Tech feature - May 10, 2005
2006 tech: SRAM empire unveils huge range, part 3
Truvativ 2006: External bottom brackets and downhill beef
The most recently acquired part of the SRAM components empire is chainset
maker Truvativ, which has itself expanded beyond its original mission
as a maker of cranks and rings in recent years. In part 3 of our look
at the SRAM empire's 2006 equipment, James Huang looks at what's
new from SRAM's cranks arm. (Part
1 looked at 2006 RockShox and part
2 examined SRAM transmission parts.)
If it isn’t broken...
Micki Kozuschek founded Truvativ in 1996 with the hopes of providing
small bike companies with a viable alternative to the dominant component
suppliers of the time. Kozuschek started designing and building cranksets
with a relatively meager US$160,000 initial investment but quickly landed
some prominent OEM spec. Many of us remember seeing those mysterious cranks
with the peculiar name popping up on bikes in the late 90's and wondering
where they came from, but it's doubtful that people are still confused
today. Since those early days, Truvativ (short for "truly innovative",
by the way) has grown by leaps and bounds into one of the largest drivetrain
and cockpit component companies in the business.
Contrary to popular misconception, Truvativ is not a Taiwanese company.
True, all of its components are produced in their manufacturing facility
in Taiwan (which the company owns outright), but all other operations,
including research, design, testing, and even advertising layout are done
in-house at a relatively low-key facility in San Luis Obispo, CA.
First and foremost, Truvativ is a company of engineers. For example,
head engineer, Garrett Smith was a stress analyst for Lockheed Martin
Astronautics before joining Truvativ (not "aeronautics" - Smith can officially
say that he was a rocket engineer!) All of Truvativ's bike parts, regardless
of cost, are designed on a solid-modeling CAD system and every unique
forging, casting, or machined bit is subject to finite-element stress
analysis to fine tune the design. Truvativ even keeps a materials consultant
on hand full-time to determine optimum alloys for particular applications.
Only when the design is finalized are the drawings shipped off to the
factory in Taiwan for production.
Handlebars are designed
If you listen closely
I’ll bet you $2...
However, even when the parts come back, the design process is far from
complete. Component testing is done in actual riding conditions, but the
real interesting stuff happens behind closed doors in Truvativ's extensive
in-house testing facility. Here, handlebars are brutally broken, cranks
are bent, and bearings are cycled into oblivion, and the knowledge gained
is integrated into some of the final components, which have a reputation
for being durable and reliable. The weight-savvy out there will likely
note that Truvativ's parts are often not the lightest, but chances are
that the extra weight is there for a good reason.
Truvativ has a number of key offerings for the 2006 model season. If
you were to ask my parents, they would tell you that 2004 was the Year
of the Rooster, but I will officially go on record as declaring the 2004
model year as the Year of the External Bottom Bracket. Sure, it wasn't
the first time we'd seen the concept, but it was the first year it really
hit the mainstream and it has only been a matter of time for all of the
major players to jump on the bandwagon.
Introducing the new limited-edition
However, while externally-mounted bottom brackets have a number of advantages
over conventional ones, they are not without their faults. Truvativ's
version, dubbed Giga X Pipe, is a little different from its competition
in that it automatically compensates for slight variations in bottom bracket
shell width and facing. Truvativ accomplishes this with an design that
comprises one "fixed" cartridge bearing and one "floating" bearing with
automatic preload adjustment. The fixed bearing is designed just to handle
radial loads while the other one handles radial loads and lateral
loads (all other external BB setups currently on the market only handle
radial loads). What's this mean to you? Think smoother spinning cranks
and longer bearing life, which equates to going faster with less wasted
energy and fewer trips to your local mechanic.
High-modulus carbon fiber
Carbon fiber wraps around
Giga X Pipe finds its way on to a bunch of Truvativ's cranksets for '06.
The top of the road heap is occupied by the new Rouleur Carbon and features
composite crankarms made up of a high-strength aluminum interior spine
wrapped with high-modulus carbon fiber. The venerable aluminum Rouleur
crankset, last year's top offering, is back and largely unchanged save
for some cosmetic touches. The midlevel Elita crankset, however, has been
completely revamped and now includes the Giga X Pipe external bottom bracket
system. Both Rouleurs and the Elita are available in not only standard
double and triple-chainring versions, but also compact and cyclocross-specific
Cross-country mountain cranksets receive similar revisions for '06, including
the addition of the Stylo Carbon utilizing similar carbon and aluminum
hybrid construction as in the Rouleur Carbon. Last year's Stylo soldiers
on while the midlevel Firex is upgraded to the GXP bottom bracket for
'06. In refreshing contrast to some other makes, chainring options abound
in Truvativ's off-road line: both Stylo variants and the Firex are available
in both compact and standard drive, and the aluminum Stylo is even offered
in singlespeed and double-plus-bashguard configurations.
The new Howitzer bottom bracket
DH/FR cranksets receive new
Downhill and freeride cranksets will receive extensive upgrades for '06
with the introduction of the Howitzer system. Truvativ has taken the external
bottom bracket concept up a notch here with the addition of enormous cartridge
bearings for greatly improved strength, stiffness, and bearing longevity.
Designed around the new BB standard are the new Holzfeller and Hussefelt
cranksets, as well as a new midlevel Ruktion model. As complements to
these new cranksets, Truvativ will also release all-new single-chainring
and double-chainring chainguides.
What about the rest of Truvativ's line? Carbon is again the story of
the day. A new Rouleur Carbon road handlebar will be offered in '06 with
what are now industry de rigueur "aero" shaped tops and will mate to a
new Rouleur 3D road stem, complete with a titanium bolt option. The Team
Carbon seatpost is new for this year and will be offered in both a lightweight,
offset single-bolt clamp and a new low-profile, zero-offset double-clamp.
In keeping with Truvativ design tendencies, the Team Carbon posts will
also be equipped with internal aluminum sleeves to provide some protection
for those of you that still confuse in-lbs with N-m on your torque wrench.
Other stems, posts, and handlebars have received revisions across the
board, some of them minor and others less so. I'll be honest here, though…
stems, seatposts, and handlebars really aren't all that exciting, and
maybe for good reason. Personally, I'd rather take an unexciting version
of one of those items that faithfully does its job without question vs.
another one that may produce an "exciting" crash due to component failure.
Based on those options, I'll take "boring" any day, and it looks like
the folks at Truvativ have done their best to guarantee that your next
ride be as uneventful as possible!
James Huang is chief guru at mountain bike suspension site www.angryasian.com.
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