Two week’s ago, G lamented on the merits of going ‘Bog Standard’ – or, perhaps more to the point, why taking the complete groupset approach on an MTB often yields a more reliable, maintenance-free machine. Whilst the same can be – and often is – true on the road scene, there are a few exceptions. Whilst G didn’t claim or suggest there is no place for aftermarket, I felt the need to offer a repost in support of the boutique, aftermarket componentry that does cut the mustard, along with some reasoning behind why some folk eschew the likes of Shimano, SRAM and Campagnolo for some of the more key components.
It’s no secret that I have a bit of a soft spot for aftermarket brakes, but in one case in particular it is a desire that goes beyond the pure aesthetic. Step forward ‘EE Brakes’, from EE Cycleworks.
These are perhaps the only lightweight, boutique brakes on the market that are genuinely better than any of the standard offerings from any of the big brands. Ok so they’re fiddly to setup first time around (although no worse than finding your torx wrench to fit a set of Campag brakes!), and yes there has been one recall (which was extremely professionally handled with replacement parts sent out at no cost with concise instructions on how to replace it, or with the offer of returning them to be done at no cost). That aside they’re significantly lighter than any groupset brake – all important for the weight weenie contingent of the road scene – and they offer all of the stopping performance to boot. I also happen to think they look great too, although it’s easy to see why opinion is divided on that front.
When it comes to cranks on the road scene it can become a bit of a complicated mess (a little less so in MTBs, but it seems to be gathering pace there too). A proliferation of aftermarket cranks has come about thanks to BB30, PressFit30 (no, they’re not the same thing) and ‘BB386Evo’ (eurgh) bottom brackets, all of which mean that to run Shimano cranks you’ll require an adaptor and – until recently at least – all of which practically wrote off any chance to run Campag cranks. SRAM brought about their own oddities in their ‘GXP’ standard meaning you can’t use a ‘normal’ (if such a thing exists any more) external bearing BB without the right GXP reducers on the non-drive side; although they did do a good job of covering off the BB30 and PF30 market. Basically, crank choice is often very dependent on the BB standard your frame runs.
In addition, aftermarket cranks avoid Shimano & Campag’s oddities of 4-arm cranks, odd BCDs and errant bolt placement. In running an aftermarket chainset you can maintain the standard BCD and allow people to run their preferred chainrings – be they lighter, carbon (god knows why, but people do use them!), ceramic coated for longevity, oval to make your bike look funny, or just fancy / nicely matching colours.
In some cases aftermarket components are chosen on the basis of ease of use, noise reduction (particularly over the original SRAM Red setup for example) or looks. One such item being the KMC range of chains which eliminate the directional fussiness of the Dura-Ace 7900 chain, are quieter than the original SRAM Red level 1090 chain and is available in gold, black, black & red, and other colour variations for a bit more of your hard-earned.
Finally, there seems to be a greater abundance of ‘weight weenies’ on the road scene. Not a valid reason for most to avoid the ‘Bog Standard’ approach, but for those who are that way inclined the grams dropped in changing some components can make a significant percentage change over the weight of the original item – and on a road bike this weight loss can add up quite quickly to make up a decent percentage of the overall bike weight. Of course this approach will make your wallet a damn sight lighter too, and the percentage change of the overall ‘rider+bike’ package is still minimal (probably a maximum of 5% in fact). Each to their own I guess… (“have a poo” and “perhaps the rider needs to lose some weight?” being the usual [and often quite valid] retorts here!).
If, however, one does wish to run a complete groupset on one’s road bike you can do to great success now – BB standard regardless. Campagnolo have finally stepped up to the plate on the 30mm crank axle front so there is now a couple of crank options for those running something of the ’30’ persuasion. There are also now numerous BB30 and PF30 adaptors for ‘normal’ cranks available from the likes of Wheels Mfg and Parlee (Campagnolo do make their own BB30 and PF30 adaptors, but they always go wrong), and even SRAM offer a PF30 adaptor that allows you to screw in a normal BB to run Campag (or any other external BB setup) on a PF30 frame.
To follow on from the ‘complete groupset’ angle, all of the main three groupset companies have long established wheel ranges – SRAM arguably win the battle on this front as the Zipp wheels belong to the same company. For sheer quality and beauty on the wheel front it’s difficult to beat the Bora and Hyperon offerings from Campagnolo though, regardless of your preferred groupset manufacturer (don’t ever run them on a Shimano or SRAM bike though, ok?!).
All of this aside, disc brakes on road bikes are unavoidably gathering pace. With the undoubted integration this generates through the brake and shift lever being connected by a hydraulic hose to the brake caliper and to the derailleurs by cables or electronic wires (such is the way this seems to be heading) there is sure to be a slow-but-steady drift away from many of the aftermarket offerings – on that front G and I certainly do agree.