When Shimano Creates a Vacuum, Others Will Fill The Void

If you’re a consumer, you may not have noticed one of the bigger shakeups in North American component distribution. Mid-last year, Shimano America announced that they would end relations with all but a handful of continental distributors for aftermarket components while “encouraging” retail shops to buy direct (with a B2B system that is loved by exactly no one). Ostensibly this move would help dealers maintain profit margins by eliminating venders from dumping inventory on the market, but many shops are upset about the change since they would prefer to just order parts from their preferred distributor along with their non-Shimano inventory needs. Other shops point out that the online retailers from the UK sell parts to consumers in the US for about the same price that the shops pay wholesale; the distribution change does nothing to solve this. And besides derailleurs and whatnot, Shimano plans to exclusively sell pedals directly to shops. Aside from my own angst, having to deal with Shimano directly, I am curious to see how this pedal plan will play out in the long run.

In my mind, Shimano has been the industry’s 600-lb gorilla since the mid-1980s, wielding huge influence on bike design and distribution. But when Shimano stumbles, other players pounce. I theorize that SRAM’s move into the road market was triggered by a lag in Shimano’s deliveries for road product in the mid-00s. Up till that point, SRAM was strictly an mtb parts maker, but then you started to see SRAM 8 and 9sp cassettes/chains on many entry and mid-level road bikes. They also purchased Truvativ in 2005, given them presence in cranks and chainrings. At the same time, bike manufacturers had some delays delivering bikes because they couldn’t get the Shimano kits. Within a few years, SRAM debuted Force and Rival road gruppos.

To be honest, I’m not sure how much of those events have a causal relationship versus merely correlation, but what is certainly true is that North American distributors are stepping up house brand pedal systems to sell to shops who don’t want to kowtow to Shimano’s distribution schemes. Most of these designs, like QBP’s iSSi and MDW lines, seem to be manufactured by ever incorrigible Shimano knock-off, Wellgo. As such, I’m afraid that my gut-instinct is that these initial offerings will be inferior quality, but who knows what the future will hold? Or perhaps another manufacturer will step in with the resources necessary to build and market a pedal system to go toe-to-toe with the venerable SPD. Maybe old school players like Time and LOOK will end up grabbing back market share.

issie

Huggacast Shorts: Dan Rubin on Assignment with Lumias


On assignment in Austin, Dan Rubin shot our Mobile Social with Lumias in RAW and post processed with Lightroom and VSCO Cam. A few months before SXSW, he taught us about Instagram in London. As we learned, “In the film era you’d select your film type to match your creative style. Digital sensors make flat images and filters bring out the vibrancy the eye saw.”

See what Dan saw in this video and a gallery on G+.

Yes, THAT wide: the FSA SL-K Brakeset

FSA SL-K brakeset 03

Today’s aero wheels offer bolt-on speed with relatively tame handling traits, making them suitable for a wide variety of race conditions. While they’re not cheap, aero wheels are the single best performance upgrade for your bike and are a more cost-effective choice than an “aero road bike” frame. But for many racers, acquiring high-end race wheels will leave precious little equipment budget. So imagine if you dropped big money on the wheels only to find out that your brake calipers don’t open wide enough to fit them. Sure, the latest versions of SRAM Red and Dura Ace will fit thicky aero rims, but your credit card is still smoking form the wheel purchase. Full Speed Ahead has your back with the upgraded SL-K brakeset.

Certainly more beneficial than internally routed shifter cables, lightweight QR skewers, or an 11sp cluster, recent aero wheel designs have carbon rims with a section that is thickest towards the middle of the depth and a smooth transition from the tyre to the rim. Wheel designs pioneered by Hed and Zipp. These rims penetrate the air well straight on, but also perform well when the wind vectors in from some angle off zero degrees ahead. Such wheels are also known for having more docile behaviour in side gusts. These characteristics come from the shape of the rim/tyre having a smooth shape to the leeward surface, so that the air keeps a smooth, laminar flow over most of the surface before it breaks loose in turbulent swirls. Ironically, thick sections were the total opposite of aerodynamically-minded bicycle design from the 1980s to less than ten years ago. Back then, narrow was the goal, and “aero” rims were 19-20mm wide right next to the tyre (ie the brake track) and drew back to sharply tapered trailing edges. Today’s best designs are often close to 28mm wide at their thickest point in the middle of the rim depth; they are often 25mm or more at the brake track. This has created an odd situation for brake manufacturers. From entry-level to high-end, road calipers for the last couple decades were optimized for rims like the Mavic Open Pro (20mm wide). They just can’t open big enough for these new aero wheels. High-end brake designs introduced in the last couple years such as the SRAM Red Aero-Link caliper have been revised, but the ability to open wide hasn’t trickled down to the Force or 105 level yet.

Meanwhile, FSA has aggressively adapted to market needs and eagerly steps up to provide for consumers and OEM. The updated SL-K calipers spread to 33mm with unworn pads, enough to accommodate a 28mm rim. This spread is especially for the rear wheel position, where the narrow spoke bracing and torque from the rider cause the rim to flex side to side. The SL-K calipers weigh a respectable 314gr with mounting hardware (verified). The cable-pull ratio should be compatible with both newer Shimano levers as well as SRAM/Campagnolo, though depending on your preferences the SL-K might feel a little low on leverage with the Shimano. I rode the calipers with SRAM Red levers, and I found the braking performance to be better than 1st-gen Red calipers and close to the new Aero-Link. However, the new Aero-Link calipers are a cam-actuated single-pivot brake as opposed to the SL-K and original Red. This makes the SL-K much easier to center the pads, since you can just pull the caliper with one hand and retighten the fixing nut; whereas the Aero-Link is almost impossible to center without two wrenches. And at less than $200, the SL-K brakeset is much less expensive.

The SL-K’s all black finish should compliment most bikes, it comes stock with SwissStop BXP (all-weather blue compound for alloy rims), and has a ratcheting QR. My only gripe is that the barrel-adjuster feels a little weird and is awkward to spin though it turns smoothly.

One thing to keep in mind when setting up these brakes is whether you’ll be using aero wheels AND conventional alloy rims on the bike; this is an issue with other designs too. I would suggest that you initially set up the calipers with QR full open on the widest rim you plan to use, so that way you can use the throw of the QR to partially adjust for when you slip in the narrower rims. Oh, and don’t forget to run carbon-specific pads for your carbon-aero wheels.

FSA SL-K brakeset 04

Orp: Integrated Cycling Light/Horn

ORP Smart Horn/Light

Dean Kazura stopped by the bike shop to show me new product that he’s representing for this area. Orp is a USB-rechargeable, handlebar-mounted light with an integrated electronic horn. My first assumption was that this was going to be a super-cheesy product, but I was actually really impressed. The light is bright for its size and price point, the silicon band mount seems a lot more substantial, durable, and secure than Knog, and the horn actually does its job. Nice product for the commuter, but I can certainly think of a few times I’ve been out training in the sticks when a horn might be nice to alert drivers who aren’t used to sharing the roads with cyclists.

Unless I’m mistaken, msrp should be $65, which is quite reasonable. Check out the light at orpland.com.

I just wish it did the horn riff from Lowrider

Scott Foil Off the Trainer and Out the Door

Trainer New

Broke the bike free from the trainer and don’t want to put it back

When I remove the good bike from the apparatus that binds it in the basement, I don’t want to put it back. After an oddly mild winter our Spring has been full of rain and discontent. I’ll pace, watch the clouds, radar patterns, and even go out for a bit on the good bike and then back to switch to the rain one, if needed. I covered how it falls on me and my mind in this post. Yesterday it was face-stinging rain, miserably cold, and poured down from high clouds.

The Roubaix took the edge off again, like it’s designed to do, but my mind drifted to riding the Scott Foil fast and in the sun. Twice before the rains came back, I was late for dinner riding that bike, taking the long way home.

Golden Foil

Golden Foil

See more photos of the Foil as they’re taken and uploaded. I’m writing a feature about it now for our Magazine.

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