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?
I 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 tooth 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.