AX-Lightness Alpha 580 gram frame!

AX-Lightness ALPHA 580 gram frame

AX-Lightness ALPHA 580 gram frame

LUST is the only word I can use to describe my feeling for this photo… I’ve heard rumblings of the AX-Lightness frame, but in recent days those rumblings seem to have turned into reality. While Photoshop hobbyists might spend days working on fake iPhone images, they don’t generally work on fake bike frame photos; this is real and I WANT ONE!

Now will it really weigh 580 grams for a small? And just how big is a small? And will it be stiff enough for real racing? Given my experience with AX-Lightness, and their history for producing awesome stuff, I’m going to remain optimistic.

So what I know so far is that the price for the frame only is supposed to be 3900 €, and the price for the frame+fork+headset is supposed to be 4600 €. When you compare that to the recently announced Cervelo California Project, this seem like a veritable bargain. With the current exchange rate that’s $5,300 for the frame, sans fork and headset.

There’s a discussion on the frame on the Weight Weenie forum here: http://weightweenies.starbike.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=71934 And if you can read German, then you can check out this page: http://www.forum.light-bikes.de/showthread.php?t=12893

Sneak Preview of upcoming C-4 hubs

C-4 FH-50 and RH-180

New RH-180 and FH-50 hubs from C-4

Here’s a sneak preview of some new hubs from C-4 that are in production now, and will be available in limited quantities within a few weeks. The hubs arrived via FedEx and I had the opportunity to play with the hubs, take a few photos, and then I had to wrap them back up and send them back.

C-4 names their hubs based on the weight. This new rear hub will come in two different flavors, the more budget-conscious RH-180 and the no-holds-barred RH-160. The production RH-180 is supposed to weight 185 grams, and I was told that it might even tip the scales a few grams under that. And the lighter version, the RH-160, as the name suggests, should end up right around 160 grams. (This pre-production RH-180 weighs 197 grams on our scale.)

RH-180 possible specs: (I can’t guarantee any of these….)

  • MSRP $395 USD
  • 100% manufactured and assembled in the U.S. (Orange County, CA)
  • 15mm quad butted aluminum axle
  • Hub shell CNCd from 7000 series aluminum
  • Patent pending self-adjusting bearing preload system. (I don’t know anything more about this)
  • 4 Phil Wood cartridge sealed bearings. 1 6902 for the drive side and 3 6802 bearings — one for the non-drive side and two for the cassette body.
  • Forged aluminum cassette body.
  • Available in 20, 24, and maybe 28h?
  • Colors: black for sure, sliver most likely, red probably, gold & blue unknown.

RH-160 possible specs: (again, no promises here….)

  • MSRP $495 USD
  • 100% manufactured and assembled in the U.S. (Orange County, CA)
  • 15mm quad butted aluminum axle
  • Hub shell CNCd from 7000 series aluminum
  • Patent pending self-adjusting bearing preload system. (I don’t know anything more about this)
  • 4 ceramic hybrid sealed bearings. 1 6902 for the drive side and 3 6802 bearings — one for the non-drive side and two for the cassette body.
  • Machined aluminum cassette body (lighter than the forged one for the RH-180)
  • Titanium ratchet rings (lighter than the steel ratchet rings in the RH-180)
  • Titanium pawls (lighter than the steel pawls in the RH-180)
  • Available in 20, 24, and maybe 28h?
  • Colors: black for sure, sliver most likely, red probably, gold & blue unknown.

The pre-production hub that I had the opportunity to play with came in at 197 grams, and that was with full ceramic (not ceramic hybrid) bearings. C-4 has no intention of using full ceramic bearings, rather they had them in there for a show, where hundreds of people would be spinning the axles in their hands. The production hubs will lose weight over this pre-production hub mostly due to some hub shell modifications, a new axle design, and a different end cap. And the RH-160 will benefit from a significantly lighter cassette body (CNCd rather than forged) as well as the titanium ratchet rings and pawls.

There are a few other nice design touches worth mentioning. One thing that I love is that you can simply pull the cassette body off of the hub and replace it with a Campy cassette body — no tools required. This is wonderful if you’re a shop or wheel builder and don’t want to have to stock as many hubs or wheels. You can simply get all of your hubs in Shimano and then keep a few Campy cassettes on hand. The wheel dish doesn’t even change if you swap cassette bodies. (2009 and later PowerTap hubs are the same way and I love it.) I realize that there is a small sacrifice in terms of flange spacing, and optimizing spoke triangulation, from Shimano to Campy, but to me the trade off is worth it.

The drive-side flange is angled toward the center of the hub, to allow for less bend in the spokes. Similarly, the hols in the non-drive ring (no flange) are angled toward the center of the rim.

FH-50 front hub specs: (These I feel more confident on, but again, no promises…)

  • MSRP $135 USD (standard) or $155 USD (ceramic)
  • 100% manufactured and assembled in the U.S. (Orange County, CA)
  • Adjustable preload
  • Phil Wood or ceramic 698 bearings
  • Available in 16, 18, 20 and maybe 24h?
  • Colors: black for sure, sliver most likely, red probably, gold & blue unknown.

While technically a pre-production hub, this one won’t see any real changes before production, other than getting polished and anodized. This hub will be available with Phil Wood bearings or ceramic hybrid bearings. The ceramic bearings drop the weight by about 2.5 grams.

Final thoughts… These look like awesome hubs. There are lighter hubs out there, like the M5 flanged front and the ExtraLite SX rear. But the M5 flanged front uses micro 688 bearings, and it isn’t specifically designed for radial lacing. And the ExtraLite SX rear hub reduces weight by substituting bushings for one of the cassette bearings. So if these hubs are robust and reliable, then they should be popular — time will tell.

And for those who like pictures, here’s some eye-candy:

Manufacturer’s claimed weight versus reality

When I started racing in the early ’80s everyone confidently claimed that their bike weighed 21 lbs, and I’m confident that they all were more in the 23 lbs range, or at least all of my racing bikes were. 21 lbs just sounded like what a racing bike should weigh. And then there was the day in 1990 when everyone who worked at The High Wheeler Bicycle Shop gathered around to witness the shop’s first Ritchey P-23 mountain bike get hung on the shop’s fish scale — somehow a bike that was supposed to weigh 23 lbs came out at over 25 lbs.

We all know that the “manufactured claimed weight” is often not the real weight. That’s why the Weight Weenie Listings has columns for “claimed” vs. “real” weights — they are often quite different.

741 gram Guru Photon at Interbike

741 gram Guru Photon at Interbike 2009

I decided to write this blog because in the past month we’ve heard from two of our great customers that their custom Guru Photon frames were significantly heavier than they thought they would be. At the last Interbike there was quite a buzz in the weight weenie community about the Guru Photon frame, and I even posted a photo on this blog of a sexy Photon frame on a scale at 741 grams. The frame was a 54cm, and it included the integrated seat mast and rear derailleur hanger. On Guru’s Photon web page they describe the Photon frame as “tipping the scales under 750 grams for a 54 cm”. This didn’t seem like an outrageous claim — they had two pre-production frames at Interbike, one frame was in a glass case hanging on a scale, and one frame was floating, almost literally, around the booth so onlookers and journalists could fondle and admire it. Some companies refused to let me weigh their pre-production frames, for fear of reality not matching up with their marketing machine’s claimed weight, but the Guru representatives were more than happy to let me put the frame on a scale and blog about it.

Guru Photon real weight

Reality -- 894 grams

So let’s jump to reality 6 months later. This friend of mine, who wished to keep his name out of our blog, is as gram conscious as them come, and he ordered his custom Guru Photon frame from a Denver Guru dealer almost immediately after Interbike. He’s working on a project bike so to him every gram is sacred. He opted for the non-integrated seat mast, choosing instead to use a traditional and very light seat post, in an attempt to make the project bike lighter. He designed the frame geometry to be as compact as possible, so that the seat tube, seat stays and head tube would be as short as possible. It’s hard to say what “size” the frame is, but I’d call it a compact 56 based on the top tube and head tube lengths he sent me. He was told that the frame would be under 700 grams due mostly to the fact that he opted out of the integrated seat mast. Imagine his dismay when he unpacked the frame, stuck it on his scale, and saw this — 894 grams. 894 grams is a light frame — don’t get me wrong. But my 58cm Cervelo R3-SL is an honest 845 grams, and it’s larger and less expensive, too.  MSRP on the Guru Photon is $4,900 and MSRP on the R3-SL is $3,995.

Then about two weeks after this friend sent me photos of his Photon on a scale, we received a call from a great CyclingTechnology.com customer who was also greatly disappointed with reality upon receiving his Photon frame. His small (54cm) Guru Photon frame, also sans integrated seat mast, came in about 100 grams heavier than he was told it would. These are bike geeks who are willing to spend $907 on a 65 gram AX-Lightness stem as opposed to $69 for a 115 gram Ritchey stem from ExcelSports.com (far better deal). And if you’re willing to spend an extra $800 on a crazy light stem to save 50 grams, you’re spending $16 for each saved gram. At this “grams-per-dollar” rate, saving 100 grams is worth $1,600, and saving 200 grams (894 gram Guru frame compared to the customer’s expected 690 grams) is worth $3,200.

Now Guru is not the only company that suffers from this problem — Ritchey back in 1990 did the same thing with the P-23. It seems that most major companies, like Trek, Specialized and even Cervelo, don’t publish frame weights, and you have to go look at independent reviews to fine out reality. So were these customer naive in believing they would get sub 700 gram frames? Or does Guru need to revise it’s “claimed weight” to match reality?

Race Result Predictor

One of the problems with racing in Colorado is that you show up at a local hill climb, with hardly any prize money to speak of, and you notice Tom Danielson warming up in the parking lot. It’s easy at this point to predict that you won’t be winning…

A good friend of mine just sent me a link to a road race “predictor” that scrapes registered riders from bikereg.com‘s website for an upcoming race, and compares those data with each rider’s USA Cycling points, in an attempt to predict the winner. Sounds fun, eh?

I love hill climbs, and the Mt. Washington Hill Climb has a list of registered riders on bikereg.com, which includes me, so this seemed like a perfect test. I started off by going to the race predictor website (http://www.road-results.com) and I entered the link to the Mt. Washington confirmed rider list (http://www.bikereg.com/events/ConfList.asp?EventID=9819) to see how I could expect to do when I race up that hill in August of 2010. What do you know, I’m predicted to get 268th place, and Chris Hurst is predicted to win. Chris Hurst and I both did the Mt. Washington hill climb in 2009, and I was about 38 minutes faster up the 7-mile climb. Maybe the website knows more than I know, and maybe Chris has gotten 39 minutes faster, or I’ve gotten 39 minutes slower…

Okay, to be fair, here are a couple of reasons why it might not be working in this case:

  1. Most races in Colorado are not USA Cycling events, so those of us who race here don’t have many USAC points. In Colorado most races are American Cycling Association sanctioned events instead. I do have a few points, but not many.
  2. I don’t think that the road race predictor algorithm takes into consideration what type of race is being predicted. If a rider has lots of USAC points, but those points were earned from winning crits, using these data to calculate how a rider will do in an upcoming hill climb probably won’t be that accurate.

While I think it’s not exactly fine tuned at this point, I love the idea of this website, and by adding a few additional metrics into the predicting calculations this could be much more accurate. If they looked not only at your points, but the type of race in which you earned those points, that would be a huge improvement. And if they combined this with the results for that same race from previous years, that would also be helpful.

What I’d really like is to have someone who races in USA Cycling events, and who does have points, to write up a little report for us. Any takers? We’d love to hear what you think of the  road-results.com website and how well/poorly it works. Most importantly, is it fun cycling technology?

And if any IT geek Colorado racers out there have spare time on their hands, they could do something similar for us by scraping the American Cycling Association website for rider results and upgrade points.