Our Take: Race vs. Compact Cranksets

When it comes to choosing a crankset for the road, it seems like there are a million and one options out there, but the biggest question we get all the time is: what is the difference between a compact and a race crankset, and which one should I ride?

Race cranksets, also known as “standard” cranksets have a 53 tooth big chainring and a 39 tooth inner ring. Until recently, it was the only gearing option for road riders, unless they went with a triple. The chainrings mount on a spider that has a bolt circle diameter (BCD) of 130mm (Shimano, SRAM, FSA) or 135mm (Campagnolo). This combination gives riders a very tall gear, which allows them to go fast, but requires more strength to push so they are usually only used by more experienced riders, or those with very strong legs. Although even for strong riders the 39 tooth inner ring can make climbing very difficult, and few outside of the pro ranks can ride in the 53-11 combination. However, if you ride with a fast group or are looking to “Cat up” for racing, you may find the race crankset to be ideal.

A race crankset from Campagnolo

The compact crankset hit the scene a few years ago, and was immediately embraced by many riders out there. Compact cranksets have a gear combination of a 50 tooth big ring and a 34 tooth inner ring. The chainrings mount to a smaller 110mm BCD spider (for all brands). The compact crankset gives riders the ability to pedal with a higher cadence in an easier gear instead of always grinding away like you would with a race crankset. Compacts are ideal for riders who are more interested in enjoying the ride than going fast (although we have some folks at the office and in our stores who race on compacts…) or that live in very hilly areas. In fact, even some pro’s will ride compacts on very difficult mountain stages. The main drawback of the compact is how easy the gearing is. It’s not unusual for a rider on a compact to spin out his gearing on a downhill, and some riders find the 34T inner ring to actually make climbing more difficult because it forces them to pedal at an excessively high cadence.

A compact crankset from SRAM

A third option, and one that is increasingly being embraced around the office, is the mid-compact. The mid-compact splits the difference between a standard and compact by offering a 52T big ring and a 36T inner ring. The chainrings mount on either a 110mm BCD (Shimano, SRAM, FSA) or a 130/135mm BCD (FSA, Shimano, Campagnolo) spider. The biggest advantage of the mid-compact is that it gives riders a pretty high top gear thanks to the 52T big ring, while the 36T makes climbing much easier by offering a higher cadence than a 39T, but with more resistance than the 34T.

A mid-compact crankset from Shimano

A fourth, but little used, crank combination is the venerable 54/42T chainring combo, aka “The Flemish Compact”. You can still sometimes find this crankset combination, although it’s almost never spec’ed on a bike now except for some time trial bikes. If you’re an exceptionally strong rider who lives in an exceptionally flat area, you may benefit from using Flemish Compact. Otherwise, we’d recommend staying away unless your first name is “Roger” and your last name is “De Vlaeminck”. So, now for the question…if a 54/42T is a Flemish Compact, what is a Flemish Standard?

Roger de V has a good day riding a Flemish Compact

Roger de V has a great day riding a Flemish Compact

UPDATE: When we first posted this article, many of you asked about triple cranksets. The introduction of the compact crankset, 11-speed drivetrains, and mid-cage rear derailleurs has mostly rendered the triple crankset obsolete. Newer mid-cage rear derailleurs like SRAM’s WiFli system, or options from Shimano and Campagnolo, can now handle cassettes with up to a 32T big cog. An 11-32T or 12-32T cassette, when paired with a compact crankset, appears to offer about the same gearing range as a triple with less gearing overlap, less weight, less mechanical complexity, and a lower Q-factor. A few bikes (mostly touring models) are still spec’d with triples, but if you’re looking for a bike with plenty of gearing options, you may want to look at what the cassette range is instead of the crankset.

So which is the right crankset for you? Well…that’s really going to depend on your ability level, the terrain around you, and your experience. It you’re a very strong, very experienced rider, you’ll probably want to use a race crankset. However, for most riders the compact is just fine. While there is always the temptation on a bicycle to go as fast as possible, it’s important to remember that you need to work your way up to things—and that a bigger gear doesn’t necessarily equal bigger speed. Trying to push too big of a gear right off the bat can hurt your knees, lead to muscle imbalances, and just make rides more difficult and less enjoyable than they need to be. Especially for newer riders, or those without a lot of time to ride, proper form is more important than pushing big gears, and the compact is perfect for developing form since you pedal at a higher cadence. Over time, if you feel you are spinning out the compact crankset, you can always upgrade it with 52/36 or 52/38 chainrings to get more top end speed and a more comfortable climbing cadence.

Our Take: 10-Speed vs. 11-Speed

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In the last few years, Campagnolo, Shimano and SRAM have moved to 11-speed and the technology is becoming more main stream. Lately when we’ve discussed 11-speed bikes, many of you have had some questions and concerns about the new systems. To answer some of them, we found one of our employees who has been riding both 10- and 11-speed groupsets for a while. Here’s his take on things.

I’ve been riding both 11-speed Campagnolo and 10-speed SRAM  for several years now, and I switch between the two often enough to be able to tell you there are some definite differences between 10- and 11-speed drivetrains. Generally, adding an extra cog means you have more gear ratios to choose from which can make your riding more efficient. But I’ve been asked to address the 6 most common questions we get about 11-speed, so here it goes. (And please remember, this isn’t a Campy vs. SRAM article– it’s 10-speed vs. 11-speed).

Is 11-speed less durable?

Answer: There’s not really much difference. I currently have about 2500+ miles on an 11-speed cassette and chain, and neither is worn out yet. I also have yet to break an 11-speed chain while riding. So far my Campagnolo chains and cassettes have lasted about as long as my SRAM 10-speed ones. I guess the thinner cogs and chains make people nervous, but I haven’t had any issues so far. I haven’t ridden the new Shimano stuff, but I’ve read that their new PTFE chain technology actually makes the chains stronger than their 10-speed chains.

Isn’t the shifting compromised?

Answer: Shifting performance isn’t really  affected by the addition of another cog. Aside from the different shifter designs, I have noticed very little, if any, difference in performance between 10 and 11. If anything the 11-speed shifting feels smoother and crisper than 10-speed. My 11-speed bikes do need to be put into the stand a little more often (about once every two weeks) for some basic rear derailleur adjustments, especially after high mileage weeks, but it’s a quick 2-minute cable tension adjustment, and that’s it.

Do you need new wheels?

Answer: Yes*. Contrary to what you read on many bike message boards, you do need a new rear wheel; the reason being that the new wider cassettes require a wider axle than a 9/10-speed wheel. If you look at an 11-speed wheel, the drive-side spokes are nearly in-line with the hub flange. The exception being Campagnolo users, who’s 9- and 10-speed wheels should still work with 11-speed. For SRAM/Shimano users, conversion kits do exist from some manufacturers, but it can sometimes be a pretty involved process requiring removal of axles, re-truing and re-dishing. And, of course, the manufacturer cannot guarantee how a wheel will perform with a converted freehub. Your best bet is to get a new wheel.

 *with the exception of Mavic wheels with an M10 freehub body, which technically should work with Shimano 11-speed if you leave off the Mavic spacer

Are 11-speed wheels less durable?

Answer: Maybe, but that kind of thing really depends on your riding style. For folks who really beat up on their wheels, you might notice a difference. I’m not very tough on wheels, and rarely need to have them trued, but I do have a set of 11-speed wheels that need to be trued more often than their 10-speed counterparts. However, I also have another set that has gone almost 2 years without needing to see the truing stand, so it’s hard to tell.

Is it worth it?

Answer: That all depends. In my experience, I love having the extra 11th gear. And yes, I definitely do notice that it’s not there when I switch back to a 10-speed bike. The biggest benefits to me are 1) shifting is smoother and more progressive, since there are fewer big jumps in cog size; and 2) I don’t have to swap between two different cassettes anymore (one for the usual riding, one for climbing). With an 11-speed 11-27 cassette, I basically still have my beloved 11-25 gearing, but with a 27t or 29t cog tacked on the top that makes it perfect for climbing as well. 11-speed cassettes also offer a bigger range of gearing options that make it easier to find that comfortable cadence in any variety of conditions, whereas when I switch back to a 10-speed bike, I sometimes struggle to find the right gear.

Why upgrade? Won’t they just go to 12-speeds soon?

Answer: Don’t quote me on this, but no, I don’t think they will go to 12-speeds any time soon. I know Tiso has a 12-speed gruppo out there, but they had to scrounge up some breathtakingly expensive stuff to make it work (i.e. all titanium cassettes), so I doubt it’s ready for mass market appeal. As you read above about wheels, it seems to me like 11 cogs are about as many gears as they’ll be able to cram into the standard 130mm rear spacing. To fit in any more gears without excessively sacrificing wheel durability, I believe that road bikes would need to adopt the MTB standard 135mm rear spacing. With the introduction of disc brakes on road bikes, that’s already kind of happening, but I think it’ll be a few years yet before anyone goes to 12.

For now, it appears that the market has veered in a different way. Instead of introducing more ever more cogs, the manufacturers now seem to be focused on adding more features to and refining their electronic shifting systems, such as EPS, Di2, and whatever SRAM is going to call theirs.

Eurobike Wrap-Up

We’ve finally recovered from the jetlag after Eurobike, the cycling industry’s biggest international trade show. A 3 day festival of anything and everything bike-related, Eurobike takes place every year near the idyllic shores of Lake Constance in the southwest corner of Germany. While the show is really too big to sum up in just a few paragraphs, we’ll hit a few highlights and trends below – before we head out to the biggest US cycling show, Interbike in Las Vegas.

The scenery around Eurobike is slightly different than at Interbike in Las Vegas.

The scenery around Eurobike is slightly different than at Interbike in Las Vegas.

1. 27.5″ (or 650B) wheels for mountain bikes are here to stay. This in-between wheel size (although it is closer in size to 26″ wheels than 29″ wheels) was on full display at Eurobike, with every major manufacturer offering a trail bike in this ‘tweener format. Mostly these bikes are being pitched as “all-mountain” or “enduro” bikes – but in reality that’s what most of us ride every day! We ride up, down and over whatever the trail throws at us, and want a bike that makes any trail more fun, so 27.5″ bikes should be a great fit. The continued rise of 27.5″ bikes also mean that more tires, wheels and suspension are also becoming available for upgrades later on. We’re especially excited about the new GT Force and Sensor bikes, and Joe Breeze’s very first full-suspension bike, the Breezer Repack.

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2. Hydraulic disc brakes for road/cyclocross bikes were also highly evident throughout the show. While we know that not everyone is going to be interested, many manufacturers have incorporated at least one road bike with hydraulic stoppers into their lineup, and definitely on a cyclocross bike if they have one. Both SRAM and Shimano offer hydraulic options on their newest high-end road components, and Campagnolo has partnered with Formula to offer a system. With the promise of increased braking power and consistency plus more freedom for the design of road bike wheels, it will be interesting to see how this trend develops over time.

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3. E-bikes, or electronic-pedal assist bikes, also had a huge presence in the halls of Eurobike. From city bikes to road bikes to full-suspension mountain bikes, manufacturers have jammed electric motors into just about any type of bike you can imagine. While e-bikes have not made inroads in the US so far, in Europe they already have a huge presence, even with costs of over $4,000 per bike (e-bikes account for 10% of all bike sales in Germany). We actually test-rode quite a few models of e-bikes at the show, including one rated at an assist level of up to 45km/h (or almost 30mph), and they are fun to ride, even if it does feel like you are cheating a bit.

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4. On the fashion front, Eurobike was awash in bright and highly visible colors, from safety orange, to brilliant blues, to fluorescents yellows and greens – although we noticed some camo patterns making a comeback as well. There were still plenty of traditional colors being used, but in our books these bright colors are good news – we’re in favor of anything that makes us more visible while we’re riding our bikes!

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5. Finally, Eurobike was exciting simply for it’s proliferation of creative and, sometimes, wacky ideas for bikes and gear. The energy and enthusiasm for anything bike-related was great to see – the world of people who love bikes and see great opportunities in this market is vast. Not all of these ideas might make it, but we love seeing what people dream up for the future of cycling.

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You can find all of our photos from Eurobike in a gallery on our Facebook page.

Back in Black

I was at the grocery story once, loading up the kids and the car, when a beautiful Porsche pulled up next to me and an older gentleman stepped out. We got to talking about his ride, and I asked him what the top speed was.

“I have no idea,” he said, which left me a little dumbfounded. Then he elaborated.

“I didn’t buy it to go fast…but I like the idea that I could go fast if I really wanted to.”

I immediately thought about my bike. I probably don’t get as much out of my Dura-Ace Scattante CFR as a pro would, but I love the idea that I have a bike that could get me there if I wanted it to.

Shimano Dura-Ace is the crème de la crème of Shimano’s component line up, a favorite of pros and amateurs alike. For every bike manufacturer, the Shimano Dura-Ace equipped bike is the gold standard. It becomes the template for every bike that follows, injecting it with performance, trickle down technology, class and style. Our Scattante line of bikes is no exception. We spend enormous amounts of time on the frame layup and geometry, and working on all the small details like graphics. The goal is to create a machine that delivers race-worthy performance to cyclists of any level. Because while we all know that the Toyota is a great, dependable, practical car, at the end of the day it’s the Porsche that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end.

cfr_black_hero

2013 Scattante CFR Black

With the launch of our all-new, lust-worthy Scattante CFR Black — decked out with Dura-Ace 11-speed 9070 Di2 electronic shifting, the latest evolution of Shimano’s race proven technology — we decided to take a stroll down memory lane to see where we’ve been.

2006

In 2006, the Scattante CFR LE was at the top of the line with a full Shimano Dura-Ace 7800 drivetrain and carbon monocoque frame. The bike was decked out in that year’s best components.

2006 Scattante CFR LE Road Bike

2006 Scattante CFR LE Road Bike

The 7800 series shifters with external cable routing

Shimano Dura-Ace 7800 series shifters with external cable routing

2008

In 2008, Shimano went to Dura-Ace 7900. Cleaner internal cable routing and refined components added efficiency, ergonomics and saved weight.

2008 Scattante CFR LE Road Bike with carbon Control Tech components

2008 Scattante CFR LE Road Bike with carbon Control Tech components

The 7900 series shifters

Shimano Dura-Ace 7900 series shifters

2010

The 2010 Scattante CFR Team was quite an evolution. While the Shimano 7900 drivetrain remained unchanged, a full Italian Deda Elementi Ultra cockpit, Mavic Ksyrium SL wheels, and a brand new frame with a tapered head tube and BB30 bottom bracket took center stage.

2010 Scattante CFR Team Road Bike with as bevy of high-end components

2010 Scattante CFR Team Road Bike with a bevy of high-end components

2011

For 2011, Scattante went electronic. Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 was truly a remarkable innovation, so the Scattante CFR Pro design had to match. The CFR Pro was one of our personal all-time favorite bikes with color-matching anodized TRP brakes, Prologo saddle and Schwalbe Durano tires.

Scattante CFR Pro Road Bike was a new milestone in component and graphic design

Scattante CFR Pro Road Bike was a new milestone in component and graphic design

A cleaner appearance thanks to Shimano Di2

A cleaner appearance thanks to Shimano Di2

2013

So what now? What does the Dura-Ace experience have to offer a rider of every caliber for 2013? How about another gear, brand new technology and components, and a black-out paint job. The Scattante CFR Black brings the “wow factor” to every Sunday group ride. Click here to learn more about the Scattante CFR Black, or Enter to Win one now.

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Scattante CFR Black fork with Shimano Dura-Ace brakes

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Scattante CFR Black headtube

cfr_black_downtube

Scattante CFR Black downtube

First Look at What’s New – Weeks1-4

Every week we’re taking a look at what’s new, exciting or coming soon to PerformanceBike.com – here’s a quick roundup of our first 4 weeks of videos, featuring bikes and gear for every cyclist.

Week 1

This week’s gear: Sidi Wire Carbon Road Shoes, GORE Oxygen SO Women’s Jacket, Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Drink Mix and the Charge Filter Apex Cyclocross Bike.

Week 2

This week’s gear: Louis Garneau Course SpeedZone vest, Giro Sonnet Women’s Helmet, Shimano Dura-Ace ST-9000 Shifters, Zipp 202 Firecrest Carbon Clincher Road Wheels and the Charge Cooker Single Speed Mountain Bike.

Week 3

This week’s gear: Charge Bikes Mortar Pub Bike, Feedback Sports Recreational Work Stand, Sidi Drako Mountain Bike Shoes, Light & Motion Seca 750 Headlight and Shimano Dura-Ace BR-9000 Brakes.

Week 4

This week’s gear: Dakine Juniper Women’s jersey, Dakine Tempest Women’s Short, Dakine Shield Jacket, Dakine Charger Crew Jersey, Time ATAC XC8, XC6 & XC4 Mountain Bike pedals, and the Van Dessel Gin & Trombones Disc Cyclocross Bike.

Holiday Gift Ideas

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Since we’re in the holiday spirit here at Performance Bicycle, we decided to take a stroll around our home office to find out what some of our coworkers recommended for the cyclist on your gift list. We talked to folks from accounting to merchandising to discover some great cycling gift ideas, even if you’re just shopping for yourself!

First up are a few ideas from Alison, a merchandise planner in our components division, and also a budding road cyclist.

1. What is your favorite piece of cycling gear that you used this year?

I love my Diadora Women’s Aerospeed 2 road shoes:

And I don’t have this Selle Italia Women’s Diva Gel Flow saddle, but I rode it on a friend’s bike and it was great – I need to get one!

2. What is a great stocking stuffer product for a cyclist?

Forté Grip-Tec handlebar tape is perfect for any road cyclist.

3. How about another holiday gift idea – non-cycling related?

I haven’t been very good this year, but I would like some Frye Harness 12R boots.

Zach is a merchandise assistant on our clothing team who loves to ride anything with 2 wheels – he’s going to learn how to jump on a dirt bike next.

1. What is your favorite piece of cycling gear that you used this year?

I got to test-ride some Zipp 303 Firecrest Carbon Clincher front & rear road wheels – they are awesome.

DSC_01202. What is a great stocking stuffer product for a cyclist?

The Blackburn VIP SL Ride Wallet comes in handy when you want to stuff your phone or credit card in a sweaty jersey pocket.

3. How about another holiday gift idea – non-cycling related?

A ukulele, just because.

Alicia is our clothing product developer, responsible for the design and fit of our private label apparel – but she really loves to hit the trails on her mountain bike.

1.  What is your favorite piece of cycling gear that you used this year?

The Performance Women’s Thermal long sleeve jersey is great for cold-weather riding.


2.  What is a great stocking stuffer product for a cyclist?

Extra CO2 cartridges are always appreciated by the cyclist on your list.

3.  How about another holiday gift idea – non-cycling related?

I love it if my friends donate to a local charity on my behalf.

Johnny is a merchandise assistant for our components group, and all-around fast guy on any bike that you put him on, be it road, mountain or whatever.

1. What is your favorite piece of cycling gear that you used this year?

The Rock Shox Reverb Adjustable Seatpost is really useful and dependable.

2.  What is a great stocking stuffer product for a cyclist?

Stan’s sealant is a must if you want to go tubeless (and you should).


3. How about another holiday gift idea – non-cycling related?

Some sweet socks from Stance.

Michal works in our accounting department, and is a regular fixture on our lunch time road rides.

1. What is your favorite piece of cycling gear that you used this year?

Other than my bike….. I’d have to say Speedplay Light Action road pedals:

However, I do love my Pearl Izumi Thermal leg warmers. Couldn’t ride this time of year without them.


2. What is a great stocking stuffer product for a cyclist?

Everybody loves a good tail light (especially for this time of year) or one of those cool little multi tools.

3. How about another holiday gift idea – non-cycling related?

Socks, socks and more socks. Preferably Smartwool!  [ed.: apparently you can’t go wrong with socks!]

smartwool

Mark is a member of our product development team – so riding his bike and testing new gear is one of his job requirements!

1. What is your favorite piece of cycling gear that you used this year?

The internal clutch on the Shimano XTR Shadow+ rear derailleur really works to reduce chain slap on my mountain bike.

2. What is a great stocking stuffer product for a cyclist?

Dumonde Tech Original bicycle chain lube works to keep your bike running smoothly, and every cyclist wants that!

3. How about another holiday gift idea – non-cycling related?

Foothill’s Brewing Olde Rabbit’s Foot Imperial Stout – it’s hard to find, but oh so delicious.

Pisgah Stage Race: Looking back

Our team of Johnny & Chris has finally recovered from their second place finish at the epic 2012 Pisgah Stage Race – 5 days, 195 miles and 28,000 feet of climbing on some of North Carolina’s best mountain bike trails. Now that they’ve had some time to recover, we’re handing the blog over to Johnny, to wrap up their racing experience.

Chris & Johnny on the final podium (Johnny is on the right)

So I have had over a week to reflect on the 2012 Pisgah MTB Stage Race. I want to give you the highs and lows, products I am glad I had, and a few final thoughts. If you are thinking about doing any mountain bike stage races, especially the Pisgah MTB Stage Race, be sure and read this post along with our coverage during the race.

Highs:

  • Incredible world class trails – My new favorite place to ride.
  • Descents – Challenging, yet rewarding. You have to know how to ride a bike here.
  • Waterfalls/scenery – In one county alone there are more than 250 waterfalls and many of the 400 miles of singletrack pass right by some of the best.
  • Fellow racers – Everyone who participated and volunteered at the event was super friendly, ready to help out, and just a joy to be around.

  • Less of a race feel – It didn’t have the feel of a race. I mean this in a good way. There were no signs of prideful, ego-boosting personalities.
  • Satisfaction of completion – Finishing this grueling event is a feat in and of itself.
  • Weather – While the rain of Stage One was rough, the blue skies, low humidity, and fresh mountain air overly compensated for it.

Lows:

  • Weather – Part of the Pisgah National Forest is considered a rain forest, I believe it now.
  • Climbs – Long, never ending. Each time you think the next turn will bring relief, the trail goes up even higher. A familiar phrase from course marshals was, “Straight up that way.”

  • Mental – You get used to the physical difficulty of the race. What is more important is being strong mentally to keep going and keep pushing, no matter what it looks like around the next bend.
  • Bike part destruction – Your bike and parts will be put to the test. Bring a spare bike, just so you know you have a replacement of every part on a bike. It is truly the easiest way to ensure and bring all the spare parts you might need.
  • Recovery? There is a question mark because by the time you finish the stage, get cleaned up, eat, and get your bike ready for the next day, there isn’t much time left before you wake up, wash, rinse, and repeat.

Products:

  • Forte Pisgah MTB Tires – With the weather on day one, tire selection was critical to maintaining forward momentum on the narrow, rock strewn, rooty singletrack (or as some call it, halftrack). Therefore I was very glad I had the Forte Pisgah tires below me to grab hold of the rugged terrain. The Forte Pisgah excels at gaining traction in this type of environment. They did such a good job of maintaining traction on the trails that they boosted my confidence while riding and given the trail conditions I was more willing to attempt difficult sections, knowing the tires would not break loose. Let’s just say the tires definitely earned their right to be named Pisgah and also a long term place on my bike.

Forte Pisgah MTB Tires

  • White Brothers Loop 140 TCR 26″ Suspension Fork – Pisgah Mountain Bike trails are for true riders. One has to know how to handle a bike to survive the trials in the Pisgah National Forest. With that in mind, I enjoyed checking out the other racers bikes to see what products they were using. On multiple occasions I spotted a white brothers loop soaking up the roots and rocks at Pisgah. I have been riding the Loop now for about 9 months and with Pisgah to cap off my testing I can honestly say it has earned its keep on the front of my bike. The fork just works, it comes out of the box ready to go and it isn’t overly complicated with buttons, knobs, dials, and levers everywhere. In most cases, with such long days on the trail with varying terrain, I could just set the threshold damper all the way and leave it all day.

  • Shimano XTR RD-M985 Shadow Plus Rear Derailleur – As I am sure you know by now, the trails at Pisgah are tough, rugged, yet rewarding. I was glad to have the XTR Shadow Plus rear derailleur. I imagine the sound of chain slap would have driven me crazy by the end of the 5 day event. This technology is here to stay, as SRAM now has a similar feature in their TYPE 2 models. I did have to add some tension on one occasion during the week with the built in tool. I am curious to try out the SRAM version to see how it holds up because I am not sure how many seasons the Shimano mechanism will make it through.

Shimano XTR RD-M985 Shadow Plus Rear Derailleur

  • Shimano XT PD-M785 MTB Trail Pedals – Slippery Roots, skinny trails, creek crossings, and mud strewn singletrack call for two things when it comes to pedals; secure footing and mud clearance. The XT trail pedal has both.

  • DT Swiss Tricon XM1550 Wheels –  As mentioned before, the Mountain Bike Trails at Pisgah are tough. They will test a rider and the bike to the limits. The trails are laced with rock gardens, roots, drops, and high speed descents with all of the above. I was riding these wheels to find out if we should bring them in to our product lineup, and these wheels took it all in stride. They are very stiff with a low weight, the perfect combo for a multiday stage race. After multiple encounters with rocks, roots, and drops they are still spinning true.
  • Brakes – We quickly realized how important brakes are at Pisgah. If you don’t know what I am talking about, see the post on Stage One. I began the race with the new Magura MT series disc brake. They are light weight and have great modulation. Once the pads were gone after stage one and no shops in town had a replacement set of pads (keep this in mind when gathering spare parts to bring to an event), I had to switch over the set of Shimano XTR BR-M988 Hydraulic Disc Brakes for Trail off of the spare bike. The Shimano brakes were a little heavier than the Magura’s; however, the increased power and finned pads were welcomed on the steep mountain descents. My verdict: All Mountain Riding: Nothing beats the power and cooling technology of the XTR’s. Cross Country Riding: Light weight and superior modulation make the Magura MT series a top contender.
  • Grips – I was fortunate enough to try out both the Ergon GS1 and GA1 grips throughout the stage race. My thoughts. The Ergon GA1 is labeled as All Mountain and it is when compared to the other grips in the Ergon line. I loved the feel and shape of the grip. The contour through the palm was excellent, as it filled the gap you normally find in the center of your palm when wrapped around a bar. These grips excelled on the descents, dampening vibrations and providing a solid feel.  These have made a permanent home on my bike.The Ergon GS1 grips have a larger surface area for your hand to rest on. Some people love these grips and use them on all their bikes; however, they are not for me. I enjoyed them on the climbs, being able to adjust my position and rest my hand some. On the other hand, with the steepness of the descents, I found myself sliding forward and with nothing to really wrap around I had to hold on much more tightly to keep my weight back on the bike. I had the feeling on many occasions that I was going to slide over the bars. These may be for you if your typical rides aren’t as steep on the downhill sections.

Ergon GA1 grips

  • Rockshox Reverb Adjustable Seatpost – This is one item I would not do the Pisgah Stage Race without. Having the ability to lower my seat to clear so many trail obstacles was priceless. I am not the only one who feels this way. Just ask most mountain bike riders and they will tell you their dropper post is their most favorite piece of equipment. The RockShox Reverb set the bar high and is one of the best dropper posts in the market.

  • Devinci Dixon- It was a blast riding this bike at Pisgah. Even though the Devinci Dixon is made in Canada, I think it was built with the Pisgah trails in mind. What a bike. The split pivot suspension design works very well under power and braking. My consensus for the race; Most others brought the efficient climber (29er hardtail) to race on with the thought they would just suffer through the descents.  The climbs were difficult in that everyone suffered, no matter the bike. Therefore, I was one of the few having a blast on the Dixon bombing down Farlow and Pilot Rock. If having fun, ripping down world class singletrack is your thing; you must try the Devinci Dixon.

Interbike 2012 Wrap-up: Part 1

Every year, the North American cycling world gathers in Las Vegas, Nevada, for the annual Interbike trade show. This year we were there to check out the latest gear and cycling trends, and these are a few of the most interesting things we saw. Check out our photo album on Facebook for even more shots from the show.

SRAM: the Chicago-based drivetrain experts had a huge booth and tons of new gear on display. On the mountain bike side, we were excited to check out the new XX1 system in person. Designed around 1 chainring in front: 

And a whopping 11 speeds in the rear cassette, new XX1 promises to be a simpler, more durable and lighter setup for a range of riders:

And for those that are nostalgic for SRAM’s first product, there is also the return of GripShift, this time with high-end and smooth turning ball bearing internals:

On the road side, SRAM has expanded their lineup of WiFli extended range gearing to include SRAM Red, Force and Apex groups – with up to 11-32 cassettes, these 2×10 systems actually offer a wider range of gearing than most triple setups:

 Shimano: Not to be outdone by their American rivals, Shimano was busy showing off their updated top-of-the-line Dura-Ace 9000 series road group. Beyond refinements to the clean aesthetics, the big news is that Dura-Ace now goes to 11 speeds in the back:

Other updates include improved ergonomics on the STI shifters, dual-bolt brakes, and a lengthened lever arm on the front derailleur:

Another interesting change, from both a design and practicality standpoint, is the new 4-arm crankset, which allows for the use of compact or standard chainrings on the same spider:

Dura-Ace Di2 has also been tweaked, incorporating advances made with the Ultegra Di2 system that allow for a more compact and efficient design:

Shimano developments weren’t just for their high-end products, as the affordable SLX mountain bike drivetrain received an overhaul, including a brake upgrade to match the short-stroke Servo-Wave levers of pricier XT & XTR groups:

Keeping on the mountain bike front, there are also updates on the way for hydration packs. Camelbak has made changes to their 2013 packs with an improved NV ventilation system on their high volume packs, like the M.U.L.E. and H.A.W.G., while the brand new Volt packs feature a lumbar water reservoir that keeps the weight supported around your waist:

Osprey Packs also has updates on the way to their popular packs for 2013, with tweaks to their water bladders, shoulder straps and more, plus increased offerings in women’s specific designs:

We also ran into mountain bike legend Hans Rey in the hall at Interbike. Hans is marking his 25 years of riding GT bikes with his hardcover coffee table book, “A Life of Mountain Bike Adventures” – just in time for holiday gift season:

Eric’s Top 5 for Cyclocross

Eric, the product buyer for our components division, loves racing cyclocross. In fact, he plans his whole cycling year around the few short months of the cyclocross season. And since North Carolina is a hotbed of sorts for ‘cross on the East Coast, there’s rarely a weekend when he’s not donning the kit of our Garneau Custom team and pushing himself to the limit for an hour on the pavement, grass, sand, mud or whatever else the course has in store.

Eric’s definitely a guy who knows his cyclocross, so we asked him to give us his top 5 component picks for ‘cross season, and why he picked them.  Will your next ‘cross race still be one of the most painful hours you’ve ever spent on a bike if you get this gear? Of course! This is cyclocross after all – but you might as well look for every advantage you can get.

1. DV3k Tubular Wheelset – This wheelset is lightweight (sub 1400 grams), plus it has an advanced carbon layup, 46-mm rim depth to slice through the mud, and the smooth ride of a tubular (although you can also get the wheeelset in a clincher version).

2. Avid Shorty Ultimate Cantilever Brakes – They don’t call these brakes “ultimate” for nothing; they can be adjusted to have a wide or narrow stance, have ample mud clearance, and just plain look good (plus it doesn’t hurt that the world champ races with them on his bike).

3. GORE RideOn Sealed Low Friction Derailleur Cables – Cross can be muddy… like really muddy. With GORE’s sealed cable system, you don’t have to worry about that. It’s a no-brainer.

4. Challenge Grifo Tubular Cyclocross Tire – Cross racers are serious about their tires, from the tread patterns to the tire pressure to the history of the manufacturer. The Grifo is still made by hand, with a versatile tread design and the supple performance that only a high-end tubular can deliver (but a clincher version is also available).

5. Shimano CX70 Crankset – Part of Shimano‘s first foray into the world of purpose-built cyclocross components, this crankset excels with a 46/36T gearing combination mated to Shimano‘s reliable and efficient 2-piece design with smooth-shifting Hyperdrive chainrings.

Product Profile: New 2012 Fuji Bikes

We know it’s still 2011, but we couldn’t wait to talk about the new 2012 Fuji Bikes that are showing up online & in our stores. Fuji has a great lineup ready for the new year, and they’re building on the success of their first Grand Tour-winning bike! Juan Jose Cobo of Team Geox-TMC won the Vuelta in style aboard Fuji’s new flagship road bike, the Altamira. Cobo, the “Bison”, stormed into the lead atop the feared Angliru by riding away from the field in dominating fashion.

The new 2012 Fuji Altamira 3.0 Road Bike is built on the same DNA as the Cobo’s Vuelta winning ride, and we got to see this great looking bike in person here in the lobby of our Headquarters (one of the benefits of working here is getting to see cool bikes like this on the way to your next meeting).

While we can’t promise that you’ll ride like Cobo, the 2012 Fuji Altamira 3.0 is an ultralight road platform that has been tested and refined on the Pro Tour, so it won’t let you down if you’re powering up a climb, sprinting for the county line or railing the hairpins on a high-speed descent.

The shapely C4 carbon frame features a tapered head tube and oversized downtube to provide a stiff and stable platform that responds instantly to rider input.  Plus it just looks good – these pictures don’t do the very cool carbon finish justice.

In back, the slender seatstays provide for a resilient and comfortable ride built for long days in the saddle. Rounding out the package, the 2012 Fuji Altamira 3.0 is outfitted with a ready-to-race mix of Shimano 105 and color-matched Oval brand components.

At the core of the frame, the oversized downtube mates with a massive bottom bracket junction to provide maximum strength and stiffness for efficient power transfer. The 2012 Fuji Altamira 3.0 definitely lives up to its Grand Tour pedigree.

Of course we’ve got a few more new rides from Fuji to offer right now, including the 2012 Fuji Cross 3.0 Cyclocross Bike seen below,which features a flattened top tube for shouldering the bike more comfortably and securely, plus a lightweight alloy fork with plenty of clearance for even the most mud-slathered cross tires.

The 2012 Fuji Newest 1.0 Road Bike is built around a lightweight aluminum frame and carbon fork to provide both responsive handling and a comfortable ride, along with the flexibility of a 30-speed drivetrain, so you never run out of gearing in the hills.

The 2012 Fuji Roubaix 3.0 Road Bike is the latest iteration of the popular Roubaix line, a great combination of value and performance.  Its lightweight, custom-butted aluminum frame with bonded carbon fork delivers a supple, responsive ride, and the Shimano Sora drivetrain provides quick, precise gear changes.

The 2012 Fuji Absolute 2.0 is great for those looking for a more upright riding position than a drop handlebar road bike offers – it’s a great combination of the performance and handling you want on the road with the all-day comfort of a hybrid bike.

Finally, and definitely not least, we present the 2012 Fuji Altamira 2.0 Di2 Ultegra Road Bike.  Offering all of the features of the 2012 Fuji Altamira 3.0 above, the 2012 Fuji Altamira 2.0 features Shimano’s brand new Ultegra Di2 shifting system – the latest development in Shimano’s Di2 electronic drivetrain systems, Ultegra Di2 delivers fast and accurate shifts every time, yet is engineered to be highly durable and dependable.  We’ll definitely have more to say about this amazing bike soon!

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