Okay the next few blogs will include some about my equipment so you will know why I use what I use in races and training.
This year I was lucky enough to get a SRAM sponsorship which was it great because I was using it last year but had to buy it from the store. I would have ended up buying it again this year but don’t tell them that.
I guess most people look at bike parts and think that they are all the same and although they can look pretty similar there are definitely a lot of differences in SRAM’s road components.
I use the top of the line SRAM Red components on my P3 and P4 not just because that is what pros are supposed to do but because that is where the maximum performance is. You don’t have to be a pro to appreciate that. You could be an age grouper going after a Hawaii/Clearwater spot or a middle of the packer trying to finish your first Ironman or better your PB. Sometimes the difference between meeting these milestones or missing them are very small. The last thing you want is to have any regrets, and after you finish a race it is hard not the think of them, especially when you typically only have one crack at these goals each year. I am the same way. I would rather control as many of the variables as I can. I strongly believe to race fast you have to use your bicep and your brain.
So where does the performance come? Well lets start at the front. Right at the tip of my fingers I use the carbon 900 TT shift levers. They have ten speeds as well but are made out of exotic materials with more carbon and aluminium than their Dura-Ace counterparts. They shift just as well but are significantly lighter. This many not be terribly significant when you consider the levers alone but every little bit helps and you will start to see how all of the SRAM Red parts are the lightest available. When you add all these little savings up you get a really light bike.
I don’t use the ROC (return to centre) levers that some athletes use for 2 reasons. I received my parts in late January just before I left for a 3 month training camp in Thailand and I did not think it was the best idea to try something new that was that important. The ROC levers are a great idea for some. Their main advantage of ROC levers is they are always in the best aerodynamic position regardless of what gear you are in. This is improtant if your hands are not on the levers and they are exposed to the wind. This is the case for many riders that use S bend to straight aerobar extensions. With my position, my hands wrap around the shift levers all the time so the advantage is negated a fair bit. I choose the TT 900 levers because their shifitng is spot on and they are the lighter option.
The shift levers attach to the front and rear derailleurs. This year SRAM Red has come out with a new front derailleur that I am using and I notice the difference. It has a stiffer design and flexes less so your shifts are faster and more positive in front. The rear derailleur is nice as well. It shifts so smoothly and quietly that you would wonder if it even shifted if not for the change in pedalling. One nice advantage over Shimano and Campy derailleurs are the stock ceramic bearings in the derailleur pulleys. These things spin extremely fast; 5 times faster than your legs are going and high RPMs are where ceramic bearings really excel. Again when you combined the ceramic bearing with a carbon cage and aluminium bolts you come up with one of the lightest high end rear derailleurs you can get.
I mentioned I have a 10 speed bike but part of the greatest benifit of being sponsored by SRAM is that I get a bunch of cassettes and chains. Having a number of cassettes is an advantage because you can pick the perfect cog ratio for the terrain you are riding. I used an 11-23 in Abu Dhabi because it was flat but when I go to Switzerland this summer I will use an 11-28 for the mountains. The key is to always keep your cadence the same regardless of terrain so choosing the proper cassette ratio will help that and SRAM has the widest range of gears than any other company. 11-23, 12-23, 11-25, 11-26, 12-25, 11-28. There is a cassette for everyone.
One of the nicest features in the SRAM Red components is the cassette. The gear choices are great but the material is great as well. The gears are all steel so they will wear longer than other companies’ titanium and aluminium cassettes. Using steel typically means it is heavier but SRAM believes in using their brain as well. They machine all the cogs out of block of material and hollow out the inside. It ends up being lighter than all others but being harder and wears longer which is good for me because we put on a tonne of km in a year.
Having all the chains is nice as well. Last year I did not use a SRAM chain but the new OG-1090R (emphasis on the R) a lot quieter and shifts better. Chains do wear but if your change your chain regularly, which is rather inexpensive, then you will never have to replace your more expensive cassette. It seems like an easy enough thing to practise but most people don’t change the chain often enough and run into issues when their stretched chain, that works on their worn cassette in training, does not work with their new race wheel cassette at the moment of truth. No body wants that. It is good that it is such an easy thing to solve.
Then there are the brakes. Brakes seem like they are all the same until you have to brake. So many people gloss over their brake but they are incredibly important even for triathletes. For example many people will pay a lot of money for stiff bikes that they only push to its limit when they sprint hard. How many times do you do that compared to use your brakes on a ride? You notice how good your good brakes are every time you take your bike out. For racing I use a cork brake pad for my carbon race wheels. It takes a bit of effort to change them out prior to a race but I find they are amazing for hard braking when it counts and they never squeal on difficult descents even if I do. Again the Red brakes are incredibly light. There are almost as light as Negative G brakes from Camillio but stop 1000% better.
Of course brake callipers do not control themselves so I use the carbon 900 TT brake lever. They are very light and have a much nicer feel even in my smaller hands than the very sharp Vision Aero brake lever while still being aero. They also run the brake cable internally in my aerobar for better aerodynamics which is nice.
Lastly, I was lucky enough to get a SRAM SRM crank this year. Last year I used a Zipp Vuma Crono which is an amazing crank and I was sad to take it off my bike but it was made easier with the SRM. It too unifies the Sram TT chainrings with the spider for better aerodynamics and although it is a bit heavier it provides soooooo much information about my training. When it is set to 0.5s second recording frequency it can measure speed, cadence, distance, power, altitude, HR and all averages/maximum values for 6 hours! Push the sampling frequency to 1 second and it will record for over 12 hours. In the end you can download the computer to your PC and really get a feel for how your ride went. What is most interesting to see is that altitude and power plots almost look the same which shows that power is the best gauge to know how hard you are going (or how hard you should go). I also pay particular attention to my cadence. In races often I will ignore everything and just go off of cadence.
To help sweeten the deal SRAM uses a ceramic BB and incorporated very light but stiff carbon crank arms. It just goes to show that they are concerned about all the little details which is nice because I am the same way.
So those are all the SRAM components on my bike and why I use them. It is important for me to use the best equipment I can. It definitely pays off long term for me and it can for you as well. Having good race performances is not just important to pros. In fact it think it is more important to the typical triathlete that does not race as much as we do.