain length and derailleur setup.
|SRAM||11-36||327%||Standard Strada cassette|
|3T||9-32||356%||Needs xD-R driver on rear hub & 18% smaller chainring for same top gear so all benefit goes to the smallest gear|
|Shimano||11-40||364%||Use 1 linkset less than recommended (single-speed chain length method)|
|SRAM||11-42||382%||Use 1 linkset less than recommended (single-speed chain length method)|
|Leonardi||9-36||400%||Needs xD driver on rear hub & 18% smaller chainring|
Hard to find nowadays, mediocre shifting performance
|SRAM||10-42||420%||Needs xD driver & 9% smaller chainring for same top gear. Use 1 linkset less than recommended (single-speed chain length method)|
So depending on the terrain, you could easily go from 11-36T to 11-42T by just changing the cassette. For the 10-42T cassette, you also need an xD (or xD-R) driver.
1×12 mountain goat solutions
This situation is both easier and more difficult. If you have a 1×12 Force AXS or Red AXS drivetrain, you have a 10-33T cassette. There should be a bigger road cassette (I begged and pleaded with them a year prior to launch, but unfortunately, no dice). On the positive side, there are bigger cassettes available. Rotor makes an 11-39T cassette and an 11-46T, while SRAM makes an 11-50T and a 10-50T. e13 makes a 9-46T and even a 9-50T. That allows you to ride up a wall.
Bad news is, the AXS road derailleurs are pretty finicky, so unlike for their 11-speed counterpart, the max cog rating of 33T is not far of the mark. Even the 11-39T Rotor cassette won’t work, let alone those other options.
But not all hope is lost, and the solution is all in those three letters: AXS. AXS is the “communication platform” SRAM has set up for their electronic parts to talk together. This means your AXS road shift levers can talk not only to Force AXS and Red AXS rear derailleurs but also to Eagle AXS rear derailleurs, SRAM’s electronic mountain bike group.
And because it’s all wireless, switching out your rear Force/Red AXS derailleur for an Eagle model is a snap. Once you have that Eagle AXS rear derailleur, all the aforementioned cassettes will work.
There is just a small detail to keep in mind: the Eagle AXS rear derailleur only works with an Eagle chain, it does NOT work with a SRAM 12-speed “Flattop” road chain. So to make the ultimate Strada 12-speed mountain goat, you need to change the rear derailleur, cassette AND chain.
But of course you needed to remove the chain to mount the rear derailleur anyway, so it’s not a lot of work, and Eagle chains are not that expensive (you can get the lowest model, you don’t need the top of the range chain).
|SRAM||10-33||330%||Standard Strada 1×12 cassette|
|Rotor||11-39||355%||Requires standard driver|
|Rotor||11-46||418%||Requires standard driver|
|SRAM||11-50||455%||Requires standard driver|
Only available in mid-range, so not the lightest
Requires xD driver.
Available only in top-range versions, so expensive
|e13||9-46||511%||Requires xD driver|
|e13||9-50||556%||Requires xD driver|
Linkset: I mention a few times that your chain should be 1 linkset shorter than recommended for the best shifting. By linkSET, we mean a set of 2 links, one narrow link and one wide link for a total of 1 inch in length. This recommendation is based on the “single-speed chain length” method, see below.
Single-speed chain length OFFICIAL method: Run your chain directly over your biggest (or only) chainring and your biggest cog. Do not run it through the derailleur. Take the chain length with the chains tight as you can over cog and chainring like this, and add 2 linksets (4 links, 2 narrow and 2 wide). Note that “as tight as you can” may not be very tight, because you always need to add links in pairs for 1x. So if the route around cog and chainring is just a tenth of a link longer than your chain, you need to add another “1.9 links” to make the chain whole again.
Single-speed chain length method HACK: The above is the official recommendation. For the big range cassettes in combination with the medium rear derailleur, you add only 1 linkset (2 links, 1 narrow and 1 wide) as described in the main article., instead of adding 2 linksets as mentioned in the official method. To avoid any confusion, this means with the hack, your chain will be shorter than with the official method by 1 linkset (2 links).
Correct chain length: Listed above are the ideal chain lengths for the best shifting performance using the single-speed chain length method. You do have some leeway here. If you use one of the setups only sparingly and can accept occasionally slower shifting, you can try to run your medium range and wide range cassette with the same chain length. In fact, with a bit of luck both of their ideal lengths are the same (since we recommend shortening the wide cassette chain length relative to the standard). In fact, in most cases (it depends a bit on the exact chainring size), the ideal length will be the 11-36T and the 11-40T cassette if you keep the chainring the same.
B-gap: When you start playing with these cassettes sizes and chain lengths, you will find that the B-gap (the gap between the upper pulley and the biggest cog has a big effect on how well it works. The exact recommendation for the B-gap differs from derailleur to derailleur, so best to check the manual for the exact number. And then you may deviate a bit to see if you can get the shifting even better.
xD vs. xD-R drivers: Whenever I say the cassette requires an xD driver, that means the xD-R driver will also work as long as the 1.8mm SRAM spacers is added between the driver and the cassette. xD and xD-R drivers are identical except for this 1.8mm length difference.Hope this helps, happy climbing!