Friday, October 11, 2019

Friday News And Views

Updated Cutthroat for 2020. Image courtesy of Salsa Cycles
Salsa Cycles Announces Redesigned Cutthroat:

If you follow social media at all, you already have seen the new Salsa Cycles Cutthroat by now. I won't go over all of the nitty-gritty of the new design, but I wanted to touch upon a few things that struck me about this announcement and the bike.

I've not been a big fan of carbon fiber as an adventure bike/gravel bike frame material since I've seen first hand what a muddy ride can do to a carbon frame. Now, you may say something to the effect of "Well, how many times is that going to happen on typical gravel rides?" Well, I've been doing this activity around the Mid-West for a decade and a half and I can tell you the answer is, "It happens a LOT". Yes- even when it doesn't rain. 

So, with that out of the way, I have advocated for some sort of protective inserts in high wear areas on carbon frames to ward off premature wear through while traversing muddy areas. I've seen damage occur with one passing on a one mile section, and that without riding the entire section. So, this isn't a wild, out of the ordinary request. Now Salsa is doing this on the new Cutthroat. It's a start, but more bike companies need to adopt this practice on gravel/adventure rigs,

The other thing they did with more fork compliance is another "no-brainer" design feature other bike companies need to adopt. At least we aren't still thinking those overly stiff carbon Enve forks and their ilk are good for gravel. Compliance is king, and Salsa figured this out. Kudos.

But did anyone notice that they are calling these new models "Carbon Cutthroats"? Hmm..... This begs the question, "Why even bother using Carbon in the name unless there is a Cutty coming in another material?" I mean, of course a Cutthroat is carbon. They have always been so. Makes you wonder.......

TIME Ciclo "gravel" pedals.
At First They Said It Was Stupid......

1990: Shimano introduces a clipless mountain bike pedal dubbed the M-737, but it quickly became known as "Spud", a verbal rendering of "SPD" which stood for Shimano Pedal Dynamics.

Howls of "you don't need mountain bike specific pedals!" were heard from all sectors of the land back then. But today? While there has been a renaissance of flat pedal use, the clipless pedal is "The Standard" for more than mountain biking.

Fast forward to 2019. TIME introduces a pedal based on road pedals wider, more performance oriented platform, but capable of being used with any two-bolt cleat compatible shoe. (A cleat/shoe compatibility first introduced by the "Spud" in 1990) TIME calls it "the first gravel pedal design". Cue the howls of derision.

I'm really not quite sure about the "how" of this pedals supposed advantages, but here's the deal. If there is anything to it, it will catch on. MTB shoes and pedals are, generally, over-built for what amounts to road riding without the paved roads. You aren't likely to be side swiping big rocks, branches, or pointy, sharp things wielded by desert plants. Not on typical gravel and dirt roads anyway. A more efficient platform and walk-able shoes? Sounds good to me. If it is an advantage, I can totally see it taking off.

Now I have seen comments like, "Yeah, but how many times do you actually get off your bike during a gravel race?" To which I would answer, "Well, if you even have to get off once, wearing road shoes is a disadvantage, not to mention mud, which can foul your pedal interface even if you don't get off." I've actually seen this in an MTB race I was in in the 90's. I've also seen road pedals and shoes finish Trans Iowa. (That rider mentioned the wider platform which he preferred) So, horses for courses and whatever works.

But for those of you that like to poo-poo the latest "specific" component, accessory, or bike, I hope that you are consistent in your lifestyle and use only one bike for everything and use a fixed gear bike, because anything else "you don't really need". On the other hand, if you have some well thought out criticisms or thoughts about the latest craze, well then, carry on......

MG checked out the Roval wheels recently in Calli.
Materials Technology: 

When it comes to bicycles, almost anything you see that is called an "innovation" was already thought of over a hundred years ago, or close to that. When bicycles represented technology akin to what we feel about artificial intelligence, or digital ......well almost anything, back in the 1890's, ideas were flowing like water. Things were dreamt up then that would not look alien to a savvy cycling aficionado today.

So, why didn't they have full suspension bikes, wide, tubeless rims and tires, and more back then? 

Materials technology. Mostly, that is what held everyone back from realizing their dreams back in the day. The recent Roval wheel debut in California is a prime example of what I am talking about.

You don't have to go back a hundred years to see this at work either. Think about 29"er rims circa ten years ago or maybe 12 years ago. The widest thing going was, what? A Stan's Flow? There were oddball rims like the SUN Ringle' MTX and the Salsa Gordo, but those weighed a metric ton. Stan's Flow rims were 28mm outside width, or so. Inner width? Maybe what? 24mm? (HOLD ON)...... Okay, I just remembered I have an old Flow rim. It measured a hair over 27mm outer and 22.3mm inner. Okay.....those were considered trail MTB rims in 2007. 

Build weights for rims that wide back then were close to 2000 grams a pair and we thought that was fine. Fast forward to today. Roval introduces a gravel rim/wheel set. It has 25mm inner width, and full wheel builds are sub-1300 grams for a pair.


The thing is we are like, "Oh..... Yeah, that sounds pretty cool." When we should be floored. We are sooooo jaded when it comes to this sort of thing, in my opinion. Yes......the wheels are prohibitively expensive. one "needs them", at least in the sense that you cannot cycle without them, or whatever. But, you cannot deny that they would be awesome to ride with. Rims that wide, and light? That's materials technology right there. That's what I was talking about. It's amazing how this facet of engineering has brought so many cool ideas from long ago (or even just ten years ago) to life, or made them practical.

That's it for this week. Have a great weekend and get out and ride!


baric said...

I just recently purchased a set of new Sun Ringle MTX 33 26" wheels on closeout, fairly cheap for a 2007 Giant Anthem. Was looking for a wider footprint than the old school stock rims and got it. Heavier,yes indeed, outer rim width is 33mm, inner rim width is like 26mm with a 36 spoke count. So to be fair they were originally built for that gnarly cliff diving downhill racing stuff like out in Moab and are definitely stout, sturdy and say it again, heavy.
Those Roval wheels are what dreams are made of, but like most things carbon, the prices are heart stopping.

scott said...

I was actually very surprised to notice a change that Salsa did NOT make to the Cutthroat. It seems that many of the recent winners of these long distance events such as the Tour Divide and Silk Road are not riding drop bars. The trend seems to be wide MTB flat or riser bars, bar ends, and aero bars. I know several folks that previously completed the Tour Divide on drop bars but made their most recent attempts with flat bars. I wouldn't be surprised if the majority of top 10 finishers were on flat bars.
Given that Salsa markets the Cutthroat as "the" Tour Divide race bike I am surprised they didn't move towards more of an XC race bike geometry, designed for MTB flat bars, but with all the mounts, frame bag space, etc. I know you can throw a flat bar on any bike but Salsa clearly states that its not ideal for the Cutthroat and Fargo.
I know midwest gravel is your forte but I'd be really curious to get your take on this. I think moving the Cutthroat to flat bars would make it a better tour divide bike but it would certainly make it less of a gravel bike and take away from its versatility.

Guitar Ted said...

@scott- You could look at this another way- Who else makes drop bar MTB's? Not many do, and the Cutthroat stands pretty singularly in the market. Salsa sells a LOT of these bikes, so, why change what works?

If Salsa made a carbon hardtail 29"er, how many other companies would have a leg up on them marketing-wise? A LOT.

There's your answer as to "why the Cutthroat".

Daniel said...

Why doesn't the Cutthroat have fender mounts? That's seems like such an obvious thing to have...but?

Guitar Ted said...

@Dqaniel- It doesn't have a place to mount a dynamo light on the fork crown either, but it has dynamo light wiring routing. Yeah, I thought all that was very odd for a bike that is supposed to be a bagger/touring bike.