Why R+ Bike Upgrades Report Card
Before racing the BC Epic 1,000 in early June, I posted a list of upgrades I made to my Why R+ to make it more race ready. The upgrades included the following items:
- Lauf Grit SL Suspension Fork
- Industry 9 UL235 27.5 Wheelset
- Profile Design ADL aluminum Clip-On Aerobars
- Cane Creek Titanium EEWings Crankset
- Ergon SR Pro Saddle
There were some other upgrades as well, of course, but these were the main items I changed leading up to the race. Having used all of them for the 650 mile race as well as a number of other rides at this point, I feel qualified to officially give them an up ‘grade’, as in a letter grade for how well I feel each upgrade actually performed, starting with the Lauf Fork.
Lauf Grit SL Suspension Fork Letter Grade: C+
In theory, the Lauf Grit SL Fork is a super lightweight, maintenance-free option for ultra-endurance athletes to avoid wrist fatigue, hand numbness, shoulder pain, and other common rigid fork discomforts without the heavy weight and worry of potential failure found in traditional suspension forks. The Lauf Grit SL is built around an all carbon fiber construction, including the two carbon lowers (the glossy pieces), which are attached to the main body of the fork by 12 glass fiber leaf springs. These springs are what provide the compression when riding over small bumps, which is definitely the Lauf Fork’s greatest strength.
As stated on Lauf’s website,
The Grit SL is designed to maintain the lightness and reliability of rigid forks, while offering absorption and traction in small bumps that conventional suspension forks can’t match. The stiction and high unsprung weight of conventional suspension forks make them unable to keep up with high-speed input as brilliantly as the Lauf Grit SL.
And I agree. The small bump performance of the Lauf Grit SL is exemplary, and I think it helped keep my wrists and upper body injury free throughout the BC Epic race. The Lauf is not designed to replace traditional suspension forks on technical singletrack, but in the small bump world of gravel and dirt riding, it excels.
Here’s why I give it a C+. While I love the fork on all things gravel and between the speeds of 0-15 MPH, once up around a 17-23 MPH cruising speed and under bikepacking load, the fork has a noticeable and disconcerting wobble. While riding down steep descents on the BC Epic, I found myself braking much more than normal, not because of the technicality of the road, but because the bike felt unstable, something that never happened, even under load, with my rigid Enve carbon fork.
Could this have been some sort of user error? Quite possibly, yes. Maybe my front-end load was unbalanced. Maybe the fork is engineered more towards 700c wheels versus the 27.5 inch wheels I was using. However, it advertises the use of 27.5 inch wheels on its website, and unbalanced load or not, I have never had this issue with a loaded front end on other forks.
I still like the fork overall and will likely continue using it for long self-supported tours and races. But I don’t know if I’d recommend it to a friend without first explaining this important caveat.
Industry 9 UL235 27.5 Wheelset Letter Grade: A+
My Industry 9 UL235 wheels with Torch Hubs have been completely used and abused. Large rocks have pinged into the spokes at high speeds; singletrack laden with drops and roots have done their darnd-est to dent and bend the wheel out of true; and thousands of miles have been logged, all of which would make one think the wheels should have had some sort of failure, right?
WRONG. These trusty aluminum wheels, with only 24 spokes and weighing in at a featherweight 1,390 grams, rival many of the lightweight carbon rims out on the market today, and have never been serviced. That’s right, NEVER. They probably have gone slightly out of true at this point, a simple fix for my local bike shop, but truly, if you’re looking for a quality and somewhat budget-friendly set of wheels, Industry 9 has you covered.
Profile Design ADL aluminum Clip-On Aerobars Letter Grade: B
I originally bought the Profile Designs ADL Aerobars because they were the cheapest and subsequently lightest set of aluminum aerobars sold by Profile Designs. I also stubbornly avoided purchasing a riser kit from Profile Designs, because I felt like the price tag (around $30) was ridiculous. So I bought some cheap spacers at a hardware store, some longer screws, and DIY’d my own ‘riser kit,’ which sort of worked. However, throughout the BC Epic, I found myself struggling to use the aerobars, simply because the aggressively low positioning was not something my tired body could handle after the first day of racing.
So when I got home from the race, I grudgingly threw down the cash for a 70mm riser kit, and honestly, the money was worth it. I find myself using the drops way more now that it sits up higher, and for much longer periods of time. Since I bought the tallest kit possible, I sit pretty upright when I’m in the aero position, so I’m likely not benefiting from the aerodynamics most people seek from these bars.
What I do gain is an alternative arm placement that gives my wrists and hands a break from the gravel and dirt roads I often find myself on when using the R+, and this is huge for me. I still haven’t gained full feeling back in my fingers from the BC Epic, and sometimes get a sharp nerve pain when in the hoods, so using the aerobars is an amazing release.
The ADLs would not be my first choice for aerobars from Profile Designs. Other models have more fit options for the bar and armrest placement, and I would prefer bars that angle in versus straight out for a more natural hand position. Still, for a little over $100, it’s hard to argue with the price of the ADLs, at least compared to other comparable aerobars on the market.
Cane Creek Titanium EEWings Crankset Letter Grade: A
I pretty much love everything created by Cane Creek, and the EEWings Crankset is no exception. I’ll be honest, my original fascination with this crankset was purely aesthetic. It’s beautiful, clean titanium build matches my titanium Why Cycles frame, and it felt like it was the missing piece to spruce up my already beautiful bike.
And that’s exactly what they did. Weighing in at around 358 grams, these titanium beauties are lighter than all but the most high-end carbon fiber crankset counterparts from SRAM and Shimano, and with the EEWings, you’ll never have to worry about protective booties on the bottom of each arm, or vinyl scuff protectors. The EEWings are virtually unbreakable. So unbreakable, in fact, that Cane Creek backs them up with a 10-year warranty.
While it’s hard to justify spending 1k on a crankarm, if you have the money, appreciate the aesthetic of titanium, and want a bombproof, featherweight, gorgeous component upgrade, the EEWings are the way to go.
Ergon SR Pro Saddle Letter Grade: A
The Ergon SR Pro saddle was a bottom of the 9th inning purchase I made after some concerns I had about my bum on an enduro-oriented saddle for 3 days straight. While I had not tested it at all, I knew that generally speaking Ergon saddles work for me, and this particular saddle was the high end and tech-contemporary option from their lineup. Plus, it is designed specifically for gravel and road riders.
In my opinion, this change worked out in my favor. After a little over 3 days of nonstop riding, I had sore spots on my bum, but no saddle sores to speak of, and weighing in at a scant 260 grams, I even dropped a little weight in the process. Overall, this Ergon saddle is a keeper and one that I may eventually buy for my road bike as well.
Report Card Recap
So the overall report card for my bike’s build is as follows:
- Lauf Grit SL Fork: C+
- Industry 9 UL235 27.5 Wheelset: A+
- Profile Designs ADL Aerobars: B
- Cane Creek EEWings Crankset: A
- Ergon SR Pro Saddle: A
Based on my extensive knowledge of GPAs – #schoolcounselorskills – this one comes in around a 3.4 (unweighted, of course). Not honor roll material, necessarily, but the future is definitely looking bright. All five of these items are ones that I’d buy again, for sure, and outside of the Lauf Fork, are ones that I’d recommend unwaveringly to other ultra-endurance minded riders. Even the Lauf Fork is something I’d recommend to most riders in the end.
With this summer’s grades in, it’s time to sign out. I can’t wait to see what letter grades my future upgrades get. I have plans…
Categories: Bikes and Gear