Mix and Match components for optimal performance


Written by Joseph Bonacci, on September 22, 2023

Mix and Match

Component manufacturers invest a substantial amount of time, resources and money to the meticulous creation of groupsets and other integral components for our bikes. So of course it is natural that they would want us to use all their components together, and we’re often told that this is the only way to achieve optimal performance from these components. While this is true in some cases (like with SRAM’s new Transmission groupsets), we have found that it’s not always the case. Sometimes mixing one brand’s components with other non-factory spec components will actually make them perform better! Here are some of our favorite examples of the “Mix and Match” approach.  

Disclaimer: These setups are not necessarily recommended by the manufacturers, just general insights into what we have seen to work.

SRAM GX AXS + Shimano Chain and Cassette

One of our most common upgrades to Shimano SLX and XT equipped bikes is done with the addition of the SRAM GX AXS upgrade kit. This upgrade swaps in the electronic SRAM GX AXS rear derailleur and shifter to the Shimano Hyperglide+ system, retaining the Shimano cassette, chain and crankset. 

SRAM GX AXS + Shimano Chain and Cassette

The reason we were even inclined to give this setup a shot is because of the large tooth-count jumps present in the SRAM 10-52 cassette, the largest being the 42-52 tooth jump at the top of the cassette. The largest gear jump on the Shimano 10-51 cassette is only from 45t to 51t, so the gap is a lot smaller than on the SRAM cassette and provides a smoother transition in shifting.

The friendlier gear jumps on the Shimano cassette were the main reason we decided to take a shot at integrating the SRAM GX AXS in with an XT Groupset, and the results have been great. Additionally, we've had a few people who wanted the benefits of wireless shifting (i.e. no cable and a preferred feel and function of the shifter) on Shimano equipped E-bikes such as the Orbea Rise where a fully "approved" SRAM option is not available as there is not a SRAM chainring for the Shimano motors.

SRAM GX AXS + Shimano Chain and Cassette

We were surprised to see how well the SRAM GX AXS components worked with the Shimano parts. The drivetrain runs smoothly and without much noise, and the smoother gaps in the cassette make the gear ratios much more natural to ride with. We have been able to use this for over a full riding season, and the setup has not presented any additional or undue wear on the chain or cassette. 

SRAM XO1 Shifter + Shimano XTR Derailleur + SRAM Cassette and Chain

This is by far the most non-conventional setup we've seen around the shop, and it was even more surprising to see it installed on a resident mechanic’s bike! For this highly unusual setup, our mechanic linked up a SRAM X01 mechanical shifter to a Shimano XTR 12-speed Derailleur. When asked to explain the “why” behind the setup, the response was simple: “I like the quality of Shimano XTR but I prefer the SRAM Shifter.” While there’s a bit more to it than this, it highlights the fact that being comfortable with your setup is as valid a reason as any to try out an unconventional approach when selecting your parts. 

SRAM XO1 Shifter + Shimano XTR Derailleur + SRAM Cassette and Chain

Digging deeper, one of the big reasons our mechanic decided to try the SRAM/Shimano setup is to avoid the high resistance present in the Shimano shifters. The SRAM shifters are easier to operate as they require less force to shift. For the setup and installation, our mechanic said that there was no extra work involved and the setup held up just as well as a strictly Shimano or SRAM configuration. For the rest of the drivetrain setup, the XTR rear derailleur is shifting a SRAM XX1 Chain on an XX1 cassette. No noticeable loss in quality is present, versus an all Shimano setup.

We would recommend this setup for any riders with smaller hands, or where any loss of hand or grip strength has occurred such as a previous wrist injury, etc.  

“Shigura” Brakes 

The “Shigura” brake setup refers to when you pair Shimano brake levers with Magura calipers and rotors. The idea behind this approach is to increase the stopping power of the brakes on a Magura-equipped enduro-style mountain bike, without needing to replace the entire brake set.

“Shigura” Brakes

For this setup, you need to hook up Magura MT5 or MT7 calipers and hoses to Shimano XT or XTR Servo Wave Technology levers to achieve the optimal performance. The reason you need the Servo Wave levers, is because those levers do not have a linear progression, meaning the first 20% of pull on a Servo Wave lever will push more fluid than the first 20% of pull on a non-Servo Wave design. You’re effectively using the Shimano lever design to make an already burly Magura brake set even more powerful.

“Shigura” Brakes

Getting these brakes setup requires a bit more time and detail, but if you’re already comfortable setting up brake systems you’ll be able to do it without much trouble. You can use either Shimano mineral oil or Magura’s Royal Blood for setup and bleeds, you just have to be consistent in what you use. 

Using this “Shigura” setup definitely increases the performance of your brakes, and it’s a recommended configuration for downhill and enduro riders who are constantly pushing their bikes to the max extent. 

Shimano GRX with Garbaruk Derailleur Cage 

Shimano’s GRX 1x gravel setup only allows for a 11-42t cassette, but with the addition of a Garbaruk pulley wheel cage you’re able to stretch it to allow for the use of a cassette with up to 50 teeth. We’ve seen this setup a few times, and it is a great option to get added range on to the 11-speed, 1x GRX drivetrain. This setup does not inhibit the shifting performance of the derailleur whatsoever and the bike will continue to perform like normal, even with the extended cage and added tooth count on the cassette. The added gear range allows you to ease up any climb without the worry of running out of gears. 

The two most common setups that utilize this cage incorporate an e*thirteen 9-46t cassette or a SunRace 11-50t cassette. The 9-46t e*thirteen cassette is for riders who want an extra top-end gear for speed on the roads (from the 9t small cog), and the 11-50t for those who prefer a “bail out” gear for the hardest of climbs. 

Shimano GRX with Garbaruk Derailleur Cage

The Garbaruk cage can be outfitted to both the mechanical and Di2 Shimano derailleurs. The only downside of this setup is that the gaps between your cassette cogs are a bit wider than standard. This makes it harder to cruise at a consistent cadence because the shifts are more significant; you’ll definitely feel more of a dramatic cadence difference between some of the gears. 

With this setup we also recommend using a 12-speed SRAM Flat Top road chain. The chain is a bit narrower than the Shimano GRX 11-speed unit, which allows it to adhere to the cassette and chainring more snugly, decreasing the likelihood of chain drops. 

All of these "Mix and Match" setups are ways to get a little more out of your bike without the need for a comprehensive and expensive parts swap. These combinations all provide some sort of advantage over the stock setups, and are viable ways to fully customize your bike to you, and how you ride. We are happy to help you explore options and determine what may be the best setup for you and get you rolling on your bike! 

We have parts to supplement your builds and are happy to order in whatever is necessary. Give us a call or email us if you want to pursue outfitting your bike to get every advantage possible. We’re here to help you and answer whatever questions you may have.

1 comment

  • Seems like most bike that come from the factory are set up with either one or the other large company group brake and drive chain set ups. My current daily ride MTB is set up as a mild Frankenstein build. It took a some trial and error to find the exact set up. I bought the bike used and have since refit with stellar results. Shimano XTR brakes and shifters and rear derailleur , cannondale 12 speed front chain ring and SRAM rear XX1 eagle cassette and chain, the result is super quiet, smooth shifting and appropriately bling bling set up built for long life. I read the XX1 gold colored components last longer especially when you keep the chain clean, lubed and replace when wearing. My only comment is that it wasn’t cheap.

    Ron Zagorski on

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