Riding a bike is fun, but are you interested in messing with the different bike parts? We are used to using cassettes and chains on our bikes as the manufacturers drop their parts recommendations. But it’s only natural to wonder if you can do some deviations while still having a bike that works.
We’ll answer questions about one type of customization in this article. We’ll discuss sprockets and chain width if you can use a 10-speed chain on 11-speed cassette and answer some common questions about using these parts interchangeably.
You’ll also learn about the advantages and disadvantages of using a 10-speed chain on an 11-speed cassette. We have a lot of information jam-packed in this article that’ll take your biking knowledge to the next level. Without any further ado, let’s dive in.
Sprocket and Chain Width
First, what is the “sprocket?” The sprocket in your bike is the wheel with “teeth,” which holds the Chain on your bike. It’s an incredibly important part of the bike since it gives power to the bike.
A cool thing about sprockets is that their thickness decreases when the number of gears is increased. The outer width of the Chain decreases as more gears are added to prevent the Chain from rubbing its surrounding cogs.
Companies use thinner outer plates and shorter pins to do this since they don’t want the Chain rubbing with cogs. Thinner outer plates contribute to the reduction in the outer width.
The cog pitch of the cassette also decreases as the gears are increased. As the cassette size gets narrower, the cassettes can fit more chains, and they’ll be compatible with more freehub bodies.
This is where MTB cassettes do a great job. Their range of different cassettes is cross-compatible across different sizes. The 8-speed, 9-speed, 10-speed, and 11-speed cassettes are cross-compatible with freehub bodies.
But since the cog pitch is reduced with the increasing number of gears, the chains that are designed for fewer speeds start to become incompatible with them.
For example, you won’t be able to fit a 9-speed chain on an 11-speed cassette. But if you go the other way around and fit a 10-speed chain on an 11-speed engine, it will work.
Let’s look at some common continuations for the different types of MTB cassettes at different speed levels. We’ll look at the thickness of the sprocket, the outer width of the Chain, the cog pitch, and the inner width of the cassette.
Here it goes:
The cog pitch on an 11-speed cassette is approximately 3.9 mm. The outer width of the cassette is anywhere from 5.46–5.74 mm. The sprocket thickness on it is about 1.6 mm, and the inner chain width is 2.18 mm.
As you’ve already guessed, the measurements on the 10-speed cassette will be wider than the previous one. The cog pitch on this cassette is 3.95 mm.
The thickness of the sprocket in a 10-speed cassette is 1.6 mm, and its inner chain width is 2018 mm. The width of the outer Chain of this cassette ranges from 5.8 mm–6.1 mm.
The cog pitch of a 9-speed cassette is 4.36 mm. The outer chain width on it is around 6.5–6.7 mm, and the inner chain width is 2.18 mm. The sprocket thickness is 1.78 mm.
The measurements for the 8-speed cassettes are the highest. The cog pitch and sprocket thickness of this cassette are 4.88 mm and 1.85 mm. The outer width and inner width of the Chain are 7.1 mm and 2.38 mm, respectively.
The bikes get this higher speed when the parts are lighter. When the outer chain width of a cassette is decreased, that means there will be less friction between it and the Chain.
Because the components of higher-speed cassettes are meant to be lighter and more compact to allow for more speed, they tend to be weaker than the cassettes with fewer speeds.
Can You Use a 10-Speed Chain On 11-Speed Cassette?
The speed of the cassette has to be at least equal to or higher than the chain speed. That means a 10-speed cassette will be able to fit a 10-speed chain and 11-speed chain easily. A 10S chain on an 11S cassette works fine.
A 10-speed chain is a bit wider than an 11-speed chain, but that doesn’t matter. If you keep this simple rule in mind, it’s obvious that you can use the 10-speed Chain on an 11-speed cassette. That’s because the 11-speed cassette is narrow enough to fit the 10-speed Chain.
If the cassette speed is higher than or equal to the chain speed, they will be compatible with each other. But if you’re wondering if doing this will give you optimal performance, the answer will be in the sections where we discuss the advantages and downsides.
Can You Use an 11-speed Chain on a 10-speed Cassette?
You cannot use an 11-speed chain on a 10-speed cassette. Why can’t you do that? Because the 10-speed cassette is too wide to fit the 11-speed Chain.
Using a wider chain than the cassette will create many problems for you when riding your bike. There will be issues with friction and a lot of chain rubbing. The difference in the cable pull and cog spacing will also cause a lot of noise from the road bike.
Though the cog pitch and the sprocket thickness of an 11-speed cassette are less than a 10-speed cassette, 10-speed chains are wider than an 11-speed chain. That’s why you won’t be able to fit the 10-speed Chain on the 11-speed cassette.
Higher-speed chains won’t be compatible with lower-speed cassettes. If you remember this rule, you know the formula and can use it to determine what Chain goes on what cassette.
What Is the Difference Between a 10-speed and 11-speed Chain?
When you consider the length of the two chains, they have the same width. All bikes also have the same chain pitch of half an inch. It’s the space between the inner link plates that matters. Despite these similarities, there are some common differences between a 10-speed and 11-speed Chain. Let’s take a look at them.
Outer Chain Width
As you move up the chain speeds, the width of the outer Chain gets narrower. If you have slide calipers at hand, you can measure and compare the difference between the two types of chains. The tiny bit of change in the width makes a huge difference.
As a rule, an 11-speed chain is a little bit narrower than a 10-speed chain. You’ll need slide calipers for the exact measurement, but there is a difference of 0.3–0.5 inches between the two chains.
The difference in the width of 10-speed chains and 11-speed chains can vary depending on the brand as well. But no matter the brand, the 11-speed chains will be narrower than the 10-speed chains.
Another common difference between the 10-speed and 11-speed chains is the length of the roller pins.
The length of roller spins on an 11-speed chain is shorter than that of a 10-speed chain as there are more roller pins on high-speed engines and the extension level of the pins to the outer plate links decreases.
Related Article: How to count chain links
The 11-speed chains are narrower and contain less material than 10-speed chains. That makes the 11-speed Chain faster than a 10-speed chain, but they pay the price for it in terms of part strength.
The Chain comes off more frequently for higher-speed engines compared to lower-speed engines. The 10-speed Chain also lasts longer than the 11-speed Chain for many users.
Benefits of running an 11-speed Chain on a 10-speed Cassette
It’s not only possible to use an 11-speed chain on a 10-speed cassette, but there are also numerous advantages to doing it. You’ll be able to do that if you maintain the correct cable tension and adjust the RD limit screws. We’ll discuss these common benefits in this section.
Quieter Biking Experience
The 11-speed chains are comparatively narrower than the 10-speed chains. Though the chains have the same internal width of 1.6 mm, the 10-speed Chain is at least 0.3 mm wider than the 11S chains.
The space between the inner plates in an 11S chain and a 10S chain is almost identical. That’s why it runs smoothly without making any extra noise.
As the 11S Chain is much narrower, it doesn’t rub to the 10S cassette as much as a 10S chain would. It causes less rubbing to the adjacent cogs and gives the rider a much more comfortable biking experience.
More Mud Clearance
As the 11-speed chains are narrower, they are more likely to clear mud than the 10S chains. There’s not enough concrete data about how much this helps, but you can surely expect a better mud clearance from 11-speed chains than 10S chains in a 10S cassette.
You can save money and time by using an 11S chain if you already have an old chain rather than getting a new 10S chain. You’ll also have more options if you use the 11S Chain.
The Downsides of running an 11-speed Chain on a 10-speed Cassette
As promising as the benefits of using an 11S chain on a 10S cassette may sound to a new rider, there are also many downsides to trying this out. Let’s take a look at them one by one.
Not Long Lasting
The 10S cassettes are made for the 10S chains. When you use an 11-speed chain on it, you’re using a narrower chain that’s supposed to give more speed but is also weaker.
There are more chances of the Chain coming off and breaking when you use an 11S chain on a 10S cassette. This is one of the biggest downsides of mixing and matching.
Slower Shifting Time
Another potential disadvantage of an 11S chain on a 10S cassette is that the shifting time can increase. The derailleur will have to do more work and move more for this setup. The bike won’t shift effectively.
Many people who have 10S cassettes and 11S chains have reported shifting performance issues because the rear derailleur is not tall enough to work well with the rear cogs. You’ll also hear noises if there are other issues with your rear derailleur.
That will cause a slight increase in shifting time. This shifting performance problem can get worse with time if the other drivetrain parts of the bike aren’t well maintained.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Are Shimano and Campagnolo Chains Compatible?
Yes, Shimano and Campagnolo chains are compatible with each other. Even though the manufacturer’s recommendations may suggest otherwise, there is no need to worry.
2. Are all 11-Speed Cassettes Compatible with SRAM?
SRAM entered the market of bike components in 2006. They adopted similar strategies to Shimano to grow their business and also make similar parts. You can use Shimano and SRAM components interchangeably.
3. Can I Upgrade My 10-Speed System to an 11-Speed System?
You can, but you’d have to change many components. You can’t change the crank if your system is a triple crank. Otherwise, you can use do it for a double crank system and get the new parts like front chainrings, derailleurs, and shifters.
4. Should You Use a New Chain for a New Cassette?
The short answer is “yes.” It’s time to replace the cassette and the chains if the front chainrings have gone toast. Ideally, you should always use a new chain and cassette together.
The aim of this article was to answer your questions about using a 10-speed chain on 11-speed cassette. We hope you’ll leave this page with a better understanding of what chains you can and cannot use on different cassettes.
The chain width is a big determining factor when you want to make any changes. The sprockets, inner width, outer width, and cog pitches of the cassettes are also important things to consider when you are trying to fit chains and cassettes of different speeds.
Steve Beck is a passionate cyclist and experienced writer covering the cycling industry for over a decade. He has a wealth of knowledge and expertise in all bike-related things, from the latest products and technologies to the best routes and trails. His articles are well-researched, informative, and engaging, and he has a talent for explaining complex cycling concepts in a way that is easy to understand. Steve can be found on the road when he’s not writing about bikes, putting his knowledge and skills to the test.