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Mechanical question: 10-speed cassette on an 11-speed?

Tuesday, April 12, 2016 by  
Filed under Daily Blog


I’ve not had any legitimate offers on my mostly brand new 2014 Madone (see My 2013 Madone is gone; Brand new 2014 Madone–for sale?). If I don’t hear anything by the end of the day I think I’m just going to keep it. I’ve got way too much else going on right now to worry about it. It’s a great bike, and will serve me well.

I'd like to run an 11-28 10-speed cassette on my 11-speed Plasma. Possible?

I’d like to run an 11-28 10-speed cassette on my 11-speed Plasma. Possible?

I have one misgiving about keeping the Madone, and it has nothing to do with the bike itself. I might be able to work around the issue, but I’m not sure if it is mechanically possible. It would be pretty easy for me to test it, but perhaps one of you out there might have the answer.

The Madone is a 10-speed bike, and my Plasma TT bike is 11-speed. My 2015 Zipp 404 Firecrest wheels are 10 and 11-speed compatible, and I use those wheels on both bikes. Moving the wheels between the two bikes is obviously no big deal, but swapping the cassette every time is a bit of a pain. Ideally I’d replace the 10-speed drivetrain on the Madone with an 11-speed, but replacing the entire Di2 DT is not exactly cheap.

So, what I’d like to do is set up the wheel with a 10-speed cassette and use it on both bikes–basically convert the Plasma to a 10-speed. I know I’ll have to swap the 11-speed chain on the Plasma for a 10 speed chain and re-adjust the rear derailleur, but I’m not sure if it would work? I figure I’ll have one “dead” or redundant shift click on the Plasma, but that’s no big deal.

Anyone know if this would work? I’ve never done something like this before and may be overlooking something.

John Stone Fitness Comments

16 Responses to “Mechanical question: 10-speed cassette on an 11-speed?”
  1. If you really wanted to try it, adjust the limit screws so you don’t drop the chain. Index it to the new cassette and see what happens. Make sure you use a spacer with the 10 sp cassette. I’m a sceptic because the width of the cogs on an 11 sp is different than a 10. The der on an 11 sp is also set up to index for an 11 sp.

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  2. Have you been updating your firmware regularly? There is a chance that you could just buy a rear 11spd der. The derailleur is what controls the the # of shifts the lever is just a button. When 11spd first came out you could just swap the rear derailleur but Shimano fixed the firmware so that the 11spd rear would not work with the 10 spd front der.

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  3. Interesting question. Here’s my guess: If the chains are different thicknesses, the spaces between the cogs and the shift increments are different also. Shifting may be clean across a section of the cassette and then get ugly at the extremes — or at least start chattering. There’s also a difference in the length of the freehub body, which can create other issues.

    I called a friend of mine at a shop who’s smarter than I am. He agreed that it can work but generally does not without specific hubs or cassettes.

    Long story short, test it.

    Lennard Zinn addresses similar issues at the ugly link below.


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