BB30 Version of Lightning Carbon Cranks

I believe we have the only set of BB30 cups for Lightning Cranks in existence right now. The beauty of the system is that the cranks are exactly the same for BB30 and for standard frames, they just use different cups. The BB30 cups press into a BB30 frame, whereas with the standard Lightning setup the cups thread into the frame. Here are a few photos to whet your appetite:

The Best of Both Worlds? Light and Aero 972 gram wheels

We’ve put on hold, at least temporarily, our quest to build the lightest wheels in the world. (See our 715 gram wheel project.) For our next few wheel projects we thought we’d explore what reasonable wheels could be built for all around road racing — wheels that are sturdy enough to use on rough roads, light enough for climbing, aero enough to be efficient at higher speeds, and reasonably priced. For the first set we decided to use the new EDGE 1.45 tubular rims, and later this week we will do a set using EDGE 1.68 tubular rims. The 1.45 rims were recently introduced (replacing the great EDGE 1.38 rims) and while we’ve sold a few sets of the clincher version, this is the first set of tubular rims we’ve had the chance to play with.

Front wheel:

  • EDGE 1.45 tubular rim, 20 hole
  • ExtraLite SX front hub with ceramic bearings
  • Pillar 1422 bladed titanium spokes
  • Pillar internal aluminum nipples

Rear wheel:

  • EDGE 1.45 tubular rim, 24 hole
  • ExtraLite SX rear hub with ceramic bearings (Shimano cassette)
  • Pillar 1422 bladed titanium spokes (non-drive side)
  • Sapim CX-Ray bladed steel spokes (drive side)
  • Pillar internal aluminum nipples

We decided to use steel spokes on the drive side of the rear wheel rather than titanium spokes to build a stiffer and stronger wheel. The Sapim CX-Ray spokes are about 1g heavier per spoke than the titanium spokes, so this adds about 12 grams to the weight of the wheel set, which seemed like a worthwhile trade. We used silver Sapim CX-Ray spokes so as to match the look of the titanium spokes and I must say, I think they look great.

We chose the ExtraLite SX front hub over the M5 flanged or straight-pull because it nicely matched the rear, and because it feels smoother and more robust than the M5. Again, if our goal were to make the lightest wheels, we would have opted for the M5 flanged, but that’s not intent with these wheels. Going with the M5 flanged front hub would have shaved another 17 grams off of the weight of the wheel set.

We went with 20/24 spokes for strength and stiffness reasons. My gut feeling is that these wheels would be fine for someone up to about 180 lbs, and beyond that you’d probably want to go with 24/28 spokes, and maybe ditch the ti spokes in favor of all steel spokes. And on the other end, for riders under 160 lbs, you could probably go with 18/20 spokes and maybe ditch the steel spokes in the rear wheel. Unfortunately it’s not a simple equation of rider weight, it also comes down to riding style and longevity expectations.

In the past we’ve mostly posted photos of wheels we built up for customers, but these wheels we built as stock wheels and they are available for purchase if someone wants them. And if no one buys them then I’ll just have to use them myself — drag…. (Please don’t tell my wife)

There are other wheels out there that have a similar profile, and similar weight, but not similar price. As far as I know, there are options from Lightweight/CarbonSports, but they cost considerably more money, and they weigh a tad more, too. And there were options from LEW Racing that were slightly lighter, but he appears to no longer be making wheels for the public, and they were also way more expensive.

I’ve been trying to think of a name for these wheels and it just came to me — “Morgul-Bismarck“. For those who don’t know, the Morgul-Bismarck was a classic Colorado road race with some very tough climbs, fast descents, and howling wind — the exact type of race for which these wheels were designed.

Do you have any suggestions on how to make a better all around set of racing wheels? We will be posting some photos, and weights, of a nice set of EDGE 1.68s in a few days, but we’d love to hear what you think of these…

New Lightest Wheels in the World? 715 grams!

Okay, so before I go any further, I promised Jason (aka “MadCow“) of Fairwheel Bikes, that I wouldn’t gloat over building a set of wheels lighter than his 718 gram wheels. We didn’t do anything differently than Jason, we just got lucky used a set of rims that were 3 grams lighter than the ones he used. The rims are the newly introduced EDGE 1.25 tubular rims, 20 hole for the front and 24 hole for the rear, and we laced them into an M5 flanged 33 gram front hub and an ExtraLite SX 133 gram rear hub. The spokes are Pillar 1422 titanium bladed spokes and the nipples are Pillar internal aluminum nipples.

The last set of uber-light wheels we built came out at 776 grams and were very similar except that the rims were the original EDGE 1.24 rims and the front hub was an ExtraLite SX rather than the M5 flanged. I can’t comment on how those wheels rode, as they were for a customer, and I can’t comment on how these new wheels ride because we just boxed them up and sent them to another customer, but I will say that these new rims look better to me, and they are definitely lighter. The first generation 1.24 rims were 212 grams each, and these rims were 186 and 195 grams. The ExtraLite front hub on the first set of wheels was 50 grams, and this M5 front hub is 33 grams. That said, I feel like this M5 front hub might be pushing things a bit too far — it feels pretty flimsy. But I suppose that if your goal is the absolute lightest, and you’re not a huge person, and you’re planning on using the wheels for only going up, and you don’t plan to put tens of thousands of miles on the hub, then maybe it’s fine.

It’s also worth noting that we have 8 of these rims in stock, and the average weight is 200 grams — some are a little over and some a little under. While I like the idea of having the lightest, I also like the idea of having a somewhat reliable wheel, so I’d personally gravitate toward the 200 gram rims for my personal wheels. But again, let’s wait a year or two and see how well these rims hold up.  They sure do look amazing!

It’s hard to describe what 715 grams feels like, but let’s just say that some “light” front wheels weigh that much alone.

And I should mention again, these wheels are not for sale — they’ve already been sold. But we do have more rims in stock, and plenty of ExtraLite, Tune and M5 hub options, and we’d be glad to make you a custom set. Just contact us and let us know what you’re looking for.

Here are some photos we took before boxing them up and shipping them off:

EDGE 45mm Clincher Wheels on DT Swiss 190 hubs

Here’s a little photo gallery of the new EDGE 45mm clinchers. We also have the 45mm clincher rims not laced into wheels, and a set of tubulars, also not laced into wheels, and I’ll try to get some photos of them on the site soon.

My initial reaction is that the shape looks to be much more aero, without the concave shape of the 38mm rim it replaces. I like the aesthetics quite a bit.

I’m a bit disappointed by the weight — I was thinking that they would be 30 or 40 grams lighter per rim. But I can’t think of any carbon clinchers I’d rather have.

Comments and questions are welcomed.

World’s lightest (affordable) wheels?

So “affordable” might be a bit of a stretch, but if memory serves me correctly the only lighter wheels I’ve seen were a set of Custom LEW Pro VT1 tubulars, and I think they cost upwards of $15k. These wheels, on the other hand, are more like the cost of some nice production Zipp wheels, so I’m taking the liberty of calling them “affordable”. But if I had told my mother that $2,500 for bicycle wheels was affordable, she would have slapped me.

Quick stats:

Front wheel

  • Extralite SX UltraFront 20 hole hub
  • Pilar 1422 bladed titanium spokes
  • Pilar internal aluminum nipples
  • EDGE Composites 1.24 all carbon tubular rim
  • Weight: 338 grams

Rear wheel

  • Extralite SX UltraRear 24 hole hub (Shimano compatible)
  • Pilar 1422 bladed titanium spokes
  • Pilar internal aluminum nipples
  • EDGE Composites 1.24 all carbon tubular rim
  • Weight: 438 grams

Here are some photos:

These wheels are no longer for sale — someone snapped them up already from our online store. EDGE 1.24 rims are in short supply right now but we’ve got some more on order and we will build another set of these when we get more rims in stock.

Lightning Crank Photos

Here are some detailed photos of the amazing Lightning Cranks. I plan to write up a review of them when I get the time… But for now I’ll at least post these images:

TRP 960 Brake Review

TRP 960 caliper (image from TRP web site)

TRP 960 caliper (image from TRP web site)

This post is part of our Lightweight Brake Review.

TRP 960 at a glance:

  • Weight: 248g for both calipers, with all mounting hardware and Swiss Stop pads.
  • Cost: $399 MSRP
  • Materials: Mostly aluminum with titanium and aluminum hardware. A touch of plastic for the QR and barrel adjuster.
  • Colors: Black or Red
  • Brake pads: SwissStop black pads included (Shimano style)
  • Quick Release: Yes (on/off, not variable)
  • Weight restrictions: none
  • Manufacturers web site: http://www.trpbrakes.com/r960.html

TRP 960 calipers on digital scale (248 grams with pads and mounting hardware)

TRP 960 calipers on digital scale (248 grams with pads and mounting hardware)

Weight: 248 grams with pads and hardware

If you don’t care about weight then why are you reading this? Just go buy some Dura Ace, SRAM or Campy brakes and move on.  But for those of you who do care about weight, these TRP 960 calipers tip the scales at 248 grams, including pads and mounting hardware, which is 65 grams less than my 313 gram Dura Ace 7800 calipers. Again, this is actual weight according to my digital scale, not the difference between manufacturers claimed weights.

That’s significant, if you’re a weight weenie, but it’s not a huge weight saving considering that some of the lighter brakes that I’ll be testing soon will save almost 150 grams over Dura Ace. I should also mention that the new Dura Ace 7900 calipers are claimed to be 30 grams lighter than the 7800 calipers.  So assuming Shimano isn’t exaggerating that figure, this means that these TRP 960s are 35 grams lighter than the new Dura Ace – an even smaller weight savings. I did intentionally start by testing the heaviest of the lightweight brakes, and it will be interesting to see the lighter brakes fare.

Installation: As easy as it gets

TRP 960 brake caliper with quick release open

TRP 960 brake caliper with quick release open

I’m the type of guy who generally resorts to the instruction manual only after I’ve managed to break something, or in the case of assembling Christmas presents for my kids. In this particular case, however, I couldn’t have read the instruction manual even if I had wanted to – the brakes I was given were pre-production brakes and they came with no manual whatsoever. I looked online at the TRP web site and didn’t find any downloadable instructions there either, so I can’t evaluate the quality of their technical writing. But the good news is that these brakes are so simple to install that as long as you’ve installed brakes before, you won’t need the instruction manual. They practically fell into place on my bike – the pads were easy to adjust, centering them was a no-brainer, it was obvious how to clamp the cable, and the included hardware all worked – I really couldn’t ask for a simpler brake to install. One thing that struck me while installing the brakes was that they feel solid. When clamping the cable, for example, the brake caliper arms didn’t flex much at all. When I clamp the cable on my KCNC brakes, on the other hand, the arms flex in a not very confidence inspiring way. My only complaint with the installation process is that it took me awhile to figure out how the quick release worked. Now that I know, I feel like an idiot for not figuring it out, but without any instructions, and having never seen a QR like this, it did take me some time. But with a good set of instructions, which I assume are included with the production brakes, this won’t be an issue. (See photos of the QR and you’ll immediately see how they work) It’s also worth mentioning that the brakes don’t offer much tire clearance with my 23c tires. This is partially due to my Ritchey frame having a low brake bridge, but also due to the angled caliper arms on the TRP 960s being angled on the inside rather than curved.

Power: Awesome

TRP 960 with quick release closed

TRP 960 with quick release closed

Okay, to me the most important thing about a brake is the power, or maybe I should say the stopping power. I’ve always held the belief that if you start out with Dura Ace as the gold standard for stopping power, everything else that is lighter will be so at the expense of stopping power. I was wrong. These brakes inspired just as much confidence in stopping as my Dura Ace 7800 calipers. I can’t say they are better or worse, and maybe if I had that million dollar lab I’d be able to measure miniscule differences in the leverage, but in my real world lab they just felt the same to me as my Dura Ace, and that’s about as good of an endorsement as you can get.

Modulation: As good as Dura Ace

In short modulation is the quality of being able to apply the brake in a controlled manner. If you squeeze your brakes a little harder because you want to bleed off a little speed, and then you inadvertently flip over the bars, you’ve got bad modulation. And if, on the other hand, it’s easy to get exactly the amount of braking power you need, be it just a tad so you don’t touch wheels with the guy in front of you, or enough to come to a complete and controlled stop in a panic situation, you’ve got good modulation. Once again, as with the stopping power, the modulation felt to be just as good as Dura Ace. The steep roads I ride were recently sanded after an early fall snow storm, which can make descending treacherous, but the combination of power and modulation delivered by these new TRP 960 calipers was excellent and made me feel in control and safe.

Price: $399

The MSRP on the TRP 960 brake calipers is $399. That isn’t cheap, but it’s not outrageous either. The brakes did just recently become available so the street price will likely drop in 6 months or so. ExcelSports.com has them in stock right now, and they are great people.

Overall impression: No performance sacrifices, good value, not as light as some of the others

Bottom line — I love these brakes. If you want to shave some weight at a reasonable price, and don’t want to sacrifice anything in terms of performance, then the TRP 960 is a great option. The only downsides I see are the “on/off” quick release (sometimes it’s nice to be able to have your QR partially open to account for a wider/narrower rim) and the limited tire clearance.


Lightweight brake reviews

I’m a self-confessed weight weenie. I’ve admitted I have a problem, and although that’s the first step toward recovery, the severity of my illness seems to be intensifying with age. Another side effect of aging, however, is the desire to keep on aging (read — stay alive). This brings me to the paradox of lightweight brakes — at what point does shaving grams off of the bike equate to shaving years off of your life?

In the interest of answering this question, I’ve decided to test out several aftermarket lightweight brake calipers and report back to the weight weenies of the world. The brakes I’m going to test are (from heaviest to lightest):

  • TRP 960
  • Zero Gravity Negative Gs
  • EE Brakes
  • Zero Gravity Zero Gs
  • KCNC CB1s

I might test more brakes in the future, like some of the more exotic brakes from AX-Lightness or THM, but for now these are the brakes I have, and they represent some of the more popular and affordable choices. The TRP 960s and EE Brakes are of special interest to me because they have just become available and not too much has been written about them yet.

How do I plan to test the brakes? I don’t have a million dollar lab with fancy equipment, so I’ve decided to test the brakes the old fashion way — by installing them on my bike and then using them for a few weeks. I live in Colorado and I train on some very steep mountainous roads, so I figured that I’d use my daily training routine as my lab. One of my rides has about 8,000 vertical feet of descending, with sections of 16% grade, and when the road gets that steep it’s easy to separate the good from the bad.

First, a few things about the testing setup:
I weight 150 lbs. Keep this in mind — if you weight 200 lbs you’ll likely want/need stronger brakes than I.

  • All brakes are being tested on my Ritchey BreakAway Ti/Carbon.
  • All brakes are being tested with new SwissStop black brake pads.
  • All brakes are being tested on DT Swiss RR 1.1 rims.
  • All brakes are being tested with my Dura Ace 7800 levers.
  • While I’m not specifically testing Dura Ace, Campy or SRAM brake calipers, I’ll compare the lightweight brakes with my Dura Ace 7800 calipers, which I believe are the industry standard for power and modulation. I might change a few things in this review once the new 7900 calipers are available.
  • All weights I list are the weights from my digital scale, not the manufacturers claimed weight.

Okay, on with the test! First up is the TRP 960… Check it out!

122 gram rear derailleur

picture-1

Lightweight Carbon Rear Derailleur ($1,200 with a claimed weight of 120g)

I’ll admit that I’ve got weight issues, and an intervention from my friends and family is probably in order, but until someone freezes my credit card in a block of ice I’ll probably keep spending money to shave grams from my bike. Now before I go much further, I have to give credit where credit is due. I didn’t come up with the idea of tuning my rear derailleur, rather I read about it on the Weight Weenie web site in their forum. A fellow Weight Weenie and friend of mine, Nathan (aka “coloclimber”), made a post about how he took his SRAM Red rear derailleur down to 128 grams. What was most interesting to me about his post was that his rear derailleur was almost as light as the Lightweight (that’s a brand) super-sexy, but crazy expensive carbon rear derailleur (pictured above). The yet-to-hit-the-real-world (read “vaporware”) Lightweight derailleur costs $1,200 at Competitive Cyclist, and is claimed to weigh 120 grams. You can buy quite a nice frame for $1,200 so buying just a rear derailleur for that amount is beyond what even I’m willing to do. But spending $265 for a 128 gram rear derailleur, which is what “coloclimber” claimed could be done (with a little help from eBay, dark_albert, and Microsoft Cash Back) sounded quite sane to me. That being said, I’m a bit lazy and didn’t have the energy to actually track down dark_albert and buy the necessary parts.

My stock SRAM Red rear derailleur

My stock SRAM Red Rear Derailleur (145g)

Then one sunny autumn day I got a call from Nathan. It turned out that Nathan decided that his next project bike would be an Italian aero beauty rather than a fragile featherweight. Nathan was replacing his SRAM Red with Campy 11-speed and offered me the derailleur parts he used to tune his SRAM Red derailleur. In addition to the dark_albert pulleys and back plate, Nathan had purchased an aluminum cable adjuster that he never got around to installing. He handed me a Ziploc bag with an assortment of carbon and aluminum parts and I transferred some money into his PayPal account. Nathan not only gave me a good deal, but he made the whole thing easy. I didn’t have to order parts from Germany, and he gave me some good advice on how to install everything.

I started off by removing the pulleys and rear plate from my SRAM derailleur, and I replaced them with the carbon pulleys and the carbon plate. This took all of about 10 minutes and was quite simple. The carbon rear plate is significantly thinner than the stock one and because of this you can’t use the stock SRAM pulley bolt for the top pulley because it will bottom out in the derailleur. Nathan included a shorter bolt in the Ziploc bag and I assume that it came with the carbon plate when he purchased it. The bottom stock SRAM pulley bolt can be used, however, because it threads into carbon plate rather than into the derailleur, and the extra length just means that it protrudes a tad beyond the back plate. I suppose if you wanted you could file or grind that bolt down a millimeter or two and drop a fraction of a gram, but I was lazy and left it sticking out.

SRAM Red with new pulleys and carbon plate (126g)

SRAM Red with new pulleys and carbon plate (126g)

At this point I had done the same as what Nathan had done and my rear derailleur was down to 126 grams. That’s a few grams lighter than Nathan’s was, but I’m pretty sure that my stock SRAM Red rear derailleur was just a tad lighter than his to begin with — just lucky I guess. (I’m fairly confident in the accuracy of my scale.)

The final step was to replace the stock barrel adjuster with the significantly lighter one Nathan gave me. I think that the light barrel adjuster he gave me was designed to be used on the frame up at the braze-on cable housing stops near the top of the downtube, and was not intended to be used on a rear derailleur. But it was about the right size, and it included a spring to prevent it from creeping, so it looked like it would serve well as a replacement for the tanky stock one. Nathan said that when he purchased the barrel adjuster that they only came in pairs, so he bought a set of them. He kept one and gave the other to me. Removing the stock SRAM barrel adjuster was perhaps the hardest part of this project. There is a little circlip under the barrel adjustment assembly and unless you are one of Santa’s elves with tiny fingers, or have a better arsenal of tools than I, removing it without gouging the aluminum body of your derailleur isn’t easy. I ended up using a little screwdriver, and I did put a few small scratches in the underside of my derailleur. Once the circlip was removed, I loosened the barrel adjuster all the way, wiggled, pulled, tugged, and wiggled again, but it wouldn’t budge. Just as I started to get frustrated it magically sprang apart. I probably didn’t have something aligned correctly when I was tugging, and I should have inspected it more once it came apart so I could understand what was making it so difficult to remove, but I was too excited to move on with the project so I put the miscellaneous parts on my workbench and started fitting the new adjuster. The adjuster I got from Nathan was a paltry 2 grams including the threaded sleeve, the adjuster and the spring. There are two ways to look at this. The first is that it’s crazy to waste any time trying to shave off 4 grams from your bike, and the second is that the new barrel adjuster is one third the weight of the original. I opted for the second, figuring I’d come this far and I already had the parts.

Stock SRAM Red Barrel Adjuster Assembly

Stock SRAM Red Barrel Adjuster Assembly

I slid the new adjuster into the derailleur and it fit fairly well with no modifications. You could probably just leave it like this as the cable tension would keep everything together. But I decided I would sleep better if I bonded the threaded sleeve into my derailleur body so nothing would rattle and so that the sleeve wouldn’t turn when I adjusted the cable tension. I had some JB Weld lying around (it came with an old AlphaQ fork of mine) and it looked like it would do the trick nicely. I’ll bet that epoxy would also work fine, too. I cleaned the threaded sleeve and the hole in my derailleur, and then glued the two together. I let it dry overnight and in the morning threaded in the adjuster with the spring.

Tuned SRAM Red Rear Derailleur (122 grams)

Tuned SRAM Red rear derailleur (122 grams)

Drum roll please… The result? 122 grams! I guess there’s not much suspense in that seeing as it’s the title of this blog post, but oh well. The scale did flicker between 123 grams and 122 grams, so it must have been somewhere right in the middle.

Who cares how much your derailleur weighs if it doesn’t work well. Nathan had told me already that he liked the way his tuned SRAM Red rear derailleur worked with the carbon pulleys and the carbon plate, so I wasn’t too worried. He described it as being a bit more mechanical, more like Campy than Dura Ace, but that’s how I’d describe my SRAM without any modifications anyway. I installed the derailleur with my bike in my work stand and started to try to adjust it. I couldn’t get the derailleur to go into my lowest gear (biggest cog) and loosening the limit screw didn’t seem to have any effect. I then realized that the derailleur body was hitting the threaded sleeve I had bonded in because the threaded sleeve stuck out too far on the under side of the derailleur. I started to file it down but it was in an awkward and tight spot and it wasn’t easy to get a file in there. I ended up using a hacksaw to cut the excess threaded sleeve down, and then a file to touch it up, and my derailleur was back to working normally. If I were to do this again I’d cut down the threaded sleeve before bonding it into the derailleur. The one good thing about cutting down the sleeve was that my scale no longer flickered between 122 and 123 grams — it was a sold 122!

Back view of final tuned SRAM Red rear derailleur

Back view of final tuned SRAM Red rear derailleur

We’ve had quite a bit of snow in the past week and I haven’t actually ridden the bike yet, so I can’t tell you if the derailleur works well or not. In the stand, however,  it seems to work exactly like it always did. The carbon pulleys don’t have “float” like the stock pulleys, so maybe it’s going to be more finikey. I’m also not sure if the spring on the cable tension adjuster will provide enough friction so that it doesn’t migrate and make the derailleur slowly come out of adjustment. It will take some miles on the road under real world conditions to find out for sure.

Next on my list is to find out if the tuning parts I got from Nathan are available to the public or not. “dark_albert” is a bit of a mystery to me and I don’t know how one goes about buying stuff from him. But if you check back soon, I’ll be sure to add information on how well this thing actually shifts, and how one can go about buying the necessary parts to do the same.

I’d love to actually play with, test ride, and weigh one of those $1,200 Lightweight rear derailleurs. If the company claims 120 grams, it might actually weigh more than 122 grams. They are indeed beautiful, however, and maybe, just maybe if you’re the type of person who has foundations and sporting arenas named after you, you should go buy one.

We’re blogging!

Welcome to our new Cycling Technology Blog. We are excited to write about everything from weight weenie parts to aero helmets, and from winter training techniques to racing with the pros. Right now we’re just finishing installing WordPress, and getting everything configured correctly, but in a day or two we hope to have our first real stories published. Our first post will be about how we made a 122g rear derailleur, and whether or not it actually works. Stay tuned…