Taipei Cycle Show 2016: New bikes from Ridley and Fuji, new brakes from TRP

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Ridley previews Noah SL Disc aero road and updated Helium SL climbing machines

Ridley’s pair of new road bikes in Taipei were so new that neither was fully functional. Nevertheless, they offer a close look at what we’ll soon see in the Noah SL Disc aero road racer and the new ultralight Helium SL.

The new Noah SL Disc will get a dedicated fork and rear end, both with 12mm thru-axles and flat mount disc calliper interfaces. As before, the fork will also still feature Ridley’s novel split fork blade design, which the company claims reduces aerodynamic drag by pulling air out and away from the churning front wheel.

Aside from whatever modifications are required for hydraulic hose routing, the front triangle will be unchanged.

The addition of disc brakes is only a small part of the development story for the new Noah, though. Ridley says the real draw is the way the new thru-axle rear end will allow for more flexibility in tuning the ride. Whereas previously the rear triangle was constructed from lots of separate parts – the chainstays, the seatstays, and dropouts – now each side can be built as a single unit with continuous fibres all the way through the dropouts and fewer bond joints, which tend to restrict engineering possibilities.

It’ll be interesting to see what Ridley eventually says about the effect of disc brakes on the Noah’s aerodynamic performance but apparently an improvement in ride quality is in order.

Ridley also previewed a new ultralight climbing frameset called the Helium SLX. Not much information was available for this one, unfortunately, aside from the claimed target weight of just 1,000g for the frame and fork — which would put the frame alone at somewhere in the neighbourhood of 700g.

Visually, the new SLX will use a similar frame shape as the current Helium SL but apparently with an upgraded fibre blend to help shave weight and revised cable routing that’s now fully internal (including the rear brake). The fork is all new, however, with straight legs and a notably trimmed-down shape relative to the current SL.

Pricing and availability for both new Ridley models is still to be determined.

Fuji softens up its latest Gran Fondo endurance bike

When it comes to improving ride comfort on a road bike, tuning in some flex to help handle the bumps is one thing but another issue is vibration. To tackle the latter, Fuji has infused its updated Gran Fondo endurance bike with a somewhat surprising material: polyurethane.

Fuji’s ‘VRTech’ (Vibration Reduction Technology) incorporates a layer of polyurethane-coated ‘natural fibres’ (presumably flax, although Fuji won’t specify) into the otherwise carbon fibre lay-up at the fork blades, seatstays, and chainstays. Coupled with an intriguing kink in the seatstays, Fuji claims a nearly 25% reduction in vibration transmitted to the rider based on lab tests conducted at the Taiwan Cycling and Health Tech Industry R&D Center.

“We’re not releasing the fibre details, but it is a natural fibre that goes through a treatment process that enhances its ability to absorb high frequency vibrations,” Fuji global product manager Steven Fairchild told CyclingTips. “No one has used this enhanced fibre yet in the bike industry; we’re the first.”

The concept behind VRTech is sound in theory but it should be mentioned that Fuji’s vibration test numbers were generated using bare framesets — not complete bikes — so it will be interesting to see how those claims play out in the real world on actual tarmac. Either way, the rubberised fibres apparently don’t add much heft. Claimed frame weight for the upper-end 1 Series Gran Fondo is a respectable 940g without paint but including hardware, plus 370g for the matching fork; the second-tier 2-Series is slightly heavier at 1,050g and 410g.

“The layers of VRTech only add 3-4 grams per stay or fork blade so the total weight added for the VRTech is 24g,” Fairchild said.

As is typical for this market segment, Fuji has given the Gran Fondo more relaxed fit and handling characteristics relative to its more racing-oriented models. As compared to a medium Transonic, for example, the comparably sized Gran Fondo geometry has a whopping 44mm more stack and 7mm less reach for a dramatically more upright riding position. Likewise, the Gran Fondo’s 415mm chainstays are 10mm longer than the Transonic while the front end has just a hint more trail for more stable handling at higher speeds.

Riders who continue to resist the industry-wide movement toward disc brakes on the road will unfortunately find themselves in another losing battle here as none of the five Gran Fondo models will only be offered with rim brake callipers. Instead, every Gran Fondo frame gets flat-mount disc brakes at either end along with 12mm thru-axles.

Other features include size-specific tube sizes and lay-up schedules, internal cable routing, hidden fender eyelets, an integrated chain catcher, and standard 28mm-wide tyres (with clearance for 30mm ones).

Complete bikes will be available beginning in April 2016.

TRP embraces direct mount for rim brakes and flat mount for discs

TRP readily admits that it was reluctant to integrate direct-mount rim brake designs into its lineup but it’s now catching up in a big way with five new models for 2016 — all of which are available now.

According to TRP USA managing director Lance Larrabee, one major target was bikes equipped with direct-mount rim brakes located beneath the chainstays, many of which he says either don’t work very well or are too wide to work with many crankarm-mounted power meters.

Standing atop TRP’s new direct-mount range is the aero-minded T860/861, built with a roller-cam internal mechanism, fully independent arms with easily accessible Allen wrench-type adjustments, and clearance for rims to 28mm wide. Claimed weight is 170-180g per wheel depending on cable routing options, and retail price is US$200 (~AU$270) per wheel.

If certain design elements of the T860/861 aero callipers look similar to what Trek uses in its latest Madone, that’s perhaps no coincidence, although neither company would openly acknowledge the collaboration. That said, our experience with that bike suggests that the T861/860 brakes will work very well with excellent lever feel, ample power, and precise control.

Meanwhile, the new T850/851 is a more conventional scissor-style brake calliper with a substantially lower 135g claimed weight per wheel. Like the T860/861, the T850/851’s independent arms can each be easily adjusted with Allen wrenches for quick setup and maintenance, both are offered with either direct cable-in or housing-in routing styles, and both will clear rims up to 28mm wide. Retail price is US$100 (~AU$135) per wheel.

Finally, riders on direct-mount framesets that want a more traditional look can opt for the TRP T930, which uses a conventional dual-pivot layout, standard barrel adjuster, and cam-type quick-release lever with the same 28mm rim clearance. Retail price is US$100 (~AU$135) per wheel.

TRP clearly isn’t looking to make the same missteps on the disc brake front as it did with direct mount, quickly adopting the flat mount calliper standard that has already been embraced by the UCI.

The cable actuated, dual-piston Spyre disc calliper has already been available in flat mount for several months but now, the hydraulic/mechanical HY/RD disc brake follows suit with a notably more compact body. The internal mechanism remains unchanged, using a standard steel cable from lever to calliper but a fully hydraulic system at the disc end for improved power and lever feel, not to mention pads that automatically adjust for wear. Claimed weight is 200g per wheel and retail price is US$125 (~AU$170) each.

Speaking of discs, Rotor has taken a page from the automobile world for its latest TR-29 rotor, which not only uses the standard cross-drilled holes but also laser-cut slots. According to TRP, this makes for quieter running, reduces pad glaze, and also lowers operating temperatures. TRP will use the new rotor style across the board effective immediately.

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