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Sampson aims high for 2010

The new Kalispell features curvaceous tubes.

VeloNews tech editors have been busy lassoing bikes, bits, tests, and photo features for the 2010 VeloNews Buyer’s Guide, which will be available on newsstands in mid-January. But with a limited number of pages, it was physically impossible to fit everything we saw this past fall.

Last year, for the 2009 Buyer’s Guide, Matt Pacocha test rode a Sampson Stratics component group (you’ll have to buy a copy of the Buyer’s Guide to see what we rode THIS year). And for weight weenies on a budget, Eric Sampson’s eponymous brand remains an underdog that’s hard to beat.

The complete Stratics SL group includes an ultralight aluminum cogset and the SL carbon crank.

Back then, the Stratics group was compared against Shimano Dura Ace, SRAM Red, and Campagnolo Super Record, and while the performance, ergonomics, durability, and finish quality might be open to debate, depending on personal preference and a rider’s needs, there’s no denying that Eric Sampson’s components are quite light and reasonably priced. At the time, Pacocha didn’t feel the performance was fully on par with the best parts available, but he did give Sampson credit where due — and if you are currently in the market for a new parts group, Sampson has viable options for 2010.

“I’ve been working like crazy to make our products better than ever before,” said Sampson. “We’re really trying to make some huge strides product-wise.”

Sampson Stratics SL group

This fall, Sampson introduced his new Stratics SL group. He claims the weight to be less than 1950 grams, and thus nearly as light as SRAM Red (the lightest road group on the market). But the price is $1599, in the neighborhood of Shimano’s revised Ultegra group. The functionality of Stratics SL is essentially the same as the original Stratics group, with Sampson’s Intuishift shifter ergonomics, and cold-forged dual pivot brake calipers. The SL group adds a new SL carbon crankset, with compact chainrings and external outboard bearings, that weighs just 645 grams with the bottom bracket.

Also included in the SL group is an ultralight aluminum cogset, which doubtless helps keep the group’s weight very low, but probably shouldn’t be used on a daily basis. The Stratics derailleurs remain compatible with Shimano cable pull (2:1), so you can mix and match Shimano cogs, derailleurs, and shifters with Sampson parts.

Stratics 567 Pedals

Bright polished steel cleat interface plates on the Stratics pedals promise long life and smooth float.

Along with the new SL group, Sampson is excited about his new road pedals, which will be available this spring. “I did not really show these at Interbike except to a few key dealers, so very few know this pedal is coming,” said Sampson.

Pre-production weight on the entry level pedals with steel spindles and alloy bodies ($129 per pair) hovers in the 280 grams per pair range. Also in the works is a magnesium-bodied version, which Sampson expects to be very popular at about 240 grams per pair and $160. And in about a month, the titanium-spindled version (forecasted to weigh about 200 grams per pair) should become available for $260.

Features on all the pedals include a 61mm wide cleat interface platform, high quality sealed bearings, and adjustable release tension. The polished steel Anti Friction Plate (AFP) pedal-to-cleat interface should make for smooth angular float, and is replaceable in the (unlikely) case that its hardened steel surface wears out. Pedal spindles are cold-forged and CNC machined steel or titanium. The cleats, available with either 4- or 15-degrees of angular float, weigh 56 grams per pair, and the hardware is 16 grams. Sampson also points to the alloy retention cam, which is taller than most, to make entry and release easier and more consistent.

Sampson frames

In addition to components, Eric Sampson boasts a range of carbon fiber and aluminum bikes, including the carbon fiber 2009 Diablo SL and Diablo S, currently listed at $3300 and $3000 respectively, but forecast to drop for spring 2010. While the frames lack some of today’s trendy design features like integrated headsets, internal bottom brackets, tapered head tubes, and integrated seatmasts, he still claims a fully built, complete bike weights in the sub-15 pound range.

On the way for 2010 is a new carbon fiber bike, the Kalispell. You might remember the model name associated with a particular titanium bike Sampson first launched in 1997. “Kalispell was the model name for the ti bikes we made for years,” said Sampson.

The Diablo SL road bike has a claimed weight of just over 14 pounds.

Now, the Kalispell is back, reinvented as a carbon frame but still built to be a great performer at a great price. “I would say it’s got a little more ‘pop’ even than the SL frame,” said Sampson. “It’s good for a more aggressive rider.” He notes the look of the frame is also a little more substantial, with more flowing tube shapes.

Offered as a complete bike with DT Swiss 1450 wheels and a Stratics group, a 2010 Kalispell will set you back $4000. Better yet, Sampson says his demo bike weighs just 14.6 pounds, and will be available next week.

Best of the rest

Sampson also has a range of other odds and ends that merit a quick look:

  • New time trial brake levers with internal cable routing. The cold forged aluminum levers rely on a standard road bike brake cable and pull from the top of the lever, for good leverage and smooth pull. He claims they weigh 60 grams each, and will cost $80 per pair.
  • A new titanium cassette should be available at the end of January. A SRAM/Shimano/Sampson 10-speed version is on the way, as is a Campy 11-speed. Sampson says the 11-29 tooth version weighs just 135 grams, and he projects the MSRP to be $329.
  • Sampson has a new quick release skewer set that he claims to weigh just 73 grams. At $49, it’s a quick way to lighten your bike by a few grams without lightening your wallet.

Click here for complete gallery of Sampson 2010 products.

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