By: Kyle Mills
I admit it—I’m a serial granny gear user.
There’s just no climb mellow enough that I don't want to throw my chain onto my 36 and spin away. This tendency was one of the reasons I liked the idea of the XX cassette. It had an aluminum large cog and because of that metal’s propensity to wear, SRAM was making it replaceable. Unfortunately, they reneged on that promise and steadfastly refuse to sell the part, leaving me with two very expensive cassettes sitting on a shelf, virtually pristine except for chewed up grannies.
Companies like OneUp and Wolf make innovative systems to put larger cogs on a SRAM cassette, but the last thing I need is the temptation of a 42. Enter Ari, an Italian maker of custom bike components. For 70 Euros and another 30 Euros for shipping, they’ll send you the replacement that SRAM won’t.
The website is a little confusing, written in a mix of Italian and creative English. I was having trouble making heads or tails of it and decided to just send an email. Valentina got right back to me and I ended up just ordering through her and paying via PayPal. A day later, I got confirmation that my cog had been shipped and four days after that it was on my doorsteps in Wyoming. I wish there was a cheaper shipping option, but at least you get service proportional to the price.
If you can remove and reinstall a cassette, you can put this thing on with no problem. The hardest part was separating the worn out cog, a process that took about a minute with a flat head screwdriver. Simply slip on the new cog and included spacer, line up the holes, and drop on the cassette body.
It appears that the cassette doesn’t press fit to the cog like the SRAM version, so they never become one unit. I've always found the way XX cassettes engage only a small section of hub spline a bit disconcerting and this seems to make the situation worse. Having said that, I’ve never heard of anyone stripping their hub with a SRAM cassette, so the engineers seem to be doing their magic.
I can't perceive any difference between this and the OEM cassette. Shifts are fast and smooth, even when I do them under more power than I should. No slipping, no vibration, no drama. Basically, everything you want with the added benefit of a fun selection of colors.
This thing isn't cheap, particularly with the lack of a slow-boat-to-China shipping option. Beats throwing away a $250 cassette, though. And let’s face it, most of us don’t have anywhere near enough bright red Italian stuff on our bikes.