Last weekend I was competing in the Xterra World Championship. I knew that the course has a lot of climbing so I wanted to get some new components to make my bike lighter. I also knew there would be a lot of cool bikes there since it is a World Championship, so I wanted to make my bike much more cooler than it already is.
So before I shipped out to Hawaii I went to Brandon and threw some ideas off him and we came up with some ways to make my Titus Fireline 29 both lighter and more cool. Below is the back story / review of the upgrades.
Thompson Elite X4 stem and Alpha Q X Roc flat bar handlebar
I broke my stem at Xterra Nationals and needed to replace it. However I discovered they no longer make stems in the old 25.4 standard and all stems and handlebars now come in the OS standard 31.8. Therefore I needed to replace both my stem and handlebar. Looking for the best combination of weight, price and what is pretty to look at, I chose the Alpha Q X Roc Handlebar and Thompson Elite X4 stem.
The Alpha Q X Roc has a nice shiny finish and is quite light compared to my old aluminum bar. I can’t say I noticed any difference in the handling characteristics of carbon vs. aluminum bar, but then again, if you are looking for a performance upgrade, a handlebar is probably the last thing you’ll upgrade. It is light and that is why I like it.
The Thompson Elite X4 stem is really pretty to look at. They machined away all the extra metal not necessary to the function of the stem. The X4 is also simplified compared to the old Thompson Elite stem with the elimination of the insertable steerer tube clamp set. It is also much lighter. Again, I notice no difference in the handling characteristics of the 25.4 clamp vs. the 31.8 OS clamp. I don’t know why the industry changed the standard. I guess it was to make everyone buy more stems and handlebars. However, the X4 stem is light and does what it is supposed to do, so that is why I like it.
Total weight saving gained from the new parts is at least 100 grams. Nice, every gram counts.
Fizik Tundra saddle with carbon rails
The Tundra is Fizik’s new mountain bike saddle. The surface is much flatter than the Arionne and the Gobi. Therefore it took a few rides to get used to it. Once I got used to it I liked it. I cannot ride a saddle that is hard or has too much padding. In my opinion they got the texture right for this saddle. It is firm but not hard.
I was skeptical of the carbon rails on this saddle. I questioned whether or not the rails could handle the pounding of a hard mountain bike race. Well, this saddle has been tested on two of the hardest Xterra courses in the country and in multiple cyclocross races (when a saddle is this expensive, you swap it out to whichever bike you happen to be riding at the time). It stood up to the test and is still structurally sound.
The most impressive thing about this saddle is the weight. It is like a bag of feathers, so light at 203 grams. My Fizik Gobi weighs in at over 250 g. Weight weenies who are hard on their equipment will want to get this saddle.
Time ATAC XS Titan Carbon pedals
I’ve been riding Time ATAC pedals for years. All my shoes have cleats that match these pedals so these are the pedals I run on all my bikes. I really like the redesign of these pedals that they did a couple years ago. The new design allows more space for better mud clearance. They are now much better at clipping in in mud than the older models and each clip in feels more precise.
The Time ATAC Titan pedal is the top of the line pedal and it has performed flawlessly in the most demanding conditions in both mountain biking and cyclocross. The clipping in is so easy I really believe these pedals have improved my cyclocross remounts.
Total claimed weight savings of the ATAC Titan pedal vs. the ATAC XS Carbon is 68 grams.
SRAM XX 42-28 crank set with SRAM Red ceramic bearings bottom bracket
I was over geared running a 1 X 9 at a mountain bike course with lots of climbing like Xterra Nationals in Ogden UT. I needed more range to climb steep mountains. When Brandon told me his shipmentment of XX came in I told him I had to have one of the cranksets.
The range of a 42-28 paired with a 12-34 cassette gave me all the range I needed to climb the steepest, loosest climbs I could find in Maui. I don’t know why it took so long to come out with cranks with this chainring combo. As far as I’m concerned, triples are now outdated.
Performance wise, this is the most impressive of the upgrades. Even though I set it up with a X.0 9 speed shifter and a XT front derailleur the performance of this crank set shines like a star in the drive train. It was a pain to set it up like this just right, but once dialed in, the shifting was effortless. You can shift under load with no problems. The chain moves from small ring to big ring so quickly, I can’t even remove my thumb from the shifter before the chain has caught on the big chainring.
If small details like this are impressive to you, you will want to get this crankset even if you are still running 9 speed. However, I cannot wait to get the rest of the XX group because I am sure it will impress even more.