Ever since SRAM came out with the XX1 group, we’ve been wondering if companies would create a similar front ring, but one that worked with normal cranks rather than the 76mm BCD of the XX1 crank. Wolf Tooth Components made that a reality with their line of Drop-Stop Chainrings. Their chainrings come in all kinds of tooth counts and standard 104mm BCD, Shimano 88mm BCD, SRAM direct mount, and finally Middleburn direct mounts. This opens up some great options for riders to drop their chain guides, provided they have a clutch type rear derailleur.
We picked the 34 tooth 104mm BCD ring to test out, as it will be a perfect fit for the SRAM Stylo SS crank currently residing on our Salsa El Mariachi. In the past, we had to use a C-Guide chain keeper to keep the chain contained on the 1×10 setup, but with this Wolf Tooth Components chainring, we are looking forward to dropping the chain guide and cleaning up the look of the bike at the same time.
Closeup. Check out the alternating wide/narrow teeth which prevent the chain from dropping off the ring.
Along with the 1×10 setup on the El Mariachi, we will be testing the chainring on the 1×11 setup on the Trek Remedy as well. This will let us test the chainring in a variety of conditions, as the El Mar is the smooth trail, around town ramble, bike, while the Remedy will see some rough terrain and All Mountain style riding.
We finally got our XX1 drivetrain in here at Bike198. I’ve been dying to try it out after hearing all the ravings about it, missing a couple of the recent bike Expos, and not being able to ride it until now. Also came right on time, as one of bigger races of the year, the 6 hours of Warrior Creek is this weekend. As soon as the kit got here, I pulled the XX 2×10 drivetrain off the Trek Superfly 100 and threw on the brand new, shiny, and lighter XX1. I didn’t weigh all the components before the install as there are plenty of places online that have detailed exact weights down to the gram.
Ever since I tried 1×10 on my Trek Remedy, I knew that XX1 was going to be the perfect drivetrain for me. The 1×10 was missing “just that little bit” of gearing and needed a chain guide to prevent drops, and the XX1 fixes both of those problems with seemingly no compromises. With a 32T front ring, 32×10 on the fast end and 32×42 on the granny side gives me pretty much the same gearing as my old 2×10 setup. The only thing I really give up is the 39×11 fastest gear and I’ve never used that during any races. If I’m ever going that fast down something I can go a bit faster by stopping pedaling and tucking. One of the great things about XX1 as well is the interchangeable front ring. If we are going somewhere super hilly I can put a 30T on the front and have a nice granny gear, but if I’m going to be riding a lot on Florida, I can throw the 34T or even 36T on the front and go fast.
XX1 shifter came with all the housing and ferrules necessary for install
The drivetrain came with absolutely everything needed to install including the cable housing, ferrules, and even had grease applied at all the right spots. Made for a very easy install. I went ahead and pulled off my old cable housings and used them as a guide to cut the brand new ones. Swapping out the freehub on my NoTubes Crest wheelset was also simple. The old freehub popped right off and on with the new one. Easy peasy. The setup of the rear derailleur was a touch different than the 10 speed stuff as the B screw adjuster distances are a little bigger, but the SRAM manual is pretty clear about it, and the install was straightforward. What surprised me was how effective the front ring really is at holding the chain on. If you get pull up on the chain while it’s directly over one of the “grabber” teeth, it’s hard to pull the chain of the ring by hand. No wonder this drivetrain doesn’t need to come with a chain retention device.
XX1 crank and interchangeable front ring
I got to take the drivetrain for it’s first shakedown on our local trail system at Blankets creek in Woodstock, GA. The trails are a mix of fun intermediate easy riding, with a nice technical rocky trail, along with some fast and swoopy bermed sections. The drivetrain passed with absolute flying colors. The whole system sort of makes itself “invisible” on the bike. It’s a bit hard to describe, but it’s quiet, smooth, and just like the 1×10, just frees your mind from having to worry about front shifting. That in itself lets me enjoy the ride so much more. Just a couple of clicks with the my right thumb and I’m either flying or climbing with a high cadence.
Now that I’m truly in love with the drivetrain, I’ll be testing it further this weekend during the 6 hours of Warrior Creek. It’s looking to a beautiful weekend and the bike and myself will get a pretty good workout. It’s also crunch time for Cohutta 100 training and I’ll be getting a lot of seat time over the next 3 weeks in preparation, so the drivetrain is going to get put through it’s paces very quickly. I’ll report back on how it handled the races and how it’s doing with all the trail riding. After this first bit of racing, the drivetrain will move over to my Remedy to see how it handles Pisgah. Can’t wait!
XX1 rear derailleur and cassette. The giant 42T ring looks right at home on a 29er.
Picking tires for xc racers and dh rigs is easy. Find the lightest or biggest tires for your ride and taylor them to the conditions you are riding in at the time. Other than that…ride it like you stole it. For recreational riders on trail bikes in the 130mm – 150mm travel range, life is not as easy. You want the grip of the heavy set from the DH rigs but you also want the low rolling resistance of the XC weight weenie tires.
So what are you supposed to run that will give you the best of both worlds?
The answer is a little bit easier than you would think, but you need to take into consideration what is actually happening with your bike while on the trail to make an informed decision that works.
How your bike works on the trail
When you ride a trail bike, you take it everywhere. From long climbs to long descents and pedaling rollers, the modern day trail bike is touted as the do-it-all option for riders looking to get out on the weekends. It has cemented itself as a great one bike option or the bike you grab when you just want to have a day of fun on the trail. Whether it is a 120mm travel 29er or a 150mm travel AM monster, the bike is not meant to be on the podium of an XC race or do big drops…it just works really well in almost all conditions.
When you ride your trail bike, there are certain fundamental things that are happening that allow it to do everything. The geometry is relaxed enough to give you stability on the downhills, but the bike is also efficient and light enough to sustain all day climbing. So how to we optimize both characteristics with your tire choice as it can be the #1 part that speeds you up or slows you down?
The Front Tire On A Trail Bike
The front tire on your trail bike is your main source of grip and braking. When you go blasting into a turn or have to brake hard for obstacles, the front tire is what keeps your bike upright and brings you to a stop. The front tire is also the source of most “oh shit” saves in conjunction with the front suspension fork, so increased volume is always a goal as that increases the bikes ability to pull you out of hairy situations. The front tire’s cornering grip is also essential in preventing front end washouts that leave you performing a huge yard sale on the trail.
On the flip side of that equation, the front tire has very little to do with climbing other than weight on your bike. For this purpose, when we think of front tire choices, we think of the DH side of the equation.
How much grip and volume can we get on the front without attaching an overweight boat anchor to the front end of our bikes?
Luckily, the tire industry has caught up with the latest trends in biking and has released large volume, grip filled, lighter weight tires that are perfect for this application. These tires (while heavier than their narrower counterparts) provide the balance between volume, grip and weight that we really look for in a front tire for a trail bike. With widths typically in the 2.3 to 2.4 range, these tires will transform your bike into a DH monster without carrying around a DH tire.
The rear tire of your trail bike is what puts the power to the ground. The chainline is direct attached to the rear wheel that drives your bike forward, so the more tread and weight you have…the harder you are going to have to work to propel the bike in the forward direction.
Under braking, the rear tire is typically used as a momentum scrubber that often times locks up and skids. This makes some tread a good thing, but going overboard with a grippier tire does not pay the dividends like on the front. Also, your “oh shit” moments are greater aided by the stiffness and rear weight bias on the rear suspension. While the increased volume on the front saves you weight weight shifts forward, the rear is more stable and capable of handling big hits with ease.
When you take these into consideration, the rear tire lends itself towards a lighter, narrower and faster rolling setup to optimize efficiency. Depending on trail conditions, you might even want a really light, mid volume tire with a really low tread pattern (think hardpack trail conditions) so you really maximize the amount of power that is coming from your legs that reaches the ground. If the trail is rockier and more technical, look for a tire with increased sidewall protection to prevent flats. If you followed the same setup as your front tire, that efficiency could be lost. Tires for the rear typically range from 2.1 to 2.25 (2.35 sometimes depending on manufacturer) widths.
So what have we done here? We analyzed exactly how each end of the bike functions and optimized the tire selection to match that purpose. By doing this, we are able to increase efficiency while not losing the overall grip we are ultimately wanting out of a trail bike. Overall weight was also kept at a minimum without much sacrifice.
There are too many times we have seen 150mm trail bike setups with very small tires up front on big forks in an attempt to save weight when…in reality…the savings are trumped by the lack of grip. With the latest tire designs and technology, we are now able to bring that grip back without the weight issues due to how the front tire actually interacts with the bike and effects your ride.
The Pacenti TL28 26er mountain bike rims have been built up, mounted and thrashed around north Georgia. It is time to weigh in and let you guys know what we thought about the new rims released by Kirk Pacenti at Bikelugs.com.
First, these rims caught our eye almost instantly due to their light weight and wide width. As seen in our first look post from awhile back, these 26 inch wheel rims weighed in at 360g (vs. 470g of the Flow) on the scale while being 28mm wide. The inner width is actually .4mm wider than the Notubes.com Stans Flow rim at a weight that rivals the Crest (an xc race rim at 340g to 370g) in their same lineup. Having been a long time fan of the Flow, this was a rim that we had to try out.
For the build, we enlisted one of the best wheel builders in the business, Chad DeValls at Red Barn Bicycles. Every single set of wheels I have ever received from Chad has been rock solid and he is known for being one of the best on MTBR.com and around the MTB community. When I asked Chad how the Pacenti wheels built up, this is what he had to say…
As far as the wheel build goes i’d say the rims built as smooth and as good as it gets. They were round and true from the get go which as you know allows for a solid build with little spoke correction for trueness. But a couple other things i liked was the seamless weld at the rim joint. Looked like it was probably done via laser weld. Very clean. I also liked the finish of the rim and the decals/graphics were sweet too.
The dimensions look to be spot on for folks in the AM catagory and an ideal rim choice for folks who like wide tires but who also keep their wheels on the ground. I like the reinforced eyelets. I like the width. I’d like to see how they hold up because i’m guessing will end up mostly on 5-6 inch travel suspension bikes. 360grams….wow, that’s light and if anything i’d be interested in seeing how a set works for myself or under a pal that i know. Would give me a very good idea of their capabilities. I will be bringing in a set for testing very soon. Nice work on the rim project!
To get a grasp on how the wheels would perform in multiple conditions, I had Roger (our resident test freak) take them out on his Titus Motolite. When he was done, I bolted them up to the Turner 5.Spot to see how they handled the super stiff and capable frame from Turner Bikes. The silver spoke combination laced to red Hadley hubs (which we also love as you can see from this review) really looked great on the dark setup of the 5.Spot.
I asked Roger to send over some thoughts as a veteran racer and flowy singletrack enthusiast and this is what he had to say about the new Pacenti TL28 rims.
Robb sent these wheels over to try out on the most handling challenged bike I own. My Titus Motolite is a great bike, but does not carve corners very well. This would be a real test for the new wheels.
The first ride was eye opening. The stiff, wide, wheels transformed the bike from just ok handling to excellent. The bike now leaned over and carved turns. Almost like magic, it will make tight switchbacks and precisely hold a line. The rear wheel with its through axle made the rear of the bike almost flex free. Chad at Red Barn did an outstanding job on the build which added to the stiffness. The wheels have stayed perfectly true over the course of 15 hours ride time. I think I may have found my new favorite rim.
Those were strong words from a rider to is very critical about frames and components. Once I got them back from Roger, I stripped them down to take a look at how the build was doing and do a weigh in comparison with the Flow set I had on the bike previously. Hadley Racing did change the design of their hubs slightly, but the weight was pretty close to previous. Here are my weight comparisons between the Flow and Pacenti set laced up to Hadley hubs with the same spokes.
Flow Front Wheel Weight: 880g
Pacenti Front Wheel Weight: 790g
Flow Rear Wheel Weight: 1050g
Pacenti Rear Wheel Weight: 930g
As you can see by these specs, I gained .4mm of width and lost about 210g total on the wheelset. As Roger mentioned above, the tires mounted up without any real issues and aired up fine. For the review, I used the Big Betty 2.4 from Schwalbe up front and a 2.35 Specialized Eskar on the rear. The increased width of the rim wasn’t really noticeable against the Flows just by looks, but the weight could be felt in the build almost instantly on the bike.
If you run narrower tires than I had mounted up, you will really notice the increased flat section tread profile with the increased rim width over your current set. Wider rims do a lot to increase grip on the trail by providing you with the best possible scenario for tread contact.
Out on the trail, the Pacenti rims build up by Chad at Red Barn Bicycles performed flawlessly. The wide contact patch due to the rim width provided a ton of grip on the trail and allowed for lower tire pressures. It also gave the bike more traction on technical climbing and more grip in the turns where the tire’s contact patch with the trail is extremely important. The decreased rolling weight was also instantly felt on climbs as the bike seemed to take less effort to get rolling. On flat sections where pedaling is necessary, this same sensation brought the bike up to speed quicker with less energy expended. Basically, everything you would expect from losing weight and gaining width on a mountain bike rim.
The build kept completely solid without any need for truing or adjusting spoke tension. While this speaks very highly of Chad’s build, it also proves that the TL28 rims can hold the build well. The 5.Spot loved the decreased rolling weight (the most noticeable weight loss on a bike) without having to sacrifice rim width to get there.
Through rock gardens and technical trail, the rims took hits in stride. There are several areas around the wheel that are showing silver nicks that would dent a DT Swiss rim so the structural integrity and metal composition is good. The metal is not so hard that it is brittle but not so soft that everything that hits it dents in. DT Swiss had some serious issues with soft metal on the 5.1 and 6.1 in the past with that.
However – keep in mind – while these are wide rims that can make 2.4 tires incredibly happy, Kirk had told us up front that they are not meant for hucking. The ideal riding for the new TL28 rims is trail riding with small to medium jumps with transitions. That makes them perfect for bikes in the 120mm to 150mm travel range if you are not planning on doing drops to flat. While I didn’t run into any issues beating these up (hard at times), just keep that in mind if your riding style lends itself to hard landings. If I had anything bad to say about these rims, it would be that the width might throw some riders off by giving them the illusion that they can handle hard drops to flat.
Honestly – for my purposes – I didn’t thing I would find a better rim than the Flow. After spending some time on the TL28, I can tell you that these wheels will not be coming off my bike anytime soon. The decreased rolling weight combined with a nice, wide rim that holds a wheel build makes for the perfect trail bike setup. We used to have to sacrifice rim width for light weight. Thanks to Kirk Pacenti, it appears that is no longer true. It will be interesting to see how the market reacts to this new rim that is also available in 650b and 29er varieties.
How do you get your hands on a set?
You can buy the rims directly off of BikeLugs.com for 85.00 per rim. Personally, I would recommend calling Chad at Red Barn to build you up a set on your favorite hubs. He has rock star pricing for a build that is insanely good. I hate to sound like a cheerleader…but I have been dealing with him for years and all of his builds have been incredible. If you haven’t tried out the Hadley hubs yet, I would go that route as well. 72 point engagement (same as Kings) with an incredible build quality.
Gripshift lovers can rejoice! The once loved shifting method is now back in 10 speed for X0 and XX groups. Arguably the single component that launched SRAM shifting in the late 80′s, the Gripshift had a cult following in the biking industry due to its cheap price, predictable performance and the ability to manually trim the front derailleur.
This current version was actually fitted to Jaroslav Kulhavy’s Specialized S-Works Epic when he won the 2011 UCI Cross-Country World Championships, so the racing heritage that was started in 1990 when Greg Herbold used it to win the first-ever Downhill World Championship is back.
Gripshift is a love/hate thing with most mountain bikers. When SRAM introduced their 1:1 shifting ratio trigger shifters, the Gripshift started to lose some of the limelight in the SRAM camp. As shifting progressed into 10 speed, many of the Gripshift loyalists were wondering if there was ever going to be a 10 speed variant.
The wait is over and the end product looks promising. With a lower overall profile, riders can now safely run many of the remote posts and forks that used to be problematic with the previous version. From what we hear, the action on these new Gripshifts are also smoother and more effortless.
These new Gripshifts will be available for purchase in April 2012. Will you be jumping back on the Gripshift boat?
Over the past year or two, manufacturers of headsets have been looking for a way to adjust the head tube angle of your mountain bike by adjusting how your steerer tube interacts with the head tube of your bike. From the Cane Creek Angleset to this product from Saar at HAS, mountain bikers now have the ability to slacken out their mountain bikes by a simple switch of a simple component part.
The Story Behind HAS
The story of the HAS headset was actually bred on the MTBR.com Turner forums. Saar (the man behind the scenes) was looking for a way to slacken out his 2010 Turner 5.Spot by a about 1.5 degrees. Unsatisfied with anything currently out in the market, he embarked on taking the project on himself by developing his own headset.
This angled head set was born out of necessity to modify my 2010 5 Spot geometry to achieve a slacker HA, believing this would improve my bike’s handling on descents. The reaction of the MTBR folks drove me to check whether this product could be commercially available. Most of the information about the developments after that is available on that thread on the Turner forum. Works Components picked up the glove and made headsets for 1-1/8″ steering tubes available at reasonable pricing compared to what I can offer as they got their own CNC shop while I am only a designer. I have gone back to designing custom HAS for tapered steering tubes and integrated headtubes which are not available by anyone else. I tend to keep the 1.5deg for 34mm HT going on for a while as there is still a demand for those and they are not available by anyone else either.
Saar is a rider and engineer, the combination yielded a few product over the last 10 years, most for “self consumption” but he was the first one to design and produce an EC34 head angle set.
Saar currently makes specialty designed cups that Works Components does not offer:
Cups for 34mm HT with 1.5 degree change.
Cups for tapered forks.
Cups for Integrated headsets.
What I find so cool about this story is that it was bred out of one riders idea and then produced. The concept and feedback was all from the mountain biking community which is how this sport was bred to begin with. Once I took a serious look at the thread and cups, I knew we had to check one of the parts out.
Review: HAS Headset Cups
Saar sent over one of his headset cup sets for review on Bike198. However, due to the large headtube size of the large ’09 Turner 5.Spot in house (5.3″ tall), the head angle is only adjusted out an additional degree. For those of you with shorter head tubes on your bikes (basically everyone), you will be able to get a full 1.5 degrees of additional slackening of your head tube (3.5″ to 5″ HT’s).
As you can see by the picture above, the headset cups are extremely well manufactured with an even, black ano finish. To achieve your degree change, the steerer tube is offset in the cups. The areas where the bearings set are then angled to insure the load is evenly applied to the bearings while riding. After one look at the cups, you begin to wonder why this wasn’t done sooner. It is a simple design that works…just what we needed.
Before I installed the cups on my 5.Spot, the iPhone was measuring my HT angle at the fork at 68.5 degrees (w/the RockShox Revelation not the Lyrik pictured). Installation is performed as any other cups would be pressed, but you do have to line up the two dash marks on the center of the HT to insure the cups are straight as you can see in the pictures below. The cups are also designed to take Cane Creek bearings (luckily I was already running the CC100 previously), so parts are easily accessible. After installation, it measured out to 67.6 degrees (also with the Revelation). When you account for a tolerance of the floor and tires, that puts these cups at an even 1 degree change over stock.
On the Trail with the HAS Headset
When you hit the trail for the first time, the change is noticeable almost immediately. The bike itself doesn’t look any different, but the stability in technical situations is felt and the entire front end just seems to track better. In steep, fast DH, the bike rails and corners better than previously while not losing barely any control on the climbs.
Why does this happen?
Previously, about the only way to increase the HT angle on your bike before a headset like this one was to put on a longer travel fork. While this achieved the ultimate goal of slackening out the bike, there was one major drawback…increased bottom bracket height. This raised your center of gravity on the bike and made the bike handle worse in the turns and feel more on top of the trail instead of in it. With the HAS headset, you are able to bring out the HT angle of the bike while also slightly lowering the BB height. Unlike the longer fork where you are increasing the height of the front end with a longer axle to crown measurement, you are now just bring the front end farther out from the bike in relation to the frame which slightly lowers that BB measurement. This makes the bike not only more stable from the slacker HT angle but also more stable in the turns.
As with any modification, you are going to get some of the characteristics associated with the slacker change like a front end that wants to wander a little bit more than before on climbs. However, at just a degree change vs. the 1.5…I barely noticed any change in that at all. With the Revelation installed, the bike descended like my 160mm travel Lyrik was on without the adverse side effects that come with the higher BB height. It was the perfect balance.
Now…this is not going to be for everyone and results can vary depending on how your frame handles currently. However, if you are looking for more descending stability and better handling from your bike in turns and technical situations without buying a bigger fork or new frame…this may be your ticket. It will be staying on our 5.Spot permanently as I am incredibly happy with how it transformed the handling of the bike. An additional .5 degrees allowed by shorter HT’s would be even better with what we have seen so far.
With a quality set that does exactly what we have been looking for, this HAS headset comes highly recommended from the crew at Bike198. For more information, get in touch with Saar at HAS through this link –> Head Angle Set
Last night, the FedEx guy dropped by to deliver the Pacenti TL28 build that we previewed a couple of weeks ago.
Chad at Red Barn Bicycles put together this build on a set of red Hadley’s and they came out INCREDIBLY well. Chad is known throughout the industry for building bulletproof wheels for a great price. He has actually built over 4 sets of wheels for me personally to date.
At a total set weight of 1,710 grams, this Hadley/Pacenti combo is actually really light for the build (10mm TA rear on 20mm TA front axle configuration). The Hadley hubs (reviewed on Bike198 here) feature 72 point engagement and rock solid construction, so they are not weight weenie hubs by any stretch. However, they are an incredible set of hubs that last a lifetime. We also noticed upon receipt that the ONLY negative thing we had to say about the Hadley hubs at the time of review has been updated and fixed! The 20mm TA front axle is no longer two end caps that like to fall off. It is a screw together, two piece axle exactly like the 15mm version now. That just moved these hubs to the top of our recommended list.
I know what you are thinking…more rims? What makes these different than everything else that is already on the market?
Well…outside of being available in 26, 650b and 29er sizes, the new TL28 series of rims extends the wider and lighter trend to the next level. As you can see by the scale, these Pacenti TL28 26er rims weigh in at 360g (Feedback Alpine Scale) while having an inside width of 28mm and are tubeless friendly. What does this mean in comparison to the competition? If you are familiar with the NoTubes.com Stans rims (some of our favorites here at Bike198), that means you get a rim that is as light as the Crest (370g vs. 360g) and wider than the much heavier Flow (23mm vs. 22.6mm).
In talking with Kirk before these rims were sent in for review, the TL28 rims are designed to be trail ready rims that are not meant for drops and hucks. Basically, if you are the kind of rider that looks for a wide contact patch on your 5.5″ rear travel mountain bike or under but you are also concerned about weight, this might be the perfect rim for you as long as your primary riding keeps away from stunts.
This set of rims are on their way to Chad at Red Barn Bicycles to get built up and ready for review. We will keep you guys updated as this process gets up and going. Kirk is going to have these rims available for purchase starting in November 2011.
The image below shows an side width of 29/32″ which equals 23mm.
The TL28 is our new, tubeless friendly, high-performance MTB rim. At 28mm wide and just 360g for the 26″ version, the TL28 is AM wide and XC light. Designed to do it all, the TL28 strikes an excellent balance between a wide cross section and light weight for modern trail bikes.
Kirk Pacenti is an interesting guy with unique ideas for the mountain biking community and cycling in general. Kirk and I have not always seen eye to eye on some concepts (see 650B article here) as his support for 650B is widely known while mine is lukewarm at best given current market offerings. However, new innovations and outside of the box thinking is much needed in an industry that has been seeing only one way for a long time, so when Kirk emailed me his latest idea…I had to take a look.
Kirk’s new design revolves around freehub body and how that interacts with the cassette. How many times have you tried to take off your cassette only to be hassled with resistance from gouge marks in the splines? What if there was a design that could not only get ride of those splines, but allow for lighter cassettes at the same time?
Kirk’s new polygon shaped freehub cassette body looks to solve this age old problem in the biking industry.
From Kirk Pacenti
I want to make clear that it doesn’t have to be my design. The real point is to get the industry talking and working together on a standard.
I look at it this way; 10/11 speed systems are “line in the sand” of sorts. Now that we’ve crossed it, we may as well optimize the system for that many cogs rather than stuffing them into an obsolete 7/8/9 speed standard.
Splines also have to go, as they were designed when cassette bodies were all made from steel. With a polygon shape you could conceivably make much lighter cassette bodies, possibly even made from composite materials.
On the surface, this looks like an incredible idea. Conceivably, this could go into action on higher end mountain bikes and mountain bike components in the foreseeable future with open arms from any rider looking for lighter parts and easier installation/service.
There is one huge hurdle to cross before any big name bike manufacturer would take this on…
Whether we like to think about it or not as enthusiasts in the bike industry, the cheaper bikes are sold in much higher quantity than our $1,000 and up rigs. To get a new standard like this through that would effect all bikes and components in the industry, you have to get it through the cheaper line ups as well. While we have seen some changes in “standards” as of late, the 15mm TA, tapered steerer tube or 142mm rear axle standards only effect higher end bike line ups. This design is a forward thinking process that would make sweeping changes in the industry.
Could it be introduced in the higher lineups first and then brought down through the ranks? Possibly…but that would also require an investment on the bike manufacturers end to bring it to market (and something they might not be able to charge a premium for).
So what do I think about the new design from Kirk?
I really like the idea. From an mechanical design standpoint, it makes sense…stronger fit with less ability to cause maintenance issues down the road. It also solves a common headache at the same time. Whether or not the industry takes this one on will be another story that we should see played out over time. While I do like how me made this design “open source”…if it was me…I would have patented it and sold the licenses…
For 2010, SRAM completely redesigned their entire component group line to the new 10 speed standard in mountain biking. With available options in 3×10 and 2×10 with a wide range of gearing and color choices, the new X9 component group looks to capture the enthusiast market right below the exclusive X0 and racer inspired XX groupos.
Performance Trail Technology No matter what you throw at it, SRAM X9 keeps coming back for more. The all new X9 family puts the SRAM 2X10 unrivaled shift speed and smoothness within easy reach of racers and experienced enthusiasts alike. Add Avid Elixir CR brakes with TaperBore™ Technology and you have performance trail technology you can trust to smoothly and quickly get you there and back again, no matter where “there” may be.
SRAM X.9 is designed with the mountain biking enthusiast in mind. While the weight conscious will hit XX and the blinged out rigs will see X0, X9 strives to bring top of the line performance at a cost that is more affordable for the general mountain biking public by giving up a couple of features and adding a little bit of weight. Let’s take a look at how the X9 groupo from SRAM performed over the past couple of months while bolted up to our Turner 5.Spot test rig.
Review: SRAM X9 10 Speed Component Group
SRAM took a huge step forward this year by trying to unify their component group offerings. At the time of this review, SRAM had not released their new Elixir 9 brakes yet, so you will see color matched Avid Elixir CR’s in this lineup. However, with the introduction of the new brakes, SRAM now has a complete, branded line that can go head to head with Shimano. Outside of the new gearing, this is the biggest advancement from a marketing and usage standpoint that SRAM has taken since its introduction.
As mentioned before, you can get this new X9 groupo in a variety of color (red, white, silver) and gearing combinations (2×10, 3×10) to fit your needs. For the purposes of this review, we picked the 2×10 setup (28/42 Crank w/12-36 cassette) in dark gray to match the test bike.
SRAM/Truvativ X9 Crankset
For the first time this year, the Truvativ cranksets get the X9 branding treatment to match the rest of the lineup. This ano black with colored accents crankset is constructed out of 7075 aluminum that equates to a relatively light crank that is strong enough for some serious abuse.
During the review process, we were running the harder of the 2x gear ratios with the 28-42 setup. While the bigger 42 was great on long descents and forest service roads, the 26-39 setup would have been a lot better for big mountain riding. As a general recommendation for most mountain bikers, we recommend getting the 26-39 over the larger 28-42 unless you are on a light hardtail. For heavier, longer travel bikes that still have to climb, the smaller 26T was missed even with the 36T rear.
Throughout the review process, the X9 crankset performed flawlessly. There was plenty of stiffness through rough terrain and drops while also providing a finish that was durable to rock hits and crashes. Even the typical shoe rub on the crank arms was hidden with the rough ano finish as you can see in the picture. The bottom bracket and installation was very straight forward with a simple bottom out bolt design and this never came loose while riding. There was also no creaking as the installation process provided proper pre-load on the bearings. While I still prefer the Shimano method for crank installation, this SRAM bottom out bolt has been the best version of this design to date.
Overall, the X9 cranks did exactly what you want them to on the trail…disappear. With zero creaking and quick, clean shifts and minimal to zero flex, you can focus on riding and putting power to dirt. The new black ano finish is also a welcomed change that is durable and looks like new for a long time.
SRAM X9 Shifting and Derailleurs
Component groups all come down to shifting. If you don’t get this crucial function right, the rest of the looks, weight and design do not matter. SRAM has been known throughout the years to provide bulletproof 1:1 actuation ratio shifting, and the new 10 speed X9 groupo keeps that same trend.
The rear derailleur is available in short, medium (tested) and long cages to match a variety of needs. In most 2x setups, you will end up with the crisper shifting medium cage since you do not have a 40+ tooth big ring. The derailleur shares the same overall design with its 9 speed counterpart with the addition of a carbon outer cage. Throughout the testing period, the X9 derailleur performed at a level that we are used to for the X9 groupo. Shifts were quick and painless, overall setup was easy via the external adjustment bolts and the derailleur stayed in adjustment even under some larger encounters with rocks and the ground (one of our favorite features of 1:1 shifting).
When mated with the 12-36T 10 speed cassette, shifts were quick and efficient while also providing a really wide range of gear choices. However, having the 36T in the rear did require some mindset adjustment as the spacing between gears is larger, but once you get used to the change…you can set right in.
The X9 shifters are a pretty simple setup. The all black with X9 logo on the paddle is pleasing enough to the eye and matches the rest of the group. They aren’t going be as flashy as the X0′s or new XTR’s, but they get the job done. With the X9′s you lose the ability to adjust the front paddle shifter angle, but the stock location is probably perfect for 95% of riders anyway.
On the rear shifter, you get the ability to move up the cassette 5 gears at a time and 1 at a time down via SRAM’s push/push method. We actually prefer the push/push over the conventional trigger, but it would be nice to see a dual stage run down the cassette (1 or 2 gears at once) like Shimano has done on their lineup. Shifting was crisp but noticeably stiffer than with the X0 or XX setup. At first we thought it was the housing, but even after we replaced that…it was still a little on the stiff side. For future generations, we would like to see that same light shifting action brought to the X9 shifting platform.
The X9 front derailleur is incredible from a setup standpoint. All of the installation and adjustment bolts are front and center on the derailleur to make everything easy to get to from the drive side of the bike. This design is incredible and it makes the headache of front derailleur adjustment and installation a lot easier than before. Given this new design, we did run into a small issue with the Turner 5.Spot review bike. As you can see by the picture, we couldn’t quite get the front derailleur as low as it needed to be which caused the chain to be able to jump over the big ring. For 99.9% of bikes on the market, this will not be an issue but due to our frame design…it was.
Shifts were quick and painless after setup and the front derailleur performed just as it should.
Avid Elixir CR Brakes
The SRAM X9 group now comes with the new branded Elixir 9 brakes, so these are dated as you read this. In the beginning of the new X9 groupo, SRAM packaged color matched versions of their Elixir CR to mate up with the component group until the Elixir 9 branded and redesigned versions were ready.
We have tested/reviewed the CR’s in the past (Full Avid Elixir CR Review) and these brakes performed incredibly well just like our last set. While we have heard reports of noisy braking and other issues, we have not gotten any of that with either of our test sets. The modulation was incredible as you get a nice linear braking force throughout the stroke (it doesn’t have an on/off switch feel) that allows you to feather and control the bikes speed. We also found that braking was quiet and with the 185mm rotors, there wasn’t any fade across long downhill runs.
Installation and adjustment of the calipers is just as easy as any other set of post mount brake setups. Avid’s do have their concave washers that adjust to differences in frames and forks a little bit easier as they are able to pivot while also moving side to side. Line shortening and bleeding is also an easy task with their bleed kit via the two plungers.
In the end, the Avid Elixir CR’s provided powerful, well modulated braking that was quiet throughout the day.
Overall: SRAM X9 10 Speed Component Group
SRAM put together a winner with the X9 component group. For most riders, this will be perfect for a variety of mountain bike setups and unless you are super weight conscious or just want to spend the money…I do not see any real persuasive reason to jump to X0 or XX. The durability and cost structure of the X9 group far outweighs the weight difference and bling factor. While we would like to see a little lighter shifting action on the front paddle of the shifters, that is about the only negative feedback we can provide. The 1:1 actuation ratio that SRAM has designed their shifting around beats out Shimano with the ability to take hits easier without having to be adjusted and the new all black with colored options look is a welcomed changed from silver components. We will be keeping the X9 group on our test bike for the foreseeable future.
Positives: SRAM X9 Component Group
Durable construction and coating that stays looking new
1:1 actuation ratio shifting is more forgiving to adjustments and on trail obstacles
Wide gear range for a variety of applications
Price point that is in the reach of more riders without being really heavy
Powerful but well modulated braking
Negatives: SRAM X9 Component Group
Stiffer shifting on front paddle shifter
Would like to see 2 step move down on the rear shifter
Doesn’t have the X0 “bling factor”
If you are looking for a component group that is durable enough to last a long time and provides top level performance…the X9 groupo from SRAM is a great choice.
Like it or not…10 speed mountain biking is the future. With Shimano and SRAM rolling out their new lineups in 10 speed only, it is only a matter of time before the extra gear is gracing your current or future mountain bike.
For those of you that are looking to upgrade in the future…or already have, you are looking at new shifters, rear derailleur, cassette and chain rings in your pursuit to click away at a 10 speed cassette. The prime time to upgrade would be when your current 9 speed drivetrain wears out (it is best to replace cassette, chain and chainrings at the same time as they wear into each other), but UGI can also get the best of you and force you to throw out the old 9 speed mountain biking components earlier than planned.
Now that the more affordable options are available (relatively has bike parts are getting increasingly expensive), have you upgraded to 10 speed mountain biking yet?
Suspension components require maintenance to perform correctly. With routine oil changes, seal inspections and overall wear due to dirt and abuse, keeping suspension components (even the expensive ones) performing at their best is a constant job throughout the riding season. At some point in time, you are going to want to get your fork or rear shock rebuilt to either extend the life of the component or to get it feeling like brand new again. But…what if you could get it feeling better than new?!
The reality is that suspension component manufacturers have to make their parts work for an extremely wide range of people. That same RP23 from Fox Racing Shox that is taking care of bump absorption for the 140 pound racer on the Superfly 100 is also tackling some fast technical terrain for the 220 pound enthusiast on a Santa Cruz Nomad. As you can see, that is a wide range to cover and…for the most part…they do a great job with it. But what if you want to have that same rear shock or front fork perform how you want it to on your specific bike?
That is where companies like Suspension Experts out of Asheville, NC come in. They take your existing suspension components, your feedback on riding style and bike and turn that into a custom tune for your riding style and bike that costs about the same as a factory rebuild!
Review: Suspension Experts MTB Suspension Tuning
Founded in 2005, Suspension Experts is positioned in the best riding the east coast has to offer…Asheville, NC/Pisgah National Forest. If you follow Bike198 on Facebook, you have probably seen numerous trips to the area as it provides the best long, technical riding on the east coast. Kevin Booth heads up the operations over there and has been awesome to deal with through the entire process.
For the purposes of this review, we put two suspension components into the hands of Suspension Experts. The first was a stock Fox Racing Shox RP23 off the Turner 5.Spot. After 2 years of abuse, it was getting time for an inspection and seal change, so this is pretty typical of most riders rear shock situations. The second part we sent over was our trusty RockShox Lyrik Coil. This fork has seen about 2 dozen oil changes, numerous seal changes and it was starting to see the end of its life. I actually bought this fork used off of MTBR.com years ago…so…as you can imagine…it was getting pretty rough but it had zero stanchion wear.
Both components received the full treatment…a complete rebuild and custom tune. For the testing…the first place I hit was Black Mountain and Sycamore Cove in the heart of Pisgah National Forest. What better area to get the new components broken in…
The DW-Link suspension design does a lot of things really well. It has excellent climbing traction, sucks up square edge hits beautifully and rockets forward when pedaling. However, I wanted to really open it up and let the suspension do its thing. As well as the suspension performs, I felt like the RP23 was holding it back a little bit. After talking with Kevin about the kind of trails I ride, the bike and how I wanted it to “feel”…it was time to send it off.
From Kevin on the RP23:
We’ve found that we can expand the damping range on the RP rear shocks…enhancing the platform while retaining small-bump sensitivity. Many riders contact us with issues related to spring rate on the RP’s… to keep from blowing through the travel, many riders have to run higher pressures on the XV sleeve – which results in added harshness on bigger hits or the inability to achieve full travel under correct sag measurements.
Basically, he is explaining exactly what I was feeling.
Once I received the RP23 back from Suspension Experts, I simply adjusted air pressure for sag and hit the trail leaving all other settings untouched. I was expecting great performance out of the shock as it wasn’t bad when I sent it off…but the difference was noticeable. The rear suspension of the bike with the Suspension Experts tune was transparent…and that is the best way a rear suspension can act on the bike. I have always told riders that you want to not feel the individual components on the bike. When you do…something is off. As I rode the new tune, the rear end of the bike just worked perfectly…to the point that I completely forgot it was even there…just seamless action.
Not only did the bike feel better due to the rebuild, but the suspension action felt even better than it did with the bike brand new! I was able to run a little bit lower pressures without worrying about harsh bottom outs, the small bump compliance was up making roots seem to disappear on the trail and I didn’t lose any of the climbing efficiency or tracking that the DW-Link is known for. Suspension Experts took my feedback and delivered a tune that fit my riding style and bike perfectly.
Suspension Experts RockShox Lyrik Tune
For the Lyrik, my basic instruction was this.
It was an old fork with a lot of hard miles…so it needs some rebuild love.
I love the coil, but I run a soft spring and the linear nature of the Lyrik makes it a little too soft in beginning stoke but perfect once I am in rough terrain.
From Kevin on the Lyrik:
On the Lyrik we’ve found that they’re often over-damped, specifically on the rebound circuit – so we’ll almost always modify rebound valving, but keep in mind that the rebound circuit controls the spring – not the rider. Low-speed compression is controlled by a window that opens and closes via the control knob, while high-speed compression is controlled with shimmed valving. The 2 circuits work together… close down the LSC and you’ll direct more flow toward the shim stack (HSC). So really, the custom valving happens at the shim stack… the idea being to scrub off as much energy as possible during that phase – without making it harsh. We’ll tune differently for each rider.
A new shim stack was installed and the fork got a complete rebuild with new Enduro seals. Once bolted up, everything was set from the guys at Suspension Experts and I was good to go. On the first long DH, I could instantly tell I got exactly what I was asking for with the new shim stack. The beginning stroke on the fork was a little bit stiffer without losing plushness and then it really opened up as it moved through the travel. The made stand up and hammer periods easier to handle and once you let off the brakes, the fork just ate up everything.
With a fork like the Lyrik that was seeing the end of its life under normal oil and seal change conditions, it was given new life through the rebuild and tune. Now…instead of gracing the garage wall with fond memories of past rides, it is riding as good as new and even better in most cases extending its life and keep me from having to find a replacement. Suspension Experts was able to take this tired out component (that had no physical damage) and create a product that is tuned to my riding style and now has several more years to shred.
Overall: Suspension Experts Suspension Tuning
If you need to get your just rebuilt or want to really squeeze every bit of potential out of you bike, getting Suspension Experts to do the work is really a no brainer. Their rebuild/service prices are cheaper than most factory rebuilds I have seen and for just a little bit more…you can really unlock the potential of your suspension by having it tuned to your specific needs. Once you look at it from a dollar and performance standpoint…it is a killer deal. On top of that, you get the knowledge and incredible customer service of Suspension Experts to help you along the way.
For those of us on the east coast, the down time is pretty small due to nice lead times and short shipping times. If you are on the west coast, it will be extended some unless you pay for expedited shipping. Depending on how busy your local shop is…it could be a wash on how long you are without your components.
If you are in the market for a rebuild/service or tuning, hit up Suspension Experts and get a quote. We are incredibly happy with the results as they have brought higher performance and new life out of the suspension off the Turner 5.Spot.