New bits from SRAM, Look, Hayes and Camelbak

We first spotted SRAM's power meter-equipped crankset back at last year's Interbike show , but the...

Race Tech: Sea Otter Classic, April 14, 2007

'Powered by SRAM' takes on a whole new meaning

We first spotted SRAM's power meter-equipped crankset back at last year's Interbike show, but the company was finally ready to officially launch the product here at the Sea Otter Classic. As it turns out, that prototype crankset we spotted was indeed an early test unit, and the design has gone into production virtually unchanged save for the new graphics.

According to Mike Hall of SRM, the new SRAM 'PowerMeter Pro by SRM' crankset is not only "the first time a power meter and crank were designed together [outside of SRM]", but also the most thoroughly tested SRM-equipped crankset to date. The high modulus carbon fiber arms incorporate the same lobed spider attachment system as on SRM's own crankset, and all of the current SRM Professional features will carry over into the new offering, including waterproof construction, robust battery life, and certified accuracy. Thankfully, q-factor is unchanged relative to SRAM Force and Rival cranksets, as well as Truvativ double-chainring models.

Crankarm lengths will run from 170-177.5mm, and for now, only standard 130mm BCD chainring spiders will be available. As expected, the entire unit spins on SRAM's proven GXP integrated bottom bracket system with externally-mounted bearings. The addition of the SRM unit adds roughly 200g relative to a standard Force crank, but the entire unit is still light enough for Pete Lopinto of the Kodak Gallery/Sierra Nevada team to run full-time: total weight for the PowerMeter Pro system is approximately 969g including bottom bracket. Projected retail cost is US$3400 and units will be available beginning mid-September.

SRAM goes ceramic

Speaking of bottom brackets, bearing and seal friction has been a long-standing criticism of SRAM's GXP system, and the custom-sized cartridge bearings are not as easily retrofitted with aftermarket versions as on other systems. SRAM will now offer hybrid ceramic bearing-equipped versions (with custom bearings made by Danish firm CeramicSpeed) to fit both road and mountain bike bottom brackets. Not one to leave well enough alone, SRAM will also offer CeramicSpeed bearing-equipped derailleur pulleys as well.

Pricing was yet to be announced, but delivery of the bottom brackets and pulleys is said to begin around June. Aftermarket kits will be available for retrofit, and the pre-installed ceramic bearing upgrades will also be optional on complete component groups.

Look adapts integrated seatpost design to hardtails

Whoever said that hardtails were dead obviously didn't tell anyone in France. On the contrary, Look has now branched out into the off-road realm with what was possibly the most stunning example of the breed at Sea Otter this year. According to Ming Tan of Look Cycle USA, "We think high-end carbon hardtails are coming back."

The new carbon fiber 986 strikes a unique profile with the same integrated E Post design as on its roadgoing 595, which Look claims delivers a stiffer pedaling platform as well as a more comfortable ride courtesy of its unique elastomeric mounting system. High modulus carbon fiber is used throughout the frame, including a one-piece top tube/head tube/down tube assembly joined to the seat tube and stays using tube-to-tube technology. The upper and lower surfaces of the stays are flattened to add some vertical compliance and increase lateral rigidity.

Frame weight is quoted at 1200g, but Look currently only has plans to deliver complete bikes starting around September. Total weight with a premium component spec is claimed to be about 9.3kg (20.5lb). Pricing was still to be determined, but 'not cheap' is likely a safe bet.

Hayes Stroker platform

Hayes celebrates its 10-year anniversary with the new Stroker hydraulic disc brake platform. The all-new system boasts a first-for-Hayes radial master cylinder design for a dramatically smaller package that also manages to pack in 33% more fluid volume than its workhorse Mag to increase fade resistance. The true flip-flop design also includes a detented aluminum reach-adjust dial on upper-end models that Hayes promises won't migrate during use.

Hayes goes back to two-piece caliper construction for the new Stroker, but the trimmed-down body includes a larger opening on the back for easier setup and better cooling. Insulated pistons combat heat transfer, and adjustable hose routing is on hand to accommodate most rear suspension configurations.

Unfortunately, Stroker also signals the introduction of another brake pad standard, but the new pads offer more surface area for increased stopping power (claimed to be nearly 20% better than the benchmark Mag), and larger grab tabs make for easier pad swaps. Rotor designs are unchanged, but a 140mm rear option has been added.

Three Stroker versions will be offered, including the entry-level Ryde, mid-level Trail, and top-of-the-line Carbon with carbon fiber lever blades. Weights on all three models are nearly identical at approximately 385g per wheel with a 160mm rotor.

Camelbak enters drink market with Elixir

Camelbak readily admits that cleaning energy drinks out of its bladders is somewhat... challenging, so to say, but that still doesn't mean that you're stuck with running straight water in there. Elixir is specifically designed for Camelbak users with an intriguing electrolyte-plus-flavor formulation that contains no carbohydrates. According to company representatives, most users will derive their energy from gels, bars, and the like anyway, but Elixir will replenish lost electrolytes without adding unnecessary carbohydrates. More importantly, the lack of carbohydrates also means that the bladders will remain as easy to clean as with water so rinsing will likely do the trick.

Elixir is cleverly formed into self-mixing effervescent tablets that require no shaking or stirring. Not surprisingly, mixing ratios are listed in terms of Camelbak bladder sizes. Sea Otter's unusually sunny weather patterns this year demanded plenty of fluid intake this year, and we found Elixir to provide a refreshingly light citrus taste that almost certainly won't weigh you down.

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