Tech News November 13, 2008
Edited by James Huang
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Cyclingnews tech desk.
SRAM to launch complete mountain bike group
By James Huang
SRAM will build a complete cross-country
Photo ©: SRAM
Component manufacturer SRAM has announced a complete new high-end mountain
bike groupset to be available mid-year 2009. Dubbed XX the
new group will exceed the demands of the cross-country athlete through
all-new technologies focused on precision, efficiency, and weight,
according to SRAM. Like the Red road group, it will be a true joint development
between the SRAM, RockShox, Avid and Truvativ divisions.
Beyond that, SRAM is keeping its cards very close to its chest to prevent
a fast response from rival Shimano. Shimano is reliably reported to be
developing a ten-speed mountain bike group in response to previous rumours
of a new SRAM group.
One reliable rumour, though, concerns comparison between XX and Shimanos
current top-end road bike groupset. XX will weigh, we hear, the same as
the 2009 Dura-Ace groupset.
While what follows is unofficial, the groups intended use, SRAMs
recent road components and documented spy photos provide enough ammunition
for us to think we can guess accurately what SRAMs up to.
The first ten-speed off-road drivetrain
If you take the groups moniker as Roman numerals, XX looks likely
to have not only the first ten-speed off-road transmission, but a dedicated
2x10 system specifically aimed at fit racer-types.
The rear cassette will likely be based on the innovative PowerDome design
of the road-going Red group but modified for better performance in muddy
conditions with a more open architecture. The 11-34 tooth range is unlikely
to change much but the additional ratio in the middle will mean smaller
jumps between gears, something racers always like.
Up front, its logical to expect XX to use a lightweight carbon
crankset optimized for a two-ring set up with a narrower pedal stance
width and more closely tucked-in chainline.
Hybrid ceramic bearings are a certainty and it is also possible that
SRAM will draw on the technologies of newly acquired wheel and crank maker
Zipp for the composite structure and its oversized aluminum spindle and
However, given the performance advantages of the recently launched Truvativ
HammerSchmidt system, we wonder if that technology could be lightened
up to World Cup cross-country level. The frictional losses from the planetary
gear and the packaging difficulties might be too much to overcome but
you never know.
Carbon, carbon everywhere
Carbon fiber will undoubtedly play a pivotal role in the XX group. Likely
candidates for composite construction include the usual suspects such
as the crankarms, rear derailleur components, brake lever blades, seatpost,
handlebar and stem.
Sponsored racers are already using prototypes of a SID fork with one-piece
carbon fiber crown and steerer, so thats almost a certainty. Maybe
well see full carbon fiber lower legs, too? Doubtful, but who knows.
It remains to be seen if SRAM will give it an XX identity forks
arent part of a traditional groupset, but its range of equipment
means SRAMs not quite a traditional groupset maker.
Wheels with carbon rims are a possibility too. It wouldnt take
much to adapt the most recent hub designs from SRAMs Indianapolis-based
carbon wheel subsidiary Zipp for disc brake use and Zipp has the capability
of developing a lightweight rim that can stand up to the rigors of off-road
abuse. However this is something SRAM and Zipp will want to get exactly
right and is therefore something we might not see with the first release
Speaking of brakes, weve also already spotted magnesium versions
of Avids latest Elixir disc brake on the World Cup circuit so thats
a given as well. What we have yet to spot but definitely anticipate
are lightweight rotors made of something other than stainless steel.
Coated aluminum rotors such as those once pitched by Stan Koziatek of
NoTubes fame would not be in keeping with SRAMs usual durability
and wear requirements so our money is on something a little more exotic.
Ceramic-reinforced aluminum metal matrix composites are a known quantity
in this department in other industries such as automotive so something
from that family of materials sits at the top of our list.
All of this is speculation, and while some of it may be far-fetched,
SRAMs assertion of all-new technologies suggests (at
least to us) that there might be something here we havent even begun
to think about. Something wholly unconventional. Perhaps a wholly new
method of shifting? Some kind of electronics package?
There also certainly is no official word on weights or costs, though
super light and super expensive are likely descriptors.
We will continue to keep our ears to the ground for additional information
prior to the official mid-2009 release date. Until then, well have
to wait a while for more official information but this certainly sounds
like a big deal to us.