Cassette 101

When you get into cycling, you often buy what the shop recommends. But over time you start to learn the variations on equipment. In the first of my ‘Equipment Basics’ series, I’ll cover the difference between the various cassette options. I run Shimano gears, and I own an 11-23, 11-25 and 11-28. Each has its own unique use.

But first off, what is a cassette? A cassette is the cluster of sprockets on your bike, 99.9% of the time it is situated on the rear hub – exceptions to this can include racing tricycles or hand bikes. A cassette fits on the freehub on the rear hub and is locked into place with a threaded lockring onto the freehub body.

So why are they important? Cassette provide a “wide range of gear sprockets on which your chain can run.The smaller cogs on a cassette allow the bike to go faster and the larger cogs allow it to go slower.

How do you choose your cassette? “Cassette size requirements vary hugely based on a rider’s fitness, local terrain, preferred cadence range, chain ring sizes, and other factors.” In the end, you just have to try them out for yourself like I did.


Typically, some say that a rider with a higher fitness level or less elevation gain will choose higher gears like 11-23. It is also used when riding on level-land compared to places with climbs. In my experience riding in Sinagpore, there are few places that need anything bigger than a 25T.


When you find yourself having to ride some hills and have the strength to pedal on, 11-25 might be the middle ground that’s good for you. Some may find it harder to use 11-25 because it is missing the critical 16t cog, but if your goal is to maximize your max speed and to break a record, this gear might be good for you. Typically bike store’s will sell a bike with an 11-25 installed as standard. It’s a handy cassette for those living or riding in in most cities.


Most riders would prefer an 11-28 especially when they have to do a lot of steeper climbing since it has less strain on the knees and less time forced to stand. Recently at the Tour de Phuket, I found myself climbing and running out of gears. Causing me to burn extra energy, resulting in me being dropped. On climbs it is vital to know your preferred cadence, and then fitting a gear to allow that cadence. A 28T option means you can keep spinning at 80 RPM+, even on the tougher climbs.

There you have it. As I’ve mentioned earlier, each gear has its own distinct use and it is up to you to take advantage of each of them.

Which gear do you use? Share it to me below!




8 thoughts on “Cassette 101

  1. Errrrr…. Got an 11-speed 11-32T on the road bike. I usually only use up to the 28T, but there’s some long/steep climbs around here where it’s good to have an “emergency” gear if I am knackered or just want to spin up slowly without maxing my heart rate. The bigger gaps between cogs can be annoying sometimes though.

    The time trial bike rocks a 12-26T cassette paired with 52/36 on the front.


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