With all the Covid-induced supply chain fears and realities – I thought I’d give a non-Shimano cassette a try during a drivetrain swap-out.

I’m religious about certain gear choices, and like all aging codgers, swear by certain items. It would take a lot of evidence to pry me away from a chain other than the KMC X11 (SL), but I figured a cassette would either work, or suck, right out of the gate. While a catastrophic failure is possible, problems would likely come from bending or shifting issues over time – which would obviously suck as well.

Choosing

I wanted to bump up the tooth count from my Shimano 11-46 to 11-50. With aging knees, a little less grind from time to time is a good thing (according to an old orthopedist) and when you ride the rocks around here – it’s grind central! We’ll leave out the fact that the only way to consistently clean these rocks is with more mo and higher gears, but that’s another story.

After some digging, I found this cassette fit/compatibility chart in a forum. ZTTO seems to be another Chinese/Taiwanese supplier of off-brand components.

After a modest search I chose: The Bi-bike 11 speed 11/50T from Amazon

This one seemed to have good reviews. If the $60 investment pans out – I’ll be psyched that we’re not stuck in the duopoly of SRAM/Shimano for ALL things.

It arrived quickly in a padded bag – but no hard backing – which made me a little worried. No obvious bends.

Phase I:

Packing for Bibike Cassette

STEP 1: Install new cassette on rear wheel, install new chain. Adjust chain length.

STEP 2: Adjust Derailleur (used Park’s Youtube for refreshers). Notice potential slight bend. Used rotor bender to offer tiny tweak to biggest cassette ring.

STEP 3: Ride, test, notice odd noise coming from chainring under load.

STEP 4: Realize you need a new front chainring too! Shoulda known better!

STEP 5: Order new chainring and a new long-cage derailleur, re-install old cassette/chain.

STEP 6: Ride Bruce and Toms! Killer. Even without a new drive train.

Phase II:

STEP 1: Receive new oval chainring – Blackspire Direct Mount.

A clean and freshly mounted Bi-bike Cassette

STEP 2: Steal 30 minutes in the morning before one of the biggest rides of the year to update the drivetrain. Remove derailleur, ring, crank, etc.

STEP 3: Realize you BOUGHT THE WRONG DIRECT MOUNT style. Needed Race-Face compatible – bought Shimano. Curse these new crank standards!

STEP 4: Find the original chainring that came with the bike – only ridden for a few months, and installed. Wonder if you’re messing with your new chain by riding a slightly old chainring. Decide not to worry, but still to wonder.

STEP 5: Ride the Wicked Ride of the East at Harold Parker State Park on 11/7/21. Righteous 20 miles of technical singletrack to burn it in.

Update 11/22/21

I’m pleased to report that this off-brand Cassette is holding up well in some pretty extreme conditions. Shifting is clean, crisp – some problems getting into the 11th (little) gear. The climbs around here are such that you use your 4 lowest gears under max torque on every ride. I haven’t had grinding or skipping and I’ve tweaked the barrels to the point where I’m pretty confident it’s to spec.

I’ll report back.

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