Zhongwei Carbon Fail

My HB-003 carbon handlebars have met with untimely demise…after a 17 mph tumble. Relatively straight forward spill, no drama, no injuries. But the Chinese bars did not fare well at all. I put it mostly down to a lack of QC and poor layup. Let’s hope my frame and fork are made a tad better…

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Carbon Fiberous…Breakous!

I have gone ahead and made the switch to 6061-T aluminum bars for now and the foreseeable future. Thankfully, no other damage to the bike in the fall.

It was my first crash in 11 years of ridding on the road and I suppose it had to happen eventually.  No amount of skill can cover when the luck runs out! The front tire caught a rut in the pavement and before I could clip out and try to save it, I was up and over and then on my ass.

 

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

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.

Projekt Archetype – X (Build update V)

Build-a-Bike: The Chronicles of Archetype – X, building a road bike from the frame up…

And so it was in early 2013, I began researching and mining information on “open mold”
carbon bicycle frames direct from China. For those not in the know, this is a growing and
future trend. Why? For one, the frames are much less costly and two, most of the
manufacturers are making frames for the big-bike companies out of the same factories.

So, after months and months of scouring through forums, youtube reviews and ebay feedback, I felt I had enough data to take the next step. Thanks to my very generous and long-time best friend, most of the build cost would be covered. Mainly because he could not believe one could build up a carbon fiber bike cheaply and two, because he wanted to see what type of bike you could build for less than 2k…

So, let’s go back to October of 2013, this is when I had first ordered the R-002 carbon road frame from UIS-Zhongwei Composites in Shenzhen. Cost of T-700 carbon frame and fork? $360 USD. Now fast-forward to over 5 months later, the build has finally come together- though fraught with many teething problems. From incorrect sizes being sent to blemished parts, then defective and even some broken pieces that had to be sent back for return/replacement…the project has been very trying and revealing indeed.

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As I mentioned earlier, this project would entail building the bicycle up from the
carbon fibre frame and fork. I procured all of the ancillary parts via ebay and Amazon.
From the 38mm x 23mm Ekay Composite wheelset, to the Ultegra 6700 drivetrain down to the anodized bolts. Since I had never assembled a bicycle before, I knew there would be some stumbling blocks along the way. Well, stumbling blocks is an understatement. Most of the build went okay, attaching the brake calipers, the derailleurs, the crank and the bars were straight forward. But as the build progressed, things became more difficult.

Routing the cables was a chore, due to the bottom cable guide being, well a piece of
crap. First discovered that the internal nut that the bolt threads into was broken.
So, out came the crankset…more disassembly. After about a half hour of trying to jam
a small screwdriver to ‘hold’ the nut in place while trying to tighten the bolt was a royal
pain in the ass. Some thread locker applied and it seemed to hold, but it’s broken.
Which sucks, because it is absolutely a QC issue. I will say, for all the positive aspects
of the frame and the cost, UIS’s QC is lacking in several areas.

So back went the crankset. Then I discovered that the front derailleur cable was binding
in the plastic cable guide! Un-fucking believable. After several attempts, no dice.
The shifter would not budge. So, out came the fucking crankset AGAIN! Oh man…
was I aggravated. I had to file the guide opening in order to get the cable to slide back
and forth. The whole debacle with the bolt and the nut were rehashed…then back went
the crankset one more time.

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The last bits of the build were down to adjusting and dialing in the derailleurs. The
front went fairly easy, but the rear was a different story. My friend and I wound up
working on it most of the day last Saturday, at the end of the day, we figured out that
the derailleur hanger was just slightly ‘out’ of alignment. The good news was that there
was a spare hanger that was included with the frame. So after swapping it out, it was
back to adjusting…between setting the High and Low settings,  the B tension and the
barrel adjuster, it proved quite a task to get the shifting right. Finally then, on last Sunday morning the bike was nearly complete. All that was left to do was to apply the graphics that I had made up by bikenames.com. Total cost for the bike as pictured was $1,748.00 and weighing in at 16.92 lbs. That works out to an amazingly low figure of $103 per pound (cpp)

R-002 SS Specs

I still have not yet ridden the bike beyond a block yet. I’m hoping to get a shakedown run
in soon, to be able to dial the bike in. There’s getting the saddle position just right, the fore/aft and the tilt. Then the aligning the shifters-brake hoods on the handlebars and some other small details that really make a huge difference when riding. I’ll follow up with an unveiling video and an official test ride report.

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!

StealthWorks/p9

By now, most cyclists know of or have heard of the “Chinese Built”
or “Chinarello” type bicycles that have made their way to the shores
of Europe and the U.S.


The Z-CB-R-002

Much to the chagrin of bike shop owners and big-brand bicycle companies,
these bikes have been gaining popularity over the last few years and are now
starting to become more and more common. First it was carbon components,
then wheels, then the frameset a fraction of the prices usually paid.

So, after about a year of research on forums, the handful of companies that
manufacture these bikes various cycling sites, ebay feedback, direct feedback
from buyers & riders, I have decided to build an Asian made frame/fork bicycle.

Part of the reason is that my very good friend (who owns two Dogma 65.1’s)
wants to see if these bikes are nearly as good as the big-branded models at
a fraction of the cost. And since these are his wishes…he is footing
the bill for the CF frame/fork, bars and wheels. (Can you say I’m one lucky bastard!?) 😀

Over the next few months, I will be documenting the build up of a
2014 model, carbon fibre road bicycle branded, Archetype X – R002.

The frame and ancillary components are Manufactured by Zhongwei Composites
of Shenzhen City China. Zhongwei has engineered a lightweight, reliable and proven Z-CB-R-002 Open Mold Carbon Fibre frame that will be the basis of this build.

The two main goals of this project are to build a complete and predominantly carbon
fibre bicycle weighing in at or less than 7.6kg and costing no more than $1800 usd.
And to obtain performance and reliability from every component that will make up
this aerodynamic, archetype machine.