Monthly Archives: February 2016

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

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