- Includes: Double Tap brake/shift levers, front and rear derailleurs, 1090R chain, red cassette (11-26)
- Gruppo weight: 915 grams
- Cost: $1236
- Better ergonomics
- Significant weight savings
- Quick shifting, fantastic gear ratios
Ultimate mods for the ultimate bike!
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Cervelo R3 |SRAM Red | Bike To Work | Antares Saddle |eebrake | Cervelo R3 Project | Home
Part 1 |Part 2 | Part 3 |Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8
Cervelo R3: Ultimate mods for the ultimate bike
Over the past year, I've tried to get the weight down but not make it "stupid light" with high maintenance and fragile parts. This is review attempts to capture the quest to built the ultimate in "smart light"--upgrading with lighter weight parts that would continue to improve performance.
This is a multi-part review and each component will be graded on three criteria with a 1-5 scale.
In short, SRAM Red cut nearly 250 grams off the
Shimano DA 9-speed. In addition:
On the performance side, the shifting is fast and intuitive and the
shifters are extremely comfortable. Only two complaints
Easton hits a home run, first time at bat!
Of all the upgrades, I was most excited about Easton's new carbon cranks. I've been using 9-speed Dura Ace with FSA Superlight Cranks (543 grams with bolts) and the reliable and light Dura Ace Octalink bottom bracket (175 grams). The combined weight of 718 grams seemed hard to beat; most of the newer 10-speed crank/bb's actually weigh more. But since I switched to 10-speed recently, I wanted a crankset that was optimized for the 10 cogs. Easton's crank was the one that was lighter without being quite as cost-prohibitive as some of the competition. Better still, the EC90 crank and bottom bracket weigh a total of 676 grams, a savings of 32 grams.
How does it compare?
How do they ride?
"The weakest areas in a traditional carbon-fiber component are the tiny spaces between the fibers that contain only resin. To radically improve strength and toughness in these critical areas, Easton Scientists have developed an innovative Enhanced Resin System using carbon nanotubes (CNT). Carbon nanotubes are an array of carbon atoms arranged in a pattern of hexagons and pentagons (similar to the pattern found on soccer balls). These structures can be manufactured in tubular shapes one billionth of a meter in diameter, hence the name nanotube. Carbon nanotubes have been called “the strongest fiber that will ever be made”. Nanotubes have a strength-to-weight ratio orders of magnitude greater than steel. Easton’s proprietary process impregnates the resin/fiber matrix with evenly distributed carbon nanotubes. The addition of real carbon nanotubes greatly improves the toughness and strengthens Easton’s already legendary components."
All I know is that these cranks are noticeably stiffer and the bike feels more "of one piece". Climbing on the already amazing Cervelo R3 became even easier. With the old cranks, when standing you could feel a slight "mush" as your foot pushed through the arc. Now there is no waste; everything is driving you forward.
Easton has finished these off with excellent quality chain rings; shifts were crisp and quick. Better still, they are traditional 5 bolt x 130 sizes so replacement rings are easy to come by. Some may complain that a compact size isn't immediately available but with the recent advent of wider ratio clusters, this seems like less of an issue. Regardless, compact sizing is reportedly in the works.
These cranks are gorgeous but a little "darth
vader" on my bike; the mostly black matte finish disappears against the R3
frame. I added some red alloy bolts (hope they don't look too cheeseball) to
brighten it up. All in all, these are very impressive cranks which I highly
Part 3: Accessorize -- Fizik Antares saddle and KCNC
Fizik Antares Saddle
The Antares is the newest saddle from Fizik. It is positioned between the ultra-comfortable Aliante and the ultra-popular Airione. I love the Aliante but the Airione never quite fit me. The Antares' real competitor is a minimalist saddle like the Selle Italia Flite which weighs an astounding 135 grams. However, I find the Flite extremely uncomfortable. The Antares weighs a little more but I found it to be surprisingly comfortable--even on 50 mile rides. Plus, at 177 grams, it saves 38 grams over the Aliante. You can read my in-depth review here.
KCNC Quick Release Skewers
At this point, I admit I was starting to get a little weenie-fied looking for more ways to save weight. I tend to shy away from super-shiny bright CNC'd parts that can be too fragile for normal use/abuse. But these KCNC quick releases/skewers were just so tempting. Super light but at a reasonable price. I debated over "plain" silver or black...but took the plunge with these anodized red jobs. In a word, they are amazing. At 45 grams for the pair, they weigh less than a rear Zipp, Salsa, or Mavic skewer! They also cost less than many of these. The only disappointment was the springs that mount between the bike and the axle ends; they were tightly wound around the axle and would "burrow" in while turning the QR. Just substitute them with your old QR springs, and you'll be good to go. More impressive was the clamping quality and leverage of the diminutive handle. Somehow KCNC has worked in significant mechanical advantage with the bulbous pivot and stubby lever. These QRs exceeded expectations--and at 65$ are a great way to shave 40 grams.
Part 4: Ritchey Carbon Magic
Seatpost: Ritchey Superlogic Carbon One-bolt
It's hard to find a seatpost that comes in at less than 150 grams. The Ritchey Superlogic Carbon is one of the few. It is also very strong. Ritchey has designed a post that is "3-D forged" from the shaft to the head mount. That means it's heated and super-pressurized carbon to mold it into it's shape.
Another nice feature is the simple one-bolt clamping mechanism that holds the cradle and end pieces together. Ritchey even makes clamps that come in different sizes to, for example, work with the carbon railed fizik Aliante which has a taller rail profile.
Installing the saddle takes a bit of time but once on, it's easy to adjust fore/aft and the angle. The seatpost didn't have any noticeable flex and complemented the already plush ride of the Cervelo.
Handlebar: Ritchey SuperLogic Logic II
The Ritchey SuperLogic Logic II handlebars are crazy light. It's amazing that they are clip-on compatible. The are also "crazy functional". I am a fairly conservative descender so I really value handlebars that feel good in the drops. The design of these bars is perfect for me. They feature an aggressive mid-bend that provides an excellent and secure feel when descending. The bar ends extend back, giving additional security; you feel like your hands won't run out to the ends prematurely. They are also a nice perch when descending. Ritchey has a slightly different bend with their Evo models; in my opinion, the Evo looks slightly better because it's more upright. But, for me, the performance of these SuperLogic II's surpasses the looks. By the way, Logic II is Ritchey's way of saying the reach and drop is customized for all three bar widths. Additionally, riding on the hoods was comfortable and well placed.
These are impressive bars that improved my descending skills while also saving weight.
Fork: WCS UD Carbon Road
The stock fork on the Cervelo was the excellent True Temper Sub-3. I honestly had very low expectations with the new Ritchey fork. The one disappointment with the Sub-3 is inordinately heavy at 375 grams. This is because it requires epoxying of the star-fangled nut mechanism--and the nut itself is heavy. The Ritchey reduced this by 78 grams. And looks-wise, the wide, 45mm "shoulders" of the fork mate perfectly with the stout head tube of the Cervelo.
WCS fork turned out to be an absolute
revelation; the handling is superb. The fork has an amazing dampening quality;
it smooths out bumps. But at the same time provides continuous feedback. You can
really feel the road but it is not fatiguing. And, as stated, I am a
conservative descender. On the maiden voyage, I ended up in a huge group ride of
over 50 people. I was petrified as we all descended our local highway 84 out to
coast at mach speeds. But the fork (and handlebars) provided a new found
confidence with the incredible feedback--and comfort. For the first time in a
while, I actually enjoyed the descent. On the way back, we dropped down Kings
Mountain road. And for the first time in 10+ years, I was able to hang on my
buddies wheel. Typically my friends have to wait for me post-descent.
5: One year later--13 pounds 13 ounces
More importantly, the bike now climbs better due to lighter weight, better low gear range, and stiffer cranks. And it descends with greater confidence and ability due to the phenomenal fork and handlebars. In a word, the bike has gone from competent to fantastic.
There are a few more upgrades that I did:
Stay tuned for continued upgrades...wheels
Part 6: But "weight"...there's more. 13 pounds 5ounces
Ritchey Superlogic Carbon-Boron 46 Tubulars
Steve Parke showed up with the a set of Ritchey Superlogic Carbon-Boron 46 Tubulars. They were pre-glued with Ritchey Slick WCS tubular tires that have a claimed weight of 250 grams each; I think they were closer to 280 grams each with glue, so this puts the real weight at 1200 grams for the wheelset (sans quick releases). The net actual loss was 182 grams, dropping the total bike weight to 6038 grams, or 13 lbs 5 ounces.
The full carbon rims are designed by Lew Racing (which is now merged with Reynolds). Lew also uses Boron, a material that is 4x stronger than Carbon and 10x the cost. By leveraging Boron, less material is needed to make the wheel, decreasing weight. There are also many other cool features.
The rear wheel has a crisscross, aka "Crowsfoot" pattern on the drive side; the cross bend has a straight pull for extra rigidity. The quick releases feature "smart" labeling; the rear skewer is meant to face forward. This is to prevent accidental opening if you make contact in a race. If the QR faces backward, it's more prone to opening with someone coming up on you and brushing against it.
So how did they ride? The first ride was in a test against the already very sweet Easton SLX clinchers which have a 20mm rim height. The test was a 5 mile time trial. Using this bike and the clincher wheels, I did the course in 14:05 or 21.3mph. On the second run, using the Ritchey Tubulars, I was able to shave 44 seconds off the previous time; 13:21 or 22.5mph! For comparison, another rider switched from his clinchers to these tubulars and shaved 10 seconds. Granted, there are a lot of variables and the test wasn't perfect, but it seemed conclusive that the wheelset was definitely faster.
During the hectic testing, the ride quality was impressive. They were smooth and of note, they seemed to roll much easier. Going up a hill, the wheels felt like they could maintain speed with less effort. It was subtle but definitely noticeable. Additionally, the rim height seems to be ideal for multi-purpose use; tall enough for aerodynamic savings yet not prohibitive in cross winds.
A few days later, I was also able to ride these wheels in a less hectic environment, tooling around the beautiful back roads of the Woodside area. These wheels make it feel like you are cheating. The bike shoots forward and you find yourself in a higher gear just for the fun of it. The handling becomes even more responsive as you attack the road. It's like sushi and comparing ahi to toro. Ahi is good but toro is sublime. Honestly, that is the difference--just a whole new and more incredible level of performance. The aero benefits also came in to play; there is a steep descent near home; my previous top speed was 46.5mph. With these Ritcheys, I hit 48.5. But the wheels and the rest of the bike mods made the bike feel rock solid. I had a big stupid grin at the bottom of the hill.
Would I recommend these wheels? The weight and performance were truly remarkable. However, if you've ever dealt with tubulars, they are a pain in the butt. Mounting them is messy, takes time (you need to stretch the tires for 24 hours) and requires arms (and thumbs) of steel. And changing a flat while on a ride can border on the impossible. Vittoria makes "Pit Stop", a self-sealing inflation kit that would make punctures a little more convenient; something like this would be highly recommended. This being said, in the spirit of "smart light", tubulars as a whole don't really make the grade. But they sure were light and absolutely sweet to ride!
Ritchey does make a full carbon clincher version that is claimed to be just 50 grams heavier. They may be the perfect balance of lower weight and aerodynamics with easy to live-with clincher rims. They are full carbon (ie, an aluminum braking surface isn't glued on), so they should have comparatively better strength and tubular-like ride characteristics. At 1221 grams for the pair, the clinchers could be the lightest available-period. Now THOSE wheels are definitely in the spirit of this project in that they'd deliver on performance and weight without the high maintenance cost of tubulars.
Could we make this bike lighter?
But the bike feels great as is. It's a blast to
ride and has durable components that improve its performance.
August 16, 2009
Part 7: Ritchey Carbon Clinchers
Ritchey Superlogic Carbon-Boron 46 Clinchers
As promised, Steve from Ritchey came over with the clincher version of their amazing Superlogic Cabon-Boron Clinchers. Despite the incredible weight savings that can be had with tubulars, I'm not a fan of them; I've gotten caught in the rain and cold because of a puncture; my hands were too cold to remove the tire, let alone install the spare. I ended up walking several miles before hitching a ride home. Needless to say, I was ecstatic to see the clincher version of these phenomenal wheels. And they didn't disappoint. Like their tubular siblings, these wheels truly make you feel like you are cheating. Though slightly heavier then the tubulars, they are still an amazing 1430 grams--with rimstrips installed! The additional grams put the total build at an amazing 13lbs 11oz.
Second, because the rims are so light and stiff, I tended to climb out of the saddle more than normal. But the rear spokes developed a creak which would chirp whenever I got out of the saddle. The creak got worse with time which must have meant a spoke was loosening.
So what does this mean? With the Ritchey Carbon Clinchers, I was able to record my BEST time by nearly 1 minute and a full one mile per hour faster. On average, this wheelset was over 5% faster than any permutation. The rim height and profile was obviously less affected by the wind and I assume the lighter overall rolling weight played a huge role as well. Regardless, I was amazed by these results; I thought that the deeper wheels would certainly lead to the fastest times. In the very stiff winds, with the deeper Jet 60/90's, I did have to fight the bike to keep it from being blown off course. With the Ritchey's, I could certainly feel the wind but had to expend far less energy to keep the bike tracking straight. Amazing.
This wheels epitomize the spirit of this project by providing incredible performance gains and significant weight savings with no real sacrifices.
Part 8: Mad Fiber Wheels:
Ric Hjertberg (pronounced "yurt-berg") is something of a legend in cycling circles. Those who live in the SF Bay Area may remember his famous Wheelsmith store located in Palo Alto, established in 1975. The shop was as much a museum as a place to buy and service your bikes and parts. Ric distinguished himself as a master wheelbuilder and continued this pursuit, even bringing back wooden-rimmed wheels. Recently, Ric has also been working as Technology Manager for component maker FSA. But he came upon a new idea to truly "reinvent the wheel" with the creation of "Mad Fiber" carbon wheels. They are unique in that they use carbon fiber spokes bonded to two rim pieces. Ric claims that carbon fiber "likes" to be placed under tension-loads. The pieces lay flat prior to gluing and then are stretched out, origami style to fit over the hub; he claims "It is the first wheel designed for carbon fiber". Despite their diminutive weight, Ric claims they can handle a static load of 700 pounds each, and there is no rider weight limit. Yet the weigh in at a breath-taking 1085 grams complete.
At 1085 grams, this puts Mad Fiber in rarified air, primarily Reynolds and Lightweight. The Reynolds RZR 46 weighs 910 grams for the set and retail for $6000. The Lightweight Obermeyer weigh 960 grams and retail for $6495. So at nearly a third of the price and only 100 grams more, the Mad Fibers are a value leader in the ultra-high end wheel category.
Check out this great interview with Ric done by Roadbikereview that describes the unique construction of the wheel:
Getting a set to test!
So how did they ride?
Remarkably, the braking performance was awesome. Of the carbon wheels I've
tested, these were the most drama-free. There was no screeching or grabbiness.
They felt like "normal" alloy rims. Impressive.
Later on, we motored over to do a the local time trial course on Canada Road. And this is where the wheels really shined. The course is 5.2 miles long with two rises in the middle; it's difficult to maintain 20 miles an hour over these rises. My previous PR was 12:57, using an aero helmet and Jet 60/disc combo. Using the Mad Fibers, my time was an incredible 12:02, averaging 25.9mph, nearly a minute faster than my previous best effort. Considering that I'd done the hill climb previously, the results are truly remarkable.
Many thanks to Gebhard Ebenhoch, manager of Veloro Bicycles, for providing these extremely rare wheels to test. Gebhard is a walking encyclopedia for bike frames and parts and is one of the most passionate cycle-nuts you'll ever come across. If you are in the Bay Area, it's worth checking out his new store.
Value: 4.5 stars