R-002 (the prequel to review)

I was going write up the R002 – SBK review in one post, but due to the lengthy aspect of explaining about certain conditions and prerequisites, I decided to break the review into two posts. The first post will deal with assumptions, conditions, criterion and caveats of what the review will be predicted on.

Let’s face it, a review is just an opinion and you know what is said about opinions…they are like  assholes, everybody’s got one and they usually stink. (yes, even the ones written here, though at least I will give you a background on the what and the why’s)


The Bad, the Ugly and the Good:

Let’s begin by pointing out the marginal issues and problems with the R-002/R-022 frame. The fit and finish is somewhat spotty on certain batches and as so happened, the TWO models I received (after sending the first one back with gross aesthetic issues) had fit and finish issues. One of the more glaring problems with the R-002/R-022’s seat tube Claimed size of  34.6mm is that it is slightly larger than the standard size for most road bikes. Two different 31.6mm seat posts would not fit properly on my R002. Subsequently, I had to shim the post to keep it from slipping.

Second issue, is the headset. The R-002 comes with a relatively cheap, suspect headset. Though not mechanically unsafe, it does result in a sub-standard fit and finished look.

Third issue is the bottom bracket cable guide. The cheap plastic piece that came on my R-002, had to be filed in order for the cables to actually move through the guide.

Fourth issue is the rear derailleur hanger. The hanger that came on the bike was bent. Which meant the derailleur would not line up properly. Good thing that a spare bracket comes with the frame. But, the bracket should NOT be bent in the first place.

Granted, none of these issues severely compromise the safety aspect of the bike, but, they are significant in their own way. It points out the lack of uniform quality control and  Standard Operating Procedures withing the Zhongwei-UIS factory. Now I’m not saying that all the R-002/R-022 frames have these same issues, but I have read that some buyers have had some similar issues. I am also not saying that the R-002/R-022 should be avoided, in fact I would purchase another frame from Zhongwei, but in a different manner. What I am saying is, that in my specific case, I am sure that my issues were not necessarily a production oversight…which is a shame.

Rather, I suspect that these consequences were a result of sending back my first frame, that turned into a sort of ‘punishment’. Which is why it probably took over 3 months for the second frame to be shipped, (after being told in numerous emails by a certain person that it was -“going out next week”) and then have a frame riddled with these 4 problems. I’m sure it’s a cultural thing, you know, insulting, denying, saving face etc. (and all that is just plain old ugly!) Let me not forget about the shipping cost I incurred sending back the fist frame (which I was promised a refund of half of the cost, which of course never happened) Lesson learned, I think 🙂

As for the good, there is plenty. Obviously, the price of the frame/fork is a bargain at around $360 USD. Then there is the very sleek and aero look of the frame and fork itself. The moderately light weight of the R-002/R-022 is also a plus when you consider the cost. My raw 52cm frame weighs in at a respectable 1088g and the fork at 453g.


Rider/Writer background:

As with any review/opinion, the perspective and qualifications of  the reviewer matters greatly, in lending credence to the review. (at least that is my opinion! ) All too often reviews are expressed by those with limited experiences or out of context point of views regarding the reviewed item(s). All too often, reviews seem to be nothing more than a scripted play titled; “Blowing Sunshine up your Ass”. Well rest assured, that the forthcoming review will NOT be of any such folly. What the review will be, is a balanced, truthful and thorough detail of ascertained experiences, albeit an opinion of the R-002 chassis.

I am in my 11th year of road cycling and my 8th year of mtb’ing. Previous to 2004, when I had started cycling, I road raced motorbikes from 1991 to 2003. ( I feel this is relevant experience to understanding two-wheeled dynamics and having developed a ‘knack’ for machine feel and feedback.

During my years of road biking, I have owned and ridden (in order) a 1980’s Schwinn le tour 12 speed steel bike, a 2004 Mercier aluminum Tiagra/105, 27 speed equipped bike, a 2006 Pro-Lite carbon fiber Ultegra 6600, 20 speed bike and now the carbon R-002. And, I have owned only one mountain bike, an aluminum Iron Horse Warrior hardtail.

So, I can state without question, that I have ridden various frame materials and types of bikes during the 11 years. While not as ‘seasoned’ as some other long-time riders who have ridden fleets of bikes, I’m not a neophyte either. Therefore, these known quantities and facts need to be taken into account when reading and analyzing the upcoming R-002 review. Stay Tuned

A click, a creak; could it be the crank or the seat…and so goes another mile and another bump in the road

Finally was able to sort out a few nagging issues I have had since the completion of
the build on the R002 SBK. Shifting was a problem from the get go. No matter what
adjustments I made to the low, high, the B stop and barrel adjuster, I could not get the
middle of the gears to shifty smoothly.  As the chain would always hang up, at mid-point.

One problem contributing to the shifting ills, was that I had installed the chain backwards. (WHAT?) Yes, turns out, the Shimano 6701 chain is directional! Who knew…well, not me. I only discovered it by accident while cleaning the chain. I noticed that there was only lettering on one side of the chain. So, I looked at some other chains and thought something might be up.  A little research on Shimano’s site and bingo.  Blunder # 1 discovered. While this seemed to help slightly,  the shifting was still not as fluid as it should be.

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At this point, I relented and sought the help of an expert. My local mechanic, who happens to be the same guy who taught the Park School classes I attended earlier this year. He solved the problem within 10 minutes- but of course he did. That is why HE
is the expert and I am the novice…

There had also been a click or a creaking noise coming from the lower half of the bike on the downward pedal strokes. At first I thought it might be the pedals. After removing both sides, lubricating them and tightening them back up, the noise still persisted. Perhaps it might be the chain ring bolts or the maybe it was the crank arms I thought.
So back to youtube to watch some tips and tutorial videos on FSA crank arms and BB30 bottom brackets.

As I watched a particular video, the mechanic stated to remove the washer after unbolting the non-drive side arm. Huh? I don’t remember installing a washer. Out to garage to rummage through my build parts. I didn’t see anything that resembled a large wave washer, as in the video.  Hmmm. Okay, so a bit of forum and website research revealed that indeed you must install the washer on the FSA crankset, between the arm and the BB. After taking the crankset off and discovering that there was no washer I was hoping this was the source of the noise problem. (blunder #2) Off to the shop then to buy me a washer! I re-installed the crankset with the appropriate washer, tightened everything up and crossed me fingers.

I threw a leg over the top tube, clipped in and went for a short jaunt around the neighborhood. So far so good I thought…with each pedal stroke, there was a nary a sound except the change of the gears. Wala! Problem solved. So the bike is quiet, the gears are humming and I am happy. With only about 412 miles on the R-002 not much else to report on. I was going to write up a 500 mile report-review, but I may just wait until 750 or 1000 miles.

Until then…cheers

 

Projekt Archetype-X R002 (Test Session III)

13/04/14
The Projekt Archetype – X Bike concluded its third testing session of the R-002
on Saturday, April 12th. Weather conditions were fairly decent, with temps in
the 60’s, dry roads, partly sunny skies and a light wind.

I headed for roads with rolling terrain, flat stretches, small climbs and a few fast
twisty sections. I deliberately drove the R-002 hard in to the corners and kept pushing
the front end much more than the previous two outings, with the end result being a
less ‘twitchy’ response. Front end grip is good and the steering feedback does not
seem quite as vague as it had initially felt.

The 39 mile test ride has returned significant results on setup as I continue to gain
confidence riding the R-002 Supersport at increasingly faster paces. I was able to attack
much harder through both technical, tight and sweeping corners- subsequently, I have
garnered a first place  and a second place in two very fast segments of esses I often ride.

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This third test session has allowed me to adapt to the chassis a bit better and capitalize
on the bike’s potential, after making two modifications from the previous tests. The first
change made was to lower the headtube-stem stack height 5mm’s. (replacing the 10mm spacer with a 5mm spacer)

The second change implemented was installing a 90mm stem in favor of the original
80mm stem. (which equates to a +11.1% increase in stem length) Though often it only
takes slight changes to effect two-wheeled vehicles. These modifications have narrowed the distance from the center of the bar to the front axle, which prior to the changes had been 5-5/16″ or 134.93 mm’s. The measurement is now at 5-1/16″ or 128.58 mm’s. (a decrease of approximately 4%) These two key changes have provided the R002-SS with a bit more stability, which lends itself to a higher level of confidence and a more content rider!

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For those not too familiar with two-wheeled dynamics, you might question what stem length or height has to do with steering of a bicycle. Well, it turns out (no pun intended!) that stem length has a subtle effect on the radius of the turning arc. The longer the stem, the greater the length of the arc. And it is the opposite for a shorter stem. The end result is that the steering ‘feels’ a bit slower with longer stem length and quicker with a shorter length, which some, (myself included) might describe as a ‘twitchy’ feel or response)

So, after 3 official test outings and 8 total rides for approximately 182 miles, I am becoming somewhat satisfied with the bike. The setting changes and data I am extracting is proving to be valuable for a good compromised setup. My aim to is to continue refining the machine to get the maximum comfort and performance out of it for the rest of 2014 and beyond.

Black Blade R002 – Supersport | Test Day

Updated test link

03/04/2014
Testing of the R-002 Carbon Supersport continued today, with a 29 miler around Glacial Lake and Bernards Twp. I was able to sample a variety of roads with a couple of small climbs thrown in as well. So after the short initial shakedown run last week, I was able to ascertain a basic setup. My impression today was that the bike is stiffer than my Pro-Lite carbon, but the R-002 also rides slightly harsher, the frame/fork is, less ‘compliant’. Now, I don’t know if it is due to the carbon layup and/or weave or solely down to the CF wheelset or a combination of the materials, frame/wheels. The pro-Lite has aluminum wheels, so it is not a direct comparative analysis. The efficiency of the power output is noticeable without question. I’ll put that down to the beefier downtube, BB and the carbon crankset.

As I had mentioned in my last post, the R-002’s steering is what I would describe as a bit nervous or ‘twitchy’ compared to my PL. I did have more feedback today, and what I felt was that at low to lower speeds, the steering is quick and precise. But above 15-16 mph, it becomes less precise and not predictable. The front end feels a bit less stable at higher speeds, which does not inspire confidence on descents. I have concluded that the Trail on the PL is slightly longer than the R-002’s Trail. That partly explains the less stable steering feel. This is something I will need to sort out, or at least find a compromised setup that fells a bit more stable.

I think I have a good understanding of how the bike works now, so I can start to analyze the data and play with some of the settings. First, I plan to lower the stack height under the stem, (which will in effect ‘shorten the axle-to-bar distance, this is more for comfort and arm reach) I will then increase the stem length from 80mm to 90mm, which will moreover shorten the distance between the front axle and the center of handlebars. I could (and might experiment later in the year) also change to a different profile tire as well. Ultimately I have to improve the bikes setup if I want a similar feel and stability I enjoyed with the PL.

The Rake, or Offset is fixed from the steerer tube and stock fork, so even if I thought about changing to a different fork, there would be no measurable difference- unless the fork was either longer or shorter (in my situation I would want a slightly longer fork, in which case the trail would then change as well. I’m sure I will be able to affect the steering with some other above mentioned stem length/height adjustments, to what degree remains to be seen.

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20140403_151905Putting the R002 Supersport through its paces…

As far as the machine ‘rolls’ I have to say, it does so with less effort than my PL. Again, I’m not sure if that is strictly due to the wheelset and hubs or the overall package. But as most riders have echoed, the bike seems to ‘spin up’ better or more efficiently. It is tough to perform a side-by-side comparative analysis of two bikes (even though they are both carbon) when the wheelsets are vastly different.

It will be very interesting to see how the bike performs on long rides with significant ascents and descents. Hopefully the weather breaks for the better, so I can get in some 40 to 60 mile jaunts and adapt to the R-002’s geometry. The first 100 mile ride will be on June 5th, in the Revolutionary Ramble out of Madison NJ. I’ll do a 500 mile review on the bike when I hit that mark. Hopefully by June. Right now, I would grade the R-002 a C+, with the hopes that it
attains a B or better…

R002 – SS | Rollout and Shakedown Run

The official rollout and shakedown run of the Black Blade R002 Supersport took place
on Wednesday, March 26th at Valley Park circuit. First ride, though short provided a
limited amount of feedback, but the 2014 machines chassis setup and geometry seem
decent enough to work with going forward. This was the first time that the bike had
turned it’s wheels in any significant way. As expected, there were the obligatory teething problems. Again, this was anticipated but that is what testing is all about.

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My saddle, brake lever/hood  settings were loosely based off of my previous bike, so
I knew that dialing these settings in would take a bit of time. First few pedal turns I could
tell that the saddle height was nearly perfect, but the fore/aft setting was a bit too close to the center of the bars. That perception was confirmed up once I measured my knee to the ball of my foot ratio with a plumb bob. So, after moving the saddle slightly rearward about 1mm from the center of the seatpost and aligning the brake hoods to my liking I put a few more miles on the bike.

The range of adjustments with the saddle fore and aft, saddle height, stem length
and rise, though limited will all play a significant part in getting the setup as close to correct as possible. While balancing  the overall ‘fit’ and ‘feel’ of the machine. Initially, the steering feels twitchy, not sharper but ‘nervous’ and certainly not as comfortable as my previous Pro-Lite Galileo, which is extremely stable on high-speed descents. It will take some time to sort out this issue and get used to the feel of the R002 – SS chassis.

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I am confident that I will be able to improve upon the inherent performance of the
R002 – SS and find a good compromise with the setup over the next few weeks.
Another longer test ride is planned for the following week.

Archetype – X | R002 – SS Build (part IV)

Well, work has finally begun on the R002 supersport build. I began by cleaning up all the
openings in the frame and taking off the rough edges on the head tube, seat tube
with some light grit sand cloth and a scotchbrite pad.

Then I made sure the bottom bracket threads did not have any aluminum shavings.
I gave it a quick cleaning with a nylon (not metal) tube brush, ensuring the FSA
MegaExo BB cartridge would thread on with no issues.

This coming week, I will install the crankset, chain, then the headset, stem and bars.
There is an issue with the seat post and the frames seat tube. For whatever reason,
there is some ‘play’ between the two. It looks like I will have to shim the seat post.

The last step will be routing the cables, putting the finishing touches on and buttoning
the bike up for the first test ride…I’m hoping that will be around the 21st or 22nd.

Ciao!

“I think it moved…”

Arrivee’ today! Oui….

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No, not THAT! Geez, the bike man, the bike.

Finally, my frame has made its way state-side! It shouldn’t be long now…
before the R-002 arrives on my door step. Stay tuned for the build…

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And in some related news, I have also signed up for the Revolutionary Ramble.
I chose the 100 mile, 6k of ascent option. I cannot wait to put the R-002 to the test
on a long ride.
Ciao!

Archetype-X | R002 – SS Build update III

Just a quick update…

The R-002 frame is still in China and not going anywhere because of the Chinese New Year.
For whatever reason(s) the frame did not ship out in early January, as I was told so. Now the earliest it might ship out is February 16th (fingers crossed). If the package leaves then, it may arrive before March, but I am not that hopeful. It has been very, very frustrating to say the least.

So, right now I am estimating a mid March-April build. I really hope to be riding the R002 – SS by mid April early May. Stay tuned…