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11-36 vs 11-40 vs 11-42 Cassette

11-36 vs 11-40 vs 11-42 cassette

The bike’s cassette is an integral part of your bike in relation to its speed. The sprockets attached to the rear wheel are called cassettes and usually come in various sizes depending on the bike. A typical modern road or mountain bike usually comes in 11-36, 11-40, 11-42, and other sizes.

But what are the differences between the 11-36 vs 11-40 vs 11-42 cassette? The obvious difference is the number of teeth in the sprockets, which determines the bike’s gear range. Other differences are indicated below:

Differentiating Factors 11-36 11-40 11-42
Gearing Options 11-12-13-15-17-19-22-25-28-32-36 11-13-15-17-19-21-24-27-31-35-40 11-13-15-17-19-21-24-28-32-37-42
Gear Ratio (Lowest Gear) 0.31 0.28 0.26
Chain Links 107 links 109 links 111 links
Chain Length 137 cm 140 cm 142 cm

The numbers indicating the cassette type come all down to the gear. So, to make it simple, the first and last number indicates the cassette’s smallest and largest teeth. For example, the 11-36 cassette has the smallest sprocket with 11 teeth, while the biggest sprocket comes with 36 teeth.

But what is the difference? The smallest sprocket in your cassette will be perfect for cranking up the speed. So, when dealing with flats or downhill, the fewer teeth you have on the smallest sprocket, the more power you have if you want to crank up the speed.

On the other hand, the big sprocket with more teeth will allow the biker to climb efficiently on hills. So, the small sprocket is for speed, while the big sprocket is for climbing. But with the wide range of the cassette, the transition in changing between sprockets is noticeable when shifting the gear.

Gearing Options

When comparing 11-40 vs 11-42 cassette or 11-36 vs 11-42 cassette, one can easily distinguish between these cassettes by the gearing options they provide. As for the 11-speed 11-36 cassette, the gearing options are 11-12-13-15-17-19-22-25-28-32-36. The lowest gear is 11, and the highest gear is 36.

But what does this mean? Since the highest gear is 36, the bike will be slightly hard to pull when biking on hilly terrain. Meanwhile, the 11-speed 11-40 cassette has 11-13-15-17-19-21-24-27-31-35-40 gearing options, making it easier to pull during the climb.

Lastly, the gearing option of an 11-speed 11-42 cassette is 11-13-15-17-19-21-24-28-32-37-42. This cassette will allow the biker to pull the bicycle easily with more torque compared to the previous cassettes.

Gear Ratio

The gear ratio can be affected by the type of cassette you are using. The formula for the gear ratio is the number of teeth in the chain ring divided by the number of teeth in the rear cog. But what does it mean? The larger the gear ratio, the faster your bike will go.

In relation to your cassette, the fewer the teeth are, the faster the bike will go. It is also understood that the higher gears come in smaller sprockets in the cassette. For example, at the lowest gear, the 11-36 cassette has a gear ratio of 0.31, the 11-40has 0.28, and the 11-42 cassette gear has 0.26.

All in all, the 11-36 cassette has the highest gear ratio at the lowest gear, followed by 11-40 and 11-42 respectively.

Chain Links and Length

Another difference between these three cassettes is the length of the chain and the number of chain links needed when using each of these cassettes on your bike. But for comparison purposes, I am using the 50/34 front cog to determine the length and the links needed with these three bike cassettes.

The 11-36 cassette needs a chain length of 136 cm for a 50/34 front cog. On the other hand, the 11-40 cassette needs 140 cm, while the 11-42 cassette requires 140 cm. With this length, you can quickly tell the number of links with these cassettes is similar to the chain length.

For 11-36 cassettes, the chain links required are 107 links. For 11-40 cassettes are 109, while the 11-42 cassettes need 111 links for a 50/34 front cog.

Road Performance

Another way to differentiate between these three cassettes is their influence on the bike in relation to road performance. As mentioned earlier, smaller cassettes are for speed, while the bigger cassettes are for climbing. But then again, the type of road can also affect the road performance of the bike.

As far as 11-36 is concerned, it performs impressively on and off the road. From my experience, you can achieve the top speed when using the highest gear. But you also need to pedal harder to maximize the result. But when it comes to hilly terrain, you can use low gears during the climb to achieve an excellent gear ratio.

Meanwhile, 11-40 cassettes, when navigating on and off the road, can get boring. To achieve the top speed, you need to pedal harder. However, when climbing hills, this cassette produces more torque.

On the other hand, the 11-42 cassette is impressive when dealing with hilly terrain. You will achieve excellent balance, torque, and enough speed during the climb.


The difference between the 11-36 vs 11-40 vs 11-42 cassette is significant to the type of biking activity you are always doing. Each of these cassettes offers a unique performance on the road, making them different from the others. If you want speed on your bike, go for the smaller cassettes. As for climbing, the bigger cassettes fit the bill.

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