Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Canyon Endurace: Exploring the Gravel Routes

With the Canyon Endurace gravel bike fully assembled, it is time to go around riding the different gravel routes! There are many different types of off-road tracks, not just gravel. Even dirt tracks and easy MTB single track trails are possible.

Riding a short but fun gravel trail. Shown here is the DT Swiss G 1800 gravel wheelset.

Terrain here is gravel embedded in a hard dirt trail, with some loose sand on top.

With gravel tires at the appropriate low pressure, it is easy to ride fast on this trail.

A thicker layer of loose gravel can be found at certain parts of the trail. I find that a tire pressure of 32 PSI (front) and 38 PSI (rear) works well for me.

Super scenic shot with a great composition of colours!

This is a great place for taking beautiful pictures!

Here is another type of gravel, which is completely loose and goes quite deep.

Even though the GravelKing SK 700x35c tires are wide, the treads are not deep enough to cut through the gravel to find traction, and it will slide around on the surface.

Picture perfect gravel trail, completely deserted at this time of the day.

If not for the high rise buildings seen in the background, you would never guess that this location is in the middle of the city.

Where does this road lead you to?

These tires are not really suitable for riding in thick, loose gravel, but it is still manageable.

Venturing off-shore for more gravel action! 

Going to the nearby island for some natural trails and some off-road tracks, completely free of vehicles.

Some stretches consists of hard-packed dirt tracks which can even be ridden with normal road tires.  

Some sections of the trail are more muddy, but still manageable even with these tires. 

Full gravel setup, with a frame bag and a water bottle with cap.

It is really fun to ride off-road with a gravel bike, instead of using a normal mountain bike. It makes easy trails a bit more challenging, while the lower weight of the gravel bike makes climbing easier. When you transit to well-paved roads, you can ride really fast and smoothly like on a road bike.

Of course, there are limitations as to what a gravel bike can do, especially if the off-road sections are more technical. In that case, a proper MTB would be more suitable.

That said, I would like to use an even wider tire for a gravel bike, which is why I will be changing to a new frame that can accommodate wider tires. The Canyon Endurace is a great bike, and it has allowed me to try out gravel riding. Now, it is time for it to give way to a new bike.

Before disassembling the bike, I removed all the extra accessories from the bike, such as the bottle cages, lights, and etc. 

This gravel setup weighs 8 kg, which is a decent weight for a gravel bike, although it can be even lighter by about 400 grams if a carbon gravel wheelset is used.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Canyon Endurace: Gravel Setup

With all the gravel components installed, it is now time to make sure that everything fits and works well. The critical issue here is to ensure that there is sufficient tire clearance with the Canyon Endurace frame, so that the wheel can spin smoothly.

As previously checked, there is plenty of clearance when using the Continental GP4000 tires, which have an actual width of 32 mm. The area with tightest clearance is in between the chain stays.

These Panaracer GravelKing 700x32C tires have an actual width of 35 mm when mounted on the DT Swiss G 1800 gravel wheels, with an internal rim width of 24 mm. On most other road bike frames, it is impossible to fit a 35 mm wide tire, but this Canyon Endurace is special as it has a rather generous tire clearance, considering that it is not a gravel frame. Let's see how much tire clearance there is when this gravel wheelset is installed!

Barely enough clearance between the 35 mm wide tire and the chain stays. About 2.5 mm of clearance on each side.

Another view of the tire clearance. This is probably the minimum amount that is allowable, in terms of clearance.

Slightly more clearance around the tire circumference. There is a ledge behind the seat tube that tends to collect dirt.

Generous clearance around the seat stays area. A very good reason to use disc brakes instead of caliper brakes.

Still a generous 4-5 mm of clearance around the front tire, which is really nice to see.

With this, we can conclude that there is no issue with tire clearance! It is possible to run 35 mm wide (actual width) gravel tires on the 2017 Canyon Endurace CF SLX frame (Size XS).

Comparing the road front wheel with the gravel front wheel. Wheel diameter is almost the same.

Weight of Reynolds carbon front wheel with RT900 rotor is 1270 grams.

Weight of DT Swiss G 1800 front wheel with MT800 rotor is 1453 grams. Almost 200 grams more.

Comparing the road rear wheel with the gravel rear wheel.

Weight of Reynolds carbon rear wheel with Dura-Ace 11-30T cassette and RT900 rotor is 1595 grams. 

Weight of DT Swiss G 1800 rear wheel with HG800 11-34T cassette and MT800 rotor weighs 1960 grams, 300+ grams heavier than the road rear wheel.

Weight of Road Wheelset: 1270 + 1595 = 2865 grams
Weight of Gravel Wheelset: 1453 + 1960 = 3413 grams

Based on this weight comparison, the gravel wheelset will add about 550 grams to the weight of the bike, compared to the carbon road wheels setup. This is quite normal, but it can actually be reduced if I used a lighter carbon gravel wheelset.

The next item to improve would be the ease of swapping the wheelsets. As mentioned earlier during this gravel bike conversion project, my objective is to enable the bike to be converted between a road bike and a gravel bike, simply by swapping the wheelset. No adjustment would be needed to the GRX rear derailleur or any other component.

The 12 mm E-Thru axles that come with the Canyon Endurace have a detachable lever. There is only one lever which is shared between the front and rear axles. If you really want to save weight, you can detach the lever completely and leave it at home.

In my case, since I want to make it easy to swap the wheelsets, I will need to have a lever on each of the front and rear axles. This will make it much faster to loosen and tighten the axles, as I don't need to move the lever around. The lever also attaches quite tightly to the axles, which makes it difficult to remove easily.

Therefore, the solution is to buy one more lever, so that both the front and rear axles have a lever attached permanently. Based on my comparison, the lever used on the Canyon Endurace is based closely on the DT Swiss design, but with a different appearance. The attachment point has the same 6 mm hexagon head.

Just to confirm this hypothesis, I took the DT Swiss thru axle lever from the Fabike C3, and tried it on the Canyon Endurace thru axle. It fits perfectly!

New DT Swiss lever on top, original Canyon lever at the bottom. Appearance is quite different.

The 6 mm hexagon bit is the same, with a rubber O-ring to keep it snug inside the thru axle.

Design is the same, and is probably licensed from DT Swiss.

The levers work the same way. The angle of the lever can be adjusted by pulling out the lever and setting it on another notch on the splines.

Lever attached to the rear thru axle. Each lever adds about 30 grams of weight, but it is worth it for the time it saves when swapping the wheelsets.

New DT Swiss lever attached to the front thru axle.

With this, the gravel bike project is completed successfully! I can swap the wheelsets in less than 1 minute, taking my time to align them carefully and also making sure that the cassette meshes with the chain properly. No other adjustment is needed, making it really quick and easy to transform the bike for different rides.

Updated bike weight with these modifications. Mainly from addition of thru axle lever, GRX rear derailleur, slightly longer chain. This is for road bike setup. 

This is the additional weight when converting from road to gravel setup. Adds 500+ grams, giving a gravel bike weight of about 7.6 kg without pedals, and almost 8 kg with pedals.

Gravel wheelset installed

All ready for some gravel rides!

Added a frame bag and a water bottle with cap, to complete the gravel setup.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Canyon Endurace: Deore XT MT800 Disc Brake Rotors

As I have a second gravel wheelset for gravel riding, this second wheelset also needs to have its own tires, cassette and brake rotors. By having a completely separate set, it is easy and convenient to swap the wheelsets, without adjusting any other components.

The final pieces of the puzzle are the brake rotors, where I decided to get something different. On the Reynolds road wheelset and Fabike C3, I used the Dura-Ace RT900 Ice-Tech rotors, which look really good on road bikes.

However, on this gravel wheelset, I decided to change the image, to make it look more like an off-road wheelset. That is why I decided to use the MTB disc brake rotors, which has quite a different appearance.

I could have chosen the XTR MT900 rotors, but the black cooling fins would make it look too much like the Dura-Ace RT900 rotors. Therefore, I chose the Deore XT MT800 rotors instead, which looks exactly the same as the XTR, except that the cooling fins are silver coloured (raw finish) instead of black colour.

Deore XT MT800 disc brake rotor, with a diameter of 160 mm. As you can see, the appearance is quite different from the RT900 or RT800 rotors.

Rear of the aluminium 4 arm spider is hollowed out to save weight.

Close up look at the cooling fin and cutouts.

160 mm rotor weighs 106 grams without lock ring.

160 mm rotor plus lock ring weighs 114 grams, which is actually quite a bit lighter than the RT900 (125 grams) and RT800 (133 grams) rotors.

I will be using two of these MT800 rotors, for the front and rear of the Canyon Endurace.

Appearance comparison between Ultegra RT800 (left) and Deore XT MT800 (right) rotors.

The design of the aluminium 4 arm spider, cooling fins and cutouts are quite different.

One potential problem with swapping wheelsets on the same bike is that the disc rotor position might not be exactly the same on the two wheelsets. This means that even if you set the brake pads to have clearance with the brake rotor on one wheelset, the brake pads may touch the rotor on the second wheelset.

If this is the case, the rotor position on one of the wheelsets should be adjusted, so that they are exactly the same, to ensure no brake pad touching for both wheelsets. For this purpose, I found that there are Centerlock rotor shims, which can be used to adjust the position of the rotor outwards.

Each of this shim has a thickness of 0.25 mm, which should be thin enough to offset the rotor properly. If the shims are thinner, it might break or buckle too easily. If you need more offset, just stack the shims, but ensure that there is sufficient lock ring thread engagement and also spline engagement.

Silver shim of 0.25 mm thickness can be seen just behind the Centerlock splines. The shim has a split end to allow it to fit over the splines.

The shim will rest between the hub and the rotor, to push the rotor outwards by 0.25 mm.

The shim can only be used to offset the rotor position outwards, therefore if any adjustment needs to be done, the shim needs to be installed on the wheelset which has the rotor at the more inward position.

Luckily for me, the rotor positions were equal on both wheelsets that I didn't need to use the shims at all. Swapping the wheelsets and tightening the thru axles did not cause the rotor to rub on the brake pads, which is really awesome.

MT800 rotors installed on the DT Swiss G 1800 wheelset!

MT800 rotor on the front wheel

Looks pretty good in my opinion!

Rear rotor is also 160 mm in diameter, same as the front rotor.

The gravel setup is complete! With 11-34T cassette, MT800 rotors and GRX rear derailleur.

I am pleased with the MT800 rotors as no adjustments were needed at all, when swapping between the road and gravel wheelsets. The rotors also matches the gravel wheelset and bike setup for a good appearance. Finally, these MT800 rotors are even more lightweight than the Dura-Ace RT900 and Ultegra MT800 rotors! For ultimate weight weenies, a smaller 140 mm diameter MT800 rotor will save even more weight.