So Who the Hell Made This Dropper Post?

I’ve recently been looking at the Brand-X Ascend Dropper.

Now this is a budget dropper post distributed by Hotlines but primarily sold by the mighty CRC (Chain Reaction Cycles). This dropper post falls firmly into the budget end of the spectrum, with other droppers with similar specs easily retailing at twice the price of the Ascend, which has a respectable RRP of £139.99.

The Ascend has been well received by both reviewers and riders, meaning it has built up something of a reputation as bit of a giant killer. It may not have adjustable air pressure but the Infinite adjustability, internal cable routing, replaceable internal cartridge and the stonking 2 year warranty offered by CRC makes it hard to overlook.

Now those who have been paying attention to such things will be aware that the post is infact a TranzX post, namely the TranzX model YSP12 (see foot note). What we have here is a bought and badged product or what is known as a private label product.

A private label product is something that has been made by one company, to be sold under the name of another. It is in essence, a form of outsourcing and one that is common in many industries. This can allow companies to offer broad product ranges or simply the same product under different brand names at different price points. This is usually done so as to not devaluing an existing premium brand.

We are all familiar with the supermarket home brand that is just as good as the name brand product. Turn over the packaging and you wont have to look far for two products to share the same address of manufacture.

There are some very successful businesses that have based entire business models on this approach, for example, Superstar Components. A budget, online, direct sale bicycle components brand based in the UK. They now offer a made in the UK range and manufacture with their own CNC machines. But browse closely and you will find the remnants of that private label beginning. Stems, bars, brake pads and floating brake rotors that are all available else where with different branding.

This is not a criticism of that business, Superstar identified that consumables like brake pads had a unjustifiable mark up. Bought from the same factories making for other big brands, put their logo on it and undercut the competition. Good for them and good for riders.


So how does this relate to the Ascend dropper post?

On closer inspection on the CRC website, I realized that parts of the post looked very familiar, namely the actuation mechanism at the bottom of the post. With further comparison between different spec sheets, I came to the conclusion that several brands where selling the same post.

I found that the PNW Rainier and the Shimano Koryak Dropper are most likely the same post or derived from the same post. They all have a replaceable internal cartridge, no air pressure adjust, and have either 120m or 125mm (in the case of the Rainier) of travel.

In the Tranx X 2017 Dropper post catalogue the post in question is available in 80mm, 100mm, 120mm and 125mm versions.

The lever is also a sign towards them being the same post. In the Tranz X catalogue two lever variants are available, a thumb lever and under the bar trigger style lever.

Now there are some variations as well. The Shimano seat clamp is a one bolt system similar to the Specialised Command post and the other two use the same two bolt design. The seal head is different on the Koryak to the other two which have the same as the catalogue model.

But it is not Inconceivable that Shimano specced sutble and easy to produce changes to an existing model as part of a manufacturing deal. The seal head is an easy alteration as they just turn a different pattern on a lathe. The clamp would be a different die for a cast, expensive in tooling, but not for the likes of Shimano.


We now know about private label products, so whats the problem?

In a way, there isn’t one, but interesting when one of the companies you suspect is selling this dropper is the infaliable Shimano.

But Shimano wouldn’t do something like that! Sure, they are generally slow with innovation but they are solid and dependable, right?

Well, yes and no.

Shimano are one of the largest sporting equipment companies on the planet. Whilst it might make some people think a little less fondly of the brand for them to learn Shimano don’t actually make everything that they sell. It would be naive to think that they did.

Buying a proven post from a catalogue is a far faster way of filling a gap in a product range than designing your own from scratch. It may in fact be a stop gap solution whilst Shimano finalises their own design, time will tell.

So whats does this mean? Nothing, absolutely nothing. In reality all it means is that it must be a reliable component for Shimano to buy in, stick their name on and then have to uphold the warranty. It also means that whilst Shimano are not known for having the most comprehensive spare parts catalogue, finding that replacement internal cartridge might be easy than I first thought.

So at a black friday sale price of £89.99 on CRC, it might just be the bargain of the season.


Footnotes
  • All images are screen grabs off of various websites, I do not own the images.
  • Tranz X are a sub brand/company of JD Components. JD Components are probably the largest component company you’ve never heard of. Making OE equipment and parts for all manner of bike brands and manufacturers. Their components and systems are everywhere from power assisted town bikes to proper rowdy all mountain rigs.
  • This was not a sponsored article.

Bike Build

“Would you like a new bike for your birthday?”

That was the question that my wife asked me towards the end of last year, my 30th was in a few months time and she was sounding me out on the idea. As a committed mountain biker that is the kind of question you have day dreams about hearing.

giphy

With the Heckler starting to show its age, (2005/6 frame) I would of been lying if I said I hadn’t thought about it’s replacement.

Stravaiging Enduro durris February 6
Kaspir, what a machine.

When entering the market for a new bike the choices these days are a wide, varied, confusing minefield. What wheel size should you choose? Should it be plus sized or have boost spacing? 1X10/11/12 and what about 2X drivetrains, they are making a comeback. Hard tail or full suspension or should I just capitulate now and get a E bike?

You need to be honest with yourself about what terrain you actually ride. That 170mm super enduro bike might look amazing in the video but it is going to be a drag around the average trail centre.

Ask yourself a few of these questions;

What do you primarily ride and will that change over the next few years?

Is where you primarily ride trail centres or natural terrain?

Steep or mellow?

Do you have any riding or racing ambitions?

Are you an aggressive or hard rider?

Is covering long distances a regular ride for you?

After asking myself these (and a few other questions) I decided I was looking for an aggressive trail or light enduro machine, or what used to be called “all mountain”. I then wrote a set of criteria that the bike should be. I wasn’t wanting something that was vastly different from what the Heckler was for, just a modern, more capable machine.

  • 650B
  • Aluminum (unlike carbon, it can be recycled)
  • 66/7° Head angle
  • 140-160mm rear travel
  • 150-160mm front fork
  • Threaded bottom bracket
  • Ideally external cable routing
  • Boost not a priority (screw boost)

I was initially looking to buy a whole bike, I was looking at a few bikes, the Bird Aeris, Canyon Spectral, Vitus Sommet and even a Orbea Rallon had all caught my eye. All of them had good, but not perfect builds for what was within the budget. When I accidentally found a shop in Englandshire that had Banshee frame bundles at very reasonable prices.

And a Banshee Spitfire more than met the criteria listed above.

I hadn’t considered a frame and custom build, but the idea was very appealing. A few conversations with my LBS and they were able to not only match the frame deal from down south, but better it by it coming with a CC Inline instead of a RS Monarch. Let it never be said that a bricks and mortar shop should be ruled out over direct sales when looking for a new ride.

A big part of the fun with a build is the specing, researching the best mix of performance, weight and cost. The simple things like colour matching components and getting your preferred tyres and handlebar width right from the start. And knowing every part, every bolt and having that detailed knowledge of your ride, it all makes a difference.

This also meant that family could gift me components for the build, making the bike more special, as my family helped me build it. The end result is a unique bike that no one else has, no one else is riding the same bike as me, and that is special.

glenlivet-trail-centre-banshee-spitfire
Ash thinks he is called Big Tom.
There are a lot of Canyons on the bike racks of Audi drivers afterall. 
Elsewhere

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#Ovalthis

There are some things that are constant, they may evolve but can you reinvent the wheel?

I have been curious to try oval chain rings ever since reading an excellent article about them a while back on James Wilson’s site. Now, thanks to my support from absoluteBLACK I have one of their oval chain rings to find out for myself.

Off round chain rings are not a new idea, back in the late 80’s Shimano championed their Biopace system. Seriously flawed, users complained of knee and joint pain. Time has thankfully moved on, and the oval chain ring is not the oval ring of the past. AbsoluteBLACK’s offers gains and benefits over conventional round rings.

“Absolute Black oval chainrings deliver power more smoothly to your rear wheel. This means you are better able to generate and maintain, constant cadence. Because oval chainrings reduce the peak loads on knee joints, riders using them get less stress on the joints (knees) and therefore are able to keep certain level of effort for longer. This results in higher average speed.” (source absoluteBLACK.cc)

With the timing and shape being completely different to that of the Biopace rings, comparisons between them are less apples and oranges and more like apples and tuna.

Out of the package it was immediately obvious these were not your average narrow wide chain rings. The oval shape was subtle, but enough to make you look twice if you didn’t know it was not a round chain ring. The asymmetric tooth profile is superbly detailed and shaped to hold the chain and move dirt and oil off of the tooth’s face.

AbsoluteBLACK offer a 30 day trail period, if oval is not for you they will swap it for a round one; as a brand ambassador I was still more than ready to make use of this trial period.

Oval chainring

Fitting the ring was a straightforward affair with the 32 tooth ring having built in threads, once on and with a fresh new chain it certainly scored in the good looks department. One thing to note is if you are running a top guide, make sure to adjust and check the height of it to avoid it hitting on the high point of the oval!

It was time to hit the trails and to see how the theory applied to reality. The initial test ride would be on some newly cut trails that were steep and loamy, hitting them blind would mean drive train worries would need to be the last thing on my mind.

Clipping in I was expecting to feel something very pronounced through the pedals, a pulsing in the torque. Being completely honest, it felt natural, very quickly it didn’t feel strange at all and most importantly I noticed I was losing my fellow riders on the fire road climbs.

It encouraged a smooth, even pedal stroke, but it still felt good even at lower cadences, one thing I was concerned about was that it would have a “sweet spot” in terms of cadence, but it just doesn’t.

When the terrain turned steep it again performed flawlessly, we have all gotten used to not dropping chains thanks to 1X and narrow wide chain rings, in this regard the oval ring performs perfectly and inspires confidence in your drive train. On more pedally trails the extra gains in power and torque led to faster acceleration and less fatigue in the legs.

Finella Steeps Stravaiging

My initial feelings are that I will not be needing the 30 day trial offer, the additional power in the strong part of the pedal stroke provides a noticeable enhancement to performance and encourages a smooth pedal technique. Long term durability is not a concern as the build quality is just so good, with the grinding paste of Scottish dirt doing nothing to take the shine off of the teeth’s anodizing.

I’ll no doubt be returning with some long term assessments once I have a few months of turning oval under the belt, but for now I can certainly recommend them.