The latest RBA project bike not only proved itself on the scale, but also claimed a new record in its initial test on Mt Charleston.
There’s one question we hear incessantly, regardless of what bike it is, or its intended purpose: what’s it weigh? Stiffness and aerodynamics can undoubtedly be measured, albeit with equipment not available to most, but weight is the one thing that is quantifiable to any and everyone with a basic scale, or the lift of a bike at the coffee shop. Fresh off the heels of our successful Gravel Bike Project, we decided to take a similar approach in our next build, a Lightweight Project Bike. First we’d build it, then we’d race it!
The idea wasn’t to build up the lightest bike period, one that was more adept to hanging on the scale than actually being found under a rider. We wouldn’t be using an un-padded carbon saddle, or forgoing the handlebar tape, or even opting for the downright lightest tires on the market, no, the biggest rule of the build was to put together a bike we could ride any and everywhere with little worry of equipment failure. If we could do that and hit sub-10 pounds great, if it was 11 pounds then that was fine too, but we weren’t going to sacrifice ride quality or safety for weight.
The EVO Nano Black Inc. flies under the radar when it comes to appearance, but its weight is anything but ordinary.
With Cannondale’s 2013 EVO
Nano Black Inc. being the first production frame to come in at a claimed sub-700 grams, and since we were already enthralled with the ride quality of the EVO’s Speed Save technology, the choice to go with the EVO Nano was an easy one. On top of the already record-breaking frame weight, the EVO fork weighed just 322 grams (308 grams after cutting the steerer to 22cm).
A single piece of aluminum forms both chainrings, relegating chainring bolts to superfluous material. The Colorado made Ultralite Cirrus pedals are as minimal as it gets.
Cannondale also helped make things easy on us by introducing their latest crank, the 500-gram SISL2. It utilizes the same Hollowgram aluminum arms and BB30 spindle as before, but now uses a one-piece chainring combination called OPI Spidering that cuts weight and adds stiffness by making chainring bolts irrelevant.
RZRs ended up making the cut due to their low weight and also the aerodynamics the 46mm deep rims provide.
After deciding upon the frameset, wheels were the next biggest component to wrap our heads around. We’ve had a few wheelsets come through the office in the past year that would fit the bill, such as Mercury’s MZero
and Lighweight’s Classic. But, we went with the Reynolds RZR since their 46mm rim depth gave them aerodynamics, coupled with a paltry 900-gram weight, making them an ideal choice for an all-around wheelset. As far as the wheel accoutrements, the stock quick-releases were used since their titanium and aluminum construction put them at only 33 grams for the pair. The cassette ended up being one that recently fared well in a review, the 131-gram aluminum 10-speed Miche Supertype. Tires were a place that could have helped knock half a pound off the weight of the build, but it’s also one place we didn’t want to sacrifice safety and durability. Continental Competitions got the call-up, giving us the peace of mind that at 255 grams each they weren’t the lightest tubulars, but they also wouldn’t let us down out on the road.
SRAM Red derailleurs with a KMC X10SL chain threaded through them gave us the lightest option for no-compromise shift quality.
SRAM Red’s newest shifters and rear derailleur, along with the earlier Red front derailleur version (it’s 13 grams lighter than the new Yaw front derailleur), were in charge of shifting, while the 110-gram (each) TRP R970SL brake calipers knocked off about 15 grams compared to SRAM Red calipers, and provided all the stopping power necessary. Although there are a number of lightweight cable and housing options out there, we stuck with the Gore cables that come stock with the Red shifters. Again, this is a place that we could have trimmed weight, but didn’t want to potentially give up any shifting or braking performance.
Zipp’s SLSpeed stem and SLC2 handlebar weren’t the very lightest on the market, but this definitely wasn’t a place to make any potential compromises in durability.
The front-end is a place we toiled with-save some additional weight with small a carbon brand we don’t have any history with, or go with tried and true components for such a critical area of the bike? In the end we decided upon Zipp’s SLC2 172-gram handlebars and the 112-gram SLSpeed Stem, two solid choices that were on the low-end of the weight spectrum, while not sacrificing stiffness or durability. We wrapped the handlebars with Lizard Skins DSP 1.8mm tape since its 48-gram weight also comes with a comfortable tactile feel. Seatpost selection was a bit of a surprise, going with CrankBrothers Cobalt, which sealed its fate by hitting the scales at 150 grams while having the security of an aluminum clamp rather than full carbon.
Dash makes a saddle into a work of art, turning out their carbon lightweight wonders in Boulder, Colorado.
Our two most notable weight savers are the Dash Aero.7 saddle, and Ultralite Cirrus pedals. Both are made in Colorado and come from small, but cutting edge component makers. The Dash saddle uses a full carbon base that is molded to 7mm round carbon rails, and then a minimal amount of padding is added to the top, putting it well shy of triple digit weights at 86 grams. As far as the Ultralight Cirrus pedals go, their unique design that forgoes a platform helps them be crowned as lightest pedals on the market at 112 grams, including cleats. Last but not least is the KMC X10SL chain, a proven performer that also happens to be lighter than what the big component makers offer, with shifting performance that is often superior. While the looks don’t necessarily make for a faster bike, there are few who think they aren’t important; thanks to NLA Digital, we got wheel decals and component highlights to match the subtleties of Cannondale’s Black Inc. less-is-more aesthetics.
In the end, our Lightweight Project bike came in just a hair under 11 pounds, 10.9 to be exact, and that’s with pedals and a bottle cage-ready to ride. It was in the range we had set our sights on, and we achieved getting to that point while being true to our rule of building a bike we could feel safe on, and enjoy riding anywhere, not just uphill. Knocking another pound off with different tires, cables, seat clamp, and a couple other small changes is definitely possible; but we’re confident we built the best performing sub-11 pound bike we possibly could have. As far as the price goes, our calculator started smoking as we were tallying up the parts, but it ended up coming in right around $13,500.
PUTTING IT TO THE TEST
The 5,300 feet of elevation gain the Mt Charleston Hill Climb had on offer was the ultimate way to test our Lightweight Project Bike’s climbing prowess.
It’s easy to look at the number on the scale and think we assembled a great bike, but in reality all we did was assemble a light bike. Who cares what it weighs if it’s no fun to ride, or is so flexy that all the weight savings don’t overcome the wet noodle factor. We needed to test our Lightweight Project Bike with real world riding, what it was designed for. We went in search of the perfect event to race test our project, but with the end of the racing season upon us, there was little to choose from on the calendar in California. So we had to look a little further afield. Then we found it, the perfect test for the project-Mt Charleston Hill Climb
. Viva Las Vegas! Mt Charleston is the hidden gem of Las Vegas for anyone that rides, hikes, or skis (yes, there’s a ski resort at the top). A mere 30 minutes from the Strip, the climb begins in the cactus covered desert landscape and heads straight up the mountain with nary a turn, going from an elevation of 3,312 feet up to 8,669 feet over 17 miles of steady climbing at a six percent grade. The nearly 5,300 feet of elevation gain is 20-percent more than what the famed Tour of California climbs of Mt Baldy and Mt Palomar even offer. As an event the hill climb itself has been around since the early eighties according to local lore, but the race has traded hands over the years with multiple promoters, so it’s hard to nail down the very first year of the event.
In the ’09 Mt Charleston Hill Climb I rode my 15-pound Kelly Benefit Strategies team Gary Fisher to a winning time of 1 hour 19 minutes.
This would be my second time racing up the climb. My first time was in ’09, the week after racing in the Tour of Missouri, back when I was still an active pro. I won the race that year with a time of 1 hour 19 minutes, a few minutes off the course record, while riding my team issue Gary Fisher with Bontrager XXX Lite carbon wheels, weighing right around 15 pounds. This time around, I knew what to except from the climb; but most of all, I was armed with a bike that was 4 pounds lighter. I finished the build all of two days before leaving for Vegas, it truly was going to be a test run for the bike on the racecourse itself. I had a couple hours of saddle time to get the macro-adjustments done, but the micro ones were just going to have to wait until I got back from my showdown with the mountain.
I wasn’t the only one thinking that a trainer was the best approach to getting a proper warm-up.
As with any race that starts off full tilt, I made sure to get in a good warm-up on the trainer to be ready straight away. Thirty to forty minutes is usually ideal, but since my 5-year old daughter Charlotte wanted me to watch her bang rocks together, my warm-up was cut a bit short. Unlike many hill climbs which use a time trial format, this one was a mass start, allowing everyone to work together until their number was punched, some much sooner than others. A cross-tail wind helped get the pace started off fast from the beginning, with eight of us contributing to the pace making. The bike felt insanely fast every time I had to put in an effort to close a gap or take a pull; it had exceptional acceleration.
Within the first five miles the group had withered down to six of us, and a few miles later it was just four. I was riding a high at that point, I saw the others physically suffering, and I was on a bike that was allowing me to save more watts than they with every stroke of the crank. But, I underestimated one rider in the group that I shouldn’t have: Drew Miller. The former Tour of the Gila winner and 130-pound climber au natural from Flagstaff was adept at long uphill stints, ‘I’m like a diesel, the longer the climb is, the better it is for me’ he said. As we reached the three miles to go point, it was down to just Drew and me, with third place well out of contention for the win. I was happy to have every equipment advantage possible (even though Drew’s Landis Cyclery Trek Madone with 32mm deep carbon rims on Tune hubs couldn’t have been over 13.5 pounds) in order to save as much energy as I could for the finale. I knew that the winning move wouldn’t come until the final minute or two of the climb since we were evenly matched on the lower slopes. That time came, just as we hit the steepest part of the climb, with less than a mile to go. As the gradient increased, I made my move with the Lightweight Project Bike accelerating forward with every slight increase in power, making my tired, lactate-saturated legs feel almost spry.
Going from desert and cactus to mountains and pine trees in a mere 17 miles was a trip, but there was little time to enjoy the scenery on the way up.
I went on to not only take the win by nine seconds, with a time of 1:14:32, but more importantly, the course record that has stood since the late 80’s, fell that day. It was a perfect storm that allowed me set the course record: a cross-tail wind helped more than it hurt, a strong field that kept the pace fast early on, a fit Drew Miller who pushed me to the limit until the very end, and then of course the Lightweight Project Bike. I knew early on in the race it was a weapon; but when it was crunch time, the defining moment between winning and claiming the course record, or not, its instantaneous acceleration enabled me to create the winning gap, then hold it for the final minute until crossing the finish line.
Charlotte helped me claim 1st place prize, with Drew Miller taking second, and Mark Aasmundstad in third.
For an event like the Mt Charleston Hill Climb, taking even more weight off the Lightweight Project Bike wouldn’t have had any negative impact, but for the type of rides we have in store for it over the next couple of months we think that our picks are ideally suited to our needs. We’ll have a full ride analysis in Road Bike Action Magazine once we tackle our typical training grounds.
GLOSSARY OF PARTS AND WEIGHTS
EVO Nano, Weight: 718 grams (54cm with derailleur hanger and bottle cage bolts)
Fork: Cannondale EVO, Weight: 308 grams (22cm steerer length)
Crank and Bottom Bracket: Cannondale SISL2, Weight: 500 grams (53/39)
RZR, Weight: 904 grams (pair)
Quick Releases: Reynolds, Weight: 33 grams (pair)
Aero.7, Weight: 86 grams
Competition 22c, Weight: 255 grams (each)
Supertype, Weight: 131 grams (12-26)
Red, Weight: 284 grams (without cables)
Rear Derailleur: SRAM Red, Weight: 143 grams
Front Derailleur: SRAM Red (old version), Weight: 69 grams
R970SL, Weight: 220 grams (pair)
X10SL, Weight: 208 grams
SLSpeed, Weight: 112 grams (110mm)
Handlebar: Zipp SLC2, Weight: 172 grams (42cm)
Cirrus, Weight: 112 grams (with cleats)