Sunday, April 18, 2021

Focus Paralane: Shifters, Brakes and Di2 Wiring

The Focus Paralane will be my all-weather road bike, so it will have road bike components. Although it is a commuter bike, it will probably be the bike that I will ride the most often. As such, I would like to put the best components that I have on it.

For the handlebar area, I will be using the same Ultegra road hydraulic Di2 shifters, ST-R8070 that I was using on the Fabike C3 commuting bike. These shifters are still working well, therefore I did not have to buy a new set of shifters. The troublesome part is to drain the hydraulic fluid before transferring them to the new bike.

Ultegra road hydraulic Di2 shifters, ST-R8070

Since I am removing these shifters from the handlebar, I always like to take the chance to replace the rubber hoods, as they tend to get dirty and stretched after use. It is nearly impossible to replace the rubber hoods while the shifters are on the bike, so the best time to change it is when the shifter is off the bike. This is exactly the same thing that I did when I transferred the Dura-Ace ST-R9170 shifters from the Canyon Endurace to the Cervelo Aspero.

Replacement shifter rubber hoods for ST-R8070

Here is how the shifters look underneath the rubber hoods. For more details, check out this post.

Coat the inside of the rubber hoods generously with isopropyl alcohol or equivalent, so that it slides more easily onto the shifters. Take care not to overstretch the rubber during installation.

New rubber hoods installed! Now it feels as good as new.

The frameset did not come with enough rubber grommets for the cables or wires, so I had to find my own. Some of the frame holes are oval shaped, while others are circular. As such, I decided to just get two different types of grommets as shown below, to see which one fits best.

Rubber grommets for Di2 wires, comes in 2 different shapes (GM01 and GM02).

The plug has either a circular shape or oval shape to best fit the frame hole.

Junction B is hidden inside the bottom bracket, similar to most other Di2 frames that I have used. This has to be installed before the press-fit bottom bracket goes on.

Using the PRO cable routing kit to route the wires and hoses through the frame.

Here is the Di2 wiring layout for the Focus Paralane. I wired up the left side as well, even though it is a front single system, as I wanted to use the button on top of the shifter to control the Garmin head unit.

Moving on, I also installed the brakes onto this bike. I will also use Dura-Ace brake calipers and rotors on this bike, because why not? This bike will essentially be my road bike, just with additional mudguards.



Front brake caliper installed and brake hose routed.

Rear brake hose also routed, after installing the rear brake caliper onto the frame.

Di2 wires and brake hose routed through the frame, but not connected to the shifters yet.

Next step is to install the shifters, and connect the brake hoses after trimming them to the correct length.

This is the preparatory work needed to start the bike assembly, by pre-installing some of the components. It is not difficult, just tedious as you need to check your measurements and do everything carefully to avoid making mistakes.

Friday, April 2, 2021

Focus Paralane: Robert Axle Project Thru Axles

Practically all framesets that use thru axles have the axles included with the frameset. This is because even though thru axles are 12 mm in diameter for the front and rear (road disc brakes), the overall length is different. Even though the OLD (Over Locknut Distance) is 100 mm for the front and 142 mm for the rear, the frame thickness and thread length is different.

Therefore, if you buy aftermarket thru axles, you need to check carefully to make sure that it will match your bike frame. There is no issue with matching the hubs, as the hubs have a standard OLD of 100/142 mm and inner diameter of 12 mm.

The Focus Paralane is no exception, it comes with its own thru axles included. However, the thru axles are not the usual 12 mm threaded kind. Instead it uses its own proprietary RAT thru axles, which can be tightened with just a quarter turn.

Despite best intentions, there are some issues with the RAT thru axles, which can be seen at the link above. Therefore, I looked for an alternative to the stock RAT thru axles. While researching, I saw these thru axles by The Robert Axle Project.

It is an unusual name for a brand, but they do make quality products as seen from multiple online reviews. Basically, they make third party thru axles for practically all thru axle models from different bike frames. These thru axles are lighter and may look better.

For my case, what I am looking for on the Focus Paralane is not really about saving weight, but about ditching the RAT thru axle which I am not happy with.

In this case, there is only one choice of replacement thru axle, which is the bolt on type that needs to be secured with a size 6 Allen Key. It is also pretty lightweight, as it does not have an integrated lever. The downside is the high price, but I really needed to get rid of the RAT thru axle.

Robert Axle Project thru axles, specifically made for the Focus Paralane.

Secured using a Size 6 Allen Key, no lever type option.

The nuts on the other end also need to be replaced. There are two types of nuts supplied as shown above.

On the Focus Paralane frameset, the thru axle threads are not threaded into the frame itself. Most of the time, the threads are on a replaceable insert that is fixed to the frame, so that it can be replaced if the threads are damaged.

Therefore, in order to replace the RAT thru axles, the nut also needs to be changed to a 12 mm threaded type. The nut design on the Focus Paralane was changed in the past few years, which is why there are two types of nuts shown above. 

The one on the left is a newer design, which allows the lever angle on the RAT thru axle to be adjusted. The one on the right, which is what I have, has a fixed lever angle, which is not ideal. Use the nut that matches your frame design.

Original RAT thru axle "nut", with the quarter turn design. This part needs to be replaced with the one from Robert Axle.

New Robert Axle nut is 7 grams

Front thru axle is 33 grams, less than the stock 56 grams.

Rear thru axle is 38 grams, less than the stock 61 grams.

Replacing the nut is easy, just loosen the bolt and remove the nut + rear dropout.

Original RAT "nut" is just 3 grams.

New Robert Axle nut installed! Secured to the frame using the same bolt, but now it has threads for a conventional thru axle.

Replacing the thru axle system is easy, as the nut on the frame can be easily replaced. Same for the fork as well. The new Robert Axle nut sticks out a bit more from the frame, but this is compensated by the much slimmer profile on the head of the thru axle, since there is no lever sticking out.

Original RAT Thru Axle Weight = 3 + 3 + 56 + 61 = 123 grams
Robert Axle Thru Axle Weight = 7 + 7 + 33 + 38 = 85 grams

There is a small weight saving of 38 grams which is pretty insignificant, but comes at a high cost. Nevertheless, the thru axle system is now better as there is no handle, which looks clean but also harder to use, as an Allen Key is needed to remove the thru axle.

It is an additional cost to owning this bike, which is one of the many quirks of this frameset. Of course, this thru axle change is not compulsory, but I personally could not accept the downsides of the RAT thru axle. Given a choice again, I might have considered another frame, since there are actually many downsides on this Focus Paralane frameset.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Focus Paralane: Shimano WH-RS770 Wheelset and GP5000 Tires

The new Focus Paralane all-weather road bike will need a new pair of wheels. My previous all-weather road bike was the Fabike C3, but that wheelset with Alfine 11 Di2 internal hub is not suitable for this new bike. Although the DT Swiss front wheel can be used, I would rather get a pair of front and rear wheels that matches.

What I needed is a proper road wheelset, with 12 mm E-thru axles and disc brake hubs. This was what I had, the Reynolds Assault wheelset. However, I had already sold it, which I regretted a lot. At that time, I did not plan to use it on any other bike, since I already had the new Zenith Elite wheelset from Ascent Bikes. Therefore, I decided to sell the Reynolds wheelset to free up some space at home.

If I did not sell that Reynolds wheelset, it would have been perfect for this Focus Paralane, as a used carbon wheelset for all-weather duties.

Therefore, I had to get a new pair of disc brake compatible, 12 mm E-thru wheels. I did not want to fork out over $1000 for a pair of carbon wheels, for all-weather riding. Therefore, I went for the more budget option, which is a pair of aluminium wheelset.

This Shimano RS770 wheelset is a peculiar wheelset, as the rim is made of a hybrid of carbon and aluminium. More details below.

Looks totally like a low profile lightweight carbon wheelset. I like the stealthy look of it.

It has a wavy rim shape, similar to Princeton CarbonWorks wheelset. Probably a coincidence...

The rim is actually made of aluminium, but reinforced with a layer of carbon on top. Probably only Shimano is mass producing this type of rims.

Why does Shimano use carbon reinforced aluminium rims? This actually dates back to some years ago, when carbon wheelsets for rim brakes were getting popular. At that time, road bikes were predominantly on rim brakes, therefore the braking surface is still on the rim.

Some other manufacturers have a full carbon rim, which means that the braking surface is made of carbon. This tends to have poorer brake performance and heat dissipation properties compared to conventional aluminium rims.

Shimano wanted to make carbon rims, but still retain the superior braking performance of aluminium rims. Therefore, this hybrid construction was created, so that the braking surface is still aluminium, but the rim profile can be made thinner in aluminium, and cladded with carbon fibre for strength and also appearance. Check out the Dura-Ace WH-7900 C24 wheelset to see what I mean.

Somehow, this construction has endured even to this day, on the mid-range disc brake wheelset, as shown here by WH-RS770. It is Ultegra grade, but not labelled under the Ultegra series. There is no advantage to having the aluminium braking surface on the rim, since disc brakes are used.

Black spokes and spoke nipples are used, to match the black rims.

Although the braking surface seems to be present on the rim, it is not to be used.

The wheel comes with tubeless rim tape already installed.

However, the end of the rim tape was not pressed down properly, and tends to detach. If an inner tube is used, it is not a problem. However, if a tubeless setup is used, sealant will get underneath the tape and may leak.

External rim width is 22 mm, which is old school. Nowadays external rim widths are easily 28 mm or more.

Internal rim width is old school as well, at just 17 mm. Most new road bike wheels now have a wider internal rim width of at least 19 mm, or 21 mm.

Rim height at the shallowest areas are 28 mm.

If measured at the taller areas, the rim height is 30 mm.

The hubs look nice with a shiny anodised silver finish, with black areas as well. Still using traditional cup and cone bearings, but for 12 mm E-thru axles.

Centerlock disc brake mounting, which makes installing or removing rotors so much easier compared to using 6 bolt type.

WH-RS770 is the model number of this wheelset. Bladed straight pull spokes are used.

Rear wheel has a steel freehub body, to prevent gouging caused by the steel sprockets. Adds some weight over an aluminium freehub body, but lasts much longer.

Weight of front wheel is 743 grams, heavier than the Zenith Elite but lighter than the Reynolds Assault.

Rear wheel is pretty heavy at 923 grams, due to the steel freehub body and cup-and-cone bearings.

This gives a total wheelset weight of 1666 grams, which is slightly more than the Reynolds Assault (1637 grams) and heavier than the Zenith Elite (1504 grams). Not too bad for an aluminium wheelset!

Using the same Continental GP5000 tires on this wheelset as well, for maximum speed.

GP5000 tires on the RS770 wheelset. However, a silver band can be seen at the interface between the rim and the tire.

This silver band is from the exposed aluminium at the top edge of the rim, which is not covered by the carbon fibre layer.

This silver line does not look good, as it spoils the integrated look of the wheelset and tire. Does not affect function, but it lowers the aesthetic value of this wheelset. Will do something about it later.

Actual tire width is about 27 mm, when mounted on this wheel with 17 mm internal rim width. In comparison, actual tire width is 28.5 mm when mounted on internal rim width of 21 mm.

Added the Dura-Ace RT900 rotors as well. Now it looks fast!

Comparing the RS770 wheelset with the Zenith Elite wheelset, both with 28 mm GP5000 tires. Rim height is obviously different. The silver line on the RS770 wheelset stands out too much, unfortunately.

For pure academic purposes, I installed the previous Continenal Grand Prix 4 Season tires on this new rim as well.

Using Continental Grand Prix 4 Season 28 mm tires on different internal rim widths:
20 mm rim --> 31.8 mm actual tire width
18 mm rim --> 30.8 mm actual tire width
17 mm rim --> 30.8 mm actual tire width

As you can see, the previous generation of Continental tires are generally oversized, even when mounted on narrow rims. The new generation (GP5000) is more true to size.

Later on, after the wheelset is installed on the full bike, I will be able to evaluate the ride quality of this RS770 wheelset with GP5000 tires.

Friday, March 19, 2021

Lezyne Sport Gravel Floor Drive vs Steel Floor Drive

Just when you thought you already had everything gravel related, such as a gravel bike, gravel drivetrain, gravel tires, gravel shoes, etc, here comes another item.

This time, it is a gravel specific floor pump. The first time I heard of a gravel specific floor pump, I was quite amused, as the normal floor pump for road bikes works for gravel tires in any case.

However, once I started reading more about gravel floor pumps, it seems to make sense. For example, 28 mm road bike tires only need about 80-100 PSI, but the usual floor pumps go up to 220 PSI, which is way beyond what is required.

As such, the pressure gauge has all the numbers squeezed closely to fit in up to 220 PSI of range, but only about 100 PSI is needed. The pictures below will show you what I mean.

Let's do a comparison between my trusty Lezyne Steel Floor Drive, vs the new Lezyne Sport Gravel Floor Drive (gravel floor pump in short).

Lezyne Sport Gravel Floor Drive, with a maximum pressure rating of 100 PSI.

Instead of having a Presta/Schrader reversible pump head, it has a special head where one side threads onto the outside of the valve. More details below.

Side by side comparison, with the new gravel pump shown on the right.

Gravel floor pump is slightly taller, otherwise they look pretty similar.

Both pumps have a wooden handle, which is nice. However, the gravel pump's handle has been dyed black.

Both barrels are steel, but the gravel pump barrel has a slightly larger diameter and has a matte finishing.

The base area looks quite different, although they are both of the tripod design.

The gravel dial is huge! Also, since the gravel dial reads to a maximum of 100 PSI, it is much easier to fine tune the air pressure.

Steel Floor Drive dial: Max of 220 PSI, with lines at every 5 PSI interval
Gravel Floor Drive dial: Max of 100 PSI, with lines at every 1 PSI interval

Ever since I used 28 mm wide Continental GP4000/GP5000 tires, the maximum tire pressure that I needed was 90 PSI, but usually 80 PSI is enough. Therefore, this gravel pump is able to satisfy my tire pressure requirements.

With the indicator intervals of just 1 PSI, I can adjust the tire pressure accurately for gravel tires, where my usual tire pressure range is 25 to 35 PSI. For low pressure tires, a pressure difference of just a few PSI can be felt. Previously on the Steel Floor Drive, tire pressure control was vague, but now I can set it to within 1 PSI accuracy if I want.

Gravel pump uses a fibre reinforced resin base, instead of a steel base.

The resin base is big and strong with reinforcing ribs, but still not as stiff or stable as a steel base.

I wanted a steel base for a floor pump, as it makes the pump more stable due to the heavier base. There is no need to get a floor pump that is lightweight, as a heavier one is actually better for stability. However, it seems that Lezyne is gradually changing their pump base design to use resin material, which I believe is due to lower cost.

Steel floor drive weighs exactly 1600 grams.

Gravel floor drive is a bit lighter at 1521 grams.

There is no meaning to get a lightweight floor pump, unlike a portable pump where a lighter pump adds less weight to the bike. In this case, a heavier floor pump is actually preferred, but not available.

Moving on, let's compare the pump heads.

Red ABS 2 pump head from the steel floor drive, vs the black ABS 1 Pro pump head from the gravel floor drive.

I don't think I ever did a review for the Lezyne Steel Floor Drive, so I shall elaborate a bit more on the pump head. A few years ago, Lezyne came out with this new ABS 2 pump head, where instead of screwing the pump head onto the valve, you slide a sleeve on the outside of the pump head. After sliding the sleeve, you turn it slightly to secure the airtight seal.

Theoretically, this makes attaching and detaching a pump head faster than screwing it on and off. Plus, it has an added benefit of preventing the valve core from being unscrewed from the valve during pump head removal. This can happen if the valve core was not tight enough, while the pump head is attached too tightly.

Practically, this works well if there is plenty of spoke clearance around the valve, as both hands are needed to hold and slide the sleeve onto the valve. Sometimes it can be quite tight, making it difficult to attach or remove the pump head. I always find it difficult to attach this pump head to the valve which is on the wheelset of the Bike Friday Haul-A-Day, due to the high spoke count and small rim diameter.

Also, this ABS 2 pump head depresses the valve core continuously on the Presta valve, meaning that if you press the pressure release button at the side, it will let out ALL the air in the tube, instead of only the air inside the pump hose. On previous pumps with ABS 1 pump head, pressing this button releases only the air in the pump hose, making it easier to unscrew the pump head.

ABS 2 pump head, with an external sleeve that you slide down to tighten the pump head onto the valve.

Converting to Schrader is easy. Just slide down the sleeve first, BEFORE screwing it onto the Schrader head. This is one advantage over traditional screw type pump heads where it needs to be removed and inverted.

ABS 2 Pump Head
Advantages:
1) Quick to attach and release, given sufficient spoke clearance
2) Easy to switch between Presta and Schrader
3) Does not loosen valve cores

Disadvantages:
1) Needs more spoke clearance around valve
2) Can be difficult to attach on some valves
3) Bleed button releases all the air from the inner tube, instead of just the pump hose
4) Sleeve can be slippery, making it difficult to slide on, especially if it is tight
5) Does not work on valves that are too short as there is nowhere for the internal rubber ring to grip
6) Pump head needs to be detached quickly to prevent air leakage during removal
7) Makes a loud popping noise during pump head removal

The ABS 2 pump head has been discontinued, probably due to having too many disadvantages compared to advantages. Lezyne claims that it is discontinued due to having too many internal moving parts to work reliably.

Now, the new Lezyne pumps are equipped with an updated version of the original ABS 1 pump head, which is called ABS 1 Pro. It is the screw on type of pump head, which may have the tendency to loosen valve cores if they are not tightened properly.

ABS 1 Pro pump head on the gravel floor drive.

Pump head is detachable and reversible.

On one end of the pump head, it is the familiar Presta thread, which threads onto the valve core. On the other end, instead of a Schrader head, it has a M6 x 0.8 mm screw thread, which is the thread size on the OUTSIDE of the Presta valve.

On the Presta valve, there are two threads. The smaller one on the valve core, and the larger M6 x 0.8 mm thread at the bottom.

The purpose and idea of having this M6 x 0.8 mm thread is to allow the pump head to be screwed onto the Presta valve, with the valve core removed. This way, there is no valve core restricting the airflow through the valve.

On tubeless wheels, the Presta valve is just a valve attached to the rim hole, with no inner tube. Theoretically, with the valve core removed, and the M6 x 0.8 mm pump head side attached, it is possible to inflate and seat the tubeless tires, without the use of an air compressor or compressed air tank. I have not had a chance to test this out, but if this works, then there is no need to use my Schwalbe Tire Booster to seat tubeless tires any more.

Other pump heads that are included: The needle head for balls, and the yellow plastic head for balloons and other stuff.

Without a Schrader adapter, this also means that the gravel pump is not able to pump up inner tubes with Schrader valves, if you only have the stock pump head. In my case, it is not necessary, as all my bikes are using Presta valves.

However, I do have extra Lezyne pump heads (ABS 1), which is the usual Presta/Schrader reversible pump head. That fits nicely onto this Lezyne gravel pump as well, if I ever need to connect it to a Schrader valve.

Lezyne ABS 1 pump head, with a reversible Presta/Schrader design.

The internal profile depresses the recessed pin in the Schrader valve, which works differently from Presta valves.

Here is a nice summary showing the history of the different pump heads used by Lezyne. Ultimately the ABS 2 pump head used on my Steel Floor Drive has been discontinued, so only the ABS 1 Pro pump head (screw type) are now available.

Favourite Features of the Gravel Floor Drive:
1) Large dial with indicator lines at 1 PSI intervals, makes it easy to fine tune the air pressure for gravel tires.
2) ABS 1 Pro pump head is still preferred over the ABS 2 design, as it is easier to use.

I don't miss the extra pressure range of the old steel floor drive, as I don't need to pump over 100 PSI (except when I was using the narrow Schwalbe One 23-451 tires, where 120 PSI was recommended).

In all, I am happy with the Lezyne Sport Gravel Floor Drive, with the major advantage being the large pressure gauge and more precise tire pressure adjustment.