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Germany, August 31-September 3, 2006
Part 7 - Slick shifting & gram-counting
In his final installment from the first of the big autumn trade shows, James Huang looks at an impressive hydraulically-operated derailleur system and a some staggeringly - maybe even scarily - light components from the German bike industry's serious weight fanatic department.
German outfit 5 Red introduces fully hydraulic shifter and derailleur set
The idea has been tried before, but upstart company 5 Red has introduced what is easily the most over the top, yet completely refined, hydraulic shifter and derailleur setup yet offered. Yup, that's right, I said hydraulic, as in no conventional cables or housing. Instead, tiny master cylinders in the shifter actuate slave cylinders in the derailleurs for a fully weatherproof system that won't stretch, corrode, or fray.
Company founder and designer Christophe Muthers has clearly spared no expense here as the entire hand-machined set will run about 1500 Euros. That is an astronomical figure for sure, but the attention to detail makes the figure sound a little more reasonable. Both front and rear derailleurs use a parallelogram-style cage that incorporates sealed bearings in every pivot for a nearly frictionless motion that should stay slop-free far longer than bushing-equipped pivots. The rear pulley cage also rotates on bearings and the triangulated design is super rigid.
Interesting, there are no return springs in the system. Rather, hydraulic pressure is used to move each derailleur in either direction. As such, shift effort is impressively light, and shifts were performed with perfect accuracy on 5 Red's test rig. Shifts are actuated with a single thumb lever per side, mounted beneath the bar, each of which has a pivoting rocker style 'paddle'. Simply push the top of the paddle to make shifts in one direction, or the bottom of the paddle for the other.
The system is remarkably flexible, too. Swapping the diminutive hydraulic lines from top to bottom, or left to right, allows the user to customize the shifter actuation style to their liking. Want Low Normal? Sure. High Normal? Ok. Want to shift the rear derailleur with the left hand shifter? As the adjustable detents are built into the slave cylinder in the rear derailleur itself, you can have it that way, too.
Remarkably, the complete set is said to weigh just 495g including both shifters, derailleurs, hydraulic line, and fluid. Muthers hopes to have "maybe" five sets completed over the next two months, and hopes he can ramp up production to as many as ten in that same period. Production was scheduled to start immediately after Eurobike, and Muthers says the first five sets are already spoken for. Better get in line now, eh?
One of the pervasive themes of this year's Eurobike show was the plethora of absolutely incredibly lightweight components on display from the usual suspects: AX Lightness, Schmolke, Lightweight, Carbon Ti, as well as a few others.
How light is light? How about a 68g carbon fiber stem? Or a pair of carbon road caliper brakes that weigh under 100g? If you're of the off-road set, perhaps a 62g titanium and carbon fiber disc brake rotor is more to your liking. For the FR/DH crowd, that same rotor is available in a 185mm diameter and you can also get a carbon fiber "DH-specific" crankset (with carbon fiber spindle, no less) with a single-ring-plus-chainguide setup!
Ok, that's enough blabbing from me. Feast your eyes, or roll them as you see fit. Regardless, I'm sure the weight weenie crowd will have a field day with this one. That'll do it from us at Eurobike, but come back for our coverage of the upcoming EICMA show in Milan, Italy. Ciao!
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by James Huang/Cyclingnews