Author Archives: istigatrice

Veloflex Master Tyre Review

If fine, supple, light tyres are your thing then chances are you’ve at least heard of Veloflex. Many hold Veloflex tyres in high regard, and after spending the last month training and racing on their Master tyres I can understand why these tyres are held in such high regard.

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Veloflex Master 

Veloflex describe the Master as an “all-purpose open tubular”. Featuring tan sidewalls and a 320 TPI corespun casing, this tyre adds a real ‘classic’ look to most bikes. I tested the 700×25 version, which measured roughly 24mm on a 17c rim – quite narrow by today’s standards. Weight was almost bang on claimed, with my two tyres weighing 207g and 201g, giving an average weight of 204g.

Veloflex Master weights

Veloflex Master weights

When unboxing the first thing that struck me was just how supple and thin these tyres are. The bead isn’t very rigid, and when paired with a flexible casing you can fold this tyre up quite tightly. I doubt this effects the tyres performance, though. It’s just interesting to note because I could never fold tyres from Vittoria, Michelin or Continental this tight (and that’s including the Vittoria Open Corsa range).

Very flexible tyres

Out on the road the suppleness of these tyres was immediately obvious. When paired with latex tubes and a reasonable tyre pressure, these tyres gave an impression of ‘gliding’ along the road. Despite only measuring 24mm, these tyres give the comfort of a (lesser) tyre measuring 26mm but also the reactivity of a 23mm tyre. They’re a step above ‘regular’ tyres in terms of road feel.

Veloflex Master tyres are incredibly thin

You’re probably now expecting me to suggest these tyres offer terrible puncture protection but in fact the puncture protection has been more than adequate – it takes more than riding over glass to get a flat, in fact the only flats I’ve had so far have been pinch flats (I was experimenting with how little tyre pressure I could get away with).

I often find cornering grip can make or break good tyres, and these tyres certainly corner well. In the wet and dry the tyres offered good, predictable grip and feedback. They’re better than the (now superseded) Vittoria Open Corsa line, but not quite as good as a Michelin Pro 3 (or 4). Perhaps I feel more confident on the Michelin tyre because I’ve had more kilometres on them.

From what I’ve described, it appears these tyres would make the perfect race tyres, they’re light, supple, corner and roll well. However, if I were picking race tyres I would probably overlook these because I can get sturdier tyres that corner just as well, if not better. Yes, the Masters offer decent puncture protection, but I would prefer greater reliability in my (road) race tyres. I feel at club level the ‘speed’ difference between this tyre and say a Conti GP4000s or Michelin Pro 4 isn’t going to be the difference between winning and losing, but puncturing is. It’s for that reason that I would pitch these tyres solidly at those aiming to enjoy cycling, and don’t mind fixing the odd puncture. Or perhaps those who are willing to risk puncturing more often, for a marginal performance increase. Unfortunately, I prefer to finish my races, and usually the difference between winning and losing comes more down to race tactics, or training rather than my equipment.

Conclusion: Light, fast and supple tyres that offer decent puncture protection. Great for fast, long rides, but perhaps not my choice for a racing clincher.

Local Racing: Tour of Bright 2016 Race Report

The Bright Brewery Tour of Bright (ToB) is considered one of the largest amateur/graded stage races in Australia. Featuring  a time trial and 2 (hilly) road stages, many Australians below national level target the ToB each year. This year I had the opportunity to race in Elite Men’s C grade.

Before the race I really had no idea what to expect from ToB. The decision to race was quite a late one, I didn’t leave myself very much time to prepare for the alpine climbs in the Bright region. I’m a lighter rider and generally perform reasonably well in hillier races, but the climbs featured in ToB are considerably longer than the climbs I’ve raced on. Still, I thought it would be a valuable experience to have, and a chance to represent my club at one of Australia’s largest graded road races.

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The view from Tawonga Gap

Stage 1 was a short, but hot 13.5km time trial. The course was reasonably flat so it suited a TT specialist, or at least someone with a high 15-20 minute power. I set a goal of finishing the time trial in 21 minutes, but I was a little off my mark finishing with a time of 21:41. I started a little too hard and didn’t finish as strongly as I would have liked. The C grade winner’s time was a fast 18:39, set by Laurence BASELL of Hawthorn cycling club.

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Me taking the first turn. You can view my Strava file here.

The second stage was a hilly, 91km road stage, featuring 2 categorised climbs, Rosewhite Gap (Cat 2) and Tawonga Gap (Cat 1). The bunch was fairly well behaved for the first 30km. I was able to sit in nicely without doing too much work, but at 30km the bunch began to accelerate, chasing down an earlier attack. I wanted to contest the KOM points at Rosewhite, but I was near the back so I spent most of the climb moving up. When I found myself towards the front a small group had gone clear and so I decided to bridge across to them, which in hindsight was quite a foolish move because I went quite far into the red and wasn’t able to recover. I was promptly dropped and rode the last ~40km solo. I lost a fair chunk of time, and finished just over 30 minutes behind the stage winner, Liam Garriga of Carnegie Caulfield Cycling Club. I somehow managed to fray my rear derailleur cable somewhere on the ride, luckily it didn’t snap until the ride home. I was able to obtain a new cable cheaply at a local bike shop.

tob-s2

Climbing Tawonga Gap. You can view my Strava file here

The final stage was essentially an ascent of Mt Hotham (1533m elevation difference). I made a decision to try and contest the sprint points, because the points from stage 2 were split, and so a good performance on stage 3 could mean a top 5 in the sprint classification. However, the day started with mechanical issues because my rear derailleur wasn’t indexed properly from the night before. Luckily, I was able to select either the 15t or 17t without experiencing ghost shifts. I tried my best to contest the sprints with these ratios but I didn’t have the final kick to contest either sprint point. I think a few others had the same idea as me, so the sprints were hotly contested. With the sprints over I decided to stop and fix my indexing for the Hothan ascent. I finished 24:33 down on stage winner Liam Garriga, who also took out the GC honours. I think all the photographers had packed up by the time I made it to the top, so there aren’t any ugly photos of me. You can view my Strava file here.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed my ToB racing experience. Kudos to those who raced and rode the fondo stages, and many thanks to the volunteers and sponsors who made this event possible. For more information about the event click here.

TriRig releases new Omni frame

Not exactly something for the ‘weightweenies’, TriRig have officially launched their new Omni frame. The design appears to draw inspiration from the Lotus 108 and 110 time trial frames of the late 1990s, albeit with more modern touches.

The seat angle is a steep 79 degrees, critical for triathletes looking to rotate forwards. It is unlikely that this bike will be UCI legal, however that is not the point of this bike. While only available in three sizes, TriRig offer a reasonable range of cockpit adjustment. From a shorter rider’s perspective, the stack of 490mm should be low enough for most. I personally would prefer lower, but I ride 12.5-50km time trials, not ironman distance triathlons so I am obviously not their target audience.

TriRig Omin Geometry

TriRig Omni Geometry

Despite not being part of the target audience I am still excited by this product because it represents what could be possible if some aspects of the UCI regulations were relaxed. The aero data for the Omni has not been released at the time of writing, but I would be very interested to see the difference between this frame and UCI legal Cervelo/UKSI designs.

TriRig aren’t the first manufacturer to design radically different triathlon bikes, Falco and Dimond have ‘V’ style designs focused specifically for non-UCI events. In terms of Geometry, all three of the mentioned bikes have a similar range between smallest and largest. Dimond offer 5 sizes for slightly smaller increments (but arguably this can be compensated for by stem lengths and spacers) and Falco offer slightly steeper seat tube angles (82 degrees).

The Omni is priced at $4990 for the frameset and $7990 for the complete build pictured above. It is interesting to note the choice of a SRAM 1x set up for the stock option. A surprising (but welcome) inclusion is the 4mm hex wrench from Silca which is required for the ‘quick release’ skewer. The complete build appears to be well thought out (though I can’t really say more without actually working on the bike). Nothing stands out as something that can be a major annoyance.

Before wrapping up I would be interested to see how TriRig have managed the internal cable routing. I would suspect a few tight corners inherited by the bike’s lack of down tube, but perhaps they’ve thought of something clever. If you’re running electronic this won’t be of much importance to you, though.

Not one for the weightweenies but I would suspect that most aeroweenies are impressed. I’m eagerly awaiting the aero results, how mast faster is this UCI illegal design?

Disclaimer: The author is not afiliated with TriRig and the images were taken from the TriRig website. For full details please refer to http://www.tririg.com/omni

 

 

NixFrixShun Ultimate Chainlube

Chain lube is something I’ve never paid much attention to. I’ve always just bought whatever the latest ‘fad’ was (e.g. Rock’n’Roll Gold, Triflow, etc.) without much thought. It never occurred to me that one chain lube would be significantly better than the rest, but that’s possibly because nothing really stood out, not even the ‘King of Lubes’ (Rock’n’Roll Gold).

Initially, I was quite skeptical about the claims NixFrixShun made about their chain lube, particularly how could you possibly get 10 000 miles out of a 2oz (60ml) bottle of lube? I’ve never gotten anywhere near that out of a (larger) bottle of Rock’n’Roll. Additionally, only applying 12 (small) drops to the chain was a foreign concept to me, I’ve always applied chain lube liberally.

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Nonetheless, I decided to try NFS lube after moving to a wetter climate, I got sick of lubing my chain after every rainy ride (which could be every day if I was unlucky). I stumbled upon the website after a few searches and despite my above skepticisms, I ordered a bottle. As expected, the bottles were quite small compared to other brands. However my initial skepticisms were rejected after the first application, 12 small drops were enough for just under 1000km of smooth riding in wet conditions. Impressive would be understating it.

Size comparison of NFS bottle to Stans 59ml sealant

Size comparison of NFS bottle to Stans 59ml sealant

Usually after a wet ride I’d need to reapply more lube, but not with NFS. Of course, I still need to oil my chain more regularly in rainy periods, but it will at least last me a fortnight before I need to reapply, rather than after every (longish) wet ride. Previously I was quite vigilant with lubing my chain, ensuring to lube my chain before a long ride, but now with NFS there’s no real need, applying a small amount of lube now and then is plenty.

NFS chain lube is easy to apply dropwise with their spout

NFS chain lube is easy to apply dropwise with their spout

5000 wintery kilometres later, I’m still impressed by how durable and smooth NFS lube is. I’d be able to count on my fingers the number of times I’ve had to re-lube my chain, and that’s something I’ve never managed with mainstream lubes (even in summer months). From this experience, I’d agree with NixFrixShun’s claim that their lubes are mostly lube (rather than solvent).

I’ve found that the 12-12-12 method mentioned on their website performs well. I’ve tried applying more, but in my experience more lube just ‘clogs’ the chain and attracts dirt, and if you spend more time wiping then you just wipe of the ‘excess’ anyway. Applying less than 12 drops, but more than 6 (after the initial application) does work if there’s still a decent amount of lube remaining, but I’d rather wait a little longer and apply the full 12 when the chain is a little drier. As you might guess, I find anything less than 6 drops to be ineffective in lubing anything but an already well lubed chain.

The consistency of NFS is thicker than others, and has a slight sheen. Like most lubes It washes off easily with soap. It’s also not so thin that it’ll flick excess lube/grime onto you and your bike if you don’t wipe every drop off. I also haven’t noticed any decrease in performance when  riding immediately after application.

The NFS solution appears to be quite hydrophobic, but also has quite a strong surface tension. This suggests to me that NFS is composed of medium/long chained hydrocarbons, or similar. Of course this is only a guess, but it would be in line with other lubricants. I would suggest that NFS performs better than other lubes because of its well formulated composition of ‘regular’ lubricants, rather than something drastically different.

NFS ultimate chain lube can be bought directly from the NixFrixShun speed shop. They also have a biodegradable formula, and other misc accessories. Fans of Silca may have noticed that Silca and NFS have collaborated to develop a Silca specific formula. I’m yet to test the performance of the biodegradable/Silca formula, but from my experiences of the Ultimate, NixFrixShun certainly have an idea or two about engineering efficient and durable lubes.

Pricing may be towards the more expensive side of the spectrum, but considering how effective and long lasting this lube is I would argue that it’s worth every cent.

Disclaimer: The author has no relation with NixFrixShun, and the lube was purchased at retail pricing.

 

Specialized S-Works Power Test

When Specialized first unveiled the Power saddle I immediately dismissed it as one that wouldn’t work for me. When riding I find that I like to switch between sitting on the rearward half of the saddle, and riding on the rivet. However, when a friend offered to lend me his S-Works power to try I was curious. Now having ridden it for a few months I like it so much I’m not giving it back.

First things first, setting up the Power is quite different to other saddles. I’ve always positioned my (Selle Italia SLR) saddles so the nose is always a fixed distance behind the bottom bracket, but this won’t work when using the Power. Instead, I’ve found that a better guide is the position where the saddle transitions from ‘straight’ to curved. My experience suggests that placing the Power so the curved section aligned with an SLR resulted in an agreeable position. The picture below demonstrates how I set the Power in relation to an SLR (apologies for the dirty saddle – I swear I obtained it in that condition).

power crop

Specialized recommend increasing your setback by 3cm when using the Power. I found this recommendation vague, though useful. It is true that my setback increased by around 3cm (it’s a little under 3cm), so it’s a useful figure to start with, however I found more fine tuning was necessary. Perhaps changing from another Specialized branded saddle requires 3cm, but in relation to an SLR I discovered that aligning the ‘maximum curvature’ zone to be more practical.

It is true that I’m not able to slide forward on the Power, but after extensive riding I haven’t found this to be an issue. It’s not that I’ve got the saddle slammed forward, in fact my installation actually biases the rearward position. I’m not quite sure why I don’t miss the sitting on the nose, but one hypothesis is that I didn’t really ‘need’ to slide forward, rather it was just a bad habit. Now that I don’t have the option of sliding forward I can focus more on actually getting the power out, rather than moving into a position where I think I’m getting the power out.

In terms of what the Power feels like on the road, it is surprisingly similar to the Selle Italia SLR gel flow saddle (albeit with no nose to sit on). visually, the radius of curvature of both saddles is similar, though the Power is slightly wider (143mm vs 132mm) and shorter (~250mm vs ~270mm). The Power definitely feels supportive and encourages you to hold yourself steady in the saddle, minimising any rocking you may have. The Pro and S-Works model saddles are a little firmer than my SLR, but Specialized offer Expert and Comp level saddles which feature (slightly) softer padding. I personally preferred the firmer saddle (more on this later).

Despite being a new product the Power comes in 4 distinct models, with a Comp, Expert, Pro and S-Works model being available. ‘Distinct’ is a little misleading since the Comp/Expert and Pro/S-Works share the same shell/padding but differ in terms of rail material (so really 2 distinct models each with 2 rail options). I’ve been lucky enough to test both the S-Works and Pro model and I would suggest that both feel identical. If weight were of no concern I would save the money and buy the Pro model.

Speaking of weight, the Pro model weighs in at 211g according to my kitchen scales. I’m a little disappointed by the weight, my old SLR kit carbino saddles were around 135g and even the lower end SLR xp saddles were ~180g, both lighter than the Pro and S-Works model saddles. The inner weightweenie doesn’t like the saddle, but it’s proved itself over the last 6000km of training and racing. If pricing was more competitive I would have this saddle on all of my bikes.

power weight

Why don’t I think the pricing is competitive? The cheaper Comp and Expert models (despite sharing the same name) are actually very different saddles. If you view them in person, it’s obvious that they are much more heavily padded than the Pro/S-Works models, and I believe one of the major reasons why the design of this saddle works is the low profile padding. I find less to be more since less padding often provides greater support, rather than that uncomfortable ‘squishy’ feeling you get from softer, thicker padding. In essence, the cheapest (and only) Power I would consider would be the Pro model. The Comp and Expert simply don’t offer the same support as the Pro.

Now obviously I’m not suggesting that the Power will work for everyone, I’m more recounting  my experiences and opinions. The only way to know for sure would be to try it yourself. If you like the (old) SLR range of saddles, and dislike the Fi:zi:k snake and chameleon range, then (based on my experience) I would definitely give the Power range a test ride.

Saddles are not a one size fits all item, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Power saddles feature on more Specialized sponsored teams as time progresses. Despite only two width options being available for the S-Works/Pro models at the time of writing (143mm and 155mm ), I would argue that one of the two options should suit most riders. Just like their insoles, where there are only three options, compared to 3025 possible combinations offered by some competitors (see G8 Performance Insoles), most people seem to get on fine with a ‘stock’ option.

Disclaimer: The author is in no way affiliated with Specialized. The author was loaned an S-Works saddle for the test period and purchased the Pro saddle at retail during the test period.

Jagwire Elite link cable review

I’m usually someone who likes black. Black bar tape, black saddles, black bikes etc. I was in such a shock when I received a set of gold cables for review that I forgot to weigh them (sorry, but jokes aside I need to source a new set of scales before I can post weights). Since I won’t be able to post weights, this review will mostly entail the installation and use. If you are interested in the weight, Art’s Cyclery cite a weight of 115g for the (complete) shift kit and 118g for the brake kit. Considering how much housing is supplied, these weights seem reasonable, and are comparable to BDOP’s kit. After cutting, I would suspect that these cables will come in at a similar weight to BDOP’s kit (if not lighter).

Jagwire elite link cables

Jagwire elite link cables

First things first, these kits aren’t compatible with full length housing, since the cables rely on splits in the housing to facilitate easy length alterations (unlike traditional housings which can just be cut to length). Having said that, there have been a few documented cases of this kit working with full length rear brake systems (see Krackor’s post). Jagwire do supply plenty of the inner housing, if you’ve got a frame with split internal cable routing, you should be able to make it a fair way into the frames with this inner, which should help in keeping the cables sealed against the elements.

Jagwire's take on the link system

Jagwire’s take on the link system

While Jagwire sell this as a ‘link’ system, these are quite different to other link systems on the market. They feature a pre-lubed inner housing, which the links ‘sit’ over in a head to toe fashion. Jagwire use a standard cable housing under the bartape, which connects to the inner housing either via a barrel adjustor, or a special link (both supplied). I’m guessing Jagwire do this to make internal handlebars slightly easier to install, and to avoid super tight bends with the link section.

Links do not 'bend' around super tight corners

Links do not ‘bend’ around super tight corners

Installation was actually surprisingly pain free, but not as easy as traditional cables. You first need to cut the section which goes under the bartape to length, and tape it in place. This wasn’t too much of an issue, but be careful to check if you’ve got the shift or brake housing as they look similar but are very different (they come labelled).

Jagwire use traditional housing under the bartape

Jagwire use traditional housing under the bartape

Once you have the bartape section done, you’ll then need to attach the rest of the housing to it. This can be done either with a barrel adjuster, or a special link. If you’re planing on using the barrel adjustors, Jagwire’s approach to this isn’t ideal. If you follow their instructions you’ll end up covering the barrel adjustors with your bartape, as illustrated in the photos below.

Notice the barrel adjustors under the bartape. Photo credit: Bikerumour

Notice the barrel adjustors under the bartape, this is how Jagwire set it up. Photo credit: Bikerumour

How I’ve set up the barrel adjustor, also under the tape

You can avoid this by running the bartape section housing longer (so it extends past the bartape) but this isn’t ideal aesthetically. For this reason I would suggest you avoid the barrel adjustor. The special link they supply sits much nicer under the bartape and provides a smoother transition from regular housing to link housing.

Alternative to the 4mm barrel adjustor

Alternative to the 4mm barrel adjustor

In terms of judging housing length, if you cut the inner housing cautiously this kit is actually quite forgiving, in that you can insert/remove links over the inner housing. When I installed this kit, I left the inner housing slightly too long so it extended past my cable stop, which is aesthetically not ideal, but means I can add links if I accidentally removed too many (which I have a tendency to do). The weight of the inner housing is pretty negligible, so I would rather be safe than sorry when cutting.

I've left some excess housing uncut to allow me to lengthen the cable, if needed.

I’ve left some excess housing uncut to allow me to lengthen the cable, if needed.

Out on the road the shifting was smooth, rivalling that of the polymer coated cables from Shimano. Compared to the cables found as original equipment of lower-mid range bikes these are definitely an upgrade, undoubtedly a level above the cheaper options from Jagwire. Even with the tight bend created by my 36cm handlebars I still experienced slick shifting, with no hint of cable friction.

The black coating on the cables no doubt aims to reduce friction, but can also improve the cosmetics of certain externally routed frames. Most frames these days have internal cable routing, so this is a moot point. However, for those who prefer externally routed cables, the black coating does help the cables ‘blend’ in more.

No, it isn't my poor photography, the cable really is black. Jagwire also supply a seal to use on the rear derailleur housing to keep grit out of the cable

No, it isn’t my poor photography, the cable really is black. Jagwire also supply a seal to use on the rear derailleur housing to keep grit out of the cable

Jagwire supply some rubber frame protectors you can slide over the links. Shrink wrap is a lighter alternative, but it’s nice to see details like this included in the kit. Also supplied are some clips to clip different sections of housing together, making it easier to achieve a clean look.  I found the hardest part of making the cabling look ‘clean’ was finding the optimum length, I couldn’t decide if I needed that extra link or not. In the end I decided to include it, though it’ll probably look cleaner without it.

The compressionless housing also helps in obtaining a tidy front end, you can shape the housings a lot more than with traditional outers. Having said that, the housings do shift around a fair bit, which is probably why Jagwire supply clips to help keep them from moving too much.

Apart from gold (and black), the housings are also available in silver red and blue allowing some customisation. I’d say all of the coloured options (red, blue, gold) are quite eye catching, and would look great on a suitable bike.

Jagwire supply frame protectors which slide over the links. Also supplied are little clips to hold different sections together

Jagwire supply frame protectors which slide over the links. Also supplied are little clips to hold different sections together

If you’re in the market for a lighter alternative these are certainly worth looking into. They’re no harder to install than traditional cable housings and certainly perform just as well as the stock Shimano cables. PowerCordz, and other designs will be lighter, but possibly more hassle. I would consider these cables to represent a nice compromise between outright weight and ease of installation. Perfect for those who are a little intimidated by more complicated systems, or simply want an easier system to install.

To conclude, these cables represent a nice aftermarket customisation for your bike, and are a significant upgrade over lower end cables. If you like the looks and weight reduction offered by link housing systems these are definitely worth considering, particularly if you’re intimidated by the complexity of other systems. Most Weightweenies are probably happy to spend a little extra time fitting lighter systems (or have a mechanic do it for them), so this is more of a ‘middle ground’ giving some benefits of compressionless link housing, while retaining the simplicity of traditional housing.

This product was supplied by Starbike for the purposes of this review. The shift cable kit and brake cable kit are available to purchase from Starbike.

Campagnolo release Potenza 11 speed groupset

When I first found out that Campagnolo were releasing a new Potenza groupset, which claimed to be a midrange groupset comparable to Shimano Ultegra, I was quite excited. I was expecting something to feature the technology of Chorus, Record and Super Record  However, on closer inspection I was left a little disappointed, I believe Campagnolo could have brought more technology down to this new level.

On first inspection, the group is visually quite similar to the higher tier groups. The 4 arm cranks feature the same chainring interchangeability, and the front/rear derailleurs also (visually) feature the same geometry from Chorus/Record. It would be quite easy to mistake this for an alloy version of the Chours groupset, at least aesthetically.

New Potenza cranks. image credit campagnolo/velonews.com

Looking closer at the specifications though, I’m more inclined to see this as a ‘rebadged’ Athena groupset. It features the same power-shift and power-torque technology as the athena groupset, with a few tweaks. Campagnolo aren’t bringing Chorus/Record technology down in price, rather they are updating the existing Athena group with a new name.

New Potenza RD. Photo credit campagnolo/velonews.com

Don’t get me wrong, this group isn’t all bad.  The new power-torque cranks are an improvement, as they no longer requires a proprietary tool to remove the cranks (it is now self extracting). Still, it would have been nice to have the same ultra-torque design of it’s more expensive counterparts. While I understand Campagnolo want a cheaper, less tolerance sensitive, easier to assemble design for OEM, I would still argue that investment into this new power-torque design was wasted. The ultra-torque design is far superior, I would have preferred the old ‘classic ‘ultra-torque cranks with updated rings.

The new cranks are self extracting. Photo credit road.cc

The shifters also take some design cues from the higher end models, but still retain the power shift from the cheaper models. I think this is a huge mistake, as I feel ultra-shift is one of the more desirable features of a Campagnolo groupset. I would have at least liked to see ultra-shift internals for the front shifting, as it simplifies installation and maintenance. For those who’ve never wrenched ultra-shift, it’s a super pleasant system to work on, the front derailleur is extremely easy to set up, and does not require the use of any barrel adjustors – the tension is much easier to get right with ultra-shift.

New shifters, but same old power shift. Photo credit road.cc

The brakes are essentially the Athena dual pivot brakes. Not too much to say here.

New old brakes. Photo credit road.cc

Campagnolo are also offering an 11-32 cassette with this group. This is new for Campagnolo, but SRAM have been doing this forever with their WiFLi. Just like SRAM’s WiFLi, you will need the medium cage rear mech option to run this cassette.

New 11-32 cassette. Photo credit road.cc

I personally would have liked to see Campagnolo bring ultra-shift technology down a level. If we cast our attention back to 2009, all Campagnolo groups from as low as Veloce featured ultra-shift, so why can’t this new group include this feature? Campagnolo have obviously invested time and money to design a new power torque crank, and update the shifters slightly. However I feel this time/money would have been better spent (re)introducing ultra-shift, particularly since the old design (ultra-torque) cranksets were so nice.

The old ultra-torque Athena cranks, a timeless design. Photo credit bikeradar.

If it were up to me, this new groupset should have featured an alloy version of the current Chorus shifters and derailleurs, along with the old carbon Athena crankset, with updated chainrings.  Unfortunately, all Campagnolo managed to do with this new groupset (assuming they’ll keep Athena) is complicate their product line-up, and dumb down their products. Yes it features some new technology, but it features the wrong new technology (e.g. no ultra-shift). Shimano and SRAM are able to bring the key features of their Dura-Ace/Red groupsets down to 105/Rival, so why can’t Campagnolo bring Record/Chorus down to Potenza?

Disclaimer: I have not had a chance to ride this groupset, these opinions were formed from reading the press releases of other sites, road.cc, velonews and cyclingtips. The photos used were also obtained from these sites. You can view these original press-release articles at:

http://velonews.competitor.com/2016/03/bikes-and-tech/first-ride-campagnolo-potenza-groupset_398720

http://road.cc/content/tech-news/182759-campagnolo-unveils-new-potenza-groupset-first-ride

http://cyclingtips.com/2016/03/campagnolo-announces-new-mid-range-potenza-groupset/

SRAM Release Apex 1

Earlier this week SRAM announced a new 1x groupset, Apex 1. With this new groupset SRAM wants to offer ‘unrivalled value’ and simplicity, which it achieves by trickling down 1x technology to Apex level. SRAM expect the group to be available during June 2016.

SRAM offers shifters for both flat bar and drop bar bikes. The drop bar shifters feature a new master cylinder design, and easier bleed port access. SRAM claim a weight of 344g

SRAM Apex HRD Shift/brake controls

The rear derailluer features cage lock technology for easier wheel changes. The long cage design can take an 11-42 cassette and is compatible with both 10 and 11 speed SRAM 1x systems. The cage is made from steel, making the system quite heavy with a claimed weight of 314g

SRAM Apex 1 RD

Moving onto the chain and cassette, SRAM are offering a new 11-42 PG-1130 cassette which will apparently fit 10 and 11 speed freehub bodies (11 speed freehub bodies requires 1.85mm spacer). If this claim is true it might mean you can use your older 10 speed wheels with this group. The cassette weighs in at a huge 538g (claimed).

SRAM PG-1130 cassette

A new chain has also been released by SRAM (PC-1110) which is designed to work specifically with X-SYNC chainrings. SRAM site compatibility with all SRAM 1x groupsets. SRAM use solid pins, with a claimed weight  of 232-273g (depending on chain length, SRAM haven’t specified how many links this is for).

SRAM’s new PC-1110 chain with POWERLOCK link

There’s currently only a hydraulic disk option, designed around 160mm and 140mm rotors. They can fit either 74mm or direct mount frames.

SRAM Apex disk

Finally, the new 1x crankset, branded as s-350 feature a 42t X-SYNC chainring. It features a 24mm spindle and is available in 170mm,172.5mm,175mm crank lengths. SRAM claim a weight of 762g.

SRAM S-350 Crankset

I’m personally quite excited by this new groupset, it should see adventure/cross bikes with hydraulic disc brakes coming down in price, which I welcome. I currently don’t see a cable rim brake option for this groupset so I presume SRAM is pushing hard for hydraulic disk brakes.

Road Handlebar Widths: how wise is conventional wisdom?

Golliwog’s post on the WeightWeenies forum sparked an interest into the topic of handlebar widths. He asks if others found narrower bars more comfortable, and after doing some reading on this topic it becomes clear that there are different opinions on this topic. Below I’ve (briefly) summarised some of the main discussion points regarding handlebar width, and included a few of my own.

A general rule of thumb for (road) handlebar width is that they should be approximately 2cm greater than the bony bumps on the front of your shoulders. The logic is that this handlebar width will account for the natural outwards curve of your arms when riding, allowing for a comfortable natural position.

However, little, if any science has been conducted to investigate if this really is an optimal position. What bearing does handlebar width have to do with shoulder width anyway, your arms can bend/adjust to facilitate different widths. Furthermore have you ever noticed your hands rolling inwards? This doesn’t seem ‘natural’ and may suggest that handlebar widths could be narrower.

If we look back through history, between 1930s and 1970s, bikes had comparatively narrow handlebars. It’s been noted by Jan Heine that Fausto Copi was riding 40cm handlebars despite being a larger rider. These handlebars are slightly narrower than modern widths, though they’re still much wider than the widths I’m about to suggest.

Lately, I’ve been riding 36cm handlebars, down from my usual 42cm (c-c). My first ride on them was a mixed bag. During straight flat sections the narrower handlebars just felt fast, and allowed me to get (possibly) very aerodynamic (reduced frontal area, at least according to my mirror). However, I found cornering and climbing out of the saddle quite challenging as I wasn’t used to the narrower profile. That said, once I had gotten used to the narrower bars my troubles with cornering and climbing quickly disappeared. I soon had a preference for the narrower bars, and on my other bikes which were still fitted with the 42cm bars I felt as though I was acting like a human parachute.

Looking at the numbers, there’s a slight aerodynamic advantage to this change. I’m measuring it very crudely to about 30w, I haven’t done the error analysis so I can’t comment on the significance though. However, provided the errors are within reason, this advantage is nothing to be scoffed at. In addition, the combination of narrower bars and longer stem makes the bike more stable, and actually surprisingly easy to pilot through bunches. With all these benefits, I would have assumed everyone would be onboard. However, most cyclists appear to be skeptical of these narrower bars.

Some may be reluctance to change their handlebars, which is understandable. The saying ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ comes to mind. People have been racing top level on 40-44cm handlebars for years, why change?

Perhaps it’s because the advantages aren’t fully realised, or cyclists just don’t give enough time to adjust for the narrower bars. If I only tried these bars once I probably would have rejected them as a bad idea. But, if we look towards the track, narrow bars are fairly common and a few roadies are taking up narrower bars, most noticeably Adam Hansen and a few of his teammates.

I’ve also heard a few other arguments against narrow bars, for example it restricts your breathing. I personally didn’t experience this, but everyone is different. A more compelling, less personal argument would be; if it was detrimental to speed, why are more extreme positions adopted in time trialling, track racing and by some triathletes?

Another argument is that it isn’t as comfortable for endurance cycling and/or climbing. I personally think Jan Heine covers this issue quite well in his blog, but if anything comfort is quite personal, so if you find narrower bars uncomfortable they may not be for you.

If you’re curious about trying narrower bars (there’s lots of cheaper options around, like the Deda RHM01), I’d recommend trying them for at least 300-400km before making a judgement on the comfort. It could be that they initially feel uncomfortable or weird because you’re so used to wider bars. I’d also recommend dropping the bars a few mm, if possible (if you’re already super low skip this step), and if you’re trying bars which are 4-6mm narrower I’d get a longer stem too. The narrower bars should help you roll your shoulders, so you’ll need to increase your drop and reach to compensate (also note that the effective reach to the hoods is decreased by narrower bars, though this effect is only ~3-5 mm).

In summary, I’d recommend (significantly) narrower bars for improved aerodynamics. The benefits of reduced frontal area also translates well into tight racing. Towards the end of my ‘experiment’ I began to wonder if I really did want to write this post – if everyone started riding narrower bars I would lose this advantage. But, of course not everyone will agree with (or even consider) the above points, and such it seems likely that the vast majority of cyclists will still be on ‘regular’ handlebar widths.

BDop DIY Alloy Road Wheel Kit LT

There are a few websites offering DIY style wheel kits, they supply the rims, hubs spokes etc. for you to build yourself. Recently, BDop Cycling has begun to offer a DIY kit designed to offer a light alloy clincher wheel at an affordable price.

Like the cables that I reviewed earlier, the packaging for these wheels was also very plain – a simple cardboard box.

BDop packaging is plain

BDop packaging is plain

You may notice a dent in the upper right hand corner of the packaging. I was a little concerned about this when I was opening the box. However, BDop pack the kit very securely, with plenty of bubble wrap for protection. I was pleased to find that the sorry state of the exterior cardboard was not reflected in the internal contents.

Unboxing the BDop LT wheel kit

Unboxing the BDop LT wheel kit

Inside the cardboard middle section were the hubs, spokes and extras included with this kit. BDop do supply a spoke key with this build, which was handy in lacing the wheels, but I found it absolutely useless for tensioning and truing. Call me fussy, but I found the supplied spoke key uncomfortable to grip. I’d recommend the Park Tool SW-20 or SW-0, I personally used a Pillar spoke wrench, also available from BDop. It features good ergonomics, and I’ve never rounded off a nipple with it.

Apart from the actual wheel, you also get a spoke key and rim strips

Apart from the actual wheel, you also get a spoke key and rim strips

You will also need to supply your own truing stand and dishing tool. These tools can be improvised, but having the actual tools is a lot easier (Tacx T3175 & T4585 are two reasonably priced but quality tools). I find a spoke tension meter also helps to ensure even tension, but they can be quite pricey (I quite like the Park TM-1, it’s NOT accurate, but it’s very precise – which is more important for even tension).

Tools aside, I found building this kit was quite pleasant, lacing was made much easier by the internal spoke wrench (it grips the nipple well enough so you can insert it directly into the rim) and I didn’t have any weird hops at the rim joint. It personally took me around 4 hours to complete the build, expect less if you’re more experienced, and more if it’s your first time.

Onto the components, nothing jumped out as particularly heavy, or light (for the intended purpose of the kit). The most notable thing I found was that the front QR skewer had the logo printed upside down (if you like to mount the QR skewer pointing towards the rear wheel). The front QR weighs 50g, and the rear weighs 55g. They’re heavy but do a decent job of clamping the wheel.

Novatec logo printed backwards on front QR

Novatec logo printed backwards on front QR

The hubset weighed 303g, with the front weighing 60g and the rear weighing 243g. The rear isn’t particularly light, but the front is (referencing the BHS hubs). Both had smooth bearings out of the box, and a good finish. The rear hub has decent NDS spoke tension – about 45% of the DS spoke tension.

Front hub weight

The rear hub features the ABG (anti bite guard) design. Essentially, it’s a metal strip to prevent the cassette from biting into the freehub. From my past experiences with this model hub it works really well. I’ve had 10 000 km in another wheel using this freehub and the there’s no noticeable notching. I’ve had alloy freehubs which notched after only a few thousand km.

Rear hub weight

BDop pointed out that recently a batch of SL rear hubs were mis-labelled by Novatec, which is why the rear hub in this review didn’t have the SL logo. I asked BDop what the differences between the SL hub and the standard hubs were, in short, the SL hubs have more material machined off, leading to a lighter weight. Since the two hubs look so similar (the SL hub is *slightly* narrower) it’s understandable how this mistake occurred.

Moving onto the rims, my two rims averaged 422.5g, so they’re reasonably light considering the width. They’re lighter (but also narrower) than Kinlin’s XR-22T – 440g. However, they are heavier than Stan’s ZTR Alpha 340 rim which have similar dimensions. I would say the weight is slightly above par.

Weight - 20h

Weight – 20h

Weight - 24h

Weight 24h

Just a word of caution, these rims scratch quite easily, I managed to scratch them with a spoke while lacing. This isn’t really a criticism (I’ve had similar experiences with Kinlin rims) but more a word of warning.

Rims scratch easily!

Rims scratch easily!

Since the spokes (Sapim CX-Ray) and nipples (Pillar alloy) are fairly well known I won’t write too much about them. All up, the front wheel weighs 581g and the rear weighs 791g (1372g total), without rim tape.

Front wheel weight

Front wheel weight

Rear wheel weight

Rear wheel weight

The rim strips supplied by BDop weigh 18g per wheel, they do the job, but if you want a pure weightweenie build, veloplugs are much lighter. The included valvinator stickers were negligible in mass.

Rim strip weight

Rim strip weight

Scientifically, light wheels may not make you significantly faster, but they can make your bike more responsive and fun (subjectively). There are those out there who swear by aero gains, but I personally am a sucker for light wheels. I found these wheels rode like a light wheel should, they spun up easily and were very reactive to power surges. Stiffness wasn’t a let down either. I’m 58kg and I didn’t find stiffness lacking, and nor did my much heavier 76kg friend. I certainly couldn’t pick the difference in stiffness between the Ksyrium Elite wheels I had in for review earlier, but my heavier friend could – commenting that while stiffness wasn’t lacking, the Ksyriums did have an edge. He goes on to mention, given the weight the stiffness is fine. Given the above, I’d say BDop were spot on when they suggest that these wheels were “designed specifically for featherweight climbers”.

Towards the end of the testing month, I began to conclude that this kit would be great for a budget minded weightweenie who likes to tinker with their bikes. While some sites recommend that your first wheelbuild should be a sturdy wheel with lots of spokes (easier to bring into true), I can’t see why someone building wheels for the first time would struggle with this kit. The rear lacing pattern can be a challenge, but that’s a problem with any crossed wheel. If you sit down and look at a few diagrams/wheels you’ll be able to work it out. Perhaps the biggest advantage (and drawback) is that you don’t need to calculate spoke lengths. This is a skill I would recommend learning sometime, but it’s nice to know that the supplied spoke lengths are correct.

If you’re someone who likes brand name or boutique products this kit probably wouldn’t appeal to you (seriously, why are you still reading this review?). However, like the cables, if getting excellent performance for the price is important to you then these wheels are a good choice if you want a light set of alloy clinchers. I must add, in post scriptum that you can get much lighter carbon wheels, especially if you go tubular. Having said that, carbon and/or tubular wheels may not be a good option for everyone, and so I would still be inclined to recommend this build kit.

We would like to thank BDop for supplying the DIY wheel kit for this review. You can read more about it here