Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Brompton M6R: Ergon GP1 Grips

Not many bike brands in the world can claim to be made in London or a major city. Brompton is one of the few brands that still makes its own frames and is assembled in a major city. As such, it commands a higher price than many other bikes, due to its manufacturing location and premium image.

Even though Brompton portrays itself as a premium bike, there are some components on the bike that are not premium at all. Earlier on, I upgraded the hinge clamps, due to the outdated clamp design and plastic knobs. The other component that I feel does not belong on the Brompton are the stock grips.

The stock grips are made of foam that are glued onto the handlebars. Although they are lightweight, they are not comfortable or ergonomic, and are difficult to remove and change. Credit to Brompton, they have already made the changes in their 2017 models, which are equipped with lock on type foam grips that are at least easy to upgrade.

As this is a pre-2017 Brompton, it is still using the glued on foam grips. I tried to get used to the grips, but it was just not comfortable to hold onto for longer rides. Therefore, I wanted to change to more ergonomic Ergon grips that provide support for the palm.

Similar to most Brompton parts, upgrading or modification is not straightforward. First, I had to select the correct type of Ergon grips to match the handlebar.

Ergon grips come in two different lengths, the standard length being 130mm, and the shorter 95mm type for Gripshift or Rohloff shifters. With the shorter type, part of the resting surface for the hand will be on the rubber grip of the Gripshift.

Comparing the length of the shorter Ergon grip with the stock foam grips. Shorter by about 10mm.

The length of the Brompton foam grips are about 100mm in length, and are only just sufficient for my hands to grip properly. If I change to shorter Ergon grips, without a Gripshifter, the gripping length will be too short for proper and comfortable gripping. As such, I cannot do a straightforward swap to the shorter type of Ergon grips.

On the other hand, I also cannot make a direct swap to the standard 130mm Ergon grips, as it is too long. There is not enough handlebar length to move the brake lever or shifters inwards, as they are already close to the bend of the M type handlebar. With a S type flat handlebar, a straightforward swap should be possible.

As many people have already done previously, one of the solutions is to cut the standard length Ergon grips to your preferred length. This is quite troublesome, which is why I stated earlier that upgrading the Brompton grips is not a straightforward matter. The Ergon grip that I will be using is the simple Ergon GP1 grips, without bar ends. Bar ends will complicate the folding and may touch the ground when the bike is folded.

After measurement and comparison, I need to cut about 20mm off the standard length Ergon grip, as shown by the cutting line marked on the grip above.

I used a sharp pen knife to cut the rubber along the cutting line, then peeled it off the plastic inner shell.

After that, a cutter is used to cut the plastic inner shell, enabling it to be broken off and removed.

Finally, some slight filing is done to give a relatively smooth cut edge. I think this method of cutting the Ergon grip is better than using a hand saw, which may tear the rubber.

Final length is about 111mm, quite close to my target of 110mm.

This new length is just nice for me to grip comfortably.

This new length is also about the same as the original foam grips.

The modified Ergon grips weigh about 152 grams per pair.

With the new pair of Ergon grips prepared, it is now time to remove the original foam grips from the handlebar. I did not remove it beforehand as I was not sure how the Ergon grips will turn out after cutting, so I left it on first.

It is not possible to remove the foam grips neatly, as they are glued on and so will definitely be damaged during removal. Therefore this is a non-reversible modification, so you need to be confident that you will like the new grips.

Cutting open the foam grips with a pen knife. Cut it at an angle so as to minimise any scratching of the handlebar.

Peeling off the foam grips. It is starting to get really messy here.

There is still a thick layer of glue on the handlebar, which need to be removed before the new grips can be installed.

I tried using a strong solvent to remove the glue, but it did not work. Using a sanding block also did not work as the glue was stuck on like glue onto the handlebar. Finally, I discovered that the fastest and cleanest method was to use a pen knife to scrape off the glue.

Using a pen knife to scrap off the thick layer of glue

Took quite a while to scrap the glue cleanly off the handlebar. Now to repeat this for the other side...

Finally, the stock foam grips have been removed. You can see that for the second grip, it is done more neatly as I had practice and experience from removing the first one.

The foam grips weigh only 12 grams! Best for weight weenies.

New Ergon grips installed! The brake levers had to be re-positioned a little bit to fit neatly against the grips.

Both the Ergon grips installed! It already looks more comfortable...

About 10mm of clearance with the ground when folded, helped by the larger Eazy wheels.

The Ergon GP1 grips are so much more comfortable than the stock foam grips, and it is an upgrade that is definitely worth the effort. Some shops may offer to install the grips onto the bike for you when you buy the grips from them, and you should take up that offer as it is quite a lot of work to remove the original foam grips and also cut the Ergon grips.

If you decide to buy the grips online and install it yourself, you can refer to the steps above as a guide for installing new grips.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Canyon Endurace: Reynolds Assault Limited Edition Disc Wheelset

One of the main reason I bought the complete Canyon Endurace bike, instead of buying the frameset and installing all the components myself, is because it comes with a good set of wheels. Canyon is known for choosing good quality wheels for its complete bikes, with a quality level corresponding to the grade of bicycle. For some high end models, high grade DT Swiss or Zipp wheels are selected, which adds a lot to the value of the complete bike.

The Canyon Endurace CF SLX Disc 8.0 Di2 comes with the Reynolds Assault Limited Edition (LE) wheelset, which differs from the standard model in appearance. This is a wheelset that has a MSRP of USD 1800, which is considered a relatively high end wheelset, although it is not as high end as Enve or Zipp wheels. Let's take a closer look at this good looking wheelset!

All components on this wheelset are stock. Looking good with the stealthy matte black finishing!

These stock wheels come with an inner tube that has a short valve, and thus it comes with a valve extender. However, these valve extenders are not threaded on the outside, which means that I cannot use Lezyne pumps with pump heads that need to be threaded onto the valve.

It should have come with inner tubes that simply have longer valves, but since it does not, I will have to change the inner tubes to ensure that I can use my Lezyne pumps on these wheels. These wheels are tubeless compatible, but the stock tires are not. In any case, I am not so keen to go tubeless as using the sealant will be messy. Sure, it may be more comfortable or have lower rolling resistance or be more puncture resistant, but getting messy installation and maintenance as a trade off is not worth it for me.

Therefore, the main objectives of removing the components on these wheels are to weigh them individually, and also to change the inner tube to one with a longer valve.

Ultegra 6800 11-32T 11 speed cassette, weighs 280 grams.

XTR Ice-Tech rotor, SM-RT99 in 160mm diameter. Weighs 115 grams each.

Aluminium rotor lockrings are 8 grams each

Continental GP4000 tires, 28mm width, weighs 266 grams each. Not too bad at all!

Stock inner tubes are Schwalbe Extralight tubes, which is a surprise. Can fit 28mm to 44mm wide tires.

These inner tubes are quite lightweight, at only 105 grams for this rather wide size.

Replacement inner tube with longer 60mm valve. Can fit 18mm to 28mm wide tires.

Even though these are slimmer tubes, they are not of the Extralight variety and so weigh slightly more at 109 grams.

Comparing the size of the stock inner tube on top (28-44mm) to the new inner tube (18-28mm), there is quite a significant difference in diameter.

Wheelset stripped of all the components on it, such as the cassette, rotors, tires, inner tubes.

Each wheel has its own QC sticker and date of inspection. Rim is relatively wide, at 17mm internal and 25mm external width.

These look like tubeless rim tape, as it is securely stuck on the rim bed, instead of loosely like normal rim tape.

Large 12mm hole at the front hub for the E-thru axle. Note the straight pull spokes used.

Same 12mm E-thru axle size for the rear wheel

763 grams for the front wheel

874 grams for the rear wheel

This gives a total wheelset weight of 1637 grams inclusive of rim tape. Compare this to the Ultegra 6800 wheelset which I installed on the Merida Scultura 5000, which weighs 1650 grams (without rim tape), and about 1690 grams with rim tape.

The carbon Reynolds Assault wheelset has a rim height of 41mm, and yet weighs slightly less than the aluminium Ultegra 6800 wheels with a rim height of 24mm. This is a decent weight for a carbon wheelset with a rim profile of 41mm.

Before reinstalling the wheels back onto the frame, let's take a look at the E-thru drop outs and the E-thru axles themselves.

Front E-thru dropout of 12mm, this is the non-threaded end. There is a curved profile that guides the hub axle into the dropout.

Rear E-thru dropout of 12mm. This is the non-threaded side.

Rear E-thru dropout, at the threaded end. It threads into the derailleur hanger, which is also part of the dropout.

Weight of rear E-thru axle, which is 142x12mm. 38 grams.

Weight of front E-thru axle, which is 100x12mm. 29 grams.

Quick release lever which can be used for either of the E-thru axles. 31 grams.

In total, the quick release axles and lever weigh 98 grams, which is considered pretty lightweight. This is mainly due to the shared lever which means that only one lever is needed.

On the road, these wheels roll nicely and comfortably. The freewheeling sound is audible but not overly loud, which is how I like it. Appearance wise, the matte black finishing with glossy black details on the rims makes it look more expensive that it is, and also matches the Kerosene Red of the Endurace frame very well. No wheelset upgrade is necessary as these wheels are already very nice!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Canyon Endurace: S15 VCLS 2.0 CF Seatpost and Fizik Aliante R3 Saddle

Based on component specifications, the Canyon Ultimate and the Endurace are quite similar. The Ultimate is lighter in weight, and a bit more expensive, while the Endurace comes with a suspension seatpost and is slightly cheaper. One major reason why I ended up choosing the Endurace was the special suspension seatpost.

Based on reviews, this seatpost works really well as it flexes when you ride over bumpy surfaces, absorbing a lot of the bumpiness. I was curious to try it out for myself, to see how effective it really is.

S15 seatpost, with quite a bit of setback. It has a standard diameter of 27.2mm, which is good because you can always replace it with a standard seatpost if you don't like it.

Weight of 236 grams for the 350mm long seatpost. Surprisingly lightweight given the suspension feature built into it.

How this suspension seatpost works is quite simple in theory. There are two halves of the seatpost, the front half and the rear half. By splitting the seatpost, and allowing some space in the middle for movement, bumps can be absorbed by the flexing of the seatpost instead of being transmitted to the rider.

The downside of this design is that if you want to change the tilt angle of the saddle, you need to remove the whole seatpost, and offset the front half from the rear half. This is troublesome and takes a bit of trial and error, but thankfully this only needs to be done when you are setting up your bike riding position for the first time.

Default setting has the front and rear half aligned at zero offset. The other markings are to help you fine tune the angle. A small offset has a big effect on the tilt angle.

This is the bolt at the end of the seatpost that you loosen before sliding the two halves against each other to adjust the offset. Once done, tighten this bolt to clamp the two halves together, then reinsert the seatpost into the frame.

Height markings on the seatpost are useful for letting you know the previous seatpost height after removing it from the frame for tilt angle adjustment.

Saddle clamp design is quite simple, with two bolts at the side to tighten the two clamps inwards. Not suitable for carbon rails I think.

After the clamps are removed, what you see here are the two holes on top of the seatpost with grey plastic bushes.

The saddle clamp unit is allowed to rotate within the plastic bushes on top of the seatpost when the seatpost flexes. This ensures that the saddle remains horizontal instead of tilting when the seatpost flexes. By doing so, it maintains the rider's pedaling position and reach instead of affecting the pedaling.

This flexing effect is quite obvious, and can be felt even when pressing down hard with the hands. While riding the bike, you can feel some kind of bouncing effect if you sit down hard on the saddle. What is good is that no matter you are riding leisurely or riding hard, you don't really feel any weird movement in the saddle or seatpost.

When riding over rough surfaces, such as the bricked surfaces of carpark roads, or the speed limiting strips on park connectors, this seatpost does a great job in rounding off the bumps that you feel. In other words, it takes the edges off the bumps. Of course, you will still feel the bumps, but instead of sharp, jarring bumps, what you feel is softer, rounded bumps, which is less uncomfortable.

I am really happy with this seatpost as it genuinely works to provide some kind of suspension that makes it more comfortable. It will make a big difference on longer rides where it can maintain the rider's comfort.

Another stock component that came with the bike is the saddle. This is not a generic saddle, it is a Fizik Aliante R3 saddle that has pretty good reviews. Let's take a closer look.

Understated look, with a smooth felt-like covering over most of the saddle.

At the area where the sit bones rest on, it is covered by a tougher leather-like material. It also has plastic scuff guards at the side, to prevent damage when the saddle is rested against the wall.

Steel rails are are used on this saddle. It is some unusual kind of alloy as it is only mildly attracted to a magnet.

The Fizik Integrated Clip System (ICS) that is equipped on most Fizik saddles. This clip allows you to mount a rear light to the saddle if you want to.

Saddle weighs 225 grams, a very average weight for a road bike saddle. Compared to a lightweight Selle Italia SLR Kit Carbonio Flow, this is heavy.

However, it was difficult to adjust the tilt angle of this saddle to find the sweet spot, as there is a very pronounced "upsweep" at the tail end of the saddle, as you can see from the picture below. After much trial and error, I discovered that the most comfortable position is when the middle to front portion is horizontal, and the rear end is allowed to sweep upwards.

In this position, the front end is flat to prevent undue pressure on the sensitive parts, while the rear end sweeps up to support the butt area near the tailbone. It becomes very comfortable, once you get the angle adjusted properly. When holding the hoods or the drop section of the handlebar, this saddle is very comfortable as you are well supported on your butt. However, when you try to sit up straight, the upsweep at the end of the saddle prevents you from sitting up properly. In short, this is a performance road saddle that is best used with drop bars, where you will be in a more aggressive riding position most of the time.

The overall height of the saddle (from rails to highest point) is quite high, due to the upsweep at the tail end. Not an issue for full sized bikes, but maybe not so ideal for folding bikes where the folded size needs to be compact.

Adjusting the tilt of the saddle, so that the middle to front portion is flat, while the rear is allowed to sweep upwards.

The saddle clamps can be switched from left to right, in order to adjust the offset amount. I switched it to shift the saddle forward.

In my opinion, this seatpost is a game changer that really makes a difference in riding comfort for road bikes. On its own, the seatpost is quite expensive, but when bought together with the complete bike, it is a worthwhile component to have. As for the saddle, I have not decided if I will keep it on this bike, transfer it to another bike, or sell it. Shall use it for a while more and see...