Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Fargo Lives Again: Part II

Fargo Gen I w/Retroshift CXV
The Saturday 3GR was the first big ride since I've gotten the Fargo back up and running again. It went off without a hitch as far as the Fargo was concerned. In this post, I want to give my take on the Retroshift CXV levers/mounts and what changes are in store for the Fargo as I go forward.

Retroshift CXV: These are the newest offering from The Goats at Retroshift. Like I mentioned before here, the levers are Tektro RL-520 Long Pull levers that will work with linear pull brakes, or "mountain mechanical disc brakes" from Avid and others. The Retroshift guys are actually offering these as complete set ups with bar end levers, or you can still source your own bar end shifters and mate them up with these levers/mounts. That's what I did with the Fargo.

The installation was straight forward and cable routing on the Fargo was easy-peezy since everything routes down the down tube, which makes cabling simpler than a top tube routed rig, but that said- It can be done.

 The Good: The Retroshift CXV has a great hood shape which I love on the slightly flared Midge Bar. It fills the hand, and lends lots of surface area to spread out hand pressure, which is ideal for rough surfaces.

I also like that the shifters are "right there" at the ready when you are riding in the hoods. Just like a good bar end shifter, the Retroshift gives you the crisp, positive feel and shifts are accomplished with relative ease. Bonus: A degree of redundancy is offered by the re-purposed bar end shifter, since it can shift in friction mode if need be. This is a nice feature if you find yourself on longer, epic length rides self-supported, or in a CX race if you would happen to bend your hangar a bit in a crash. Just flip the ring and twist over to friction mode and carry on.

Oddly enough, the shifter also feels good in the hand and gives your fingers another place to grip and rest upon. Well.....I happen to like it. Maybe others won't find that to be the case.

The levers themselves are just good ol' Tektro performers. They do the job well. Hooked up to my Avid BB-7's, the feel is great with plenty of modulation and power. Good enough for any mountain biking, and definitely way more than I will need on gravel rides. That's a good thing.

The Not So Good: Really only two things here are kind of downers concerning the Retroshift style. Both in terms of looks and function. First- it is weird looking. There......I said it. The Retroshifter looks like a tumor on a brake lever when you first lay eyes on it. Now- they have gone the extra mile to smooth out the mount and give it some pop with a slew of anodized color choices, but it still looks like someone put a thumb shifter on a brake lever. Kind of an "ugly duckling", but a functional duck at that!

That said, I am used to it now. But if this is new to you, it definitely is going to jump out at you. I guess we can quote the great architect, Louis Sullivan here:

"It is the pervading law of all things organic and inorganic,
Of all things physical and metaphysical,
Of all things human and all things super-human,
Of all true manifestations of the head,
Of the heart, of the soul,
That the life is recognizable in its expression,
That form ever follows function.
This is the law."

If there ever was a bicycle component that fit that, it is the Retroshift lever/mount. (So- maybe that is a good thing then.)

 The other thing, (and this something I've pointed out before), is that you can not shift from the drops. This makes "true mountain biking" a bit tougher, and may not play well if you are set to ride in the drops most of the time.  I will admit that this perturbs me sometimes when I'm descending, and I want a couple gears higher, or I want to preselect a gear for the coming climb. I've figured out how to make it work, but it isn't as easily done as it is with a full on "brifter" set up. 

The other very minor quibble is about the "flying cable runs", but who am I kidding? I'm not too worried about aerodynamics here, and I can only possibly be concerned if I wanted to lash a handle bar bag for a bike packing set up to this bike. That said, I think it would all clear nicely. 

So- that's it in a nutshell. The Retroshift CXV is a definite winner in terms of performance, feel, and function. It may not win any contests for artistic beauty, but they will get you home in fine fashion from whatever bike ride you take them on. For adventure cycling, touring, and obviously, cyclo-cross set ups using linear pull or mechanical disc brakes for mountain bikes, these should rate high on your radar if you are using drop bars. 

Changes In The Wind: While I am pretty happy with the current set up, (and totally stoked to be on this Fargo again after a hiatus), I am considering a few changes here. 

First, the gearing on the crankset isn't optimal. I am probably going to either add a true middle ring, or go back to the original XT crankset with a 44T/32T/22T set up. 

Then I am going to set up a "light gravel road" set of wheels using some old Bontrager Race X Lite wheels and Bontrager XR-1 tires set up tubeless. That will shave some significant weight where it counts most, and the XR-1 tires simply flat out fly on gravel without loosing much volume and comfort. I'll still have the current wheel set for more off-road/mountain bike type rides. 

Finally, I am going to invest in some frame bags for this one and do some S24 camping. It's high time I do something like that. 

Note: Retroshift sent these CXV levers for test/review at no charge. I am not being paid nor bribed for this review, and I strive to give my honest thoughts and opinions throughout. The Shimano 9 speed bar end shifters were purchased out of pocket by me.

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