The UCI Pro Cycling World Tour consists of 18 teams who (along with the Continental teams) entertain us, frustrate us and inspire us throughout the season as well as influencing the purchases we decide to make in order to improve our bikes and performance.
Components can make or break a race! We all saw Andy’s mechanical chain slip which let Alberto storm past for the win in the 2011 TDF, and often see riders desperately waiting for a mechanic to solve a mechanical problem. We have also witnessed and celebrated many stage wins where talent and equipment have carried a rider over the line first.
Often you will hear people saying “it’s not about what you ride, but how you ride” though here at PBK we think it’s a bit of both. No matter how good you are, cheap components may be a disadvantage when you want to save weight, enhance performance and shave your times.
Shimano, Campagnolo and SRAM are the most popular components used amongst the pro peloton, but which components have the best results?
Whilst many professional riders and serious cyclists who use Shimano components have opted for the electronic Di2, some members of the Peloton have stuck with the mechanical version. Fabian Cancellara decided to equip his bikes with the mechanical version of Dura-Ace and it has not in any way effected his riding style or his ability to attack in the peloton.
As part of ensuring that these riders have the optimum shifting ability they have used the 10 speed Dura-Ace CN-7901 chain. The best in the Shimano range with hollow pins and a chrome treatment which will outlast the others.
But Shimano Di2 does play an important role in the peloton as plenty of riders love the way it shifts and the way it feels. And with the new 2013 Di2 actually weighing less than the mechanical version it looks as if it will stick around in the peloton for much longer.
Campagnolo electronic has only really been around for a year, with Movistar being the only Pro Team to use the exclusive Super Record EPS in the 2011 season. When the 2012 season approached Campagnolo was being used by a couple of Pro Teams – Lotto Belisol and Lampre, however the Continental Team Europcar also uses their groupsets. Like Di2, riders often opt for the mechanical versions during races, in fact, when Pierre Rolland won Stage 11 of this year’s Tour de France, he did so using Campagnolo Record.
SRAM is the only brand not to have brought out an electronic groupset. Many were convinced that they were going to launch one in 2012 with a cyclist journalist actually stating on twitter that the new launch would definitely have an electronic groupset to match Shimano and Campagnolo. SRAM instead have perfected their Red range and brought more success to the Peloton with 5 Pro Teams choosing to use their brand including big names like Alberto Contador – this year’s Vuelta winner, and the ever popular Tour de France green jersey winner Peter Sagan.
But what about us cyclists who don’t have the money to shell out for the latest top of the range groupsets?
Shimano’s 105 range is increasing in popularity due to its excellent quality and smooth shifting. For the price it performs very well and looks just as good as Ultegra and 10 speed Dura-Ace. With a quality drive train, run by the Shimano 105 CN-5701 Bicycle Chain the often overlooked 105 will work well for those who want Shimano slickness without getting into an argument with their other half when the credit card bill arrives! OK, so the Pro riders in the peloton don’t use the 105 groupsets, but it has trickle down technology from the Ultegra and Dura-Ace groupsets above it in the range.
In order to enjoy optimum shifting manufacturers and PBK will always recommended using the same brand of components and not mixing and matching, though there is an exception to the rule – KMC.
If like many cyclists you have numerous bikes with different drive trains, a great alternative is to use KMC chains. Good enough for Johnny Hoogerland and the Vacansoleil DCM Pro Team, KMC chains will work with all 3 brands of groupsets (just use the right speed) and its quick link makes it so much easier to remove and replace your chain. The KMC X10EL is a great alternative to more expensive chains with great durability and sweet shifting. As we mere mortals are not lucky enough to just exchange our bikes when we have a mechanical, using a product that is long lasting and easy to fix is important.
The drive train is what converts your effort in to pushing you along, so taking care of it is very important, and knowing what and when parts need replacing will keep your groupset running smoothly – potentially for years.
Each year new models with amazing technology arrive on the scene, and for many of us the latest electronic or 11 speed groupsets are the stuff of dreams. It’s a good thing that there are great performing groups like Campagnolo’s Centaur, Shimano’s 105 or SRAM’s Rival powering us to keep up with our mates. As electronic groupsets becomes the norm they too will become much more affordable and available, then all that you will have to decide is whether you prefer the positive manual shifting of mechanical or the smooth easy shifting of electronic…until then – just go ride.