Summer PressCamp 2017, Part I

Summer PressCamp 2017, Part I

This was Boyd Wheels’ first visit to PressCamp and it gave me a better chance to chat with Boyd and Nicole than I’ve been able to at Interbike and NAHBS. I’ve been impressed with their wheels (I have a review of the Kanuga 29er wheel coming) and have wanted to spend more time just getting to know them and learning about the company. At this point they are big enough that they aren’t buying Taiwanese rims off the rack, but are having their own rims made. Indeed, their carbon rims feature their own production area and dedicated presses within the factory they use.

Knowing how many of our readers are sticking with rim brakes for the foreseeable future, I’ve been interested in the Altamont road wheel, which I’d seen previously but is only now about to enter production. The Altamont features a ceramic coating for improved braking. When Mavic was producing ceramic-coated rims at the turn of the century they were the only way to improve braking over a traditional aluminum rim. For riders who want to improve their bike’s stopping power without resorting to a whole new bike, the Altamonts would be a great way to do that.

Boyd also anounced a new program they have called Ready2Ride. It’s wheel-buying made easy. Ready2Ride is a set of wheels, axles of your choice, tires (and tubes or a tubeless kit depending on what flavor wheels), a cassette and rotors or brake pads in a wheel bag with shoulder straps for easy carrying. Better yet: it’s an a la carte program so you can leave out the cassette or rotors if you want. Price depends on which wheels, cassettes, etc.

This strikes me as the most painless way to purchase wheels other than having a shop put everything together for you. There’s no need to worry about rotor lock nuts or any other detail; it’s all in the box when they arrive.

I had a chance to do a run on the new Pivot Mach 4 on our last day at Deer Valley. Generally speaking, I’m not a big fan of four-inch-travel bikes. The cross country thing doesn’t much do it for me. I may pedal like crazy, but I want to ride hard on descents, and most four-inch bikes I’ve been on have a shock tune that’s so stiff to gain pedaling efficiency there have been times when I felt like I was on a bike set up for someone who weighs 200 lbs. There was no way I was going to get through more than half the travel.

The Mach 4 pedals remarkably well but also rides like a trail bike. If someone had told me it had 120mm of travel I wouldn’t have second guessed. In addition to the 100mm version, there’s a trail version that has 130mm Fox fork paired with 120mm travel in the rear. Were I planning to do a longer cross country event and wanted to make sure I could rip the single track descents, this is a bike that would merit serious consideration.

Campagnolo was on hand to show off their new disc brake system. They worked with Magura on both the master cylinder and the flat-mount brake. You can run either 140 or 160mm rotors in the rear, while the front brake accepts only 160mm rotors. The disc brake is available across many of Campagnolo’s group sets. It’s available in Super Record (mechanical and EPS), Record (mechanical and EPS), Chorus and Potenza (mechanical). 

I was able to take a brief spin on the Potenza group mounted on a Ridley Fenix SLX. The Ridley Fenix SLX has lost weight and in this disc incarnation received a whole new fork and rear triangle. This is the bike that was ridden in the classics and I can see why. For a long day in the saddle, this is the Ridley I’d choose.

The Potenza levers were just as comfortable as I’d expect a Campy lever to be. Brake action was light and powerful. It was proof to me, yet again, that anyone who dislikes disc brakes on a road bike just hasn’t ridden them yet. I can get someone being satisfied with what they have, but it’s really hard to dislike disc brakes.

Campagnolo had Magura round the outer edges of the rotors and chamfered the brake pads to make wheel insertion easier They also included a pad wear indicator to help riders know when it’s time to get their bike serviced. All in all, it seems to be a great system and naturally, Campagnolo brings some fresh ideas to the table.

Gerard Vroomen, the CEO of 3T, and the man who said he was finished with the aero road bike, is back with another … aero road bike. It turns out he had more to say. The Strada is 3T’s first road bike and it’s as original as you’d expect from one of the founders of Cervelo. The Strada will take a 30mm-wide tire (if the rim is skinny) or up to a 28mm-wide tire if the rim is on the wide side. It’s also the first production road frame that is disc-only and 1x only. You can’t put a front derailleur on, at all.

When 3T’s product manager Dave Koesel told me the bike was 1x-specific, I was immediately suspicious, but I also knew to withhold judgment until after Super Dave presented his case. He’s one of the smartest, most creative product managers I’ve ever met, so I knew to listen to him. He is, after all, the guy who led the charge on subcompact cranks and convinced FSA to produce the new crank.

Here’s the case he laid out: Practically speaking, any 22-combination drivetrain really only has 15 different gears, so a 1×11 drivetrain really only loses 4 gears. Let that sink in for a sec. The second part of his thinking was that 2-tooth cog jumps at the high end of the cassette (11 to 13 or 13 to 15) is what makes most roadies dislike 1x for the road. And he’s right. So he designed his own cassette. The first five cogs all make single-tooth jumps. It’s only after that the jumps start to get bigger. Ultimately, their cassette offers a 350-percent range, the same as an Ultegra group. What’s especially genius is that if you want to run lower gearing, you simply purchase a smaller chainring, say a 46 instead of a 48. And yes, the cassette will be available aftermarket.

The Strada has a near vertical seat tube, so reach doesn’t change much as you raise or lower the saddle; similarly, the knee’s relationship to the pedal spindle won’t change much either, and for some people, this will make the bike easier to fit. If that seat tube looks familiar it is a pretty distinct echo of the Cervelo P4

Riding this bike with 60mm-deep wheels in breezy conditions wasn’t my favorite, but when sheltered from the wind the bike felt fast, responsive and enjoyed a solid road feel.

Ridley also showed off the new disc version of the Noah SL. The was an especially gorgeous bike; the matte black finish was complemented by a metal flake red that popped nicely in the sun.

Helping to clean up the look of the Noah SL disc is this new bar from Ridley’s in-house component line, Forza. The Cirrus Pro bar works with the Noah fork, which has a flattened area on the steerer to allow the cables to pass from the lever, through the bar and stem and down the steerer and into the frame. It’s the cleanest cable run available.

Thule’s entry into luggage has seen them easily overtake some of my favorite luggage brands for design, durability and practicality. They’re also pretty stylish. They were showing off their new-ish Subterra Collection, which was first introduced at Interbike. I’ve been using a few of the pieces in preparation for a review and have been impressed so far. 

One piece I didn’t know about was the Subterra backpack which features a sleeve to allow you to let the backpack ride on top of your luggage. It’s a handy thing for those occasions when you get off a plane in a hot climate.

The Thule Double Track Pro is a new take on a hitch rack that takes the wheel tray concept and security but shuffles features in a new way to bring a reasonably secure hitch rack to a new, lower price point. At $349.95, it’s possibly the only hitch rack that combines gentle frame clamps with wheel trays to hold the bike securely.

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19 comments

  1. Lyford

    The Ready2Ride wheel package is a great idea, but is also the kind of thing that good local bike shops should be offering to their customers: “2nd set of wheels? Sure! How would you like those set up? We’ll give you a call when they’re ready, and if you bring your bike in we’ll make sure they’re an easy swap.”

  2. Nik

    Can you explain your claim that a 350% gear range is “the same as an Ultegra group” ? Ultegra with a 50/34 crank and 11-32 cassette has a high gear of 50/11 = 4.54 and a low gear of 34/32 = 1.06, which results in a gear range of 4.54/1.06 = 4.27, i.e. 427%. It’s only 350% if you assume an 11-26 cassette.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      When you look at what variety of gearing product managers ordinarily spec when using Ultegra, nearly all fall within a few percentage points of 350%. Sure, if someone wants to be argumentative, you can find all sorts of ways that 2x systems are superior. I personally don’t wish to give up my second chainring, but that’s partly a function of where I live. If I lived someplace flat, I’d have given up my second chainring two years ago. The contention here for 3T is that a 1x system can give you the functional range of a modern drivetrain. In doing so, there’s the opportunity to examine the loss of weight from the lack of shifter mechanism in the brake lever and the improved aerodynamics that comes from removing a chainring and a derailleur.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      That’s not a standard Ultegra setup. The point here for the smart people at 3T is to show that it’s possible to create a 1x system that covers the same range as a fairly standard drivetrain and still has intelligent gear steps.

    2. Nik

      Can you tell us what the cogs on the 3T cassette are ? At least the smallest and largest ? Because it sounds a bit strange. 11 * 3.5 = 38.5, so it’s 11-38 or 11-39 ? I guess I’d rather have the existing 11-40, 11-42 or 11-46 cassette.

  3. davi

    Road disc == more clearance == wide tires == ride on dirt == steeper climbs.

    This is why road disc bikes are typically spec’ed with 11-32 or less often 28. 1x specific and clearance for 30mm tires doesn’t make sense.

    Still, its a bike with a point of view, which is nice.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      It’s not meant to be a gravel bike. They already have that with the Exploro. This is a different beast. Think of it as a pure aero road bike but one that is meant to capitalize on what we’ve learned about rolling resistance.

  4. thelastbard

    Seeing Scott (and Cervelo) work to bring some compliance/comfort to the aero bike world, the sight of that near-vertical seat post angle of the new 3T seems a step back. How did the design/engineering team address compliance in the frame design?


    1. Author
      Padraig

      I’m hoping to review a Strada later this year. When I do, I’ll be able to quiz Super Dave and Gerard on that point. But suffice to say that the angle of a tube has less to do with its stiffness in a carbon fiber frame than how it is laid up.

  5. Dustin

    Quick note on the Boyd wheels :: while the ceramic coated Altamont is new, the Altamont itself has been around for a few years now, the latest version (wide, tubeless ready, invisible welded seam) is about a year and a half old. A disc brake version is also available. They’ve been selling rims of their own design for a while now too, that’s not a super recent change. The Altamont is one of the best made rims on the market currently, very consistent ERD, and the welded seam is so good you have to look REALLY hard to see it.

    And, Boyd rims are available to custom builders as well, so if you want Boyd rims built up to a hub of your choosing, talk with your favorite wheel builder.

  6. bwebel

    So what are the actual gear steps on the 3T cassette? You say one tooth jumps for the first five, so 11-12-13-14-15, but then what? How high does it go? I personally could live with 17-19-21-24-28-34, but any bigger gaps than that and I’d stick with a 2x system.

  7. Fuzz

    Even though I was coming off of many years on MB disc brakes and should have known, it was your comments that really helped me make that leap of faith to disc when I bought my new road bike last year. I just wasn’t sure the benefits of discs would carry over on to asphalt, but as you know, they do, and then some. I wouldn’t encourage someone to dump a bike they love just for discs, but to buy a new bike with rim brakes is to buy a bike that is already obsolete before it gets out the shop door.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      It’s great to hear your experience reflected what I have believed people will experience when they try disc brake bikes on the road. I totally agree about not encouraging anyone to dump a bike they love, but it gets harder and harder to justify buying a rim brake bike.

  8. SuperDave

    Thanks for the words about the bike Patrick. 1x systems are very much like the experience you’ve had with disc brakes. Yes you can find the most extreme cases of 2x drivetrains set up with 450%+ range like the VR category I created when I was at Felt but a swap to an e13 cassette gives you over 500% range with 1x. You’re also very right about the tire width. It’s a comfort and speed issue, it’s not to shod the frame with some knobbie tread and ride TransRockies on. Looking forward to getting you out on one. 44t single ring with 10-42t cassette? That would give you about the same range as 48/34T with an x 11-32t.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Thanks for chiming in Super Dave. The bike really is intriguing. I do suspect that with a 44t chainring and a 10-42 cassette I’d have the gear I need to do all the riding I do. For me the big questions regard fit and whether or not I’d miss some of those intermediate steps.

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