Combining a SRAM X5 Shifter With a Shimano Derailleur

Condensed Answer:

SRAM X5’s rear shifters are designed for 9 and 10-speeds. The cable pull and rear shift ratio of SRAM’s rear 9 and 10-speed MTB products do not match those of Shimano’s 9 and 10-speed line.

Consequently, an SRAM X5 rear shifter cannot be used with a Shimano rear derailleur.

However, it’s possible to combine a SRAM X5 front shifter with a Shimano front derailleur.

Cable Pull & Rear Shift Ratio

The compatibility between a shifter and a derailleur in an indexed drivetrain depends on two factors:

  • The cable pull of the shifter
  • The shift ratio of the derailleur

Modern shifters are indexed so that the rider can transition from one gear to the next by pressing or pulling a lever. Each press or pull comes with a click. The number of clicks depends on the number of gears that the bike has.

Each click pulls or releases a pre-determined amount of gear cable. That amount is known as cable pull and changes according to the number of gears, the bike type (MTB or road), and the manufacturer of the component.

Meanwhile, derailleurs have shift ratios indicating how much the derailleur moves per 1mm of cable pulled or released by the shifter.

For instance, if the derailleur has a 1.1 shift ratio, it moves 1.1mm for every millimeter of gear cable pulled by the shifter.

The combination of pre-determined cable pull and rear shift ratio positions the derailleur at the needed location after each shift. The result is smooth, fast, and predictable shifting once the gears are indexed properly.

SRAM X5 and Shimano Compatibility

In order for a derailleur and a shifter to be compatible, the following conditions have to be met:

Option A: Integrating the derailleur into the Shifter’s Environement

  • The derailleur’s shift ratio has to match that of the original derailleur that the shifter is designed for. Otherwise, the derailleur will not move to the needed location on the cassette for a proper shift to take place.
  • The derailleur’s capacity has to match or exceed that of the original one.

Option 2: Integrating the shifter into the Derailleur’s Environment

  • The shifter’s number of speeds has to match that of the original shifter.
  • The shifter’s cable pull has to match that of the original shifter.

The table below shows the cable pull and rear shift ratios of SRAM X5 and Shimano’s 9 and 10-speed MTB and Road parts.

Cable PullRear Shift Ratio
SRAM X5 9-speed4.0mm1.1
SRAM X5 10-speed3.1mm1.3
Shimano MTB 9-speed3.4mm1.7
Shimano MTB 10-speed3.6mm1.2
Shimano Road 9-speed2.3mm1.7
Shimano Road 10-speed2.7mm1.7

The values do not match. Consequently, it’s not recommended to combine SRAM X5 rear shifters with rear derailleurs from Shimano.

SRAM X5 Front Shifter+ Shimano Front Derailleur?

SRAM X5 front shifters are compatible with Shimano’s 8/9 MTB front derailleurs.

Front derailleurs are more tolerant to dissimilar shift ratios because the jumps between the gears are fewer and thus ultra-precision is not necessary for acceptable performance. The limit screws on the derailleur help a lot too.

In most cases, the cable pull of front Shimano and SRAM shifters and the shift ratios of the respective front derailleurs “agree” enough for decent “cooperation”. Some modifications may be required, but the system is expected to be workable.

However, this is the case only when the shifters and the derailleur are designed for the same bike type. In other words, MTB derailleurs should be coupled with MTB shifters whereas Road derailleurs should be combined with Road shifters.

This is necessary because Shimano’s front MTB and road derailleurs have different shift ratios. For that reason, you can’t use MTB shifters with a front road derailleur or road shifters with a front MTB derailleur. (rear more)

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