JTek Shiftmate: Mix MTB Cassettes with STI Road Shifters to Lower Your Gearing

Many travel and light-touring bikes are currently built with STI road shifters, double cranksets and road bike drivetrains, limited by their standard road components which only offer moderately-low gear ratios. Compact cranksets and wide-range road cassettes are starting to offer relatively good climbing gears – up to 32 tooth on the rear cassette – but in many cases that simply isn’t enough.

Mountain bike gear systems on the other hand offer lots of low gearing, in fact, right up to 42 tooth on the rear cassette. This is because mountain bike gear systems employ a long derailleur cage to accommodate such a large range.

Unfortunately, modern road and MTB groupset parts are largely not interchangeable because they all use different cable pull ratios to work the gears. But what if there was a really simple solution that could combine road shifters and mountain bike derailleurs?

Meet the Shiftmate.

Image: AshwinEarl.Blogspot.com.au
Image: AshwinEarl.Blogspot.com.au

The ShiftMate is a ratio-changing pulley which is used for matching different shifters and derailleurs such as Campagnolo, SRAM and Shimano. The Shiftmate adapts different brands and models to offer the proper cable pull required for perfect shifting.

That makes it a really useful product which will match up road shifters with mountain bike derailleurs. No longer is a 34 x 32 tooth ratio the smallest available (29 gear inches with 38c tyre); it’s 34 x 42 tooth (22 gear inches with 38c tyre). That’s the difference between walking and riding up a steep hill!

In order to make this upgrade, you will need to take off your existing chain, cassette and rear derailleur, install the appropriate Shiftmate and mount up the new mountain bike chain, cassette and derailleur.

This Thorn road bike is using the Shiftmate 8 to run a Shimano XT derailleur and cassette with a Shimano 105 shifter.

There are multiple Shiftmate products available, all with a slightly different function. You can find out the full list of compatibilities on this page HERE.

The most relevant Shiftmate rear derailleur models to lower your gearing:

Shiftmate 6: 9 Speed Shimano STI Shifter — 1:1 SRAM MTB Derailleur
Shiftmate 6:
10 Speed Shimano STI Shifter — 1:1 SRAM MTB Derailleur
Shiftmate 6:
10 Speed Shimano STI Shifter — 10 Speed Shimano MTB Derailleur
Shiftmate 8: 11 Speed Shimano STI Shifter — 11 Speed Shimano MTB Derailleur

The most relevant Shiftmate front derailleur models to lower your gearing:

Shiftmate 7: Shimano Triple STI Shifter — Shimano Triple MTB Front Derailleur

Don’t forget to check out my Complete Guide to Road Shifter and Gear Hacks to Achieve Low Climbing Gears.

  1. This is great. Unfortunately some of it too techy for me, and just disheartening to see “*except Tiagra 4700*”.. Lol.. I have Tiagra 4700 10spd set up. Added a 10spd Rd deore + xt chain + deore cassette and all it did was jump, jump, jump around. According to these articles, is the solution as simple as putting on a 9spd RD+10Spd Chain and Cassette (11-36) and my problem will be solved?

  2. The Tiagra 4700 shifter and derailleur has a shift ratio that only really works well with each other. Here’s the good news: the derailleur cage can already handle 34t cassettes. With an adjustment of the b-tension screw (look it up), you should be able to squeeze a 36t cassette in there. If that still isn’t getting the shifting you like, you’ll want to install a Wolf Tooth RoadLink.

  3. Thanks so much Alee. Actually just rechecking the Tiagra set up is actually 4600 not 4700. Doh!! Anyways, so I am back to tweaking (or trying) to make the 10spd Deore RD+ 10 spd chain + 11-36T work. Do you reckon swapping the 10spd RD for a 9spd RD would help? Thank you

  4. Thanks so much for the assist @AleeDenham:disqus . Will give it a shot 😀

  5. I’m using a Wolf road link on a Shimano Ultegra 11speed with a XTR MTB 11-40 cassette no problems. I only had to change the cassette and add the road link, easier on the pocketbook.

  6. Did you use an Ultegra RD 6800 medium cage or the newer RD 8000 medium cage witch allows 34t max in the rear? The Roadlink only has a 40t max range.

  7. Oh thanks. I missed that part… late night! I’m glad that works because that’s one of my big concerns too, I want to buy a Road Bike w/Ultegra groupset but I’m afraid the 50/34 Crank with a 11-32T cassette just won’t do it for me…. I have too many hills to climb to get back home after each ride… Currently I use a 44/32/22 Crank with a 12-36T 9-Speed and I barely make it…. Even with a 11-42T cassette the 34 ring with 42T only works out to be a ratio of 0.81… I also found a bike with a 48/32 crank which may reduce that to 0.76 with the 42T cog… so things are looking better… Still, I love the 22T ring with the 36T cog Combo (a 0.61 ratio!)… I’m 59 and 195 lbs… the hill I need to climb has 36-40% sections… just to get home…

  8. Haha LOL. Thankfully, the 40% gradient is not too long… the entire distance is about 500-700m and the average climb over that distance is about 9%… But still… hard enough for my age and built. As I said, my 22T Chain and 36T cog in the back are doing the job for now. The problem is if/when I go to an expensive carbon road bike with a 11-speed Ultegra groupset… I don’t want to ditch the nice shifters and hydraulic brake levers… so I hope relying on a 11-42T cassette and the lower weight of the new bike will do the job. In the meantime, I am trying to lose weight and build up my strength… I follow guys on Strava that kill the same climb in speeds 3x faster than me…. but they are young and fit athletes… The record is under 2 minutes… It used to take me 15 minutes… lately, I’m doing it in around 5:15 to 6 minutes… Thanks for your help.

  9. Alee, i am getting ready to purchase a brand new road bike with the latest Shimano Ultegra R8000 groupset…. I’ve already ordered my 10-42T XT Cassette and was about ready to order the RoadLink, but then I just saw on their website that its says the Roadlink in not compatible with the new 8000 series derailleur! Do you agree? And what could be a workaround??? Thanks

  10. Alee, what’s the capacity of the derailleur, and was your setup with a 50/34T Chainrings?

  11. The new Ultegra RD8000 already has a built-in component that looks a bit like the RoadLink, and so the RoadLink people are saying you can’t use the Roadlink with this new Derailleur. However, so far I’ve seen people on You Tube using the 11-40T cassette with the the 8000 Derailleur with no problem. I already have an XT 11-42T cassette and want to use it on the new bike I’m waiting to buy but I don’t know if it will work. If anyone has tried it, please let us know…. I have a suspicion that it may work… [I’m attaching a couple of images showing the RD8000 and RD6800 so you can visualize the difference.



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