Any downside to an 11-34?

TL:DR What are the disadvantages of a 11-34 over 11-32.

I need more gears.

I’ve noticed recently how my natural cadence has been coming up since using TR, but this jars a bit when I hit longer hills, which often leads to other issues especially hot foot and fatigue and in any case grinding up just isn’t as fun as it used to.

I currently have 52/36 and 11-28 on the back. I’ve trialed swapping the front for 50/34 which helped but wasn’t a massive difference to justifify the spend.

However my rear derailleur is the short Ultegra one, so I’m more or less limited to 28. If I go ahead and buy the medium cage then I can go to 32 or 34. In my head I probably don’t need the 34, it’s never really mega steep where I live, but am I as well just getting the 34? What are the disadvantages? Only thing I can think of is a teeny weeny bit of extra weight and probably bigger jumps down the cassette - but haven’t actually looked at the breakdown.

The bigger jumps between cogs would be more of an issue for me than the weight. Gearing is very important, I’m happy with my Shimano 11s 11-28 aside from the 15-17 jump without having a 16t. SRAM 11s 11-28 has the 16t but has worse spacing for climbing. I looked at an 11-30 for some super steep stuff but I ride so little of it that it wasn’t worth sacrificing other gearing to gain a slightly easier gear

Guess I need 12 speed :roll_eyes:


What cadence are you riding in your 28 on hills? What cadence would you prefer to be riding at?

You can use this information and do some ratio math to inform the choice between 32 and 34.

Eg. Actual cadence 70
Preferred cadence 85
Ratio = 1.21

28 tooth * 1.21 = 34 tooth


I guess it depends on your strength, I use to ride a 50/34 with a 11-32. I didnt have much issue with the jumps between gearing but i never raced on it. I now have a 52/36 with a 11-30 but i also have di2 now. I havent really noticed much of a difference, but then again i havent climbed any “hills” yet.

I am interested in this question though…I am looking to purchase a Roval Alpinst wheelset and i was thinking of putting a 11-34 on it for climbing. So curious to see peoples thoughts on the OP

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Just in case you’ve never seen this, I always find it helpful.

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I live in an area with very steep hills. I unabashedly run the largest cassette I can, within reason, and recently that’s been an 11-32 on 52/36 Ultegra. The larger cogs more than make the jumps worthwhile.


If cadence on the smaller end of the cassette is important to you, and/or you do TR sessions outside the 2 teeth gap on that side of the 11-34 may be annoying. I find for longer threshold intervals on flat roads I am either at 80 RPM or spinning at 95+ and can’t keep power. I suspect a 1 tooth difference instead would allow me to get into my preferred 85-95 range.

I rarely use the 34 around the rolling hills where I live, unless I am doing a z2 ride and trying to keep the power low. Which IS useful. However, when I travel to the mountains, even 34x34 is hard not to grind on the sustained 9-15% grades of some routes.

For all these reasons, I am toying with trying a SRAM 11-36 cassette, that has 1 space on the small end, and the extra 2 teeth on the big end. I have read on this forum it works with a medium cage ultegra RD. From what you say, 32 is probably fine for you.


Which version of Ultegra are you running? I have the R8000 series and can run a 36t with no issues. Shimano will tell you that it doesn’t work, but… :man_shrugging:t2:

Your pretty much hit the only “drawback” to running a 34…slightly bigger jumps between some cogs. But since you need / want the extra gears, the benefits outweigh the smaller negatives.

As @ambermalika says “I’ve never met a smaller gear that I didn’t like”. She smart. :sunglasses:


If you’re feeling restricted by your gearing range, it’s worth looking into some taller gears to keep you spinning and save your legs.

I frequently race gravel on steep terrain in the Blue Ridge Mtns. and even with a 50-34 up front and 11-34 in the back, I’m still looking to make some changes to my setup. I’m considering 11-40 in the rear for this next season. This should make long races with repeated, punchy climbs more manageable by the end of the day.

A Wolftooth Roadlink would be a good option if you’re running out of range on your RD.

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I swap between a 11-28 and 11-32 depending on season and terrain with a 52-36 up front. I found myself wanting just a slightly lower easy gear for some more climby endurance rides so instead of buying a new cassette I just bought a 34 tooth front ring and swapped it out. So now I have a 52-11 high gear and a 34-32 low gear. The only issues I’ve had are:

  • Slightly rougher front shift
    ** Kind of a ‘drop’ into the 34 and a hair longer to shift to the 52
  • Required a slight tweak in the position of the FD
    ** I also added a K-edge chain catcher while I was at it just in case
  • There is some chain slack in the smallest 2-3 cogs while in the 34.
    ** Not super bad but I’d be wary of hard pedaling in this combo
    ** Just avoid this cross chaining and you’re good

I’m gonna switch it back when I start to race again (I guess that’s a decent sized ‘IF’ right now) but for riding around and general training purposes it’s been pretty great.

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I ride a 50/34 with an 11-34 on the rear and live it on the real steep stuff. No problems whatsoever. You will need a medium rear hanger though.


Does Shimano make a 36 or are you using a different cassette? Like you I’ve run combos that Shimano doesn’t support and they work fine. Recently upgraded to 8000 series.

It is a SRAM cassette.

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Wise words indeed! Its Ultegra R8000 as well, but I read the short cage only goes up to 11-28, or 30 at a push, but 36?! Seriously?

Yeah originally I was looking at a whole new bike with that setup, but this is my cheaper plan B for now. How do you find the gaps going down the cassette?

I’ve got the mid cage and so 11-36 seems reasonable. Would be interesting to know if anyone has run 11-34 on small cage.

Yeah good points. I’m not sure I’d be too fussed with the gaps out on the road as I’m not doing outdoor workouts. But indoors it might actually be a big issue as I’m using a dumb trainer with my PM, so no erg mode

Do you need to change the chain when you swap the cassettes? Either swapping them around depending on the day, or even keeping the 28 on my training wheel

Yeah good thinking, I’ll have a better look at some of my previous rides and put the numbers in to give me an idea, cheers!

I gotta see if I can figure out if my RD is a mid-cage or a short cage…but it came from my Canyon Aeroad, so I am pretty sure it is a short cage.