Bringing back the Cycling Cap one Domestique at a time

Showing posts with label Dura Ace 9000. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dura Ace 9000. Show all posts

Ride Report: Bugarin-Mabitac-Jalajala

Manila, The Philippines. Having a couple non-working holidays off due to Holy Week, my ride buddy Mr. Bourne and I decided to ride somewhere a bit farther away from our usual weekly fitness loops. At the back of our minds, we already knew where. A few text messages later and the plan set. We're gonna go back to Rizal and do the Bugarin climb and Jalajala loop.

The Climb

Bugarin is not a town in itself but is a sitio, an outlying community which is part of Pililla Municipality in the province of Rizal.

A sort of Mecca to Pinoy cyclists who have access to it, the Bugarin climb is one of those early challenges which simply must be conquered. The climb in itself is not that difficult. From the stopover known as Pisong Kape (One Peso Coffee)it's a straight 8.8 kilometer climb to around 1,100ft (332m). This makes for an average gradient of 3.7%. Deceptively hidden in these kilometers are two Strava Category 3 climbs, and first-timers are best advised not to exert too much effort in the earlier sections to prevent bonking.

In an area filled with climbs of all sorts, Bugarin may be the easiest. Cyclists looking for something more challenging can try any of a variety of other nearby routes including the Sampaloc Road climb with several Category 4s.

No KOMs nor PRs were to be broken though as Mr. Bourne and I agreed beforehand that this ride will be purely recreational... one of those "reconnect with your love of cycling" affairs.  We were just out to enjoy the sights and the sounds.

We headed by car to Pisong Kape hoping to start the climb early. Being Good Friday, we got into our fair share of traffic en route as we had to go through a crowd of devotees doing their yearly walk to Antipolo church. After spending 45 minutes of Good Friday penance in traffic, the rest of the drive was thankfully exceptionally smooth, devoid of anything you can remotely describe as traffic.



But the delay took its toll. Starting an hour later than planned, we were off following the Manila East Road to Bugarin. And while the climb itself was quite uneventful, the scenery was not.  All the way up, we got our fair share of fresh air and lush mountainous scenery.  and being Good Friday, there was almost no vehicle traffic, save for the occasional motorcycle rider doing a Valentino Rossi impression. But we were not alone.  Cyclists of all sorts were also along for the ride, from local pros to recreational cyclists chatting along on mountain bikes.

The view from Lookout Point (image: Jun Roche)

Halfway up, I stopped at the lookout point to rehydrate and admire Laguna Lake in all it's glory (all while waiting for my HR to drop below stress levels).  All in all, it took my gravitationally challenged self 44 minutes to climb 8.8 kilometers and overcome that last steep section and arrive in Bugarin. Not exactly like a Schleck but borderline acceptable for a big guy on aero wheels.

After the last few meters of the grind, I found myself stopping at a carinderia and hooking my bike on a stand. Bugarin itself is just a collection of houses welcoming tired cyclists. The place makes its intentions pretty clear as several bike stands are provided to hold on to your ride while you replenish. All the shops have Gatorade and are just raring to serve something up to refuel you on your way back.

To my surprise The Cannibal, another ride buddy, was already having a mid-ride recovery meal with Mr. Bourne.  After a few minutes of chit-chat, we refilled the water bottles, clipped in and headed off. While the guys had actual food, I just had a sachet of peanut butter Gu gel. Yes, I was saving the appetite for later.

The Descent

After pedaling all of twenty revolutions, we started our pedal-free descent into Laguna, a different province altogether.  It took me almost an hour to get over the top but only fifteen minutes to reach sea level. Even with safety as top priority, I still took the corners with relish. The roads were smooth and  inviting and just egging you on to corner even more aggressively. At this point, I'm really loving the BR-9000's braking performance. Braking power is very very good and it doesn't take much effort to apply that power.

Upon reaching the bottom, we traversed the long, flat straight which led to Mabitac.  The town is unusually quiet that day and we passed by it without the tricycle dodging that usually occurs.  On the way out we did pass quite a few flagellants. A gentle reminder of what day it is.

The Flats:  Mabitac - Jalajala

With the suffering of the climb and the adrenaline rush of the descent both over and done with, we now started the last part of our ride: 49 kilometers of oft-shaded two lane provincial roads around the peninsula going back to where we started.



With roads this open, there's always time for a photo op 

Providing a welcome respite from the madding streets of Manila, the roads in this area of Jalajala, Rizal province provide kilometer upon kilometer of cycling bliss. Most of the streets are well shaded, having ample tree cover. Apart from one or two instances of unfinished road repair (which only extend to around 3 meters max), the roads themselves are in good condition and are very rideable.

75% of the road back is this scenic. It's worth the trip. (Image: SGPanguito)

By 10:30am, there was a marked increase in vehicle traffic which we attributed to vacationers from Manila making a trek to Laguna. That said, we're talking about probably only a dozen vehicles every thirty minutes. A bigger concern as the miles rolled on was the heat, especially on some long unshaded stretches near the finish. Aware of this, we made pretty sure that we were properly hydrated, stopping whenever we had to. The availability of sari-sari stores on a holiday sure helped a lot.  It's always a good thing when you have ready access to a cold sweaty bottle of Coke before blasting through a section of road baked by the noon-day sun.

As the kilometers passed, the route had just once final trick up it's sleeve: a short  ~7% grade climb lasting about 300 meters with about 2 kilometers left in the loop. While this may not sound like a lot, having this section at the end of a ride in a sunny, tropical noon is a test your stamina, energy reserves and psyche.

After exactly 63.6 kilometers. We were back to where we started. We vowed to do this again next year and the year after that. Cycling future aside, I started looking for something more... short term... time to get some grub.

Recovery

Our goal was not to train. Not to grab a few Strava KOMs. The goal was to reconnect and get back to the root of why we love cycling. Mission accomplished.

Aerial view: We started from the left,  pedaled up the mountain in the middle and around the coast!

Ride safe!

~Armand

Post Script: 

  • Pre-ride and in-ride food toll: Two slices of wheat bread, a thick slice of dubliner, a glass of Glucerna SR, two bottles of Gatorade, one Gu gel, a Sprite and two bottles of water.
  • Totally forgetting my Catholic roots and partly because of post-ride hallucination, I ordered and ate a slab of liempo on Good Friday. Sorry God!
  • Trying to avoid the traffic situation in Antipolo, we took an alternate route going back to Manila. and encountered a parade of flagellants carrying crosses down Sampaloc road.  It doesn't look like they were having a good time but the 'Roman Guards' sure did!


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Mid-Compact Rising (on the FC-9000)

Six or seven years back, the upstart, hotshot crankset was the Compact. Offering a light 50T/34T gearing, it gave so equipped cyclists the ability to climb up hills at a higher, more comfortable cadence.  This relaxed climbing pace, to a certain extent, came at the expense of speed. Riders powerful enough to max out the 50T chainring are left wanting in terms of top end pace.

On the other side of the coin are the Standard chainrings. These commonly have 53 or 52-tooth large rings and 39-tooth inner rings. These have been de facto for so long that the setup earned Standard moniker. And we're talking about the modern Standard here. Older Standard cranks even came in at up to a whopping 54T/44T! Although these ring combinations are still around, they're now almost exclusively for time-trial use.  

All things equal, Compact will be outpaced by Standard in the top end of the speed spectrum as Compact users will eventually run out of cogs or spin their lungs out trying to keep up with Standard riders on long flats. Conversely, Standard crank users will be finding themselves grinding (and possibly cramping) their way up mountains while Compact-equipped Cyclists pass them by, spinning merrily ahead. While this may not be a big issue in shorter climbs, this would definitely manifest itself in longer, sustained climbs.

Any self respecting Cyclist must, of course, select which chainring combination is best for his particular type of riding or terrain...which works out around 90% of the time. However, the 10% needs to be addressed every now and then. It can't be avoided that that one needs to ride outside of his usual comfort zone.

For lack of a better term, an inappropriate crank is less of an issue for the guy with Compacts on the flats. However, it may certainly break the guy on Standards going up a steep mountain...... which is  perhaps the reason why most roadie built-bike offerings these days often come with Compact gearing as standard.... as opposed to 'Standard' gearing.

Yes, Triple Cranks do exist in the road cycling universe. However the added weight, cost and complexity of these systems coupled with limited availability makes this an option only for people who really really need it badly enough.

 

Enter: The Mid-Compact

Rapidly gaining popularity is a new crank setup: The Mid-Compact. Some call it the semi-compact and some even choose to ignore it altogether and dump it into the compact category. For us, however, this new in-between gearing definitely deserves to be in its own class.

The Mid-Compact crankset first popped up in our radar in 2010. This was when SRAM introduced it as part of their Red lineup. Campagnolo and just recently, Shimano joined the bandwagon and introduced their own Mid-Compact cranks in their top tier Groups. Back when the Mid-Compact initially appeared, some people scoffed at the configuration as 'confused' and 'undecided'. However, this in-between range is what makes this configuration special.

With its 52T/36T tooth count, the Mid-Compact loses very little in terms of top speed, only giving up a tooth compared to a Standard crank's 53T large ring. Little is sacrificed on climbs as well. The Mid-Compact's 36T small ring can keep up with the 34T compact crank, only giving up 2 teeth to the full pledged climbing ring.

Spot the Diff: Mid-Compact (L) vs. Compact (Installed)

The Numbers

To give us a better idea on where the Mid-Compact sits in the gearing hierarchy, we made this simple gear ratio chart.  This chart focuses specifically on Chainring-Cog ratios which are computed as Chainring ÷ Cog. Layman's terms: one revolution of your selected Chainring (Vertical) will spin the selected Cog (Horizontal) exactly that number of times.

e.g. A 53T crank will spin a 28T cog 1.893 times per complete revolution.

Depicted in the Cogs column is the Shimano CS-9000 11-Speed 12-25 cassette. The 28T and 11T cogs (in parenthesis) are included in the chart to further illustrate how they play with Standard, Mid and Compact Cranksets.  With the way equipment development is progressing, we wouldn't be surprised to see all of these thirteen cogs in a production cassette in the not too distant future.

To focus purely on the merits of the crank gearing, we shall leave discussions on cassette selection, crank length, tire thickness, inflation pressure, cadence, leg strength and what have you off the table.


Everything absolutely equal, the Mid-Compact effectively bridges Standard and Compact. The Mid's large chainring performs close to the Standard's large ring while its small chainring performs closer to the Compact's small ring.

In other words:

The Mid-Compact is like a Standard on the large rings and like a Compact on the small rings.   

To further illustrate, we took the average gear ratios of three Cranksets and the 12-25 cassette and compared them to each other.


On the Large rings (top speed scenario) where Standard is preferred, the Mid-Compact is only 1.89% slower vs. Standard. The Compact is 5.67% slower.

On the Small rings (climbing scenario) where the Compact is preferred, we find that the Mid-Compact is 5.56% harder to crank than the Compact. Compare that to the Standard's Small ring, which is a whopping 12.79% harder crank across the cassette range!

This jack-of-all-trades approach may very well make the Mid-Compact the new Standard. We're already seeing a lot of the word Mid-Compact here.

Shimano FC-9000 52/36

Our Mid-Compact crankset came in the form of Shimano's radical FC-9000. With four asymmetrically placed spider arms, this new design shaves quite a few grams off of a comparable five armed spider. The design also offers a great long-term advantage... all chainring sizes use one, for lack of a better term, bolt circle diameter (BCD). A minor miracle of sorts, this means that all chainrings are interchangeable!  Switching from Compact to Mid to Standard only requires chainrings as the crankarms and spiders are standard.

At a manufacturer claimed weight of ~600g, the four-armed design and improved hollow rings/cranks managed to shave off 60 or so grams off the 7900 version. The four arms are positioned in areas where strength is most needed during the crank cycle, which rather makes sense.  The new aesthetic, however, is polarizing. In fact, a lot of people hate the design outright. However, it's function over form and for more than a few, it's a real looker in itself. The workmanship and quality of materials on the crank, as well as for all the 9000 series components, is top notch.

On The Road

Immediately noticeable is the Mid-Compact's large chainring performance on the flats. Off the bat, we observed our cadence drop compared to our previously installed Compact crank while maintaining the same pace. Upping the ante to our normal riding cadence brought about even more speed! It's been a while since we rode Standards. And while we technically still aren't on Standards, the Mid-Compact's large ring pulls off a  very good impersonation.

The same can be said about the 36T small ring. On rolling hills, this can definitely hold its own against the Compact's 34T and in this scenario, may actually be better as there is less need to shift the RD while transitioning from uphill to downhill to uphill.

On long climbs, we did not observe any major difference between the Mid-Compact's 36T small ring and the 34T ring our our compact. In fact, the 36T ring made us climb a bit faster than our previous record using the 34T. This may be due to many different factors but at the very least, we can comfortably say that the 36T is adequate for all but the most thigh busting of ascents.

In terms of technical functionality, we can't see any fault with the FC-9000. Adequately stiff, it simply does it's job well.    

Convert to a Mid-Compact and pair it with an 11-28 and you can go virtually anywhere. We may have well found the holy grail of chainrings.

Verdict

The do-all Mid-Compact just makes sense as Cyclists no longer need to choose between Standard and Compact. Everyone can just get a Mid-Compact and do tailor fitting on the cassette end. This will be the new 'Standard' in a few short years.

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Review: KMC X11SL Silver on Dura Ace 9000

For no particular reason, we decided to go monochrome on the Foil and replace the KMC X11SL Gold links on my bike to the more more color-appropriate X11SL Silver. To no one's surprise, the Silver chains performed exactly like the Golds.

Features

Feature wise, the Silver version X11SLs is exactly equal to the Gold, except that instead of the Titanium Nitrate coating, we have a less highfalutin coat made from plain old Nickel. That said, we felt no difference whatsoever between Silver and Gold. Both of which feel smoother and are quieter that the stock Shimano links.

Full featureset and corresponding advantages as follows:


  • Hollow Pins - Reduced weight compared to Solid Pins
  • Mushroomed Riveting - Increased Pin strength vs. Straight Pins
  • Inner and Outer Plate Chamfering - Smoother shift action
  • Bushingless Construction - Lighter weight, Greater durability
  • Noise Reduction - self explanatory
  • Double X Stamped Outer Plate - Faster Shifting 

Cut down to 105 links, the chain weighs 218 grams. 1 gram heavier than the X11SL Gold we had installed. We wouldn't make too big of a deal of this as that single gram difference falls within an acceptable 0.5% margin of error.   


Master Link

Supplied with the kit is a color matched KMC Missing Link 11 master link. Unlike the 10-speed version, this is a one-time use item. Measured weight is 2 grams. 



Installation

Apart from a chain breaker to cut the chain to the proper link count, installation may be performed without any specialized tools. Both ends of the chain should expose 'inner' links as the Missing Link is an outer link. Simply route the chain through the proper channels along the crank, jockey wheels,cogs and back, insert the halves of the Missing Link to the opposite sides then align the pins properly. Once aligned, we have to lock the pins in place by putting on the brakes and giving the cranks a good whack! A strong click sound would indicate that the pins have properly seated in the groove. 

The chains are well lubricated from the factory so your'e all set! 

However, while fairly easy to install, they're quite hard to take off. Unlike our past experience with 10 speed Missing Links, these were not hand-removable. We had to get specialized tools in order to properly uninstall the Missing Link on the Gold chain we were replacing. No issues for us since the pliers were inexpensive. 

Once removed, the old chain was cleaned with some Cylion branded chain degreaser (which worked particularly well), lubed and stored for future action. 



On the Road

As previously mentioned, we found no perceptible difference between these Silver X11s and their blingier brothers, the Golds. Shifting action is smooth and the chain is very quiet. 


Verdict

Top performers! Smoother, Quieter and 7 grams lighter than stock. Slightly cheaper than the Gold version.  


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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. 

Verdict

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: Shimano Dura Ace WH-9000 C24 TL

With the foray into the world of 11-speed, Shimano suddenly needed a new team of wheelsets  to cater to its new super-gruppo.  Thus, the WH-9000 series wheelsets came to be. 

While most of these hoops are updates to previous WH-7900 offerings, Mr. Shimano and Co. have incorporated some innovations into their current lineup to bring them up to speed with current cycling trends.   Shimano has set two philosophical design goals with their latest wheels. These are the 'Blade Concept' and the 'Accelerating Speed Concept'. The Blade Concept, as the name implies, prioritizes slicing the wind. The Accelerating Speed Concept, on the other hand, deprioritizes aerodynamics in favor of being all-rounders. Aero considerations are still there, but acceleration and climbing come first. 


Today, we take a look at the WH-9000 C24 TL wheelset, a product of the Accelerated Speed Concept.  An evolution of the WH-7900 C24 TL, the 9000 series C24 natively supports the Dura Ace CS-9000 cassettes. Since Shimano chose to maintain their current spline pattern, the C24's can also be used with 10-speed cassettes. You do have to use the supplied 1.85mm spacer though since there's a difference in cassette length between 10 and 11 speed. 



Shimano reprised the carbon laminate approach to the C24. They bonded a layer of carbon fiber over thin aluminum to provide additional stiffness and strength to the rim while shaving weight.


Shimano lists rim width at 20.8mm wide. As can be seen in the image below, the sidewalls are almost flush with the brake surface. Rim depths are listed as 21mm for the front and 23mm for the rear. 



TL indicates that this is the RoadTubeless variant. 90g heavier per pair than the plain clincher (CL) version, the weight disadvantage is partially offset by discarding wheel tape altogether (~30g). Manufacturer claimed weight is 1,454 grams. While not exactly flyweight, the hoops are light enough for some extended climbing action.





The hubs got a major level up as they are now full Titanium whereas the 7900 was only part-Titanium.  These come in a sexy satin black painted finish. Unchanged is Shimano's traditional cup and cone bearing design. Shimano is known for its durability (hence DURA(bility)-ACE) and per their dictum, cup and cone is the way to go. Indeed this is a reliable and robust arrangement. As a bonus, the hubs can be serviced by any reasonably competent mechanic with basic shop tools. 

Also carried over are the 16 and 20 spoke count and thin bladed spokes which both contribute to aerodynamics and weight reduction. These also promise not to give nasty surprises in sudden heavy crosswinds.



We're not too hot on this year's graphics though. The labels are smaller, subdued, monochromatic and tame compared to the 7850/7900's, which flaunt the brand for all the world to see. Adding to our eyesore are the funky wavy/tribal silver-gray colored swoops which adorn the rims.  The look comes out as neither stealthy nor sporty.  While not downright ugly, these take some getting used to.... and when you do, you still know at the back of your head that they will never be as sexy as the graphics on the old C24. 
      

Mr. Shimano, can we have these graphics back? Pretty Please???

We initially mounted RoadTubeless Hutchinson Fusion 3's to these fine wheels. However, we gave up due to some major issues with the tires. Most locally available Fusion 3 stocks have developed cracks where they were folded, necessitating the use of sealant to hold air. To add to our frustration, even the sidewalls of the Fusion 3 began to leak air near the logo. This is very disappointing considering our positive past experience with their Fusion 2's. 

Keeping in mind previous issues with Dura Ace wheels and some sealants, we decided to forego RoadTubeless altogether and mount our erstwhile favorite tires, the Continental GP4000s. In went matching Race 28 Light inner tubes to complete the combo. As previously mentioned, rim tape is not required as the inside surface is perfectly smooth.  


On the road, the new generation C24's deliver what C24's of old always have: stiffness and comfort. While these two properties are often at odds with each other, the C24 somehow manages to deliver both in spades! Rough asphalt vibrations are muted enough to give road feedback without being uncomfortable... and take note, we tested at 120psi. There is no doubt in our minds that lowering this to between 90-115 PSI would result in an even better ride.  

When the time came to amp up the watts, the rear springs into life, and rapidly propels the bike forward... almost taunting us if we're giving it all we've got!   

Freewheeling is silky smooth. If you're after the tunog mayaman (loud ratchety metallicsound, then these hoops aren't for you.  The sound the C24s make is suave and muted. Easily drowned out by traffic.  

Braking is very good, although we have to give half the credit to the excellent BR-9000 stoppers  we have in our Foil. 

Looks aside, The 9000 series C24-TL's are hard to fault. Neither a purist climber nor full on aero, these wheelsets do everything else perfectly and then some. It takes what's great about the C24's of old, adds incremental - but much appreciated improvements and gives us a new standout all rounder.  Add to that Shimano's bulletproof reliability and you have yourself a winner. 

Verdict

Solid all rounder. Bulletproof and tubeless-ready. Graphics are a somewhat off but only by a little bit.

Click here for my review of the Dura Ace 9000 C50!







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Review: KMC X11SL Gold on Dura Ace 9000 (YES IT WORKS)

Bicycle Chains...

Perhaps no other bicycle part is more unremarkable than the humble chain. That said, no other component must be as tough, durable and reliable as bike chains as these have to transmit all the Cyclist's power from the cranks to the cogs. 

In comes KMC, a name synonymous to chains not only for bicycles but for motorcycles and other applications as well. KMC is an OEM supplier to a lot of Bicycle and component manufacturers aside from marketing their own product.  These guys know their chains. 


On hand is their flagship product for 11 speed groupsets, the X11SL. You can throw out unremarkable and humble out the door, as KMC put a lot of thought in designing these chains. Initially developed for Campagnolo 11 speed groupsets, we at RoadieManila found that these work adequately perfectly well with the new Shimano Dura Ace 9000 group.





The first thing which stands out is the color. The X11SL we have on hand is Gold (colored - not plated). This chain screams BLING in all the world's native languages!



Aside from looking all pimp, KMC claims that this coating actually serves a purpose. The gold color is an after effect of its proprietary Titanium Nitride coating. This hard coat serves to protect the chain from corrosion as well as reduce friction between the coated material and whatever it comes to contact with e.g. cogs and cranks. 


But this is not the only trick up its sleeve....




Looking closer at the links, we can see that it has hollow pins and slotted links, weight saving measures found in most high end chains. The pins are mushroomed (flared), which offers increased strength compared to straight pins found on lesser chains. 

Also shown in detail above is the chamfering work and double-x stamps done on the links. These features make the chain snag on to the next gear faster, smoother and quieter.


The chain also goes through what KMC calls a 'stretch-proof' treatment. 


A Missing Link 11 Gold for every X11SL kit. This makes the chain a breeze to install. No crazy expensive Campagnolo tool needed to close the links, simply align the holes to the opposite pin and pull. 




It's worth noting that KMC says these are non reusable and for single use only. But I have heard of people disassembling the Missing Link 11 to clean their chains and reassembling them to no issue. In fact, my mechanic says that it's safe to reuse at least once. But again, reusing the Missing Link-11 will  be at your own risk


Taking out the chain cutter, We trimmed down the X11SL to 105 links, same as the recently removed Dura Ace. These came in at 217grams. Compared to the CN-9000, the KMC's came in 7 grams lighter. 



KMC X11SL - 105 Links

Shimano CN-9000 - 105 links

The Missing Link 11 - 2 grams



On the road, we definitely confirm KMC's claims of better shifting. It may be hard to believe but the X11SL improves on the standard CN-9000 chain's already smooth shifts.  The X11SL is also a tad quieter than the 9000, as the soft mechanical hum of the DA 9000 drivetrain is a bit less noticeable now. The only thing that's loud about these chains is the color, though a more subdued version in Silver is also available.   

The price? It may be the most expensive chain out there but considering all the features you get and the cost of OEM Shimano or Campagnolo, the price is actually quite reasonable. 


Whether your'e a Shimano 11-speed newbie looking for an upgrade or a Campy 11 user looking for an alternative, these 11-speed chains from KMC are hard to beat. 


[UPDATE] We tried out the KMC X11SL Silver as well. Same features but less costly, this one might be better - value wise. 


Verdict

Inexpensive, bling and sexy, works well. Quick release is one-time use only though.
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