Technical FAQ: Giving up carbon for old titanium

In Tech FAQ, Lennard Zinn addresses a wide range of questions on drivetrain mixing, Mad Fiber wheels, sizing for short torsos, and more

Sometimes the Tech FAQ mailbag fills up with a central theme (most recently the minutia of drivetrain cross-compatibility). Other times, it feels more like a grab bag. Today is the latter and we’ll look at a little bit of everything, culminating in one reader’s questions about his flexible carbon frame and updating the head tube on a classic titanium frame.

Will this SRAM work with that Shimano?

Dear Lennard,
I just swapped out my rear derailleur for a SRAM X7 long cage 9-speed. (Previously I had a Shimano Tiagra 9-speed.) I tried to use my current 9-speed Shimano Ultegra STI shifter, but it’s not working, and from reading online it seems like they’re not compatible. Is there an STI shifter that I can use with this rear derailleur?
— Nora

Dear Nora,
No, there is not a Shimano shifter that will work with this derailleur; only a SRAM shifter will work with it (or a Campagnolo with class-B functionality). Before replacing that SRAM derailleur with a Shimano derailleur, however, you could try some of these cable-routing solutions. It’s possible one might work acceptably and save you some money.
― Lennard

My Campy/Shimano mash-up works masterfully

Dear Lennard,
Campagnolo 11-speed Ergo shifters index perfectly with Shimano 9-speed derailleurs and cassettes. On the bike, the shifters are Chorus 11-speed Ultrashift and all the rest of the drivetrain is 9-speed Shimano. Since I replaced the original 9-speed STI shifters (which were starting to jam when attempting shifts) with the Ergos, I haven’t been able to detect any shortcomings in the rear shifting at all, and the Ergo shifters have the added advantage that the front shifter has more trim positions for banishing chain rub.
— Nick

Dear Nick,
Thanks for letting us know your experience.
― Lennard

How can I make a 10-speed Mad Fiber wheel work with an 11-speed drivetrain?

Dear Lennard,
I have a set of Mad Fiber wheels where the hub cannot be changed out. The hub is 10-speed and compatible with Shimano/SRAM. I recently moved up to Shimano 11-speed and was wondering if I could use an 11-speed hub but remove one ring so it would fit on the hub. I would use spacers to fill in the gap. I understand that I would have an extra shift at either the top or bottom but I can live with that. Have you tried this solution and if so, what was the outcome? If it didn’t work, do you have any creative solutions? I was just wondering before I try it.
— Brian

Dear Brian,
I did that for a while, and it worked fine. That wheel very likely has the guts of a White Industries hub inside; you might see if you can get an 11-speed freehub body from WI.
― Lennard

How do I fit my bike to my short torso and long legs?

Dear Lennard,
Given your expertise in fit issues and frame-building, I thought I would run a problem by you: what size frame should someone ride if they have long legs and a short torso? My floor-to-crotch measurement is 92cm, and I was told that my torso measurement puts me solidly in the 56cm range on the Specialized chart. Having legs for a 60cm frame and a torso for a 56cm frame makes buying off the rack a compromise. Frames that are 60cm are too long. When I bought my first road bike three years ago, I bought a 58cm road frame and eventually put a 90mm stem on it because it felt too long. The reach still feels a little long to me (probably, in part, because my saddle is high), and the short stem undoubtedly affects the bikes handling/steering characteristics. Is this the right way to go, or should I get a 56cm frame next time?
— Chris

Dear Chris,
If you can get the 56cm frame with an uncut steering tube on the fork, that would be preferable. Flip the stem up, and put some spacers under it as well, not to exceed 100mm (four inches). And remember that when you flip a stem up, it effectively shortens its reach as well.

Check out the two drawing above, which illustrate what happens when you flip the stem up versus having it flipped down. As you can see, with a 140mm 6-degree stem, flipping it up raises the handlebar by 24mm and shortens the reach by 10mm. If it were an 8-degree stem, the height increase would be 32mm, and the reach reduction would be 13mm. If it were a 17-degree stem, the height increase would be 67mm and the reach would be shortened by 27mm. Those height and length differences would be proportionately less with shorter stems, of course.
― Lennard

Where do I find really big booties?

Dear Lennard,
You’re big, big guy. Where can I find road shoe booties that fit a size 47 shoe? Trying to get typical booties over my shoes take more energy than the ride.
— Bill

Dear Bill,
I have no problem getting Grip Grab booties over my size 47 shoes, be they road or MTB shoes. And for less cold weather, I regularly use DeFeet Slipstream sock-type shoe covers over them.
― Lennard

Should I trade carbon for titanium and replace my head tube?

Dear Lennard,
I wanted to ask your opinion on updating an older titanium bike versus replacing a cracked Masi 3v. I have a six-year-old Masi3v, which Masi has declined a warranty on. Bike only has 6,000 miles on it, but has developed small cracks under the clear coat. Bike developed a high-speed shimmy over the last year. Since you’re a frame builder, I have just a couple of questions.

Is it possible that the Masi was only “good” for 6,000 miles? I hate to think we have gotten to the point where race bike lifespan is that short. Looks like I’m going to put an older Litespeed Ultimate back into service. I’ve been told that it will be like trying to convert a 69 Camaro into a 2014 Corvette.

Second question: Has frame technology changed that much? I was thinking of replacing the head tube. It currently has a 1-inch. Is that even a logical upgrade? Bike will be masters raced by formerly competitive 52-year-old. I was also told a lot of current newer wheels don’t really match up well with older technology. I was riding Zipp 404s, both tubulars and clinchers. I’m assuming that comment was due to widths of rims getting wider now than 12 years ago. So, is it worth the time to upgrade older Ti?
— Cris

Dear Cris,
The cracks in the paint and/or clear coat (that’s what you mean by “under the clear coat,” correct?) indicate something is moving further than the clear coat can flex. Since carbon fiber construction done properly is generally immune to fatigue failure, I would guess if you’ve not crashed it or otherwise overloaded it that the cracking and loss of stiffness you’re experiencing is either bonding between molded carbon pieces that is breaking down and moving, or it’s delamination between carbon layers.

I can’t imagine that your wheels will not work in the Litespeed. I assume the frame has 130mm rear spacing. If so, the wheel should fit in fine. The 404s are not wider than wheels the chainstays and seatstays of a decade or so ago could handle.

Yes, you could have the head tube replaced by a titanium framebuilder, either with a standard head tube for a 1-⅛-inch steering tube, or with an oversized one for a tapered steering tube, either 1.5×1.125-inch, or 1.25×1.125-inch. That will be a costly upgrade, so you’d have to decide whether it’s worth it to you or not. Personally, I have a hard time imagining that the modest increase in performance of your old Litespeed with an upgraded fork would be worth the money.
― Lennard