The Golden Wrench

A blog about bicycle repair and maintenance by the mechanics at Freewheel Bike.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

No, Tyson. THIS Makes You Go Faster.

Recently we got to fiddle around with a bike decorated with Sram's new XX group, which is supposed to give the legendary XTR a run for its money in terms of light weight, performance, and getting your bike stolen quickly. From direct observations of both groups, it looks like it's going to be a war. Being an ambassador for the bike industry, I am adopting the stance of Switzerland in this skirmish: I prefer one, but cannot afford either, and therefore will referee the debate and poke fun at both groups as evenly as I can, in light of the above limitations.

In the little bit of fiddling I did on the XX bike, I noticed something right away. See if you can guess what it is from the following picture:

If you guessed, "It slants the wood grain of your workbench about 45 degrees to the widdershins!" you would be incorrect: the direction of the rotation is clockwise. Actually, the correct answer is that everything uses Torx bolts (hence the green Park folding tool). This is a thoughtful feature because all the fasteners on XX are made of titanium, aluminum, Gorgonzola, black pepper, fresh basil, capers, pine nuts, and balsamic vinegar. Torx is one of those great innovations that is just now catching on as people realize that Allen bolts tend to round out rather easily if you're a stout yeoman with an elitist disdain for torque specs. It was designed to NOT deform or cam out under pressure, unlike the venerable Phillips head, so it's a great choice for lightweight fasteners.

Another observation: That cassette looks awfully fragile.

Here's a better picture of it on the SRAM site. Yep, it's pretty much hollow. It looks like it could dent or deform rather easily, and since 8 of 10 gears are machined from one tender-me-hunka-burnin' steel, wear and tear in the typical gear ranges will be an expensive proposition.

On the other hand, if you're a fan of minimalist clamps cluttering your handlebars, you'll like this:

One clamp around the handlebar gives you brake, fork lockout switch, and shifter. Remember when 31.8 handlebars first came out and you wanted to put a brake lever, fork lockout switch, and shifter all on the same side of the bar? There wasn't quite enough room for all that plus your computer, HRM, bell, commuting light, and Sumo-Guy horn. You fought it for days and ended up cutting your grips down to 2" so it would all fit, didn't you? And that's when you started on those gray hairs. Been there. SRAM has done us all a favor in streamlining the mounting system. "But," they reasoned, "why stop here? We could put lots more stuff on the handlebars since we saved so much room!" SRAM has plans for that extra handlebar room: XX accessories rumored to be on the drawing board for next year may include a searchlight, Sidewinder missiles, aero bars, an abacus, and wind chimes. It's all rumors until Interbike, as they say.

We certainly don't want to be prognosticators of certain doom and gloom, but this was kinda weird:

Hopefully this was an anomaly. Hopefully this is not a precedent. Hopefully the owner was mistaken when he vouchsafed that "Oh yes, everything was torqued properly and working as smooth as a Maytag brand dishwasher with very low actual miles!" Especially since this particular owner may or may not be slightly the SRAM rep. That may or may not be some sort of rumor, and he may or may not have mildly bragged up the front shifting before handing me a bike with a whacked front derailleur.

What's the big deal? If the front derailleur WAS tightened to its torque spec, and the clamp has sharp edges (which it does)...

It may dig through the clear coat on your carbon frame if it slips. We'll keep an eye on it.

In short: XX is feather-light, engineered to the hilt, full of practical genius, and of questionable durability. We like what we see from the shop perspective for no-compromise race bikes. It's easy to adjust, intuitive, and well-engineered. Will it dethrone XTR? Why not have two thrones?

Be the first person to answer the following trivia questions and win a Park Tool TWS-2.
What is the generic name for TORX?
What is the typical torque range in Newton Meters for a TORX T-25 fastener?
Send your answers to

2/10/10 6:59pm, We have a winner. The answers are "Hexalobuler Internal Driving Feature" from here, and "15.9NM - 19NM" from here. Thanks for playing.

Here's thw trivia winner, Phil, with his new TWS-2 TORX multi-wrench. Thanks for playing Phil.