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chasing simplicity
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Ran an experiment today: put a modified XO1 11-speed cassette (swapped the standard 42 with a Wolftooth 46 cog) on my gravel bike equipped with Force AXS shifters, Eagle AXS Mtb derailleur, 10-50 cassette, and Eagle 12-speed chain.

Didn’t change a thing other than the cassette. Same Eagle Mtb chain. Didn’t touch the b screw, didn’t adjust the shifters, didn’t touch the limit screws.

Result: it worked pretty darn good. One cog, I believe the 21 sounded a bit off.

Anyway, I was surprised. Makes me think that with some limit screw tweaking it would work. Not sure about the chain. And not sure I want to do this in general.

Edit: Forgot to mention I have i9 road hubs, and they work for both 11 and 12 speed XD cassettes by way of a 1 mm spacer they include ( use it for 11 spd, remove for 12 spd)...goes to the note above about cassette widths.
 

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chasing simplicity
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Welp, mounted up a Helix 11 speed on to my AXS and it shifts beautifully, dare I say better than the aftermarket 12 speed cassette that came off.
Lining up the 2 cassettes teeth to teeth it's clear to me the 11 speed has more space between the gears, about 1/2 between 2 cogs by the time you get across 10 clusters, but by the time you center the chain on 6th gear it doesn't seem to effect anything on the ends.
Will report back when I know more.

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Looking forward to what you learn!
 

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Ran an experiment today: put a modified XO1 11-speed cassette (swapped the standard 42 with a Wolftooth 46 cog) on my gravel bike equipped with Force AXS shifters, Eagle AXS Mtb derailleur, 10-50 cassette, and Eagle 12-speed chain.

Didn’t change a thing other than the cassette. Same Eagle Mtb chain. Didn’t touch the b screw, didn’t adjust the shifters, didn’t touch the limit screws.

Result: it worked pretty darn good. One cog, I believe the 21 sounded a bit off.

Anyway, I was surprised. Makes me think that with some limit screw tweaking it would work. Not sure about the chain. And not sure I want to do this in general.

Edit: Forgot to mention I have i9 road hubs, and they work for both 11 and 12 speed XD cassettes by way of a 1 mm spacer they include ( use it for 11 spd, remove for 12 spd)...goes to the note above about cassette widths.
You have held the cassettes in your own hands and measured them. You know the cog spacing is not the same. You know that the derailleur moves a precise amount which matches the sram 12 speed cassette.

I believe you, certainly, that the derailleur will shift the 11 speed cassette. So if that's what we are defining as 'working' then yes you've already proven that, as have others.

BUT-
It will never shift as smoothly as the 12 speed because the derailleur's movement does not match the cog spacing, AND, somewhere in that 11 speed cluster you will have at least one gear and probably 2 or more, that have some noise because the chain is not perfectly lined up. It'll be slightly inboard or out enough to make noise. That noise also comes with friction.

You get to pick which gears make noise by using micro-adjust. And maybe it's a gear you rarely use, and don't care. But if you want it to work perfectly, the same as 12 speed cassette, you really are fooling yourself.
 

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So on my 11 sp cassette the chain was snagging just a hair while in 11th gear (9t). Basically once a rotation one chain roller pin would hook on the very edge of 10th gear before dropping down. Just 2 micro trim adjustments corrected this however with seemingly no downsides anywhere else in the cassette.
Suspecting that the narrow XTR chain I'm running assists with the small misalignment which equates to about a 1/4 of a cog pitch at either end, that said I can not visually see any misalignment at either end nor measure with my feeler gauge the chain trying to ride too close to the next cog.
The only thing I'm noticing on my wide ratio 11 speed is that if B-gap is set as SRAM recommends, it's still a fast shift but it's a louder upshift as the chain seems to fall further. I'm no expert at setting up drivetrains and have a hard time detecting small differences.
I have no doubt that the 11-speed cassette spacing is not ideal for the 12-speed derailleur but I think running the narrow 12-speed chain essentially covers that up. I think if you tried to throw an 11-speed chain on there you would start to really notice issues.
One last thing, on my road test this Helix 11 speed cassette combined with my Axs can take an absolute full power upshift or downshift in a way that a stock 12 speed Sram cannot in my experience.

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Helix 11 speed operates perfectly on AXS. Shifts better than I ever recall Sram 12 speed or Leonardi 12 speed shifting.
Wide Ratio is real! In my head it was a great idea; in reality in my terrain the larger gear gaps are significant. Found I was upshifting too soon based on the previous closer ratio gears and found myself straining more that usual and now needing to make a concerted effort to spin each gear out a little further. Also noticed I'm a tad in between climbing gears on the steepest climbs. 46t was a little too low whereas 2nd gear 39t felt a bit too high at times.
Surely I'll work the gearing out. Basically I need to increase the bandwidth of the rpm I pedal at.

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chasing simplicity
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Gotta go with ColinL on this one. No reason for me to trade perfect shifting for something less than...just to lose 100g. I’m sure the Helix is great, but a SRAM X01 11-spd cassette isn’t. It’s ok, not great. There’s a reason SRAM designed things the way they did. Not gonna mess with or second guess that.
 

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That 11sp Helix on my AXS not only has great gear ratios for AM riding, but in fact is the best shifting set up I've ever operated, by a good margin.

Regarding the gear ratios, by the second ride the wider gaps became natural feeling, I just notice needing quite a bit fewer shifts overall. The thing I was doing on 12 speed where I'd shift, pedal a rotation or 2, and already need another upshift is just gone. Perfect. Exactly what I wanted. And the 46t first gear is a great climbing speed for me. Can go up anything for any amount of time, but still has a bit of momentum to clear ledges. Also doesn't drop when pedalled backwards.
The shifting quality, and I acknowledge that my varying (complete lack of) set up skills are a contributing factor, is phenomenal. Nearly Hyperglide like. So good even when under power. I'd say it shifts just as fast and consistently as HG+, but with just a bit more noise, mostly because of the larger distance the chain has to drop under an upshift.
The end result is more than I ever hoped for. If this thing holds up, and it should with only 1 Al gear, E13 hit it out of the park.

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That 11sp Helix on my AXS not only has great gear ratios for AM riding, but in fact is the best shifting set up I've ever operated, by a good margin.

Regarding the gear ratios, by the second ride the wider gaps became natural feeling, I just notice needing quite a bit fewer shifts overall. The thing I was doing on 12 speed where I'd shift, pedal a rotation or 2, and already need another upshift is just gone. Perfect. Exactly what I wanted. And the 46t first gear is a great climbing speed for me. Can go up anything for any amount of time, but still has a bit of momentum to clear ledges. Also doesn't drop when pedalled backwards.
The shifting quality, and I acknowledge that my varying (complete lack of) set up skills are a contributing factor, is phenomenal. Nearly Hyperglide like. So good even when under power. I'd say it shifts just as fast and consistently as HG+, but with just a bit more noise, mostly because of the larger distance the chain has to drop under an upshift.
The end result is more than I ever hoped for. If this thing holds up, and it should with only 1 Al gear, E13 hit it out of the park.
Nice to hear that this combo works well!

On which end you have the "extra gear" set to on the AXS? Or I mean that you have now 11 cogs but 12 gears on the AXS, does the extra click try to move chain out from the smallest or the biggest cog? And I presume you have prevented chain jumping off the cassette with the limit screws? How does the RD behave when it hits the mechanical limiter, does it just try to push beyond the limit screw, or is there some kind of (torque) limitation on the RD servo motor that stops it on the mechanical limit..?
 

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Nice to hear that this combo works well!

On which end you have the "extra gear" set to on the AXS? Or I mean that you have now 11 cogs but 12 gears on the AXS, does the extra click try to move chain out from the smallest or the biggest cog? And I presume you have prevented chain jumping off the cassette with the limit screws? How does the RD behave when it hits the mechanical limiter, does it just try to push beyond the limit screw, or is there some kind of (torque) limitation on the RD servo motor that stops it on the mechanical limit..?
I trimmed AXS to where 1st gear on AXS lines up with 1st gear on the Helix.
Then I focused on centering the chain on 6th gear (when AXS is in its 6th gear as well) so that any cog spacing issues would be split up to either end of the cassette and since I spend most of my time towards the middle of the cassette anyways 1 trim adjustment from there was required to get rid of the tiniest snag of a chain roller pin end while in 2nd gear.
Then used the high limit to prevent AXS from shifting into 12th gear.
On the stand when I try to shift into 12th, it makes no noise at all but will then require 2 downshifts to go from 11th to 10th as AXS is thinking it's shifting from 12th to 11th first and the derailer doesn't move at all, then from 11th to 10th where it shifts perfectly.
Practically speaking on the trails, I'll never try to shift into a higher gear than 9t so I won't encounter this issue. But even if I did it's on the end of the cassette that won't ruin a climb or anything.

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