Whether you’re a 1x fan or 2x fan, getting the right gearing for your gravel grinds or mixed terrain riding has never been easier.
You can rock an old-school triple on your carbon adventure bike, run a 12-speed electronic double, give a vintage drivetrain new life or relish the single life and spin a 1x crankset with anywhere from 1 to 13 cogs out back.
For some of us, “gravel season” means longer rides, more exploring and less racing and likely, more climbing. And even though it’s impossible to stroll into a good bike shop without tripping over a gravel bike nowadays, the reality is many readers don’t have the luxury of separate cyclocross and gravel bikes.
That means after cyclocross season, the fall season bike might need lower gears and different rubber for certain gravel escapades. As we shift into “gravel season,” we’ll be taking a look at some of these mods.
Today, we’re looking at a wide-range cassette from SunRace.
A Third Big S
Shimano and SRAM both have offered wide-range non-XD cassettes aimed at the 1x crowd for several years, and creative folks can even implement them into 2x setups. Perhaps you use an 11-32t or 11-36t for 1x cyclocross racing, maybe even tighter. Swapping that out for an 11-42t for more climbing and time in the saddle makes for more versatility for mixed terrain fun.
Now, there are many more cassette options than the two big S component makers, and SunRace hopes its offerings will place its name in the ring of mainstream gearing options.
It’s doing so with lightweight, affordable cassettes that offer more options and gram savings than competitors. SunRace offers 4 11-speed, wide-range cassette levels, 5 10-speed versions and even a 12-speed SRAM Eagle-like cassette that does not require an XD driver. Each cassette comes in several gearing options and silver or black finishes.
All told, there might be 50 permutations of gravel-relevant cassettes available—more than SRAM or Shimano.
We’ve put some miles on SunRace’s CSMX8 11-speed 11-42t cassette, which is the company’s top-end 11-42t 11-speed option. The cassette features six steel cogs on two shiny red anodized aluminum spiders, with alloy spacers and a lockring to match. The biggest cog is alloy.
MSRP is $80, although as with many components, it’s often sold for much less—we’ve seen the 11-42t silver version as low as $56.
Our test cassette tipped the scales at 419g, a tad heavier than the list weight of 401g, but about 10g lighter than a similarly priced Deore XT M8000 model and 119g lighter than the more expensive SRAM Apex 1130 11-42t offering.
People spend $1K or more to save 100g on wheelsets. Sure, that might be rotating weight further from the hub, but $60 or so to save 119g seems like a relative bargain for the weight weenie replacing a SRAM Apex cassette.
I swapped in the SunRace CSMX8 for SRAM and Shimano 11-42 cassettes and honestly forgot I was testing a new cassette. The shifts were reliable, the noise level was about the same and thanks to the alloy spiders and removing the cassette off freehub bodies was not a memorable experience. It slipped off without carving its mark badly into alloy freehubs.
While riding, I may not have noticed any performance detriment or improvement and didn’t even notice the 100-plus gram savings while tackling my local trails or late-season cyclocross races. I didn’t think about its performance, appreciated its gear range, and it’s held up just fine—isn’t that all we expect from our gear?
When the bike was clean, I did notice the added bling. Red anodization may not be for everyone, but it certainly does not make the component look like a budget, off-brand part.
I spent a decent amount of time crawling up hills in the granny gear, but not enough to put noticeable wear into the largest alloy cog. Based on its performance, it’s a no-brainer replacement over a SRAM Apex or Shimano SLX cassette, and competitive with a Deore XT option.
Some may think of SunRace components to be a budget brand with compromises. After a few thousand perspective-changing shifts on the CXMX8 cassette, I certainly do not.
SunRace CSMX8 Cassette Specs
Gearing options: 11-40t, 11-42t, 11-46t
Cogs: (11-42t) 11-13-15-17-19–21-24-28-32-36-4
Color options: Black, silver
Spider: red alloy
Spacers: red alloy
Cogs: Hi-tensile steel, largest is A7075 alloy
Lockring: red alloy
More info: sunrace.com