Tuesday, November 06, 2018

News Season: Drivetrain Debuts

Another 1X option is set to be unleashed
News about drivetrain choices for bikes is up today. First off I noted a new offering being shown from a brand called TRW Active. This start up is based in New Mexico and they are going to produce an 11 speed, 1X system including a shifter and crank set. Their Indiegogo fundraiser is going to happen soon but they claim to have already produced 150 group sets to satisfy early demand.

There are three different wide ratio cassettes on offer along with the crank set, rear derailleur, and shifter. Curiously, the TRW Active website says the shifter is compatible with "other 11 speed systems", but does not specify which ones. The trigger shifter is notable for having a dual release trigger much like a Shimano Rapid Fire Plus does.

Comments: Is there room for another mtb component company? It's a hard market to break into, as Box Components has been finding out, along with SunRace, and others. I think this TRW Active stuff looks fine, but SRAM and Shimano components are so ubiquitous and shops generally carry spares that going off the grid with a component choice is a tough sell.

SRAM E Tap To Go To 12:

News came down via a "Cyclingtips" Tweet that SRAM will push out a new 12 speed E-Tap system coming up in January. Details are slim, but this good "Cyclingtips" article gives you all the lowdown on what might be coming in terms of features. 

The SRAM E-Tap front derailleur is criticized for limiting tire clearances
Comments: SRAM was loved for their cross compatibility between mountain and road parts once Shimano moved to 10 speed mtb DynaSys systems which stopped cross compatibility between Shimano road and mtb components. (Yes- there are gizmos to get around this that are third party applications) So, now that E-Tap has been around, gravel riders have been eagerly awaiting SRAM's entry into the electronic shifting mountain bike components with hopes that they could mix and match electronic road and mountain bike parts.

This news about 12 speed E-Tap lends more credence to a 12 speed Eagle mtb group introduction and a possibility that the cross-compatibility scheme might become reality. However; this news also points to a possibility that it would not be necessary to cross mtb and road bits. The text mentions the wide range rear cassette and 1X road possibilities. Still, you would have to think that since most gravel/all road bikes are using mtb rear wheel spacing that the XD driver and cassette would be the go-to set up for a gravel rig.

The only nit there is that a 2X E-Tap front derailleur gets in the way of bigger tires. The article linked above does not point to a modified derailleur to address this, so 2X Di2 seems to be the only good option for those wanting a closer ratio gearing set up, unless there is a surprise waiting in the wings from SRAM. 

The chain rings on the 12 speed E-Tap are said to be machined from one piece. This is good from a technical standpoint, but in real world, practical terms, you are going to have a much higher maintenance cost and people will be pissed when they wear out one of the two rings and need to replace both. (Well, technically speaking they will be "one ring" with two sets of teeth, but people are not going to care.) Plus, customization to rider preferences will be out the window. You'll have choices in a few ring combinations and that's it.

Finally, I am still not convinced that having to plug in another device, or carry CR 2032 batteries around is worth the small increase in shifting performance for the average gravel rider. Throw in the cost of components, and the high likelihood that rear derailleurs have for getting trashed in mud, and I think it becomes less attractive. Yes- you can shear off any derailleur, but I'd rather pay to replace a mechanical Ultegra or SRAM Force derailleur than I would a Di2 or E-Tap version. Plus, stories of electronic failures are not uncommon.

Stay tuned for more "News Season" posts in the future......


bostonbybike said...

A double chainring machined from one piece is a bummer unless they make several useful combinations like 46/30, 44/28, 42/26. But if they just stick to 50/34 only it makes no sense at all.
My questions is - where are those 12-speed road shifters and a 10-46T road cassette?

Daniel said...

@bostonbybike SRAM will be using 50/37 and 48/35 chainrings.

S.Fuller said...

Random thoughts.

- I have eTap on one of my road bikes. It works well, but I wish it supported a wider range cassette out of the box without having to resort to something like a Roadlink (which is what I did to use a 36 tooth rear cassette).

- No way I would put eTap on any adventure/gravel bike. It might work OK for those folks out West where it's dry all the time. As you
alluded to, wet midwest gravel races would just mean higher maintenance costs.

- The single piece chainring is a nice lock in. Only tech advantages I can think of are possibly chainline related since they can eliminate the spider and marginal increase in stiffness. Cue the third party compatible chainrings in 3 - 2 - 1...

Cory said...

@Guitar Ted- are you going to do an actual test of the trw drivetrain? I am surprised that their company name is allowed to continue with global giant TRW auto parts out there. I hope they succeed.

Guitar Ted said...

@Cory Edd- We will see. If the stuff takes off and one of our distributors picks it up at the shop where I work, maybe. It's hard to justify when you have SRAM NX which works as great as it does. That stuff is also waaaay inexpensive. I just cannot see why TRW drive train parts would be any advantage over that sort of proven, easy to get choice.

But you never know.......