I have a pair of race wheels that I have been using on my 9 speed bike for a couple years. Do I have to get new wheels when I get a new 10 speed bike or can I modify my current ones to allow them to work?
Doug , MA
The good news is that you need to do very little to allow your current wheels to work with a 10 speed cassette. When Shimano went to 10 speeds on their 2004 Dura Ace group, they designed it to be compatible with prior years’ 9 speed hubs. Shimano did not change the overall cassette width or the rear wheel spacing when changing to 10 speeds. Instead, they made the chain and cogs narrower, allowing more gears to fit into the same space. The most you should need to do to allow a 10 speed cassette to work on most 9 speed hubs is install a spacer behind the cassette to make sure the cassette seats tightly. This same compatibility holds true for the new 2005 Ultegra 10 speed components.
Interestingly, the reverse is not always true; you cannot use a 9 speed cassette on all 10 speed hubs. Shimano’s 10 speed specific hubs are only designed to be compatible with 10 speed cassettes and, as with most computer programs, downward compatibility does not work as well as upward.
If your bike is Campagnolo equipped, the same ability to convert between 9,10 and 11 speeds holds true. You can put a new 10 or 11 speed cassette on any of the older 9 speed hubs. So, regardless of brand, feel free to buy your wheels a nicely upgraded new steed.
Originally published January 2005/Copyright © 2005