Building a STEEP hill climbing bike? Interested in creating a modern gravel bike but love your Italian shifters? We’ve been playing with ways to fit larger cassettes onto our Campagnolo equipped bikes, to get those ultra-low gears desirable for eye-watering grades. Here are a few tricks needed to convert your road group into a do-it-all drivetrain.
- 11-speed cassettes are brand interchangeable, so an 11-speed 11-40 Shimano XT cassette will share nearly identical cog spacing to an 11-speed 12-25 Campy Chorus cassette. This was not the case for 10-, 9- or 8-speed cassettes, as cog spacing was different enough to cause shifting issues when mixing cassettes. The cassette will have to match the freehub body, which has its own particularities: 11-speed Shimano Dynasys mountain cassettes fit on SRAM/Shimano 9/10-speed freehubs, or 11-speed freehubs with a spacer. 11-speed SRAM wide-range road cassettes only fit on 11-speed SRAM/Shimano road freehubs. 11-speed SRAM XD mountain cassettes only fit on SRAM’s new XD hub body.
- You’ll likely need a long cage rear derailleur. Cage length is important when gear ranges are large, as extra chain length needs to be taken up by the derailleur. See our write up of chain wrap here: http://branfordbike.com/articles/rear-derailleurs-pg62.htm. Early 11-speed Campagnolo derailleurs used the exact same derailleur geometry as 10-speed, and the older 10-speed derailleurs handle 11-speed chains just fine. Thus, you’d be able to choose from pre-2008 Record and Chorus 10-speed medium and long cage rear derailleurs. We’ve found that the medium length cages work well up to 32 tooth cogs, and we’ve successfully tested long-cage derailleurs up to 40 tooth.
- In 2015, Campagnolo derailleur geometry and cable pull ratios changed for the Ultra-Torque line (SR, Record, Chorus), so if you own 2015+ UT shifters, your only option is to use concurrent short cage derailleurs, while being mindful of chain wrap requirements of desired gear combination. The Power-torque family has a compatible Athena triple rear derailleur still in production. 2015 is the same year Campy introduced the conspicuous four arm Ultra-torque cranksets (see here).
- In order to clear the larger cog sizes, the upper derailleur pulley wheel must be lowered beyond the capacity of the b-screw. Wolf Tooth Components makes an elegant solution for lowering the derailleur past large mountain cogs. The Road Link is seen here: http://branfordbike.com/product/wolf-tooth-components-road-link-1359.htm.
To recap, the specs you’ll need are:
- 11-speed wide-range cassette, with compatible hub.
- Medium- or long-cage rear derailleur.
- Wolf Tooth Road Link.
With this, we can take our Campy-equipped bikes further than ever before. Maybe we’re getting tired of riding the same old roads, or just like having a bike capable of climbing that driveway without a knee-breaking grunt session. Versatility is a characteristic some may scoff at, but we are embracing it with open arms. See you on the trails!