Bringing back the Cycling Cap one Domestique at a time

Showing posts with label Shimano. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Shimano. Show all posts

Review: 2015 Canyon Aeroad 8.0 CF SLX

Canyon isn't exactly a household name in the world of cycling. With its origins dating back to the mid eighties, the German brand was formed in 2001 in the city of Koblenz; a relative youngster in an industry where some players boast of being established in the 1800s. While not exactly a mass market name, the Canyon brand is a familiar name for those in the know as it supplies frames to professional powerhouse teams Katusha and Movistar.

Canyon is known for its direct sales business model. Customers order their bikes via Canyon website and expect direct to doorstep deliveries in a few weeks (or a few months). By eliminating the whole distributor-dealer chain and commissions, Canyon able to offer their products at an exceptional value and with equipment levels several rungs up their competitors' offerings.

And a few months is what it took to get my hands on my current road bike and subject of this article, the Canyon Aeroad CF SLX 8.0 Di2.

Author's Canyon Aeroad CF SLX 8.0 Di2 (upgraded to 9.0?)
Unfortunately, the Philippines is not among those countries Canyon serves. Acquiring this bike required a bit of creativity but we managed to pull it off. A few months into ownership, I'd say the whole exercise was well worth it!

The Aeroad 8.0 spec sheet is pretty impressive. Full Ultegra Di2, Reynolds Strike SLG full carbon wheels and a finishing kit worthy of bikes more upscale.


The Frame


The aptly named Aeroad is Canyon's entry to the ever expanding aero-road niche. Unlike other brands which offer different carbon layups of the same frame design in the hopes of upselling, all aeroad frames from the bottom range model to top-of-line feature the same carbon composites and differ solely on bundled equipment.

On its second iteration, the current Aeroad is a thoroughly modern design with the expected aerodynamically optimized tube shapes and profile. If there's one thing which the Aeroad screams, it's the word "Fast". The frame features Canyon's Trident 2.0 tube cross-sections which are a varied mix of different Kamm style shapes; some feature longish truncated foils like the down tube and some are much shallower like that of the seatpost.



As in almost all modern aero-road bikes, the rear seat stay is mated to the seat tube well below the top tube level. The overall look is very sharp, with the top tube itself almost horizontal. The rear wheel is shielded from the wind by the lower seat tube which was reshaped to double as a cowling. The top of the forks blend smoothly with the headtube, again for aerodynamics.

Aero moderne: shielded rear wheel and low mounted seat stays

Smooth Fork-Frame transition
Adding to the overall sharpness is the Aeroad's electronic integration. The Di2 battery is tucked inside the downtube, nowhere to be seen. The junction box is also cleverly hidden, this one under a small compartment underneath the handlebars, resulting in one of  the cleanest full electronic installs in the market. 

Also worth mentioning is the adjustable rake feature of the Aeroad. By repositioning aluminum shims at the end of the fork, users can set the rake (fork offset) to two positions: Agile or Stable. The shims did not feel flush when mounted in Agile mode so back they went to the default Stable.

The body is finished in matte black, accented with gloss black accents and logos. While I'm all for the "murdered out" black look, I felt there was nothing wrong with a little brand recognition, hence the sticker job.

The choice of sticker color was deliberate. We wanted to offset/match the Dura Ace cranks, hence silver.

The Components 

Groupset

The Aeroad 8.0 comes with full Ultegra Di2 components. Unfortunately, I was unable to test this as we immediately replaced this to Dura Ace Di2. I was hesitant to go electronic as I found nothing wrong nor room for improvement with the Dura Ace 9000 mechanical group. But seeing how prices and components were laid out in the Aeroad lineup, going electronic was almost a no brainer. (not to mention I wanted the H11 handlebars and the Reynolds Wheelset).

Di2 is indeed better than mechanical. Consistent shifting, front and rear, every single time. Auto trimming on smaller cogs, programmable long press behavior and shifting speeds.... This is not something a mechanical 9000 user would exactly crave for but once you go Di2, it's very very hard to imagine going back to mechanical. Another bonus: you will see your mechanic less for tuneups. A lot less.

Another first for us are Direct Mount brakes. Arriving at the same time as the bike were a pair of Dura Ace BR-9010 front brakes to replace the Ultegra Direct mounts which came with the bike (the Aeroad does not use the rear-specific design). The only difference we see with the direct mounts versus regular brakes are the two mounting screws versus only one on regular brakes. I can't really comment on how well these work compared to the run of the mill Dura Ace brakes since it has been a while since I was on regular BR-9000s but they compare well to the TRP aero brakes on our Argon 18 Nitrogen. And those have a lot of stopping power and good modulation.   

Contributing to stopping power are the updated Reynolds Cryo Blue POWER brakepads. These are a whopping 44% larger than the regular Reynolds Blue pads. Indeed, carbon braking has come a long way and these parts already perform no different from their alloy counterparts.




Wheelset

As with the group, the Reynolds Strike SLGs which came with the Aeroad were likewise replaced with Reynolds Assault SLGs before ride number 1. While the Assault SLGs are a modern design featuring a 25mm width which mates perfectly to 25mm tires, its 62mm depth is a bit too deep for all around riding. The 42mm Assaults, however, are just right. They also weigh 120 grams less at 1515g. Tires are GP4000 S2's from Continental. These come in staggered configuration with 23mm for the front and 25mm for the rear.


Cockpit

While certainly not the first implementation of an integrated bar and stem, the H11 Aerocockpit CF may be the first to do so for aerodynamic purposes. Frontal area is reduced by flattening the bar and airflow improved by rounding out the shape.

As previously mentioned, the Di2 junction box B is housed in a groove underneath the stem portion of the bar. Canyon claims 5.5 watts of aerodynamic improvement over a conventional rounded bar and stem. We'll have to take their word for that. What we can tell is that this is a beautifully crafted piece of carbon fiber. And while we'd rather have shallower drops, found the 128mm drop on our bike quite workable.

Junction B feels cozy in there


Worth mentioning are the minor design details which show the Germans think of everything. The "stem" cutout is diagonal to more evenly distribute clamping stress and the aero shaped headset spacers have pegs which keep allow them to stack like loose lego bricks.



Optional Bits & Other Pieces

We also got a couple of optional parts specific to our needs. First is the 9mm seat clamp for carbon railed seats. We needed this to mount our SMP Compost CRB. Next is the Garmin Edge mount for the H11 cockpit. Why give up all those aerodynamic gains by using the Garmin rubber band mount? Do we need to mention it looks really snappy?

1Also installed was our incumbent SMP Composit CRB saddle, KMC X11SL DLC black chains and KCNC Skewers.

H11 with the optional Garmin Mount



On The Road

Believe the hype: The Aeroad is a legit race bike.

Ride leisurely and the Aeroad behaves like any other carbon bodied bike. Stable, compliant and dare we say... almost borderline comfortable considering the bike's primary mission. Pile on the wattage and the Aeroad comes to life. Whether it's the frame's stiffness or the aerodynamics, the Canyon will keep up with your best effort; rewarding you with more and more speed the more you put into it. The 23mm front tire turns quicker than when using 25mm tires. A small advantage, but it's there.


Finishing off the build with a Stages Power Meter and Keo Blade 2 Ti Pedals


And it's not just an aero-road bike but a talented all rounder.

The bike weighs in at around 14.9 pounds with Look Keo Blade 2 Ti pedals installed and while not a dedicated climber, it does adequately well in climbs and is perfectly stable in fast descents. More proof of the Aeroad's flexibility: Alexander Kristoff of Katusha opted to use one for the torturous 2015 Paris-Roubaix instead of Canyon's all rounder Ultimate CF SLX. He finished a decent tenth place in a field of 133 finishers and 67 DNFs and OTLs. Oh, and he used an Aeroad to win the 2015 Tour of Flanders, a race with cobbles, climbs and sprints and everything in between.

Alexander Kristoff's Aeroad - Photo c/o Bikeradar
The Aeroad is almost universally acclaimed by the world's press, and personally I find it hard to fault. As of the end of 2015, this may not only be the best bike for the buck...but possibly the best bike out there.




Verdict

We're in love! It's hard to think of any negatives for the Aeroad. Acquiring one, if Canyon does not service your country, is another matter altogether.




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Review: 2015 Argon 18 Nitrogen

1 Sep 2015 - Sometime March 2015, after 9,167.3 blissful kilometers with the road aero pioneering Scott Foil, I gave in to upgraditis and decided to get a new frame.

Being an early adopter of road aero, any and all equipment I decide to purchase must be as aero as possible. It goes without saying that my next frame should be as well. To be honest, I am not really sure if it makes any difference in making my cycling any faster, but aero looks fast....and if it looks fast, it looks good. Just like a fighter plane. The aggressive looks of an aero bike is a quality in itself.


Superficial, yes. But if we want to be technical about it, aerodynamic benefits work at any speed, albeit exponentially the faster you go. The bicycle makes up 20% of a cyclist's surface area, with the cyclist himself taking up the rest of the 80 percent. Any aerodynamic efficiency against the bike's 20 percent contribution to drag should enhance performance. Yes. Memorize and repeat....memorize and repeat.

So off I went to that happy place somewhere in Pasay. In one of the shops, as if written on a movie script, I looked up to find an Argon 18 Nitrogen in my size just hanging from one of the shops' ceiling. Luck.

The first full on roadbike I had was an Argon 18 Radon and I'm quite familiar with the Canadian maker's products and quality. Getting another Argon made sense and was like a coming home of sorts.

2015 Argon Nitrogen,  Most likely in Medium/Large - Photo credit: Argon 18

The Frame

Argon 18 has extensive experience in designing aerodynamic frames. In fact, they several time trial bikes currently on offer which, along with the UCI approved Nitrogen, benefit from this experience.

Unassembled, one would be forgiven for mistaking the Nitrogen as a TT frame. It's certainly easy on the eyes. With aero features like a thick seatpost, rear wheel cutouts and aero brakes, the Nitrogen certainly has that 'fast even while on the bike stand' look. That being said, the Nitrogen looks better from sizes Medium and up. Small and Extra Small have this pinched head-tube look and the rear seat stay goes up until nearly the top tube. (We prefer it connecting to the middle of the seat tube-a la modern 2015's bikes, thank you).

The Author's Nitrogen. Right at home in the living room. Note where the seatstays start.

Upon closer inspection, it becomes apparent that Argon 18 pursued a different path in designing the Nitrogen. Argon 18 decided to use more traditional shapes in its choice of tube cross sections. Unlike most of its aero road competitors, it does not utilize a truncated airfoil or Kamm-Tail tube design. Bikes such as the road aero pioneer Scott Foil, the Trek Madone and the Canyon Aeroad all utilize the Kamm design to marry the opposing requirements of stiffness and aerodynamics.

The Nitrogen, instead, goes with long and thin teardrop airfoil shapes which can be seen in the slender seat stays and the seatpost. Curiously, the downtube cross section is neither Kamm-Tail nor teardrop but is of oval shape. The seatpost is reversible; you get either 72-76.5 degrees or 78 degrees.

Aero setback seatpost.

That's an Italian Flag there. Just saying.
Other wind-cheating features include the TRP v-brakes which are flat and are hidden from the wind by virtue of being mounted on the aft ends of the fork and chainstays. Keen observers will note that the rear seatstays no longer connected by a bridge as the brakes are mounted directly on the stays.

Front V-Brakes. Hidden from the wind.

Rear TRP V-Brakes. No seatstay bridge.

Also, aerodynamically shaped headset spacer caps are provided in several different heights to help guide air around smoothly in this area. Brake and shifter cables are internally routed; de facto nowadays for any modern top tier bike. The rear wheel arc eats into the lower rear seat tube section, shielding the anterior wheel edge from the wind. We used 25mm Continental GP4000S' tires there without any clearance issues.

Headset spacer cover. Aerodynamic, of course.
Wind tunnel test results from Argon suggest that they have created an aerodynamically sound frame. Second only to the Cervelo S5 in terms of overall performance at multiple yaw angles. Of particular note is the Cervelo's performance at 0 degrees (head on wind), and how both the S5 and Nitrogen both leave the rest of the pack behind at this angle.


A Nitrogen frame in Medium weighs in at 960 grams.  It's not gonna win any weight weenie contest with this figure but it's still far from being considered porky....just don't challenge an Emonda at the scales. Unfortunately, we were not able to put our XS size frame on the scales because of the rush to upgrade.

Rear wheel eats nicely into the lower seat tube. 25C tires shown.
On The Road

The first thing which stood out with the Nitrogen was its comfort. Having been used to the Scott Foil, whose ride may be described as harsh, riding the Nitrogen is a welcome relief.  Enough so that it brings back memories of the Cannondale Supersix HM which was (and still is) my bike of choice for rougher road surfaces.

Handling is right about average for a modern carbon bike which is good. Yes, bikes have progressed to that point where they all mostly track like a diving falcon on steroids. Compared to the Foil though, the Nitrogen gives up half a point on this category. So too with stiffness. Whereas the Foil was designed to cut and thrust, the Nitrogen is more of a cruiser, happier with zipping along at high speed than engaging the next chicane. But this does not at all mean it can't!

What did surprise was the braking power. Yes, it's that good. Even better than the Dura Ace BR-9000 units we had installed in the Foil, the TRP-Argon units grip so strong that you almost feel scared that your carbon wheel brake surface might just light up and flame away.

As usual we do not have any professional equipment to measure aerodynamic efficiency. We'd avoid using that oft-used cliché of feeling like continuous tailwind was behind us and just say that the Nitrogen zips along merrily, comfortable and confidently at speed.


Verdict

The Argon 18 Nitrogen is a serious aero contender for your hard earned money. With the features you get vs. the price it's a steal! Bonus Fact: This exact frame design is used by the Bora-Argon18 Pro-Tour Team. Therefore, this has street cred.

-A

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2014 Ultegra 6800 - Dura Ace Tech Trickles Down!

As expected, some a lot of the new features introduced in Shimano's Dura Ace 9000 series will trickle down to the 6800 series Ultegra group, which will be released sometime 2014. As we'll see, it's more than just going 11-speed.

Highlights, in a nutshell: 

  • Crankset (FC-6800) - Will feature a four arm spider resembling the Dura Ace's FC-9000. This will save some weight off the outgoing FC-6700 cranks while offering a standardized crankarm for use with standard, compact and mid-compact chainrings. 
  • Shifters (ST-6800) - Mimics the ergonomics of the Dura Ace ST-9000 in that it's thinner, therefore easier to grip. These will also feature the same light shift effort and shorter lever throw of the Dura Ace STI's. How much so is the question. 

  • Front Derailleur (FD-6800) - Again we see a direct trickle down of Dura Ace technology in the upcoming Ultegra's FD. The long arm, promises the same, light shift effort of the FD-9000. 

  • Brakes (BR-6800) - Symmetrical Dual Pivot design also inherited from the Dura Ace BR-9000. Shimano claims a 10% increase in braking power over the BR-6700. 

  • Rear Derailleur (RD-6800) - One ups the Dura Ace RD-9000 in that a long cage option is available. You'll need this if you want to run the 6800's new 38T large sprockets. 


  • Cassette (CS-6800) - available in 11-23, 11-25, 11-28 and now in 11-32! You'll need a long cage RD-6800 to accommodate the 32T gear though. Having 11 speeds now means having back  one additional 'missing' gear in the middle of the range, or suddenly having a 32T bailout gear for the toughest of climbs. Depends on your point of view. 
  • Chain (CN-6800) - Same as the DA-9000 chain, the inner dimensions are maintained while size reduction only applies to the outer dimensions. The 6800 chain gets a PTFE (Teflon) coating as well. These are not directional which means you can mount it either way. These don't get the CN-9000's hollow pins though.

  • Cables - Also get the Polymer coating used in the 9000 series. 
Everything about the 6800 looks good on paper. Specs and features are up there in terms of mid-level groups and it looks like we just have to suffer some good ol' added weight with the 6800 series. This is, of course, to give the flagship Dura Ace 9000 a halo effect.

As can be observed with the previous Dura Ace 7900 and the Ultegra 6700 series, it's not beyond reason to expect that the Ultegra 6800 will perform very much like the 9000.

Given that the 6800 will set you back almost half of what the 9000 does, the added 200 or so grams is a penalty which we predict a lot of people will gladly bear.

Expected release date is September 2013. Asian release is typically a few months before. 

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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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Shimano WH-9000-C24-TU 1100 gram Tubulars

Shimano has just announced that it will be releasing the long rumored Tubular version of the C24 wheelset. The tubular version,WH-9000-C24-TU,  wheelset weighs in at a svelte 1,100 grams. No need to rub your eyes, Yes, that is the claimed weight.

This is, for us, the most interesting of the new 11-speed compatible wheelsets announced by Shimano. Other goodies include the RS-81, basically a WH-9000-C50 wit Ultegra level hubs and a new 105 series full carbon SPD-SL pedals.

From the looks of things, the WH-9000-C24-TU will be a 21 spoke affair on the rear (vs 20 spokes in the clincher). We presume that the front will sport 16 spokes similar to the clincher version.

Even if Shimano is over-optimistic on the weight figures and end up at around 1155grams (5% error margin), these will still be light wheels by any measure.

This is something  hardcore tub climbers or weight weenies will surely look forward to.

And, yes, the graphics have grown on us enough to stop complaining about them.

Sad news in all of this is that these wheels will be released in 2014. At least that gives people time to save up.

Meanwhile, you can check out our reviews on the C50 and C24 here and here.


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Review / Update - My Scott Foil 20


I just recently found out that Scott has moved from the US to Switzerland. I guess I can stop dreaming of having a Euro bike since I already have one (harharhar!). Anyhow, it's been three months since I switched to Scott.  And I have grown very fond of my Foil 20 and its quirks. Coming from a previous generation superbike, the 2010 Cannondale Supersix Hi-Mod Liquigas, and moving to a modern mid-level frame isn't much of  a 'downgrade' as i had initially expected.


The fruit of Scott's F01 project, the Foil is one of a slew of frames to incorporate aerodynamic considerations into the standard roadie. Indeed, if one isn't aware that the Foil is an aero frame, it just looks just like any other modern all carbon frame. But those unique triangular tubes are what makes the Foil unique. Instead of replicating the standard airfoil shape, Scott just took the leading edge of this shape and formed a rounded triangle from it. Brilliant; but why reinvent the wheel? Simple - the airfoil shape, while being the most aerodynamic, is not good in the stiffness department.  By forming the triangle, both stiffness and aerodynamic requirements were served. 



Chillin out in MoA

The brains behind this is aerodynamicist Simon Smart, whose name is now prominently featured in uber chic Smart-Enve wheelsets. With great experience designing Formula One suspensions, Smart certainly has qualifications in creating wind cheating, high strength  tubes. He reckons that the Foil shape is the best compromise to the often conflicting stiffness and aerodynamic demands of the project. 

Being a tech-head and gear-head, I was sold. 

Made with HMF-NET high modulus carbon fiber, the mid-level Foil 20 can easily pass for a top of the line model few years ago. The mid-level label does not do the Foil 20 justice. It's only mid-level since there are Foil models made with an even more exotic kind of carbon fiber, which Scott calls HMX-NET. At the top of the Foil food chain sits the likes of the  Premium and Team Issue editions. These are even lighter and stiffer that the HMF Foils.  

However, I think I can manage without the 20% extra stiffness and 100 or so less grams of weight. I appreciate the additional bills in my wallet though. Given the erratic supply of bicycles locally, I was forced to scour the local classifieds for my new frame. I found a slightly used Foil 20 frame, recently replaced by Scott because of the then unresolved seatpost clamp issue. The frame came in matte black which, in my mind, sealed the deal. 



Click Thumbnails to Enlarge


The Foil 20 is a definite upgrade over the Cannondale in all but one department: ride quality. The Foil's ride can easily be described as harsh especially coming from the superb ride of the Supersix. However, I choose to look at it in another way... the Foil is a pure racer. 

With the frame question resolved, time to move on to the second biggest bike build dilemma... the gruppo. Fortunately, I had this problem was solved even before I decided to switch frames. 

The groupset of choice is Shimano's excellent Dura Ace 9000. I had it on the Super Six for a few weeks and transplanted it to the Foil. In my opinion, this is the best all around groupset available this moment, especially if you factor the price. Vastly improved over the 7900, the 9000 has almost supernatural braking, flawless smooth shifts, consistently light shifting action, funky modern looks, much improved ergonomics, 11 cogs and a sub 2000g total weight - the latter two firsts for Shimano. In case you haven't noticed yet, yes, I love this group.   

Countless people have gushed at how good shifts feel and actuate....  and boy, does it indeed! What took a while to warm up to were the cranks. While I initially hated the assymetric 4-arm cranks, I have to say that they have grown on me and now actually like the look. It can't be stated enough: This group is excellent!

The WH-9000-C24-TL wheelsets also got carried over with the group, but I eventually decided to go aero all the way and replace them with WH-9000-c50-CL hoops .  This change added quite a bit of weight to the bike; around 400 grams, give or take, but doing so solidified the setup's wind slicing intentions.  It also helps the aesthetics as well. ;-)   


Tires of choice remain Continental's Grand Prix 4000s. I temporarily swapped out the 23c's in favor of 25c's for a comparison review, but will go for a staggered setup (FR: 23c, RR: 25c) once this has been written. The GP4000S has been scientifically proven to be the best all rounder tires by Tour magazine. If you guys read any of their past tests, you know how hardcore and thorough these guys are when it comes to technical testing.  



Click Thumbnails to Enlarge

Wanting to maximize the 11 speed cassette, off went the 11-28 climbers and in came the 12-25. The advantage of the 11 speed cassette is essentially negated with the 11-28 since I wasn't using the 11T and the 28T that much. With a 12-13-14-15-16-17-18-19-21-23-25 gear setup, the 12-25 is perfect suited for the rides I do nowadays.

I'm probably the last person anyone would mistake for Tony Martin, so going to standard cranks is not yet an option. I prefer compact cranks. My original choice, the 52-36, is still nowhere to be found but I do plan to switch to these eventually.   

Keeping things black and gloomy, I pulled a color switch on my Antares 00 from white to black. Of course, the bartapes had to match. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get any black S-Wraps and had to settle for Ritchey corks.

For the cockpit, I switched from FSA's OS-99 CSI and K-wing to 3T's Arx LTD and Ergonova LTD. This was done for purely aesthetic purposes (color matching). The K-Wing may be the most user-friendly bars I ever used; raised tops, internal cable routing and all. The silver lining in this is that I dropped more bits of alloy and swapped them with with UD carbon.... a good 84 gram weight savings.   

The old reliable Look Keo Blade Ti's got carried over and are paired with zero-float cleats. The blades are tight and look very nice. At 186 grams a pair, these are among the lightest non-speedplay pedals out there. On a side note, I strongly recommend zero float cleats to everyone with knee problems. Yes, you read that right. Float may actually be one of the causes of knee pain and using floatless cleats may relieve it. It may be hard to believe but I switched to these and ain't coming back.   

My mile counter is the recently deprecated Edge 800. And while it's a bit of a brick, it does come with a large touchscreen. I got this unit Stateside so it came with a North America map. Haven't had the time to research how to install a free one for the Philippines. I love the size of the display as all the data fields I need are shown at once: Distance, Speed, HR, Cadence, Calories, Time and Time of Day. Having a touchscreen is a godsend as there's no fiddling around with buttons while in the middle of a sufferfest.  The Edge is mounted on Garmin's Out Front computer mount. This makes the cockpit look particularly clean and neat. 




Click Thumbnails to Enlarge

At its lightest, the Foil got a bit below the UCI 15 pound weight limit at around 14.9 pounds, however, the switch to the C50's and some other heavier bits got me back up to around 15.6. Not entirely super light but still very very very acceptable.  All I need now is a setback Foil seatpost and everything will be just right! Just have to find time to drive to the dealer in Quiapo to order the part though. 

Well, I guess that's it. Only a true bike geek would have read and made it this far.

Congratulations!  

~Armand

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