I plan on keeping a 2x10 drivetrain on a couple of bikes, and I've come across a sale on 10s cassettes. One of the cassettes is a Shimano HG-500 with 11-42t count. The front drive will be either 34-24 or 38-28. My rear derailleur is an XT RD-M781 SGS cage which specs out as max low sprocket of 36 and total capacity of 43t. If I were to put the 11-42 cassette on, the total capacity count is 41. I realize that Shimano is very conservative with their specs as far as maximum tooth counts, but six teeth over the max low sprocket spec may be a bit much.

Anyone care to chime in on any experiences with a similar set up? Or thoughts on the question, if I've exceeded the tooth count on the max low sprocket but not the total capacity of the rear derailleur, can I expect good shifting?

Notes: yes, I'd like the low ratio to defeat some steep berms that have thus far defeated me.

I typically match up a dedicated chain to a specific cassette, so the 11-42 would come with its own sized chain.

  • 1
    You could look at something like a Wolftooth Goatlink from the early days of 1x-roots in ghetto 1x when it new with XTR pricing. They ,kind of worked most of the time' - 'Alivio shifting with XT prices' comes to mind.
    – mattnz
    Jun 21, 2020 at 2:39
  • Would you be happy to use the L limit screw to lock out the 42 tooth cog? Essentially making it a 9 speed cassette?
    – Criggie
    Jun 21, 2020 at 6:38
  • @Criggie Depends on if the second largest cog is 36 or 38. If it's a 36, I've gained nothing, and at 38 the difference may not be enough to justify losing some mid-range cog. Especially as I encounter the area of intended use about once a week--and in all honesty it's more about showing off than any sort of necessary. Lol
    – Jeff
    Jun 21, 2020 at 15:41
  • @mattnz Lol ur comment, "Alivo shifting..." We must try to avoid situations like this.
    – Jeff
    Jun 21, 2020 at 15:50

1 Answer 1


If the RD is suited for 36 teeth it may work with a 38 but highly unlikely with a 42. Shimano is conservative with teeth counts, you're right but still there are limits to get things to work. It is mainly a problem with geometry. The cage will have trouble to take up the extra length of chain. And also not to get into the way of the sprockets. You could try with one of these devices that put the RD 2cm lower but you'll trade it for less precise or more sluggish shifting.

The size of the front rings plays a lesser part if the difference the two is between more or less standard, although with smaller sized rings you may have trouble for FD height with a braze-on mount.

  • 1
    My thinking regarding the RD handling the chain wrap is that the total capacity of my proposal is within specs. That doesn't mean geometry isn't going to be a problem in getting the der outta the way of the large sprockets. A hangar extender is out of the question for the reason you mention as well as the additional cost washes out the sale price on the cassette. Thanks for your input
    – Jeff
    Jun 20, 2020 at 21:52

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