Monthly Archives: March 2016

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/