Technical FAQ with Lennard Zinn: Brake questions, compatibility and New Year’s feedback

Readers and companies offer feedback on Zinn's recent New Year's resolutions for the bike industry.

Q. Dear Lennard,
I know I am exposing my inner cheapwad, but I need to ask if can I safely (safety is actually the essence of this question) flip my brake pad holders to get extended use? With toe-in (what a wonderful noise-easing discovery) brake pad wear is asymmetric: there just seems to be a lot of useful pad on the 180 degree other end.

I have done this without mishap (yet?) ─ but then that little voice started whispering: “what does Lennard Zinn have to say about this?”
— Steffan

A. Dear Steffan,
Well, to be honest, I think that’s crazy.

I know a guy who was injured in an accident caused by his brakes not working because he had his brake pads (and, of course, pad holders) turned around backwards. He saw the front pads shoot out ahead, felt the rear pads hit his calves, and felt no more braking power, just before the lights went out. He was coming down a steep hill toward a stop sign he apparently was planning on blowing through until he spied cross traffic and jammed on his brakes much harder than he had done since the pad change.

Admittedly, this was in the days before setscrews in the pad holders, but they were Campy pad holders, which were always notoriously hard to get the pads in and out of. With today’s pad holders, I know the likelihood is low of losing the setscrew or of the pad sliding past it while it’s in place, tearing a groove down the center of the pad’s back side, but it is undoubtedly less secure than if the pad holder is in its proper orientation. To not have a wall on the front of the pad holder stopping the pad from sliding forward is not a good idea, in my opinion.
— Lennard

Q. Dear Lennard,
I use Dura-Ace 7900 components routinely for my road bikes. After my last week-long tour in Colorado, I found that a compact crank and a 11-28 cassette just doesn’t let me keep my cadence high enough.

I have obtained an 11-34 10-speed cassette but need a long cage rear derailleur that will work with my 7900 shifters.

Any ideas?

I’m not so concerned about “crisp” shifting as it seems like 90 percent of the time I’m in either the 50-11 or the 34-low gear combination.
— Clay

A. Dear Clay,
Any 9-speed Shimano mountain bike rear derailleur should do the trick.
— Lennard

Pavel’s snowy Surly Cross-Check with Shimano LX 9-speed rear derailleur and Shimano10-speed bar-end shifters.
Pavel’s snowy Surly Cross-Check with Shimano LX 9-speed rear derailleur and Shimano10-speed bar-end shifters.

Q. Dear Lennard,
You recently wrote that 10-speed road and mountain component by Shimano are not compatible.

I made 9-speed mountain derailleur (LX-Deore) to work with 10-speed road set on triple crank.

I have FSA Gossamer Mega Exo 53-39-30, 10-speed SRAM chain, Ultegra front derailleur and LX-Deore rear derailleur. I currently use Ultegra 10-speed cassette.

The whole setup works flawlessly on Surly Cross-Check frame. Attached is a picture of this bike (I build it myself and proud of it).
— Pavel

A. Dear Pavel,
Thanks for this and especially for the photo. I’m actually aware of that you can use a Shimano 9-speed rear derailleur with Shimano 10-speed road shifters, as I frequently have to resort to this to provide one of my customers with the gearing he wants on his custom road bike.

In retrospect, I should have put it into the article, but customers buying new bikes sometimes get a little uncomfortable with the idea that I’m mixing 10-speed and 9-speed components on their expensive bike. And for a high-end bike with, say, Dura-Ace on it, you have to either get a relatively low-end current 9-speed mountain rear derailleur to go with it, or, if you want an XTR rear derailleur, you have to use an old one. Also, I was focusing on what Shimano and the other two companies were doing going forward.

All that said, combining 10-speed road STI levers with 9-speed Shimano MTB rear derailleurs works quite well, and I’ve never had a problem with the fact that the jockey wheel cage is wider on a 9-speed derailleur than on a 10-speed one. Possible occurrences due to this are hooking the cage on a spoke or the chain jumping around in the cage, but I’ve never seen either of these things happen if everything is adjusted properly.
— Lennard

Regarding my suggested New Year’s resolutions for the bike industry

RE: Dear Lennard,
We read your New Year’s Resolutions article at the shop and had a suggestion for getting some lower gears on a modern road bike.

As you mention, SRAM Apex is compatible with SRAM’s 10-speed mountain bike components. Groups such as XX have an available 11-36 cassette that could be used with the 34 small ring in the front. This would be a considerably lower gear than the stock 34-32 of Apex. Also, with a 110 bolt circle crank, one could go to even smaller front rings, sacrificing some top end but getting even lower climbing gears.

In general, the demise of the triple and the rise of the compact double have been great things for component cross-compatibility, shifting performance and drivetrain weight.
— Nathan Ray
Crofton Bike Doctor

A. Dear Nathan,
Thanks for the suggestion. Maybe I’m not understanding the chainring idea properly, but I don’t believe you can go smaller than a 34T on a 110mm bolt circle. It looks like you couldn’t go any smaller without having the mounting bolts out in the chainring teeth, which may be why QBP offers nothing smaller than a 34T in 110mm BCD.
— Lennard

RE: Dear Lennard,
You can use a Shimano 9-speed MTB rear derailleur with Shimano 10-speed road shifters to get that really low gear with a triple and MTB 10-speed cogset, now that SRAM and Shimano have über big 10-speed MTB cogsets. Interestingly, SRAM MTB rear derailleurs are compatible with road levers but SRAM MTB 9-speed shifters are not compatible with SRAM 10-speed MTB or road rear derailleurs.

Also, with a 2006 Campagnolo triple FD, we have made a Campagnolo 11-speed triple group using a Comp crank. The front derraileur just makes it to the big ring, not one left-hand click to spare.
— Peter Chisholm
Vecchio’s Bicicletteria

Pro Peloton’s Serotta Cycling Institute X-Y tool measuring a Pinarello. | Brad Kaminski photo
Pro Peloton’s Serotta Cycling Institute X-Y tool measuring a Pinarello. | Brad Kaminski photo

RE: Dear Lennard,
“Stack and reach,” brilliant, elegant, revolutionary – let’s hope the dream-makers of cycling get on board.

Did I see a simple tool that allowed those measurements to be easily transferred from bike to bike? It looked like a straight-edge affixed to the dropouts while the bike was in a Park Team Race stand with a vertical member that traveled fore and aft on the straight-edge. Is that tool available, or was that a mechanic’s creation?
— Maxwell

A. Dear Maxwell,
I believe that the tool in the photo in the VeloNews Buyer’s Guide at Pro Peloton bike shop, if that’s the one you mean, came from the Serotta Cycling Institute. Read below about the BG X-Y tool from Specialized and the Juteau-Cantin X-Y measurement tool.
— Lennard

RE: Dear Lennard,
Happy New Year! I just wanted to drop a quick note that the industry folk here really appreciate pieces like you did on 2011 Industry New Year’s Resolutions.

We’re big believers in front brake cable stops on canti bikes as we’ve done on our Tricross and CruX lines for a few seasons now. Our forks to have the hanger keyed into a slot on the fork to keep this piece light, stiff, and located.

And on the stack and reach piece, this is the measurement for bike fitters and riders that know their dimensions inside and out. This is what we use for wind tunnel bike setups and for duplicating rider fits between bikes during fitting.

Check out our BG XY Tool – mounts to wheel QR’s so it doesn’t matter if the ground is level or not. Align to BB center and then you have perpendicular faces to measure to using a normal tape measure.
— Mark Coté
Specialized Road Product Manager/Aerodynamicist

RE: Dear Lennard,
Nice article today on New Year’s resolutions on standards.

I’m going to update my Warp9 bikes geometry pages with reach and stack measurements so we can be an “early adopter” and embrace this method.
— Bert Hull
Warp9 Bikes

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Technical writer Lennard Zinn is a frame builder (, a former U.S. national team rider and author of numerous books on bikes and bike maintenance including the pair of successful maintenance guides “Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance” – now available also on DVD, and “Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance,” as well as “Zinn and the Art of Triathlon Bikes” and “Zinn’s Cycling Primer: Maintenance Tips and Skill Building for Cyclists.”

Zinn’s regular column is devoted to addressing readers’ technical questions about bikes, their care and feeding and how we as riders can use them as comfortably and efficiently as possible. Readers can send brief technical questions directly to Zinn. Zinn’s column appears here each Tuesday.