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  1. #1
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    Custom Cassettes

    Back in the day (60s & 70s) you used to be able to completely customize your own cassette...well, freewheels really. The bike shop would have a peg board with 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, etc. individual cogs hanging here. If you wanted a new freewheel you'd buy a body, select the individual cogs you wanted, then go home & screw them together. Nice! I don't know whose idea it was to discontinue that set up, but I wouldn't mind seeing their head on a platter.

    Fast forward to today. I'm going to build a mega range 2 X 10 drive train with a compact 34X50 front. Cassettes are available with ranges up to 11X36. Does anybody know to what extent the individual cogs can be selected/changed on a 10 spd mt. cassette? I know usually the 2 or maybe 3 largest cogs are one piece. I also know some of the other 7 are loose. If I decided on a 34 or 36 max cog, how much could I specify the rest of the cogs to get what I want?
    Before you criticize someone walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you criticize them you'll be a mile away & you'll have their shoes.

  2. #2
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    Check the cheap ranges...a lot of those have loose, individual cogs. Well, they did...I am thinking of 9s (Shimano, SRAM) and cheap 10s Campagnolo cassettes (or Miche cassettes, which are all loose AFAIK). Once you go up the price points, the cogs are mounted on carriers in groups.
    "Luminous beings are we...not this crude matter!"

  3. #3
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    Nmnmnmnm
    Last edited by Al1943; 02-11-2012 at 06:17 AM.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Al1943 View Post
    I don't get it. If you're 10-speed why not just buy a 10-speed 11-34 or 11-36 cassette? That will be less expensive than trying to buy individual cogs.
    Some of us are willing to give up the 11 and 12 to get more gears with smaller steps between them in the middle of the range.

  5. #5
    Burnum Upus Quadricepus
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    Miche makes loose cogs for Shimano and Campy. There are some here.

    A while back I found another place with a much better selection, and they had them in genuine Shimano too. Alas, I didn't bookmark the link. If I find it again, I'll edit it in here.

  6. #6
    'brifter' is a lame word.
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    you pretty much can't. the XTR and XT cassettes have 8 of the 10 cogs on a a spider, i think. that leaves the 11 and the 13 loose, not sure why you'd want to change those, but it's possible. the SLX cassettes have 3 large cogs on a spider and it looks like the other 7 are loose, but i'd have to look at one at the shop to tell for sure. Miche does make cogs that should work if you wanted to buy a cassette and then buy a bunch of cogs to swap.
    you definitely can't do what you used to be able to do w/ freewheel cogs. you get the cassette that shimano or sram make and that's it.
    i work for some bike racers...
    2013 Trek Madone 5.9 w/ '12 SRAM Red
    2010 Cervelo T1 sprint bike
    Ruger 10-22TD
    Smith&Wesson M&P 15-22
    Smith&Wesson M&P 9
    oh, those belong in another forum

  7. #7
    'brifter' is a lame word.
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    you pretty much can't. the XT cassettes have 8 of the 10 cogs on a a spider, i think. the XTR has the top 3, then 2, then 2more...that leaves the 11, 13 and 15 loose, not sure why you'd want to change those, but it's possible. the SLX cassettes have 3 large cogs on a spider and it looks like the other 7 are loose, but i'd have to look at one at the shop to tell for sure. Miche does make cogs that should work if you wanted to buy a cassette and then buy a bunch of cogs to swap.
    you definitely can't do what you used to be able to do w/ freewheel cogs. you get the cassette that shimano or sram make and that's it.

    ok, after looking at the exploded views, it's currently like this, going from large cogs to small

    XTR
    2 largest cogs on spider, next 2 on a spider, next 2 on a spider, then 4 single cogs
    XT
    3 largerst on spider, next 3 on spider, then 4 single cogs.

    SRAM is a little different, but more difficult to change cogs, at least at the higher end of the range.
    Last edited by cxwrench; 02-11-2012 at 09:09 AM.
    i work for some bike racers...
    2013 Trek Madone 5.9 w/ '12 SRAM Red
    2010 Cervelo T1 sprint bike
    Ruger 10-22TD
    Smith&Wesson M&P 15-22
    Smith&Wesson M&P 9
    oh, those belong in another forum

  8. #8
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    STEP 1: Google "Sheldon Brown k7" and read.

    STEP 2: Click on the 10 speed cassette link and read. Note charts showing the cassettes currently availible from all manufactures, color coded to show cogs one spiders (a unit that can not be taken apart.) Note link to single cogs availible.

    STEP 3: Decide what cogs you want and search the web for the model number(s) of the closest cassettes. Note some on-line suppliers have cassettes in stock that are no longer made. Order single cogs in the sizes you can't find in a pre-made cassette. Get a chain whip and freehub removal tool, take apart the cassette(s) you ordered and assembly the cogs you want on your wheel.

    STEP 3: Consider ordering from Harris Cyclery, who pay to keep all the above info online for you

  9. #9
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    A 34x36 low gear?? That is seriously low! I really can't understand why you would want to make a "custom" cassette. While I may reminisce nostalgic about the past, modern bike tech offers up a wide range of useful gearing choices. Even the pro's if they can't find the proper road gearing for their requirements are still able to find it using mountain gearing choices.

  10. #10
    LC
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    I always find a way to customize my cassettes, even the 10 speed. I generally remove the 11 or/and 12T and then either insert the missing cog in the middle along with a spacer or a larger one at the other end of the cassette. I buy different oddball sized cassettes that nobody wants so they are heavily discounted and then put them together into a combination that I need. It sometimes takes 3 cassettes to make one that I need, but the extra parts gets used on other cassettes so it is not really wasted.

    Adding a larger cog to the end is a trial and error process of different combination of thickness of spacers (8,9,10, and 1mm). You can get away with using one 9 speed gear at the end of a 10 speed, but never in the middle. You can also mix Shimano and SRAM. Mid level SRAM cassettes generally come apart with a pin that screws in with a allen head. You can also file down the built in spacer on older cassettes that come with a 13T smallest locking cog to fit on new narrower cassettes.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by gamara View Post
    A 34x36 low gear?? That is seriously low! I really can't understand why you would want to make a "custom" cassette. While I may reminisce nostalgic about the past, modern bike tech offers up a wide range of useful gearing choices. Even the pro's if they can't find the proper road gearing for their requirements are still able to find it using mountain gearing choices.
    Yes, that's seriously low. I'm 69 years old, 6'3", 225# & will be riding 3700 miles across the US with a group of people whose oldest member aside from me is 32. There's a stretch of road in Utah that is ~14% grade for 7 continuous miles. Even though I'm a very experienced rider I think I'll be happy knowing I have gearing like that to fall back on if needed. If you're small(ish), and cycling is definitely a small person's sport, you might not realize what it takes to haul 225# up a long steep grade. Whatever you weigh try to imagine putting a trailer on your bike and loading it with a block of concrete equal to the difference in our weights. Then tell me what you think about what gears you might like to have along. I read your profile & know you're a racer. I raced a lot from the 60s to the 80s. My race weight was ~ 190# and for my body type that's not skinny, but slender. So yes, I could weigh less, but I don't.

    The reason for making a custom cassette is to see if I can eliminate some of the gaps in the mid range. A 13 tooth would suffice for a small cog.
    Before you criticize someone walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you criticize them you'll be a mile away & you'll have their shoes.

  12. #12
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    With 10 or 11 cogs, I don't think custom cassettes make much sense anymore. There are very few missing ratios.
    Get a better saddle: www.kontactbike.com

  13. #13
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    I doubt there's really a 14% grade for all 7 miles. The "climb by bike" book lists the steepest 5 miles in North America as 12.1%. That's Mt Washington which is famed for being really steep.

    That said there's nothing wrong with getting low gearing. Even if its only 8% average for 5 miles it's going to be hard. There will be other climbs that are hard, you'll have bad days, etc. You might want to check out the cassettes offered by IRD (IRD Cassettes). They make a wide range of cassettes with various gearing. Sram also makes some wide range cassettes. You'd do better to get a complete cassette that's close to what you want because the shift ramps will line up and the cog spacing will be exact. If you assemble parts to make a frankencassette one or both will be off and shifting will suffer.

    If you get a cassette with solo cogs you can remove the through bolts and swap cogs. With 10sp shimano the inner cog is dished, while 9sp is not. You can use one or maybe two 9sp cogs in a 10sp stack- they are slightly thicker but close enough. The problem with solo cogs is that they dig into aluminium freehub bodies. At your size I would not want to use large solo cogs on an aluminium freehub for fear of tearing right through the splines.

    If you're on Shimano you can use a 9sp mtb derailleur to shift up to a 34t cog. A road triple derailleur can handle a 30t cog (in my experience; it depends on your frame's derailleur hanger) Sram makes derailleurs for wide range cassettes so you are covered there.

    Can you bring a couple cassettes and when you get to the boring flat parts of the country swap to one that's got tighter ratios?

  14. #14
    PhotonFreak
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kontact View Post
    With 10 or 11 cogs, I don't think custom cassettes make much sense anymore. There are very few missing ratios.
    There are some unnecessary ones though, at least for non-racers/people riding solo exposed to the wind: 53/11, 53/12 and 50/11. Only time I was able to go faster by totally "spinning out" my 50/11 rather than just coasting was one time I was going down a steep hill with a 20mph tailwind.

    I currently am running an 11-28 cassette with 50x36 rings. After my cassette wears (or maybe before if I get some more money to burn) I'll probably get a 12-27 to replace it.

    I could easily see a heavier rider than myself (I'm 130lb) dropping the 12 gear and wanting something easier than a 36/27 "bailout" gear without sacrificing cruising gears. Since almost nobody makes cassettes that start at 13, that's where the potential benefit of a custom cassette comes in.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by PhotonFreak View Post
    There are some unnecessary ones though, at least for non-racers/people riding solo exposed to the wind: 53/11, 53/12 and 50/11. Only time I was able to go faster by totally "spinning out" my 50/11 rather than just coasting was one time I was going down a steep hill with a 20mph tailwind.

    I currently am running an 11-28 cassette with 50x36 rings. After my cassette wears (or maybe before if I get some more money to burn) I'll probably get a 12-27 to replace it.

    I could easily see a heavier rider than myself (I'm 130lb) dropping the 12 gear and wanting something easier than a 36/27 "bailout" gear without sacrificing cruising gears. Since almost nobody makes cassettes that start at 13, that's where the potential benefit of a custom cassette comes in.
    You're singing to the choir, my friend:

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  16. #16
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    Two things to think about: You will face hills, but I've seen you get up some serious steeps with some pretty tight cogs. That's not what you want to take on a big tour and mountain-quality hills, true enough. But IME, unless you are riding a tour-load, 34x32 ought to be a whole bunch of plenty.

    I say this because for this sort of work, SRAM makes a 12-32 that's pretty unique.
    12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19, 21, 24, 32 - a pretty normal cassette, plus an OMG low. Means you won't hate the wide-range decision for the 2650 miles that aren't on the serious steeps.

    Or, I might consider taking along a big cassette for 'hill days' and something more normal for the bulk. With that many people and that many miles I'd assume there'd be a tool box in the SAG, but if not, toss one of these in:

    Universal Cycles -- Stein Mini Cassette Lockring Driver

    While Shimano will say it won't work, and you might not be perfectly happy with the way the shifting happens at the switchover, there's absolutely no reason that you can't take the spider from one cassette and the remaining 7 from another.

    The limiter here is that they set the cogs on modern cassettes so that the teeth line up perfectly as the chain climbs perfectly when downshifting. Messing that up mostly just means that you have to soft-pedal your gear changes and use a little finesse on the shifters. Just like the good ol' days. That, and the top-three gears usually being on a spider.

    Not necessarily for your need, but I'd guess that someone could do pretty well selling something along the lines of a 15-34.
    A good habit is as hard to break as a bad one..

  17. #17
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    Thanks for the replies, everybody. I appreciate the advice. I'm going to take a closer look at a stock Shimano 12X34 with a gear chart in my other hand.

    Dan-that short 20% on Dean Rd. on the RF we rode was kind of a killer, no?
    Before you criticize someone walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you criticize them you'll be a mile away & you'll have their shoes.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by danl1 View Post
    I say this because for this sort of work, SRAM makes a 12-32 that's pretty unique.
    12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19, 21, 24, 32 - a pretty normal cassette, plus an OMG low. Means you won't hate the wide-range decision for the 2650 miles that aren't on the serious steeps.
    These have been discussed before, and no one has ever seen one that I've spoken to. Have you? I'm starting to believe it is a website typo.
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  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Versatile View Post
    Yes, that's seriously low. I'm 69 years old, 6'3", 225# & will be riding 3700 miles across the US with a group of people whose oldest member aside from me is 32. There's a stretch of road in Utah that is ~14% grade for 7 continuous miles. Even though I'm a very experienced rider I think I'll be happy knowing I have gearing like that to fall back on if needed. If you're small(ish), and cycling is definitely a small person's sport, you might not realize what it takes to haul 225# up a long steep grade. Whatever you weigh try to imagine putting a trailer on your bike and loading it with a block of concrete equal to the difference in our weights. Then tell me what you think about what gears you might like to have along. I read your profile & know you're a racer. I raced a lot from the 60s to the 80s. My race weight was ~ 190# and for my body type that's not skinny, but slender. So yes, I could weigh less, but I don't.

    The reason for making a custom cassette is to see if I can eliminate some of the gaps in the mid range. A 13 tooth would suffice for a small cog.
    betcha 10 bucks you're back to racing weight by the time you're finished bud...............
    Of course I'm sure...that doesn't mean I'm right......

  20. #20
    Steaming piles of opinion
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kontact View Post
    These have been discussed before, and no one has ever seen one that I've spoken to. Have you? I'm starting to believe it is a website typo.
    I've not seen it, and the 12-32 I have seen them is far more conventional.

    12,13,14,15,17,19,22,25,28,32

    Darn shame if it is a typo - this sort of freewheel (back in the 7sp days) used to be popular for this kind of use.

    Assuming it is a typo, it sure has been a persistent one. Someone ought to write them and ask.
    A good habit is as hard to break as a bad one..

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Touch0Gray View Post
    betcha 10 bucks you're back to racing weight by the time you're finished bud...............
    That'd be nice. When I'm on the trip I'm going to studiously avoid any rolls with apple butter on them.

    Any word about Indy this year? It'll probably be when I'm gone anyway.
    Before you criticize someone walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you criticize them you'll be a mile away & you'll have their shoes.

  22. #22
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    june 29-30 24 hours of booty....Team Collin...so far there are 16 of us registered 24 Hours of Booty: 2012 24 Hours of Booty - Indianapolis, IN

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  23. #23
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    Mr. V, I think you misinterpreted my response. If I wanted to say HTFU, I would have. What I meant was that back in the day, yeah I can understand the need for a customized cassette but with the advances in bike tech, manufacturers have responded pretty well to the needs of modern cyclists. Pretty much what ever type of gearing that you might need should be available if not from road bike sources than from mtn. Especially more so with 10 or 11spd vs 7 or 8spd of days gone by.

    As for my other comment about the 34x36 gearing being seriously low, I stand by that. I don't think that its a useful gear. I don't know what type of cyclist you are ie. spinner or masher. But in order to maintain forward motion with that gearing, you have to maintain a super high cadence with that gear in order to avoid falling over.

    The goal is to have a cassette that will provide you with the useful gearing for your trip with a good bail out gear. I don't think the 36 qualifies as a good bailout gear. Other than that, best of luck on your trip. I can only hope that when I'm 69, I'll be able to do the same.

  24. #24
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    I was using my 'cross bike for some errands the other day. It had a triple on it, since it's one of the ones that the product manager had in mind as maybe a commute bike for most users. I've put an 11-32 on it, as kind of an experiment. Still higher than MTB gearing.

    I didn't expect to use, let alone like, my granny gear on pavement. But I actually quite enjoyed it.

    Turns out my selected cadence is 105. Go figure. Anyway, low lows kick ass. (FWIW, I'm 30 and do reasonably well in MTB races with extended climbs.)

  25. #25
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    you can still buy single cog cassettes

    Campagnolo Veloce, Centaur
    Miche
    Ambrosio

    they make single cog 10 speed cassettes ( and I think the Miche 11 is also single cogs ), the only problem is that they are heavier ( more steel material )

    so to make higher level ( meaning lighter ) cassettes then you need to remove material and mount them on groups on a lighter carrier ( alloy on Shimano, Titanium on Campagnolo etc ), SRAM even has a monopiece cassette I think.

    not ideal but lighter.

    That said I find the Campagnolo 13-26 ideal for a Standard ( or even a super compact 52/36 ) Crankset, you get a good range including a 16 and a 18.
    Last edited by Salsa_Lover; 02-13-2012 at 04:07 AM.
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