Today all the cycling websites on the SRAM media mailing list have announced the debut of Apex1, SRAM’s new entry-level 1x drivetrain for dropbar and flatbar road/gravel bikes. But Bike Hugger is a way ahead of them because I…..Mark V, humble priest of Her Church of Immaculate Wrenches….have already installed an Apex1 group on a 333fab titanium gravel bike, which is currently in a van on the road to NAHBS. Of course, I’m sure all the product managers for the big bike companies have known about Apex1 since late 2014, because that’s how this industry works. But that’s a story for another day. For now, let me tell you about putting Apex1 onto a bike for NAHBS.
So Max Kullaway of 333fab Bicycles registered for NAHBS months ago, and somehow or another SRAM agreed to supply an Apex1 group for a 333fab to go into the SRAM display booth at NAHBS. As the buyer/assembler at the Davidson & Kullaway Custom Bicycles studio (the frameshop for 333fab and Davidson Bicycles), I usually handle all the bike kit ordering through various vendors, but this deal was brokered entirely without my knowledge. That is until I was told to send SRAM a list of individual parts for the Apex1 group. Perhaps the layperson doesn’t realize that all these big time venders work off their own in-house SKU# (typically 7 to 10 digits) on everything they sell, and I had to order a collection of items for which no one, including apparently our contacts at SRAM, had SKU numbers. But SRAM couldn’t process our order without the correct SKU#……hmmmm. I don’t know how all that played out, but Max eventually appealed to someone at SRAM who could shove that order out the door. So with two weeks before NAHBS, UPS drops off a box with red & white SRAM logos at Davidson & Kullaway.
SRAM’s Apex1 will bring the simplicity/performance of 1x11 drivetrains and the power of hydraulic disc brakes to a very attractive price point. The 11speed drivetrain incorporates the same X-Sync chainring technology as was first developed for the pioneering XX1 mountainbike drivetrain and later used in the Force1 and Rival1 road groups. Apex1 has its own crankset design with an integrated spider, differing from the modular spider designs of the more expensive groups. The 333fab bike I built for the show used a GXP-style crank, but Apex1 is also available in a BB30/PF30 design. Rather than irksome hidden fifth-bolt pattern of the higher models, Apex1 has a conventional 110mm bcd five-arm pattern. Chainrings are available in 38, 40, 42, and 44tooth sizes. Like all SRAM X-Horizon (1x specific) rear derailleurs, Apex1’s has a non-slanting parallelogram and a top pulley widely spaced from the cage pivot. Looking at the Apex1, I could see how costs were saved with less expensive details like stamped steel rather than forged aluminium, but the overall finish and construction was rather nice. The weight is reasonable compared to more expensive X-Horizon derailleurs, but frankly all of them are kinda chunky no matter how expensive. Unlike the other road X-Horizon models, Apex1 seems to be available only as a long cage, with no mention of medium cage in the press release. The other big departure from Rival1 and Force1 is the wide-range 11speed cassette. Apex1’s PG-1130 cassette is 11-42, not 10-42. This means that the Apex1 cassette does not require a hub with an XD-style cassette body. Instead, the 11-42 cassette can fit on 10sp or 11sp (with a spacer) HG-style cassette bodies, which will make it easier to fit wide-range 1x11 on bikes for both OEM product managers and aftermarket consumers. But if you really want to use a 10-42 XD cassette, don’t worry; the Apex1 can handle it. I know because I spec’ed a 10-42 XG-1150 on the 333fab bike.
The Apex1 hydro levers look identical to Rival1, and if anything I like the Apex1 graphics better. Like all of the SRAM hydraulic dropbar levers, the Apex1 has a nice lever feel. Unlike Shimano, the pads make contact with the rotor well before you exhaust all the lever throw. Shift action feels good, though all the X-Horizon rear derailleurs feel a skosh heavy due to the roller clutch. There’s also a 11sp shifter pod for flatbar bikes; in that case I guess you’d just borrow a brakeset from SRAM’s mtb line, since there are no Apex1 flatbar brake levers.
Honestly I blindly ordered the Apex1, knowing but a few vague specs and nothing about pricing until this morning. But the pricing is really good, no joke.
Cranket: $116 GXP/ $151 BB30
Rear Derailleur: $74
11sp shifter pod: $27 (say whaaaat?!)
LH dropbar brake lever: $199
RH dropbar integrated lever 11sp: $249 (okay, not super cheap, but integrated levers never are and especially not hydraulic dropbar levers. Still these are about $20-35 cheaper than I had guessed)
Chain: $14 (this is super cheap as far as 11sp chains go)
Delivers everyday essentials rooted in performance functionality. At the heart of the brand’s pared-back design philosophy, Core garments are a distillation of Rapha’s expertise at making the world’s best cycling clothing. Rapha Core is nothing more and nothing less than the basics, perfectly crafted, and should be training day staples for every discerning road cyclist.
For those into Rapha, it’s being marketed as their daily wear. As I was writing this, the weather turned so nice, I headed out for a ride in the new Core. Made of a soft, light-stretch fabric, this jersey is shaped for an on-bike fit, has attractive color-matched details throughout, and a deep-cut silicon gripper to ensure it stays in place when you’re riding. The capsule, first-ride review: exceptional fabric and design details is what you’ve come to expect from Rapha, it’s like the finest Italian kit with their branding.
Stopped by DKCB and got a NAHBS preview. This 333 Fab whip is one of the show bikes and there’s quite a lot going on with it. I could write a book about all the details. If you’re in the Seattle area, see it at the shop or later at the show. That mouthful of acronyms?
So much to catch up on after a long weekend of fat biking in the Methow Valley, and we’ll start with this PR from Pivot and the edit. Rode Pivot a few years ago during a media event and here in Seattle, that’s why I share their content still – exceptionally well engineered. Also not a brand everyone else has on the trail.
Set your racing on fire. With input from the Pivot Factory racing team, the new Phoenix DH Carbon is 2/3 of a lb lighter, and offers more go-fast features than any other gravity offering on the market. In this video, rider Bernard Kerr, Eliot Jackson and Emilie Siegenthaler offer their input and feedback on what makes the new Phoenix their choice for the 2016 World Cup and Crankworx season.
Occasionally I happen upon an item that completely takes me by surprise. At first glance the PowerLight Mini from BioLite looks like an odd tail light masquerading as almost-vintage flip phone. BioLite is a company that is perhaps better known for making clever devices such as a camp stove that smokelessly burns wood to generate heat for cooking while simultaneously providing electricity to charge a phone, GoPro, or other electronic device. I thought so they’re making a bicycle tail light, ho hum. It turns out that the PowerLight Mini is so much more than just that.
The 80gr PowerLight Mini is 80x51x15mm. You can choose to run the light as either red or white LED, with about 4/5ths of the face lighting up. Theoretically you could use the PowerLight Mini as a headlight on a bike, as the included mounting bracket allows the light to be mounted either parallel to a tubular structure (as a tail light on a seatpost) or perpendicular (as you would on a handlebar), but the PowerLight Mini’s light is not really designed to project a concentrated beam a great distance away. Instead the face’s array lights up as a glowing source of evenly diffused light. Of course, that works just fine for a tail light when set to red LED, but that white light works great for a variety of situations off the bike. Since it produces a broad light pattern with no hotspots, it works nicely as miniature work light or camp lantern. The wire clip that at first seemed like an odd manner of attaching the PowerLight Mini to the mounting bracket, turns out to double as a flip stand, so you can set the PowerLIght Mini down. You can also use the clip to affix the light to your clothing, like on your chest if you needed to do detailed work with your hands. You can even use the light in red mode if you want to maintain your night vision. If you’ve ever tried to change a flat in the darkness of winter, you can well imagine how useful this light is. Usually when you try to use the typical bike light for the same task, you blind yourself looking at the hotspot from the beam and then can’t see anything unless you shine that hotspot directly on the target. As a lantern on hi setting, it will give 5hours of 135lumen light; in strobe it should give up to 52hours.
I was so delighted over those features above that I almost forgot that the significance of the “power” in the PowerLight Mini moniker. The BioLite product also functions as a 1350mAh power source for personal electronic devices. It has a mini-USB port for power in, and USB port for output.
The $45 PowerLite Mini is new for Spring 2016. You can pre-order now; shipments begin February 16th.
Once you have the rear light mounted and sync’d to your computer, you simply start riding normally and whenever a car approaches you from behind (up to 500 feet away) the right side of your bike computer screen will turn red, beep, and show an approaching dot animated on your screen.
The scenery was monochromatic with a splash of color. When I first wrote about fatbikes in the snow, most of the narrative was written from rides in this valley. I didn’t know then if a niche of a niche would get traction in the mainstream. Happy to report it has and if you haven’t tried fatbiking yet, you totally should. It’s super fun.
Don from Cycle and Sport or Merle from Cycle Werks will set you up. Rentals are about $30.00 for a 1/2 day and Pearrygin Lake State Park is designated for fatbikes. We stayed with friends, but there are plenty of rooms to rent.
Rawland announced their new Drop-Bar MTBs at Velocult in Portland. Our friends from PLP were there and uploaded this short video. Also see the report from Bicycle Times about The Ravn and Ulv. In a market that’s not very well defined, you can call these bikes whatever, and just be happy for more hand positions and tire choices. The Trek 920 is similar with road-touring geo and 29r wheels, as well as the Specialized AWOL, and what Raleigh did with the Roker – first ride here and reviewed in our mag.
Ravn 26-inch wheels with Panaracer Driver Pro tires and will fit a 650b x 42 tire with fenders. Photo: Bicycle Times
Ulv with clearance for a 27plus tire or a 29-inch mountain bike tire. It also has additional braze-ons for bikepacking gear. Photo: Bicycle Times
As I’ve said, if roadies are gonna ride off road without suspension, it’ll take more than high volume tires to make for a comfortable all-day ride. Next up, bring back the Rock Shock Ruby, seriously. What I’m spending my miles on now is the Trek Boone that smooths out gravel with their IsoSpeed decoupler. I wrote about a ride on the Snoqualmie Valley Trail last weekend.
So why would you want a MTB on fire roads instead of a touring bike? According to Rawland’s Jeremy Spencer:
The key to both models is the low trail geometry. By lowering the trail the bike becomes much more stable with a load on the front end and without super-wide handlebars to maintain control.
And Mark V’s take:
The Ravn and ULV are interesting designs as a sort of fusion between the low-trail/front-loading rando philosophy and the reemerging interest in dropbars offroad.