Cyclocross Magazine - Digital Edition

Cyclocross Magazine Issue 9 - Digital Version

Cyclocross Magazine - The Digital and Print Magazine Dedicated to Cyclo-cross and Veldrijden

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WORDS AND PHOTOS BY Andrew Yee Mix and Match Your Way to the Ultimate ’Cross Drivetrain The growth in American cyclocross is responsible for an explosion in cyclocross- specific components. In fewer than 20 years, we’ve gone from just a handful of production ’cross bikes and tires to having well over 50 of each widely available. We also now enjoy cyclocross-specific cranks, wheels, brakes and even handlebars. Yet the shifters and derailleurs, the components that we rely on the most to get us over any terrain, are designed for road riding and racing. While they do the job, they’re certainly not tailor-made for cyclocross. Are the cyclocrosser’s shifting needs different? What defines the perfect cyclocross drivetrain? Ergonomics, accuracy, speed, price, weight, performance in mud and snow, ability to shift through multiple gears at once and available cassette choices are all important considerations for most of us. Is Shimano’s Electronic Di2 the answer? Perhaps it deserves praise due to its speed, accuracy and elimination of cable contamination, but it still shifts only one gear at a time, adds a bit of weight and breaks the bank (unless you are Sven Nys or Adam Craig). But after a year-and-a-half of “research,” Cyclocross Magazine has discovered several options that can improve your shifting in cyclocross. They just require a bit of mix and match. So Many Choices Mixing components from different manufacturers or groups can be an effective way to put together your perfect combination. While the PRO-obsessed may scoff at the idea of mixed-brand drivetrain, we know many of you don’t want to be constrained to one manufacturer’s components, and that desire has made our Issue 1 article (also now online) on pairing Campagnolo 10-speed Ergopower shifters with either an eight- or nine-speed Shimano drivetrain one of our most popular stories and has shown us that ’crossers are particularly willing to mix. Dozens of readers have contacted us to report on their successes, ask about other combinations and thank us for highlighting options that allow the reuse of existing parts or accommodate personal preferences. Yet since our first, humble Issue 1, a lot has changed in the world of shifting options. SRAM has four different DoubleTap shift levers (Red, Force, Rival and Apex) and has become the dominant shifting system on cyclocross stock bikes in the U.S.. Meanwhile, Campagnolo has gone to 11 speeds and revised its shift lever mechanism several times, while Shimano has released its Di2 electronic system and hidden its shift cables. The two companies have almost swapped hood shapes, with Campagnolo going longer and more sculpted, and Shimano downsizing and becoming flatter. Meanwhile, J-tek Engineering stopped production of its Shiftmate adapter, only to recently restart it again. What do all these changes mean for you? You now have even more options to piece together a lighter, faster and more affordable drivetrain that meets your unique needs. But it’s also a hell of a lot more confusing to figure out which parts you can mix and match. We take a look at a few more options that we’ve been testing over the last year in our search for perfect cyclocross shifting. Poor Man’s Electronic Shifting The Shimano Di2 system’s performance has CYCLOCROSS MAGAZINE | ISSUE 9 been so well received because of its precision and speed. However, the reason it feels so fast, particularly in downshifts, is that the button’s throw is ultra-short and the derailleur always utilizes the ramps to execute a shift. There’s no forcing a shift, extra stress on the chain or loud clunk, and thus it feels fast even though the derailleur always waits for the shift ramp. Did you know you can enjoy these exact benefits on the cheap by adapting a little piece of Shimano’s mountain bike technology? In cyclocross, I’d argue that the downshift (to easier gears) is far more critical in a race than the upshift (to harder gears). Hit a hairpin or steep climb and can’t get into an easier gear? You lose a bunch of speed at best, or worse, are forced to dismount and run while a bunch of racers pass you by. We know from our online poll that over two-thirds of you agree that the downshift is the more critical shift in a ’cross race. Enter Shimano’s Low Normal derailleurs. Shimano introduced its Low Normal— previously called Rapid Rise—technology to its flagship XTR mountain bike group in 1998 to improve shifting to easier gears during those “oh-crap-I-need-it-now” moments. Low Normal differs from a High Normal derailleur in that its springs default the derailleur to the easiest gear, instead of the highest gear, under no cable tension. This change improves downshifting performance, as the chain always downshifts with the assistance of the cog’s ramp. More often than not, this change also results in faster shifting, especially for shifts across multiple gears, because of the shorter shift lever throw required to release the cable, and because the derailleur’s spring guides the chain to the lower cogs faster than you can pull a cable and force 61

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