SRAM 22, Part Deux.

More thoughts on Sram Red, 22, Hydraulic Disc Brakes (HRD).

Guitar Ted gave his (somewhat predictably) quasi-negative thoughts here.  I say “somewhat predictably” not as a criticism of GT–I don’t think he’s a retrogrouch.  But his views on SRAM drivetrains and Avid brakes have been made clear over a long period of time, and I did not expect the combination of those two technologies to act like a double-negative and suddenly win his endorsement.  GT indicates that he’s heard bad things about SRAM brifters, and hasn’t had good luck with Avid hydro brakes…but has had good luck with BB7s, and thus doesn’t see a particular benefit to upgrading.  Those seem like reasonable concerns.

SRAM also released some more press information on the setup, here.

I’ve seen a few sources bristle about the perceived aesthetic concerns of the brifters, focused predominantly focused on the proboscis at the top of the brifter.

Again, I can understand that concern.  Here are my thoughts:

  • I have spent the past couple years throwing everything possible at my Vaya, which is equipped with BB7s and Avid Rival (and now an X0 rear derailleur).  The brifters have been flawless.  Regular readers will know that it sees extensive gravel, light singletrack, mud, and tons of abuse.  The brifters have been flawless under about the worst conditions imaginable.  Yes, I do regular maintenance on the drivetrain, but I’ve never touched the brifters in any way.  They’ve been perfect.  I love them, and I love their shape.  The guts have never exploded, the brifters have never failed to work.  Not once.  Never.
  • I love my Rival so much that when NCC built the Madone, the only drivetrain choice for me was SRAM Red.  It has been flawless.  Perfect.  It does everything I want, and more.  It is light, it shifts like buttah, looks good, and is dead reliable.  Adjusting the front derailleur takes a little practice–it isn’t like a normal front derailleur (you have to get used to the Yaw), but once you do, it’s golden.
  • I happen to like SRAM drivetrains.  I had Shimano Ultegra on my Ridley, and it functioned well.  It did not, however, have the same mechanically satisfying feel of the SRAM Red.  I also have SRAM on the Mukluk (where it has seen every kind of abuse, mud, dunking, snow, salt, gravel, dust, etc. imaginable) and on the Superfish.  They have all functioned impeccably, and without fail.  When we built up the Superfish, I had a choice between SRAM and Shimano…and I went SRAM largely because of the great feel it had when I rode Spearfish in Arizona last year.  I had Shimano XT on my last mountain bike before the Superfish, and I liked the action of the SRAM better.
  • On the hydro brake side, I have Avid brakes on the Superfish, Mukluk and El Mariachi.  All have functioned impeccably.  I’ve never had a bleeding problem, a function problem or an adjustment issue.  I wish the SRAM brakes were a bit better designed to integrate with gripshift on the Superfish, but that’s a small complaint–from a function perspective, they’re perfect.
  • I have BB7s on the Vaya.  Let’s be clear–when they’re properly adjusted, they have way more braking ability than you’ll ever need on a gravel bike.  That isn’t the issue at all.  If you keep them clean and adjusted, they function great.  My frustration with BB7s is related to what they can’t do.  They cannot self-adjust.  They cannot retract both pads to have better rotor clearance if there’s a tiny little wobble in the rotor.  For me, that means I’m constantly chasing the adjustment, working on getting it just right. That’s partially because I’m A/R (ok, perhaps predominantly), and partially because of the inherent challenges of mechanical disc brakes.  I’ve been praying for a hydraulic, drop-bar friendly solution for 2 years.
  • I’ve looked at the TRP and other kludge systems.  Sure, they work, but they’re compromises.  Cable over hydraulic?  Blech.  Not an elegant solution.
  • So add it all together.  What if I could get the shift quality of SRAM Red, with hydraulic disc brakes and the great feel and reliability I’ve come to expect from SRAM?  That’s a perfect solution.  Perfect.
  • 22 speed is just a little icing on the top.  I don’t find myself needing higher or lower gears on the Vaya.  With a 50/34 crank and 11-32 cassette, if I don’t have a gear high or low enough, the Vaya isn’t gonna cut it.  I actually suspect that once the 22 is out, I’ll go to an 11-28 cassette, to bring the spread between gears down a bit, and give me some more useful cadence gears.  34/28 is plenty low for the climbing I see. I think.  I do think it makes perfect sense for SRAM to make their gearing such that they’re adding another gear mid-cassette…that’s where I’d like to see it for tuning cadence, as mentioned above.  So it makes sense to me as an upgrade.

In short, I’m a SRAM advocate and an Avid brake advocate, based upon my pretty extensive experience with both.  I view the new HRD as the answer to my prayers–bringing hydro brake functionality in a clean package to my Vaya.  I don’t find the look of the brifters objectionable, and I’m frankly impressed with how SRAM has integrated the brakes into the brifters without significant alteration in overall function.  I’m hoping and praying that these are available soon.

Shimano’s announcement is around the corner.  I expect Di2 hydros to be forthcoming.  While I liked the time I spent on Di2, and while I can see its applications, I’m still a little nervous about putting an electronic drivetrain on a bike that sees so much abuse.  Would a Di2 rear derailleur take kindly to being carried through a chest-deep creek, or ridden through BB-deep water?  I don’t know…but it scares me a bit.

I suspect that I’m the market share that SRAM is looking for with this product, and I’ll be the first to geek out and say it: I want to be a fanboy, because the product looks awesome.  I will be curious to see what they release for information on hubs…and I’m hopeful that my DT240s will be a cassette body away from 22 speed (though a bit worried that it will require new hubs.  We’ll see).

So my thoughts: I don’t have any aesthetic or durability concerns, and I don’t see any reason not to use this technology.  I suspect it will function better and more consistently than mechanical disc brakes.  The canti/disc debate I’ll leave for another day, but when I spec’d the Vaya, I knew disc was what I wanted (and I wouldn’t go back).

Based on the specs, I think this will be a hit right out of the ballpark, and I’m looking forward to SRAM Red, 22, HRD.  That shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, given that I’ve written about it now something like 15 times.

Sneak Peek Tuesday: Ultegra Di2 and Moonlander Schwag

I schwung by my favorite local bike schop today to schee schome new schwag.  What did they have?

Ultegra Di2 (Electronic Derailleurs):

This was the first time that I, a mere mortal, have had the opportunity to fondle see Di2 in person, on a nice Trek Madone that’s being built up at the shop.

Note…some negative comments follow.  Notwithstanding those negative comments, it’s super cool to see that my local bike shop is on the cutting edge with new technology.  If I hadn’t seen it in person, I wouldn’t have any basis to have an opinion.

From some angles, it looks relatively normal:

And from other angles, it looks decidedly not normal:

Those are both shots of the rear derailleur which, as you can see, is significantly larger than a ‘standard’ Ultegra derailleur (like I have on the Ridley).

The front derailleur is even beefier.

What was cool about it?  It’s like, electronic and stuff.  Seriously, though–the auto trim feature was very cool, as was the authority with which it shifted between gears–no hesitation, no delay, just complete precision.

What is to like and not like about it?  Well, for starters, the aesthetics of it do nothing for me.  In fact, I find it rather garish.  I also found the noise it made to be rather un-bike-like.  I haven’t seen Campy’s EPS system in person, but I find the aesthetics of it (in pictures) to be more pleasing, and I’ve heard good better things about the noise it makes.

What else looked kinda hinky?  Well, on this bike, the recommended battery mount location was below the bottom bracket:

It’s relatively hidden and out of the way, and it is ‘protected’ by the chainring.  But it looks weird, once you see it…and the connections are right in front, where they’ll get hammered by water should you ever find yourself in a rainstorm.  I don’t know…it might grow on me, but I didn’t like it thus far.  (Obviously, concealed in the frame/seatpost is the best option, followed by some unobtrusive bottle cage mounting, perhaps).

But the biggest concern I have about it is the placement of the shift levers:

The smooth part at the back (the normal shift tab on Shimano) shifts one way.  The bumpy-textured part closer to the brake lever shifts back the other way.  Another view:

There, you can more clearly see how the shift buttons are built into the brake lever.  From a very brief “grab it and shift” perspective, the buttons felt too close together.  I can see a lot of accidental shift activations.  Perhaps more importantly, for someone that rides in a location that has weather that drops below 50 degrees from time to time, it looks un-rideable with gloves.  There is no way that you could reasonably be expected to distinguish between the two buttons and engage just a single button to effect a shift with gloves on.  No way.  Plan on a lot of fumbling and some cursing in order to shift with gloves on.  That one issue, by itself, is a deal killer for me.  I’ll look on with interest at the Campy and SRAM options, and wait to see if Shimano comes out with something more reasonable…it would take a lot to convince me that this setup makes sense outside of extremely warm climates (unless you hang the bike up when it gets cold out).  Based on how it shifted on the stand, I do bet that it shifts like butter when you’re out riding.

And for a bike gear nerd like me, it was a moment of bliss to see it up close and in person.  On to item no. 2:

Moonlander Schwag:

North Central Cyclery was recently featured on Fatbike.com.  So it came as no surprise, really, to see one of Fatbike’s new Moonlander Patches that had been mailed out to NCC’s GM, Tobie.

But nonetheless, it was cool to see.

Ride on.

Favorite New Frostbike Products

Just a quickie, about a few of the products shown at Frostbike that I think look really interesting.

Salsa’s Full Suspension Fatbike:

Looks like a really sensible build.  (Did I just use sensible to describe a full suspension fatbike?  Wowzers).  I’d looooove to give it a test ride.  I think it really shows some forward thinking, and a willingness to try new ideas, and I’m curious to see where it leads.  My guess: Salsa’s 2013 product catalog will have a full suspension fatbike, with 82mm Rolling Darryls, 80mm rear suspension travel and 100mm front suspension travel, and the same basic suspension design shown above (shared with Spearfish and Horsethief).  Bike weight will be in the low 30s.

HED’s New Wheels:

Can’t find a pic of these at the moment, but HED was showing some new 700c wheels that don’t have a brake track on them; flat black finish.  Lighter weight than my Velocity A23s on the Vaytanium.  With the new growth in disc brakes, and with the coming full hydraulic road disc brake setups, it completely makes sense to start developing more rims that are trackless.  What am I looking for?  How about a lightweight, aluminum, trackless 700c UST wheel, so I can update the Vaya with something as durable as my Velocitys, but lighter and stealthier, and tube-less-er.

More Whisky Parts:

(Photo courtesy of North Central Cyclery)

I’m excited about some of the flat black carbon bits coming out of Whisky these days.  I think they’ll work smashingly good on Inigo Montoya, if he gets the green light.  It’s nice to have some American companies to select from (acknowledging overseas production).

Foundry’s Complete Builds

The build above is their Ratchet road ride, built up with the new SRAM Red group set and some spiffy Zipps.  I have to say…I’m a sucker for the flat black carbon aesthetic.  If I wasn’t head over heals about my Ridley, I’d be giving that a look.  I’m hopeful that Whisky’s product line expands enough that Foundry can use Whisky seat posts, stems and bars…that would be most excellent.

I’m also quite interested in their Auger, full carbon, disc friendly cross/gravel bike.  I’m really curious to see how they tuned the frame’s ride quality, and if it is as compliant as I’d like for gravel bomber runs.

Note the Whisky, disc-friendly, carbon fork.

45NRTH’s Studded Husker Du

(Photo from Fatbike.com)

Factory studded fatbike tires are a very, very positive trend.  I’m curious to see some more pictures of the tread to see how the studs are placed…and I’d really like to see a higher volume studded fatbike tire (that doesn’t require DIY).  But this is obviously a step in the right direction.  Now if they’d only do a BFHD.

Hydraulic Disc Brakes for Road (Update!)

Thanks to Hand of Midas for the working link to a pic.

Interesting shape to the grip…looks pretty long.  I’ll be curious to see whether the master cylinder is fixed into place (and actuated by a moving brake lever) or is floating.  I’ll also be curious to see how the linkage between the brake lever and master cylinder works.  Combining road tires and their compact contact patch with hydraulic disc brakes may create a good reason to have a design where the angle between the master cylinder and brake lever changes as the brakes go through their actuation.

I’m not certain what metric bike designers use for this issue, but let’s talk about braking force generated per millimeter of lever travel.  It might make sense to have road bike brake levers where the force generated decreases slightly as the lever moves through its travel.  You wouldn’t want it to decrease so much as to feel spongy, or to sap your confidence in the brakes…but if there was a small, linear change in the force generated, it might give better brake modulation, to manage the increase that’s coming in overall stopping power generated.

Road Bike Disc Brake Madness!

I don’t want to claim to have an inside track on the industry or anything…but my recent post about disc brakes (and hydro disc brakes) for drop bar bikes was prescient.  [Sarcasm] I mean really, I think I’m the only blogger talking about disc brakes for road bikes.  [/Sarcasm].

The interwebz are full of information today about SRAM’s new hydro disc brake road levers.  Velonews is covering the story, and for that matter, Bike Rumor is covering the story.  I’m pretty sure that Velonews and Bike Rumor are pressing this issue heavily based on the stir caused by my post.  (I omitted the sarcasm markings there, but rest assured…they’re implied).

Point being…Disc Brakes.  Drop Bars.  Get used to it.

In other disc brake/road bike news…just saw some great pics of one of the first new Volagis to hit the stores…thought they were: 1) interesting; and, 2) relevant, in light of last week’s disc brake epiphany.

Full Story Here, courtesy of PlatyPius on RBR.

Pics from that thread:

Shipping box:

Well packaged bicycle:

Unwrapped:

Nice detail:

Complete bike:

Matte finish and wheels are purty.  Disc brakes are soooo intriguing.