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Tech Report: Spy shots from Chicago to Germany

VeloNews associate editor Fred Drier was in Downers Grove this past weekend bringing us coverage of the USPRO Criterium championship, when he stumbled across something to get the product geeks among us talking: Someone was riding a bike with a road group from SRAM. Yep, while many of you have been waiting for a 10-seepd cassette from the mountain bike biased company, they are poised to give us the whole shebang, a complete group. Though many of the products are still in the prototype stage, the company is hinting at a 06’ release. The one photo we have is of a prototype shifter. Jittery Joe’s

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By Matt Pacocha

SRAM's new road lever.

SRAM’s new road lever.

Photo:

VeloNews associate editor Fred Drier was in Downers Grove this past weekend bringing us coverage of the USPRO Criterium championship, when he stumbled across something to get the product geeks among us talking: Someone was riding a bike with a road group from SRAM. Yep, while many of you have been waiting for a 10-seepd cassette from the mountain bike biased company, they are poised to give us the whole shebang, a complete group. Though many of the products are still in the prototype stage, the company is hinting at a 06’ release. The one photo we have is of a prototype shifter. Jittery Joe’s rider Jesse Lawler rode this prototype in the USPRO Criterium race. Sierra Nevada rider Ben Jaques-Mayne was also seen testing the new controls out in the previous evening’s warm-up event, the Pro-Am Challenge Criterium.

SRAM’s media manger, Michael Zellman, was relatively tight lipped about the company’s first foray into providing a complete road group. Zellman remained short on details, but did confirm company plans in a follow-up e-mail:

SRAM is introducing a 10-speed road group. Availability is expected to be in the calendar year 2006. It is a full group that will consist of Shift/Brake Levers, Front and Rear Derailleurs, Brakes, Crankset, Bottom Bracket, Cogset & Chain. The components are professional level. They will incorporate cutting edge technologies and materials. They will be race weight. Finished gruppo components will feature elegant and highly durable materials and superior ergonomics.

Beyond that is all speculation, stay tuned more details should be available as we get closer to the big show in Las Vegas at the end of September.

Ullrich lightens up with a new Lightweight
Lightweight wheels are produced by Carbon Sports in Germany. Recently owner Stefan Behrens has teamed with Javelin Bicycles to streamline the product’s availability in the U.S. For 2006 Javelin will be the exclusive importer of Lightweight wheels. Behrens was on hand for Javelin’s 06’ media and dealer event held in Beaver Creek, Colorado. While attending the event I had the opportunity to see the current Lightweight line and the privilege of learning about a hot new wheel Lightweight slated to be unveiled at both Eurobike and Interbike.

Ullrich was the first to use the new Ventoux at the Tour of Germany

Ullrich was the first to use the new Ventoux at the Tour of Germany

Photo: AFP

Not so long ago, Lightweight wheels could be found under the sports biggest names. Lance Armstrong, Tyler Hamilton, Jan Ullrich, Erik Zabel, Steffen Wesemann and Mario Cipollini have all competed and won on some version of Lightweight wheels; many of these wins have come in the most important races of the cycling world.

Since 2003 the number of top riders using the wheels has slid off, largely because most teams’ major component sponsors have become less inclined to allow the riders the freedom to ride non-sponsor products. Yet there are a few holdouts that carry enough clout to have Lightweight written into their contracts. Both Ullrich and Zabel are said to have Lightweight privileges. Keep in mind the testament these riders make every time they ride these wheels, as Lightweight does not give any riders free wheels. Even the big names pay for the product.

As the name suggests, Lightweight wheels are, well, light; the heaviest version comes in at 1160 grams. In the pro’s world, the focus is on stiffness and durability as both take precedence over weight. Lightweight wheels separate themselves from the competition by combining all three elements, lightweight, extreme stiffness and durability.

For the 2004 Tour de France Carbon Sports created a new wheel to aid Ullrich in his assault upon the time trial at Alpe d’Huez. Fittingly named Alpe d’Huez, the new wheel kept the standard 58mm rim depth and a spoke count of 20 front and rear to provide maximum stiffness. The wheel lost a quarter of a pound of weight from the standard and the ability to descend. The Alpe d’Huez by Lightweight carries the rather unnerving warning: “May not be used downhill.” These wheels are strictly a tool for uphill time trials.

An expensive display: A Lightweight Standard cutaway to show the inner construction of the rim and hub.

An expensive display: A Lightweight Standard cutaway to show the inner construction of the rim and hub.

Photo:

Last year the focus was achieving the lightest weight while preserving an aerodynamic advantage, but this year Behrens was given a more practical problem to solve. The pros love Lightweight’s lack of weigh, ample stiffness and their durability, but they did have a suggestion. Many found the standard wheel to be unmanageable in heavy crosswinds, especially on mountain descents.

To address this, Lightweight created the Ventoux, fittingly named after the famous French climb. Inadvertently they have also created the lightest Lightweight wheel to date. The new wheelset will be officially unveiled at Eurobike, but Ullrich has already been racing on them in the Tour of Germany.

“He [Ullrich] will be the first racer to use them in competition.” said Behrens.

The Ventoux has already gained the UCI’s approval. It is constructed using a 25mm rim and will have a weight in the low 900-gram range for the set. As with the entire line, the new wheels will remain incredibly stiff. The Ventoux claims to offer 15-20 percent greater stiffness than Mavic’s Ksyrium SSL. Behrens also gave reference to where the wheels compare to others in the line.

“They are on the stiffness level of an Obermayer with 16 spokes.” To achieve this stiffness the wheels again utilize Lightweight’s maximum spoke count of 20 front and rear. The hubs have aluminum axles instead of the carbon used in the still flagship Obermayer (Lightweight’s lightest wheel with no restrictions). The wheelset will also employ special bearings in the front hub. Behrens explained, “they will have the same anti-friction bearings in the front hub as are found in the Obermayer. They will have the Tune Mag 160 rear hub, one minor change we will deliver them with an aluminum axle, not with the carbon axle, because it saves only 7 or 8 grams but is a lot harder to handle, and they are light anyway.”

Pricing will be high, as expected; the new wheel’s price should fall somewhere between the standard wheels’ $3700 and the Obermayer’s $5500 price tag.

If the price hasn’t scared you away then your next question should be when and how you can get a pair. The how question is easy; any Javelin dealer can help you out. The question of when is a bit trickier.

“The first sets of the wheels will come [to the U.S.] to display for Interbike,” Behrens said. “Regular production will start in January. We will be making a few sets this year, but we need to get more molds and heating devices. Right now we can make maybe ten sets a month.”

If all goes well we should see the first sets for the U.S. market in late January, but as the Obermayer, the wheels don’t generally come to the U.S. to sit in a shop. The majority are sold before they even reach U.S. soil. If you are serious about buying a pair, I would suggest getting yourself to a Javelin dealer and placing an order now.

You can see more at www.carbonsports.de

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