Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Polygon Cozmic CX3.0 MTB - Mixed Shimano Groupset

Ever since I got the Polygon Cozmic CX3.0 MTB 2 years ago, I have upgraded quite a few of the components on the bike. I did not write about them as they are mostly minor changes, with only one component upgraded at a time.

With the latest crankset upgrade, I decided to summarise all the upgrades done so far and list them down. Some of them has significant performance improvements, while others are merely cosmetic or with no major improvements.

Fork: Rockshox Recon Silver Solo Air, 100mm travel

Original suspension front fork. Good and suitable for normal off road usage.

Original Crankset: Shimano Deore FC-M590-10, 170mm, 42-32-24T
New Crankset: Shimano Deore XT FC-M780, 170mm, 42-32-24T

Newly upgraded crankset. Biggest benefit is that it looks better!

Front Derailleur: Shimano Deore FD-M590-10

Good and trusty front derailleur, never misses a shift. No real need to upgrade it as it already performs so well.

Original Rear Derailleur: Shimano SLX RD-M670 SGS Shadow RD
New Rear Derailleur: Shimano SLX RD-M675 SGS Shadow Plus RD
* Adjusting the clutch tension on a Shadow Plus RD

Changed from the standard SLX RD to the SLX Shadow Plus RD with the clutch function for reduced chain noise.
Original Cassette: Shimano CS-HG62-10, 11-36T
New Cassette: Shimano Deore XT CS-M771-10, 11-34T

Deore XT cassette, 11-34T 

34T largest sprocket gives a low enough gearing for most terrain. 36T is usually used only on 29" bikes.

Original Chain: Shimano CN-HG54
New Chain: Shimano XTR CN-M980

XTR chain is highly rust resistant, similar to Dura-Ace chains.

Original Shifters: Shimano SLX SL-M670, 3x10 speeds. No gear display.
New Shifter: Shimano Deore XT Trekking SL-T780, 3x10 speeds. With gear display.

The trekking version of the Deore XT shifter has the nice and accurate Optical Gear Display (OGD), which I like.

Original Brakes: Shimano BL-M445, BR-M446
New Brakes: Shimano Deore BL-M615, BR-M615

Upgraded to 1 finger brake lever with Servo-Wave for more braking power 

Better braking power than the stock non-series brakes

Wheelset: Shimano WH-MT55

 Still using the original wheelset, WH-MT55

Using the basic level MTB wheelset, WH-MT55. Rather heavy, but quite indestructible.

Tires: Kenda Kharisma II, 26" x 2.10

Still using the original Kenda MTB tires. No problem with these tires so far. Lazy to get new tires to change.

Original Pedals: Crappy plastic pedals

New Pedals: Shimano Saint PD-MX80 pedals

Upgraded from the lousy stock pedals, to finally settle on this pair of large platform pedals. If it is good enough for downhill racing, it is definitely good enough for me.

From the stock components on the bike, most of the components has been upgraded for better performance. Currently there is a really good mix of components from all the different grades.

XTR: Chain
Saint: Pedals
Deore XT: Crankset, BB, shifters, cassette
SLX: Rear derailleur
Deore: Front derailleur, brakes

All these components are able to work well together as they are all 10 speed Dynasys systems, which means that they all share the same specifications with regards to function.

Final picture showing the entire bike. Weighs 12.5 kg without any accessories.

At 12.5 kg without any accessories, this hardtail MTB can be considered a little heavy. This is mainly contributed by the frame, wheelset and tires which are on the heavy side. The saddle, seatpost, and stem are also stock, which are of course not that lightweight. With an aggressive weight loss program, it seems possible to cut another 1 kg, but that would cost a lot.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Shimano Deore XT M780 Crankset

A quick upgrade post for my long neglected mountain bike! The Polygon Cozmic CX3.0 is a good value for money mid-range MTB that I got almost 2 years ago. With the recent year end sales on ChainReactionCycles, I found a good deal for a nice Shimano Deore XT crankset. This will go onto the MTB to replace the original Deore FC-M590-10 crankset.

The original Deore crankset actually works flawlessly, but I just wanted to refresh the image of the bike by upgrading the crankset. No real need to upgrade, but just itchy hands!

10 speed Dynasys Deore XT Crankset, FC-M780. Triple 42-32-24 teeth, 170mm length.

Same 42-32-24 teeth chainring sizes as the original Deore crankset. No need to reset the position of the front derailleur.

Steel inner chainring, steel+composite middle chainring and aluminium outer chainring. Lots of shifting ramps and pins on the chainrings for quick and reliable front shifting under load.

Deore XT left crankarm. Nice anodised surface finishing.

Common left crankarm as double cranksets, and even the trekking cranksets!

What's great about this CRC order is that it even comes with a new Hollowtech II MTB bottom bracket! And it is a high end SM-BB70 BB.

To see how many spacers to put under the bottom bracket, check out this post (right at the end).

How about the weight of the crankset? Comparing a Deore XT crankset to a Deore crankset, surely there must be some weight savings. Although weight savings is not the objective here, it would be good to know the weight for reference purposes.

XT FC-M780 right crankarm + chainrings, 552 grams.

XT left crankarm, 223 grams.

Together, the complete Deore XT FC-M780 crankset weighs 775 grams. This weighs about 100 grams more than the Ultegra 6800 crankset!

On the other hand, the stock Deore FC-M590 crankset weighs 844 grams. 

The old Deore crankset weighs about 70 grams more than the new Deore XT crankset. This difference is really small compared to the overall weight of the bike which is over 12kg. Therefore, upgrading the crankset from Deore to Deore XT is not an effective way to cut weight from the bike.

Brand new Deore XT crankset mounted on the MTB!

Overall view of the Polygon Cozmic CX3.0 with the new crankset. Looks pretty compatible!

Since I got this MTB 2 years ago, I have upgraded a few of the components, but did not really blog about them in detail. I shall write a summary of the changes that I made to this MTB, and compare the differences before and after the change. Look out for the comparison in an upcoming blog post!

Brief summary of the stock bike specifications:
Fork: Rockshox Recon Silver Solo Air, 100mm travel
Crankset: Shimano Deore FC-M590-10, 170mm, 42-32-24T
Front Derailleur: Shimano Deore FD-M590
Rear Derailleur: Shimano SLX RD-M670 SGS
Cassette: Shimano CS-HG62-10, 11-36T
Chain: Shimano CN-HG54
Shifters: Shimano SLX SL-M670
Brakes: Shimano BL-M445, BR-M446
Wheelset: Shimano MT55
Tires: Kenda Kharisma II, 26" x 2.10
Pedals: Crappy plastic pedals

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Difference between Ultegra 6800 and Shimano 105 5800 Brake Calipers

Have you ever wondered what are the differences between Shimano Dura-Ace, Shimano Ultegra and Shimano 105 components? How about the MTB components of XTR, Deore XT and SLX? Other than the prices, it is difficult for the layman to spot the differences between these top 3 grades of components.

Best in class, price is no object. Priority is lightweight and extreme performance. Lightweight and expensive materials such as titanium, carbon fiber and aluminium are used extensively throughout the components. Steel (which is heavier) is avoided unless absolutely necessary. Top quality surface treatment and finishing.

May not be the most durable, but none of the parts should rust under normal usage. It will have the most number of features, and will include breakthrough technologies and features. Recommended for competitive riders or for those who want only the best.

Ultegra/Deore XT:
Excellent function and performance, price is usually half of Dura-Ace/XTR. Priority is getting most of the features and performance of Dura-Ace/XTR, but at a lower cost of production. Lightweight is important too but not the main priority here. Titanium is usually not used due to high cost. Carbon fiber may be seen at certain areas, but in small quantities. Aluminium is used extensively due to high strength at a reasonable cost. Excellent surface treatment and finishing, but with lower cost than Dura-Ace/XTR.

Usually the most durable and most parts should be rust resistant. 80-90% of the features and performance of Dura-Ace/XTR, but at half the cost. Recommended for those who want the best but not willing to spend too much. Great for semi-pros or enthusiasts.

Shimano 105/SLX:
Previous generation's top end features can be found in this third tier components. Price is usually one-third of Dura-Ace/XTR. Not so many features as top end models, but a good selection of useful and most popular functions. Weight is not a priority here but remains a consideration. No titanium or carbon fiber can be found, but a good proportion of aluminium is used. Steel material replaces some of the aluminium/carbon parts found on higher end models.

Rust can be expected on some exposed steel parts after some time, although it will not affect performance. Some anodised and spray painted surface treatment and finishing. Usually is the best value for money, with 70-80% of the performance at one-third the cost. Recommended for amateurs or those looking for the most bang for the buck.

Shimano Tiagra/Sora/Deore/Alivio:
These mid range components are differentiated from the higher models mainly by the number of speeds and the price. Usually 1 or 2 speeds lesser than the top 3 tiers of components, and a lot cheaper too. Component construction is from the previous 1 or 2 generations of products, but updated with modern appearance.

Weight is not a consideration here, affordability is the key consideration. Sells in high quantity for mid range products and mass-market bikes. Parts are mostly made of resin composites and steel, with a few selected parts in aluminium. Surface treatment is usually spray painting, with anodising found occasionally. Usually found on bikes costing below $1500, and rarely as a complete groupset.

For me personally, I like to go for the Ultegra/Deore XT grade of components, as I get almost all of the performance of Dura-Ace/XTR without breaking the bank. For certain components such as the chain, I go for Dura-Ace/XTR grade for the superior rust resistance.

In a previous post, I had compared the differences between the Ultegra 6800 cassette and the Shimano 105 5800 cassette. Today, I will compare the Ultegra 6800 brake calipers with the Shimano 105 5800 brake calipers. Are the differences worth the price difference? Read through and decide for yourself!

Ultegra brake caliper on the left, in glossy grey finishing. Shimano 105 brake caliper on the right, with black spray paint. Both of them are the latest version with the cam mechanism for more braking power.

105 brake caliper has a pivot bolt exposed outside, while the Ultegra brake caliper has a recessed, smaller pivot bolt for a more refined look. Both have aluminium casted brake arms, but the Ultegra parts are anodised while the 105 parts are spray painted. 

Ultegra cable adjust bolt is made of resin composite for weight savings, while the 105 cable adjust bolt is the more common design, and is made of aluminium. I personally prefer the aluminium type due to less looseness.

Different pivot bolt design as seen on the left side of the brake calipers. The Ultegra pivot is recessed, while the 105 pivot design is a nut screwed on externally onto the axle.

The Ultegra brake caliper has an extra adjustment bolt to adjust the tension of the return spring, while the 105 brake caliper does not. This bolt (with green threadlock) can be seen just above the spring on the Ultegra brake caliper.

Similar cable fixing points and quick release designs, but they seem to be made of different materials.

Same brake pads are used, but the brake pad holder has a slightly different design. Also, the Ultegra brake pad holder is anodised, while the 105 brake pad holder is spray painted.

Weight of the Shimano 105 brake calipers, at 389 grams.

Weight of the Ultegra brake calipers, at 341 grams. 48 grams lighter than the 105 brake calipers.

Using these brake calipers as a case study, we can see how the Ultegra brake calipers are differentiated from the Shimano 105 brake calipers. By the use of some steel parts instead of aluminium in the 105 brake calipers, the 105 brake calipers weigh more.

Also, the surface treatment is different, as the Ultegra brake calipers uses the better anodising treatment as compared to spray painting for the 105 brake calipers. The spring tension of the Ultegra brake calipers are also adjustable, while the spring tension for the 105 brake calipers are not. Appearance wise, the Ultegra brake calipers look more refined with the use of more recessed bolts and nuts that costs more to produce.

You will find that this concept applies to most of the components in the groupset, such as the shifters, rear derailleur or front derailleur. The performance of Ultegra and 105 are quite similar, with the Ultegra components having the advantage in poor riding conditions.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Merida Scultura 5000: Lightweight Performance with Ultegra Groupset

After many rounds of upgrading, my Merida Scultura 5000 road bike has been fully upgraded! Many of the parts and components have been upgraded to Ultegra or Dura-Ace level. Here is a summary of the upgrades and the differences. The weight savings and cost of the upgrade have also been included wherever appropriate.

Original: Shimano 105 5800 11 Speed 11-28T Cassette
New: Shimano Ultegra 6800 11 Speed 11-28T Cassette
Weight Savings: 28 grams
Cost: ~$60 from CRC

This was one of the first upgrades that I did on my Merida road bike. Performance wise, there is no noticeable difference in shifting quality. However, the Ultegra cassette is lighter by a bit. For more details please refer to the blog post.

Shimano Ultegra 6800 11 Speed 11-28T Cassette

Parts of the Ultegra 6800 cassette

Bottom Bracket:
Original: Shimano Tiagra 4600 Hollowtech II BB
New: Shimano Dura-Ace 9000 Hollowtech II BB
Weight Savings: 26 grams
Cost: ~$40 from CRC

This is one of the components where I decided to get Dura-Ace level, since it is still affordable. It is smoother than the original BB, giving a slight performance improvement. More details and pictures at the blog post.

Shimano Dura-Ace 9000 Hollowtech II BB

Smaller Dura-Ace 9000 BB

Original: Shimano 105 5800 11 Speed Chain
New: Shimano Dura-Ace 9000 11 Speed chain
Weight Savings: Unknown, did not measure
Cost: $50 from CRC

All my bikes use Dura-Ace chains, either of the 10 speed 7900 series or 11 speed 9000 series. This is because they are affordable and are fully nickel plated for good rust resistance. Major advantage over the Shimano 105 chain is rust resistance.

Shimano Dura-Ace 9000 11 Speed chain

Dura-Ace 9000 11 speed chain

Original: Shimano Non Series FC-RS500 11 Speed 50/34T Crankset
New: Shimano Ultegra 6800 11 Speed 50/34T Crankset
Weight Savings: 119 grams
Cost: $220 from CRC

This is a major upgrade as this is a relatively expensive part to upgrade. There is also quite a bit of weight savings to be gained here, along with the improved appearance of the 4 arm crankset. Crankarm stiffness has been improved compared to the original crankset. Lots more pictures and comparisons at the blog post.

Shimano Ultegra 6800 11 Speed 50/34T Crankset

Shimano Ultegra 6800 Crankset

Brake Calipers:
Original: Merida Pro Brake Calipers
New: Shimano Ultegra 6800 Brake Calipers
Weight Difference: Heavier by 11 grams
Cost: $130 from CRC

This upgrade made a lot of difference to the braking feel of this bike. Along with the polymer brake cables and SwissStop brake pads, the braking performance has been greatly improved, along with the smoothness of the braking action. Although there is a slight weight penalty, it is definitely worth it due to the greatly improved braking power. Read the original blog post for all the improvements that you can make to your brakes.

Shimano Ultegra 6800 Brake Calipers

Ultegra 6800 Brake Calipers

Original: Merida Comp 24 Wheelset
New: Shimano Ultegra 6800 11 Speed Wheelset
Weight Savings: 480 grams
Cost: $380 from CRC

The most significant part of this upgrade is the huge difference in weight. 480 grams has been saved just by changing the stock wheelset to this affordable Ultegra wheelset. Acceleration has also improved with the use of this relatively lightweight wheelset. Find out the differences between the original and new wheelset at the other blog post.

Shimano Ultegra 6800 11 Speed Wheelset

Comparing the differences between the old and new wheels

Original: Continental Ultra Sport Tires, 23x700C
New: Schwalbe One Tires, 25x700C
Weight Savings: 12 grams for the pair
Cost: USD 80/pair from Wiggle

With the switch from 23C to 25C tires, and a lower tire pressure, the comfort of the bike has improved without compromising the speed. Ride feeling is good and the bike rolls really well.

Schwalbe One Tires, 25x700C

Schwalbe One tires

Original: Merida Race 1 Saddle
New: Selle Italia SLR Kit Carbonio Flow Saddle
Weight Savings: 215 grams
Cost: USD 180 from Wiggle

This is also a costly upgrade, but it is really worth it. Not only is the saddle a lot lighter than the original Merida saddle, it is also more comfortable! A saddle that is slim and fits the image of this road bike well.

Selle Italia SLR Kit Carbonio Flow Saddle

Lightweight saddle

Blue bottle cages, blue cable end caps, blue valve caps and some other miscellaneous stuff.

These other upgrades are merely for aesthetic purposes and do not improve the performance or reduce weight from the bike. However, they do make the bike look more unique and in my opinion, also makes the bike look better!

Blue valve caps

Blue cable end caps 

Matching blue bottle cages and Fizik seatpost ring

With all the upgrades completed, I now have a full Ultegra groupset on the Merida road bike! A full groupset usually excludes the wheelset, but I went all the way and also changed to an Ultegra wheelset. Here are some pictures showing the full Ultegra groupset on the bike. Some parts such as the BB and chain are from the Dura-Ace series which is even better.

Ultegra shifters, brake calipers and wheelset

Ultegra crankset, FD, RD and cassette. Dura-Ace BB and chain.

Let's take a look at the total cost of upgrading to full Ultegra groupset (excluding wheelset), and also the total weight savings of all these upgrades.

Total cost of Ultegra/Dura-Ace groupset upgrade: $500
(Crankset, brake calipers, cassette, BB, chain)

Original bike cost is $2356. After adding the $500 for the groupset, and deducting a bit for selling off some of the original components, the cost of the bike with full Ultegra/Dura-Ace groupset is about $2800.

Inclusive of the Ultegra wheelset and Schwalbe One tires, this cost rises to about $3300. If the Selle Italia saddle is also included, the total cost would be $3500. This value is comparable to the bikes that are available at the shops, so it is still worth it to upgrade all these parts on my own. Note that I did not sell off the original crankset or wheelset, so it will actually cost less if I recoup some of the costs from selling them off.

If anyone knows a bike model/brand that has a better component spec for the same cost (or same spec for lower cost), please let me know! I would be interested to know which bike brand it is that can offer such good value for money. I suspect that Polygon would be one of them...

Next, let's total up the weight savings from all these upgrades.

Total weight savings for all upgrades mentioned above: 869 grams

This is a large amount of weight savings, with the majority of it coming from the wheelset. If you are willing to spend more, you could easily reduce the wheelset weight by another 300 grams.

Stock bike inclusive of PD-A530 pedals: 8.6+ kg
Stock bike with no pedals: 8.2+ kg

Upgraded bike inclusive of PD-A530 pedals: 7.8 kg
Upgraded bike with no pedals: 7.4 kg

After reducing over 800 grams from this bike, it is now quite lightweight! Even including the relatively heavy pedals, the bare bike (with no accessories) weighs only 7.8 kg.

Most bike weights that are claimed by the manufacturers exclude the weight of the pedals, and if you want to compare the weights, use the weight that excludes the pedals. If the pedal weight is excluded, this is a lightweight 7.4 kg road bike with excellent component specs that is a relative bargain at $3500.

If the components are upgraded to full Dura-Ace, it will be possible to lose another 200+ grams. An even lighter wheelset will cut another 300 grams. A lightweight carbon handlebar and stem will save another 100 grams. A lightweight set of road pedals can cut another 100+ grams.This will put the bike just above the UCI weight limit of 6.8 kg, which is pretty impressive.

In any case, I am now very happy with this road bike, with the improved performance coming from the upgraded components.