BikeGremlin search...
Home » Technical » Compatibility » Compatibility [07] Rear shifters

Compatibility [07] Rear shifters

Rear shifters are of course used to shift gears at the back – that is to control the rear derailleur (RD in the future) which then moves the chain from one rear sprocket to the other. In this post first, there will be a short explanation of the difference between friction and indexed shifters, then the compatibility of indexed shifters will be explained by three standards of the three biggest equipment manufacturers: SRAM, Campagnolo and Shimano. For each standard, it will be sorted by the number of “speeds”, that is the number of rear sprockets.
Note 1:
This article is about shifters for controlling derailleurs. Rear gear hubs have completely different shifter standards, so the info given here is not relevant for those.

Note 2:
Before you start, to avoid any misunderstanding:
please take the 5 minutes needed to read the compatibility articles use instructions.


Friction vs indexed shifters

This goes for both front and rear shifters.

Friction shifters work analogously – that is the cable is pulled for the amount that the lever shifter is moved. Changing gears is done by feel (and hearing) – moving the lever until the gear is changed and chain rattling stops. 🙂

Advantage of such system is that it always works without fine tuning. It is the most robust shifter system. Disadvantage is that it is sometimes harder to get it just right manually – it takes some time and practice. They are compatible with all the RDs and numbers of speeds, but if there are more than 8 sprockets at the back, sprockets are more tightly packed, closer together, so it is hard to get the RD to align with the desired sprocket – smaller error margin. That is why they can’t be recommended for more than 8 sprockets.

Indexed shifters have a number of pre-designed positions. One click moves/releases cable by a certain, pre-calculated amount. Number of clicks needs to match the number of rear sprockets (minus one, of course) and the amount of cable pulled needs to move the RD to align with the next sprocket. Additional complication is that various models of RDs move for various distance for the same amount of cable pulled (for 1 mm of cable pull, some RDs move for 1,7 mm, while others move for only 1,3 mm etc.). This needs to be considered when talking about compatibility.

In the rest of this post, it will be explained which indexed shifters can be mixed with which RDs. If it’s not noted differently, it is understood that the number of shifter speeds matches the number of rear sprockets (10 speed shifter with a 10 speed cassette and so on).

Number of speeds RD is designed for is more a marketing term – as long as RD movement and desired cable pull is matched with the shifter cable pull, all will work fine.


Important note

This goes whenever combining shifters with more speeds than the number of rear sprockets. For example: 7 speed shifter with a 6 speed cassette and similar.

Shifter will have more clicks than there are available rear sprockets. To prevent shifting to drop the chain off the cassette, RD movement needs to be limited with limit screws (this should always be done anyway, regardless of the shifter used).

When the chain reaches the end of the cassette, shifter will have more clicks. Every indexed shifter has clicks for releasing and for pulling the cable. When setting up the shifter, it should be set up so that it can pull the cable all the way, leaving one or more click for releasing the cable unused.

For example, 7 speed shifter with a 6 speed cassette should be set so that when it pulls the maximal amount of cable, the RD aligns with one end of the cassette, and after five clicks of cable release RD should be aligned with the opposite side of the cassette. This leaves sixth click for releasing the cable unused – RD will not move at all, since it will be limited with limit screws.

Opposite setup would be so that when cable is released as far as it goes, RD aligns with one end of the cassette. Then, after five clicks for pulling the cable, RD will reach the opposite side of the cassette and the limit screw stop. This will leave one more click for pulling the cable available. Shifter lever will allow one more click for pulling the cable, while the RD will be stuck in place with the limit screw. If shifter lever is pulled for the remaining click, probably nothing will happen but the user will feel the lever not moving, resisting. However, since shifter mechanism is fine and sensitive and the RD can not move any more, pulling the lever could cause the shifter mechanism to break and shifter will no longer work.

Reminder: if RD movement is not correctly limited with limit screws, it could “change” a gear so that chain drops off the sprockets completely, which can be a problem.


a) SRAM

SRAM shifters come in four different standars:

  • Shifters compatible with “Shimano 2:1” standard. They come in versions made for 6, 7, 8 and 9 speed cassettes.
  • SRAM 1:1 standard. They come in versions from 7 to 9 speeds.
  • SRAM Exact Actuation. Available in 9 and 10 speeds for both road and MTB (shifter lever ergonomy differs for flat MTB and drop road bars), and in 11 speeds for road only.
  • SRAM X-Actuation. So far only MTB 11 and 12 speeds versions are available.

Each of these shifters works fine with any SRAM RD as long as they are by the same standard.

In addition to that, shifters compatible with Shimano 2:1 standard can work with Shimano MTB RDs for 6 to 9 speeds and with Shimano road RDs for 6 to 10 speeds. Exception is Shimano Tiagra 4700 10-speed RD series – these will not be compatible.

SRAM 1:1 is, judging by data, compatible with Shimano 11 speed MTB RDs, but I haven’t tested this in practice.


b) Campagnolo

Campagnolo has two standards per shift, called old and new. 🙂  Old ones are matched with old RDs, new ones with new. Since the amount of needed cable pull differs for each number of rear sprockets, there is no cross compatibility whatsoever. 10 speed new shifters work only with new 10 speed RDs. 8 speed ones with 8 speed RDs. And so on. Old standard comes in 8 to 10 speed variants, while the new one comes in 9 to 11 speeds.

Apart from that, as of 2014 (don’t take my word for the exact year), campagnolo introduces another 11 speed standard. Previous Revolution 11 and the newest Revolution 11+. They are not compatible.

Newest Campagnolo 12 speed standard (introduced in 2018) is not compatible with any others (as far as I know).

One exception is that old Campagnolo standard, judging by data, should work with Shimano 11 speed road RDs, but I haven’t tested this.

Other exception are the new Campagnolo 10 speed shifters. They can work with Shimano RDs for 6 to 9 speeds (and old Shimano road 10 speed RDs) and Shimano 8 speed cassettes. Cable pull of Campy 10 speed shifters is not the same for every gear change, there will be two unused shifts with an 8 speed cassette, but it can be made to work satisfactory.

If it is any consolation, Campagnolo shifters are more robust, longer lasting and can be serviced, unlike other manufacturers’ shifters.

It is also interesting that not every Campagnolo shifter pulls the same amount of cable with each click. With 10 speed for example, there is more cable pull for “slower” speeds, than there is for the others.  2.5 mm pull five times (from smallest 1st to the 6th sprocket), 3 mm for 7th and 8th, then 3.5 mm for 9th and 10th. 2.83 mm average cable pull per click.  🙂


c) Shimano

Compatibility will be given per number of speeds, except for 10 and 11 speed shifters, where cable pull differs from road to MTB models.

6, 7, 8 and 9 speed shifters

Combining with various RDs:

Shimano shifters, whether for 6, 7, 8, or 9 speeds are compatible with all the Shimano RDs for 6 to 9 speeds, and with Shimano 10 speed road RDs (not with 10 speed MTB RDs).

Update: a new exception are Shimano Tiagra 4700 road 10-speed shifters, and Shimano GRX gravel series shifters.

They are also compatible with SRAM 2:1 RDs (that were in fact made so that they match the Shimano standard).

Combining with various rear sprockets:

6 speed shifters will work well with 7 speed sprockets, but they will not shift onto one of the outer sprockets because they don’t have enough “clicks” (5 in stead of 6 needed for a 7 speed cassette). They can be set up so that they don’t shift onto the smallest, or the largest sprocket at the back, with everything else working fine.

7 speed shifters will work with 6 speed sprockets, but one “click” will be unused – will do nothing (read the important note at the beginning of the post if doing this).

They can also be combined with 8 speed cassettes, but some gears might not work perfectly and there will be one unused sprocket at one end of the cassette, or the other. Similar goes for pairing 6 speed shifters with 8 speed cassettes.

8 speed shifters can work with 6 and 7 speed sprockets (read the important note at the beginning of the post if doing this). Since the required Shimano 8 speed cable pull differs slightly from the 6 and 7 speed one, shifting will not be as quick, accurate and there might be some chain noise in certain gears, but most will work fine.

9 speed shifters pull significantly less cable per click than 6, 7 and 8 speed ones. They can be combined with 6 to 8 speed sprockets (read the important note at the beginning of the post if doing this) if the cable is attached to the opposite side at the RD (see position B in the picture below). Then it will all work , but some gears might not work perfectly.

Alternative cable attachment. Position B will cause RD to move more, which helps if shifter doesn't pull enough cable.
Alternative cable attachment.
Position B will cause RD to move more, which helps if shifter doesn’t pull enough cable.
Source: www.sheldonbrown.com

A “hack” if a shifter pulls more cable than it should, when mix-matching, is shown in the picture below, but I haven’t tested that:

Attaching cable in the C position will cause the RD to move a little less per 1 mm of cable pull, than it's "factory" default design
Attaching cable in the C position will cause the RD to move a little less per 1 mm of cable pull, than it’s “factory” default design
Source: www.sheldonbrown.com


Shimano Dura Ace from 1984 to 1996 (6 to 8 speeds)

Shimano Dura Ace shifters for 6, 7 and 8 speeds will only work with Shimano Dura Ace RDs for 6 to 8 speeds. That means each shifter will work with each RD, as long as they are Dura Ace and built in the period from the heading (that is 6 to 8 speeds).


10 speed ROAD shifters

Combining with various RDs:

Shimano 10 speed road shifters are compatible with Shimano MTB RDs from 6 to 9 speeds and with shimano road RDs from 6 to 10 speeds.

Exceptions are Shimano Tiagra 4700 road shifters that work with Shimano Tiagra 4700 RDs and Shimano 11 speed road RDs.

Another exception is the new “gravel” group (with hydraulic brakes): Shimano GRX. Caple pull wise it’s the same as Tiagra 4700.

Combining with various rear sprockets:

With alternate cable attachment (position B in the picture above), they can be made to work with 9-speed cassettes. Shifting speed and precision will degrade, but it can work (read the important note at the beginning of the post if doing this).


10 speed MTB shifters

They can only work with Shimano 10 speed MTB RDs.


11 speed ROAD shifters

They work with Shimano 11 speed road RDs and with Shimano Tiagra 4700 10 speed road RDs.

By data, they should also work with old Campagnolo RDs, but I haven’t tested this. Old Campagnolo RDs come in 8, 9 and 10 speed variants. They should work with 8 and 9 speed old Campagnolo RDs, as long as the cassette used is Shimano 11 speed road one.


11 speed MTB shifters

They work Shimano 11 speed MTB RDs.

I haven’t tested, but they should work with SRAM RDs of SRAM 1:1 standard. They should work, as long as the cassette used is Shimano 11 speed MTB one.


New 11 and 12 speed Hyperglide+

From summer of 2018 Shimano introduces a new XTR M9100 groupset. New shifters have a switch for 11 and 12 speed operation setup, but only work with new Hyperglide+ cassettes.

Table
Shifter type – amount of cable pulled with each click in mm

For 10 and 11 new Campagnolo, this differs from click to click, the data is given on average.
Also, the given numbers are a result of measuring complete length of cable released (after all the clicks), divided with the total number of clicks – cross referenced with cassette sprocket pitch, and rear derailleur movement ratio (per 1 mm of cable pulled). Not every given value matches 100%, but it’s the best I could source/measure/combine, and it gives a (rough) guide to what can work with what.

Shimano 6 – 3.2SRAM 2:1 n = Shimano nCampagnolo 8 – 3.5
Shimano 7 – 2.9SRAM 1:1 7 MTB – 4.5Campagnolo old 9 – 3.2
Shimano 8 – 2.8SRAM 1:1 8 MTB – 4.3Campagnolo new 9 – 3
Shimano 9 – 2.5SRAM 1:1 9 MTB – 4Campagnolo new 10 – 2.8
Shimano 10 road – 2.3SRAM Exact Actuation 10 – 3.1Campagnolo new Revolution 11 – 2.6
Shimano 10 road
Tiagra 4700 – 2.8
Shimano 10 MTB – 3.4SRAM Exact Actuation 11 road – 3.1 * Campagnolo Revolution 11+ – N/A
Shimano 11 road – 2.7SRAM X-Actuation 11 – 3.5 
Shimano 11 MTB – 3.6 SRAM X-Actuation 12 – 3.45 

* Most probably incorrect number, needs checking. Can’t be the same as 10 speed Exact Actuation, since cassette pitch is different (narrower).

Related post – Bicycle groupset (equipment):

Bicycle groupset (drivetrain)
Bicycle groupset (drivetrain)


Compatibility posts are also available in eBook (printable and Kindle) and paperback editions on Amazon:

Bicycle drivetrain compatibility book
Bicycle drivetrain compatibility book

46 thoughts on “Compatibility [07] Rear shifters”

  1. Hi Relja:
    Short answer is no, they are incompatible after my reading.
    The answer was in one of the links from the page you directed me to,
    https://bike.bikegremlin.com/3573/bicycle-cassette-rear-chainrings-standards/

    Dimensions are in millimetres
    Cassette Cassette Sprocket Spacer Total width
    Pitch Thickness thickness
    Shimano, SRAM 10-speed 3.95 1.6 2.35 37.2
    Campagnolo 10-speed 4.15* 1.7 varies * 38.8

    38.8-37.2 = 1.6mm difference. Big enough to make it incompatible.

    * With some Campagnolo cassettes, cassette pitch changes – increasing and decreasing between different position sprockets. The goal was to improve shifting in the middle part of the cassette.

    Many thanks for you answer. Spot on, clean and elegant.

    Reply
  2. Thanks a lot Relja for all the work you’ve put in to those articles. It very helpful!

    Could anybody give some advice on my conversion options
    I bought old-ish road bike I want use as commuter (it has 3×10 speed “something” Shimano ). I’m hoping to convert it to flat-bar.
    Based on your research I see there are no options to combine 10-speed road RD with MTB shifter correct ? I haven’t check your other articles yet for the various FD & cassette combinations but what would be the most sensible option for my conversion ?

    -try the MTB 10 speed shifter anyway ?
    -Switch the 10s road RD for MTB RD+MTB shifter (not sure if cassette has to be switched too – will read your other articles now 🙂 )
    -downgrade to 9 speed cassette + MTB shifter

    Thanks for any tips

    Reply
    • Hi J,

      I don’t clearly see what you have right now and what exactly you wish to achieve. But if my assumptions (the mothers of all the mess-ups 🙂 ) are correct,
      you have an older generation road 3×10 gropuset (shifters, cassette, derailleurs etc.).

      And you want to use flat bar shifters, with minimal costs – converting it to a flat-bar bike.

      For commuting, my first choice would be a new 7-speed cassette (with a spacer made from the old 10-speed cassette 🙂 – as shown in the rear hub compatibility article) and good, steel/aluminium friction shifters. Making it bomb-proof.
      Apart from that, you could also do one of the following:

      1) Look for some 9-speed flat bar shifters.
      This would also require swapping the cassette for a 9-speed one.
      The same principle (shifters + a matching cassette) goes for 8, or 7-speed shifters, whichever you opt for.
      Front shifting won’t be perfect if you go with an MTB front shifter, without replacing the FD.
      If you find flat-bar road-compatible shifters, than front shifting will be fine.

      2) Look for non-Tiagra 4700, i.e. an older generation road-compatible 10-speed flat-bar shifters.
      MTB 10-speed shifters won’t work without replacing the RD, and front shifting won’t be perfect without replacing the FD.
      This lets you keep the cassette (and derailleurs, if you find road-compatible flat-bar shifters).

      3) There are probably A x B more combinations, depending on your choices of which components you are willing to replace and what kind of drivetrain you want.
      But I hope I’ve provided at least some info and help. 🙂

      Relja

  3. Hello,
    I’ve been planning on building a road bike. I already bought a Shimano Tiagra 4700 STI and got me thinking if should I pair it with a road rear derailuer with the same pull tension as a sram 11 speed because that is what I’ve got as of the moment. The question is, should it work?

    Reply
  4. Hi,
    I have a 9-speed Campy Mirage RD. I need new shifters but because they’re from the 90s it’s a nightmare to find. Your guide makes me believe there isn’t much cross-manufacturer compatibility (if any). What are my options (apart from changing both the RD and the shifter) ?

    My setup is:
    Rear: Campy mirage 9-speed RD, 8-speed shimano cassette, Campy rear shifter
    Front: Campy dual chain-ring, FD and shifter

    Reply
    • Hi Fabrice,

      The simplest option is going with friction shifters. Either down-tube, bar-end, or the Gevenalle shifters (with friction shifting). STIs are quite expensive, needlessly heavy and not nearly robust and durable enough for my taste.

      That would make a system that works with practically any cassette (or derailleur for that matter, whatever comes to be needing replacement down the road).

      In terms of ergonomy and the ease of fast shifting with hands on the tops, hoods, whatever, STIs are still unmatched. That’s their biggest pro.

      For STIs, with mid-range derailleurs being moderately priced, I’d look for a shiter/derailleur combo that can easily be sourced (for my country, that’s Shimano). If a bit of extra weight is not a problem, Shimano Claris (8-speed) work surprisingly well in my experience.

      If lower weight and/or more speeds are required, Shimano Tiagra 4700 (10-speed) shifters and derailleurs are very good. Also, they are compatible with Shimano 11-speed stuff (in terms of derailleur cable-pull, you do need an 11-speed cassette, chain etc.).

      An extra option could be the use of shiftmate.

      Finally, if shifters are not physically broken, a liberal spray of WD40 on the insides could clear any built-up gunk and make the old shifters work again. If that helps, follow it up with some fine lubricant spray, because WD40 is not much of a lubricant by itself.

      P.S. There’s also the option of sourcing used Campagnolo Mirage shifters, or sourcing the needed (damaged) parts and servicing them.

      Hope this helps more than it confuses. 🙂 There really is a ton of different options and paths to choose and I understand that different people have different preferences and priorities, so can’t really say which one is the best for whom. I can say that my choice is friction shifters – both for flat bars and drop bars. 🙂

    • Thanks Relja, that’s a very thorough answer! 🙂

      i’ve had my bike since late 90s when i was competing as a teen.
      Looked after it over the years but the frame eventually snapped near the rear derailleur and it can’t be welded.
      I decided to through myself a challenge and rebuild the bike. I managed to source a really good frame for really cheap (thanks ebay). Needed new fork/headset/stem as my old threaded system wasn’t compatible with the frame’s integrated system. So far so good but my shifters look very tired. They do work well still but i thought it may be good to change them until i realised how difficult it is to find campagnolo in the UK nowadays (I was in France at the time i got the bike).

      I definitely don’t want to go away from STI so i guess maintenance will be a good idea. I didn’t know until reading one of your guides than campy shifters were “easily” serviceable!

  5. Hi! I currently have Dura Ace SL-BSR1 bar end shifters and running 1x (indexed) with a GRX rear derailleur on a drop bar mountainbike.

    I am planning on changing the rear derailleur to a Deore 12 speed M6100 model and it’s corresponfing 12 speed cassette.

    Will I be able to use the left bar end shifter (which is friction) with the M6100 rear derailleur and be able to shift to all 12 gears on the rear?

    Reply
    • Hi Neil,

      Out of all the mix-matching I’ve done over the past decades, I can’t recall ever having tried to use a left shifter for the rear derailleur.

      I would expect it to work, but can’t say with a 100% certainty.

      You can easily test how much your shifters pull by disconnecting the cable(s) from the derailleur(s), setting a starting position with most cable pulled all the way in (lowest gear for the rear, highest gear for the front/left shifter), taping/marking the cable part that is right at the shifter’s entrance, then “shifting” to the position where there’s a maximum amount of cable released. Measure and compare. If the left shifter releases the same amount of cable (or more), then I would expect it to work.

Leave a Comment

How You can add images to a comment on this website - tutorial