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Tech report: Overwhelming developments!

Wow! That's all I have to say when reflecting on the past seven days. My colleagues have had their hands full covering all the heated racing action going on around the world ... but I've had my plate loaded with late-breaking tech developments. Don't think tech can be as exciting as racing? You've got two choices here: Hit your browser's "Back" button to get your fill of blow-by-blow race coverage, or read on to find out why this has been one of the most exciting weeks of tech coverage since I began working with VeloNews. Dura-Ace again! First off, Dura-Ace is in the house. Well, it was

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Dura-Ace, suspension forks and Deore XT swamp our offices

By Andrew Juskaitis, VeloNews technical editor

2003 vs. 2004 Dura-Ace – which do you like better?

Photo: Andrew Juskaitis

Wow! That’s all I have to say when reflecting on the past seven days. My colleagues have had their hands full covering all the heated racing action going on around the world … but I’ve had my plate loaded with late-breaking tech developments.

Don’t think tech can be as exciting as racing? You’ve got two choices here: Hit your browser’s “Back” button to get your fill of blow-by-blow race coverage, or read on to find out why this has been one of the most exciting weeks of tech coverage since I began working with VeloNews.

Dura-Ace again!

First off, Dura-Ace is in the house. Well, it was for about 24 hours, as we scored an exclusive first detailed look at the much-ballyhooed 2004 componentry. These are rideable test samples before full production – the same batch of parts Lance has been riding for two months. We were first to take a preliminary look at the full component group back in April, at the Sea Otter Classic, but this was the first time we were allowed to weigh, photograph in detail and closely scrutinize the parts without a Shimano chaperone.

With a bit of help from Burley, I had a beautiful glossy black Wolf Creek (True Temper OX Platinum) built up with the complete group within a few hours of the components’ arrival (sans 2004 wheels). But first, our ace photographer, Galen Nathanson, photographed the components in all their svelte beauty, and I weighed each part and compared it head-to-head against Dura-Ace ’03.

Here’s what I came up with (keep in mind that these are not 100 percent production items):

Crankset (175mm, 53/39, including BB):
789g (2003); 750g (2004)

Rear derailleur:
200g (2003); 180g (2004)

Front derailleur (braze-on):
85g (2003); 75g (2004)

Chain:
275g (2003); 260g (2004)

Shifter-brake combos:
430g (2003); 435g (2004)

Front brake:
160g (2003); 155g (2004)

Rear brake:
155g (2003); 150g (2004)

Cassette (12-25):
180g (2003); 190g (2004)

Alas, once playtime was over, we had to box up the parts and FedEx them right back to Shimano (it was rumored that this was the only complete Dura-Ace group available in the United States). I’ll be off to ride the complete new group in early July, so stay tuned for final details.Look for Galen’s beautiful photos (and a complete first-ride report) in issue No. 14 of VeloNews.

2003 fork comparison

Six forks put to the test

Six forks put to the test

Photo: Andrew Juskaitis

It’s not all road here on North 55th Street – the time has finally come for us to round up and test a half-dozen of 2003’s finest cross-country racing forks.

The forks we chose to examine for for ride quality, features, durability and fore/aft deflection include RockShox’s SID World Cup and Team, Manitou’s Skareb Super, Marzocchi’s Marathon SL, White Brothers’ XC.8 and Fox Forx’s F80X. Other brands, such as Cannondale and Maverick, American were left out because of their relative small production numbers or non-universal fit.

Unlike other tests, which rely on manufacturers’ claims or a test rider’s subjective “feel” to determine which fork flexes more than another, we delivered our out-of-the-box samples to an independent test lab. There, tests were conducted to determine how much each fork yielded fore and aft at a given force (up to 200 pounds). These numbers were kept sealed until our subjective ride testing was complete (so as to not taint our opinions).

Once revealed, the numbers proved interesting, to say the least. I think the most significant number obtained was the difference in fore/aft deflection between the aluminum crown/steerer RockShox SID Team and carbon crown/steerer SID World Cup. While RockShox says its SID carbon is stiffer than its aluminum version, our numbers tell a different story.

Check out VeloNews issue No. 13 for the inside scoop and full results.

Even more Shimano!

While you might have read about Shimano’s unveiling of its all new-for-2004 Deore XT elsewhere, you haven’t seen photos like this before. Why? Because no other magazine was invited to see and ride the early prototypes earlier this year at the Sea Otter Classic. The versions we got to play with were very close to finalized production (second-generation prototypes). Here’s the very-inside scoop:

Prototype rear derailleur gets beefed up too

Prototype rear derailleur gets beefed up too

Photo: Andrew Juskaitis

The Dual Control levers will come in V-brake and hydraulic-disc-brake versions. Like ’03 XTR, both will allow the rider to shift and brake from multiple hand positions. Both versions also have an integrated gear display.

The rear derailleur comes in both short- and long-cage versions that have been redesigned for smoother operation and increased torsional rigidity.

The front derailleur can be used with top or bottom cable-routing systems, and its multi-clamp band is compatible with all frame dimensions. A much-widened pivot link is used for increased torsional rigidity.

The Hollowtech II crankset with integrated bottom bracket comes in 44-32-22-teeth and 48-36-26-teeth versions.

The hydraulic disc brake features a one-piece forged caliper, an opposed two-piston design and a center lock system. It is compatible with international and post-type mounts. A V-brake is still available as well.

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