A bike cassette is an integral part of every bike’s drivetrain.
It is a cluster of sprockets (circular metal discs with teeth on the edges) found on the rear hub of the bike, and they are held in place with a sturdy lockring.
Bike cassettes can have between five and 13 sprockets, but the most common drivetrains have 9, 10, or 11. These sprockets help determine the right mix of pedaling cadence (revolutions per minute) and torque so that you can achieve optimal efficiency as you ride.
Running your bike chain on large sprockets with more teeth reduces the torque needed to turn the back wheel. This will make climbing elevated areas much easier, but you will need more pedal revolutions to cover ground.
In contrast, using smaller sprockets with fewer teeth boosts your bike’s torque. This means you must pedal much harder to cover a short distance. If you’re riding downhill, you can add power to your drivetrain without worrying about spinning out.
Bike cassettes vary greatly in specification depending on their size and number of teeth. For example, an 11-32 cassette means that the smallest sprocket has 11 teeth (great for fast pedaling) and 32 teeth on the biggest sprocket (for climbing elevated roads).
The difference between the two numbers indicates the range of the gears. An 11-21 cassette is in the narrow range, while an 11-34 is wide. This range determines your bike’s ability to tackle different types of terrain.
If you are very adventurous and you want to take your bike on off-road terrain, it’s best to choose a wide cassette range. You will be able to choose the optimal torque and pedal speed to cycle efficiently across all types of road conditions. Narrow cassette ranges are perfect for athletes who participate in timed bike races so they can shift smoothly between gears.
Bike cassettes absorb most of your pedaling power, and they begin to wear down at around 4,000 miles. Much like other parts of your bike, cassettes must be in peak condition to perform well.
A worn-down or slipping chain is a good indicator that your cassette needs replacing. If you notice that the sprockets aren’t in good shape, it’s time to shop for a new cassette.
When the time comes for a replacement, it’s important to choose the best bike cassette that meets all of your biking needs and preferences. A high-quality cassette made from durable materials will keep you safe on the road for up to 10,000 miles.
Fret not, as we are here to help you decide on the best cassette for road bikes and mountain bikes. We have compiled a list of the top 5 options in this space. Let’s dive in!
Best Bike Cassette For 2022
Best Overall: Shimano Ultegra R8000 Cassette
Shimano Ultegra R8000 Cassette is arguably the best road bike cassette for climbing and flatlands. It provides fantastic performance, smooth and quiet shifting, a wide range of gear ratios and bike cassette sizes, durability, and affordability.
Shimano’s Ultegra line is incredibly popular because they offer fantastic bang for your buck. In terms of the cost-to-performance ratio, there’s no contest. The offered cassette ranges can meet just about any rider demand, whether they’re driving on the road, gravel, or even cyclocross racing.
But that’s not all.
A shiny update for this line now provides riders the same trickle-down technology that came with the high-end Dura-Ace range. This technology and extensive range of high-performance gearing options provide excellent shifting performance and control.
This 11-speed bike cassette performs very well on smooth roads and uphill terrain without much difficulty. You’ll find the gear shifting to be incredibly smooth even on the toughest of conditions.
When paired with the right chain and a good bike lube, the cassette is easy to install. It is compatible with all of Shimano’s 11-speed derailleurs. It is also compatible with all Shimano 9-, 10-, and 11-speed freehubs.
The lightweight cassette also has a nickel-plated steel cog for durability and corrosion resistance. It even boasts a tough aluminum spider that offers a strong and stable connection without any extra weight, ensuring a comfortable biking experience every time.
- Material: Nickel-plated steel and aluminum
- Weight: 232 grams (11-25T), 251 grams (11-28T), 269 grams (11-30T), 243 grams (12-25T), 300 grams (14-28T)
- Size: 11-25T, 11-28T, 11-30T, 11-32T, 12-25T, 14-28T
- By far the best option for its price point
- Has a wide range of gearing ratios
- Smooth gear change even on climbs
- It is durable and sturdy, with long-lasting racing cogs
- It is easy to install
- It is not pre-lubricated
Runner Up: SHIMANO CS-6700 Ultegra Bicycle Cassette (10-Speed)
Shimano’s 10 speed mountain bike cassette provides quick, quiet, precise, and effortless shifting due to its more robust and generous shifting tolerances.
Even the accuracy of the gear selection has been optimized by tweaking the sprocket design. The cassette also has an improved gear shape that enhances chain running and shifting performance.
The anodized aluminum sprocket spider and a lightweight anodized metal lockring help cut down on the weight and the amount of effort needed during gear shifts. This makes the cassette overall user-friendly.
It is also compatible with Shimano’s 11-speed freehubs if you use a 1.85 mm spacer.
The wide variety of gear combinations, lightweight design, and great value make this the best mountain bike cassette that will not break the bank.
- Material: Aluminum and steel
- Weight: 295 grams
- Size: 11-23T, 11-28T, 12-23T, 12-28T
- Excellent quality at an affordable price
- Fast, noiseless, smooth, and precise gear changes regardless of road conditions
- Wide variations of gear ratios are available
- Durable and long-lasting, like all other Shimano products
- Availability of other high-performing and more lightweight options at a similar price point
Alternative: Shimano Tiagra CS-HG500-10 Road Bike Cassette 11-32T 10 Speed
Shimano’s Tiagra HG500 10-speed cassette is one of the best road bike cassettes out there. Its excellent performance and smooth and even gear shifts make it one of the most sought-after bike cassettes among road bikers and flatlanders.
The smooth gear shifting can be attributed to the fact that the cassette’s teeth are cut using Shimano’s HyperGlide technology. Also, the inner and outer plates are designed for improved contact with the gear teeth, enabling smooth shifting even under high load conditions.
This 10-speed cassette also has drilled cogs that make it one of the most lightweight gear cassettes available on the market. It has nickel plating and a steel lockring to withstand corrosion resistance and reduce friction and wear and tear while remaining lightweight.
The gears of the cassette are pressed from an aluminum plate and have a great and smooth finish.
The cassette’s first eight sprockets are placed on a spider. This makes it sufficiently rigid and sturdy and reduces the weight on the wheel body. This leads to slower wearing down of the wheel body.
The best part about this bike cassette is that it is compatible with all Shimano 10-speed groups and can be used with road bikes and mountain bikes. It also fulfills all the durability standards for E-MTB applications.
Together, these features and functions make the bike cassette excellent for riding on flat and smooth terrains and up and down steep hills without difficulty. You can’t go wrong with this one!
- Material: Nickel plating and steel lockring
- Weight: 458 grams
- Size: 11-32T
- Great quality
- Durable and long-lasting
- Resistant to corrosion
- Easy to install
- Enables a smooth climb on hilly terrains
- You get fantastic value for money
- Performance under load is not as great as some of the more expensive cassettes
- Quite heavy
- It can be difficult to find
Alternative: SRAM PG850 8 Speed Cassette
Made especially for mountain bikers, SRAM PG850 8 Speed Cassette delivers a high level of performance, thanks to an optimized tooth profile and an improved shifting ramp design. This allows for fast and efficient gear changes.
The cassette’s PowerGlide II technology provides optimal gear shifting performance and pedaling efficiency along with long-term reliability and durability.
Its nickel-plated sprockets and steel construction make it very resistant to the elements. The lightweight body and minimalist design of this 8-speed cassette also add to its aesthetic appeal.
Moreover, it is easy to install, and it is compatible with SRAM and Shimano 8-speed freehub bodies. This is a fantastic option among the low-budget bike cassettes available in the market today.
- Material: Nickel plating and steel
- Weight: 340 grams
- Size: 11-28T, 11-30T, 11-32T, 12-23T, 12-26T
- Fast, smooth, precise gear shifting
- Improves pedaling efficiency
- Good quality for its very low price point
- Not the best for road biking
- Some better options available at the same or slightly higher price point
Alternative: LITEONE 8 Speed Cassette 11-42T MTB
If you’re looking for an affordable 8-speed cassette that is compatible with most bikes, this one’s for you.
The LITEONE 8 Speed Cassette 11-42T MTB works well with MTB, BMX, SRAM, and Shimano 8-speed systems, making it suitable for road bikes and mountain bikes.
The bike cassette has a close gearing ratio that offers higher energy efficiency through greater control of pedaling cadence. It comes in an attractive champagne silver color and different cassette cogs.
The nickel-plated cog and steel lockring are resistant to corrosion, preventing wear and tear for a long time.
- Material: Nickel-plated cog and high tensile steel carrier
- Weight: 442 grams
- Size: 11-42T
- Compatible with most bikes
- Easy installation
- No need for rear derailleur modification
- Close gearing ratio for higher pedaling cadence
- Has larger discs in the 8-speed category
- Corrosion-resistant and durable
- Poor quality machining
- Difficult to find a compatible rear derailleur
Bike Cassette FAQ
Does bike cassette make a difference?
Bike cassettes determine your rear-wheel drive experience. They offer a wide range of gear ratios that will help you select your ideal pedaling cadence so that you can ride efficiently on different types of terrains.
If you run your chain on the cassette’s larger sprockets with more teeth, you will achieve a smoother gear. Larger sprockets decrease the torque needed to turn the rear wheel, making them ideal for climbing. However, you will need to pedal more to cover an equal distance.
The smaller sprockets with a lower number of teeth work to increase the torque. This means you’ll have to pedal less frequently but with more effort. Higher torque helps you add power without having to complete too many pedaling revolutions when you’re riding downhill.
So, as you can see, having a good gear range on your bike cassette allows you to balance torque and pedal speed to help you achieve efficiency while riding. Yes, your choice of bike cassette can significantly influence your biking experience wherever you ride.
How do I know what kind of cassette to get for my bike?
Zeroing in on your ideal bike cassette can feel very challenging due to the wide range of sprocket combinations available. So here are the most important things you need to keep in mind when choosing a new bike cassette:
One major element you need to factor in is the spread of gears on the bike cassette.
The closer the number of teeth from the biggest and smallest cogs (i.e., 11-21), the smaller the jump between gears, enabling smoother gear shifts. This is advantageous if you want to delve into professional racing.
Note that closer-geared sprockets automatically reduce the size of the largest sprocket. So more effort is required when climbing or riding on challenging terrain. A wide gear ratio (i.e., 11-42) will give you a lot of flexibility if you want to use your bike for all kinds of adventures.
Mountain bikers drive on uneven and rugged terrain, so a wider range of sprocket sizes is needed to tackle the different gradients. They need to quickly control the effort put into pedaling as the terrain shifts under the wheels. So it’s better to choose a sprocket range of 11-32, 11-34, and 11-36 for mountain bikes.
On the other hand, road bikers are free to choose different types of cassettes in a wide range of sizes. But it’ll be best to stick to a rear cassette with minor differences between the sprockets to get a smooth gear shift and optimal pedaling cadence.
The gear range for road bike cassettes is generally between 21 and 32 teeth for the lowest gear and 11 and 13 for the highest gear. But you can go with a 12-25 cassette, as it suits most cycling terrain if you pair it with a standard or compact chainset.
Another thing to note about road bike cassettes is that the largest sprocket is usually smaller than those fitted on mountain bikes. This provides a smaller variation between gear changes.
The terrain you usually ride on is another crucial factor to consider if you want to select the correct bike cassette. If you ride primarily on hilly areas, start with a large cog, say 25, and work your way up from there.
Keep in mind that larger cogs widen the gaps between cogs, so they are not suitable for those who ride on flat terrain. Flatlanders should best stick to a range of 11-23.
While the above factors are important, your fitness level and bike experience will also determine which cassette you should go for. Those in excellent shape, with years of experience and strong legs, can get a narrow range of 11-21 or 11-23. Beginners should go for a wider range, such as 12-27 or 11-28.
When selecting a cassette, those new to biking often do not consider their crankset. If you want a smooth ride, you must choose the ideal combination. Bikes with a standard double 53/39 crankset can have a low gearing of 12-27 even for hilly terrains. A compact crankset of 50/34 will need an 11-23 cassette.
Replacing a 7-speed cassette with an 8-speed cassette requires a lot of work and expense. This is because your bicycle’s 7-speed mount will not fit an 8-speed cassette due to differences in width.
Additionally, the lockring that keeps the sprocket in place will not tighten. So you’ll need an all-new rear-wheel or at least a freehub body for this purpose.
You’ll also need a new cassette, chain, shifters, and front derailleur. You may even need to replace the gear cables (inner and outer), although it’s not always necessary.
Upgrading your bike cassette can give you more pacing options and make your bike more comfortable and pleasant to ride, even on climbs.
To upgrade the cassette, just follow the steps below:
1. Check Cassette Specifications
There are two general types of bike cassettes: freewheel and cassette. Check which cassette type came with your bike before choosing a replacement.
You’ll also need to check the cassette speed, gear ratio, and brand while choosing a new cassette. Make sure all of these important details match so you will not have any trouble with the replacement and installation process. For example, you cannot use a 9-speed mountain bike cassette to replace your 10-speed cassette.
2. Inspect the Freehub for Speed Support
You need to check how many speeds the freehub body can support by looking up the module number of the freehub. You can also measure the freehub body’s width and compare it with the width of the cassette you wish to buy to check if it fits or not.
Again, these specific details and measurements are incredibly important to ensure that you get the correct replacement cassette.
3. Buy a New Cassette
Choose your desired cassette based on these factors as well as your riding preferences. You can ask different bike cassette manufacturers to help you select the right one.
Our list of the five best bike cassettes above would be fantastic options for you!
4. Get the Required Tools
To remove your old bike cassette, you need to have the right tools. Your equipment list must include a lock ring removal tool, a chain whip tool, an adjustable spanner, and gloves.
Remember to get a lock ring removal tool specifically made for your cassette brand to ensure compatibility.
5. Replace the Chain and Shifter for Enhanced Speeds
Get a new chain and shifter compatible with the new cassette and its speeds. This way, your replacement can boost your speed and riding efficiency.
6. Get a Derailleur Extender or a Wide Cage Derailleur
To increase the cassette ratio, you need to change the rear derailleur. You can do this by getting a derailleur extender to connect the existing derailleur to the large cog.
If this technique does not work, you need to get a derailleur with a wider cage.
7. Get a Taller Chain or Add Chain Links to the Existing One
When upgrading the cassette ratio, the chain usually needs to be taller for smooth pedaling and gear shifting.
If you don’t have a tall chain, get a new one or add a few links to your current chain.
The bike cassette is an integral element that determines the ease of your riding experience. It helps you change gears smoothly and pedal easily on different terrains with maximum energy efficiency.
A good bike cassette will make your ride as enjoyable and comfortable as possible. So choose one that meets all of your needs. Maintain it properly so that it can last up to 10,000 miles. When you notice wear and tear, don’t hesitate to replace it to ensure a smooth ride.
We hope our buying guide helped you find the very best bike cassette for your needs. If you have any other recommendations on the best bike cassette, tell us in the comments below!
Last Updated on February 18, 2022 by Matthew Carpenter