5-6-7-8-9-10-Now 11 Speed

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Shimano and Sram are both 11 speed now. Shimano had 11 speed in Dura-Ace last year and now the electronic Ultegra group is going to 11 speed. This tread is a little disturbing, adding more cogs every few years. I have to admit that going from 5 to 6 was amazing, the 6 to 7 was great too. But, somewhere between 8-11, it lost it appeal. I didn’t really get that much more performance out of 10 gears in the back than 9. Yeah, it is nice having a 16 on a 23 casette, but in reality, it isn’t that important.

Sure, the more cogs we get in the back, the less we have to change the cassettes during races. But, what does that take, 5 minutes. It’s not a big part of the race prep and it’s easy.

When the change was 8 to 9, Frank and Mark McCormack left their cross bikes all set up with 8 speed for a couple years after. They said, and I agreed, that the 8 speed cassette shifted better when it was full of mud than the 9 speed. It was the same with MTB cassettes. I wonder if we went back and put 8 cogs back on, would the shifting still feel better with less cogs?

I ran into a guy over at Meniningers in Topeka last week. He was from the country, outside of Topeka, and had a MTB bike strapped into the back of his pickup. He was looking for some trails to ride on. I thought it was sort of weird that he drove up and asked me, since he did have a bunch of questions that were pretty specific and I was one of a hand full of people in Topeka that could answer them. Anyway, he’d went to Dick”s Sporting Goods and bought the most expensive bike there. He ended up with a Diamondback something. I can’t say it was a total waste of money, but it was a gip at 600 bucks. Shitty derailleurs, mechanical disc brakes and 7 speed in the back. He asked me if there were bikes with more 21 speeds. He was using the old “10 speed” lingo. He was shocked that there were 33 speed bikes and I was shocked that they still sold bikes with 7 cogs in the back.

I had planned on using the new 11 speed last year in cross. But I only had one new Dura-Ace rear wheel that works with the 11 speed cogs and didn’t feel it was worth it mixing and matching between 10 and 11 speed wheels and bikes. It has been nice using the same wheels for 8-9-10 speed cassettes. Changing wheels for 11 speed is a real hassle. At least for me. I have a garage full of a pretty great race wheel selection and am not looking forward to all those wheels becoming obsolete.

You know, I’m writing all this and just realized that I’ve been riding the new Shimano 11 speed chain for the past few months and it is a vast improvement over the 10 speed chain. Maybe the cassette will be that much better too?

I do understand that equipment manufactures have to keep upgrading and improving their products. But in this case, it isn’t that big an upgrade in my book. Maybe I’ll be surprised here, you never know.

This used to be the state of art, a Regina 5 speed freewheel.

This used to be the state of art, a Regina 5 speed freewheel.

The new Shimano Ultegra 11 speed groupo.

The new Shimano Ultegra 11 speed groupo.

20 thoughts on “5-6-7-8-9-10-Now 11 Speed

  1. todd

    Not a big fan of the increasing difference in spoke tension due to the changes in hub flange position to accommodate another gear.

  2. Dan Fox

    The chains wear out a helluva lot faster too.

    One comment on your post from yesterday …. Levi seems to be the exception among the gang that flipped on Lance.

  3. GIANT

    The annoying thing about super narrow chains is how quickly they strech. It seems like im spending an awful lot of cash on new chains…

  4. velocodger

    It looks like I’ll be looking for 10 speed parts now. I guess it might be a good idea to stock up. Planned obsolescence is OK for products that wear out in a few years I guess, but I miss the days when bike race equipment didn’t obsolete itself every few months. The bike industry is chasing an affluent demographic that is disappearing. It is a recipe for decline. When I see a bike magazine call a $2500 bike “entry level” and infer one shouldn’t expect much at that price point, I see an industry out of touch with the majority of America.

  5. Gummee!

    I thought I was hot stuff going from 6sp to 7sp. When I went to 8sp after everyone else had had it for a while, I thought that was great too! You mean I can have a 16t AND a 23t? Saweet!

    I think my favorite components were my Sachs New Success stuff followed closely by the D/A 7700 I ran for more than a few years.

    Everything since has been meh.

    Light action? Pass. Even lighter action? Going the wrong way there Shimano. I’m on SRAM stuff because of the firmer shifting and the ~10 sets of wheels in the garage with 8/9/10 spacing. Some of my wheels are older than the guys I ride with!

    Changing for the sake of changing isn’t going to happen in my garage any time soon.


  6. Slater

    I can believe the hype behind the 1×11 systems becoming a benefit on the MTB and CX scene. But that technology is evolving through better front chainring systems and higher tension rear derailleurs.

    I can also see where the development of the hydro reservoir in the new SRAM levers will be beneficial. The extra cog is a wash for me as far as draw towards the system. Regardless most of us will still sell all of our race bikes at the end of the season and be on the new 11 speed systems within the year, so why fight it?

  7. channel_zero

    I went from 8-speed to 10 on my ‘cross bike and the shifting is sketchy compared to 8-speed. Too fiddly. Chain skips once, and only once on most rides.

    There’s a niche for the Chinese to fill. A solid 8-9 speed group at Ultegra weight.

  8. TLG

    My old mountain bike is 8 speed and it still shifts great. Everytime I ride it I wonder, why in the hell do I need 11speeds on my road bike…which is 12 years newer, and shifts worse. As a consumer, I’d gladly “upgrade” to more solid shifting components, that are lighter, that have LESS cogs!

  9. Bill K

    I’ve still have 8 speed XT on my Hardtail 26″ Stumpjumper.
    When I first started riding I used 5 & 6 speed freewheels, and when i started racing it was 7 speed 13-21 Sachs freewheels (who needed a 12?)
    One of these days, when my stuff wears out, I guess I’ll have to go with 11, but damn, that 9000 stuff makes 7800 look like a bargain.

  10. Paul Vine

    Steve its funny that you bring this up it brought me all the way back to the late 80’s when I was wrenching for you and Andy. We were working with the engineer from Shimano who inventented the first index shifting for Shimano and doing field work on the very early prototype brake lever integrated shifter.It was very raw block aluminum with a button shifter mechanism that we were trying on Andy’s bike. I think it was seven speed at the time and I asked him how many gears could we go to in the future. His answer was 11 and that the frames and wheels would need to change, but it was entirely possible. Fast forward 15 years and it is becoming the norm. Though I have to say I agree I was never more excited than when I got my first 6 speed Regina Oro gold annodized cluster 🙂

  11. Steen

    I can’t say I miss shifting with my knee in a sprint. However I see bikes following the trend of cars; more and more complex and harder for the home mechanic to wrench on. Hand packing a hub or bb was an art and brought much joy. Now you just buy a new bearing and toss the old one; and it’s got more parasitic drag and less adjustability in the name of progress.

  12. Bryan

    I finally went from 7 to 9 speed in 2010. I ride a vintage ’91 steel frame and in 2010 sent it out for some frame repair and repaint. Since I was spending money on all that, I decided to get with it and have the frame coldset for 9 speeds. I also switched from down tube shifters to STI. I will say that it breathed new life both into the refurbished frame and the rider (me). 10 speeds or 11 speeds? Probably won’t happen as I would have to basically replace the entire drive train and shifters. Too pricey for my blood for what would be diminishing returns.

  13. Jed schneider

    I just wish they’d lighten up internal hubs. derailleurs,and external drivetrains in general are a drag. always have been. the real technological advance will be when internal hubs are lighter than a regular drivetrain.

  14. Wuzfastnowimnot

    A few years ago i decided to take out my old, neon orange Schwinn paramount complete with OLD DA 8 speed and race it in a couple of masters races. All Crits. That old steel steed was 22 pounds! I did just as well as I did on my Specialized Tarmac SL2 at 16 lbs….. In fact I think the shifting was better.

  15. Dan

    I work in a bike shop. Customers are disappointed when I tell them there chain needs replacing after only a years use. Most of them don’t log in the miles like racers do. Some insist warranty and I just give them a new one to keep them happy .

  16. Charles Dostale

    My cross bike still has a Regina 5 speed freewheel. We thought the 126 mm axle length too fragile for cross, and the tighter spacing of 7-speed SunTour freewheels too easily get packed with mud, grass, and corn stalks.

  17. Jeff

    I feel the same way about the cost of converting everything (road and cx) to disc brakes


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