Our Take: 10-Speed vs. 11-Speed

11_speed_shifting

In the last few years, Campagnolo, Shimano and SRAM have moved to 11-speed and the technology is becoming more main stream. Lately when we’ve discussed 11-speed bikes, many of you have had some questions and concerns about the new systems. To answer some of them, we found one of our employees who has been riding both 10- and 11-speed groupsets for a while. Here’s his take on things.

I’ve been riding both 11-speed Campagnolo and 10-speed SRAM  for several years now, and I switch between the two often enough to be able to tell you there are some definite differences between 10- and 11-speed drivetrains. Generally, adding an extra cog means you have more gear ratios to choose from which can make your riding more efficient. But I’ve been asked to address the 6 most common questions we get about 11-speed, so here it goes. (And please remember, this isn’t a Campy vs. SRAM article– it’s 10-speed vs. 11-speed).

Is 11-speed less durable?

Answer: There’s not really much difference. I currently have about 2500+ miles on an 11-speed cassette and chain, and neither is worn out yet. I also have yet to break an 11-speed chain while riding. So far my Campagnolo chains and cassettes have lasted about as long as my SRAM 10-speed ones. I guess the thinner cogs and chains make people nervous, but I haven’t had any issues so far. I haven’t ridden the new Shimano stuff, but I’ve read that their new PTFE chain technology actually makes the chains stronger than their 10-speed chains.

Isn’t the shifting compromised?

Answer: Shifting performance isn’t really  affected by the addition of another cog. Aside from the different shifter designs, I have noticed very little, if any, difference in performance between 10 and 11. If anything the 11-speed shifting feels smoother and crisper than 10-speed. My 11-speed bikes do need to be put into the stand a little more often (about once every two weeks) for some basic rear derailleur adjustments, especially after high mileage weeks, but it’s a quick 2-minute cable tension adjustment, and that’s it.

Do you need new wheels?

Answer: Yes*. Contrary to what you read on many bike message boards, you do need a new rear wheel; the reason being that the new wider cassettes require a wider axle than a 9/10-speed wheel. If you look at an 11-speed wheel, the drive-side spokes are nearly in-line with the hub flange. I have converted a set of Mavic and a set of Reynolds wheels from 10- to 11-speed Campagnolo, but it was a pretty involved process and each conversion required the wheel to be re-dished and trued. And, of course, the manufacturer cannot guarantee how a wheel will perform with a converted freehub. Your best bet is to get a new wheel.

 *with the exception of Mavic wheels with an M10 freehub body, which technically should work with Shimano 11-speed if you leave off the Mavic spacer

Are 11-speed wheels less durable?

Answer: Maybe, but that kind of thing really depends on your riding style. For folks who really beat up on their wheels, you might notice a difference. I’m not very tough on wheels, and rarely need to have them trued, but I do have a set of 11-speed wheels that need to be trued more often than their 10-speed counterparts. However, I also have another set that has gone almost 2 years without needing to see the truing stand, so it’s hard to tell.

Is it worth it?

Answer: That all depends. In my experience, I love having the extra 11th gear. And yes, I definitely do notice that it’s not there when I switch back to a 10-speed bike. The biggest benefit to me is that the shifting is smoother and more progressive, since there are fewer big jumps in cog size. I don’t have to keep two different cassettes around anymore (one for the usual riding, one for climbing), since I can still have an 11-25 cassette, but with a 27t or 29t cog tacked on that makes it perfect for climbing as well. 11-speed cassettes also offer a bigger range of gearing options that make it easier to find that comfortable cadence in any variety of conditions, whereas when I switch back to a 10-speed bike, I sometimes struggle to find the right gear.

Why upgrade? Won’t they just go to 12-speeds soon?

Answer: Don’t quote me on this, but no, I don’t think they will go to 12-speeds any time soon. I know Tiso has a 12-speed gruppo out there, but they had to scrounge up some breathtakingly expensive stuff to make it work (i.e. all titanium cassettes), so I doubt it’s ready for mass market appeal. As you read above about wheels, it seems to me like 11 cogs are about as many gears as they’ll be able to cram into the standard 130mm rear spacing. To fit in any more gears without sacrificing wheel durability, I believe that road bikes would need to adopt the MTB standard 135mm rear spacing, and I don’t see that happening any time soon. But then, nobody really saw disc brakes for the road coming either, so anything is possible.

Spin Doctor Tech Tip: Shimano and Campagnolo Chains

Spin Doctor

So you’ve decided to upgrade to the latest and greatest drivetrains from Shimano or Campagnolo, but now you’ve got to figure out how to deal with the new chain that you need for your new components.  Read on below for some important information, from our Spin Doctor Product Services team, that you need to know before you ever install a Campy 11-speed or new Shimano 10-speed chain.

Campagnolo 11-speed Chain

Installing or shortening the Campy 11-speed chain requires special procedures and tools:

• New chains can only be shortened on the end opposite the special link. The special link is marked by a plastic tag and a batch number.

• The 11-speed chains are connected with a special piloted connecting pin (Ultra-Link CN RE 500). The pin must be driven from the inside out.

• For secure operation the end of the connecting pin Ultra-Link CN RE 500 must be flattened or peened once its pilot is snapped off.

CT-11 in action

• The Campy UT-CN300 chain tool can shorten, connect and peen the connecting pin, or the Park Master Chain Tool (CT-4.2 or CT-4) can be used for connecting and shortening but the Park CT-11 tool must be used for peening. The CT-11’s sole function is peening the Campy 11-speed chain. It should not be used for anything else.

• The Campy 11-speed chain can only be broken and reattached 2 times and the special connecting pin can only be attached to the special link.

Shimano Asymmetric 10 Speed Chains (Dura-Ace HG CN-7901, Ultegra HG CN-6701, 105 HG CN-5701)

Like the Campy 11-speed chain, the Shimano Asymmetrical chains requires some special steps:

• The chains have distinct inner and outer sides. The inner side outer chain plates have rectangular cut-outs. The outside outer chain plates will have model designations.

Dura-Ace 7901 chain inside plates

• The connecting pins should be installed on the leading edge of an outside plate. Viewed from the drive side, the leading edge of the top run of chain from cassette to crank will be the right of an out plate’s 2 holes.

Outer chain plates - connecting pin should go in rightmost holes

• When readjusting the length of an installed chain, the connecting pin should be installed from the same side as the chain cutter.

• Only Shimano connecting pins with 2 or 3 grooves should be used.

Item #50-6585

• Once installed the connecting pin should never be removed except if the chain is to be discarded.

Shimano Dyna-Sys 10 Speed Chains (M980 XTR chain, HG94 XT chain, HG74 SLX chain)

Dyna-Sys chains have 4 different types of outer plates that facilitate shifting up & down on the cassette or between chainrings.

• The Dyna-Sys chains have distinct inner and outer sides. The inner side outer chain plates have no lettering while the outside has outer chain plates that are alternating stamped with HG-X and Shimano.

HG74 SLX chain - inside chain plates

• The connecting pins should be installed on the leading edge of an outside plate. Viewed from the drive side, the leading edge of the top run of chain from cassette to crank will be the right of an outer plate’s 2 holes.

Outer chain plates - connecting pin should go in rightmost holes

• When readjusting the length of an installed chain, the connecting pin should be installed from the same side as the chain cutter.

• Only Shimano connecting pins with 2 or 3 grooves should be used.

• Once installed the connecting pin should never be removed again except if the chain is to be discarded.

In case you’re wondering, the close-up shots of these chains come from sample versions of our new 2011 bike lineup, available soon (shot in the lobby of our headquarters, because it was a sunny spot).  The road chain was on our top-of-the-line 2011 Scattante CFR Pro road bike:

While the mountain chain was on our brand new Access Stealth 3.0 carbon 29er mountain bike, as seen below (we’ll have a whole lot more to share about these bikes very soon):

If you still have questions about Campy or Shimano chains, just head down to your local Performance store or contact Spin Doctor Product Services by phone, email or chat; they’ll be happy to help!

Call: 800-553-TECH
Email: spindoctor@performanceinc.com
Chat: Live Help at PerformanceBike.com

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