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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I dearly love riding my gravel bike. I'm experimenting with different gearing options to deal with a handful of *very* steep sections on some of my favorite rides.

Initially I thought a 42t front with an 11-36 in back would be sufficient. That is until I found myself walking up a fairly long, very steep, narrow road. This experience was enough to try something different.

Another option on the table is to use the standard Ultegra 50/34 front chainset and 6800 shifters with, but use a Wolftooth/Lindarets TanPan to modify the Ultegra Shifter pull ratio to be compatible with an M8000 shadow Derailleur, a WolfTooth/Lindarets Goatlink, and Shimano XT 11-42 cassette.

I installed and bench tested this setup, and it works. but didn't love the way it sounded or felt shifting on the stand (shifting, down in partcular, had a very loud 'clunk' sound to it), and went back to standard Ultegra 50/34 and 11-32, which is where I am now. I may still give the tanpan a try on an actual ride, and see how it does, but before I do this, I'm curious what my options are for chainrings/cranks that are Shimano 2x11sp (Ultegra 6800) compatible.

I guess what I'd like to end up with is something similar to my 29er gear ratios, which is a 28t inner chain ring.

Browsing FSA's website, I found the SL-k Light Adventure crankset, which has 48/32t and 46/30t options, and claims to be "Shimano 11sp" compatible, although my bike (Norco Search) currently has a PF86BB (85.5mm) Bottom Bracket and an OLD of 142mm (FSA says OLD is 135mm for this crank).

Anyone know of other/better options?

I'll probably give the TanPan/Goatlink option a test ride this weekend if I can find enough time between rides to swap it over.
 

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This is an option. Another is an FSA Afterburner:

FSA Afterburner Mountain Crankset 170mm 39/27T 10-speed BB30 Black | Bikewagon

But keep in mind that your FD may need to be changed to match the smaller arc of your new large ring.

Also, it could be the reason your shifting was off was due to pull ratios that didn't match. It is very important that the pull ratios of your shifters and derailleurs match. Back in the 9-speed days, you never had to worry about this. However, Shimano changed their mountain pull ratios when they went to 10-speed and their road pull ratios when they went to 11-speed.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Also, it could be the reason your shifting was off was due to pull ratios that didn't match. .
The Wolftooth TanPan I linked to changes the pull ratio of the Ultegra 6800 shifters to match the XT/M8000 shadow derailleur.



Lindarets said:
In order to deliver these benefits, the Tanpan amplifies road shifter cable pull to allow for seamless communication with mountain derailleurs. The result is ideal for riders looking to convert their road, gravel, cyclocross, or commuter bike to the simplicity and light weight of a single chainring- or for those whose riding demands lower gearing than a typical double can provide. With the addition of a clutched Shadow+ rear derailleur, the Tanpan provides unparalleled chain security for Shimano road drivetrains
 

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This is sort of a different approach:

Instead of putting easier gears on the bike, try riding the bike easier. This may only work for the the lighter weight rider but it's worth a shot.

Put it in the easiest gear and from the start literally pedal as slow as you can. Purposefully ride as slow as possible without falling over, turn the cranks as slow as you possibly can. Take the longest time possible to get up the hill as slow as you can manage.


My area is full of hills that most think they can't even make it up, but truth is that they could if they just went as slow as possible. A compact with a 32 will get a lighter weight guy with moderate fitness up anything if he goes as slow as possible. Balancing while standing and leaning forward becomes harder than actually pedaling once it gets above 25% but it's still quite easy to do.

So if your technique is correct, traction and balance are the biggest problems, not gearing. But like I said, being heavy may trump all that, I don't know, I'm a feather.


And to prove this to myself, I recently took an 11-40 cassette to the mountains where I normally ride an 11-32 and I can promise you it was zero percent easier. It made zero difference. I rode like normal and it did not help even a little bit. Actually I was quite a bit slower overall with the 40. It only helps if you are going very, very slow. And like I said, at that point balance is the problem.
 

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The Wolftooth TanPan I linked to changes the pull ratio of the Ultegra 6800 shifters to match the XT/M8000 shadow derailleur.

Interesting.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
This is sort of a different approach:

Instead of putting easier gears on the bike, try riding the bike easier. This may only work for the the lighter weight rider but it's worth a shot.

Put it in the easiest gear and from the start literally pedal as slow as you can. Purposefully ride as slow as possible without falling over, turn the cranks as slow as you possibly can. Take the longest time possible to get up the hill as slow as you can manage.
I like this idea, and I've tried doing just this. Unfortunately, there are some things conspiring against me.

One, I'm on the 'super' end of the clyde scale at 6' 5" 240lbs, so there is a lot of force being applied to all of the mechanisms involved, including me...

Two, I'm dealing with some knee issues that are not bike fit related - i.e. they are just getting old, thus I'm trying to reduce the stress on my knees as part of my motivations.. So mashing is bad...
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
A little tidbit about the TanPan. If your bike has internal cable routing, specifically the cable exiting the chainstay on the rear derailleur, it can make using it fixed to the RD impossible, which means running it 'inline', probably hanging under your handlebars.

It's hard to explain this without seeing how the thing is designed to mount on the RD (vs inline).

This is direct mount version. It literally goes into the cable inlet on the RD.



If your cable routing won't support this (can't get a clean line from the cable to the derailleur), you'll need to run it with an inline adapter, probably hanging under your handlebars (not pretty aesthetically).

 

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I'm slightly less than 200 lbs, 53, and on the late stages of a hopefully complete recovery from an ankle break. I started the other thread just to get people discussing this, since there seems to be a huge stigma attached to smaller gearing.

I recently replaced the 52/42T crank on my 1987 Bianchi with a 46/30T crank. (It originally came with a 13-23 freewheel.) That gearing was fine when I was 29 years younger and 20 lbs lighter, but now, even with my 50/34T vs 11-32 cassette, grinding up a 15-18% grade is quite difficult for me. If I want to do off-road, or load the bike up with some touring gear or something, I would like to have other options. On the latter bike, my main restriction is imposed by Di2, so I have been considering some of the options listed in that thread.

One thing I finally realized is that if I switch my 50/34T crank for a 46/30T crank, I will lose only ONE gear, one which I very seldom use, i.e., the 50/11. It turns out 46/11 = 50/12. Hence the 46/30T crank buys you an expanded lower range at the cost of only the very highest gear. Unless you routinely spin out and reach escape velocity before hitting the brakes, you will probably never even miss it.
 

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T
But keep in mind that your FD may need to be changed to match the smaller arc of your new large ring.
Funny you should mention that ...

 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I sent FSA an email this morning, and got a reply back this afternoon.

It sounds like they may have an 11speed option soon enough.

FSA Email said:
Hello Migen21,

You will want to keep an eye out for our SLK-Light and Omega adventure cranks, coming out later this year. They will have combos like 40/32 and 46/30t. Sometime after Interbike in September is the ETA.

Sincerely,

FSA
I think I could live with 46/30. Definitely worth a try. Will be interesting to see what the price point is (I'm guessing north of $500.

FSA seems to believe there is a market for these for "Adventure Bikes". It sounds like there are at least two of us here interested :)

It will be interesting to see if Shimano and/or SRAM follow suit.
 

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I think there will be an FSA 46/30T Omega crank for about $150 (i.e., substantially less than Ultegra). Take a look at some of the other options in the other thread. In particular, White Industries makes a very high quality crank that will accept a wide variety of chainrings. A 30mm axle version is supposed to come out this fall. I predict this will become a new fad.
 

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I started the other thread just to get people discussing this, since there seems to be a huge stigma attached to smaller gearing.

I really don't care about stigma. All I care about is results and what works for each individual. Right now, I have an 11-32T 11-speed cassette with a 50/34T crankset on my newest road bike. This works for me, but I realize it doesn't work for everybody. While I don't use the lowest gear combo that often, I want to have it available in case I need it - for whatever reason like a very steep climb or even a day when I'm not feeling that strong and need a "fall-back".

And while I have the availability of a 50/11 for fast cruising on long flats or gradual downhills, I would not miss it if it weren't there. I also don't find the need for closer gearing in between. Surely 11 cogs in between 11 and 32 are plenty.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
For my road bikes, the 50/34 and 11-32 has all the gearing I could ever need for that type of riding. In fact, I'd probably be just as happy with a 46/36 and 11/32 or similar.

The gravel bike is a completely different situation. I live in western Washington state. While there are some relatively 'flat' gravel rail trails/fire roads to ride, if you really want to get out in the woods and have fun, you are going to encounter some *really* steep stuff, both paved (connectors) and gravel/dirt (and mud in the wet season). There are also some local trails that are pretty technical, at least for me. The CX and MTB racers use these trails to train as they are ideal for that. Short step-up sections, sharp switchbacks, loose gravel on steep hills, etc. These trails serve as connectors to the trails and fire roads in the foothills that I like to ride. I have to bike hike much of this stuff, partly due to my own lack of skill and fitness (grindy knees), and partly because the bike is just not geared to do it with someone my size riding it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Well,

The doc says I have a slight tear in the lateral miniscus in my left knee, and wanted me to cut back on riding a tad (been averaging 250 miles a week).

As hard as it was, I decided to take the weekend off (mostly - just a quick spin this afternoon to freshen the legs) and work on the bikes.

I spent most of the evening playing around with the gravel bike trying to set up the TanPan/GoatLink system with a Shimano M8000 derailluer and M8000 11-42 cassette. From what I've read on Wolftooth and Lindarets website, this cassette gearing should be the sweetspot for the TanPan and Goatlink combo.

The first problem I ran into, which is probably the same problem I had last time I tried this, is the 11-42 XT cassette seems to need a spacer on the hub I'm currently using. This is a standard Shimano/SRAM 11 speed freehub body that has had an Ultegra 6800 11-32 and a SRAM PG1130 11-36 on it with no issues. However, when I put the XT cassette on it and lock it down, there is still a small amount of play in the cogs. I put the Ultegra cassette back on as a reference, and I can see the cassette flange protrude beyond the edge of the freehub by about 1mm or so before I start to tighten it down. With the XT cassette, the edge of the last ring is pretty much flush with the edge of the freehub. I'm a complete idtiot when it comes to all things mountain bike. Does the XT cassette not use the same dimension freehub as the Ultegra cassette? It looks like I could use a 1mm spacer and it would probably resolve the problem, but I didn't have one laying around, so I couldn't try it. I'll stop by the LBS tomorrow and see if I can snag one to try.

This is the cassette I'm trying to use
CS-M8000

I had a SRAM PG1130 11-36 cassette that I had used when I was running the 1x11 setup, so I decided to give that a try. The cassette mounted fine, but shifting isn't great. I'm not going to fuss with it too much, as it's my intention to use the XT cassette once I get the spacer tomorrow.

One thing became clear to me as I was playing with this. I need to do some research on the M8000 shadow derailleur. I have no clue how to set one up, or how to use it. The clutch system is a mystery to me. I'll spend some time reading up on that tomorrow (any good links you guys might have on this subj would be appreciated). I also need to add two links to the chain tomorrow before I'll be able to finish dialing in the shifting.

Here are some pictures of the temporary setup. The cable run is a little messy. I'll re-do all of it and tidy it up if I can get the shifting working halfway decent. Reading Wolftooth and Lindarets write-ups on this, there is no reason this system shouldn't shift well.





Note the cable housing coming out of the chain stay. Normally there is a fairly long loop here going to the Ultegra derailleur. This wouldn't work with the M8000. It was a bit nerve wracking cutting this cable, because the length was critical. 2mm too short and there would be slack. 2mm too long and it would bind.



 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
I finally got the 11-42 setup working with the M8000 RD and the Goatlink. The shifting isn't perfect, but it's probably 90% of the shift quality of a standard 6800 mechanical setup (on a normal cassette). Considering the mechanical ratio change, the monster cassette and the clutch derailleur, I'd call it a success. It's very rideable. I may be able to fine tune the shifting a bit more, but it'll likely never be quite as good as my other road bikes.

I was talking to the guys at the LBS about this, and if, after riding this 50/34 road crank and shifters with the 11-42 mountain bike stuff in the back is working for me, I may just suck it up and upgrade the bike to the new Di2. I need to do some research on the new Di2 stuff, and see what the compatibility is between road shifters and XTR rear derailleurs.

I'll try to get a picture of the final setup and post it here next time I have the bike out.

Edit: and to answer my own question regarding the 11sp M8000 cassette, a 1mm spacer is required for that cassette to work on an shimano 11sp freehub body. Which means it would likely work perfectly on a shimano 10sp freehub body without the spacer.
 
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