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.