I’ve got this bike. It’s a touring bike. So when it’s loaded down with gear, it can get quite heavy. To remedy this, I built it up with an Eagle GX rear derailleur and cassette, giving me a whopping 10-50t range (the new GX goes to 52t even). To shift this range, I used a barcon shifter from Microshift because as you are well aware, SRAM doesn’t make a cable-actuated road shifter that’s compatible with their MTB mech lineup.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with the Microshift barcon. I was and have been more than pleased with this option but then Ratio, a small startup out of the UK announced a 11-speed road to 12-speed mountain upgrade kit.
I think this is one time when we can ignore that old Eddy Merckx adage “Don’t buy upgrades, ride up grades…” Sorry Eddy, Johnnie’s bike needs this.
We posted about Ratio’s kit back in October. I ordered a kit the day the post went up but didn’t get motivated to do the install until I felt like I had a reason to. A few friends here in Santa Fe are taking on an all-road tour in April, and I wanted to get this bike dialed in before that trip, so last week, I swung by Sincere Cycles with the Dreamer and Ratio’s kit with hopes of rolling around on an 11-speed road shifter working with a 12-speed mountain…
But Dude, Your Bike Was Fine
You are correct. It was. With the pandemic still halting the status quo of day-to-day life, I’ve been in a tinkering mood. From working on my bikes to home repairs, and other projects, I like obsessing over details and executing them. My biggest qualm with the Microshift barcon is how vulnerable it is, danglin’ out there at the end of some wide bars. Bikes fall. Sometimes a gust of wind will blow it over as it’s resting on a juniper tree, or perhaps you end up taking those loose corners a little too fast and slide out. Both of these things are real concerns with springtime tours, wind and drier than normal corners. Barcons are typically the first thing to get smashed when that happens.
Another slight bummer with the Microshift system was with the long cable of the previous setup, when I put a bag on the bike, it would cause the shifting to get finicky. Usually, it just required a few turns of the in-line barrel adjuster. Still. Not the thing you want to be doing before the morning coffee kicks in. Yes, I could have just routed the cable under the tape as many of you pointed out last year. Again, this conversion wasn’t a necessity.
Why the Hell Doesn’t SRAM Just Do This?
What took Apple so long to adopt Intel chips? I have no idea. Well, I have some suspicions from conversations with friends who work for SRAM but I’ll leave those out of this post, in confidence. What I will say is I really feel like cycling’s analog tech isn’t what big companies are focused on right now. With the heads of MTB brands saying 50% of their lineup will be e-assist soon and with AXS being so damn good, I think SRAM probably doesn’t want to re-configure their analog shifting paradigm.
SRAM’s road and mountain divisions also operate mostly independently. So to get the MTB to work for the road side of things, it’d require a massive restructuring.
Now, when you see all it takes, it will frustrate you. As it should. If they were compatible, SRAM would once again corner the market in the wide-range 1x setup.
The Sincere Process
Oh, Bailey. You’re a good dude. When I told Bailey about the kit back in October, his interest piqued and he’s a diehard singlespeeder! Naturally, when I finally went through with the conversion, he had just done another customer’s conversion on their bike a few days prior, so it felt like an OK time to shoot these photos since he probably worked out the kinks with his build. We’ll look at that other bike shortly. Initially, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to convert my Sklar gravel bike or my tourer but I went for the obvious answer there. Touring bikes need that range. With gravel bikes, it’s not as necessary. Not for me anyway.
I rolled over to Sincere with two burritos in hand and a couple of small parts. Honestly, I felt like disassembling the Dreamer took longer than prying the shifter apart. We did learn a few things on the way. Most importantly, follow Ratio’s online Youtube video tutorial but first, watch the whole thing so you know what you’re getting into. For instance, we removed the paddle shifter and that’s not necessary.
To make this easy, I embedded the cable-actuated tutorial here.
Ratio makes two kits. One is for rear-cable exit derailleurs and one is for the forward. If you’re confused as to which one you need, please check out their compatibility guide.
Within a few minutes, we were ripping apart the brand new APEX shifter. I went all out on this experiment! Look! You can practically see the plastic blood spilled all over the workbench.
We pulled apart the shifting ratchet, replaced the 11-speed with a 12-speed, and slowly assembled the kit back together. This is the first major component in the inter-compatibility of the road and MTB components.
Seeing how simple of a solution it was to this problem made me wonder why no one had made a kit like this before!
From there, it was time to replace the cable fin on the GX mech. This part was the easiest in the whole process, save for getting the c-clip to nest correctly. Once it was all buttoned up, Bailey got to work running new cable and housing.
After a quick setup, the shifter worked with the rear derailleur. It only took some limit screw finessing to get it shifting flawlessly.
Now my Dreamer is one step closer to being ready for this tour. Unfortunately, I’m taking the Rasket off in the interest of weight and packability but when the bike is all set up and ready to go, I’ll be posting a more in-depth look at it… For now, I’m just stoked to have it shifting in a close-to-factory configuration. It’s so sleek and stealthy now.
This is not a difficult job to do. You could do it at home depending on your mechanical abilities but don’t just spring this on your local shop mechanic until they have an understanding of what you’re trying to do. Also, this goes without saying but you definitely void your warranty doing this.
Do you have any questions? I’ll do my best to answer them. Thanks to Sincere Cycles for taking this on and for Ratio’s diligence with its upgrade kit!