Larger Cassette or Smaller Chain Ring?

Just bought a Niner gravel bike with a 1x SRAM FORCE ETAP AXS rear derailleur with a 38T chain ring and a 10-36T cassette – love the bike but didn’t realize that I can’t go bigger than a 36T cassette on the existing (brand new) derailleur and that I would have to upgrade to the Eagle setup to get the larger cassette. After realizing that the upgrade would set me back another $1,000, I’m thinking about swapping the 38T chain ring for a 34T instead which is more like a $100 fix. Any thoughts on this? Opinions and/or hacks to get a little more gearing would be greatly appreciated!

  • Is that the older 11 speed version?

If so, you might be able to look into the Wolftooth Roadlink to extend range.


Can’t comment on that particular groupset, but I’ve successfully used a chinese rip off version of RoadLink on a couple of bikes to extend the range. One a 2nd hand road bike that came with a short cage rear mech (too much for me), and one on a bike for my daughter.

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+1 vote for this (and NOT a rip off look alike device)

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Ditto on getting an original product from the people who put in the time to make it from scratch.

Its not - its a brand spanking new 12 speed

In that case, the cheap option is the chainring. The pain is that your top end will be limited, but that may not be an issue for you compared to getting a good “under-gear” option.

That’s kind of my thought - if I go from a 38 to a 36 it should help a bit on the climbs and i don’t think I’ll lose too much on the flats - either way its a way cheaper fix for now anyway (FYI - I e-mailed Wolftooth to see if/when they might come out with an extender that’s compatible with a 12 speed so maybe that will be a future option) - thanks for insights - much obliged

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Do you know any gadget similar to extend the range of an old Shimano 105 9 speed deraileur? Got and 11-27 cassete on the trainer and would like to get some extra lighter gears for veverestings, at least 11-32.

I don’t know of anything specifically, but I would suspect that the regular RoadLink might just work for your needs. Probably worth an email to Wolftooth to see what they might say.

If you go with the road link, you need a flattop chain compatible cassette. I’m not sure who makes this, other than SRAM. I haven’t checked around. If you pick up a regular cassette, you’d need to go with the Eagle compatible 12s chains, and derailleur regardless.

If you go with a smaller chainring, you need one that is flattop chain compatible. I don’t know if SRAM makes a 34T flattop compatible chainring, but WolfTooth does.

That flattop chain thing is pretty annoying, and confusing. The roller sizes are different.

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Lots to think about - thanks for help!


Chainring definitely seems like a more responsible idea than a $700 Eagle AXS derailleur

No problem. Just to toss in a link from SRAM.

The only requirement is that the rear derailleur, cassette, and chain match. Flattop is flattop, and Eagle is more “normal.”

i run 11sp 11-36 on my gravel/CX bike. I have 36, 38, and 40 tooth rings that i can swap out, though I don’t do this too often. 38t is on most of the time and 38/11 is only slightly taller than 34/10. Before buying the 36T, i found out which cog would give me a similar gear ratio on the cassette with the 40T, and then did a ride where I wouldn’t shift past that cog, to simulate not having the taller gears and see if I really missed them. It’s easy to notice when you miss easy gears, but lots of people over estimate their need for big gears.

Power and weight also play into this. FWIW, I am 3.4 W/kg, 340-345 FTP (and heavy, obviously haha)

This is exactly the reason why I didn’t buy a heavily discounted SRAM Force ETAP AXS equipped bike and ordered a 11spd SRAM Force 1x mechanical drivetrain bike instead. I am in the mountains and a 38T - 33T ration is not enough on long steep climbs. They increased it to 36teeth meanwhile, which is a first step, but the entire process of changing a new bike to your needs is far to difficult with this particular group.

I have to be honest. It’s the same reason I’m not upgrading from 11s to 12s. I just bought a frame and moved my 11s bits over.

I really need to try the current set up out I think and then see if I need to change it up a little - my power to weight is a little higher (FTP definitely lower) so a 38x36 may be plenty right?!?

I get it - the drivetrain works great but modifications not so much

I think so, I only throw the 36T on for bikepacking (Loooong days, extra weight). 38/36 isn’t great when it gets steep but I’ve only succumbed to walking on 25% crazy steep stuff. I live on the Vancouver North Shore so it’s definitely not flat. but, i also I don’t mind grinding at 55-60 RPM for 5-7 minutes.

When my w/kg was less than 3.0 I needed lower gears but can get away with a bit taller gearing nowadays.