SRAM XX1: A Brief Review

SRAM’s new XX1 (1×11) drive train could be the only set of gears we need here in the North East. That statement is bold for a reason.  Once you ride with this gear set over on Long Island, you look back thinking “what were those other rings for?” Instead of boring you with the technobabble of SRAM’s x-sync, x-horizon, x-actuation, roller bearing clutch, cage lock, thing-a-ma-jigs, I’ll let you know what I found out after my first few rides: the XX1 is packed with new technology that made this group set extremely efficient, reliable, fast, and fun to use.


The 11-speed spacing (10-12-14-16-18-21-24-28-32-36-42) felt great with the 32 tooth front ring, however, your gear ratio can be fine tuned by replacing the front ring with several available sizes (28,30,32,34,36,38).  SRAM really makes you feel like you are in control by offering such a wide range of front chain rings to match your terrain, wheel size, and riding style without even needing to remove the crank set.


The trigger shifter has a unique audible click that is crisp and clear.  Shifting into gear feels effortless both up front on the trigger and down back on the derailleur.  Throughout the day, the XX1 system shifted with precision and speed without dropping a chain.  Riding through technical trails felt much easier only having to worry about using my right fingers to shift and my left finger to feather the front brake.  It gave me more control managing technical sections of the trail and more speed coming out of each turn.


One major downside is that the SRAM XX1 requires meticulous installation.  You must pay special attention to the alignment of the rear derailleur hangers as a slightly tweaked hanger will ruin the XX1 precision shifting.  Once I had gotten that all sorted out, the XX1 rear derailleur kept my chain glued to the front ring by keeping constant tension on the chain.full kit

Overall, the drive train is simply fun to use.  I could not ask for a different gear ratio riding my 29er hard tail on Long Island. And the weight savings – don’t even get me started. This may be a must have for all you weight weenies out there.


BarFly 2.0 Mount Review

Okay, what can we say – we are gear junkies.

All Three Mounts

The SRAM quickview, BarFly 1.0, and BarFly 2.0

BarFly’s new 2.0 Garmin mount is more aerodynamic and now supports the latest Di2/EPS junction boxes in comparison to its older cousin from years prior.  Specifically, there is a space designed at the bottom of the mount to attach the junction box to.  The mount itself sits level with your stem, instead of above or below, in an effort to reduce any extra drag.  Additionally, the mount offers two mounting positions and compatibility with two different computer sizes (the 200/500 and the 510/800/810).

Junction box

On the downside, the 2.0 is still slightly heavier than the SRAM quick mount and the previous BarFly generation.  However, if you are running Di2 or EPS, the BarFly 2.0 is a must have for junction box installation.


20 Grams

Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 9070 Review

The time of electronic shifting has finally come of age.  It offers precision shifting in all conditions, a self-trimming front derailleur, push button convenience, and low maintenance.  I was originally weary with the first generation of Dura-Ace electronic shifting, however, the Di2 9070 is definitely cream of the crop.

The Di2 9070 Groupset

Here are several key features on the new Dura-Ace 9070 Di2:

1.  There are multiple shifting options available – “climbing”, “sprint”, bar-end, and standard brake lever.  The new junction box (SM-EW-90 A/B) enables the rider to connect any of these shifting options neatly below the stem and the box can be mounted anywhere you would like.

2. The PC linkage device allows you to plug your bike into a desktop computer (talk about Back to the Future! Will I warp in time when I hit 1.21 gigawatts? ) to program the functionality of each shifter and update the firmware of each component.  For example: You can now program the shifters to “multi shift” (which allows the bike to continuously shift as long as you continue to hold the shift lever).  The PC link also allows the use of advanced software to diagnose and troubleshoot any problems.

3. The shifter lever has been re-designed and offers a comfortable feel.

4. The battery is completely internal and rests directly inside your seat post.  You can remove the battery for charging or use an external plug located at the junction box.

5. With the external battery, the entire system weighs only 60 grams more than the Dura-Ace 9000 mechanical group set.

6. The Etube wire can be purchased in various lengths to allow for a precise cable run.

7. It is 11-speed and can be configured with up to a 28t cassette.

E-tube Project Software for programming, troubleshooting, and customization

Real World Testing:

I took my Cevelo R5 VWD equipped with the new Shimano 9070 Di2 towards route 9W and into Rockland, NY for the GFNY13 training ride.  The ride consists of approximately 100+ miles and 6,000+ feet of climbing, and not to be forgotten, some 15mph wind gusts that certainly added to the challenge.

Having used the Shimano Dura-Ace 9000 mechanical group for the last four months, I can happily say switching to the Di2 9070 was pure joy.  The transition felt seamless.  Push button shifting was intuitive, effortless, precise, and as stated earlier, the feel of the levers were extremely comfortable.  You literally only need  slight touch to shift the front or rear derailleur.  This gave me much better control while on the hoods and while standing up for climbs or a brief sprint.

Ergonomic Lever

Extra E-Tube port

I programmed my rear derailleur to multi-shift while holding down the lever.  Shifting was uninhibited, predictable, and smooth.  It reminded me of an automatic transmission in your car.  The fast reflexes of  the system led me to believe that drivetrain shock under pressure was almost nonexistant.  Standing up to sprint and shifting without easing up made my bike feel almost flawless.

Rear Derailleur Installed

The front derailleur adjusts trim on the fly for ultra quiet operation, while allowing for fast and powerful shifting.  Having had my bike properly adjusted by a trained Di2 mechanic definitely helped, however, I felt absolutely no chain rub whatsoever during my ride.  The only sound I would hear during my ride was the servo working like a good little robot.  I remember being annoyed by manually adjusting the trim on my mechanical group in the past and was excited to not worry in the future.  The only problem I encountered was shifting from the small ring to the big ring in which the derailleur failed to engage once or twice.  But, nevertheless, perhaps I was pedaling a bit too hard during the shift.

Front Derailleur Installed and Battery Mounted

Shimano manufactured two different types of batteries for the Di2 system.  One can be internally mounted within your seat post or frame (if your bike allows it).  The other, which I purchased, is an external battery that can be installed anywhere around the bottom bracket or using your water bottle mount.  Shimano claims that you can reach approximately 1,500 miles before recharge and charging time is only a little over an hour with the external charger.

Overall, making the switch to the Shimano Dura-Ace 9070 Di2 is completely worth it despite the expense and negligible added weight of the battery compared to the mechanical group.  The ultra fast, precise, reliable shifting is second to none.  The system truly gets out of the way and lets you do what you need to do – RIDE.

SMJC 40 Junction Box Installed with Precision


Shimano Unzen 6L with 2L Hydration Pack Review

Shimano Unzen

Shimano is not to be taken lightly when they say they have designed the ultimate hydration pack for cycling.  The brand new Shimano Unzen 6L with 2L bladder is packed with many innovative features that any level of rider can surely put to use.  In fact, Shimano has partnered with the well-known manufacturer Hydrapak to ensure ease of use and durability, without burning a hole in your pocket.


One of the most innovative features is the introduction of the X-Harness strapping system.  When adjusted properly, the X-Harness feels secure AND comfortable.  Shimano also incorporated their Accu3D technology as seen throughout their clothing line.  The elastic used in the stretchable fabric allows the pack to expand and follow the contours of your body.  Combined with Shimano’s new X-Harness, you truly feel like the pack is a part of your body, and not a part on your body.

DSC_6803DSC_6804 DSC_6802

Some basic features you may overlook when shopping for a hydration pack are loop zipper pulls for easy usage, a felt lined “valuables” pocket (cell phone, GPS device, etc.), and an elastic waist pocket for food, gels, money, or whatever else you may need.  The waist pocket is only really accessible while the pack is on, however, they are in the perfect location to grab on the go. The bladder itself is reversible, durable, and easy to clean. The shoulder straps have a dual hydration port and holds your tube conveniently on the buckle of the X-Harness. There is also an extra strap for carrying body armor or a helmet, and the pack is lined with reflective strips that shine in the dark.  And finally, the weight of the unit is an astonishing 678 grams unloaded.

Valuables Pocket

Overall, the Shimano Unzen 2L hydration pack is extremely comfortable and designed with the avid cycling in mind. It may be the most aerodynamic and well thought out hydration pack we have tried to date. It has tons of storage that is easily accessible, and when loaded, it fell balanced and secure. This pack offers a freedom of movement unlike any other popular brand currently on the market. Likewise, there are no annoying or excess straps to contend with. This pack is great for the aggressive, off-road, cyclist but can definitely be used just cruising around town on a nice day.


Some riders were worried that because the pack almost became a part of your body, there was sure to be a sweaty ride ahead. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was anatomically ventilated to allow for the release of any moisture build up. We will surely put this feature to the test on our follow-up ride and review in the forthcoming weeks. Keep an eye out for what’s to come!