Wolf Tooth RoadLink Derailleur Hanger Extender Review

Wolf Tooth RoadLink Derailleur Hanger Extender Review

Being at the base of Lincoln and Appalachian Gaps at the Fit Werx in Vermont, we have many clients interested in getting lower gearing for their bikes. We have posted a number of articles on this subject, and we continue to keep track of new products that may help you garner lower climbing gears.

The new Wolf Tooth RoadLink is a small device that bolts onto a bike’s derailleur hanger, extending it by about 2.25 cm, according to my tape measure. This moves the derailleur, and hence the top jockey pulley, downward, away from the cassette, so that it may clear a bigger cog than it listed capacity quietly. Please note that the RoadLink will not, in and of itself, enable you to use a larger rear cassette, such as an 11-36 as the RoadLink does not increase the capacity, or “chain wrap”, of the rear derailleur. However, the unit will expand pulley clearance in the largest cogs on a system that has adequate chain wrap functionality.  If a derailleur has adequate chain wrap, but the pulley makes noise in the lowest gears, the Wolf Tooth RoadLink can help eliminate the rub; The Wolf Tooth Road Link basically expands the adjustment range of the derailleur’s B-Tension adjuster.

Does the Wolf Tooth RoadLink Work?

Wolf Tooth RoadLinkI have tried the Wolf Tooth RoadLink on a number of frames with 11 speed components including frames built by Cervelo, Felt, Moots, and Guru. As a general rule, I found that the RoadLink will allow the use of a cassette with a largest cog that has four more teeth than what the derailleur was designed to handle when used with 11 speed middle cage (Shimano GS or SRAM Wi-Fli). For example, a Shimano 6800GS rear derailleur is listed as handling a maximum rear cog of 32 teeth, but with a Wolf Tooth Road Link the derailleur did not rub on the largest cog when a 36 tooth cassette was installed on all the frames I tried.

What are the Limitations of the Wolf Tooth RoadLink?

I also tried to install a Wolf Tooth RoadLink on an older 5700 ten speed Specialized Tarmac to see if the derailleur would work with a 11-32 cassette. When cross-chained into the large 50 tooth chainring, the derailleur was stressed to the point that, if I had been riding on the road, it would probably have torn the derailleur off of the bike. This combination did not work and our initial impression is that this scenario could happen frequently with short caged derailleurs in general, and older ten and nine speed components in particular. More data needs to be gathered in the future as to which short cage derailleur and frame combinations work well with the Wolf Tooth RoadLink.

How low can you go?

There are some situations where the Wolf Tooth RoadLink may (and I emphasize “MAY”) allow for even greater capacity than a four toothWolf Tooth RoadLink Installed increase. For example, I installed the RoadLink on a Cervelo R3 with a Shimano 6800GS rear derailleur, and coupled it with a Shimano M8000 11-40 cassette. After some adjustment of the derailleur “B” screw, it worked okay, even when cross-chained. However, on a Moots Routt, equipped with a SRAM Rival Wi-Fli rear derailleur, the 11-40 cassette was a step too far. So, exceeding that four cog difference may, or may not, be possible, depending on the specific bike and derailleur.

Another combination that would provide ultra-low gearing would involve pairing a Shimano Di2 rear derailleur, coupled with a K-Edge derailleur cage conversion (which usually allows for a 36T to be used on its own) and then pairing it with WolfTooth RoadLink. We have used the K-Edge conversion on many, many Di2 bikes, with great results and this combination would allow a 11-40 11 speed cassette to work on a number of frames. In some (rare) cases it might even allow the use of a 11-42 cassette… Now that is low gearing!

Conclusions on the Wolf Tooth RoadLink

The Wolf Tooth RoadLink is just one tool in our arsenal aimed at creating lower gearing for riders. While not universal, the Wolf Tooth RoadLink offers an inexpensive way of lowering gearing and works best on GS/Wi-Fli derailleurs that are mid or long cage. While offering function with short cage derailleurs, our experience is the results are more frame and derailleur dependent and thus often need to be tried to find out if they will work.

If you are interested in exploring how to get lower gearing on your road bike, contact a Fit Werx location to schedule an appointment for us to take a look at what the best options for your particular bike will be.

About Jim

After almost thirty years as an attorney, Jim decided he was ready for a change in 2007. After being a Fit Werx client for years, Jim started working with us as part of an internship and he went full-time at Fit Werx in early 2009. In the summer of 2010 Jim assumed the Service Manager role for our Vermont location and is now a mainstay. Whether he is helping a rider find a good road ride in the area, fixing a pesky bottom bracket issue, or carefully building up someone’s new bike to their positioning numbers, Jim is an accomplished technician, a great resource and here to help.

Find out more about Jim Here

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17 Responses to Wolf Tooth RoadLink Derailleur Hanger Extender Review
  • Ed Klien

    Sorry, I meant chainring 50-34

  • Ed Klien

    Hello, I have a Canyon with Shimano Ultegra, chainring 53-34 and Ultegra derailer with 11-32 cassette. Big climbs where I live and would like to adapt a cassette 11-36… Would the Wolf adaptor (Roadlink) work? Would a new chain be needed (because of length )?. Thanks.

    • Ian

      Hi Ed,
      A Wolf Tooth may help, but, as mentioned in other comments and the post, it doesn’t really expand the range of a derailleur on its own, it just pulls the chain away from the cog on the biggest tooth and thus minimizes rub. Each bike’s derailleur hanger is unique and thus the RoadLink will have a different relationship with each frame it is installed. It is a bit trial and error regarding what it can and cannot do in such a scenario. In the case of your Canyon, Canyon is an internet brand of bike and thus not something we have much experience. The true solution is to use a derailleur with a longer cage, but I don’t know what series of Ultegra components you have and that what can and cannot be used. With 6870 and earlier Di2 units, the K-Edge derailleur cage is a good solution. For most mechanical units, a mountain bike derailleur in combination with an adapter pulley like those from JTek are the best options. These make sure your system is not strained and is staying within the derailleur’s capacity.

      I can tell you that if your chain is already cut as short as possible for your current gearing, you will need to add links if you use a RoadLink or a longer cage. If the chain has a bit more play, maybe not.

  • Thomas

    Hello

    I have a sram red etap rear derailleur short cage it is possible to put a 32-tooth cassette on if i youse the wolf tooth roadlink

    with best regards
    Thomas

    • Ian

      Hi Thomas,

      The Wolf Tooth does not expand the capacity of a derailleur, it is only really designed to minimize rub in the largest cog. On some frames, with low and back derailleur hangers, you may find that a short cage derailleur with a Wolf Tooth and a 32 tooth will work, but that wasn’t its original intent and we couldn’t promise that. Hope this helps.

  • Bill

    I have a Shimano Ultegra Di2 RD-6870 Mid-cage Rear Derailleur rated for 11-32T max, but have found with a B-screw adjustment, it works fairly well with a SRAM 11-36T cassette. The shifting, however, is a bit less precise. Would the Wolf-tooth extension offer any improvement, or is it simply a different way to achieve the same result?

    • Ian

      Hi Bill,

      We have generally had good luck using a 6870GS rear derailleur with 11-36 cassettes. However, this is not universally true, as a great deal depends on the design of the derailleur hanger on the bike. You said that the derailleur can handle a 36 tooth cog, with the “B” tension screw turned all the way in, but that the shifting is not as precise as you would like. I therefore assume that the derailleur itself is able to handle the chain necessary. By this I mean that you should be able to cross-chain, from the big chainring to the largest cassette cog, while still having the proper chain tension when in the smallest chainring and the smallest cassette. Making sure that the chain is the proper length is the first thing you should do. If you have made the chain longer so that the derailleur can handle the largest cog, that may well be the cause of the your imprecise shifting. The chain length for a 11-36 cassette is no different from that of a 11-32, or a 11-28 cassette. Chain length alone is not the determining factor, but rather the length of the derailleur pulley cage, and its positioning in relation to the cassette.

      If the chain length is not the problem, and without actually having the bike here in the shop, it is difficult to diagnose exactly why your shifting is not as you feel it should be. I have doubts that the Wolf Tooth Road Link would solve your problem. As I assume you know, the Road Link acts as an extension of the derailleur hanger, lowering the derailleur away from the cassette. This improves the clearance between the top, or “guide” pulley on the derailleur and the cassette’s largest cog. If your problem is not interference between the guide pulley and the largest cog, it is doubtful that the road Link will help. Indeed, it could hurt. The Wolf Tooth Road Link acts like a lever, multiplying the torque being exerted on the derailleur hanger by the derailleur. In some circumstances this can result in a bent derailleur hanger. In addition, while it does lower the derailleur so that the guide pulley misses the largest cog, it also means the guide pulley is not as close to the rest of the cassette cogs as it should be, particularly in the area of the smallest cogs. This can result in hesitation when shifting, as the chain can flex between the guide pulley and the cassette. Also, the chain is not wrapped as far around the cassette, so less chain engages the cassette. This may lead to increased chain wear. So, a Road Link may make your shifting worse, not better, in this case.

      There is a solution that may improve the situation. K-Edge makes an extended pulley cage for installation on your rear derailleur. You would need to send the derailleur to us for installation of this conversion. This pulley cage is designed to work with 11-36 cassettes. The cost of the pulley cage, and labor for the installation and other necessary modifications to the derailleur, is $335, plus nominal return shipping. Let us know if you are interested in learning more about the K-Edge option.

  • PHIL

    I would appreciate your feedback, here is my current setup and everything is buttery smooth with this setup.
    Franco Kanan Road Frame
    Ultegra 6800 Group
    11 S 52-36 MB
    11/32 rear cassette
    Quick question:
    Would you consider me nuts if I plan to use the wolf teeth adapter and an
    XT CS-M8000 11-40t cassette. My reasoning is I live in so cal with so many mountains in my backyard and need the ability to spin.

    • Ian

      Hi Phil,

      We have not tried wide range gearing combinations on your frame brand/model before, so I can’t speak to exactly what works well and what doesn’t. This being said, I doubt that the Wolf Tooth on its own is going to allow your desired gearing combination to work well. You would be better served by going to a long cage mountain bike derailleur in combination with a Tanpan or J-Tek conversion pulley. We’d be happy to talk to you more about what makes the most sense and help get the right parts together for you if you want to call us.

  • rui

    i have a QXL 52/36 front and Red Wifli (10sp) rear. currently running with 11/32 cassette on Scott Addict R1. would using the wolf link + extended B screw enable me to run 11/36 if i extended the chain?

    • Ian

      In our experience, if the 11-32 is working well on the bike, you will likely be okay adding in the RoadLink. Every frame is a different story though and we have not tested this combination. I would just keep in mind that the RoadLink is not designed to expand the capacity of the derailleur and you will be pushing the derailleur outside of its recommended zone. You may get some clatter in certain combinations and or find yourself running a loose chain if you are in the small cogs in the back and the small ring up-front. This being said, it will likely get rid of pulley rub when you are in the 36, which is its main intention.

  • Hans

    In your tests did you follow Wolf’s guidelines for no more than a 14 tooth difference in chain rings,48×34, or did you use a standard compact,50×34?

    Looking at both di2 and etap it seems there are more low gearing options for di2 at present with the K edge mod, Wolf roadlink and Shimano’s in house cassettes than etap. I’ve read conflicting reports about road link’s compatibility with Sram, did you experience any issues? I’m ready to go etap but want/need a minimum 36 tooth cassette cog. Maybe K edge will start doing a long cage mod for etap Wi Fli.

    If Sram came out with a long cage etap rear derailleur they would clean Shimano’s clock! Wireless, 50×34 cranks, long cage rear derailleur and an 11 speed 11-40/42 cassette would be awesome!

    Thanks for your articles.

    • Ian

      Hi Hans,

      You are correct that Shimano Di2 offers more potential options for lower gearing than SRAM E-Tap at this time. SRAM E-Tap has a maximum of 32 teeth in the rear, although, like its Wi-Fli mechanical sibling, it will work with a 36 on some bikes. The same goes for Shimano 6870GS derailleurs. With Shimano, however, there is the option of having a K-Edge pulley cage installed, that will increase the capacity to 36, and on some bikes, up to a 40. The K-Edge not only offers a longer derailleur cage, increasing the “chain wrap” of the derailleur, but it also relocates the guide pulley down and back from the cassette when compared to Shimano’s medium derailleur pulley cage.

      However, it is not just the K-Edge that makes this all work without a Wolf Tooth Road Link. For best operation, there is also a modification made to the “B” screw mounting plate that changes the angle of the “B” screw. On some bikes, such as Cervelos or some Treks, the guide pulley cannot be adjusted far enough away from the largest cassette cogs on an 11-36 with the stock derailleur cage. Changing the angle of the “B” screw ameliorates this potential problem, and on many installations of the K-Edge, the “B” screw really is not needed at all. On many bikes, screwing the “B” screw all the way in (or removing it and inserting it from the inside so that the screw head hits the derailleur hanger tab) can angle the derailleur to such an extent that the “B” screw ends up missing that tab, so care and creativity sometimes has to be used.

      I do not recall ever having to use a Wolf Tooth with a K-Edge conversion in order to use an 11-36 cassette. On some bikes, depending on the design of the derailleur hanger, I have been able to use 6870 derailleurs, with the K-Edge, with an 11-40, and even an 11-42 cassette. This takes a good deal of experimentation, however, and no representation is made about the success of an particular installation. The surest way to be able to get ultra-low gearing on a road bike is to go with mechanical shifting. With the right combination of equipment, I can easily get a road bike, with mechanical road shifters, to accommodate an 11-42 cassette.

  • Jun

    Hi Jeff,

    I just recently purchased a 2017 cervelo S3 with 52-36 chain ring and 11 speed (11-28)cassette. From your article it says that the road link was tried on an R3 frame to fit an 11-40 cassette. I was wondering if putting an 11-32 cassette with my chain ring, if it will work fine with the S3 frame or do I need the road link?

    Jun

    • Ian

      Hi Jun,
      If you want to run a 11-32 on your S3, I would suggest using a long cage (GS) derailleur if you have Shimano Ultegra as the capacity on the GS derailleur allows for a 11-32. Otherwise, if you want to try a RoadLink on your current derailleur, it may help keep the pulley from rubbing on the cogs, but it does not expand the derailleur’s true capacity and thus you will need to be careful when shifting or you could rip the derailleur and/or hanger off the bike if you cross gear or experience some other situation that puts a lot of stress on your drivetrain.
      Ian

  • jef

    would this work with dura ace 9000 ? This has a limitation of 28 tooth. It would help to have a 32…

    • Ian

      Hi Jef,
      The Wolf Tooth RoadLink allowing you lower gearing is more a by-product of your frame and rear derailleur hanger combination than anything else. On some bikes, it would allow a cassette bigger than 28 tooth to be used reasonably well, but on others it may not. I would consider using a 6800 GS rear derailleur if you wanted to go beyond 28T and be guaranteed a good result. Otherwise, the Wolf Tooth is worth a try on most frames and usually provides some additional leeway in gearing.

      Keep in mind, as the article says, that the WolfTooth Roadlink does not expand the derailleur’s capacity. It only helps reduce chain to cog rub in some combinations by lowering the top derailleur pulley.

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