Friday, July 01, 2022

Friday News And Views

$800-plus bucks to save two watts? What?!
A Brief Look At What Has Been Done Before:

Last week you all probably saw this ridiculous rear derailleur cage from Ceramic Speed which has aero covers and is supposedly good for a two watt savings over something like 25 miles. Give or take. 

I know, it was probably one of the better click-bait things for many sites and it probably got a lot of tongues wagging about , "How stupid is that?!". 

I dunno..... Probably so 'stupid' that they'll sell every one of them that they make 'stupid', that's how stupid that is, most likely. 

If you believe it, it will work, most likely, and you'll pay that price for "speed". Seems to be the thing with cyclists for as long as I've been paying attention. (See the dropper post thing below)

The thing I saw when I noted that derailleur cage last week was that it wasn't the first attempt at making a rear derailleur more aero. Heck, some of you older folks probably remember the aero-rear derailleurs from Campy, Sun Tour, and others back in the 80's. Well, I thought about one effort to make components aero that was pretty involved and fell flat on its face. It was the Shimano Dura-Ace AX Series components. 

Shimano Dura Ace AX rear derailleur
The Dura Ace AX stuff was pretty radical back then. The brakes, the derailleurs, and even cable routing was considered and made to cut through the wind more smoothly. 

I cobbed a couple images for this segment from the 'innergoogles', and to the left here you can see how the upper jockey wheel is shrouded, but note that cable routing! No cable hanging out in the wind here! Due to the way derailleurs were made back then, the upper jockey wheel was deemed to be more important in an aero application than the lower one. See how all the derailleur edges are smoothed out too. 

Part of the reason Dura Ace AX fell flat with riders was its use of the new, at that time 10mm chain pitch called Dura Ace 10. Normal chains, in a metric measure, are 12.7mm in "pitch", which determines the distance between chain pins and cog teeth. If you want to take a deeper dive on why Shimano thought a 10mm chain pitch was better, read this

Anyway, I thought it might prove to be interesting to point out that these sorts of ideas have cropped up in cycling's past and that this Ceramic Speed idea is just a modern-day riffing on those old ideas.

Shimano's new 105 Di2 group. (Image courtesy of Shimano)

New Shimano 105 Di2: It has been years since people wondered if Shimano would ever 'trickle-down' a Di2 105 level electronic group, and finally, the day is here. It happened this week, and what might be a big surprise to many, it isn't an older, 11 speed group, or a watered down version. Nope! Shimano went all-in and equipped the new 105 Di2 with the latest in Di2 technology and made it 12 speed! You've no doubt read all about it already, so on to the....

Comments: SRAM made inroads on the market with their lower priced AXS Rival stuff, and while their system is ballyhooed for its completely wireless set up, that can be a bit of a 'drag' in terms of shifting speed. Shimano went wireless where it meant the most- in the levers, and stuck with a wired derailleur system because they did not want to compromise the speed and efficiency of their already world-class Di2. And it seems many Pro cyclists and enthusiasts agree. However; to get in on Shimano Di2, you had to spend a pretty penny because it started at the Ultegra level. 

Now with Shimano 105 Di2, he prices are far lower, and in many individual component cases, less than SRAM Rival AXS. There is one area, however, where SRAM still holds a bit of an advantage and that is in the extended range that SRAM AXS Xplor has. 

But you have to assume that GRX, being held out as a separate category by Shimano, (Gravel, vs MTB or Road), will soon see a similar update, and when it does, I assume we will see a similar 12 speed set up with wide-range casettes to go along with that. Interestingly, Shimano chose to make Di2 105 backwards compatible with HyperGlide 11, 10, and some earlier free hub bodies. Will GRX stay that course, or will the 12 speed be MicroSpline, as it is with their MTB stuff?

My feeling is that Shimano sees GRX being more closely related to road bike componentry and therefor they will stick to the course set by Di2 DuraAce, Ultegra, and 105, in my opinion. Or.....Di2 105 is being stuck with the "old" free hub and newer road and GRX stuff will be MicroSpline. I can see it going either way. 

The bad thing here is that this may signal the end of high-end, mechanically operated drive trains. Now I mean from SRAM and Shimano. I think you'll always have stuff like Microshift around doing whatever the 'big guys' are not doing.  But there was no traditional 105 announced with this, so..... Makes one think.

SILCA's "The Truth" tire pressure gauge. (Image courtesy of SILCA)

You Can't Handle The "Truth"!:

Well, you can pre-order it for about $249.00 though! What am I talking about? This thing that SILCA has made for Pro and insider's use only for many years, that's what. 

Almost $250.00 for a tire pressure gauge? Yep! If getting every last bit of performance out of your tires is of paramount importance to you, this gauge will help you get that. 

I know.....I know... You squeeze your tires using that highly calibrated 'hand gauge' you've always used and head on out the door. Yeah, well- this ain't fer you. Racers, time-trialists, fat bikers, and anyone that wants to hit the 'sweet spot' on pressure every time they ride, this is for you. Yes- it is expensive. I'd counter that with the history of SILCA so far in the USA being one that has shown that it provides some pretty high-end, reliable tools and kit. Listen- The Pros wouldn't have been using this if it didn't hold up and do a good job.

I mean, this gauge compensates for temperature, barometric pressure, and humidity. That's more than I can say about myself, right there. If only I could compensate for humidity....... I know one thing I am going to compensate for, and that is using another type of gauge I can afford, (or already have) to compensate for the waaaay expensive SILCA gauge. That's what I am doing....

The "G Series" Dropper Post (Image courtesy of Enve)

Don't Stop Till You Dropper: 

Or something like that..... Anyway! The dropper post for gravel riding, or heck, even just road riding. I think it is a vastly underrated and misunderstood thing. Most, even Enve and others that promote the use of such lowering devices for gravel, think they exist to get you down a sketchy segment. Well.....yeah, but....

Aerodynamics. That's why you should be using a dropper post on a gravel bike. The rest of that nonsense is gravy. Dropping your tush on a long descent via the use of a dropper will make you leave your friends in your dusty contrail. That's if you just sit there and coast! 

 Don't believe me? Well, you go try it and get back to me afterward. I don't "think" you'll agree- I know you will. It's a thing. Better than a derailleur cage cover.....pffft!

So, Enve has seen that from a more MTB perspective, and totally missed the boat on the best reason to use one of these, but whatever. They will catch on someday. The point here is that Enve has developed an "upside down" dropper for a bicycle. They call it the "G Series Dropper Post".

You can read why they did what they did here. I think it is an intriguing way to do this idea. It allows for saddle bags, for one thing, and it seems that this design may indeed do what Enve claims in terms of keeping the muck out and the durability high for the internals. 

Yes- it also is quite expensive. But it weighs less than 400 grams, which in dropper post terms is ultra-light weight. So, you do not pay much of a weight penalty here, and once again: Aero! Free Speed! And an additional note. I thought this was a unique design, but as it turns out, DT Swiss makes one like it. It's even more expensive!

 That's all for this week. Have a safe, fun, and happy 4th of July weekend (If you live in the USA), and if you don't celebrate that, have a great weekend anyway and get out and ride! Thanks- as always- for reading Guitar Ted Productions!


MuddyMatt said...

Two things from me this time round.

First, electronic shifting on bikes. I hate the idea in as much as in 50 years time it won't work (you won't be able to get batteries that fit for a start, let alone software upgrades). So I don't like that at all because a bike is all about utility and this just generates waste in the long run.

But I don't want to be a retro-grouch either and if someone gave me a bike with electrickery on it I know I'd love it!

Second, droppers posts. Agree that on road and gravel the aero gains are what is worthwhile for descending. But it depends on the type of descent.

On MTB, the real benefit of dropper posts are that you can position the saddle optimally for climbing with a really steep seat tube. Then when you are descending you drop the saddle and your legs support you instead which means you can move around (forward and back, mainly) to optimise your handling. It's why we can have slack angled bikes that climb well while being monsters downhill, but it requires you to move around when descending or you will understeer into the weeds.

If road bikes (and a lesser extent gravel bikes) want to maximise the gains downhill - even on smooth roads - it's not good enough to drop lower for speed when its technical because simply having a lower saddle means your weight - if still seated - is in a different place to if the saddle is at it's regular height.

Long straight descents? Stay seated and bank those aero gains. Twists and turns where you can really make a difference? Get off the saddle and move the bike under you, something a dropped saddle really lets you do, even if it is dropped by an inch or two. You'll be much faster because you can get your weight balanced to make faster, more stable turns.

In my view, dropper posts are the single biggest factor in how MTB geometry has developed over the last decade. I also retro-grouched them at the start and was completely wrong. My latest MTBs are by far the best I've ever had and seeing the tech move over to road and gravel is interesting. The notion of one single optimal saddle height for the duration of a ride is heading out the door. But your riding style has to change with it.

Thanks for reading! Matt

scottg said...

That derailer fairing is the difference twixt being first in line
at the coffee stop and being 2nd. Did see in the TDF time trial today.

Dura Ace 10 was track only, road was regular chain.

AX Road include the DynaDrive pedal, oversize pedal axle
so extra large hole in the crank arm. Rocking horse poo
availability large hole to standard axle adapter for un-DynaPedals,
not popular.

Put a NOS Suntour VXGT rear mech on the Claud Butler,
the 1950s Cyclo shift lever works with 1970s Suntour derailer.
Got brand new TA chain rings for the Stronglight 49 chainset.
Any bets on getting a new battery for 20 year old Shimano Di2 ?

Guitar Ted said...

@scottg - Hmmm.... Can you explain the Panaracer AX road bike my former boss had with Dura Ace 10 chain and full AX group? It exists....

Daniel said...

So is Shimano going to make Tiagra 11 speed? Its weird to think that Tiagra is now the top tier mechanical groupset but also having had a bike with Tiagra on it, its a quality groupset that shouldn't be overlooked.

Guitar Ted said...

@Daniel - I haven't heard anything, but that would be a logical assumption given Shimano's past record of upgrading lower tier groups. See the MTB side where everything is 12 speed down to Deore level and that has 12, 11, and 10 speed options.

I suspect that Tiagra will remain, along with Sora, as mechanical groups with Tiagra being offered in 12 speed, 11, sped, and Sora as 11 speed. Remember- 12 speed hubs will accept 11 speed cogs and vice-versa, (pretty sure on that for road), so this scheme would make sense for the near future.

And also- Keep in mind that Shimano has working 13 and 14 speed prototype groups sitting on the shelf and have since 2010. (When I was told this by a Shimano Skunk Works rider) Will we go there? I really see no reason that Shimano won't do this down the line.

It would make a lot of sense for Shimano to offer its only mechanical groups, (assuming it is Tiagra and Sora) in Ultegra level fit and finish. Why not? The electronic groups are an entirely different design. Different price points, and there would be no downside to offering a nicer level of finish and fit on a 12spd Tiagra mechanical group AND charge more for it than current Tiagra level prices. Your still going to have a big jump in performance and feel in a Di2 105 group, and the satellite components could all still be a tic higher level quality with 105 than Tiagra.

Finally- The real question here is why buy an Ultegra Di2 group now?