Author Archives: istigatrice

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 about 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 (amendment: I tried Red veloplugs but the fit wasn’t perfect). 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. They’re an excellent set of light alloy clinchers for a lighter rider (regardless of price). I must add, 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.

Post Scriptum: After this review BDOP have updated this kit to feature straight pull spokes and hubs, rather than conventional J-bend hubs/spokes. I expect this choice of hubs to better compliment this kit, as the larger flange spacings suggest stiffer wheels. I was impressed with the initial configuration, and this new configuration appears better on paper. Should you break a spoke, sourcing a replacement spoke from BDOP shouldn’t be an issue.

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

BDop Elite Road Cable Kit Review

Cables can be an important consideration of your next build, a bad set of cables often means poor shifting quality and spongey brake lever feel. Having said that, the stock cables from Shimano and Campagnolo are often decent choices, with low friction and easy set up, but are there other viable alternatives? Over the last month, I’ve had the opportunity to install and test the BDop Elite Road cable kit.

The BDOP Elite cable kit arrived in a no fuss cardboard box.

The BDop Elite cable kit arrived in a no fuss cardboard box.

Unlike many brands, the BDop cable kit doesn’t have fancy logos adorning its packaging, rather a simple cardboard box with the website, and a small label. There isn’t too much to mention with the packaging, other than it was packaged well with plenty of bubble wrap

Inside the box, again minimalistic

Inside the box, again minimalistic

For once, I didn’t have endless instruction manuals in all the languages known to man to throw out before I started my build. With the unboxing relatively plain – no werid warnings to announce, I moved onto getting some weights:

Complete brake housing kit weighs in at 92g

Complete brake housing kit weighs in at 92g

The compelte brake housing kit weighs 92g, with the outer housing weighing 44g, the cable weighing 47g. The inner housing had a mass of 1g (pretty negligible considering I only used half of it).

brake cable outer

brake cable outer

brake cable inner weight

brake cable inner weight

Also included were some ferrules and cable crimp cap ends. Moving onto the shift cables, the housing set weighs 92g (like the brake set), with the outers weighing 52g and the cables weighing 38g. Ferrules and crimp cap ends were also included for the gear cables.

gear cable set weight

gear cable set weight

When cutting the outers, some of the yellow kevlar sheet becomes exposed, leaving a ‘fluffy’ cut. It looks messy, but it’s hidden by the ferrules so I wouldn’t call it a design flaw. You can file it off if you’re super pedantic, I didn’t bother. On the note of cutting, I didn’t need an awl tool to pry open the outers after I made the cut (I usually need to).

gear cable outer weights

gear cable outer weights

BDop claim that these inner cables don’t fray when cut. I didn’t manage to fray these cables while cutting, but using some spare cable from the FD to test, I was able to fray the cut end relatively easily by poking a few things with it. The uncut end comes with some sort of ‘tip’ to stop it fraying, which I found handy when I was poking around he internals of my frame. My advice there would be to not remove these cables once cut, if possible, and to avoid poking things with it once cut.

gear cable weight

gear cable weight

Most frames, including the one I installed this kit on (Swift Ultravox) have internal cable guides to aid in installing new cables. If your frame does not have these guides then the internal routing might be trickier, but fear not, as these cables have magnetic properties. I was able to replace the internal cable guides I have in my Swift using fridge magnets to direct the gear cable through the ports, and then sliding the replacement guides on over the top. I would comment that installation was a breeze, definitely no harder than standard cable installation.

I’m using 38cm (outside to outside) handlebars coupled with Shimano 11 speed shifters, which creates a fairly tight radius between the hoods and the tops for the cables to bend around. I have seen tighter bends on some internally routed bars, but I would suggest my shifter/bar combo still results in the sub-optimal cable bend. In spite of the tight bend, I did not experience sub optimal shifting or braking performance – suggesting that friction in this bend was minimal. I didn’t have too many other tight bends in my build, and there was plenty of leftover gear cable housing for the rear derailleur. I’m not sure if there’s enough housing for a full length build though (there should be enough for the brakes, not 100% convinced there will be enough for the gear cables, please check with BDop before purchasing).

These cables did stretch ever so slightly in the first few weeks (they claim to be pre-stretched). The amount of stretch was very minor though, and required only a slight turn of the barrel adjuster to compensate.

In conclusion I haven’t been disappointed with the BDop Elite cable kit. To be perfectly honest, they don’t feel too different from the stock Shimano Dura Ace cables. However, when factoring in the price these do become an attractive proposition ($39.99 USD). If getting similar performance for a lower price is attractive to you then I would recommend these cables.

We would like to thank BDop for supplying the kit for this review. You can view the product here

 

 

2016 Mavic Ksyrium Elite Review

The Mavic Ksyrium Elite are one of the ‘old guards’ of the Mavic lineup, with the first wheels to bear the ‘Ksyrium’ name dating back to 2000. 16 years later the Ksyrium Elite rims have gotten lighter and wider, with the current iteration featuring 17mm internal rims and a wheelset weight of 1583g.

Weight - front

Weight – front

1583g for an alloy clincher is hardly impressive these days, and I suspect that heavy spokes and hubs are to blame. With a recommended retail price of 639 euros these wheels are hardly cheap, especially considering the custom build options available. They can generally be bought a bit cheaper online. However unless you find a super crazy clearance deal, they’ll at best be on par (price wise) with a custom build.

Weight - rear

Weight – rear

The supplied skewers came in at 60g (front) and 63g (rear), considering that you can get a skewer set for around 50g these are quite heavy, but they do clamp the wheels well. The supplied tubes were 82g and 87g, not superlight but lighter than what I was expecting (100g). The tyres were 211g (front) and 217g (rear) which I consider respectable, given that they’re 25mm wide. It’s interesting to note Mavic recommend a tyre width of at least 25mm for these wheels.

Rear Skewer

Skewer – Rear

Skewer - Front

Skewer – Front

In terms of serviceability, the bearings are user adjustable and the tool (Mavic M40123) is provided. This tool also doubles as a tyre lever and a spoke key, so it’s a handy addition to the package. It’s certainly a good tool to have in the back of your pocket as it’ll cover most adjustments you’ll want to make on the road. Speaking of spokes, Mavic’s proprietary spokes can be sourced from your local dealer, or some online stores. However, they are very expensive, costing quite a few times more than either Sapim CX-Ray or DT Swiss Aerolight spokes. This does detract from the overall appeal of these wheels, but if you rarely break spokes it’ll only be a minor annoyance now and then. If you are hard on your equipment I would keep this in mind before buying.

mavic skewers

2x Mavic M40123 are supplied with the wheels – a thoughtful addition

The first thing I noticed about these wheels was how well they roll. I wasn’t expecting anything special from the Mavic hubs, but they rolled incredibly well. The freehub engagement isn’t as quick as some other hubs, but out on the road I didn’t notice this too much. On this test sample, a few of the aero spokes were wound up. Untwisting the spokes with an aero spoke holder didn’t result in the wheels going out of true so it was an easy fix. Still, something like this should be picked up in the quality control.

Mavic Ksyrium Elite WTS 2016

Mavic Ksyrium Elite WTS 2016

I was quite disappointed with the tyres and tubes which make up the WTS. Put bluntly, the tyres were pretty average. They were decently supple, but I had a sensation that the tyres were a little ‘dead’ under acceleration. Perhaps these tyres were designed to be more of a durable, high mileage tyre, rather than a super soft and light race tyre but I do think there are better tyres for either market. In essence, I wouldn’t describe the tyres as something that adds value to the package, rather they’re something to be replaced when the opportunity arises.

Mavic ISM 4D rim

Mavic ISM 4D rim

When I did replace the tyres with something nicer (24mm Vittoria Open Corsa SR) and swapped the butyl tubes out to latex, the wheels felt much better. I no longer had the ‘dead under acceleration’ sensation, and this package responded much better to surges in power. As noted before, these wheels do roll well with the stock rubber, but there was a sensation of ‘rolling forever’ with the above tyre/tube changes. On flatter rides, while these wheels won’t offer an aerodynamic advantage, they don’t feel slow. However, these wheels felt most at home in hillier terrain.

From a weightweenie perspective, these wheels are disappointingly heavy – it isn’t hard to build a 1350~1400g wheelset for this price (and even lower if you’re willing to buy carbon tubulars), but never once did these wheels feel sluggish on the climbs. They certainly feel much lighter than their (almost) 1600g weight might suggest. When climbing, these wheels were stiff under power and accelerated well. Coming down the other side there was no flex when cornering, and the bike never felt skittish with these wheels. The braking surface was well machined, and the braking was always smooth and consistent with the stock Shimano pads – they’re certainly a step above rims made by Kinlin. When I was just riding along I didn’t notice this, but down some steep, technical descents I really appreciated the consistent braking on offer, leading to greater confidence and (marginally) faster descending.

Summing up, these wheels performed solidly in a variety of conditions, particularly in hilly terrain. The tyres might suffice for solo training or commuting, but are less suitable for racing or harder group rides. For the price, the frugal shopper might be a bit underwhelmed with the on paper specs, but they don’t disappoint out on the road. Still, I wouldn’t pay the RRP for these wheels – shop around for a discount.

The author would like to acknowledge that these wheels were supplied by Starbike for the purposes of this review. The RRP (recommended retail price) was correct as of 26/12/15

Vittoria Rubino Pro 3 review

Vittoria Rubino Pro 3

Vittoria Rubino Pro 3 tyre – not to be confused with the standard Rubino 3

Most seasoned cyclists have a favourite tyre of choice, a tyre which they can rely on, representing the the ‘best’ compromise of all the characteristics they desire. I’m aware that many of us are not overly fussed with durability, and desire the best road feel. However, for myself, I want to be able to get through a year on one set of tyres. I want a set of tyres that can handle all four seasons, be durable enough for winter and fast enough for summer. Previously, this tyre was the Continental GP4000S. It had decent puncture resistance, and was quick enough for my fast group rides. Some say it feels a little ‘dead’, and yes it is a little dead compared to tyres such as the Vittoria Open Corsa, but it wasn’t any worse than tyres with similar durability. Now that Continental have updated this model, I felt the need to experiment a little with other tyres. Over the past year, I’ve been testing the Vittoria Rubino Pro 3 tyre, and it’s making a strong case as a solid alternative to the GP4000S.

Front tyre condition after 3000km

Front tyre condition after 3000km

Durability is an important consideration for me. While I don’t rack up the same amount of kilometers that the pros do, I train fairly consistently and do want an element of ‘set and forget’ so I can focus on my training. What this means is that I don’t want to be replacing tyres every couple of months, I want at least 6000km from my tyres. The Rubino ticks this box for me, keeping in mind I weigh 60kg so your tyres may wear slower/faster depending on how much you weigh. My point is, these tyres are certainly more durable than the Continental GP4000s tyres, which I usually expect 4000-5000km from. I’ve included some photos of the conditions of the tyres at 3000km. A few cuts have made their way through, but nothing too drastic, they’re certainly fairing better than I would expect from a set of GP4000s. Having said that, it isn’t in the same class as the Maxxis Refuse or Continental Gatorskins. I wouldn’t class this tyre as a daily hack commuting tyre, the casing is a fair deal softer and I find that I puncture much more often than I would expect than with the above mentioned tyres.

Rear Tyre Condition After 3000km

Rear Tyre Condition After 3000km

While it may not have the same low rolling resistance as the GP4000s tyres, the Rubino Pro 3 tyres are a good deal cheaper, they can often be found for around half the price of the new GP4000s II. This cost factor may not be such a consideration for some, but it’s always nice to save some money, provided the product performs just as well. What do I mean by this? Well, despite being slower, the Rubino Pro 3 maintains a decent level of responsiveness and doesn’t rob the bike of all life, like some tyres can (e.g. Maxxis Refuse). In fact, in terms of feel, the Rubino doesn’t feel any slower than the GP4000s, it’s only when I look at my power data and finding I’m consistently having to put out (slightly) more power for the same times up my local climbs did I begin to suspect something was amiss. It should be noted that that the difference is within error (3w difference in a 300w effort). However, more scientific and conclusive tests (such as Crr tests by WMW on the weightweenies forum) have ranked the Rubino Pro 3 slower than the GP4000s.

Crr tests performed by ruff (WMW) on slowtwitch. Full discussion can be found at: http://forum.slowtwitch.com/cgi-bin/gforum.cgi?post=4412701;sb=post_latest_reply;so=ASC;forum_view=forum_view_collapsed;;page=unread

Crr tests performed by ruff (WMW) on slowtwitch. Full discussion can be found at: http://forum.slowtwitch.com/cgi-bin/gforum.cgi?post=4412701

I know some would be immediately turned off by the fact that the Rubino tyres test slowly, but as a training tyre it is acceptably fast, especially considering the high levels of feedback given by the tyre. It’s not anything groundbreaking, and there’s substantially less grip than a pure race tyre (I’ve worked that out the hard way…). However, the Rubino Pro 3 does offer a huge increase in puncture resistance and durability, and demonstrates that durable tyres don’t necessarily have to be ‘dead’. As a training tyre, which might get raced on (as a spare wheel on race day) it offers acceptable speed, and dependable puncture resistance.

Flexing the casing with my hands reveals a decently supple casing. Again, it’s not very soft compared to high TPI open tubular tyres but it does offer a similar degree of flex compared to Michelin Pro 3 race tyres. This correlates well to how they feel on the road, around the same ballpark as the Michelin Pro 3 tyres.

wear

Condition after 3000km, note the slight flat spot starting to form

If I had to use only one word to describe this tyre, that word would be ‘compromise’. It represents the middle ground, a reliable training tyre, which you can set and forget on your training wheels. If you don’t have the luxury of having multiple wheels, or the time to swap to a nicer set of tyres before race day, I’d be more inclined to recommend the GP4000s. If you’re not racing, or have a dedicated set of race wheels, the Rubino Pro 3 can do everything you ask of it in-between races. Whether that’s a long solo training ride, or a fast group ride the Rubino Pro 3 offers an excellent blend of durability and liveliness.

In my humble opinion, I see the Rubino tyres as a great training tyre. However, it isn’t for everyone. It’s durable and offers good feedback, but by no means is it fast compared to out and out race tyres. If you’re able to accept the durability of the faster race tyres then these tyres don’t make a particularly strong case. It’s only when you find the durability of these race tyres lacking do the Rubino pro tyres make a strong case. What they don’t have in pure speed, they make up for in durability. As a high mileage training tyre, this has got to be one of my favourites.

COMPETITION! Weightweenies Gallery

In case you weren’t aware the staff at Starbike are running a gallery competition for you to share your bikes. Share up to 12 photos of your bike to be in the running to win some unique weightweenie goodies for yourself and your bike! You have until the 4th of October to submit your bike to the gallery (you can still submit after this date, however you won’t be able to win the prizes).

All top 50 contestants receive weightweenies kit, with the top 15 submissions winning an awesome custom weightweenies edition AX-Lightness saddle (pictured below). The winner will be presented with a custom carbon fibre trophy, thanks to Berk composites.

WW_CUSTOM

For full details of how to enter, login to your account on the weightweenies forum, a banner should appear at the top of the page. Make sure you read the guidelines (attached below and on the banner).

Screen Shot 2015-09-05 at 10.30.35 am

A summary on how the competition will progress:

The 'click here' link is supposed to link to: http://the5thfloor.cc/2013/03/27/bikecheck-the-66/

Here is the fine print on the competition:

Screen Shot 2015-09-05 at 10.20.24 amGood luck to everybody who enters!

 

Giro Trans E70 review

For 2015 Giro updated their popular Trans shoe with a slightly different carbon sole and new designs. I’ve been riding these shoes for the past 3 months, here’s my opinion on them.

Giro Trans E70 shoes

Giro Trans E70 shoes.

Still featuring the same Easton EC70 carbon sole, the Trans E70 now has replaceable heel walking pads. The actual design of the sole has varied slightly, and the upper has changed from a glossy to a matte finish.

Different carbon sole designs. On the right is the new E70

Different carbon sole designs. On the right is the new E70.

The ratchet mechanism has also been redesigned for greater aerodynamics. However, Giro don’t make any claims as to how much more aerodynamic it is. It features a lower profile design which looks neater, but doesn’t function as well as the previous design.

New low profile ratchet found on the new E70 design

New low profile ratchet found on the new E70 design.

The new low(er) profile ratchet design I feel is inferior to the older, higher profile design. When releasing the ratchet, the new design only releases one or two buckles at a time, whereas the old one can release all the buckles in one go. When tightening, the old design can tighten anywhere between one and three buckles in one sweep, contrasting to the new design which can only tighten one buckle per sweep. This means the new design isn’t as fast when you’re trying to make on the fly adjustments. I personally value faster on the fly adjustments in contrast to aerodynamics, so I fitted the old ratchet mechanism onto my new E70 shoes.

Old ratchet design isn't as aerodynamically slick, but is faster to use on the fly.

Old ratchet design isn’t as aerodynamically slick, but is faster to use on the fly.

As you’re probably guessing, not much of the actual fit has changed much. The shoes still feature Giro’s Supernatural Fit Kit, with Aegis topsheet. My only criticism of the Fit Kit is that the Aegis topsheet looks a little cheap next to the X-static top sheet found in the higher end models, but it works just as well.

Two footbeds side by side, on the left is the Aegis topsheet and on the right is the X-Static sheet.

Two footbeds side by side, on the left is the Aegis topsheet and on the right is the X-Static sheet.

I usually find I have to swap the insoles of my shoes with Specialized Body Geometry SL insoles. However I’ve been pretty happy with the Supernatural Fit Kit, it offers the right amount of arch support for me and has a similar metatarsal button design. For reference I use a Red+ (low arch) Body Geometry insole, and I find the orange arch support (medium support) offered by the Supernatural Fit Kit similar in terms of arch support. You can obviously customise the Fit Kit to your needs. It’s a smart idea allowing Giro to supply a one size fits all insole, removing the complexity and added cost of having to buy an aftermarket insole to suit your new shoes.

The reverse side of the two footbeds, The X-Static footbed  (right) has black inserts, which prevent the footbeds from slipping and increases the stiffness of the footbeds.

The reverse side of the two footbeds, The X-Static footbed (right) has black inserts, which prevent the footbeds from slipping and increases the stiffness of the footbeds.

One slight difference in the fit of the E70 vs the original Trans is in the heel cup, the E70 has a much more supportive heel cup. The heel cup insert of the two models feels the same, however the E70 features more padding around the heel, which helps keep the heel planted.

Apart from the visual differences, the E70 (right) has a more supportive heel cup.

Apart from the visual differences, the E70 (left) has a more supportive heel cup.

 

You’ll find that Giro’s sizing is a little larger than most companies. For reference I run a size 42.5 Shimano and Bont, but I find the 42.5 a little roomy in the Giro shoes. I find the 42 a better fit, it’s similar to the 42.5 Bont shoes lengthwise, but doesn’t have the same wide toe box, which suits my narrow feet. In terms of Shimano I find the Giro 42 in-between the Shimano 42.5 and Shimano 42. I’d advise trying on half a size smaller than what you normally wear. Giro do have a shoe size conversion tool, which I found useful, especially the US Mens flavour if using Bont shoes as a reference point (size 42.5 Bont shoes are size 9 US, which correlates to a 42 Giro shoe).

Giro Trans E70 offers a smart looking shoe

Giro Trans E70 offers a smart looking shoe.

Another interesting thing to note is the low stack height of these shoes, a claimed 6.5mm. While this is still almost double the stack height of my regular Bont shoes (3.8mm) they’re much closer than most other brands (e.g. Spiuk). Despite the thin sole these shoes are still plenty stiff, I found them to be of similar stiffness to the higher end Giro Factor and other shoes from competitors (e.g. Bont A1, Shimano R241). These shoes are slightly stiffer than Shimano R170 shoes and Specialized Expert Road shoes.  I determined shoe stiffness by trying to flex the shoes in my hand (not very scientific, I know), but I find most shoes that flex a little, or not at all in my hand are adequately stiff on the road.

The Giro sole isn't as thin as the Bont soles, but is about half the thickness of the Shimano R241 soles (pictured left)

The Giro sole isn’t as thin as the Bont soles, but is about half the thickness of the Shimano R241 soles (pictured left).

On the note of the sole, like all carbon fibre soles they scuff easily, so if you want to keep them looking pristine you ought to be careful where you step. Things like rocks etc can do a lot of aesthetic damage.

Carbon soles are easily scuffed

Carbon soles are easily scuffed.

On the topic of aesthetic maintenance, the matte white finish is particularly hard to maintain. Road grit happily sticks to this surface so you’ll need to be vigilant, regular hot water and soap isn’t enough to keep these shoes looking clean.

The white finish is easily marred.

The white finish is easily marred.

The toe section doesn’t feature any protection so if you accidentally kick your tyre (it happens when you have toe overlap) you’ll find yourself with black toes.

Don't kick anything with these, the toe section is easy to scuff and make dirty.

Don’t kick anything with these, the toe section is easy to scuff and make dirty.

Giro do offer other colour options (such as high vis yellow and black) which may be easier to keep clean. But if you’re happy to put the extra effort in cleaning, the white shoes do look the best of the lot in my opinion.

Just like white bar tape, white shoes are hard to keep pristine

Just like white bar tape, white shoes are hard to keep pristine.

Cleaning gripes and ratchet swaps aside, I’ve been extremely pleased with the performance of the Giro Trans E70. Once worn in they’re a super comfortable shoe which are stiff and reasonably light. They offer a supportive footbed, and heel cup. Not having to buy an aftermarket footbed is a huge bonus, and really adds to the value of these shoes. The closure system, despite being simple, secures the foot well and evenly distributes the pressure. They might not look as fancy as some of the newer Boa or lace up shoes, but I’d be inclined to say they perform every bit as well.

Disclaimer: The author is not affiliated with Giro in any way. These shoes were purchased from a store for this test.

Inside Scoop on Macini, Boutique Australian Brand

In the 1980s Macini was one of the most popular frame manufacturers in Adelaide. Renowned for their quality, many top athletes rode Macini. However, over the years new brands started appearing on the market and the Macini name fell by the wayside. That is until 4 years ago, when Brad bought the name from the original frame builder and started producing custom carbon fibre frames. Today, I was fortunate enough to speak with Brad, owner of Macini bikes about the brand and his future outlooks.

Macini Road Classic - a bike designed for long days in the saddle

Macini Road Classic – a bike designed for long days in the saddle

Another Macini Road Classic, this time in a more stealthy colourway

Another Macini Road Classic, this time in a more stealthy colourway

Brad is taking the calculated approach to reviving the Macini name. He’s content with a small, direct to customer business, but wishes to expand to a distribution model as Macini grows. Brad works closely with his customers, ensuring they get a bicycle that is made for them. On his desk were neatly organised spreadsheets with the measurements of each customer, each bike is fitted to the customer and the attention to detail is second to none. Brad has a full array of different stems, saddles and handlebars, ensuring you get the perfect fit straight out of the box.

Macini TT - built by Brad to fit the needs of his customer exactly.

Macini TT – built by Brad to fit the needs of his customer exactly.

Buying a Macini means buying quality. Brad regularly inspects the quality of the frames coming from the manufacturer. He ensures that all frames, forks, stems and bars are independently tested and approved by third party inspection companies to comply with the specific EN approval standards. These independent authority’s ensure compliance to the specifications and requirements and provides a full report of the undertaken tests and the results. Which means that Macini  customers can buy with confidence. When asked about the quality of his frames, Brad says that he’s every bit confident that the quality of Macini can rival the quality of other boutique brands.

Up close and personal with the Macini paint - you won't find any flaws on these bikes

Up close and personal with the Macini paint – you won’t find any flaws on these bikes

A quick inspection reveals that these carbon fibre frames are not rebranded “cheap chinese” carbon fibre frames. The frame shapes are distinctly different, you won’t find these frames on Aliexpress or eBay. Instead, Macini have done their homework and chosen a reputable carbon fibre frame manufacturer in Asia, who make frames for other well known brands. Brad visited the factory and negotiated a few designs to achieve the desired look and ride characteristics. He refines these designs to his own liking, with constant communication between himself and the manufacturer. Currently in development is a new fork for their Track Classic, and an improved cable routing for their new road disk model. Brad isn’t happy with settling for anything other than the best.

An early prototype of a new disk road bike. Brad is currently working on improving the cable routing for better performance and aesthetics

An early prototype of a new disk road bike. Brad is currently working on improving the cable routing for better performance and aesthetics

On closer inspection, we observe that the paint detailing is meticulous. The bikes look impeccable in person, but Brad admits that it hasn’t always been the case. Brad shows me a few earlier frames where subtle details were missed in the artwork, if Brad hadn’t pointed out the “mistakes” I wouldn’t have noticed. It’s pretty obvious that Brad harshly criticises his own work, to a degree where it almost becomes an obsession with perfection. Brad even produces stems and wheels bearing the Macini (Prophecy) logo, just to make sure the stems and wheels match the aesthetic of the rest of the build.

Macini can produce custom painted frames to match any team kit

Macini can produce custom painted frames to match any team kit

Not afraid to admit Macini is a small company, Brad realises he’s in a niche market and doesn’t try to be everything to everyone. Macini are for people who want something different, something special. There’s pressure to try and cater for all different markets, but Brad stands firm to supplying custom built bikes for the racing cyclist. He even supplies teams with custom painted team bikes for the pro look.

Two custom painted McNeill Logistics Team bikes

The future outlook for Macini is bright. Their bikes are receiving rave reviews in cycling magazines such as Bicycling Australia. High profile cyclists including  Jay Sweet are riding Macini track bikes at the Bendigo Madison. Brad’s even looking at partnerships with National Road Series teams.

Macini Track Classic - Jay Sweet will be riding this frame in the Bendigo Madison

Macini Track Classic – Jay Sweet will be riding this frame in the Bendigo Madison

Acknowledgements: We’d like to thank Brad from Macini bikes for taking the time to talk with us about Macini bikes. The author is in no way affiliated with Macini. For further information on Macini bikes see their website http://www.macinibikes.com

Sigma ROX 10.0 Review

Over the past few months I’ve been testing the Sigma ROX 10.0. It’s a solid device with an interesting feature set, namely the inclusion of “breadcrumb” navigation. Not to be confused with the turn by turn navigation featured on more expensive models from competitors (eg Garmin edge 1000) breadcrumb navigation is a simple representation of a path you should follow. A useful feature, but does the rest of the package stack up?

Unboxing the Sigma ROX 10.0

Unboxing the Sigma ROX 10.0

The short answer would be yes. It does everything you would expect a GPS computer to do at this price point (e.g. ANT+ compatibility, screen customisation, etc.). You certainly are getting a lot of GPS computer for your money.

In the box: manuals, bike mount and Data Center installation CD.

In the box: manuals, bike mount and Data Center installation CD.

However the user interface is a little cramped, it feels like Sigma are trying to pack too many features onto the small screen. This can be a little overwhelming initially, particularly if you’re coming from a Garmin 500, but it’s no more cramped than the Polar CS600. I would prefer a larger screen size, but I can understand why Sigma would want to spec a smaller screen size (e.g. cost, size). While I’m complaining about the screen, it scratches easily so I’d be careful about leaving it upside down (it happens more thank you think). On the plus side, the screen is curved so you’ll never get the sun reflecting in your eyes (a problem I’ve encountered with devices from other brands with flat screens).

Sigma ROX 10.0 size comparison

Sigma ROX 10.0 size comparison

While I’m on the topic of the Polar, just like the Polar, the Sigma comes with it’s own computer software (Sigma Data Center). While not quite as analytical as Golden Cheetah it’s nice to see that Sigma care about post ride data analysis.

Sigma Data Centre Dashboard

On the note of post ride data, Sigma don’t play nice with Golden Cheetah. You can export your data files, but the export formats available aren’t compatible with the current versions of Golden Cheetah. It’s a little annoying, especially if you’re addicted to Golden Cheetah. If you don’t know what Golden Cheetah is, or don’t have Golden Cheetah this could be the perfect unit for you. For those tech savvy readers, Sigma does export as GPX, which *should* work with Golden Cheetah, but they follow a different protocol than what’s accepted as the standard. Long story short, Sigma don’t export the time ridden in the correct format, and when Golden Cheetah attempts to read the file your duration is 0:00, not very useful if you want to analyse your ride with Golden Cheetah.

Importing rides into Golden Cheetah

Importing rides into Golden Cheetah

Sigma Data Center does allow you to upload your rides to Strava. It’s quick and easy to set up by clicking “Menu” tab and selecting “Share Data”. Just follow the prompts and log into Strava as you would on their website. Once set up you simply have to click “Share Data” to upload your rides to Strava. After a brief delay while the cloud does its magic your ride appears on Strava.

Sigma offers an easy way to upload rides to Strava

Sigma offers an easy way to upload rides to Strava

I’m not too critical of Sigma’s lack of compatibility since their own Data Center software should cater to the needs of most people. While it may not be as detailed as Golden Cheetah, Data Center does include the basics:

Sigma Data Center provides a useful summary of your rides

Sigma Data Center provides a useful summary of your rides

Most importantly, Data Center allows you to keep a training diary. It’s a nice touch, you can record details about your training partners, feeling/form, training type and an evaluation of the effectiveness of your training. If you’re dedicated you’ll love this feature, but I find myself being lazy and not filling the diary out. If you’re serious about your training you probably already keep a diary. Even if you already do keep a diary, this feature is useful as it integrates your diary and your data. If you’ve never kept a diary before Data Center provides an easy way to start, especially if you’re not sure what you should be writing in it.

Data Center features a training diary -  a nice touch

Data Center features a training diary – a nice touch

It may be a little gimmicky for those of us who are just riding for fun. But if you smashed a PB or rode your first double century, or placed well in a road race it makes it a little easier to keep track of those milestones. If you’re not into keeping diaries but would like to track how you’re responding Sigma has a useful feature which shows how your average heart rate is changing over time. If you’re overtraining you may notice your average heart rate dips or spikes. You can also keep track of how many “hard days” you’ve had, or when your last easy day was.

Data Center keeps track of your training load

Data Center keeps track of your training load

You can also plan your training using data center, by plan I mean you can plan your routes. It’s useful, particularly if you’re visiting a new city, or when you plan on exploring an unfamiliar part of town. The mapping is fairly accurate, Sigma decided to use open source mapping for this device (OpenStreetMaps). Making a route is pretty straight forward. You simply select the “create route” option in the top right corner (it’s the squiggly line that’s highlighted):

Creating a new route on Data Center is user intuitive

Creating a new route on Data Center is user intuitive

Once you’ve selected the “create route option” simply click on where you want to start (indicated by the green marker) and where you want to go (indicated by a red marker). Data Center will find a route for you, from green to red.

Data Center will create a route for you. Simple, isn't it?

Data Center will create a route for you. Simple, isn’t it?

Like all software sometimes Data Center has it’s moments. Sometimes, Data Center won’t recognise certain roads, if you try to create a route along the missing road Data Center will give you the following error:

Data Center error message

Fear not, because Data Center also allows you to manually enter your route, using the “create linear track” option. It’s the straight arrow next to the curly arrow (which is the “create route” option). It’s more time consuming, but it works. You can also change the settings of Data Center to avoid main roads, or to take backstreets but  sometimes Data Center may direct you along certain roads which may not be to your liking. You can override this by manually creating a linear track. The yellow markers are where I’ve created a linear track.

Data Center allows you to change your route preferences

Data Center allows you to change your route preferences

Apart from navigation, you can also familiarise yourself with the profile of a ride. You can access this information by clicking the “Altitude Profile” button (the two hills in the top right hand corner). Your course profile will be displayed on the bottom of your screen.

Data Center also displays a course profile.

Data Center also displays a course profile.

All these features are quite useful if you’re new to or unfamiliar with an area. All this information can be accessed on the fly on the ROX 10.0, albeit much less detailed and crammed onto a smaller screen. One drawback of the ROX 10.0 is you cannot create new routes on your device whilst riding (and even if you could it would be really painful on the small screen). However, it does have a “take me home” option, which essentially directs you back home by reversing the course you have ridden. It’s a useful last resort, but not particularly handy if you took the scenic route before you got lost. It’s better than nothing, but since most of us own smartphones with maps of some form or the other I recommend using the phone if you’re lost, particularly if you have taken a few detours along the way (the ROX 10.0 will direct you back along the same detours).

The Sigma ROX 10.0 is a feature packed computer, especially at this price point. On paper, these extra features would be the ROX 10.0’s greatest strength, and really set it apart from competing units. However, one can also argue that it’s greatest strength is also it’s greatest flaw. The screen size limits the usefulness of some of these features, particularly the navigation, though having some “breadcrumb” navigation is so much better than none at all. I do applaud Sigma’s ambition in packing the ROX with all of these features, and to be fair GPS computers at this price point all have a similar screen size. A little more refinement could make this unit a market leader. As it stands the ROX is a solid unit, it certainly trumps devices like the Garmin Edge 500 in terms of features, but lacks in the user friendliness department.

Pros: Data Center is well thought out, has more features than any other device at this price point.

Cons: Screen size limits functionality

Disclaimer: The Author is in no way affiliated with Sigma. The review sample was purchased from Starbike.