By Jim Weaver, Service Manager, Fit Werx, VT
Now that Campagnolo, Shimano, and SRAM all offer drivetrains with 11 sprockets in the rear cassette, the question arose in our minds here at Fit Werx as to whether there is cross-compatibility between systems. With the distances between cogs on the rear wheel getting smaller and smaller, the differences between systems have decreased and thus the chances of them working together should go up. So, will a wheel equipped with a Campagnolo 11 speed cassette work with a Shimano or SRAM “11” speed drivetrain, and vice versa?
I was in the process of preparing an article on the results of my testing, when Leonard Zinn posted something to the same effect on Velo News. So, he beat me to the punch! I found the same things he did, so here is my synopsis.
Who cares about what may appear to be a somewhat esoteric question, you ask? Well, perhaps you have a road bike with Campy equipment, and a TT bike with SRAM, like Bruce here at Fit Werx. He might like to be able to swap wheels back and forth. Or, I have a Campy equipped road bike, but my wife’s bike is Shimano and I would like to be able to swap wheels with her; letting her use my Zipp 404’s from my tri bike, or my Corima Viva ‘S’ wheels, on her Serotta. Now it is a valid question…
The test is quite simple. All we needed was to have bikes in the shop equipped with Campagnolo Record 11, Shimano Dura Ace 9000, and SRAM Red 22. I had just finished building a bike with SRAM’s new Red 22 11-speed group. Shimano and SRAM cassettes historically have been interchangeable, so we expected this would still be true, but we decided to check just to make sure. The Shimano wheel shifted perfectly with the SRAM Red 22 shifter and derailleur. This gives the consumer a wider variety of choices in cassettes, so if someone wants to use the wonderfully light sculpted work-of-art SRAM 11 speed cassette on their Shimano-equipped bike (or vice versa with the quiet Dura Ace 9000), no problem.
However, the bigger question is whether a Campagnolo-equipped wheel will work with Shimano or SRAM shifters, and by implication, a Shimano or SRAM wheel on a Campy equipped bike. This has never worked well in the past; Campagnolo has always gone its own way, and their drivetrain components are generally not compatible with Shimano or SRAM. For example, a Campagnolo cassette will not fit on a wheel that is designed for Shimano/SRAM cassettes. Ten speed Campagnolo cassettes do not work well with Shimano or SRAM 10 speed shifters and derailleurs as the spacing between cogs on Campagnolo cassettes has also been different.
So, we started swapping wheels between three bikes 11 speed bikes (one SRAM, one Shimano and one Campagnolo) on the workstand. It presented no problems whatsoever; you could get a decent shift with any 11 speed wheel on any 11 speed bike in the stand. However, what works on the workstand may not work so well under actual riding conditions, when torque and weight are applied. So, outside I went with these combinations. Except for the usual niggling problems that occur when swapping one brand of wheel for another, requiring derailleur adjustments to account for cassette placement, the various combinations worked fine.
So, in conclusion, I concur with Leonard Zinn’s findings that a Campagnolo wheel works fine with Shimano or SRAM shifters, and that the reverse is also true. You just have to make sure you adjust the derailleur stops to match up with whatever wheel you are using for things to be smooth. So, barring spacing problems mentioned above (that we can usually permanently fix), riders no longer have to be concerned about using their Campagnolo wheels on a Shimano or SRAM bike. This simplifies matters and can be a real boon for those with multiple bikes with multiple components !