Advertised weight: 322 grams
I’m a sucker for steel frames. They’re bulky and flexy, but I love them to death. Yet after banishing front derailleurs from all of my mountain bikes, the weight penalty of steel really began to sink in, specifically into my quads and calves.
I eliminated my front derailleur, but I didn’t make the leap to an 11-speed cassette because most options have been, up to this point, cost-prohibitive: Expensive cassettes coupled with a new rear hub, rear derailleur, and shifter combine to make a very wallet-unfriendly upgrade. 1×10 options, while more cost-effective, were just too tall for me to push up some of the steep climbs here on the Front Range of Colorado.
Enter the Praxis Works Wide Range MTB Cassette.
It’s a full-cassette option for an expanded 10-speed gear range. The full-cassette design presumably offers more reliable and smooth shifting than simply adding a single big cog to the mix, and it’s easier on your freehub body too. (For more on adapter cogs, refer to this previously published review -Ed.)
The wide-range cassette cog array is 11-13-15-17-19-21-24-28-34-40. The 34-tooth and 40-tooth cogs are mounted on their own carrier, but don’t get too excited: Praxis says you cannot purchase just those two cogs on a carrier separately. The cassette is only available as a full unit.
Many adapters require a higher cog, often a 16-tooth, to be removed to make room for the very low 40 or 42-tooth option, and the Praxis cassette seems to have a better array of cogs for smaller jumps between shifts. The 40-tooth cog provides a decent climbing gear for the steeps without sacrificing high gears for really pushing it on flats and descents.
The real beauty of this cassette is the simplicity of it all: no new derailleurs, no modifications, just a bigger gear on a full cassette. Pop it on, make sure your limit screws are adjusted, and pedal away.
On the trail
The real test is always out on the dirt. Theories are nice, but they won’t save your quads from burning.
Just about every ride on the Front Range starts with a long, grind-it-out climb, and while there’s no avoiding the grind part, the Praxis cassette certainly did give us a little bit more pep when the trail turned steep. A 42-tooth cog would have been better (and would likely require the use of a long-cage rear derailleur), but the 40 was great for most climbing situations. This is perhaps where the 11-speed set-up would have shined, whereas the 10-speed set-up merely glistened. A wider range of options is almost always better, and there were a few moments where a bit more low end would have helped push us up and over a rock step.
Shifting performance was good enough that it wasn’t noticeably different from the old cassette. Yep, that’s a good thing. That means all shifts were as smooth as they were with a regular 10-speed cluster. There was no hesitation getting into the 40-tooth cog, no noise, no vibration. It worked exactly as it was supposed to, even with a medium-cage rear derailleur (we used a SRAM X0 10-speed derailleur for the test).
As an alternative to a single-cog adapter, the Praxis cassette is a great option. Like other 10-speed adapter options, however, it’s important to keep in mind that this is not a substitute for a 1×11 drivetrain. Think of this as a bridge between 10- and 11-speed systems: It gives you that little extra bit of push up the steeps, but if you’re all-day grinding up a mountain pass or two, you’ll still find yourself wishing for a 1×11 setup or a 2×10.
What about roadies and CX junkies looking for a wider range of gears? It could certainly work, but Praxis only honors its warranty if you’re using the cassette on a mountain bike drivetrain with a medium or long-cage derailleur.
In the end, the question remains: Why this cassette over a simple one-cog adapter? There are a few key reasons to go with the full cassette, and the most obvious among them is price. For $130 you get a unit that’s designed to work as one unit, no fussing or adapting required. And $130 is a very good price for a cassette like this, especially considering an adapter will cost half of that plus the cost of a cassette to use it with.
For the budget-minded rider in need of a little lower gearing, Praxis is worth a look.