Shimano XTR Di2 Images and First Thoughts

Well, if you have been to the shop in the past week, someone working likely called out the Black Inc Cannondale FSi equipped with Shimano XTR Di2.  Long awaited, with many preview photos and promises, the Di2 set up beautifully on the 29er and looked great.  Some of the wire routing might get a little refining in the near future, but looks sleek and operates flawlessly (when set up correctly).  The auto front shifting mode (Synchro) is creative and helps remove even more shifting error possibilities from the rider so they may enjoy the results more than the operation.  Even more attractive motor sounds (than road Di2) when the derailleurs shift is welcome and should be able to be heard quite well while riding.  I did neglect to have a pedal installed when rotating the crank arms, so my actions are not nearly as smooth in response to how it will shift while riding.  Hopefully, we will be able to experiment with merging both systems — like maybe a rear XTR Di2 derailleur with a large rear cassette on a road bike or gravel grinder or touring setup and a road front derailleur.  Seeing each component in the Di2 software will also be a great experiment for feedback.  I will be doing a follow up article regarding it soon.  For now, here are a few photos of the group (except the crank) and later (once processed), I have a video to post of front and rear Synchro shifting.

How To Properly Glue A Tubular Tire

I am sure that many people have great techniques (as well as poor ones) on how to glue tubulars, but I thought I would provide my take on it.  I have glued well over 500 in my career thus far and not one has ever come back where it “rolled” off the rim.  I take this as a good technique proven over time because if it is one thing I can pretty much guarantee, it’s that someone who rolls one will definitely make sure the ‘gluer’ knows that it happened.  If you perfect the consistency of your method while gluing, then you will have predictable results that are positive.

That being said, let’s dig in.  If you are a bike shop mechanic and haven’t tried gluing, practice on a set of ones first and have them inspected about a week later by someone who has glued.  If the tire is quite difficult to pull off, then you’ve done it right.  Recently, I have come across several cases where a poor gluing was easily reflected in the difficulty (or ease) of pulling the old tire off.  Either the glue had been applied in spots on the rim or almost none at all in the center.  Let me express that you don’t have to have glued a ton of tubulars to get it right.  You just have to follow a method that is proven and makes sense.  If you are a cyclist that doesn’t have access to a shop, then follow this guide because you’ll know your wheels better because of it and you’ll always have the opportunity to be race-ready.  The process can be done in a day with the right tubulars or over several days for ultimate quality and aesthetics.

The first thing I do is to obviously remove the old tubular.  If it has been glued correctly, this will be the second hardest part.  Below you will see a series of photos detailing the removal.  I usually start by taking my index fingers and thumbs and rock the tire side to side in different places on the rim to try to peel the edges of the tire off.  If a particular section starts to peel well, I will focus there.  I take a plastic tire lever and run its edge along the part of the tire that is glued.  This kind of ‘cuts’ the glue to start the removal and ensures that the base tape does not rip off the rest of the tire.  Then, I begin to pry the edge of the lever under the center of the tire until it gives way to the opposite side.  Push either forwards or backwards along the rim flexing the lever upwards to peel more of the tire off.  Once you’ve done this for about a quarter of the radius of the rim, take the lever out and use your hands to peel the rest of the tire off.  Then, put the wheel in a truing stand if you have one for inspection.  Here are the photos of me removing a Vittoria Corsa Evo off of some Campagnolo Bora Ultimates.

After peeling the tire off, inspect it and compare the base tape to the new tubular being glued.  Many times, indentations around each rim hole for the spoke nipple will be seen.  Glue that is hastily applied will seep into these holes in the rim and create havoc for future truing and for broken spoke nipples to exit the rim in a spoke replacement.  Note any areas that are lacking in glue.  More importantly that this is to check the rim bed (the area where the tire contacts the rim) for leftover glue and any inconsistencies.  Check these two photos out:

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In the left photo, you can see that glue never really even made it to the right side of the rim and the indent in the center of the rim bed holds roughly the same thickness of glue as the left side.  From a better perspective, the right photo shows the area on the rim I found when peeling the tubular.  My best guess is that a layer of glue was on the tire and then a bead of glue was drawn onto the center of the rim bed before mounting it.  Don’t ever use this method.  That tire is not secure at all for racing — much less around the parking lot for a test ride.  I recommend at this point to mark non-glued tubulars on display models with a symbol on the valve extender with a silver Sharpie marker.

This is how to glue the new tubular.

Since there was little glue on the rim to start with, I elected to ‘paint’ over the existing glue using Vittoria Mastik One tubular glue.  It is rated the best — it holds the best (I have heard recently of using this in conjunction with gluing tape for cross tubulars and the methods I was described sounded great and sound).  The first step is to start spreading glue on the tubular since the base tape will soak up the first layer.  I like to focus on getting about 95% of the base tape covered in a nice layer of glue.  This means no thick spots or globs.  Use an acid brush (hardware stores — very cheap and perfect for the job) to steadily spread the glue in long sections several inches at a time with short strokes.  I usually spread a bead of glue (as pictured below) around a sixth to a quarter of the circumference at a time.  This helps to ensure that the glue doesn’t begin to thicken and dry or drip down onto the rubber of the tire.  While a little glue may touch the rubber, a lot is difficult to fix and results in poor treatment of the rubber to clean.  Take your time and be thorough.  Each coat takes about 10-15 minutes for a beginner and about 5-7 minutes once acquainted.  Check out the progress below.

One important thing to note with layers of glue on the tire is that you want to build a little extra glue right around the valve where it meets the base tape.  This will help prevent damage from pumping it up as well as rough valve holes and a secure fitting when stretching onto the rim.  Like this.


Next is the rim.  I apply glue the exact same way as the tire.  Do two coats on the tire and two coats on the rim.  Spread it evenly and take care to both cover rim edges around the spoke drillings and the areas between.  Spread 2-3 small half-dime size dots of glue between each spoke drilling approximately a quarter way around the rim at a time.  Start at the last place you dripped glue and spread upwards in directional slow strokes.  Angle the brush to drag excesses of glue along the rim to areas where application didn’t sufficiently cover.  The speed of this process is a lot of what experience will give you.  The more you do, the quicker and more efficient you will become.  The idea here is that you follow the steps precisely so that you get glue where it should be.   The aesthetics will come with time.  Tubulars that stay on the rim are always cooler than pretty ones that don’t.  Here is the glue process.

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You can see in the right the bead drops of glue and spreading them out in the left photo.  Let each layer dry completely to touch and then it will be time to mount the tire onto the rim.

Take the tire and apply a very very thin layer of glue over the middle 70% of the basetape.  This will aid in activating the glue on the rim and in allowing a bit of positioning.  Check the tread and make absolutely sure that you will be stretching it on the correct direction.  Nothing is more terrible than realizing you just put the tire on backwards. Check the tread one more time.

Insert the valve into the valve hole with only some ‘pliable pressure’ in the tire.  You should be able to stretch it with moderate effort.  Begin with a hand on each side of the valve and pull the tire away from the valve in the direction of the rim.  Check the base tape on each side to make sure it is being placed evenly along the rim.  Once you get to the final six inches of the tire, wedge the axle of the wheel against something and pinch the tire while pulling it onto the rim.  Some cases and combinations of tubulars and rims are exceptionally difficult and some are wonderfully easy.  Vittoria happens to be a tubular that rides incredibly well and stretches easily onto almost any rim.

I hope this helped clear up the process of the gluing.  I may extend the article soon and include some photos of actually stretching the tire.  Feel free to comment and suggest any methods that are well proven.  Thanks for reading!


Specialized Turbo S Long Term Review

Welcome to the long awaited review of the Specialized Turbo S.  The “pedalelec” is an electric pedal assist bicycle for those of you not yet hip on such terminology.  From a newly updated control interface (what you use to configure the Turbo) to a more powerful battery, this bicycle can go about 40 miles at 30 miles an hour.  For locals that know the DC area, that would be like coming into the city from here:

40 miles on 66However, it certainly never takes the quoted 41 minutes by car unless it’s 11:28 pm on a Thursday night (according to googlemaps).  The great news is that you’ll never have to spend all that time sitting in traffic if you’re flying down the taxpayer supported trails of the greater Washington DC metro area or wherever you might live.  It’s a bike that leaves everyone smiling the first time they use one and was designed for commuting and recreation by some of Europe’s best bicycle experts with Specialized.  Every single person I have ever seen test ride or own one is smiling ear to ear afterward.

Group ride bikes lined up in three sizes, S, M, L
Group ride bikes lined up in three sizes, S, M, L

This review intends to convey the nature of the bicycle and how it operates as well as issues encountered from a maintenance standpoint over a long period of usage.  I would be the first to admit that, amongst a few expected difficulties, it is a machine worth the investment and is a forefront in the future of this class of bicycles.

Building a Turbo out of the box is not altogether difficult and can be done by most shops with some attention to detail and a thorough reading of the manual.  You might recall from my original article that I attended a seminar on how to operate and work on the Specialized Turbo in Miami back in 2013 and it definitely helped to have time properly set aside to fully understand how it works and how to replace components and fix others in the past few months of research.  With a final recent repair of the regeneration mode activated hydraulic disc brakes by Magura, I felt there was sufficient photos and information to write a good “one-stop” informal manual in case you run into a similar situation.  As started, the build includes normal things like truing the wheels which are installed on the bike with thru-axles and have torque specs located right at each point on the frame and fork.  These specs are important as this bicycle will undergo higher stresses than a majority of other bicycles at higher speed.

So, all of this being said, i think that it’s clear how cool and fun these bikes are to work with and enjoy.  There are certain maintenance issues that seemed to take a fair amount of time to work out, but most of the solutions made great sense after diagnosing and repairing.  I would like to begin by saying this quick procedure, found in the manual, solves many small issues:

1.  Power off the Turbo by lightly clicking the green lit button on the battery.

2.  Turn the key included with the bike down near the bottom bracket and hold.

3.  Lift the battery out from the downtube.

4.  Wait about thirty seconds.

5.  Place the battery (bottom first) and reinstall.

6.  Turn on the Turbo.

Essentially, taking the battery (powered down) out of the Turbo resets the entire system much like unplugging your Internet router at home or work and powering it back on after a few moments.  Every time it starts up, the Turbo passes through a set of diagnostic checks that relay to four small LEDs located right below the power button on the battery.  Each LED should blink once and then remain on until all four have lit up.  Then, all four LEDs should blink together once and then resolves into a battery level meter (each LED represents 25% battery).  If the LEDs have lit up as mentioned, the system has just checked the battery status, the motor status, the control interface status, and the lighting system status.  On the current Turbo S (versus the original model), there is a front light as well as a new integrated rear set of LEDs on the back of the saddle (nice addition).

Turbo Battery

However, at times throughout the research, I would notice one or two LEDs blink twice when the Turbo was turned on and so I checked the manual and diagnostic chart from the Specialized Service website.  Any of the four LEDs blinking twice indicates that there is some sort of fault or error with the corresponding module (battery, motor, CPU, or lights).  The lights and control interface (we’ll call it the CPU) are wired in parallel and it should be mentioned that a fault (LED blinks twice) from either might mean checking both for error.  This has happened on several occasions and could always be resolved, but a check of both modules was usually necessary.  The number one thing I found helpful to do in the case of an error was to immediately check all of the wire connections on the bike to make sure they were properly tight and paired.  In some cases, I found it helpful to use a very small amount of dielectric grease to ensure that the connection was consistent.

From all of the repairs, I have installed or replaced the following: the battery (both the same unit and upgrading the original Turbo with a new unit), bottom bracket (BB386EVO), rear derailleur (SRAM X0), hydraulic brakes (Magura), and the CPU (both updating firmware and software and installing a new unit).  One thing I have never had to replace (on a Turbo) is a spoke.  The wheels were designed and built extremely well and the Specialized Electrak tires are perfect for the bike.  Many other electric bikes I have serviced have experienced spoke breakage and warping of the rim.  As a part of the bike that most people cannot repair on the road without training and tools, it’s a great confidence to know they hold up so well, even with daily commuting, running errands, and several crashes.

I am going to add links below for each section of the review (two additional parts) for ease of navigation.  Once the link is active, the post for the corresponding link will be up.  This way, it’s easier to jump to a section if you are servicing a Turbo and can read the most relevant information.

Parts Installation (Active)

Diagnosis and Troubleshooting (Active)

Specialized Turbo Launch

Well, I am pleased to be back with some spare time to post on the blog and interest you in an event I was at yesterday for the Specialized Turbo electric bike launch and certification.  It was a one day training session and test ride experience in South Beach Miami.  In a quick word of summary — this is the first bike I can correctly term “fast.”  With moderate exertion, we were quickly flying around the city streets with ease and style at 30 mph.

Here are a few photos I took throughout the day.  Below the slideshow is the review of the components so you’ll be more familiar with what they look like and how they function.  It is quite an all-inclusive package with sleek sexy accents and smart technology that flows right in sync with today’s popular commitment to helping the environment and being productive with technology.

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The day started with a quick summary of how to operate the controls and what to expect.  Then, we rode!  SRAM 1×10 configuration with some incredibly robust Armadillo Elite Electrak tires.  In the “most fun” mode, or full active mode, the bike can attain a speed of 45 kph (30 mph) for an entire hour!  This means, of course, that I could make the 25 mile commute to my work using the pedal assist motor to give the bike double the watts I push into the pedals and make it there in under an hour.  That’s fast.  That’s the Specialized Turbo.

I am really convinced that this design and research has led to a frontier of true “hybrid” bicycles that can realistically be used by anyone and eliminates gas usage and adds great daily exercise.  What about group rides?  Never wanted to join because of the “fast pace” and limitations of keeping up?  This bike allows you to join even an A group ride.  From every other electric bike so far, we’ve seen many drawback, problems, and general “clunkiness.”  This bike specs out at 50 lbs, which is about ten pounds lighter than previous electric-assist bicycles.

The battery is probably the most innovative of all the electric bikes out there.  instead of it being bulky and oddly placed into a rack or after-market mounted to the frame, it integrates directly into the downtube.  This means it becomes part of the bike, with an adjustable cushioning plate to take up small bits of play, which enables easy installation/removal.  The Lithium ion battery is custom designed by Swiss manufacturing and features a unique cell holding grid for the battery so vibrations, bumps, and weather do not impact the performance.  It can operate down to almost 4 degrees Fahrenheit and up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit.  With a built-in diagnostic tool that indicates successfully test and operation of the individual components of the electric motor system.  It also can be used for a rough battery meter indicator — secondary to the much more accurate meter displayed on the integrated computer.  You might be getting the feeling that this bike sports a lot of integration and ergonomic design.  You would be right.

The computer is the central unit for displaying important information about the status of the bike.  it can tell you the normal things a cycling Speedzone computer can from Specialized like temperature, time, speed, and distance.  It also, as aforementioned, displays battery life and modes the bike can run in.  From full active power, which adds the same watts as you input (ex, 200 watts = 400 watts total) to “eco” mode (adds 30 percent of the power you input) to no assist to regenerative mode (recharges the battery), there is a variety of function and usefulness to appropriate your battery life for just about any reasonable commute (anything under about 30 miles).  The eco mode will allow the rider to push their own way with a little support on the parts of riding that need more torque.

A brushless DC motor operates the propulsion of the added power with no moving parts inside and was custom designed from the ground up by the Swiss motor company Go Swiss Motor.  In conjunction with Specialized’s headquarters for the Turbo project in Switzerland, they made a slightly smaller motor than most that exist on electric bikes today and encased it in silicon to make it weatherproof and immersible.  So, a slightly heavy battery, a heavy motor, a rider, and added robust frame design are adding up in weight, which increases the power needed to stop — particularly when you are flying 30 mph down the road.

That leads to the brakes.  Magura MT-8 disc brakes are installed on the Turbo which have incredible stopping power and work great with 160mm rotors front and rear.  A quick side note is that, on the rear wheel disc rotor mount, the rotor bolts used need to be a bit shorter than standard ones.  They use an M5x7mm bolt rather than the normal M5x10mm bolts.  This means either shorter normal ones properly or order sets for spare parts. The most creative aspect of the brake system is the connection to the motor to disengage when the lever is actuation (pulled).  That means braking under just the weight of the bicycle and you rather than that and working against the motor.  Some electric bikes out there have this feature.  However, Specialized took it a step further.  they included the system to be able to regenerate the motor every time you actuate the brake lever.  Even if the pads don’t fully stop the wheel or even make full contact with the rotor, the regeneration mode engages, slowly building and conserving battery life.

In addition to all of this, the bike has integrated lights in front and rear that makes night commuting and riding a breeze.  They work off of the battery to a nominal degree and can be turned on at the light or on the integrated Speedzone ANT+ computer.

This bike really is it for the “car replacement” category of cycling as well as the elite tech savvy crowd interested in the futuristic design and seamless technology interface.  30+ mile rides, 30+ mph speeds, stable flat-protected tires, innovative and pleasing design meant for ease and efficiency, and simply a thrill to ride, the Specialized Turbo was everything I expected it to be and being trained on the servicing and operation by the individuals who actually designed the bike made it a memorable and focused learning experience that will certainly propel my shop to promote its use.  I am sure you’ll be asking one question throughout this whole review.  How much is it?  They retail out at $5,900 dollars.  That’s more expensive than many used cars out there.  It’s tough to justify the expense.  So, I calculated the cost of what a car costs a year paid for and what it cost the average driver in a car with payments.

25 Mile commute -One full tank of gas every two weeks = $52.00 x 26 fill ups a year =  $1352.00
Car insurance payment = $75.00 x 12 months a year = $900.00
Standard maintenance factor = $300.00
Personal Property Tax = $200.00

Grand Total = $2752.00
Now add in 12 months of a $250.00 car payment.  That then equates to $5752 per year.  That’s basically the same as the price of the bike.  And, it will certainly last you more than a year.  From the robust construction, I would guess the bike will ride great with very basic mechanical maintenance for several years before even the battery would need replacing.  Consider the benefits.  I hope you enjoyed a review of the Turbo.  It was really an awesome bike to ride and we will have them in our shops very soon so you can stop by and test ride one yourself.  I guarantee you’ll step back into the shop afterward grinning from ear to ear.  Feel free to email me or comment with questions.  I would be more than happy to answer them or find it out.


Sworks Tarmac SL3 Rebuild

A project that has been in the shop for a few weeks has finally been completed and I wanted to share some photos and background that I believe really details what the cycling industry is about.  This Specialized Tarmac SL3 had been in a crash during the prior year and it was questionable as whether to replace the frame and wheels or repair them.  Weighing in originally at just over 13 pounds, it was equipped with SRAM Red, Zipp 202s, and Specialized components.

Upon inspection, it was evident that the rear chain stay had a major break in the FACT 11r carbon fiber and the other stay would likely have been compromised from the impact.  In addition, the rear wheel was destroyed as well as the fork.  We consulted both the costs of a new frame and wheels and with a company out of North Carolina called Jack Kane Cycles that could repair the carbon.  They assured us after sending multiple photos of the damage that it could be repaired, but that a new finish needed to be applied to the whole frame for aesthetics and durability.  After debating about this issue in the shop, it really made good sense.  At Kane Cycles, they believe that a repair in carbon fiber means making the whole system complete as a skeletal structural unit.  It should essentially look like nothing ever happened.  After sending them the frame and a replacement fork, they matched the paint and finish and repaired the damage with impeccable quality work.  I highly recommend their services and very much appreciated their updates and professional attitude.

While the frame was being repaired, we decided to use the hubs from the Zipp 202s and rebuild them with Sapim CX Ray spokes and Alchemy TB-25 tubular rims.  Alchemy machines a variety of hole drilling for their rims, which made it an excellent choice along with the great reputation they have for quality products.  The spoke calculations made it the hardest set of wheels I have ever laced.  From spoke nipple washers to measuring spoke length for recessed straight pull crossed and radial lacing to mounting the tubulars, it came together absolutely even and precise and dropped almost a hundred grams off the original set.

The rest of the bike suffered no damage in regards to the components, bars, and crank.  After cleaning and lubricating all of the parts, I installed Teflon shift cables and housing with long tongue protectors and put the sweet machine back to racing performance.  With Look Keo pedals installed, it weighed in at 14 pounds 11 ounces.  After a quick test ride, I realized that the industry was at a point where the technology is at the same level as our ability to repair it.  The bike is different today than the original, but now reflects a much more customized look and feel with a “one-off” style.  I plan to write a followup post later concerning the building of the wheels and how to measure for such a situation.  Here are the photos!    – SNC

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Park Tool Summit 2013

Well, tomorrow is the first day of the 2013 Park Tool Summit.  This is a big convention of hungry coffee-loving mechanics and enthusiasts brought together by the biggest bicycle tool company in the US.  I attended one in Philadelphia about two years ago and am really looking forward to all of the tech knowledge and hands-on working that some of the major component manufacturers lead and discuss.  I am attending the following courses: Campagnolo, Cane Creek, Mavic, FSA, Shimano, and Fox.  From top-end wheels to overhauling complex suspension forks, it’s sure to be a blast.  I plan on taking many notes and recording the seminars with audio that I’ll post for those interested.  Prepare for a lengthy post on all of what I see there and learn.

While I will not be able to attend every class,  I intend to gain the knowledge from other mechanics my shop is sending there and pass it on to you.  May my attention be focused and my hands adept.  Being that I will probably have to share the knowledge ASAP, I may post small bits throughout the convention from my tablet.  Stay tuned.  There’s a ton of great things happening in the industry this year.