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by James Huang
March 3, 2016
March has barely begun and yet the trade show season is already in full swing. U.S. technical editor James Huang is at the Taipei Cycle Show checking out new products and upcoming trends from the heart of the industry’s manufacturing sector.
SwiftCarbon has expanded its Ultravox range of carbon road frames with two new variants: the disc brake-compatible DSQ and a new ultralight SSL.
The new Ultravox DSQ is the more heavily modified of the two with the same front triangle and geometry as the Ultravox TI but a completely new rear triangle and dedicated fork, both with 12mm thru-axles and flat-mount disc brake callipers sized for 140mm or 160mm rotors. Omitting the rim brake mounts has created enough space around the fork crown and seatstays for tires up to 30mm-wide.
“We wanted the Ultravox to be the first of our road frames to take discs because that is our mascot bike in a way,” SwiftCarbon marketing and communications head Neil Gardiner told CyclingTips from the company’s headquarters in South Africa. “Personally, living here where the weather is great, I have never wanted for road discs. However, I did a gran fondo in which it rained heavily on a descent and the side of the road was littered with riders, either pumping their tyres or writhing in agony. Then the advantages were pretty clear.”
One of the more interesting design aspects of the new Ultravox DSQ is the bike’s thru-axle hardware, which uses interchangeable end caps that will work with a variety of different axles.
“A big stumbling block for us was a format decision,” Gardiner said. “As a small brand, we thought it prudent to wait until a clear direction appeared. Then I guess we got impatient and made a frame that could accommodate different formats. Our guy, Rene Baretta, designed an interchangeable threaded end cap system that is compatible with SRAM Maxle and Maxle Ultimate, and Shimano axles.”
Claimed frame weight is just over 900g.
Meanwhile, the feathery SSL — the first to bear SwiftCarbon’s new premium ‘S/LAB’ designation — carries on with the same external shape as the current TI model but a partnership with composites specialist TeXtreme brings the target weight down below 800g. Despite the 80g decrease relative to the TI, SwiftCarbon claims the upgraded fibre content increases measured frame stiffness by 25%, a combination that should appeal to dedicated climbers.
Gardiner says the SSL is a continuation of SwiftCarbon’s ultralight SCULP project, a sub-700g frame developed in collaboration with AX-Lightness in 2014.
“One thing [we learned from the SCULP project is that light is not everything. It is an incredible bike but it wasn’t the be all and end all of frames. It doesn’t take an engineer to confirm that if you want to make something light, you remove material and make the remaining material damn stiff so it doesn’t flop about. Trouble is, a healthy amount of composite material in a frame absorbs vibrations quite nicely, so guess what happens when you take it out. Patently obvious, but we still needed to go through that exercise to see how far we could take it all. SSL does the same. There is some really interesting composite tech in there, just with a bit of common sense in the mix, too.”
Finally, the company is also launching its first custom paint program, dubbed Swift ID. Details are still being worked out — including paint colours and schemes — but target turnaround time will be approximately three months.
Prices for all of the new models are still being finalised.
The new SwiftCarbon Ultravox DSQ is the company’s first model with disc brakes.
With no external cables and no brakes mounted up high, the new SwiftCarbon Ultravox DSQ looks rather sleek.
The flat mount brakes on the SwiftCarbon Ultravox DSQ will handle either 140mm or 160mm rotors.
The rear end of the SwiftCarbon Ultravox DSQ uses a 142x12mm thru-axle and a flat-mount disc calliper.
Tyre clearance is very good all around, particularly out back.
SwiftCarbon hasn’t disclosed official figures yet but there looks to be ample room for a 28mm-wide tire on the new Ultravox DSQ.
The exit point for the internally routed rear derailleur line keeps it up and out of the way of the wheel.
The new SwiftCarbon Ultravox SSL has a claimed frame weight under 800g thanks to TeXtreme carbon materials.
‘S/LAB’ is SwiftCarbon’s new halo division.
The ultra-premium spec of the bike on display in Taipei was just for show – at least for now.
SwiftCarbon showed off in Taipei its new custom paint program, called Swift ID.
Yep, this SwiftCarbon Ultravox TI was painted for Sir Richard Branson.
Exact details on SwiftCarbon’s new custom paint program are still being finalised but it’s expected to be quite flexible.
The SwiftCarbon Hypervox was introduced earlier this year at the Tour Down Under.
Adjustable stems have historically been heavy, bulky, and ungainly but the new aluminium Apto from 3T looks to be anything but with clean lines, a tidy form, and surprisingly low weights.
Key to the Aptos’ clever design is the wedge-type steerer clamp, which features an internal wedge housed inside an elongated hole. Filling the gap are a series of crescent-shaped spacers and shuffling their order effectively changes the stem length by up to 15mm in 5mm increments. All of this is hidden away beneath a flat aluminium cap for a clean look with no protruding hardware. According to 3T, just four different Aptos Team stems can handle effective lengths from 70mm all the way up to 145mm with both +/-6° and -17° options.
The clean look is carried through up front with reversed handlebar clamp bolts (which will undoubtedly also frustrate mechanics given the poor tool access). On the upside, though, the faceplate will accommodate integrated mounts for Garmin and Cateye computers.
Claimed weight for Apto Team and Team Stealth models is just 156g with titanium hardware while the Pro version comes in 170g. Keep in mind, too, that both quotes include the top cap and bolt that aren’t usually included with other stems so the comparable figures are about 20g lower. Retail pricing is still to be determined but target availability is this June.
The new 3T Apto Team stem offers 15mm of length adjustment but remains impressively sleek.
A close-up look at the wedge and spacer system on the 3T Apto Team stem.
The elongated hole that the wedge-type steerer clamp sits inside allows for 15mm of total length adjustment.
The 3T logo on the faceplate can be removed to reveal a port for attaching a Garmin or Cateye computer mount.
The faceplate of the 3T Apto Team stem is admirably clean.
When mounted on a bike, the new 3T Apto Team stem in some ways doesn’t look quite as neat as something with a more conventional steerer clamp but the 15mm of length adjustment (and finer 5mm length increments) could prove handy.
American Classic’s workhorse Aero 420 aluminium road clincher wheelset gets an all-new rim this year that features a more modern 19mm internal width (the previous version was just 14mm) and tubeless compatibility. Despite the healthy increase in size, company principal Bill Shook claims that rim weight remains the same as before at just 420g and the complete wheelset still comes in at a competitive 1,530g (663g front, 867g rear).
Retail pricing holds steady at US$999 (AU$1,400).
American Classic has revamped its workhorse Aero 420 wheelset with a more modern, wide-profile rim.
Rim depth stays put at 34mm but the more modern 19mm internal width should make for a smoother ride and improved cornering grip relative to the old 14mm-wide version.
The new rim is 5mm wider internally but yet supposedly the same weight as before.
The pronounced ridges on the inner profile of the Aero 420 are designed to help lock the tire in place once seated.
The Aero 420 uses two-to-one lacing on the rear wheel to help equalise spoke tension from left to right.
American Classic has moved to Center Lock rotor interfaces for its disc-compatible road wheels.