First Impressions: SRAM Force 1 & Rival 1 Components (Part-I)

Every few years, drivetrain manufacturers add yet another cog to our bikes’ rear wheels in hopes of attracting dollars and market share. Chicago-based SRAM has kept pace with its competition, cog-wise, but the company has also worked on simplifying drivetrains by reducing the number of chainrings. SRAM’s 1x™ (pronounced one-by) movement began in their MTB category, where it was praised for its simplicity and security. In 2014 the company brought 1x technology to cyclocross with the introduction of the Force CX1™ group. And now, with the company’s announcement of their Force 1 and Rival 1 lines, SRAM brings the 1x option to road, gravel and adventure riding. gravel grinder SRAM Road Rival 1x Zipp 30 Course

© Nils Nilsen N2Photo. Used with permission.

What Exactly Is 1x?
At the center of SRAM’s 1x drivetrain is the company’s X-SYNC™ single chainring. When combined with a wide-range cassette and dedicated clutch rear derailleur, the result is a secure, quiet system that offers a range of gears comparable to a traditional double-chainring (2x) setup. Benefits of the 1x drivetrain include less weight (approximately 175 gram savings), simpler shifting, fewer parts to maintain, and better chain control.

It’s important to note that SRAM is not abandoning the traditional double-chainring (2x) drivetrain. The company acknowledges that road 1x technology isn’t ideal for every application, and they remain committed to 2x drivetrains. The new Force 1 and Rival 1 groups complement their 2x counterparts by delivering increased chain control, simplified shifting, and reduced noise.

Is Less More?
You don’t need a PhD to figure out that a 2×11 drivetrain gives you twice as many gears as a 1×11 drivetrain. It’s obvious that 22 is more than 11, but what exactly do you give up if you switch to a 1x drivetrain? Having logged thousands of miles on SRAM’s WiFLi™ 2x drivetrains, I found myself asking that very same question when it came to demo the company’s new road 1x groups.

SRAM’s WiFLi 2x drivetrains offer a staggeringly wide range of gears. The combination of a 50-34 crankset and 11-32 cassette have a range–or spread–of 428%. On mixed-surface (pavement, dirt, gravel) rides, I typically find myself using use most–if not all–of that range. Can a 1x setup offer the same range? In short, yes. By pairing a SRAM 44-tooth X-SYNC chainring with one of their 10-42 cassettes, the result is a gear range that covers more than 98% of the WiFLi 2x system’s range. gravel grinder SRAM Force Rival 1x WiFLi 11-speed

What’s New?
SRAM is expanding nearly all of its new 1x offerings into the renamed Rival 1 and Force 1 groups. Last year’s Force CX1 group is now known simply as SRAM Force 1. In addition to the aforementioned single-ring cranksets and chainrings, the new 1x Force and Rival groups include hydraulic and mechanical disc brakes, DoubleTap® (drop-bar) and trigger (flar-bar) shifters, 11-speed chains and cassettes, and rear derailleurs available in short, medium, and long cage versions.

When SRAM introduced the CX1 group last year, the X-SYNC chainring sizes were limited to 38 through 46 teeth (in two-tooth increments). The new Force 1 chainrings are offered in 38, 40, 42, 44, 46, 48, and 50-tooth sizes (110 mm BCD). For those riders who favor bigger gears, 52 and 54-tooth ‘rings will be available in 130 mm BCD (Rival 1 chainrings are only available in 110 mm BCD, in sizes 38 through 50-tooth). Both Rival and Force cranksets feature removable spiders. The Rival 1 (pictured below) and Force 1 X-SYNC chainrings share the same square-tooth design and wide-tooth undercut, but the Force 1 chainrings have additional beveled troughs designed to help shed mud and debris. All X-SYNC road chainrings are compatible with 130 and 135 mm rear spacing. gravel grinder SRAM Road 1x Force Rival Specialized AWOL Comp

© Nils Nilsen N2Photo. Used with permission.

In a move that’s sure to bring a smile to gravel and adventure riders, SRAM is offering two 10-42, 11-speed cassettes for the Force 1 and Rival 1 groups. Both cassettes have the same cog sizes (10-12-14-16-18-21-24-28-32-36-42), but differ slightly in construction. The Force-level cassette (XG-1180) utilizes a mini-cluster design where the three smallest cogs are CNC-machined from a single piece of steel, whereas the Rival-level cassette (XG-1150) relies on the company’s Full Pin™ technology to hold the eleven cogs together. Both 10-42 cassettes require XD-compatible hubs or drivers.

SRAM’s 1x road derailleurs incorporate the same technologies from their MTB counterparts–namely, X-HORIZON™, ROLLER BEARING CLUCH™, CAGE LOCK™, and Exact Actuation™–but in a road specific-package, including the addition of a barrel adjuster. Short cage models are compatible with cogs up to 28T, mid-cage up to 36T cogs, and the new long-cage derailleurs are compatible with cogs up to 42T. If you’re not ready to take the plunge to 11-speed world, the Force 1 and Rival 1 rear derailleurs are also compatible with SRAM’s 10-speed cassettes and DoubleTap shifters. gravel grinder SRAM Road 1x Force Rival Specialized AWOL Comp

© Nils Nilsen N2Photo. Used with permission.

Riding The 1x Setup
When SRAM invited me to their road 1x product roll-out, I assumed that I’d get some limited exposure to the new components, but there would be little in the way of hands-on testing. I was, to put it mildly, wrong. SRAM provided each journalist with two demo bikes that were outfitted with the new Force 1 and Rival 1 components. These weren’t just any demo bikes–each one was spec’d for the respective editor’s particular area of interest and expertise. My main ride was a Specialized AWOL Comp that had been kitted out with Rival 1 components, Zipp 30 Course wheels with Specialized 1.9″ tubeless knobbies, and finished off with Zipp Service Course handlebars, stem, and seatpost.

Our testing grounds were the roads and trails near Santa Margarita, California. SRAM scoped out a mixed-terrain route that would highlight the new components’ features and versatility. As such, the course included plenty of climbing and descending (see elevation profile below). Thanks to an early-morning storm, the unpaved sections ranged from peanut butter-esque mud to hero dirt. In other words, perfect testing conditions. gravel grinder ride everything SRAM CX1 Force 1 Rival 1

What goes up must come down.

Having already logged more than 500 miles on SRAM’s CX1 group, I was really looking forward to trying the new road groups’ additional chainring and cassette options. At the same time, I wondered if the long-cage derailleur needed for the 10-42 cassette would shift as crisply on the smaller cogs. Any concerns that I may have had regarding the new systems’ shifting quality and performance were quickly erased. Whether shifting up or down the cassette, the Rival 1 setup never missed a shift (even when coated with mud and grime). Additional testing will obviously be required to assess long-term durability and performance, but based on past experience with the company’s CX1 components, I have high hopes for SRAM’s Force 1 and Rival 1 groups.

Disclosure: SRAM provided airfare and hotel accommodations, but offered no other form of compensation in exchange for editorial coverage.

First Impressions: Zipp 30 Course Wheelset (Part-I)

Over the last twenty-plus years, Zipp Speed Weaponry has racked up an impressive list of firsts. From the first carbon disc wheel, to the first wheel to achieve negative drag in the wind tunnel, these accomplishments have helped Zipp-sponsored athletes become champions in the toughest races in the world. And now, with the introduction of the company’s 30 Course alloy disc-brake wheelset, Indiana’s Zipp brings a new level of performance to road, gravel, and adventure riding. gravel grinder Zipp Speed Weaponry Course 30 wheels clincher tubeless SRAM XD

Image courtesy of Zipp.

When it came time to develop the 30 Course wheelset, Zipp didn’t just slap new graphics on one of their existing designs. The 30 Course is Zipp’s first tubeless-ready wheelset (clincher models come pre-taped and include tubeless valves). To balance aerodynamics and tire support, Zipp spec’d their 30 Course wheelset with an aluminum 25 mm-wide rim (21 mm internal width) that features a 26 mm profile. The new rim boasts design innovations from the company’s 202 Firecrest wheelset–which, according to Zipp–produces low aerodynamic drag, and greater stability and predictability in crosswinds. To insure compatibility with a wide range of tire widths and pressures, the 30 Course’s rims utilizes a hook-bead design that’s suitable for use with conventional and tubeless tires.

Zipp Speed Weaponry 30 Course wheel tubeless SRAM XD gravel grinder

Image courtesy of Zipp.

The 30 Course’s rims aren’t the only component to benefit from trickle-down technology. Both the clincher and tubular 30 Course wheelsets roll on Zipp’s 77/177D hubs–the same ones found on the company’s pricier 202 and 303 Firecrest disc-brake wheels. For maximum versatility, the 77 and 177D hubs are easily converted from quick releases to thru-axles (12 mm and 15 mm) by swapping the hubs’ endcaps (both types are included with the wheels). Gearing-wise, the 30 Course’s rear hubs are compatible with 10- and 11-speed cassettes from Campagnolo, Shimano, and SRAM. For gravel and adventure riders, the big news is that the rear hub is also compatible with SRAM’s XD driver (available separately), enabling the use of the company’s XG 10-42 tooth, 11-speed cassettes. Freehub bodies can be swapped sans tools, and the wheel doesn’t require re-dishing afterwards.

Zipp Speed Weaponry 30 Course tubeless 177D XD QR gravel grinder SRAM XD 10-42

Image courtesy of Zipp.

Recently I had the opportunity to demo the Zipp 30 Course wheels at the company’s new product roll-out in San Luis Obispo, California. Zipp fitted the wheels with tires from Challenge, Panaracer, Specialized (both regular and tubeless), and I rode several 30-Course-equipped bikes on paved and un-paved terrain. With 24 spokes front and rear, I was initially concerned that the 30 Course wheelset would be too flexible for my 195 pounds. Try as I might, though, I wasn’t able to induce any rotor- or tire-rub during the initial testing. The ability to run a 10-42 tooth cassette proved especially handy during one of our mixed-terrain group rides, as the route included no less than three category-3 climbs.

Although it’s too soon to comment on the 30 Course’s durability and long-term performance, I’m looking forward to performing extended testing on Colorado’s roads and trails. The combination of tubeless-readiness, XD driver compatibility, and the wide, aero profile make the 30 Course a natural for gravel and adventure use. While the $1000 price tag isn’t exactly cheap, the ability to run both narrow and wide tires on the same disc-brake wheelset increases the 30 Course’s versatility.

Disclosure: Zipp Speed Weaponry provided airfare and hotel accommodations, but offered no other form of compensation in exchange for editorial coverage.

First Impressions: Mio ALPHA Heart Rate Monitor

Cycling coaches and fitness experts have touted the benefits of using a heart rate monitor (HRM) for decades. And while power meters have become the hot ticket for monitoring one’s performance, wearable HRMs like Mio’s ALPHA ($169.00 MSRP) have generated new interest in heart rate-based training.

Unlike traditional HRMs, the ALPHA doesn’t rely on a chest strap to record your heart rate. Instead, an electro-optical cell senses the volume of blood under the skin, and the device uses algorithms to determine your heart’s true rhythm. The benefit? Increased comfort, and according to Mio, 99% EKG accuracy. gravel grinder Mio Global ALPHA HRM heart rate monitor

Image courtesy of Mio Global.

Thanks to the ALPHA’s simple, two-button interface, the device is easy to configure and operate. When you unbox the ALPHA, you simply set the time, and it’s ready to go. Mio recommends positioning the ALPHA snugly above the wrist bone when using the device as a HRM. During our testing, Mio’s ALPHA detected our heart rates on the first attempt the majority of the time. One criticism of strapless heart rate monitors is that they’re not as accurate as conventional strap-based devices. We compared the Mio with multiple traditional strap-type monitors, and the ALPHA’s readings were within 1-2 BPM.

By itself, the ALPHA’s reporting capabilities are limited to exercise duration, average heart rate, and time spent in the target heart rate zone. For true data nerds, the device is compatible with a wide range of smartphones and popular fitness apps including MapMyRide and Strava. Using Mio’s Bluetooth® Smart (4.0) connectivity, we were able to easily pair Mio’s ALPHA with Apple’s iPhone, the Magellan Cyclo 505 cycle computer, and Polar’s V800 sports watch.

For multi-sport use, the ALPHA is an excellent choice. The comfortable, strap-free design offers a viable alternative to traditional heart rate monitors without sacrificing accuracy. With its long battery life (8-10 hours in recording mode) and numerous connectivity options, it offers seamless integration. For dedicated cycling use where we don’t need the watch’s chronograph functionality, we would probably opt for one of Mio’s smaller units such as the FUSE or VELO.

During several months of testing, our sample ALPHA has withstood its share of abuse. From well below freezing to the mid-70s, it never failed to detect and display our testers’ heart rates. And despite an unexpected trip through the washing machine, the mineral glass LCD display remains clear and crisp. If we could make one change, we would like to see Mio develop a charger with a more mechanical connection. The current USB charger utilizes a magnetic interface, and can sometimes become disconnected from the watch (especially when connected to a desktop computer’s USB port).

Disclosure: Mio Global provided review samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation in exchange for editorial coverage.