Friday, September 29, 2023

Friday News And Views

Image courtesy of State Bicycle Co.
State Bicycle Co. Launches Gravel Sus Fork:

Further expanding into the gravel bicycle category, State Bicycle Co. originally a fixture of the fixie scene of the 2000's, has just released a gravel suspension fork. 

The 40mm travel air sprung fork with a lock-out feature is said to weigh in at 1600 grams. (Compare to most steel forks this is about 300+ grams heavier. About 2X or more heavier than typical carbon forks) The fork features flat mount disc brake standard, a tapered steer tube (1 1/8th" - 1 1/4") and has a 12mm through axle. Tire clearance is a generous 2.3". Fork offset is 52mm. Axle to crown is 440mm. Price is set at $450.00 USD. 

Details on the fork can be seen at State Bicycle Co's website HERE

Comments: Readers of this blog already know that I am very skeptical of the advantages of adding a suspension fork to a "gravel" bike. In fact, it would be fair to say that I remain unconvinced of the necessity of such a device for gravel. I lean more to the vibration reduction side of things and am an advocate for devices like Cane Creek's eeSilk stem or Redshift Sport's ShockStop Stem. Stems are swappable from bike to bike, and with suspension stem options weighing in at less than 300 grams and costing less than $300.00, (more like closer to 200 hundred bucks in some cases), it is easy to see why a gravel suspension fork seems like a not-so-great an idea. 

In my experience, riding a Fox gravel suspension fork, if you set it up for absorbing vibrations (what you'll see most of on gravel) then the fork blows through its travel on pot holes and washboard. Set it up for handling washboard and potholes makes it unusable for the rest of the ride. Essentially you end up carting around an expensive, heavy fork that requires maintenance every 50 to 100 hours of use. 

Yeah..... In my opinion, this is a non-starter. But you do you. If it suits your needs, then the State Bicycle Co fork is a much more budget friendly choice than the big names in gravel suspension. 

Single Speed Gravel - Part Two:

As you well know if you have been reading here this week, I wrote a short series on single speed in general, but this was a response to our first Single Speed Gravel podcast. 

If you want to listen to us discuss a few of the highlights of the series, then you can check out Part 2 of the Single Speed Gravel podcast episode HERE

We also feature a bit of gab about another Pennsylvania gravel event and a bit about the next item in the "FN&V" today. 

Just a reminder that we do have some listener engagement opportunities on the GTP site (found at the link) and that we were sponsored once again by CORE4 who have announced there 2024 date, opened registration (HERE) and have made a couple of tweaks to the offerings which you can learn about from listening to the episode. 

Thanks for supporting the podcast and our sponsor, if you do that. 

Image courtesy of Specialized

Gravel eBike For The Well-Heeled Gravelist:

 Every so often I am aghast at the level of entry into cycling's high-end products. I was once again found in this state when reading about Specialized's newest Turbo Creo model, the Turbo Creo 2.  

Base price is 10.5K. That's nuts

But advance up to the ladder and climb to the S-Works edition and you'll spend almost twice that!

I read a review of the bike that was conducted at some posh location where the journos were flown in to taste the offerings. The resulting review, while glossy and favorable, as one would expect it to be, showed up some rather interesting results.

I know that battery technology is getting better all the time, so when I saw that a rider can maybe expect about 43 miles on a charge in eco mode, I was left scratching my head. That's not real impressive. Then the tester went out on a ride with a bit more than 2k elevation gain, the rider weighed less than 180lbs, and the battery drained down to 38% level. Mileage? Less than 24 miles. 

For 10K plus some I'd want to see a bit more impressive mileage and battery life numbers. 

It's also interesting to note that the Creo was strictly a road bike in its previous incarnation. Now? Gravel all the way baby! Specialized is telling us that "gravel" is worth something to consumers, and this redesign tells us that in spades. It takes big, 2"+ tires, and it has slacker geometry than the previous iteration. Huh! Quite the change from the days when everyone outside the gravel niche were telling us to just ride a cyclo cross bike!

Image courtesy of SRAM

SRAM Debuts A New HPC Drivetrain:

SRAM announced this week that they have a new electric assist MTB drivetrain out called Eagle Powertrain. 

The motor was designed in conjunction with German manufacturer, Brose and features two new benefits that are unique. Auto Shift and Coast Shift.

Auto Shift is what it sounds like. This can be overridden by the rider if the rider chooses to and then the function will return automatically without the rider having to switch back and forth. The interesting feature here is Coast Shift which allows the crank set to remain stationary while the motor turns the drive train to allow the rear derailleur to shift to another gear. Essentially, the crank set "freewheels", but only when the Coast Shift is activated. 

Comments: While Auto Shift is not all that surprising, (I rode an electric auto shifting bike which was being tested by Gary Fisher in 2007) the Coast Shift is probably the most interesting feature here. I have to chuckle a bit because "coast shifting" has been around for years with internal gear hubs. So, I have to wonder if this SRAM thing is really more about traditionalists doing a novelty exercise in technology. Don't get me wrong, Coast Shift is impressive, but at this point, why are we still dinking around with the external, rear derailleur shifted drive train at all?

It isn't as though most every person that buys these SRAM Powertrain equipped bikes are ever going to purposely ride them unassisted. That's probably not ever going to happen. So, as long as we are doing motor/human hybrid power, why not eliminate the derailleur altogether? Just put a gearbox on these bikes and be done with it already. 

Why pretend that these are "like traditional mountain bikes" when they clearly are not. Efficiency benefits to 100% human powered bicycles will almost always lean towards the external derailleur drive train being most efficient, but if we are adding motors, who cares about human efficiency anymore? Certainly the buying public doesn't, because their efficiency is being assisted. Why have dangly bits that can be sheared off when that reason for the dangly bit has been erased by electric motors and batteries?  

So, nice job, SRAM. very impressive and all, but this is kind of silly. Convince me otherwise.... 

With that, I will sign off for today and hope that you all have a wonderful weekend of riding (hopefully). Thanks for reading Guitar Ted Productions!!


JimpanZ said...

You nailed it on this one. As I am aging, some in my group have recommended some "minor" assist with an ebike, but it would become too easy to use and loose so much of the effort that is neccesary to keep fit.
I turned 70 this year. When I found this group 10 years ago, I set the pace and they had to work. Now they crack the whip.

Guitar Ted said...

@JimpanZ - Thanks for the comments. Keep on keepin' on!