How to Upgrade Your 8-Speed Wheel

Posted at: Mar. 30, 2021

We have compiled a list of ways to upgrade the 8-speed model wheels, which are often used for entry-level road and cross bikes, to 9, 10, or 11 speeds.

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Let’s check the hub type of the wheel.

There are two types of hubs for multi-speed bicycle wheels.

  1. cassette free
  2. boss free

You can check which type of wheel you are using by checking whether or not there is a lock ring on the high side of the sprocket.

For this article, we will assume that you are using a cassette-free type wheel.

Are you using an 11-speed wheel or a 10-speed wheel?

If your current road bike, cross bike, or MTB is an 8-speed bike, then you have two types of wheels.

  1. 11-speed wheel
  2. 10-speed (8, 9, or 10-speed) wheel

Either of these.

How to determine which one is which can be determined by the presence of spacers on the low side.

Free body spacers for wheels

The following can be determined by the presence or absence of spacers on the free body of the wheel.

  1. gray spacer in the low side => 11 speed wheel
  2. no spacer on the low side => 10 speed wheel

Convert an 8-speed wheel to a 9-speed wheel.

Since the 8-speed sprocket and the 9-speed sprocket are the exact same size, it is possible to convert to 9-speed without changing the wheel.

Simply remove the current 8-speed cassette sprocket and replace it with a 9-speed cassette sprocket to convert to 9-speed.

If your current wheel is an 11-speed wheel, it should have a 1.85mm low spacer in it, so you can use the spacer as is.

Converting an 8-Speed Wheel to a 10-Speed Wheel

Since the height of the 10-speed sprocket is 1.0 mm lower than that of the 8-speed sprocket, the lock ring that holds the sprocket in place will not tighten properly if the 10-speed sprocket is installed as is.

Therefore, it is possible to convert an 8-speed wheel to a 10-speed wheel by adjusting the height with a commercially available Shimano 1.0mm low spacer on the low side.

Shimano CS4202 Cassette Freehub Spacer (1-mm) | Amazon

If the wheel you are currently using is an 11-speed wheel, it should have a 1.85mm low spacer in it, so install the sprocket with both the 1.85mm spacer and the 1.0mm spacer in the low side.

Converting an 8-speed wheel to 11-speed

Since the 11-speed sprocket is designed to be 1.85mm higher than the 8-speed sprocket, if your current wheel is a 10-speed wheel, you will not be able to convert it to 11-speed. If your current wheel is a 10-speed wheel, you will not be able to change to 11-speed. You will have to buy a new 11-speed wheel and replace the entire wheel.

On the other hand, if your current wheel is an 11-speed wheel, you can change to 11-speed by removing the low spacer from the low side of the 8-speed sprocket and installing an 11-speed sprocket.

8-speed wheel upgrade summary

Finally, all the cases are summarized.

Sprocket speed 8-10 speed wheel 11 speed wheel
9-speed conversion replace as is replace with 1.85mm spacers
10-speed conversion replace with 1mm spacers replace with 1mm + 1.85mm spacers
11 speed conversion not available replace without spacers

You can see that the low spacer you need will vary depending on which sprocket you use.

If you are thinking of upgrading from an 8-speed wheel to a 9-, 10-, or 11-speed wheel, this is a good reference.

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