It feels like 1×11 drivetrains have been around forever (go on, take a guess. No Googling mind. Answer* at the bottom of the review). I don’t think it would be too much of an exaggeration to say that they’ve revolutionised mountain biking. Riders have less to worry about when riding, cockpits have been tidied up, while designers have greater freedom in suspension design.
Wins all round then?
Except that the range of the first 1×11 cassettes (SRAM’s 10-42t ratio) was somewhat small at 420%, compared to a typical double chainring setup that offered over 475%.
Several companies have extended the range of their cassettes by simply making the largest cog bigger.
For 11-speed drivetrains there was Shimano’s 11-46t cassette (418%), and SunRace’s 11-50t ratio (454%). There have also been various hop-up kits from the likes of Wolf Tooth Components and OneUp, which modify an existing HG cassette by boosting the range with a larger in-board sprocket, while taking a smaller cog out from the bottom half of the cassette.
With the goal of trumping the front derailleur completely, SRAM added a cog to the whole shebang to make it 10-50t with its Eagle drivetrain (500%). And now Shimano is ‘leading’ the way with the 10-51t ratio on its latest XTR groupset (510%).
e*thirteen TRS Race Cassette
For the most part, everyone has been making the largest cog bigger, because there was no real way to make the smallest one any smaller, thanks to the pesky lock ring getting in the way. That is until e*thirteen joined the party and rewrote the rulebook.
The TRS Race is a wide range 11-speed cassette that offers a whopping 511% range. Even with one less cog, its vast range trumps both 12-speed SRAM Eagle and Shimano XTR.
Instead of upsizing to even bigger cogs at the low-end, e*thirteen achieves this range by simply shrinking the smallest cog to 9t.
To make this feat of engineering possible, the cassette is split into two gear clusters with the lock ring repositioned to the middle of the cassette body where it meets the threads of the SRAM XD driver. A special lock ring tool is (thankfully) included with the TRS Race cassette, which secures the large cluster down onto the freehub body.
The small gear cluster then mechanically locks into place on the large cluster with the aid of a chain whip. To unlock and remove, you’ll need a secondary chain whip.
Since the e*thirteen cassette is only compatible with XD drivers, existing Shimano drivetrain owners will want to check in with their wheel manufacturer to make sure they can source an XD option that’ll fit.
Overall it’s an ingenious and elegant solution, and the smaller cog offers numerous benefits – you can run a smaller chainring for increased ground clearance, and a shorter chain so there’s less chain flapping about. Consequently, the whole drivetrain can weigh a little less as well.
Speaking of weight, the TRS Race impresses at just 304g on the scales. That’s a lot lighter than the hulking SunRace MX80 11-50t cassette (526g) and Shimano’s 11-46t XT cassette (440g). Perhaps more impressive is that it’s even lighter than XTR 9100 (363g) and X01 Eagle (355g).
The larger cluster and lock ring are constructed from weight saving aluminium, while the smaller one is formed from high strength steel. The overall level of engineering and machine work is absolutely top notch, which it should be for over £300. Of note is that you can replace the large block (£129) and the small block (£209) separately.
When installed, the teeth run 9-10-12-14-17-20-24-28-33-39-46, giving some pretty big jumps between certain gears. Other manufacturers make a big deal about keeping these gaps to a minimum to maintain a constant pedalling cadence (Shimano’s Rhythm Step ethos for example), and depending on the type of riding you do, this may or may not be an issue for you.
Here in the Lake District, the hills have a tendency to rock hard rather than roll gently, so these wider gaps aren’t so much of an issue for me. However, for my antipodean colleague Wil who is of a more XC persuasion, these gaps are more noticeable (or maybe he’s just got more sensitive legs).
It’s definitely worth considering, and is one of the reasons SRAM went down the route of 12-speed with Eagle. That extra cog reduces the jumps between the individual gears, but sometimes at the expense of shifting.
In my experience Eagle is fantastic out the box, but every bike I’ve ridden with it (granted, these have all been GX Eagle drivetrains) has drifted out of tune over time and is incredibly sensitive to rear mech alignment and cable tension. The Lake District is notoriously tough on bikes, and sometimes you can’t help glancing your rear mech off rocks. On an 11-speed drivetrain this is rarely an issue, and there is a lot more tolerance within the system.
Another thing to consider if we’re getting really techy about it all, is the decreased efficiency of the smaller cogs, brought about by increased frictional losses. This is one reason why some pro road cycling teams are starting to move the other way and run larger cogs, chainrings, and even jockey wheels, especially on time trial bikes.
We’re only talking about losses of 1-5w though, which for the average rider isn’t something worth thinking about – there are plenty of other places I could gain those lost watts back before worrying about the number of teeth on my smallest cog, and I never noticed it in testing.
I’ve matched the cassette with a Shimano Deore XT shifter, SLX rear mech, and an 11-speed chain. On the whole, the shifting has been great. There is a nice positive clunk as the chain moves both up and down the block, with no skipping under power. I wouldn’t say the shifting is quite as slick as a finely tuned Shimano drivetrain, but then not much is.
Though everything was hunky-dory to begin with, a couple of months into the test period the chain decided it would occasionally refuse to shift down from the 46t to the 39t cog. It was only on this one shift, and it seemed unusual as I’ve not heard of any other e*thirteen cassettes performing this way. After cleaning up some of the drivetrain filth, adding a touch more B-tension and a slight turn of the barrel adjuster, everything returned back to normal.
While I only used the TRS Race cassette with a Shimano 1×11 drivetrain, I know of other riders who are using this cassette with SRAM 1×11 drivetrains too. You’ll need a little more B-tension on the derailleur to accommodate the jump from a 10-42t cassette to the 9-46t cassette, but otherwise everything is designed to line up nice and neatly.
After six months of testing, wear on the teeth is looking good. With the three largest cogs being made from alloy though, they will wear faster than the steel cogs. It’s quite useful then that you can replace that alloy block on its own.
We have heard of other riders experiencing noise while riding with some of e*thirteen’s earlier cassettes, which has been traced back to the connection points between the two halves of the cassette. I’ll point out that I’ve had zero noise from this test cassette during my time with it, though I did use the installation grease as described in the instructions. Not only has it been silent, but everything has remained rock-solid, with no movement whatsoever.
If you’re keen on extracting the maximum range from your existing 1×11 drivetrain, without splashing out on SRAM Eagle or Shimano XTR, and your legs can survive without the optimum steps between gears, then this cassette is definitely worth a look.
It plays nicely with your existing shifters, is lightweight, and the wear so far has been good. While it works well as a bolt-on upgrade to an existing 1×11 setup, in order to take full advantage of the 9-46t ratio, you really want to be running a smaller chainring – ideally a 30t or even a 28t if you ride in particularly mountainous regions.
Aside from that, the only negative mark against this engineering marvel, is the price. At £329, there’s no denying it’s expensive. It is cheaper than an XX1 Eagle cassette though, and of course the TRS Race may work out even cheaper if it saves you from buying a full 1×12 drivetrain.
*Answer: SRAM introduced the 1×11 drivetrain back in 2012 with XX1. So now you know.
|Product:||TRS Race Casette|
|Tested:||by James Vincent for 6 months|