Garbaruk 12-speed MTB Cassette review – a premium XX1 or XTR cassette alternative

Garbaruk’s cassettes are lighter than the top SRAM and Shimano options and cheaper than SRAM too, but how do they compare on the trail?

Garbaruk 12-speed MTB cassette
(Image: © Guy Kesteven)

BikePerfect Verdict

Garbaruk cassettes aren’t cheap but they save weight and cash over the best MTB cassettes from SRAM and Shimano without any significant performance issues. The HG version is a potential ultra upgrade too.

Pros

  • +

    Slightly lighter than XX1 and XTR

  • +

    Much cheaper than XX1

  • +

    Cheaper than XTR

  • +

    Three size options

  • +

    Durable so far

  • +

    12-speed HG ultra upgrade option

Cons

  • -

    Noisier shift than SRAM

  • -

    Months not years of testing so far

  • -

    Soft tightening feel

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Garbaruk is building an excellent reputation for lightweight performance at a more affordable price and several months riding their 12-speed cassette backs that up fully. So what are the details and options available from the Ukrainian/Polish company and how does it perform on the trail? 

Design and specifications

The construction follows the same pattern as SRAM’s Eagle XD cassettes. The 11 smaller cogs are all formed in a single forged steel with CNC machine cleaning leaving a hollow ‘cone’ of gears. The largest cog - made from anodized alloy - then bolts onto the steel section. A spacer barrel slides onto the free hub body for tightening. 

While the steel is plated for a raw look finish, the outer cog is available in eight different colors. You can also choose a 48, 50, or 52t largest cog, giving you more options than SRAM or Shimano. Where you can potentially really win with Garbaruk is the fact they do a standard (IE old style) Shimano HG option for their 12-speed cassette. That means you don’t need to upgrade to a Microspline or XD hub awesome if you’re currently running an NX or SX cassette or Shimano 11-speed.

Garbaruk cassette rear

(Image credit: GuyKesTV)

Performance

As well as potential compatibility and closer ratio gear gains the Garbaruk block also saves weight over XTR or XX1 options. Obviously, the difference changes depending on what size/spec you choose but you’re typically looking at around 15-20g over XX1 or XTR but the 10-48T option will save you 32g over a 10-52T XX1 block and 30g over an XTR 10-51T block. Hardly a game changer but the right side of the balance for weight weenies. And if you’re upgrading from SX you could save 271g which really is a noticeable amount, especially when it comes to suspension sensitivity.

In terms of fitting it’s clean and neat in terms of tool fit and screwing on but it is a comparatively soft tighten onto an XD block so make sure you snug it home properly. It’s switched between different test wheels with zero issues too.

Once I’d mounted it in place it’s been totally fit and forget as well. It’s fractionally noisier when actually shifting than XX1/X01 which is hardly surprising given that SRAM has an employee whose sole job is to work out the shifting geometry and algorithm of their cassettes. I’d actually say it’s quieter than XTR though as that can creak/ping across the alloy mid-cogs. There’s no tangible difference in actual shift speed or ‘cleanliness’ between the Garbaruk, SRAM, and Shimano though and noise/feel under load is indistinguishable too. The fact I’m using a 48T largest cog means there’s less of a gap to clamber up which is what catches out other alternative choices like E-13 so it’s not a totally straight comparison. I do absolutely love the 48T spread though as it gives a much smoother cadence progression and dodges the nose lift/too slow for crux moves on tech climbs issues I have with ‘going full Eagle’. 

Garbaruk cassette

The forged and machined finish is rougher than SRAM/Shimano up close but the raw steel doesn't show wear like alloy cogs do. (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

While we’ve seen some users report chain derailment when back-pedaling I’ve had no issues myself in months of deliberately ‘trying to catch it out’ test riding. Similarly, cassette wear and chain wear seem to be comparable to top SRAM and Shimano so far, but we’ll only know once we’re years deep into the process on that not just months. One advantage is that the raw steel finish definitely doesn’t show cosmetic wear as much as the anodized cogs on Shimano and SRAM. It’s worth noting I haven’t tried the Garbaruk on an E-bike yet, but then I wouldn’t run XTR or XX1 on an E-bike either I’d go for one of the heavier, sturdier, and more affordable to replace when they wear out in half the time options. Costing at least $130 / £150 / €150 less than XX1 or $50 / £30 / €40 less than XTR is a definite win though. 

Verdict

Garbaruk’s 12-speed cassette is pricey but it's cheaper and lighter than the Shimano XTR and SRAM XX1 benchmarks and apart from a slightly noisier shift than SRAM, performance is indistinguishable on the trail. That’s enough reason for anyone to consider a Garbaruk block as a premium option, but the ability to run 12-speed on an HG wheel is a potential upgrade mega win. 

The 48T option will appeal to stronger riders and the wide range of color trims without mid-cog cosmetic wear will appeal to the aesthetes. So while I’ll be leaving the Garbaruk on and continuing to give it hell and will report back with any issues, for now it’s a very big thumbs up on nearly all counts.

Tech Specs: Garbaruk 12-speed cassette

  • Price: $355.37 - $376.63 / £289.99 - £299.99 / €346.31 - €358.25
  • Sizes: 10-48T (tested), 10-50T, 10-52T
  • Options: XD, HG, MicroSpline freehub options
  • Colors: Black, Silver, Blue, Gold, Green, Orange, Red, Violet 
  • Weight: 344g (10-48T)

Guy Kesteven is Bike Perfect and Cyclingnews’ contributing tech editor. Hatched in Yorkshire he's been hardened by riding round it in all weathers since he was a kid. He spent a few years working in bike shops and warehouses before starting writing and testing for bike mags in 1996. Since then he’s written several million words about several thousand test bikes and a ridiculous amount of riding gear. To make sure he rarely sleeps and to fund his custom tandem habit, he’s also penned a handful of bike-related books and talks to a GoPro for YouTube, too.


Rides: Pace RC295, Cotic FlareMax, Specialized Chisel, Vielo V+1 gravel bike, Nicolai FS Enduro, Landescape custom gravel tandem

Height: 180cm

Weight: 69kg