XTR M9000 Debut, Part 1

Irvine CA: Shimano today introduced new XTR M9000, its most advanced XTR mountain bike components and wheels to date. With this totally new XTR line available in both Race and Trail “Rider Tuned” product families, Shimano leverages its 22 years of engineering leadership producing the industry’s highest performing mountain bike component group. Inspired by the versatility and capability of today’s riders and the terrain they tackle, M9000 offers refined and tested solutions engineered for the way they ride.

M9000 crank

M9000 front deraileur

Amid all the confetti and “moody” (ie poorly lit) product shots, Shimano launches the new XTR M9000 flagship mtb line. How important is this? This collection of components will define Shimano’s direction in offroad components for the new 3-6 years. Such is the nature of product development, some aspects of the new XTR were decided 3 or more years ago, but doubtlessly a portion of it was a reaction to the most recent trends in the industry. Which is to say, SRAM’s innovative 1x11 concept that they crystalized into their own XX1 debut.

Let’s put all the marketing conceptualization and soft focus glamour shots aside, and get down to how all this is going to affect the industry. Most importantly, Shimano retains faith in the front derailleur. That is to say, Shimano is not committing to 1x11, instead they offer 1x,2x, AND 3x 11sp drivetrains. This is not terribly surprising, since Shimano is truly the undisputed master of front shifting in the realms of both road and mtb components. By offering consumers and OEM the choice of top quality chainring configurations, Shimano is making sure that no money is left on the table due to lack of versatility in product options. In fact, by designing their new 11sp mtb cassette to fit all existing 8/9/10sp mtb hubs, M9000 removes the obstacle of replacing wheels for aftermarket consumers who are looking to upgrade their existing bikes, unlike SRAM’s XX1/X01 which require a special cassette body to fit their 10-42T cogset (in fact, it’s interesting to note that the M9000 11-40T cassette will fit existing hubs whereas the 11sp road cassettes require a wider cassette body). Yet while M9000 will undoubtedly be a paragon of engineering and manufacturing excellence, ultimately it will not have the same impact on frame design that XX1 has had. In the 2014 model year, a number of bikes have already appeared that are optimized for 1x11 drivetrains, or perhaps outright incompatible with 2x or 3x cranks.

Still, maybe this won’t matter since Shimano always makes the best front derailleurs. The new FD-M9000 is a “Side-Swing” design, meaning that the derailleur swings out and forward as it moves the chain to the outer rings, with no vertical vector to cage path at all. Apparently, the new FD-M9000 improves front shifting by “100%”….not 98.5% but a totally not arbitrary 100%. Interestingly, the front shifter cable/housing seems to feed in from the front of the derailleur on at least some of the front derailleur configurations, though I am as yet unsure of all the configurations. For those readers who are neither mechanics nor OEM product managers for bike brands, you should know that there is an utterly ridiculous number of SKUs for mtb front derailleurs due to all the chainring configurations and four different mounts. We’re talking dozens. It is quite possible that OEM will gravitate towards 1x11 just because how it simplifies the front derailleur intricacies.

The M9000 crank will come in narrow Q-factor (158mm) race configuration with a bonded, hollow non-drive crankarm as well as a stouter 168mm Q trail version. As the industry master of cold-forged alloy construction, Shimano once again eschews the use of carbon in the crankarms, but the chainrings incorporate aluminium, carbon, and titanium. The crankarms can accept any version of the highly proprietary M9000 chainrings, available in the following combinations: Single (30T, 32T, 34T, 36T), double (34-24T, 36-26T, 38-28T), triple (40-30-22T). You’ll notice that no chainring is bigger than 40T and there is only one triple chainring combination. Considering that the new M9000 cassette has an 11T cog rather than SRAM XX1’s 10T, the maximum drivetrain ratios are much smaller than they were 10 years ago. Reading between the lines, Shimano basically thinks that (for the high-end of the market at least) the future of 26”-wheels is dead for anything but DH and Freeride, that is to say long travel suspension designs that cannot accommodate 27.5/650B or 29er wheel sizes.

Tomorrow, I’ll discuss the XTR M9000 drivetrain a little more, as well as touch upon the other components.

Issue 11: April Fools

Issue 11

Issue 11: April Fools

The theme for Issue 11 is about the most foolish ride you’ve done, like way in over your head. When you thought you could compete or ride that long with the boys or girls and learned you couldn’t. It’s my quixotic quest to still race at an elite level, as a fat master, or a ride you show up for totally unprepared, thinking whatevs! Like maybe drinking Scotch the night before a race and then deciding to get in the break for 1.5 hours…for who knows why.

It’s the worst/greatest bonk. How you rode like a fool and learned that sometimes the biggest jokes are the ones we play on ourselves.

Also, as we learned from Zannestar, it’s National Poetry Month and we know of a few poet cyclists, like David Byrne, Nick Verstain, et al.

This issue is also our first to get published at the same time with a webview for all devices. Ever since we launched Bike Hugger Magazine for iPhone/iPad, we’ve been hearing from people who wanted to get it on their other devices. Now you can!

Gluck

A rouleur respects the gravel, teaches a child the same.

On the web view, you can read Respect the Gravel, by Zanne Blair, our Issue 11 cover story. It’s a poem about what the gravel can teach you and it’s free to sample our magazine.

Waxed Canvas Hugga Toll Roll Shipped

Roll packaged

Tool Rolls have shipped and with no package or paper-folding talent, each one is different!

After launching our new Waxed Canvas Tool Roll last Friday, the first batch shipped this week. There are just a few left and if the high demand continues, we’ll make some more, could even lead to an actual production product. Talking about the roll with Matt Davis, he noted

Every saddlebag I’ve ever seen or used has been fiddly as all hell with tools dropping all over the place. That is if you want nicely sized tools. Minitools, maybe that’s a single unit (MAYBE). But any sort of organization and you’ll demand a tool roll.

Exactly. While I demanded a tool roll after ruining a pair of my fav shorts on a century ride (the strap came loose and flapped my inner thigh like a bird trying to escape for like 50 miles and I didn’t know it), the pain point we’re solving is what Matt described. Tools dropping all over the place after dumping a saddle bag to get to what you want. With the roll, tools and spares are organized neatly in pockets and unrolled on a saddle when needed.

Unrolled on a bike to fix a flat

Unrolled on a fendered Roubaix SL4 with Force 22 to fix a flat

On the saddle, tools ready

Grabbed the Co2 and tube

While on the road, the roll is in my jersey or jacket pocket. When I’m riding to a meeting in plain clothes, I toss it in my bag, grab it and go.

Jacket Closed

Tool Roll in the pocket of a rain jacket I’ve worn way too much this season

Jacket Closed

Tool Roll zipped up in the pocket

The Waxed Canvas Hugga Toll Roll is available in limited quantities, as a one-time exclusive, and cost $40.00. They’re handmade in Seattle. We made them first for us and liked them so much, we made a few more for you.

Get them while you can and see more iterations on G+.

Chris King debuts XD-cassette compatible hubs and bodies

King ISO XD hub

Chris King has long been the most coveted ‘Merican hub builder, particularly for mountain bikes. Their RingDrive cassette body is fairly unique in design as well as being in no small small measure sonically irritating. Frankly, I hated King hubs on road bikes, where long coasting descents on King hubs are like being serenaded by squalling infant cyborgs genetically crossed with deep sea fishing reels. But on mtb, the RingDrive’s instant hook up is deeply satisfying while offroad riding’s rhythm is too busy to give the hubs a chance to be audibly annoying. Too bad King was slow to get on the band wagon for SRAM’s breakout 1x11 drivetrain. Their innovative 10-42T 11sp cassette requires a special, “XD” cassette body, and the RingDrive design apparently wasn’t easily adapted to XD configuration.

Well, King fixed that. Their popular “ISO” disc hubs will be available with the option of an XD-compatible RingDrive drive shell (ie cassette body). And if you’ve already invested in some premium King hubs, you’ll be extra excited to find out that King will be offering the XD drive shell as an aftermarket kit to retro fit your existing ISO rear hub. The kit includes all the necessary bearings to fit. It’s a little confusing, but make sure you order the full “conversion kit” if you are retrofitting, since apparently there are 2-3 different XD drive shell SKU’s that are available for servicing the hubs. You will need the King RingDrive tool to do the conversion, so probably count on having an experienced LBS do the work unless you already own the rather expensive King tool.

King XD RingDrive kit

If you’re used to the bike industry’s press releases, then you’d probably assume that any product availability date is going to be “soft”, but as the bike shop’s hard goods buyer for over ten years, I have faith in whatever date Chris King gives. So I was quite surprised that King said May 1 for availability. You can pre-order ISO XD hubs or XD RingDrive conversion kits right now through your local bike shop. In fact, I just ordered a conversion kit for my own hub. If you are buying a new hub, the XD-compatible hubs are available in all the ISO’s current axle options: 135-QR, 10x135 thru, 12x135 thru, 12x142 thru, 12x150 thru, 12x157 thru. A complete ISO XD rear hub (12x142 thru-axle) weighs 331gr, and hubs are offered in all nine anodized colours.

King XD RingDrive schematic

Rode to the Glass Explorer Run

Wearable on a Foldable

Wearable on a Foldable

Rode over to Greenlake and spent Saturday morning with Google Glass. Tried on new hardware from the Titanium Collection, chatted with Explorers who ran with Glass and Strava, and took some photos. Also visited their event in SoDo Park, where Glass was being demo’d.

Tonight there’s a Happy Hour and then later this week Developer Office Hours.

Explorers running with Strava Run

Explorers running with Strava Run

Follow Google Glass to learn if they’re coming to a city near you and see their early prototypes in this album from the event on G+. For my take on Google’s wearable, read the Wired feature I wrote last year.

Protos

Protos

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