Category Archives: tech

TCR Advanced Pro Disc with Farsports 58mm wheels

Having picked up a lovely new 2017 TCR Advanced Pro Disc from my favourite bike dealer Giant Brisbane while on holidays, the new bike has fast become my favourite ride.  Blessed with an incredible immediacy the TCR frame is truly addictive and a completely different ride to my previous bike the Giant Propel.  I am not alone in loving the new bike, see the video below.

But the Propel has a distinct aero advantage to the TCR, especially above 35kph, which I suspect is 90% down to the Giant SLR 0 aero wheels.  The TCR Disc comes as standard with Giant SLR Disc 30mm WheelSystem and Gavia SLR tubeless tires, that looked the part, but did not seem to have the inertia I was used to from the Propel’s wheels.  There are plenty of articles on the benefits of aero wheels, but nice summary of the differences here.

So, of course, the inevitable search for new wheels took place.  The first port of call on the interweb was Farsports, who I have bought several sets of wheels from in the last couple of years for various friends bikes, including our project Orange TCR.  In the interests of research I did look at many other companies that supply Carbon Clinchers, but I could not find anything that came close to Farsports wide variety, competitive prices and with a quality I could trust.

The received wisdom these days is that wider rims are better, so I had decided that I wanted 58mm deep by 28mm wide rims.  Darren had purchased these for his TCR Advanced Pro 1 last year and really loved the way the wider rims handled sidewinds and how nicely 25mm Continental GP4000s tyres fitted the rims, from an aero point of view.

While I have had great success with Novatec hubs on other Farsports wheels, I decided to treat myself to a set of DT Swiss 240, 12mm Thru axle hubs, as I plan to keep the wheels for a while and these hubs are generally regarded as the gold standard for weight, reliability and quality.  Finally I decided I wanted 24 spoke wheels, as I am not too heavy and the wheels will be mostly used on Dubai’s smooth road and tracks.

However, Farsports comprehensive wheel option selections did not have the mix of rim, hub and spoke count that I was looking for, so a quick email to Sandy in sales was dashed off with the desired spec. Within the hour a very reasonable quote arrived in my inbox, even giving me a decent bit of discount for being a previous customer.

After the usual 20 day wait for the wheels to arrive from China, they finally pitched up in Dubai.  After unpacking, a quick inspection showed that the order was exactly what I had hoped for, quality of finish, trueness and general appearance were all perfect.  Much as I have come to expect from Farsports.  The rims measured up as nearly 30mm at their widest and an internal width of 20mm, which is excellent for the new generation of wider tyres.  Being disc braked the TCR can pretty well fit any tyre up to 32mm between the stays, as there are no brake calipers to foul.

I was curious to see what the difference in weight would be from the Giant 30mm, carbon climbing wheels and the Farsports 58mm Aero wheels would be, so I decided I would measure the total wheel package, with tyres and tubes, as well as the total difference in bike weight.  Firstly I weighed the wheels as they came out of the box, with the front being 720g and the rear 820g, making a total weight of 1540g, which is very decent indeed.

Farsports wheel disc hub

Farsports wheels

The bike weight with stock wheels, Ultegra pedals, plastic bottle cages, Stages power meter and Garmin holder came out at a very decent 7.97kg

A new set of centerlock 140mm Shimano SM-RT 81 discs were married up to the new wheels, rim tapes, tubes and the obligatory Conti tyres were all fitted in short order.

Fitted with the new wheels and tyres, the bike weighed in at 8.04kg or a whole 70g heavier.  I was truly surprised as wheel sets generally become 130g heavier for every cm added to (a wheel pair’s) rim depth, so I was expecting at least a 300g increase in weight.

Interestingly there was a noticeable difference in rear hub performance compared with the Giant rear hub, which for some reason on the TCR Disc are not that “spin-able” and appear to have a little bit more stiction than rear hubs normally have.  The new DT Swiss hubs spin up much easier on the work stand and take a lot longer to slow down.

Here is the TCR with the new Farsports 58mm wheels all fitted, ready to go (yes the handlebars need rotated down)

TCR Advanced Disc with Farsports wheels

Out on the road, the first ride revealed all the benefits I could have hoped for and more.  At speeds around 40kph the wheels seemed to have an inertia of their own, especially in a bunch.  Whereas the 30mm stock wheels always seemed to want to slow down, it’s hard to explain and a very subjective thing, but the new wheels are simply faster.

In breezy and gusty conditions, the Farsports wheels seem to be much more stable than the narrower (23mm) Giant Aero SLR 0 aero wheels that I had on the Propel.  Again subjective, but I put this down to the wider rim, better aerodynamics and the more modern toroidal shape.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was that the TCR Disc has lost none of it’s immediacy and agility with the deeper rims, I kind of expected that to happen, but thankfully not.  All in all very happy with the new wheels, the problem I have now is a redundant set of Giant climbing wheels.  After all what’s the point in changing wheels for the hills to save 70g of weight ?

Propel summer service

sara

Sara’s Giant Propel Advanced Pro 1 is just over 9 months old and having been regularly ridden throughout that period, it was time for a full service in preparation for the looming summer.

Dubai can be hard on bikes as the hot dusty climate creates a perfect storm of conditions to allow grease to gradually disappear and grit to get in to components, joints and bearings.  Ideally your bike should be continually looked at and kept on top of, but what kind of sad, feckless waster has time for that?

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The easy option of course is to drop it in at one of the Local Bike Shops (LBS) who will do it all for you for a small (or not) fee.  However doing a full service on your own bike is well within the scope of the home mechanic or enthusiastic amateur.  Remarkably few special tools are required and the ones I used added up to about 200aed in total.

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Basic tools needed for a bike service

OK, there is no doubt a Troque wrench is ideal for all work on a bike, especially Carbon Fibre components, but if you have a little mechanical feel you can get away without one.  Saying that at 150aed from Wiggle they are not exactly expensive.

amateurs-over-tighten

First order of the day was to clean the chain, it seems obvious, but working on a bike after the chain has been cleaned is much nicer.  I generally just use some petrol from a jerry can I have sitting around to get the bulk of the crap off the chain, then use de-greaser and a chain cleaning tool to finish off.

Once the chain was reasonably clean, time to strip the bike down to the bare frame, removing all the components that need servicing.  Wheels, forks, head-set, crank, chain-set, seat-post and brakes were all removed for inspection, cleaning and lubing.

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Stripped down Propel

A quick inspection once stripped down revealed no obvious nasties, but lots of sand and grit everywhere.  One area that I have seen a few problems recently on bikes, is the head bearings that support the steerer tube, especially the lower bearing.  Gravity and heat have their way with this bearing and evidence of the grease leaching out can be seen on many bikes after even a short ride in the heat.

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Stains below the bottom head bearing indicate gradual leaching of grease

Over time this bearing can dry out and steering can become quite knotchy or loose, often resulting in the need for new bearings.  Thankfully Sara’s still had plenty of grease, even if the surrounding area was pretty dirty.

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Looks worse than it is, all the sand and grit is outside the bearing area

Bearing removal and cleaning is a matter of using your fingers to remove bearing from the cup, cleaning the bearings and cups with a rag and then re-greasing them.  This is really a 15 minute job with the only tool required being a 4mm Allen key.

Onwards to the depth’s of the Bottom Bracket (BB).  Until you pull yours apart you probably think this is something mysterious and complicated, but it is really not.  There is only one special tool required to remove a Shimano front crank and chain-set, this being is a bung plug socket, apart from that all you need is a 5mm Allen key

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Shimano crank bung removal tool

Once stripped of the crank and chainset, you can see that the bottom bracket bearing seals have done a great job in keeping the dust and sand out of the bearings, just as well, as replacing bearings especially in a press fit BB like the Propel is a bit of a bigger job.  So with no evident wear or damage, clean and lube, once again order of the day.

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Grit and sand outside BB area

Chain rings and crank were also checked and cleaned, with no significant wear, as you would expect on a relatively new bike.

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Ultegra crank and chain-set

Onwards to the rear dérailleur, which was partially disassembled for servicing.  The jockey wheels on the rear dérailleur are worth taking apart, as they often get cluttered up with rag threads from chain cleaning and coated with old chain lube.

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Sara’s were pretty clean and in good nick, soA quick clean and lube of the ceramic bearings on the jockey wheels with some Teflon chain lube was all that was required.

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Lubing ceramic bearings on jockey wheels

Next to the wheels and cassette.  Removing the rear cassette on a bike requires two fairly cheap special tools, a chain whip to hold the cassette and a special cassette socket to undo the centre retaining nut.  Possibly the best investment for a road cyclist tool-wise, as this enables you to swap cassettes in a matter of minutes.  Useful if you plan to stray from the flatlands of Al Qudra to something more challenging like Jebel Jais.

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Ultegra cassette, a little wear, but generally OK

To the uninitiated a disassembled Ultegra cassette looks like a complicated thing, but Shimano has made them virtually impossible to assemble in the wrong way, at least if you have your eyes open that is.  Simply put if it looks right, then you have done it right.  Sara’s cassette had a bit of wear, but considering the mileage she has done in 9 months, well within what is expected.  Her chain had been recently replaced, so that required nothing more than a re-lube.

Wheel bearings were inspected and required nothing but a dab of grease and a clean.  The freehub was removed from the rear wheel, as it was starting to get a little noisy.  The Giant wheels on the Propel have a free hub made by DT Swiss, a quick clean, grease and reassembly made things much quieter and noticeably smoother.

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Free hub ratchets, clean and lube with a little grease

All shifting and brake cables were inspected and found to be in good working order. A squirt of Teflon spray was put down the J tubes on the brake fittings, as these areas are prone to ingress of sweat and can corrode the cables, especially on the rear brake.

The final thing to service on the Propel is the Aero SL brakes which are made by TRP.  This is one of the reasons I suggested the service to Sara, as if Propels have one weak spot, it is the bearings on the Speed Control SL brakes.  These need regular servicing, as with heat and sweat the Cadmium plated bearing caliper pivot can seize up and is an utter bu**er to disassemble when it has seized.

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The way to identify if you have a problem with these brakes, is if there is any stiction or drag, when they are meant to spring back from the rim.  If you find yourself adjusting the spring tension on one side to balance the gap, then you may also have a problem.

The Propels brakes are fantastic in use and must save at least 3 watts by their Aero design, which as we all knows really matters, especially if you have a pathetic little engine like me! Relatively easy to take apart, it is a 20 minute job to do all 4 brakes, only tool required a 5mm Allen Key.  Simply put if these brakes are serviced regularly, say every 6 months, there is no issue.

Disassembled Giant Propel Speed Control SL brakes
Disassembled Giant Propel Speed Control SL brakes

Sara’s rear left pivot showed a little wear on the plating, but nothing a smear of grease couldn’t fix

Plating on bearing pivot
Plating on bearing pivot

Most Ultegra group-set bikes won’t feature the above brakes and with “normal” Ultegra calipers their is less of an issue.  But the old adage stands, five minutes of maintenance can save hundreds of dollars, lots of time, and tons of heartache.

The rest of the service, was a matter of cleaning, checking and lubing as appropriate.  Total time taken was just over 2 hours, probably less time than it would take me to drive to the LBS to deposit, then return to pick up the bike, way more fun and considerably less expensive.

Remember YouTube has instructions on every single facet of bike servicing, you are not alone, who needs phone a friend, when you can watch a video.  Go on have a go, service your own bike, you know it makes sense.

Crank