First Impressions: Arundel Bottle Cages

When it comes to bicycle accessories, water bottle cages aren’t considered terribly glamorous. That’s definitely not he case for the guys at Arundel Bicycle Company. They’ve been living and breathing bottle cages since they founded the company in 2000. Now, fifteen years later, Arundel’s lineup has grown to include ten bottle cages (in addition to seat bags, bar tape, and even bells).

We recently tested three of Arundel’s lower priced cages–the Flip Flop, Loony Bin, and Sport. All three cages feature design elements from the company’s more expensive cages, as well as some totally unique features. The Arundel cages were tested with bottles of various sizes from CamelBak, Elite, Hydrapak, Polar, and Specialized. Our test rigs included road, gravel, and fully rigid mountain bikes, and each cage was ridden for several hundred miles on terrain that ranged from paved roads to technical singletrack.

Flip Flop
Carrying a full-sized bottle on a small or crowded frame often presents a challenge. Thankfully, the 56 gram Flip Flop ($24.95 MSRP) can be configured for right- or left-sided entry. Arundel’s two-piece convertible design enabled quick-and-easy reconfiguration, and the fit remained precise even after dozens of installations. Unlike the some competitors’ side-entry cages, Arundel’s Flip Flop uses both upper and lower tabs for maximum security. Removing bottles from the Flip Flop cage didn’t require any extra effort or special technique compared to conventional top-entry cages, but replacing bottles sometimes took more than one attempt.

Loony Bin
If you only carry conventional cycling water bottles, Arundel’s 52 gram Loony Bin ($24.95 MSRP) might not catch your eye. But if you want to easily–and safely–transport something like a sports drink bottle, the Loony Bin is the right cage for you. Arundel’s adjustable cage uses a ratcheting dial to accommodate bottles of various sizes (the cage also works well with small stuff sacks and dry bags). The cage also proved especially handy for storing the tool rolls we’ve been testing for another article. Be careful with using very large bottles–some testers noticed that the Loony Bin brushed the insides of their calves when the cage was mounted on the seat tube.

The 49 gram Sport ($17.95 MSRP) cage may lack the clever names of Arundel’s other cages, but it’s anything but basic. Sure, the Sport doesn’t have the flashy looks of the company’s pricier carbon cages, but it quickly became one of our favorites. Getting bottles in and out was a breeze, and the nylon-reinforced plastic cage kept even the biggest bottles secure on our rigid 29er test bike. With nine colors to choose from, the Sport cages will complement practically any color scheme.

In more than three months of testing, we never lost a bottle from any of the Arundel cages. It certainly wasn’t for lack of trying–we descended rocky singletrack, crossed railroad tracks, and bunny hopped curbs without ejecting a single bottle. The cages remained unscathed even though they were regularly swapped between bikes. The three Arundel cages may cost more than the generic knock-off cages you find online, but the outstanding security and peace of mind proved invaluable.

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

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 time 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.