Bringing back the Cycling Cap one Domestique at a time

Showing posts with label Carbon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Carbon. Show all posts

Review: Selle SMP Composit

27 Oct 2015 -

Saddles take time to figure out. We all have our anatomic differences and personal preferences and finding the right one requires a fair bit of research and a little bit of luck. Once you settle on a certain saddle shape, it would usually take a lot to convince you to shift and move to another shape/brand.

Such was my current experience with the Fizik Antares. The shape such a good fit that I did not consider looking for another saddle.  At least not until a chance conversation with a cycling buddy brought to light a saddle which, according to him, gave his rear end less issue than the Antares on long rides.

Enter Selle SMP.

This Italian saddle maker has been in business since 1947 and their products are based on a unique shape. They have a wide range of products which cater to different pelvis widths and padding preferences.

Browsing through their catalog, I settled on a carbon railed, carbon bodied, leather wrapped contraption called the Composit CRB. My first new saddle in almost half a decade.


The Saddle

First things first. The Composit, and most SMPs in general, are not as photogenic as a Fizik Antares. Where the Antares is looks very sharp and simple, the SMP is curvy and somewhat out of place on an angular, modern race bike. The look takes a bit of getting used to, but as previously mentioned, these design details give the SMPs their identity and their functional advantages.

Let's take them point by point:

1. The Eagle Beak nose - May as well be SMP's defining design detail. Their press materials state that this is supposed to prevent urogenital crushing. Yep, we certainly don't want our urogenitals crushed. Seriously, though, this feature is much appreciated on the drops as there is less pressure on the groin area leaning forward. Another observed plus is it's a lot easier to return to the sitting position coming from off the saddle standing efforts.

2. Curved Top - This is where the sitbones make contact. Depending on the amount of lean you take, the curve contacts different parts of the sitbones, offering relief where needed. The upward curve of the rear keeps you secure when pushing hard on the saddle.

3. Central Groove - Prevents nerve and blood vessel pinching and provides ventilation. More than anything else, this keeps you riding longer.

The Composit CRB is made with a carbon fiber body wrapped in leather. Padding is nonexsitent. Rails for our model are also in carbon fiber, saving 50 grams from the stainless steel version. The all carbon Composit CRB weighs in at 160 grams.

The leather cover is adorned with brand embroidery. While I prefer plain all-black, this is something we can with.

On The Road

What can we say? Those shape features combine to make one very comfortable saddle...shape wise that is.  One thing that immediately stands out is the lack of padding.  Of course, that is not the saddle's fault. Selle SMP offers a whole range of similarly designed saddles in different widths and different levels of padding.  If you're decided on getting the Composit, make sure you have a decent set of bibs with a great set of pads to take the sting out of road bumps.

Getting back on the subject of shape, the Composit's features really allow you to ride longer. It feels as if  only the sitbones make contact with the saddle as thigh rub is kept to a minimum and the sensitive bits have minimal contact thanks to the large groove in the middle.

As mentioned, getting your pelvic measurements is key as it will point you to  the right saddle model within the SMP range. The Composit range is suited for riders of Extra Small to Medium built.


This curvy piece of handmade Italian goodness is definitely something to try. Saddles are a personal thing but in our experience, using the Composit CRB was rewarding. Make sure you have a decent set of shorts though.

That Made In Italy thing ain't going off anytime soon.

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Review: 2014 Reynolds Assault SLG

January 2013 - Fresh off dipping my toes into carbon clincher waters via the Reynolds 46C, I immediately went to look for something more modern. I wanted a wheelset with a toroidal cross section, light weight and the requisite wide track. These wheels need to be priced far enough from Zipp and Enve to make sense not getting the after-mentioned wheels. 

With Reynolds really making a fresh, good impression I didn't hesitate to pull the trigger (or rather push the Buy Now button) on a pair of 2014 Reynolds Assault SLGs. 

Indeed, the spec sheet was impressive. Toroidal - check. Wide - check. Lightweight - check. Affordable - hmmm okay, check. 

A few emails to my USA shipper and a few days later, the Assaults have arrived.


There is much to like about the 2014 Reynolds Assaults. 

First, the depth. The Assault SLGs come in at a very very sexy 41mm rim depth. I would like to say that for a Roadie like yours truly, this depth is just PERFECT. It looks deep enough to be aero yet thin enough to suggest rapid acceleration. Who would have imagined that just shaving off 5mm from the 2013 Assault depth would make much of a difference. 

Reynolds 46 C and Assault SLG - 46mm and 41mm

Second, the width. At 25mm wide. The assault SLGs give you width and then some. When paired with our staple 25mm GP4000s', we were presented with a very clean tire-rim profile without the lightbulb shape which would have been present in the case of 25mm tires and 21mm> rims. This would surely please a lot of aero geeks (oops....enthusiasts) out there. Aerodynamics aside, we were surprised at how low we went with our air pressure. More on this later.

Third. Weight. Our sample came in exactly at the manufacturer's claimed 1475g (Front: 649g, Rear: 826g - no tape and skewers). The Assault SLGs do not really stand out from the crowd in terms of overall weight. But - the listed weight is not bad at all, given the 25mm width.  

Straight pull hubs are by Reynolds Racing and spokes are DT Swiss Aerocomps. Twenty radial spokes in front and 24 in the rear mounted in a two cross-drive side pattern.

The Cryogenic Glass Transition (CTg) brake surface which is present in our previous 46C clinchers makes is also incorporated into the Assault SLGs. CTg is a series of different compounds and materials which are designed to better withstand the heat produced by braking. And of course, the system requires the use of Reynolds' Cryo Blue pads which are solely to be used with the CTg surface.

Reynold's Swirl Lip Generator (SLG) is also featured in the Assault SLG :). SLG is a very small protrusion on the inner edge of the rim which disrupts passing air enough to replicate the airflow of a wider rim. The effect of which is smoother, and therefore faster, airflow.

Spoke nipples are external; this should please a lot of cyclists who do their own truing.

Graphics are thankfully subdued, with the logos and names printed in thin white outlines.


This was our first time to try Veloplugs as well. In an effort to keep the set weight below 1.5kg, we used these marvelous contraptions to keep the weight down. And they worked! At an estimated 5g per wheel, we saved somewhere in the region of 30-40 grams compared to the supplied tapes. 

Weight weenies rejoice!

Oh, and just so everyone knows, we used the Red Veloplugs for the Assault SLGs.

My sincerest apologies for using an Instagram pic of the plugs

On the Road

During our first time out with the Assault SLGs, we experienced a very loud squeal coming from the front brakes when applied at medium to high speed. While disconcerting, we easily remedied this by toeing in the pads. Although recommended, this was something we never had to do with the 46Cs. 

Almost Immediately the 25mm width's advantages made itself felt. While we typically run 95/100 PSI front/rear. We purposely pumped in 90/95 during our first ride. It made a bit of a difference. Subtle but noticeable. And after several more rides and a few pounds of rider weight loss, we now run the Assault SLGs with a tire pressure of 75/85. 

The ride at this pressure is simply amazing! 

Acceleration is very good and so is the handling. The stiffness of the 46Cs is still there, but fortunately, much of the bite from road bumps are taken out by the tires. 

One thing that these new aero shapes do well is handle crosswinds. The Assault SLGs are no exception. Although you still feel sudden sideward gusts, they are a lot less noticeably felt and you can easily power through constant sidewinds from 3 o'clock to 9 o'clock.

We really like the Assault SLGs and it seems these will be mounted on roadie for quite a long time. 

Looks perfect on the Foil


Equipped with the latest in wheelset tech. Not exactly cheap but the money feels well spent.

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Review: Shimano Dura Ace WH-9000 C50 CL

Shimano is not the adventurous type when it comes to adopting cycling trends. The Japanese giant is known to stick to its guns and err on the side of what's proven and reliable as opposed to, say, losing a few grams.  The word traditional often comes to mind. 

That isn't to say that once cycling theory becomes cycling fact, Shimano would still stick to how things were previously done. Indeed, Shimano often takes these newfangled concepts and integrates them into their existing products.

Case in point is Shimano's staple aero road wheel, the venerable C50. Mr. Shimano and his crew of cycling engineers took a good hard look and the 7900 series C50 and gave it one heck of an update. Yes, the good old C50 is reborn and has gotten a lot better! 

The latest incarnation C50 is the WH-9000-C50-CL. Quite a mouthful... Shimano seriously needs to come up with less verbose names. The wheelset sports the classic 50mm deep profile in UD carbon with an aluminum brake surface. However, similarities between this and the previous 7900/7850 editions stop here. A product of Shimano's 'Blade Concept', these wheels incorporate features which Shimano feels are key to slicing the wind.  

Biggest news here is Shimano's adoption of the aerodynamic toroidal shape. Whereas the previous C50s were essentially V-Shaped, the 9000 series now sport the de rigueur aerodynamic shape. 

Shimano calls its toroidal shape the D2 rim profile. Where traditional aero rims tackle drag reduction duties by itself, the toroidal shape factors the tires into the equation.  By taking the tires as the leading edge of the shape and building the rim around this, the toroid is completed. 

This eliminates eddys formed between the wheel and the rim and presents the wind with a unified shape to cleave it with. The improved aerodynamics will translate to faster speeds given the same effort, or less power to maintain the same speed. Shimano says that this shape is effective at wind yaw angles from zero up to 15 degrees. 

Second big upgrade on the rims is the width. Rims for the Clincher version are now 23mm wide, up from the previous generation's 19mm. While this may just be an after effect of the D2 profile, it is indeed an upgrade in itself. As discussed in our Dura Ace 9000 C24 TL review , the primary benefit of this is improved rolling resistance, traction and ride quality. 

The Dura Ace C50's now come in a 16-21 spoke configuration. The front is laced radially while the rear comes in what Shimano calls Optbal 2:1 lacing. Quite simply, there are two spokes on the drive side to one on the non-drive side. The 14 drive spokes are cross laced while the 7 non-drive spokes are radial. Shimano engineers reckon that this grants the wheels greater strength and durability compared to previous C50's, which were laced 10-10 each side.

The thin, bladed spokes receive a neat cosmetic touch. Each individual spoke is half-painted to give a fade effect to the wheelset. While this may not be to everyone's taste, we think this decoration is fresh and adds a bit of flair to the set... rather like implying motion even if the wheels are just on display. Graphics feature the now familiar 9000 series silver-gray swoosh, first seen on the C24. Unlike the C24, however, the lines on the C50 are much more decent and clean looking. That said, we still prefer the professional looking 7850/7900 graphics over the current ones. 

 Spokes, in closeup

Gone are the 7850's red alloy nipples. The 9000's spoke nipples have been hidden inside of the rim. While this no doubt aids aerodynamics, it will make truing a bit of a pain...necessitating the removal of tire, tube and tape. Fortunately, Shimano has a reputation of building bombproof stuff so this shouldn't be a frequent concern. 

Holding everything together are the all new 9000 series 100% Titanium freehubs.  Shimano's easily serviced cup and cone system reappear. And while there may be a debate over cup-cone vs cartridge bearings, few will argue that cup and cone is the way to go for ease of maintenance. 

Shimano lists the weight of the WH-9000-C50 as 1672 grams, but our scales have them at 1710 grams without rim tape. This is more or less the norm for a set of high end 50mm aluminum brake surfaced carbon clinchers. We substituted Shimano's blue High Pressure Rim tape with a single layer of Stan's Yellow rim tape. This gave us a 20 gram weight savings  for the set(Stan's: 5g; Shimano Rim tape: 15 grams). 

A single layer of Stan's Tape will knock 10 grams off of your rim

RoadieMania's ligthened c50s. Add 20 grams for off the shelf weight

It's interesting that the 9000 series C50 is a tad heavier than the 7900.  No doubt contributing to this is the increased spoke count of the rear wheel. 

Scottie's new shoes

On the road, however, the wheels feel positively lighter than the 7850 we have used in the past. This may be in part due to the increased width of the 9000 series rims. Wider wheels = decreased sidewall flex = lower rolling resistance = easier to spin. Indeed, the C50s are almost as easy to spin as the C24s, moreso given a rolling start.  

When the C50s start spinning is when they really start to shine! Each pedal stroke is rewarded with continuous speed. The deep 50mm rims slice the wind as expected and carry momentum very well.  In particular, speeds above 30 km/h are definitely easier to maintain compared to a set of lightweight box section rims. Like all aero wheels, crosswinds are still a concern but not as much as, say, a 60mm or deeper rim.

The flipside though is accelerating from a standstill: The weight will definitely make itself felt.  The additional weight of the rims would also be felt in long climbs. However, for rolling hills, the C50's are still outstanding... after all, they only weigh as much as a matching set of Mavic's Ksyrium Equipe S or Fulcrum's Quattro.... not too shabby for a deep aero clincher with an alloy brake track!

And speaking of brake surfaces, the alloy track on the C50 work extremely well with the highly regarded BR-9000 dual pivots. The alloy tracks indeed add weight, but they also add peace of mind. These are wheelsets which you can confidently brake on in 50kph descents without any worry. 

The C50s hold up just as well as the C24s do on rough asphalt with just the right balance of stiffness and vertical compliance. Whether you want to hammer down for a sprint or do a century, the wheels just take it all in stride and do its job. 

The WH-9000-C50-CL is a wheelset with very few faults.  Modern aerodynamics, features, materials, craftsmanship and Shimano reliability, the C50 has them all.  If asked for cons, we'd say weight and graphics...but as you can probably tell, this is just nitpicking. 

These hoops are just 200 grams short of perfection. 


A modernized rehash of a bulletproof classic. Rides well and makes good use of momentum. A bit porky, but that's to be expected from an deep wheel with an alloy brake surface. 

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Review: Sidi Wire Vent Carbon - On the Road

Continued from SiDi Wire - First Impressions.

As is often the case for Cycling Shoes, liking one is a matter of "if the shoe fits". 

I'm lucky to have the proper foot shape to be comfortable inside SiDis. It should be noted that these brand shoes are pretty narrow compared to it's competitors. if you have wider than normal feet don't fret, it's common practice to order a size bigger on these anyway so voila! Problem Solved. 

On the road, the Wires performed admirably. The first thing a new Wire owner would notice is the stiffness! The Carbon Vent soles are really rock solid! And speaking of Vents... the Wire's closeable vents are definitely more than a gimmick! I experienced no heat buildup through 100kms of riding. This is especially noticeable inside the toe box area. After riding, the bottom of my socks felt noticeably cooler compared to what they would have been if I used my Genius 5 Pro. I'll definitely be keeping these closeable ports permanently open. 

Heel lift is definitely addressed by the HSS. As mentioned in SiDi Wire - First Impressions  a little bit of lift is still present.  My right boot had more lift compared to the left one. Hinting perhaps that a bit more tweaking is required.

I'm a bit annoyed at opening the topmost Techno III wire closure system though. Again, two hands are required to completely loosen the mechanism. The micro-adjustments are also too fiddly to be practical.  I guess I just got too spoiled with the 5-Pro's ratchet release.... just pull the red tab and presto! Oh well, can't have your cake...

That said, it's still has it's advantages over strap and ratchet, particularly on comfort.  If you're the type who doesn't need to adjust your shoe during a ride, the choice between wire or ratchet-strap is a no-brainer.   

The much ballyhooed SiDi America insoles did their job well. Well in the sense that I did not notice anything about them. They just look better and the bottom is covered with a thin cloth layer compared to the Genius 5-Pro's bare rubberized foam. 

Compared with the 5-Pro, the Wire provided a better cleat position as i was able to position the ball of my foot closer to the crank arms. It made a world of difference as my knees are now tucked-in throughout the 360 degrees of pedal motion. 

I heard that some guy named Peter Sagan field tested this and they say he's an okay rider so I'll take his word for it :D. 

Peter Sagan Field Testing the Prototype SiDi Wire (note: Marked Ergo 3) 

And finally, I just have to touch back and mention the color once more. When Dua Daddy and I pulled up on a rest stop. You can see every cyclist in attendance eyeballing the boots. On  sunny days,  you can see flashes of yellow reflecting on your sunglasses... WHILE looking straight ahead! :) 

Good? Bad? Who cares?! 

These are simply the best road shoes you can get right now! 


Stylish and functional. Extremely comfortable provided your feet fits. Can be too narrow for some. The best. 

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Sidi Wire Vent Carbon - First Impressions

So yesterday I got a much anticipated SMS from my suking cargo forwarder Johnny Air Cargo which started with a plea:

"Pls bear with us, pick up your package as soon as possible, need more space for our next shipment..."

Being December, things have already heated up as far as shipping and deliveries are concerned. I would have happily obliged Johnny Air's request for immediate pick-up but had to let a few hours pass dotting T's and crossing I's. 

The fuss was all bout these.... 

A fruit of Black Friday were these fine pieces of Italian Cycling art from the fine folks at SiDi. These, Ladies and Gents,  are a pair of SiDi Wire Vent Carbons.   These shoes sit at the top of the Sidi food chain which, in my opinion, effectively makes them the top road shoe in all of bikedom.

The first thing anyone would notice about these is the color. Taken straight off the Stabilo Boss palette, these Fluorescent Yellow boots are so bright they almost scream RADIATION! Seriously, these pictures don't do the shoes justice. In bright sunlight, it seems that light is actually emanating from the SiDi's. They're that bright.    

Once your pupils get the hang of the brightness, you'll immediately notice the quality and all the fine details of these shoes. 

These boots are just class.

The Vernice outer is shiny our of the box and promises to be easier to clean than my Genius 5 Pro's Lorica finish. The stitches are done just as how you'd expect from an Italian Craftsman.

Aside from being 62g (claimed) lighter than the Ergo 3, the ex-king of the SiDi range, the Wire carries over most of the features of its predecessor. Most noteworthy of these are the Vent Carbon Sole, Heel Security System (more on this later) and user replaceable wear and tear parts.  

But what makes the Wire a Wire is the use of SiDi's Techno 3 closure system. This replaces the ratcheting strap system used by the Ergo 3 and roughly 90% of Cycling shoes out there. It is important to note that previous Ergos have used a similar system, dubbed Techno 2, to secure the front and mid parts of the shoe, but only now has the Techno system been used to secure the shoe all throughout.

This system was actually bannered by Specialized, and then Scott sporting a similar closure system from a company called Boa. Sidi counters this (in the manual at least) by stating that they had a similar system in place since the 80's/90's. Why they dropped this system and brought it back just now still remains unexplained. :) 

According to SiDi, using strings instead of straps applies even pressure on your foot when tightening up the shoe, something which I would totally corroborate. The Techno 3 system is a joy to tighten; just flip up the switch on the circular knob and twist away. However, if you're used to one handed loosening of the top strap, you'd better practice and relearn this as I found that loosing the Tecno 3 is a bit of a two hand affair. 

That said, I still believe that shifting to Techno 3 is a good move in terms of performance and aesthetics. The top of the shoe looks clean, devoid of the familiar three straps of the typical road shoe. This also allows for better upper foot ventilation via the mesh and perforations in the tongue.  

On the underside, you'll find SiDi's Vent Carbon sole finished in traditional carbon weave. Don't be surprised if one day we'll have a version using unidirectional carbon, the current finish of choice/fad. Here we find the replaceable toe and heel pads, metered cleat holes and of course, the closeable vents. 

Thread lock applied to the vent closure screw. Good Job, Sidi! 

I admit to skepticism on the effectiveness of these vents. But inspecting the shoe from the inside gives evidence that air channels do exist inside the sole. I'm not about to wreck my shoe to find out! The insole's holes align perfectly to those inside the shoe, but whether or not they actually work needs an actual ride to find out.  

The wire looks black when viewed from the rear. The yellow oval accents are actually safety reflectors. The plastic SiDi heel cup is where you actually anchor your foot in and where you should base your fit.  

On top of the heel cup is SiDi's Heel Security System or HSS. It's job: eliminate power robbing heel lift. I must say, this does an excellent job at that. HSS works like a vise; your heel basically gets squeezed in by HSS so the rear of the shoe clings to your foot throughout the 360 degrees of pedal cycle.  Heel lift is still there, but is greatly reduced to the point of being almost unnoticeable. 

Tightened HSS

As expected of a Carbon soled shoe, the stiffness screams out almost as loud as the Fluo Yellow Vernice although SiDi claims to have engineered in a bit of flex in the name of comfort. Performance aside, walking around on top of a slippery bit of Carbon Fiber may be unnerving. To help protect the sole, Sidi provides a small bit of 3M Safety-Walk slip resistant tread. This is the exact same material you'll see on the stairsteps of the conscientious.  

Ignoring SiDi's instructions to put the sticker on the pedal, I put mine where I'll likely need it... behind the cleats. This gives me some peace of mind while I rest my unclipped foot on the pedal before coming to a complete stop.

Black Look cleats - Not for the Faint of Knees

 With Look zero-float cleats installed, a single shoe weighs in at 350 grams. This is inclusive of a 1 gram bolt used to affix Look's memory position plug (weight weenie alert! haha). 

All in all, there's a lot to like about the Wires. I mean, A LOT. 

If you can't stand the sheer audacity of these boots, sidi offers them in tamer colorways of black, white and boring :) 

A Speedplay specific model is also available, saving you a few grams by ditching 4 to 3 hole adapters. 

An intriguing variant is the Wire Carbon Air model. As you can see, the whole surface is perforated which promises supreme ventilation. Unfortunately, this model is only available in select regions. 

I'm so pumped about my pumped up kicks! The only worry I have right now is that I'll scratch these too pretty shoes when I ride! 


[UPDATE 22 DEC 2012] We survived the Mayan Apocalypse and reviewed the Wires on the Road! Please click the link to read the review ->  Review Sidi Wire Vent Carbon - On the Road


Comfortable closure mech, good ventilation, flashy color and style, functional heel retention. Expensive but worth the asking price. 

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