1. The most important thing about buying a new bike is to make sure it fits. The only way you'll know if the bike is right for you is to size up the bike and make sure that the bike's geometry matches your body's geometry. Ask questions and do some research.
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2. If possible, try to find a shop that will let you demo the bike on real dirt. Five minutes in a parking lot won't cut it. You wouldn't buy a car without a real world test drive, and a bike should be no different.
3. Don't belive the hype. Just because your favorite rider or best friend rides a certain bike, that doesn't mean that's the best one for you. Have an open mind and be realistic about your needs and ability.
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  1. #1
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    noob needing advice on bike's cassette upgrade

    total noob here. how do i upgrade my 9-speed cassette to maybe a 10 or 11-speed? *i find myself wanting another granny gear to get through some of my tougher climbs. :/

    my bike is a stock 2012 specialized camber 29er. it has a Shimano 9-speed HG20, 11-34t cassette. is it possible to add another 'sprocket' to it? if not, which ones should i be considering to buy? preferably not needing to change my shifter and chain but if that's not an option, please recommend a 'set' (cassette, shifter, chain and rear derailleur (?).

    thanks in advance! *again, im a total noob so links to product or maybe complete product names would be very helpful. easier for me to google. also, i'll probably ask my lbs to install it for me.

    ps. light cassette/set recommendations would be a plus as i plan to slowly upgrade (lighten) my stock bike.

    admin/mods: kindly move this thread if deemed inappropriate here.

  2. #2
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    No you can't just add a cog and Yes you will need new rear shifter and a new chain because the 10 speed will be narrower than the nine speed. If you want lower gearing it might be easier to just get a smaller granny gear up front, then you wont need to change the shifter or the chain.
    Last edited by Zoke2; 4 Days Ago at 09:06 PM.
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  3. #3
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    i see. i didn't even think of replacing the chainring. thanks. which ones would you recommend that would work on my bike?

    sorry im a total noob here. i don't really know what to look for. i think i even misused the word 'granny gear' - thinking it was part of the cassette instead of the chainring.

  4. #4
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    You will need a new cassette, chain, shifter, and rear derailleur at least. Nine and ten speed derailleurs require different amounts of cable pull. You will probably need a new crankset, or at least new chainrings, front derailleur, and front shifter. The 10 speed system is a fully integrated system.

    If you are talking about SRAM XX1, you need a new rear wheel and a single speed chainring for that.

    However, adding a tenth cassette cog is not going to help you much. Most 10 speed cassettes have the same 11-34 range that yours has, it just has and extra intermediate gear in the middle somewhere. There are cassettes with a big 36t cog, but you have to check with the manufacturer that your hub can handle the torque, and the extra 2 teeth are not going to make that big a difference. Spinning in your granny ring on your cranks (probably 22 or 24t) should be spinny enough to just about let you climb walls. If you can't grind up a hill in 24/34 gear, you just need to work on riding technique. No amount of super low gears is going to help you at this point.

  5. #5
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    i see. i had no idea! i didn't know it could be that complicated, not to mention costly to upgrade. :/

    thanks! ok back to researching. :/

  6. #6
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    Re: noob needing advice on bike's cassette upgrade

    Quote Originally Posted by mundane View Post
    i see. i had no idea! i didn't know it could be that complicated, not to mention costly to upgrade. :/

    thanks! ok back to researching. :/
    How long have you been riding? It takes awhile to get climbing down, it's a lot of effort. It took me probably 6 months to get to where I wanted to be climbing when i started riding. I went from a heavy stock 11-34 cassette to a lighter 11-32 cassette, because after awhile I felt that my 22 front and 34 back was an inefficient climbing pace, too "hamster wheel" as my buddy puts it. But for a beginner it's a good place to start.

    Make sure your seat height, tires choice and pressure are correct. Also hit those hills with momentum and downshift early to help you get up them quick.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gibbsinator View Post
    How long have you been riding? It takes awhile to get climbing down, it's a lot of effort. It took me probably 6 months to get to where I wanted to be climbing when i started riding. I went from a heavy stock 11-34 cassette to a lighter 11-32 cassette, because after awhile I felt that my 22 front and 34 back was an inefficient climbing pace, too "hamster wheel" as my buddy puts it. But for a beginner it's a good place to start.

    Make sure your seat height, tires choice and pressure are correct. Also hit those hills with momentum and downshift early to help you get up them quick.
    i started when i got this bike in 2012 but only during summers which is 3-4 months at the most, 2-4x a week.

    thanks for the tips. 'been doing all those things already but perhaps i need to work on my legs more or perhaps try to 'lighten' my bike with other parts upgrades.

    btw the hills i have trouble with are the ones with 12-14% max. grades that also go for 2-4 miles. i see my 10-speed buddies using their granny gears and they are able to pedal through it while i would end up 'tiring out' and 'wanting' another gear to downshift to. :/

  8. #8
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    Re: noob needing advice on bike's cassette upgrade

    Quote Originally Posted by mundane View Post
    btw the hills i have trouble with are the ones with 12-14% max. grades that also go for 2-4 miles.
    Those are not small hills! Lol. What about tire choice and pressure? What kind of riding are you doing? A more efficient tire(specifically rear) could make a noticeable difference.

  9. #9
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    stock so:
    FRONT TIRE - Specialized Purgatory Control, 60 TPI, 2Bliss ready, aramid bead, dual-compound, 29x2.2"
    REAR TIRE - Specialized The Captain Sport, 60 TPI, wire bead, 29x2.0"

    air pressure.. hmm you'll gonna have to school me on this one as i don't really pay attention to it much, unfortunately. noob!

    type of ride? hmmm, i guess beginner to intermediate trail riding.

  10. #10
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    I would consider the rear tire a bit heavy, mainly because the wire bead. Under inflated tires.yield better traction , but give you less efficient pedaling. Tire choice is all personal choice, so it's really up to you. But if you could drop some weight off the rear tire you will notice it. How technical is your terrain? The Captain Sport is a mildly aggressive tire for XC rear. If you want a FAST tire, check out a small block 8 or Slant six in folding beads. There are other fast tires out there too. Common practice for XC riders.is to use a more aggressive tire up front with slightly lower pressure and a fast less aggressive rear tire with more pressure. Losing traction in the front end is never a good thing, but a rear end sliding out is sometimes a good thing and normally recoverable.

  11. #11
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    not that technical although i plan to tackle more of them as soon as i get some gears (knee and elbow guards).

    i will look into those tires but how can i make sure that they will work with my current rims? the rims i have: "Custom Alex, disc, pinned and eyeleted, 27mm, 32h".

  12. #12
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    27mm is outer rim width, internal width is probably 20mm or so. As long as you get a 29" tire between 1.9" and 2.2" width you'll be fine. A Kenda Small Block 8 at 29x2.1 with 120tpi and wire with non UST is 580g. A 1.9" width is 509g. Specialized site reads 730g for the Captain you have. So 150g or 221g can be dropped that easily. Stock tubes are typically heavy. I bought a lite tube and lost an extra 50g. You may see 75g or with a 29". Tpi is threads per inch and 120 is grippier but wears quicker. All in all, $30-$50 could shed half a pound off of your drive wheel, which is where you will net the most gain.

  13. #13
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    thanks for your help. i'm strongly considering it now.

  14. #14
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    You could shave some weight off the cassette for sure. I think I dropped 150grams going to a deore XT cassette. The difference is nice ones have an aluminum spider that holds the big cogs and reduces mass. I'd go tire first then cassette. You will need a cassette removal tool and chain whip for that job. Tire is easy, 2 levers and a pump.

  15. #15
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    i see. i guess i'll keep reading about other ways of 'lightening' my bike. i did read a comment about this bike being really heavy for climbing. :/

  16. #16
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    Your bike's already got pretty low gearing.

    Weight saving isn't going to help you much. To save a significant amount of weight will cost a fortune and the difference in weight will be nothing relative to the weight of you!

    The two big factors in how a bike climbs are the geometry, design and stiffness of the bike and you. If the bike isn't a great climber it's because it's not very stiff, the geometry doesn't suit you etc. Shedding a few grams will change nothing.

    The second part is you. If you are unfit or have poor technique you'll be slow up hills, sad but true. I'm overweight, so is my bike, but it's stiff and I have strong legs so few people beat me up a climb.

    Blaming the bike is lazy. Everyone wants to go out and buy some gadget or upgrade that will fix all their problems but they won't. Ninety-percent of your performance on a bike is down to you. Don't waste your time and money messing around with a perfectly good transmission, all it will achieve is emptying your pockets. You want to climb hills faster? Get fitter.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gibbsinator View Post
    You could shave some weight off the cassette for sure. I think I dropped 150grams going to a deore XT cassette.
    Get real dude. You actually think saving the weight of a couple of Mars Bars it's doing to make any difference to how fast you can climb???

  18. #18
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    Cassette weight is at the center of the hub and will not make a big difference. If you want to save weight, although that will not make a big difference, change the tires or the rim.

  19. #19
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    noob needing advice on bike's cassette upgrade

    Just put a 26" wheel in the back. That will lower your overall gearing by about 10%. If you have disc brakes it should bolt right up. Then when you get stronger put your 29" back in.


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  20. #20
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    Re: noob needing advice on bike's cassette upgrade

    There are a few things that can make sustained steep climbs easier. Gearing down is one, though as others have said, given your current setup it would be pretty expensive and make a pretty marginal difference.

    Good pedaling form and a good approach to a long climb help too. Are we talking trails or service roads? Looking at your post, 12%-14% is a pretty stiff grade, but you say it's a maximum. Do those spots last long? Learning to pedal out of the saddle well is an important tool for MTB. I stand up as upright and forward as I can, at least without losing traction. And I usually shift up a couple gears. I find I'm most comfortable pedaling about 60 rpm when I do this. My cadence tends to run a bit high, though. Anyway, experiment with it. Getting out of the saddle on occasion breaks up a long climb nicely and timing it for when a road or trail gets steeper for a little while works well for me.

    It bears mention that a lot of cyclists set up their bikes pretty badly. If your saddle or handle bar is in the wrong place for your body, you're probably not being as efficient as you could be.

    Losing weight helps, but you're not thinking big enough. Your bike probably already weighs under 30 lb already and it costs a lot to get more weight off. But if you've never been underweight, you can probably lose 10-20 lb off your body. It takes a little time and discipline, but there are major benefits in almost every area of life. That's not to say you should take ballast with you on your bike, though. Take a critical look at what you bring when you ride. Do you really need that pedal wrench?

    Finally, getting stronger is a part of it. For me, it happened over time and then came as a surprise. I was used to having to struggle and really work on certain climbs, and then one day I started realizing I hadn't run out of gears - I could downshift, sit up, and enjoy the view. I still sometimes hit those climbs hard, but now if I do it, it's because I want to, not because it's that or walk.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Pig View Post
    Get real dude. You actually think saving the weight of a couple of Mars Bars it's doing to make any difference to how fast you can climb???
    What I do believe is losing 200 grams or more off the outside of the wheel (tire/tube/rim) will make a big difference. Which I stated as the first thing I would upgrade. The original post was about a new cassette, so to answer the original post I posted a little useful information. If you are going to upgrade your cassette you might as well get a decent one. I understand that the weight in the center of the wheel will not make as large as a difference as the weight on the outside of the wheel, but you still have to spin your cassette none the less.

  22. #22
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    Andrew's points are good. Most of the time when you are riding off road it's good to have your saddle down a bit to give the bike room to move around under you but it doesn't help when climbing. You want your saddle up high enough that your legs are fully extended or climbing will be much harder than it needs to be. I tend to leave my saddle that hight most of the time unless I know I'm going to be going down hill for a while.

    Personally, I virtually never climb out of the saddle. Sometimes you have to, when you are tiptoeing over knarly rocks for instance, but on a prolonged drag I find it far better to stay in a manageable gear and just keep winding. When you stand up you are usually pushing the envelope and can only sustain it for so long. It's fine for a final sprint to the top but you can't keep it up.

    I have a friend who uses 26 and 29'' wheels on the same bike, it's certainly something you can do. How beneficial it would be I don't know.

    Loosing 200 grams off the outside of the wheels will not make a big difference. You would be doing well to notice it. We're not talking about acceleration here, when climbing you're going so slowly that it hardly makes any difference where the weight is. I use down-hill wheels and tyres, they are pretty heavy, but I still climb faster than most people. Just put it in perspective. If you climbed up a hill then had to climb up the same hill with three Mars Bars in your pocket do you honestly think the Mars Bars would make a significant difference to how quickly you could get up that hill? If you eat them, maybe!

    The aspects of the bike itself that make a big difference are things you can't change. Not counting saddle position etc that is. The geometry, how stiff the back end is, these things are fixed. If you want a bike that climbs better you'll need to change the whole bike. I know, I've done it. If you don't want to do that the only big thing left to change is you.

  23. #23
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    thanks for all the replies. i'm learning a lot of stuff and will pay more attention on my techniques and bike setup. i think im fairly fit - 5'10 and about 180lbs - but im working on shedding off a few more lbs. trying out nutribullet concoctions.

    fwiw, the hills i mentioned are not trails but service roads/pavements - sustained steep climbs with very very minimal down or flats. my noobie self concluded that i needed one more gear to downshift to in order to keep up with my 10-speed riding buddies. i never considered the other things that were mentioned in the replies here.

    i'm starting to realize now that maybe i need to work more on my fitness. i'm mostly a summer weekend warrior type of a rider only. and not doing any winter physical activities don't help either.

    again, thanks for all the replies.

  24. #24
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    Climb as far as you can make it then get off the bike and push. The next time on the same hill/mountain make sure that you make it a bit further at least. Rinse and repeat. It seems obvious but there really is a big deal to knowing that you can do something. If you *know* that you can make it to point A because you did last time then you you'll do so again plus more. Virtually any problem (endurance or technical) can be tackled that way. But you can't do this if you only ride summers -- you have to keep at it.

    In my opinion rider weight loss has to be at least 5 lbs before it becomes noticeable in a significant way. Bike weight makes very little difference and while low-mass wheels are desirable, for a non-technical climb they help no more than other weight loss. It's just physics.

    Speaking of physics: The easiest way to tackle long climbs is to learn to ride *slower*. It takes a fixed amount of energy to elevate you and your bike from point A to point B. If you can take longer to expend the needed energy then you have to generate less power (but for a longer time). You might not be able to keep up with your buddies but you can potentially learn to ride slower and not have to get off the bike. If you can accomplish that then once again: rinse and repeat and speed will follow.

  25. #25
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    just think- many roadies are climbing those same hills in something no lower than a 34/28 gear, while you have something like a 24/34 gear. sure, road bikes are lighter and the tires roll with less resistance, but in the end it comes down to lots of time in the saddle for better fitness and technique.

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