The Bike List

Shimano 105 CS-5700 11-28 Cassette

Tested by Jon Adams, tester for The Bike List

If you have a 10-speed road bike with stock gearing and are after a wider range of gears to help you spin up hills a little easier and fly down the other side a little quicker, then switching out your cassette sprockets for a different set is the easiest way to achieve this. You’ll typically have two chainrings on the front sporting 34 teeth on the inner and 50 on the outer (or 39 and 53 if you have a non-compact chainset), and at the back will be a cluster of 10 sprockets.

The smaller chainring and the biggest sprocket gives you your easiest hill-climbing gear, and your largest ring and smallest sprocket gives you the gear that’s the fastest and hardest to crank. A standard road cassette will offer sprockets that are close together in terms of their gearings – usually just one tooth apart, so you can pick the perfect gear for regular riding, but if your riding is quite hilly or you often lug a few panniers around, you could well need a set of gears that offers a bit more reach at either end of the scale.

A 12-25 cassette, for example, gives you a great array of subtle, incremental changes from 34x25 at the low end to 50x12 at the high end, but many riders would be happy to trade the subtle changes in shifts for something a bit bolder. An 11-28 cassette is a great option as an alternative to a 12-25, as you get extra versatility at both ends of the scale and don’t have to sacrifice too much in-between. What’s more, you can usually fit and use an 11-28 straight away.

Go for the huge range of an 11-32 or 11-34 and you’ll probably need to add a few links to your chain along with swapping your rear mech to an MTB-style, long cage variant. This starts to become less attractive as the cost and time adds up, so an 11-28 swap is a great compromise for those wanting a little customization but not too much grief along the way.

To swap a cassette you’ll need a cassette removal tool (often known as a ‘hypercracker’ as it provides the key to Shimano’s Hyperglide lock ring). You'll also need a chain whip to keep the cassette from turning while you undo the lock ring, and a medium-sized adjustable spanner to turn the hypercracker. Hold the cassette secure with one hand on the chain whip, and then turn the hypercracker counter-clockwise to undo the lock ring. Once the lock ring is off, you then lift off the old cassette and replace it with the new one. On goes the lock ring again, and you then nip it up tight with the hypercracker.

A 10-speed cassette comes in about 15 pieces, with spacers in between many of the separate sprockets, but it's already assembled in the box, so remove the plastic guide and put your thumb through the lot - that way you keep everything in order.

On a Shimano M10 hub, you'll notice that the splines have several regular gaps and one larger gap between them. This larger gap lines up with the larger flange on each sprocket, so slot them on with this in mind and it's a 30-second job to stack all the sprockets and spacers in sequence. Once they're all on, put on the lock ring (it has a spacer, too, but it normally stays in place above the lock ring's threads), and after getting it started by hand, finish off with the hypercracker and your spanner.

If the cassette rattles around a little after the lock ring has been tightened then you may need an additional spacer at the base of the hub. This is probably attached on your old cassette with gunge, so give it a wipe and drop it on before the biggest cog.

That’s all there is to it, and while it won’t take long nor cost much in your local bike shop, it’s one of those satisfying jobs that’s easy to do and makes a big difference to your ride. Tool costs aren’t too severe either – a cassette removal tool costs around £5-10 and a chain whip can be had for around the same amount (though it's not too tricky to make your own from an old chain and a bit of wood).

We used Shimano’s solid and dependable 105 series 11-28 cassette, because at £50, it's bang on track for the ratio between quality and affordability. You can move up the scale to the Ultegra 11-28 for £65, or there's always the ultra-light Dura Ace 11-28 at £180, but unless you're racing or very performance-oriented, 105 kit fits the bill nicely.

Switching a cassette is one of those easy-to-do workshop tasks that can make a massive difference to your riding, so the next time you change your sprockets and chain, think about taking the DIY approach and matching the cassette's gearing more to your riding style and terrain. It'll add to your enjoyment, customise your ride, and add another notch to your workshop skills.

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At a glance

Verdict Top-notch alternative cluster that’s easy to swap and gives a wider range of gearing options for getting up hills and flying down the other side.

Shimano says:

High performance 10-speed 105 Road cassette

  • Hyperglide sprockets have a computer designed tooth configuration with contoured shift gates, resulting in a crisp smooth shift even under load
  • Close ratio gearing allows a more efficient use of energy through finer cadence control.
  • Largest sprockets are mounted on a lightweight alloy carrier to reduce weight and increase rigidity.
  • Sprockets are cut away and drilled to further reduce weight without reducing rigidity.
  • Nickel-plated finish offers hard wearing resistance to corrosion.
  • Pearl-bright steel cassette lock ring.
  • For Super Narrow 10-speed HG chains.

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