Weekend Project: Drivetrain Conversion

When I built up my Black Mountain Cycles frameset, most of the parts came from my previous bike (Rawland rSogn).  That build worked well enough for me to get a feel for the new rig, but after several hundred miles, I found myself wanting gearing that was a little tighter (both in range and jumps).  And since I was running 10-speed shifters with an otherwise 9-speed drivetrain, it was the perfect opportunity to make the switch to a total 10-speed setup.

GRAVELBIKE.com "Black Mountain Cycles" Campagnolo Centaur Veloce KMC H+Son Schwalbe Vecchio's BikeHubStore.com

The author’s Black Mountain with newly-upgraded drivetrain.

Because I wanted to avoid hybrid- or conversion-cassettes, the upgrade to 10 speeds would require a rear wheel with a Campagnolo-compatible freehub.  I was already working with Brandon at BikeHubStore on a related project, so that problem was easily solved with one of his SL218 hubs.  Peter Chisholm of Boulder’s Vecchio’s Bicicletteria built the hub into a new rear wheel, and I was ready to make the jump from 9 to 10 speeds.

GRAVELBIKE.com "Black Mountain Cycles" Campagnolo Centaur Veloce KMC H+Son Schwalbe Vecchio's BikeHubStore.com

Campagnolo Veloce (med cage) derailleur shifts a KMC chain over a Veloce cassette. Shifters and front derailleur are Campy Centaur.

With the necessary parts in hand, it only took a couple of hours to install and adjust the new components (cassette, rear derailleur, chain).  The process was largely uneventful, but I did run into a couple of gotchas along the way.

  • First, don’t bother with universal-fit derailleur cables if you run Campy shifters.  Cutting off the un-needed end results in a tip that’s prone to snagging–or worse, unraveling–when you thread it through the shifter (and housing).  You could always solder the end of the freshly-cut cable, but since you’ll be trimming it again, just use a single-ended cable to begin with.
  • If you’re even remotely unsure that your chain is the correct length, preserve your sanity and get a couple of Wipperman Connex links.  I was able to open and rejoin the stock KMC Missing Link, but only after searching YouTube for help (and jury-rigging some snap ring pliers).

The new cassette’s range (13,14,15,16,17,19,21,23,26,29) works well for most conditions, but when paired with the 46t big chainring, I find myself spinning out on paved descents.  A 48t or 50t chainring is on my shopping list for when the 46t ‘ring eventually wears out.  Sharp-eyed readers will notice that I’m running a 10-speed chain and front derailleur with 9-speed cranks and an 8-speed large ‘ring.  It shifts better than expected, but there’s a slight lag getting the chain onto the 46t Real Design chainring (but it’s something I can live with at the moment).

Disclosure: BikeHubStore.com and Vecchio’s provided review samples and services for this article, but offered no other form of compensation for this article.

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