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Daily Archives: September 12, 2021

The Case for Having A Complete Shimano Drivetrain From Front to Back (For the First Time)

When I bought my Trek 5200, used, it came with an Ultegra 9-speed Triple drivetrain. The local shop carried SRAM chains and cassettes, so that’s what I had on day one… through day 3,400. In that time, the shifters broke so I went with MicroSHIFT 3×9 shifters as I couldn’t get Shimano replacements.

Then I had the opportunity to upgrade my Specialized Venge to Ultegra components so I scrapped the triple and 9-speed drivetrain for the original 105 drivetrain… a 2 x 10-speed.

I hadn’t used a Shimano chain or cassette since I upgraded the Trek. I also opted for aftermarket chainrings that were sold as SRAM. They looked good and were quite light. I figured it would be good, SRAM chainrings, chain and cassette.

Well, after all of my recent difficulties with my system skipping under power in the baby ring (little ring up front, most gears in the back), I started investigating drivetrains and I saw something, I believe it was from Shimano, that said it’s best to use their components exclusively from front to back because the components are made to work together for the best shifting experience possible. I wasn’t going to switch all of that stuff to SRAM, so I put an Ultegra cassette and chain on the Trek… and the LBS owner suggested the skipping was likely due to simply needing a new chainring*, I looked for and found two 105 chainrings that matched my crank (110 BCD, 50/34) at Jenson USA, ordered them and got them installed once they arrived.

So, with those two chainrings, for the first time ever I’ve got a full line from front to back – 105 everything, except the chain and cassette which are both Ultegra.

So, you may be wondering, what about the aforementioned Specialized Venge? That bike came with a FSA crank and FSA chainrings. To this day it’s never had a full line of Shimano from front to back (though I’m reconsidering this after my experience with the Trek):

For the Venge, that’s Day 2,922 down to Day 1… The chainrings were never Shimano, and the cassettes and chains were usually SRAM.

So, now that I’ve got a full Shimano drivetrain on the Trek, how does it ride? Keeping in mind that new parts help considerably, and there are a few on the Trek (chain, cassette, rear derailleur – even 105 brakes), the Trek has never behaved so well. Every shift is quick and crisp, and the system is exceedingly quiet. Quiet is fast. I’ve never had it so well – and that skipping issue is fixed. I took the bike out yesterday for a 57-mile ride and put it through the paces, climbing out of the saddle in the little ring and several different gears on the cassette. This isn’t to say the bike was all that bad with a mashup of parts from different manufacturers (at least till that baby chainring started going), but the difference with a full line of Shimano drivetrain parts is surprising. Now I understand Shimano’s recommendation.

*Now, for the asterisk above… the owner of our local bike shop made was able to say I needed a new chainring because I am meticulous about maintaining my cassettes and chains. It couldn’t have been either of those, so after all of my farting around, which I’d kicked around with him to verify my thinking, and the drivetrain was still skipping, the only thing left that could be wrong was the chainring. Normally, with a skipping issue you’re going to start with the chain and cassette.