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Technical Q&A with Lennard Zinn: The price of 11

By Lennard Zinn

Campagnolo's 11-speed crank. It's elegant, but it'll set you back a bit.

Campagnolo’s 11-speed crank. It’s elegant, but it’ll set you back a bit.


The price of 11s
Dear Lennard,
I have been riding Campagnolo components for years and years. The new 11s stuff looks great, but the new 11s cranks are not inexpensive.

I cannot understand why given a 5.5 to 5.9 mm difference in changes the 10s crank would not work fine. Do you have any experience with the 11s parts used with a 10s crank. I happen to have a carbon 10 crank, first generation, Record.

Dear Jeff,
I think you’ll find that your Record crank will work just fine with the 11-speed group. I have been riding the 11-speed Super Record for a few weeks now, both with a 10-speed crank and with the very elegant 11-speed crank.

It seems to work just fine on the 10-speed crank, although I have had two instances where I pedaled hard out of the saddle with the chain fully crossed to the big/big combination, and it spontaneously flipped off to the inner chainring. Both times it was a big surprise, partly because both times I’d thought I already was on the inner ring and had not paid enough attention to what gear I was in on the lower slopes of the climb. Then when it got steep and I went to my biggest cog, also without realizing I was that far in, since I was thinking I was on my inner ring, all of a sudden – whoop!! – it dropped by itself to the inner ring and I almost banged myself on the top tube. (Yet another reason to ride a compact frame.)

I’ve never had this happen with the 11-speed crank, but then I doubt I’ve used that cross gear, either. I generally avoid cross chaining but spaced out a couple of times there.

Otherwise, I would say that the shifting of the group has been flawless (and quite extraordinary) with both the 10-speed and the 11-speed crank.

Is salt a problem?
Dear Lennard,
My question is in regards to the effects that road salt will have on carbon fiber frames since it is now November in Calgary. I have a full carbon fiber cross bike, which I commute to work on regularly. Should I be cleaning it every night after my ride due to the effects that road salt may have? Any info would be greatly appreciated.

Dear Rob,
You don’t specify what kind of a carbon frame you have, and that does make a difference here. In the case of a monocoque (molded in one piece) carbon frame without a threaded bottom bracket and without headset inserts (like a Trek Madone or a Scott Addict), it should not make any difference.

Salt will not attack the clear coat or the carbon matrix. The problem comes in with things bonded to the carbon. If you have an aluminum threaded bottom bracket shell or aluminum headset inserts bonded into the frame, the salt can attack them. Of course, your cantilever posts will be metal (probably steel), and salt will not do them any good, nor will it be easy on whatever is bonded into the frame and fork into which the cantilever studs are threaded. I imagine that it could also attack some adhesives attaching those parts to the frame as well as bonding sections of a carbon frame together.

But in any case, salt is going to wreak havoc on your components anyway, so it will be a good idea to wash it off frequently just for that reason. As long as you stay away from a high-pressure sprayer, you can’t hurt anything and can only help it by keeping it clean.

A thorny problem
Dear Lennard,
This season I bought the Dura-Ace 7850-SL wheelset to use exclusively for cyclocross racing. I used the Hutchinson Fast’Air to inflate and seal the Hutchinson Bulldog tires, but have had less than stellar results with the Fast’Air sealing thorn punctures.

I have switched over to Stan’s sealant now due to the higher cost and lack of performance with the Hutchinson Fast’Air magnums. I called Shimano and they said not to use Stan’s because it can cause corrosion. After that I called Stan’s and they told me there are no corrosion issues to worry about.

Any idea which way to go? I know a ton of people are using Stan’s with these wheels and have not had any issues.

Dear Ryan,
I’ve heard this concern before, and I think it is nothing to worry about. The concern I’ve heard expressed is something about there being ammonia in the Stan’s sealant. This is what Stan Koziatek had to say about that:

My sealant has very little if any ammonia in it.

If you read the Installation Instructions on the hang tag of the Fusion tubeless tire, Hutchinson recommends using their Fast Air Latex sealant.

In the tubeless road tires we use 2oz of my sealant. In most cases it lasts over four months almost one full season 2000 + miles. My sealant will not damage any tire.

I personally have two sets of wheels that I’m riding these days with Hutchinson Fusion 2 tubeless road tires – one on a set of the same Dura-Ace wheels that you have, and another on a set of Mavic Ksyrium ES wheels. Both of the Ksyriums and one of the Dura-Ace wheels have Stan’s sealant inside, and I’ve had no issues with either.

If the Shimano rep’s concern was about the rim and not the tire, then that can certainly not be a big concern, since there are and have been for years countless mountain bikers out there using this stuff in their rims with no problems. I’m sure if you clean your rims and tires out at the end of your ‘cross season, you will not have reduced their life by using Stan’s.

Feedback on Speedplay cleat springs
This one’s from my former director sportif as well as Löwenbräu, Crest, Coors Light DS, director of the Saturn Classic, and co-director of the Toyota-United team, Len Pettyjohn.

In response to Ed’s question regarding Speedplay cleat breakage and Richard Bryne’s comments, I can offer a suggestion. I’ve been associated with the Speedplay system for years and we’ve never had a failure when the cleats are properly lubricated. For your Boulder rider he can get Elmer’s Slide-All dry spray lube at McGuckin’s Hardware. It’s also available at multiple outlets nationwide.

Elmer’s makes pedal entry much, much easier and provides rotational freedom between the pedal-cleat interface. Generally once a week is sufficient to keep the springs sliding and pedal entry improvement.

Dear Lennard,
In reference to the letter by Ed in Colorado about Speedplay cleats: I, too, love Speedplays, and have for many years – in fact I was one of Byrne’s first customers back in the 90’s after seeing his prototype pedals at the Anaheim show.

However – and I’ll still keep using them – the problem is that the cleat springs, in spite of being kept clean (I always step down only on clean pavement if possible, which it almost always is), and their being lubed frequently dry Teflon lube, still wear out.

They don’t just break for no reason, but little by little the steel springs invariably get worn more and more thin until they finally snap.

Maybe 4,000 or 5,000 miles; one year’s use. This is why I have tried and tried, without success, to buy from Speedplay just the replacement springs, which Speedplay – so far – will not sell you. That means that you must purchase the entire cleat every year, for about $37, when you only need the very simple, and surely inexpensive, spring portion.

I too used to wear out Speedplay cleats very quickly, at least three or four sets a year. I’ve never broken a spring or any part of the cleat, but I found my feet would rock on the pedal, which I found really annoying.

So I would buy new cleats, which would prevent this happening until they wear, although even new cleats have some rock in them.
Last year I started cutting out a thin plastic disc and using tub tape to fix it to the underside of the cleat, so it sits between the cleat face and top of the pedal.

No more rocking and I’m down to two pairs of cleats a year. I also try and keep the cleats clean and use finish line dry wax lube on the cleats and pedals pretty much before every ride.

I now have a really stable platform with no rocking, and smooth float and release.

I think Speedplay would strongly advise against this as it probably puts more pressure on the springs, resulting in more wear and more likely breakage, but I’ve had no problems so far.

The only thing to watch for is not using the disc until the cleats are a bit worn, as the cleat doesn’t fully engage with the pedal if the packing disc is too thick.

The discs I use are cut from plastic food containers; they’re about half a millimeter thick.

Technical writer Lennard Zinn is a frame builder (www.zinncycles.com), a former U.S. national team rider and author of numerous books on bikes and bike maintenance including the pair of successful maintenance guides “Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance” – now available also on DVD, and “Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance,” as well as “Zinn and the Art of Triathlon Bikes” and “Zinn’s Cycling Primer: Maintenance Tips and Skill Building for Cyclists.”

Zinn’s regular column is devoted to addressing readers’ technical questions about bikes, their care and feeding and how we as riders can use them as comfortably and efficiently as possible. Readers can send brief technical questions directly to Zinn.

Zinn’s column appears here each Tuesday.

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