Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Go-Anywhere Gearing: SRampagnolo Drivetrain with 'Frying Pan' Cassette

Seven, Magilligan Point
For the past few weeks I've been riding with an experimental drivetrain on my main roadbike "Desdemona" (a Seven Axiom S). The goal of this drivetrain was to achieve very low (sub 1:1) gearing, for hilly long distance cycling, including brevets. There are several ways to get that kind of gearing, some of which I've tried in the past with mixed results. The tricky part is not the gearing in itself, but achieving it with a modern (i.e. integrated shifters), lightweight road drivetrain, while keeping everything working smoothly. At the moment no road group from Campagnolo, Shimano or SRAM is designed to handle gears quite this low, so modifications are needed.

A hybrid drivetrain means that the parts making it up (cassette, derailleurs, crankset and brake/shift levers) are not all from the same manufacturer or group. Since modern road groups are designed for all the parts to work together, modifying or mixing them is generally not advised. That said, there are two general methods of doing so in order to get low gears. One is to keep most of the group intact, except for the crankset - replacing it with either a triple, or a double with much smaller chainrings (either way, inevitably foreign to the group). The other is to keep most of the group intact, except for the cassette - replacing it with a wider touring cassette (and long cage derailleur to accommodate). Speaking purely for myself, I have not been 100% happy with what happens when a modern road group's native crankset is replaced with a foreign one. So this time around, I opted for the other method. After 600 miles, what impresses me is that, in addition to being useful, this is also the least finicky hybrid drivetrain I've tried to date.

SRampagnolo Drivetrain
The setup here is a "SRampagnolo" hybrid. We've kept the front end of my bike's native Campagnolo Chorus drivetrain (50/34t crankset, front derailleur and 11-speed ergo levers), but used a SRAM 10-speed 11-36t cassette and a SRAM X9 long cage rear derailleur.

SRampagnolo Drivetrain
A Jtek Shiftmate (model #4 I believe) makes the SRAM 10-speed cassette compatible with the 11-speed Campagnolo levers. You can read all about this neat little converter here. Obviously, if you are starting with a SRAM or Shimano drivetrain, your setup will be different. Going with all-SRAM should be the easiest, because, as far as I know, their road and mountain groups are compatible. Shimano I am less sure about.

SRampagnolo Drivetrain
The decision to go with the SRAM X9 long cage derailleur was made, despite some reports that the new SRAM WiFli road derailleur (designed to handle up to a 32t cog) can in fact handle a 36t. Seven's Rob Vandermark tested the WiFli with the 11-36t cassette, and was not happy with the outcome. That was good enough reason for me to go with the X9. 

SRampagnolo Drivetrain
As far as functionality of the drivetrain, there is not much to say other than "It works." The entire range of cogs, from 11t to 36t, is usable in both rings. Cross-chaining has not been a problem in either combination (the derailleur does not explode in big-big and the chain does not go slack in small-small). Chain drop has not been a problem. The fact that the shifters are 11-speed while the cassette is a 10-speed is not noticeable. The Jtek converter works flawlessly and does not call attention to itself. After 600 miles of using the entire range of gears and switching between big and small rings constantly (including under load, and including when cross-chaining) I have not yet dropped the chain, gotten the chain stuck between rings, or even mis-shifted. In all ways, the drivetrain functions as smoothly as it did when the original groupset was intact. To be honest, even in the best case scenario I did not expect it to work quite this well.

SRampagnolo Drivetrain
As far as usefulness of the gear range, this too has exceeded my expectations. The cassette is spaced asymmetrically, so that the smaller cogs are closer together and the bigger cogs wider apart. The exact combination is: 11-13-15-17-19-22-25-28-32-36. With the 50/34t compact double, this combination almost feels like having two separate cassettes at my disposal: One for fast rides and the other with bailout gears for climbing either very long or very steep hills (or both!). Normally, I find myself riding in the big ring, in the middle of the cassette. One unexpected outcome of this, is that the setup encourages me to use bigger gears - something that has proven helpful over the past weeks of learning different climbing techniques and trying some interval training on flats. I was so focused on getting the low gears I wanted, it did not occur to me how much I would appreciate having the really high gears as well. The small cogs are not quite as tightly spaced as they would be on a racing cassette, but they are tight enough for me.

And of course at the low end of the range, the sub 1:1 ratio offered by the 34/36t combination is a dreamy bailout gear - especially considering how lightweight my bike is and how nicely it climbs in general. This end of the spectrum does come in handy on long rides over steep hills. For paved riding, this is now truly a go-anywhere bike.

While I expected the wide spacing to feel like a compromise, in practice it doesn't. On my dirt road bike, the spacing is tighter with a 12-29t Campagnolo road cassette. While my low gear on that bike is very similar to what is described here (28/29t with 650B wheels), on the high end it maxes out at 42/12t. I notice this more than I notice the difference in cog spacing. To be able to fly in 50/11t with my legs on fire and the next day spin up a vertical hill while humming happily in 34/36t, on the same bike, is, like, wow.

On the downside, the wide cassette does mean a bit of extra weight in the rear coming from the bigger cogs, long cage derailleur, extra chain length and Jtek pulley. Around 200-300g is the difference between this and my original drivetrain. Holding the bike up in my hands, it does tip to the rear a tad now, whereas before it was a masterpiece of perfect balance. In motion, I do not feel the extra weight. And whether it's bike related or not, my average speeds over the past few weeks here in Northern Ireland have been faster than previously. I really feel that I have the best of both worlds now with this bike. Since this is a temporary setup (an experiment for Seven Cycles, as much as for me - they may offer this option on custom builds in future), a different rear wheel was built for the purpose of testing it. I still have my bike's original Campagnolo wheel, derailleur and cassette, and can get my old setup back fairly quickly. But I think I will end up keeping this one, at least for the time being.

Visually, I admit the huge cassette does not exactly look elegant. The local roadies here have quickly dubbed it "the frying pan" and I've adapted the term affectionately. I may not be able to fry eggs on it, but I can can go far and I can go fast. Now we're cooking!

85 comments:

  1. My favorite mix-and-match drivetrain is Campy 11 shifters + Shimano RD + Shimano 9s cassette. This works well without any Shiftmate.

    When you get to the nuts and bolts of it, the shifter pulls some amount of cable per click (Campy and Shimano pull different amounts per click due to a cam in the shifter), the RD multiplies the cable pull by a constant ratio (except SRAM, which has a cam on the RD instead of a cam in the shifter. SRAM cable pulls are basically uniform, except for the first click).

    The Shiftmate adjusts the ratio of the RD, so there is still error in the system to the extent that the amount of cable pulled per click is different between the various systems. I've found about +/- 1mm of error is OK with Hyperglide-style cassettes.

    I even made a tool like this one for measuring cable pull, at one point...

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    1. You can also run Campagnolo 10spd shifters with a shimano 9spd mech and cassette, using the hubbub cabling method. I use it on my commuter and it works perfectly.

      The CTC website is a good resource for this sort of thing...

      http://www.ctc.org.uk/cyclists-library/components/transmission-gears/derailleur-gears/shimergo

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    2. I have something similar on my commuter: Campag 10 speed brifters with an all-Sora 8 speed group, and an old Dura Ace crankset with 38/48 gearing. Works amazingly well and the shifters are light years ahead of the Sora ones. An interesting side effect is that the brake cable pull is different on the Campag levers, so the Sora dual pivot brakes work incredibly well.

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  2. Great minds think alike. FWIW I have been using SRAM Red brifters, Dura Ace compact crank and a SRAM XX rear derailleur. This works well as I wanted to stay with 10 speed and can switch from 'regular' 11-26 cassettes to 11-36 for D2R2 type riding! I'm a firm believer in chain minders in any situation.

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  3. I did this on my touring bike this spring: Shimano 105 triple crankset, SRAM 11-32 9-speed cassette, Shimano Deore rear derailer and Shimano Ultegra bar-end shifters. A little different than what you're talking about here... Certainly not as fancy looking, but not bad.

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  4. I have found I need an even lower low gear ratio here in Pittsburgh, and have a triple with a 24T small chainring and an 11-32T 9s Shimano cassette in back. With Campy Ergo 10s shifters and the Shimergo cable routing it works well. And my lowest gear ratio is 3/4, which is about as low as it's possible for me to go without the front wheel coming up. This does give a slack chain when I use the small chainring with the small cogs, but I've never had any problem -- except aesthetics -- since I got a chain deflector (K-Edge Chain Catcher).

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  5. On my new bike, optimized for climbing as well as tight gear spacing, I opted to go with the former option, of changing out the crankset but keeping the rest of the drivetrain entirely "manufacturer matched"-- in my case modern Shimano Dura Ace 10-speed. My cassette is an 11-28 and the crankset is vintage TA but using using 10-speed spaced 44/28 rings. This gives me 1:1 gearing on the low end, and my high end is just as high as I need it but not too high. For me, a high gear of 50/11 (and even 50/12) would be so high that I would never use those two gears. Also, this way my gearing is tightly spaced and doesn't take up extra weight. In fact, by using a vintage TA crank with 44/28 rings, I'm *saving* weight over a modern Shimano 10-speed compact double. If i want sub-1:1, I can easily swap out the 28T TA ring for a 26T with no ill drivetrain effects.

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    1. Really looking forward to seeing your bike once it's all finished.

      I am curious to see whether I will ride the big gears anywhere near this much when I am back in the Boston area and my guess is no. But here there are these flat and car-light drags that make it fun to accelerate like crazy. There are also these long gradual downhills where the huge gears are super handy. Never imagined I'd be using them either, but here I am using them!

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  6. Thank you for this! Jim Duncan

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  7. I had no idea I was being so radical as I've combined road cranksets with mountain cassettes for years. My current "hill ride" set-up is on a Bike Friday Pocket Rocket wearing a Compact (50 x 34) crankset forward with a modified cassette / medium cage derailleur in the rear (9 x 32). The cassette is a Capreo that Ashley at Utah Trikes modifies from stock. There's a bit of a big jump in the middle but having a 32 tooth being driven by a 34 chainring while wearing 451 wheels makes some of our really big hills easily dooable, especially for this ancient rider (61). Go Hybrid!

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  8. The clever folk at Roe Valley Cycles just round the corner from you fixed me up with a SRAM 11-36 cassette (a.k.a. dinner plate) which runs fine with a long cage Apex, a long chain and the 50 ring of a compact chainset. The 34 ring screams blue murder on anything right of 28 cog, but as I only use the small ring with the 36 as a get out of jail gear for bad hills it works!

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    1. Nice. I've been to Roe Valley Cycles a couple of times, as well as to the fabulous Cicli Sport down the road. For such a "remote area," this part of NI is certainly well appointed with roadie bike shops.

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  9. You're very fortunate to have such resources in order to make your every request realized. Most of us have to either accept manufacturer choices or have the passion and time to tinker ourselves or special connections and extra money to have a LBS make constant alterations to one's bike. (In my city, good luck with that!) You didn't mention the cost involved of a wheel build and new components which, for most, factors into the decision of whether a current set-up is perhaps our best 'go anywhere' gearing. Happy Irish cycling!

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    1. I've experimented with a few similar and dissimilar setups prior to working in the bike industry and having access to the resources that come from that. It was indeed frustrating and costly.

      As far as cost, I don't mention it because it is too variable for such a project. Much of it depends on what level components you want to use and what wheels your bike already has - assuming you want the rear one to match. The rear wheel pictured here is actually not an exact match to the front, because it is an experimental/ temporary setup.

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    2. Thanks for documenting.

      Curious, how do you keep your chain and cassette so clean? Could I eat lunch off of it?

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    3. I was wondering about the cost of this specific transformation with these specific components and if you had to do it out of pocket would you consider it a worthwhile additional expense? Or are you just sharing with us one of the perks of being in the business? As a reader who wonders about adapting or adjusting I think it's helpful to gauge the potential costs of some of these transformations your bicycles undergo...I'm smart enough to know MMMV....thanks.

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    4. To clarify the situation, the setup shown here is temporary and does not belong to me. I am working on a project with Seven Cycles and we decided to test this gearing on my bike before going with something similar on a new prototype they are developing. If I permanently go with this gearing for personal use, I will buy a matching rear wheel and may go with a different (but functionally the same) model of rear derailleur.

      To answer your question, yes I consider this worthwhile enough to spend money on, because the gearing really works for me in a way that is more versatile than I expected.

      One complicating factor here for providing a price quote, is that (arguably) the Mavic Ksyrium wheels I've got on my bike are not meant to be rebuilt, which means I have to buy a new rear wheel if I want to switch from my original Campy hub to Shimano/SRAM. There may be another option involving a Miche cassette, and I am still looking into that. Point being, the price quote will differ wildly depending on whether you're (a) getting just a new cassette, (b) doing a wheel rebuild, or (c) outright buying a new wheel (and if so, which).

      So, let's see, the price for the exact rear setup shown here (which assumes starting with Campagnolo - otherwise there is no need for a new wheel) would be:

      Ksyrium Elite wheel: $300+
      SRAM 11-36t cassette: $60
      SRAM X9 RD: $80
      Jtec Shiftmate Model #4: $40
      10-speed mtb chain: $50

      So in the $500s range. Assuming you can install it yourself vs relying on shop labor. And of course you still have your old wheel and components, to sell and replenish some of those funds.

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    5. You can swap freehub bodies on those wheels, so the cost would only be around $50 not $300.

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    6. That would be good - though I've heard so many different opinions re this already, my head hurts. Going to research it more carefully and decide what to do when I get home. I feel pretty comfortable committing to this gearing and altering my Campy wheel, as long as everything works properly.

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    7. That's correct, only the free hub body needs to be changed on Mavic wheels.

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  10. The component manufacturers have been crying against gruppo miscegenation for decades, and it has never really been a problem. One of the first cycling articles I ever wrote was about this same matter; you can read it at http://bicyclefixation.com/lies.htm

    That was the best-shifting bike I've ever owned, in fact. When I'd ride in the ills alongside strangers, they'd ask what aI did to make it shift so well; I said, "I simply did everything wrong."

    Some things were easier then, as you could find individual cogs with little trouble--by nowadays you have the shifter adapter which give eve ore freedom.

    The "sacred system" mantra is just as pure BS now as it was back then.

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    1. I've done a wacky drivetrain on my wife's bike - largely to keep a good wheelset with lots of life remaining in service. 9 speed long cage Veloce RD and Mirage shifters running an 8 speed Dura-Ace cassette and rear hub. Works fine. Without a J-Tek or alternate cable routing. Eerily fine. If you're handy, there's no harm in trying these combinations. Most shops are hesitant, for obvious reasons, to pay for time to experiment and guarantee those solutions in the long run.

      I run a mostly Chorus 10sp drivetrain and am happy with a 13-29 cassette with standard (not compact) cranks. A mid-cage RD would be even better, but it's not a deal-breaker. Break the rules! See what happens!

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  11. We've done an all-SRAM setup like that for customers and it's worked wonderfully.

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    1. Yup. If one is indifferent wrt manufacturers, all SRAM is the way to go IMO.

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  12. After a knee injury left me struggling with my local rides, which include an 18% grade climb up to my home, I retrofit my SRAM-equipped road bike with a 12-32 rear cassette, SRAM long-cage DR and a compact crank (34t small ring). Now, I can spin up climbs that required a knee-unfriendly grind before. The shifting isn't quite as nice as with my regular rear DR (the throw is long and clunky), but all in all I am very satisfied with the change. And my knees thank me every day as I grind up the hill to my home.

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  13. As to a point you raised in your post: Shimano mountain and road components are (mostly) interchangeable. When I rode in the Alps, I used an XT rear derailleur and cassette (9 speed) with 105 brifters and a triple crankset.

    Ironically, the one area of non-interchangeablility in Shimano components comes within their 8-speed road components: You can't use non-Dura-Ace 8-speed cassettes or shifters/brifters with 105 or Ulegra gruppos.


    I also rode, for a time, a rear wheel made for Shimano casettes but used Campagnolo derailleurs and shifters. Mavic, American Classic and a couple of other companies made cassettes that fit Shimano-pattern bodies but whose inter-cog spacing was made for Campagnolo.

    When mixing and matching drivetrain parts, the most important factor is the sapcing between cassette cogs and between chainrings. (Somervillan alludes to the latter.) As long as you have that right (or an adapter like J-Tec's), you only need to worry about the capacity of your derailleur.

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    1. I know less about Shimano than the other big 2, so I could very well be wrong - but I remember hearing complaints that in recent years Shimano made their road & mtn groups incompatible. Let me look into it some more, I am curious now.

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  14. FASTER PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL!

    Spindizzy

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    1. OMG, I totally play and visualise this when riding fast on the flat stretches!

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    2. Now I will too...

      Spindizzy

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  15. I want to understand this gearing business but I have to admit that it makes my brain hurt.

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  16. I notice the X9 rear derailleur you chose is the Type2 version, with the clutch and release aid button. Was that a conscious choice or just what the shop had in stock?

    I ask as they are around 50g heavier and supposedly add extra resistance to shifting (I notice a little extra resistance on my clutch MTB derailleur compared to without).

    Cheers.

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    1. Speculating the type ii clutch keeps the chain taught in the small/small better, though shouldn't be necessary if you're paying attention.

      SRAM stuff shifts with a bang due to spring tension. My feeling is there is a little efficiency loss, especially vs. much dura ace. Whether you can feel it or not is dependent on the rider, of course.

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    2. Chain tension is greater in all gears, that's one of its strengths; very little chain slap, no chain suck, and fewer chain drops as a result. I've ridden with the Type2 (and 11-36) on my road bike for a few thousand miles; a fraction of a watt consumed by the Type2 is an acceptable trade off for better chain stability. The cage lock is the greatest convenience ever also.

      The issue arising from the cage position being horizontal/chain parallel or less in the small/small is accelerated upper guide pulley wear. The upper pulley is offset from the cage pivot more than average. Set the gap appropriately (B screw) between the upper pulley and large sprocket, when the pulley cams closer to the small sprockets, it will wear the upper pulley teeth rapidly if the cage is too far rearward. Shifting precision slows a bit too.

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  17. As an accidental retro grouch, I have to say that I'm glad to be unencumbered by these restrictions. Over the past several years, I've had the opportunity to affordably experiment with a wide range of 6-, 7-, and 8-speed drivetrains, nearly all of which were run in friction-mode. Compatibility issues were virtually nonexistent and I feel more in touch with my bike than I ever have when running an indexed system. I know there's a lot to be said for the convenience of brifters and such, but I guess that versatility and affordability count more for me than convenience. To each her own, though.

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  18. That's not a long cage on the rear derailleur, it's a mid-length. Chain wrap exceeds max capacity for the SRAM X9 Type II mid-cage by two teeth as configured. You're able to run it, but either the chain is too slack in the small/small or too taut in the big/big. While both of those front + rear sprocket combinations are mistakes somewhat, mistakes like this are inevitable. The regular X9 has higher chain wrap capacity than the Type II, BTW.

    The advantages of the Type II over the standard X9 are, the cage clutch which greatly reduces chain slap, and the cage lock, which is highly useful when removing the rear wheel, chain, or chainrings.

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  19. Shiftmate - said it.
    Weight is mostly in the fry pan.
    You had similar high gears before - you just didn't use them due to terrain.

    Jtek - the kluge that works.

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    1. I've used the Shiftmate on a couple of bikes in the past, including my former Riv in 2011, but the overall setup was always a little too muddled. It did always work though.

      Yup, I had the same high gears before and didn't use them as much.

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  20. On my new tourer I have 9sp Dura Ace downtube shifters, 105 triple front mech, SRAM triple 28-38-48 rings, Deore rear mech & Shimano MTB cassette, 32 tooth large sprocket.

    Nice thing about 9 sp Shimano all shifters worked with all mechs, road & mtb could be mixed and matched. Only issue really is max sprocket size & tooth count for road rear mechs and some easily avoided issues with front mech capacity.

    My Ribble that I took to the Dolomites has a compact double Truvativ chainset, 34/50 & 165mm cranks that came off my wife's hybrid, an old 105 double mech, Tiagra 9 sp shifters, a 9sp Deore rear mech and 8 sprockets of a 9sp mtb cassette on a 7 sp body to fit the old frame spacing. Low gear is 34:32, not quite 1:1 but it got me up the Stelvio & the Gavia

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  21. Often thought if you combined a Sturmey Archer 3 speed rear hub (they do one that takes 9 speed cassettes) along with a 9 speed cassette and a triple chain ring, it really would give you a gear for every conceivable occasion.

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    1. I thought that was such an obvious observation that I had the browser search for Sturmey. Let's see, a std 24/36/48 mech with a 11-32 cassette gives 81 ratios from 16/32 to 64/11 (crank is up or down a third). So that's log pulling up an alp to freefall down one taken care of. Surely this must have been done somewhere?

      All for 99 of our British squids here: http://www.sjscycles.co.uk/sturmey-archer-3-speed-rf3-cassette-hub-36h-prod28292/

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    2. Cyclo (I think) used to make a driver for the AW hub that accepted a screw-on 3 speed freewheel. Much later, in the '90s, I think, SRAM made a 3 speed hub that accepted a 7 speed cassette. I don't know why it disappeared.

      Many years ago, in a distant land (this was Kenya, circa 1972) I thoroughly rebuilt my first 10 speed (a late '60s Varsity) with a drivetrain consisting of the original, Ashtabula 40 t inner and an AW scavenged at a flea market, to which I applied an 18 t cog dished inward and a 16 dished outward, having a garage mechanic tack weld this last in place. I junked the Alvit rear derailleur for an ancient Cyclo push/pull, spaced out for a 1/8" chain with washers, that worked well enough for the two cogs. Mostly by happenstance, it turned out to be a very usable combination -- a sort of slushbox halfstep -- and the bike, spray painted gloss black by hand using a "Flit" insect spray pump, with hand applied pinstriping, home-made brass head badge ("Secundum Ventus"-- dog Latin), aluminum fenders and whitewall tires, was, IMO, quite an improvement over the original.

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  22. That's a nice combination Velouria. I'm tempted altho' I have not yet had the need for a 1:1 gear. However, things are catching up with me and last weekend I had to get off and push on a ramp I have previously managed on 50/28. I have subsequently put the front shifter back on ( I was running across 14-28 on a 50 front chainwheel only) and so I have the 34 back in play. I'd like to think I can do most ramps around me with a 39/28 option but I like the idea of running a long rear mech with a 13 or 14/32 and a 50 chainring only.
    Its fun swapping things about...

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  23. ScottUKEireloverJuly 9, 2013 at 5:00 PM

    Nice looking cassette I reckon. Roadies can be peculiar about anything non roadie! The X9 is also a fine piece of kit, the X0 is also nice but stupidly cost prohibitive. The X9 has all the functionality and I think also looks very good.

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  24. I am not invested in performance in a road race sense but more bang-for-the-buck functionality, so I don't know how relevant my remarks are. I recently fixed up my sister's old Miyata for her return to biking and gave her an old Sugino triple used as a double with Sugino 40-26 replacement rings and a bashguard for the outside spot. The old Suntour front derailleur works flawlessly. On the back is an Acera I had lying around (the old Suntour RD was bent, but reportedly was not one of the company's best when new) and a 12-32 IRD freewheel. The shifters are the old Suntour friction shifters mounted on the stem. I tell you, the thing rides like a dream, and I really put it through its paces before handing it over. I'm with the gentleman who says that the gruppo thing is bunk. But to be fair, what we are talking about is the shifter more often than not, and so if you can live with friction, it frees it all up. I personally prefer friction, but again, I am not in competitive situations. But, oh my god, my sister loves her 26-32 combo.

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  25. Across the room sits my sweetie's bike with 44/42/26 chainrings and a 14-28 freewheel. The 44 is a Stronglight, the 42 a T.A. tripleizer, the 26 a steel alley find. The six-speed Shimano TwistTooth freewheel is also an alley find. The crank is of course Campagnolo Nuovo Record, dated 1973. Front shifting is handled by an Old Record derailleur, the variant with the integrated lower cable housing stop, so from about 1960. Never misses. Rear shifting is also Nuovo Record, probably 1970.

    So the chain hangs slack in 26x14 and 26x16. No conceivable issue if you are not an actuary in the legal department of a bike manufacturer. And I would not feel good slamming the 42>26 shift in a pack. Bikes with 26 tooth rings are not much in packs. And for two years it just hasn't been any problem at all. Shifts better than most dedicated (hyper-specialized) triple derailleurs.

    We paid for the tripleizer ring. The longer spindle (don't know what it is) came from my Campy guy, part and labor swapped for the original 68-SS-120. So about $100 for the whole conversion.

    Q factor on this triple is 139mm. If you've never ridden that narrow you just don't know. We can go down as low as a 24 ring and a 30 tooth sprocket if we want.

    You can of course do tripleizer chainrings for 130mm and 135mm modern cranks. Steel small chainrings are thin and do fine with modern skinny chains. If you know a machinist many normal double cranks can be tapped and drilled for 74mm or 58mm bolt circles. 58mm rings go down to 20 teeth. That size got orphanned when MTBs went to four arm cranks but overstock parts are plentiful. The needed bolts and spacers are actually a bigger challenge than the tapping and drilling. So many ways to skin a cat.

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    1. I am not categorically opposed to triples, though have not tried one that I liked as of yet. Your setup sounds pretty interesting.

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    2. Well, you could test a triple on a crank you already own and know you like. Then if the triple failed you just don't like triples. Your Chorus crank could be tripleized. The White VBC is halfway there already, you only need bolts and spacers. Since you can't do this with a totally matched set of rings keep it fair by limiting the gaps to 10 or 11 teeth. Or less.

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    3. Oops. Can't change the spindle length on a Hirsch joint Chorus crank. Complications are endless.

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  26. I had an over-geared triple on my road bike: 30/42/50 crank, 12-25 cassette, 32-112".

    Changed this to 26/39/46, 12-27, 26-103". It can take cross-chaining, but I avoid it. The big cogs of the bottom ring, 26-44", are ideal for climbing Japan's mountain passes; the centre of the middle ring, 55-75", is great for cities and headwinds; the top of the big ring, 72-103", for optimal conditions.

    I almost got Sugino's 801 crank which takes smaller inner rings (74bcd) than other doubles, but didn't drop the money since its tread is only 1cm less for a $500 cost. I may yet. That I would set up as 26/44, 11-27: 26-98". If I can hit 40km/hr on my 70" fixed gear, I can get over 55km/hr on at 98" (downhill, with a tailwind...).

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  27. I'm wondering why a fit, enthusiast type rider like you would want 1:1 on a 17 lb. bike. In Santa Fe where we ride in the mountains at 7,000-10,000 elevations, absolutely no one uses gearing that low.

    Also, the one issue you may find eith Jtek is that the cable rotates on the pulley over time, the entrance position changes and the shifting degrades a bit.

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    1. Many cyclists I know use gearing this low on similar bikes, including cyclists much more fit than I am (example: Pamela Blalock). In large part it depends on pedaling style rather than fitness.

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  28. I am all for granny gears, and wish such a wide range would be more available for road components. You know like a hill climbing cassette for real people! I did get up my long steep road on a 36/24 but it wasn't easy. I am surrounded by big, long steep hills and mountains, so need to have granny gears. I wasn't happy with shimano xt on my touring bike, so understand the dilemma. Also, many cheap hybrid bikes come with megarange cassettes, but the low quality drive trains and terrible geometry actually make hill climbing horrible, from experience anyway. I've mixed and matched, and currently trying to build a bike with scrap parts, old wheels with a 6/7 speed hub and it is NOT working. I thought I could fit a 7 speed freewheel on the hub, but that was a mistake. Even less available for 6 speed freewheels.

    That is a very big cassette! I have never gone beyond 9 speed. Apparently, or according to my husband(another bike mechanic confirmed this) 8 speed cassettes and chains are more affordable and thus economical in the long run when it comes to upgrading and replacing parts(until 8 speeds are phased out?!). I have found 8 speed cassettes with 11-34, but 11-36 appears in 9 speed and beyond. I am not interested in having so many gears, the range is more important. So if an 8 speed cassette weighs less, you could go that route, but it could mean having to get 8 speed shifters unless the 11 speed shifters will work. Being comfortable is important and being able to climb hills with more ease is way more fun.

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  29. I find 4-tooth difference between cogs too big. 2 or 3 teeth difference should suffice.

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    1. It depends where it is in the cassette. Once I am on the 28t cog or bigger, it is bailout territory and the wider spacing works well. Of course YMMV, but I find the asymmetrical design of this cassette pretty useful.

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  30. Is there any good reason why you wouldn't use a Campagnolo long cage rear derailleur???

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    1. Campagnolo does not make a derailleur that will handle beyond a 29t cog.

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    2. Campagnolo does not rate the current derailleur beyond 29 but the derailleurs always perform well beyond the rated limit. Not all the way to 36 though.

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    3. Campy Athena 11x3, Veloce 10x3, Centaur 10x3 have long cages. Current production.

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    4. They will not handle a 36t cog. The SRAM X9 is a better choice here.

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  31. I'm going to change the gearing in my Seven, too -- the only thing I'm waiting for is to see how by how much, as my strength is still improving. The cheap option would be seeing if I can coax the rear dérailleur (105 short cage) into taking an 11-32 SRAM cassette, which isn't as nice as 11-36 but, well, cheap, and while outside spec there are lots of reports of success. The current gearing does everything I asked for initially, but I really didn't expect that less than a year later I'd be gleefully packing the bike up for a trip into he White Mountains and wishing I had gearing to handle the Kanc.

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    1. I hope you did try some of the big hills in the Whites. Hard as thy are, they are fun with the right gearing. I've been up there with a 39/52 front, 11/23 rear when stronger than I am now but happier with a compact crank and 12/25, and recently did Tripoli Road with a 105 racing triple with a 13/32 cassette. The fun is doing it on whatever equipment you need, or have, and challenging yourself (and enjoying the descents). I saw your bike when you I'd the NER Populaire and it looks like a good bike for climbing.

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    2. I'm probably doing this:
      http://ridewithgps.com/routes/2845171

      which isn't any of the big climbs but should be a pretty ride. If I had an option to just ride the Kanc I'd do it, but the whole loop starting in Crawford Notch is more than I'm up for right now.

      It's a wonderful bike for climbing, but that still doesn't make me a strong climber. :)

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    3. You still have a some climbs in their and a lot elevation gain. It should be fun. Consider whether you could do a remote start and do a loop like this one but starting in Fraconia. There are so few roads up there that the big loops are both very long and very hilly.

      Another road to consider, and you will be right on the route, is Jefferson Notch Road into Route 2 and take 115 back to 3 and 302. I rode 115 a couple of years ago and it's pretty easy. I saw a coyote in the stream bed just north of Bretton Woods a couple of years ago and saw a mother bear and cub in Crawfords on the same ride. It's great country up there and you will enjoy it whatever you choose to ride.

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  32. Wow, all the technical research and compatibility issues involved in making a this sort of change is mind boggling -- and seemingly not for the weak!

    Makes me, again, think of a Rohloff with only one chainring, one sprocket, and all the gears I'll ever need evenly spaced out inside that hub. It's beginning to sound quite practical for the go anywhere bike I'd like to create, not to mention simple.

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  33. That 36t cassette is pretty big! I have a 48-39-30 triple with a 12-28 9-speed cassette I fangled together (12,14,15,17,19,21,23,25,28). I didn't have a 13t lockring lying around or I'd have used that instead of the 12. While I ride on the 48t ring more often than not, I never use the 48/12. The 48/14 is plenty fast enough when I'm sprinting, the middle ring can get me up most climbs and the granny ring gets me up the worst hills. I have a friction shift set-up with bar ends so the indexing and cable pull issues don't affect me. However, I can't shift as quickly under load as with an indexed setup. Almost but not quite.

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  34. 50x11 with 700-26 tires at 100rpm is 36mph. You're doing those speeds now? Srsly?

    Try an experiment. Put a speedo on the bike. Get the bike flying in 50x13. Drop the chain to the 11 cog while watching that speedo. Your speed will drop. Getting back to your previous speed will be harder and take much longer than you would have imagined. This will remain true even on downhills. On flats or slight downhills you may not get back to your previous speed at all.

    This is the leaning against a wall effect. Lean against a brick wall as much as you want. Put some effort into it. If the brick wall does not move zero work has been performed. Gears as big as 50x11 might as well be brick walls. For that matter most people who think they can pull a gear as enormous as 50x13 are kidding themselves.

    If you just enjoy the sensation of the monster gear go ahead. You are living on the bike now and not training for anything but life on the bike. Just don't try it in a pack. When it's necessary to adjust position a little in the pack reflex #1 is kick the pedals a bit and put the bike a few inches over --there--. Problem is when you are leaning against a solid wall the bike does not get --there-- on anything like the schedule you anticipated. If it goes anywhere at all. Basically when riding the massive gears the bike is on a fixed trajectory. Put ten riders or fifty riders on fixed trajectories down the road and those trajectories are just gonna intersect unpleasantly. Which is one of the prime reasons the group rides and local races are so much more hazardous these days. And why you'll see the old guys spinning 130rpm in 53x15. That's how they survived to be old.

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    1. I agree with your general sentiment, but large gears can be useful if you find yourself wanting to descend at high speeds. I sometimes ride with fast tandems and larger gears are useful if you are trying to hold a wheel at 45 miles per hour.

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    2. "You're doing those speeds now? Srsly?"

      Not the way you put it, like I'm doing them as a regular thing. I mean, I can't sustain that gear/speed for long. But it's fun, and useful training, while I can. As for brick walls, I don't know. Cyclists here train in those gears all the time; the terrain on certain stretches really lends itself to it. That is also why time trials are so popular here.

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    3. I'm in favor of fun. And it's your ride. I wish there was a way I could impress how big a 122" gear is.

      Are we talking race talk on this blog now? Hmmm, TT, 50x11, training. OK, the old standard is Eddy. Merckx could ride 260km(you know what that is) and then attack the mountain to the finish line in 53x17. Not a lot of mortals can climb mountains on the big ring. The guy was not afraid of a big gear. His usual top was 53x13. Those photos you see with a 57 ring, he has 650 wheels. But we all need bigger gears than Eddy. Much bigger gears than Eddy.

      When I started hanging with racers the most common top was 50x14. Or 49x14. Some diehards were still on a 15. They rode just as fast as we do now. Throw in a small factor for aero wheels, when and if that matters, and it was the same. Only technique has changed.

      Andy Hampsten's quip when he tried an 11 cog was "There is no downhill on the planet so long, so straight, so steep that an 11 serves any purpose." When I was 24 years old and Andy was 14 I could ride with him and that was fun. A year later and he was just in another zone altogether. And he was a bit faster still when 11s came around. Now 37 years later guys who would have no hope of riding even with a 13 year old Andy are telling me I should buy silly gears for my bike and I would be fast. They have 11s and boy did it make them fast. OK.

      About those 45mph downhill jams. Tandems accelerate quick on a downhill so the straightaways are effectively longer for them. It's like downhill motorpacing. If you are really clear of other traffic, yeah, a 12 or even an 11 could make some sense. Maybe. I've always done those runs on 53x14. Yes it's a lot of rpm. Anyone who races track is doing the same speed on 46x14. Anytime I've ever shifted to the 13 it was a mistake and I went back to the 14.

      Totally serious about avoiding the big gears in groups. Can you imagine we used to have road races, track nights, criteriums, and no one thought to hire an ambulance for the event? Because season after season the big injuries were road rash and collarbones and that was about it. Not all changes to the sport have been good, not all industry default settings are viable.

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    4. I think I see where the confusion is. I am not riding this gear in groups. Not just because I could not sustain it long enough, but also because I'd be too scared to ride in a close bunch at that speed. I am also not saying this gear makes me faster. I am not a fast cyclist, period, and an 11 cog is not going to change that.

      What I'm talking about is more like doing training intervals, on flats. This need not be for racing purposes, it can be for strength. But when you're doing that kind of training, it's TT-style training. You accelerate and accelerate as you go through the gears, until you're too exhausted to keep going - then you rest. In that situation, yes I end up in 50/11 by the end of the interval and sustain it for some minutes before having to stop.
      You're in a zone of sorts at that point and the gear sort of pushes itself until your brain catches up and tells you that you're in too much pain to keep going.

      Do I "need" an 11t cog in the real world? Well, if I lived here full time, I would have occasion to use it. In Boston, I am not sure there are stretches of road anywhere nearby where I'd feel comfortable accelerating like that. And I'm certainly not saying that others need it, or making any claims for racing. It's just a cog and I'm just having fun.

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  35. Interesting discussion, as I can see from the volume of replies. It is very heart warming to see others flipping the metaphorical bird at component manufacturers' self imposed restrictions. I've never been shy of composing my own drivetrain combinations and, recently, having (1) decided to swap out the mtb triple on my Fargo for a wide range double and, (2) built a modestly fast derailleur road bike with the first indexing I've used for 20 years, I renewed my commitment to doing things the right way – one that pleases me -- instead of the official way.

    For the Fargo, I swapped the 46/36/24 X 16-18-20-22-24-28-34 (designed to be ridden mostly in the 46 – Miche makes outer cogs up to 16 t) with a bash guard/38/24, and upped the cogs to nine: 13-15-16-17-18-20-23-26-32, for almost as much range, gaps almost as small, and the huge advantage that I can segue from pavement to rolling dirt without having to swap between the outer and the middle. The 38 gives me 85" down to 34 and handles most of what I encounter -- I mash rather than spin, and I can easily maintain 30 in an 85" gear.

    For the Rambouillet, a niche filler that handles modestly fast and longer distances than my two main fixed gear road customs, and, in addition, with large panniers attached to the Tubus Fly, grocery duties, I got lucky with a nice 7 speed Dura Ace 7400 series drivetrain (tho’ Pro 5 Vis cranks, Phil bb) so decided to index seven speeds, just ‘cause, thus: 44/30 X 14-15-16-17-18-20-23, with spacer behind the cassette and a spacer in front of it on the 8/19/10 speed freehub body. This gives me the 85" high and a 52" low on the 44, fine for most riding, and at need, a gear as low as 35” on the 30. It's annoying adjusting cable tension just so, but it does work, and it's an interesting contrast to the friction shifting I've used on everything else since about 1993 (the Fargo's 9 shift perfectly on- and off-road with Rivendell Silver bar end shifters).

    As an erstwhile gear nerd – I used to manually and mentally calculate gear charts during boring staff meetings – I must say that a decade of riding mostly fixed certainly changes your perspective on gearing. Whereas I used to fret about 30” to 100” ranges with 5 gear inch gaps, I now realize that most gearing needs are culturally conditioned, and that one really needs only a few gears within one’s preferred torque range with a smattering of uphill and downhill bailouts. And 70 gear inches is truly a magic number!

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  36. My recent ride up Greylock made me reconsider gearing. It is fun to have a bike to get up nearly anything but my solution isn't perfect.

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  37. I was just wondering if all this compatibility stuff could be thrown out the window if you simply went with friction shifters. After all, you don't have to click into a specific spot. You just find the right one.

    Don't get me wrong! I have STI shifters and like them, but I can related to the retro-grouches. Reminds me of the difference between an automatic transmission and the manual transmission I had on my 67 Austin Heally Sprite. Sure, it was more work, but I was definitely more in-synch with the car. Double-clutching into turns (lost art) gives an awesome feeling.

    Anyway, I have been thinking about going compact double and having a great fast gear and a great granny gear. I know the gaps would be big, but I really don't care. To me, sounds like it would be kinda fun to have to shift that way. To feel the shit.

    Sound crazy?

    Ty

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    1. I rode with friction shifters for 2 years. Personally, I just prefer brifters.

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    2. I, too, went back to friction when money became a problem as I cobbled together a bike. It's like riding on trails. A nice feel.

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  38. Out of curiosity, what kind of chain are you using? I can't quite tell from the pictures. Thanks!

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  39. I use a similar set up. Shimano 105 5700 shifters, the same sram cassette as you, 50/34 105 crank and shimano xt rear d. No issues at all. I use the bike for the full D2R2 ride and the six gap ride in VT. I love the set up. Glad you found something that works for you.

    Cheers!!!

    Patrick

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  40. There is another way to do this. Sturmey-Archer and SRAM make 3-speed hubs that allow you to thread-on 8 or 9 speed road cassette. Putting the calculations through the Sheldon Brown calculator yields some very interesting (and usable) gear ranges. You get what amounts to a triple without a front derailluer.

    Just for giggles, I ran a combination using a Sturmey CS-RF3 hub and a SRAM 10-42 11-speed cassette through the calculator, with a 34 tooth ring. Just looking at the "High" range, you get a low of 29" up to a high of 122". "Direct" gives 22" to 99", and "Low" gives 16" to 69".

    An overall of 16" to 122". Wow. On the same principle, consider: Five-speed hub with a 9 speed cassette. (Insert mad scientist laughter here).

    Mind you, the "Direct" range on the 1x11 seems like a pretty good idea in itself.

    Rudy

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  41. My setup is 9sp based. Shimano HG 12-36 cassette. Microshift RD-M55 rear der. Velo Orange Compact Double 34x48 crankset. All shifted by Shimano 9sp barends mounted to Retroshift levers. Range from 26" - 110". Plenty enough to get me up and down the hills. I ride in the big ring 90% of the time but I can use the full cassette from either ring.

    ~Jeffrey R.

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  42. So, I am about to find out whether Campag Ergo 10spd with Rival RD, 12/32 SRAM Cassette and SRAM chain will work. Keeping Campag Carbon compact CS and FM. At the Pro Bike shop being fitted now. Reason - Living now in Austrian Alps, Zillertal. Only up and down from here out. Had used 13/29 but is wearing for long days. A near on 1/1 ratio will help!!! I shall keep you posted,

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  43. So, done it. No JTEK and it works perfectly! If you go to Gunnar Bikes Facebook page you can see the pictures. Srampag is go..

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  44. Dave Moulton just recently wrote about gearing: http://davesbikeblog.squarespace.com/blog/2014/3/12/46-big-ring.html

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