Author Topic: SRAM Apex?  (Read 4658 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline peterharris

SRAM Apex?
« on: October 29, 2011, 07:01:01 pm »
Well ... I've decided to get rid of my hybrid and not try to "convert" it to a light tourer (for a lot of reasons I won't go into here). I'm now looking at "cyclocross" and full-on touring bicycles instead but am leaning towards "cyclocross" so I can it as an all-purpose bicycle. I haven't decided yet whether to buy a built-out cycle (which would be more affordable) or a frame/fork and build it out myself (more expensive but could pick my own components and I'd have all winter to play with it).

A couple of the built-out cycles I've looked at use many components from the SRAM Apex group. From what I've been able to glean from a little web surfing, it's a relatively new group but clearly not top-end. I don't expect to do much more than occasional credit card and lightly loaded touring until I retire in several more years. Financially, if I build-out my own, I'll need to be judicious about buying components and the Apex components seem to be reasonably affordable. If I buy pre-built, I can probably get an entire bicycle with Apex components (mostly drivetrain) and spend less than if building-out myself but will have to be satisfied with everything else that comes with the cycle.

What have you heard about the Apex group? Anyone have personal experience with that group?

Offline whittierider

Re: SRAM Apex?
« Reply #1 on: October 29, 2011, 07:58:10 pm »
A true cyclocross bike has very little in common with a touring bike.  Don't confuse the two.  See this post from someone who has owned many CX bikes, owns a big shop, has led tours in Europe, and raced for decades.  He's a little bit abrasive but really knows his stuff.  The link should land you on the post starting with the quote, "Where can I get some good information?" and then his longish answer about the differences between true cyclocross bikes and touring bikes.

That said, there are bikes that are called cyclocross (perhaps their model name containing something about it) but in actuality lean much more toward touring.  This was discussed recently at http://www.adventurecycling.org/forums/index.php?topic=9867.0.

I haven't tried Apex myself but I've read nothing but positive about it.

Offline peterharris

Re: SRAM Apex?
« Reply #2 on: October 29, 2011, 09:38:13 pm »
whittierider, your point about what constitutes a true cyclocross bike is right on point. That's why I referred to the bikes I was looking at as "cyclocross" in quotation marks.  :-\

The bikes I have in mind are really "all-purpose" bikes suitable for light touring, commuting, general riding ... but the manufacturers are calling them cyclocross. Why not just call them what they are... light touring, commuting bikes? They're not what I would call road bikes, either, although when you go to some websites that's where their "cyclocross" bikes are located. Clearly there's not a lot of standardization of bike categories across the industry.

Here's how Surly describes their Cross-Check which is, ostensibly, a cyclocross bike: "It’s a cyclocross bike by category, but we try to design a lot of versatility into our stuff. You can build this frame with gears or as a singlespeed or fixed-gear. You can ride it on the road or off. It’s got lots of space for fat tires and for fenders. It does as good a job getting you across the country as it does getting you across town." In other words ... an all-purpose bike and NOT a cyclocross bike!
« Last Edit: October 29, 2011, 10:02:52 pm by peterharris »

Offline DaveB

Re: SRAM Apex?
« Reply #3 on: October 30, 2011, 01:10:14 pm »
Here's how Surly describes their Cross-Check which is, ostensibly, a cyclocross bike: "It’s a cyclocross bike by category, but we try to design a lot of versatility into our stuff. You can build this frame with gears or as a singlespeed or fixed-gear. You can ride it on the road or off. It’s got lots of space for fat tires and for fenders. It does as good a job getting you across the country as it does getting you across town." In other words ... an all-purpose bike and NOT a cyclocross bike!
I've got a Cross Check built up as an errand/rain bike and their description is spot-on.  It's not a pure CX bike, it's a versatile general purpose frame that has a wide variety of possiblities.  The current ones even have fork blade eyelets for a front rack. 

As to the Apex group, it's SRAM's way of avoiding making a true triple group.  The very wide range cassette and wide range chainrings do give a decent low and a good high gear but leave huge gaps in the middle as a result.   It works but there are gearing compromises a triple doesn't have to make.
« Last Edit: October 30, 2011, 01:12:44 pm by DaveB »

Offline bogiesan

Re: SRAM Apex?
« Reply #4 on: October 31, 2011, 08:44:27 am »
Cursory google and yahoo searches turned up dozens of threads about the Apex group, some appeared to be legitimate reviews by experts and experienced users.
My observation on compact doubles is that it seems to be a fad. On the two supported tours I did summer of 2011, I overheard three people proudly claming they had finally thrown away their triples and graduated to a double chain ring. Bicycle Magazine's sarcastic style maven has proclaimed the double as a status symbol. To me, that's proof it's a trend and not a viable component development.

I was delighted to give up the double road rings on my Canondale cross-racer--which I bought for commuting, a delightful bike--for the triple mountain rings on my recumbent. Huge advance in efficiency and comfort.

But that's just my story, not necessarily relavant.

I play go. I use Macintosh. Of course I ride a recumbent

Offline waynemyer

  • World Traveler
  • *****
  • Posts: 274
  • More PITA than PITA. That's our motto!
Re: SRAM Apex?
« Reply #5 on: October 31, 2011, 02:55:25 pm »
I was delighted to give up the double road rings on my Canondale cross-racer--which I bought for commuting, a delightful bike--for the triple mountain rings on my recumbent. Huge advance in efficiency and comfort.

But that's just my story, not necessarily relavant.
Entirely relevant. I have a 2012 Salsa Fargo awaiting pickup. Based on my test ride, I think that compact doubles provide a semblance of range, but still don't come anywhere near triples for range and steps. No double crankset is going to provide 17 to 108 gear inches with pleasant steps all throughout. I was reticent to make the jump to 10-speed for a touring bike (off-road, no less), but time will tell. I really put the screws to the bike during my test ride and it seems like a respectable group. I'm curious how it will hold up through year-round commuting abuse and pounding around in the mountains. Hopefully I can get to the shop this week and I will tell you more after a few days of abuse.
waynemyer.com
warmshowers.org  (user:waynemyer)

Offline whittierider

Re: SRAM Apex?
« Reply #6 on: October 31, 2011, 03:10:17 pm »
When I said above, "I haven't tried Apex myself but I've read nothing but positive about it," I was only thinking of the quality.  I forgot it was only double.  For touring, I'd definitely recommend a triple.  The anti-triple people usually come from situations where their triples were not set up correctly so they didn't shift well; but that's the mechanic's fault, not anything inherent in the triple.  The derailleur and shifter don't have any more parts for a triple than a double either.  Besides the fact that the compact double puts annoyingly large steps between gears as someone above mentioned, I find that the compact double is kind of like a triple that's missing the middle ring.  Bummer.  I do almost all my riding in the 42T middle ring and seldom even shift the front; but my triple is set up correctly so it shifts chainrings very quickly (in half a turn of the crank) and never drops the chain.

I should also mention that SRAM's website says on the Apex crankset page, "Allow crankarms with lower Q factor than triple chainrings" which is not really true.  The widest Q of any bike in our garage is on a double, and the narrowest is on a triple.  The angle on the chain stay means that even if the middle ring is nearly touching the chain stay, the fact that the third ring is much smaller means it can still fit without moving the middle ring out, because the chain stay is farther in as it gets to the BB.  (External-bearing BBs don't increase the Q either.  On the left side, no spindle length is visible like it is with an internal-bearing BB, and on the drive side, the bearings are nearly in the plane of the middle ring, with the small ring being inboard of that.)
« Last Edit: October 31, 2011, 03:15:44 pm by whittierider »

Offline paddleboy17

Re: SRAM Apex?
« Reply #7 on: November 01, 2011, 02:59:51 pm »
From my point of view, the compact doubles are hard to manage.  I see them as a tripple, minus the middle ring.  With my tripples, I spend most of my time in the middle ring, which is why I see compact doubles as being hard to manage.  So I would never want to ride one.

I like mountain bike gearing on my touring bike, and as others have mentioned, compact doubles just don't go that low.

I see compact doubles as being in the same category as BioPace--a marketting curiousity that hopefully will go away.
Danno

Offline csykes

Re: SRAM Apex?
« Reply #8 on: November 01, 2011, 07:26:44 pm »
I think the point is that doubles in general are not appropriate for touring.  They often make sense for road bike riders with not much more load than water bottles and a repair kit who spend most of their time in the big ring but need the low range for hilly territory.  I use a compact on my road bike and it's been great and I can assure you they are not going away any time soon.  For loaded touring, they are not ideal and should not be anyone's first choice.

Offline DaveB

Re: SRAM Apex?
« Reply #9 on: November 02, 2011, 09:46:33 am »
I see compact doubles as being in the same category as BioPace--a marketting curiousity that hopefully will go away.
I think the compact double is here to stay for true road and some racing bikes.  The absurd proliferation of 11T and 12T cassette cogs has made a 52 or 53t big chainring almost irrelevant for anyone not on the ProTour (and even some who are) so a 50T big ring is plenty big enough. 

A 10-speed 11x23 or 12x25 cassette paired with  50/34 chainrings gives a very high hig gear (112 to 122 gear-inches!) along with an adequate low gear (40 or 37 gear-inches) for most sports riders in reasonable terrain without leaving huge gaps in the cassette spacing.

For touring or even unloaded riding in very hilly terrain (think West Virginia) , that low gear is wholly inadequate for most riders and here is where a triple really comes into its own. 

Offline ducnut

Re: SRAM Apex?
« Reply #10 on: November 27, 2011, 07:50:23 pm »
The OP stated "light-tourer" and "all-purpose"; not fully-loaded touring.

Some posters need to educate themselves on what Apex WiFli, compact-double, road-double, road-triple, and MTB-triple are and what can be done with gearing, before posting. Laying out a spreadsheet of all the different gearing options and ratios will go a long way to realizing what one truly is looking at. I'm not meaning to be harsh here, but, it irks the crap out of me when people post up comments without knowing what they're talking about. These posts greatly affect the OP's decision making process.

Apex is going to have ratios further apart. However, the "holes" are minimal, as one can use both rings (cross-chaining is encouraged with SRAM) to achieve a workable gear ratio. WiFli is the equivalent to specifying a 10 speed transmission versus an 18 speed transmission, in a semi. Yes. The 18 speed is going to be faster up a hill (because of keeping closer to peak power), but, it's heavier, more complicated to operate, and has ratio overlap, just like in bicycles. If one were in the big ring and steadily dropped gears on the cassette, when they dropped a 'ring, there will be considerable overlap in gearing and will have to upshift the cassette several cogs to continue in a natural progression of lower gear ratios, just like a semi. Furthermore, dropping a triple into the smaller 'ring will result in performing the same process, again. WiFli doesn't have so much overlap in ratios, as there are only two chainrings. I find when I drop the 'ring I need to upshift two cassette cogs to continue the natural progression. Again, for my riding style, fitness, and terrain encountered, it works perfectly.

I've been running Apex on mine and my GF's Specialized Tricrosses, for two years. The most I carry is ~25lbs in a rear rack bag and a small frame bag (she, a small frame bag), as we rely on convenience and grocery stores. We, both, run 4 bottle mounts. I'm currently running a compact crank (48/34) spinning a 12-32 cassette. She's running a 'cross crank (46/38) spinning a 12-36 cassette. In road cycling GA, TN, IL, MO, NY, VT, and FL, I've not found the need for MTB gearing, at my loaded weight and fitness level. With Apex, we've never had chains drop or any other malfunction/problems. Shifts are instantaneous and solid. I'll continue to use the groupset on everything, in the future.

I'm so smitten with SRAM's WiFli ideaology, I bought a new MTB with SRAM's 2X10 drivetrain. I went from a 3X9 XTR drivetrain and will never go back to a triple. My peer group questioned the decision, stating fewer gear ratios. However, I pointed out that a lot of ratios are overlapped, or close to it, and most of our MTB riding is done in the smaller two 'rings and primarily somewhere at the point of shifting between those two smaller rings. With the 2X10, I can stay in the small ring. I climb everything I did before, to the point of going up stuff the others walk. I only use the big 'ring on the flats. They positively commented with amazement, upon hearing me shifting through gears, wherever I chose. It shifts so quickly and positively that my rear wheel spokes "ping", even under load.

It was mentioned that a mechanic is crucial to good operation. I'd argue that component level is equally important. No matter who the mechanic, one will never get a Sora/Tiagra road setup to shift as cleanly as XT/XTR, that most tourists use. To me that's a huge deal breaker, as the average cyclist doesn't realize the difference. All they've heard is "triple" and they end up buying something with a road triple that shifts like garbage. If you're going to go triple, be sure it's a MTB triple. Furthermore, chain selection makes all the difference in the world, to shifting quality. Don't skimp on chains.

I've plugged in numbers, based on a 35mm tire, for low gear inches:
Apex 34X36=25.7
Apex 38X36 (my GF's setup)=28.7
Road-triple 30X27=30.2
MTB 24X36=18.1
MTB 22X36 (as some here run)=16.6
Surly LHT 26X34=20.8
My MTB 22X36 (56mm tire)=17.8

After all that, IMHO, you don't need a triple for light-touring and general use. However, you do need a mid- or long-cage MTB rear derailluer or Apex groupset. That'll allow you to swing a 36T low gear; a road RD limits you to a 28T low gear. The Cross-Check has the MTB derailluer necessary to swing the bigger cog.

As for the Cross-Check, I wouldn't hesitate to buy one for your intended use. If you're on a budget and don't have stigmas related to brands, you may consider the bike at the following link (both are made in China).
http://www.bikesdirect.com/products/motobecane/fantom_cxx.htm

« Last Edit: November 28, 2011, 11:28:26 am by ducnut »

Offline DaveB

Re: SRAM Apex?
« Reply #11 on: November 27, 2011, 10:49:37 pm »
I've plugged in numbers, based on a 35mm tire, for low gear inches:
Apex 34X36=25.7
Apex 38X36 (my GF's setup)=28.7
Road-triple 30X27=30.2
MTB 24X36=18.1
MTB 22X36 (as some here run)=16.6
Surly LHT 26X34=20.8
My MTB 22X36 (56mm tire)=17.8
OK except a road triple isn't limited to it's OEM 30T granny ring.  I've swapped the 30T for a 26T on numerous bikes and that gives a 26x27 = 26 gear-inch low gear.  They still shift well.

After all that, IMHO, you don't need a triple for light-touring and general use. However, you do need a mid- or long-cage rear derailluer. That'll allow you to swing a 36T low gear; a short-cage RD limits you to a 28T low gear.

That's not accurate.  You need a MTB rear derailleur for a 36T (or 34T or 32T for that matter) large cog.  A long cage road derailleur has the same big cog limitation as the short cage versions.

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: SRAM Apex?
« Reply #12 on: November 28, 2011, 10:21:48 am »
In road cycling GA, TN, IL, MO, NY, VT, and FL, I've not found the need for MTB gearing, at my loaded weight and fitness level.

I think your loaded weight and fitness level are two keys to gear requirements, the third being maximum grades.  A 25" low gear would limit me to about 8% at my unloaded weight and fitness level.  To avoid knee problems, carry a load, and climb steeper grades, I need a low of 20" or lower.  Can you get that with a compact double?

Offline ducnut

Re: SRAM Apex?
« Reply #13 on: November 28, 2011, 11:26:26 am »
I've plugged in numbers, based on a 35mm tire, for low gear inches:
Apex 34X36=25.7
Apex 38X36 (my GF's setup)=28.7
Road-triple 30X27=30.2
MTB 24X36=18.1
MTB 22X36 (as some here run)=16.6
Surly LHT 26X34=20.8
My MTB 22X36 (56mm tire)=17.8
OK except a road triple isn't limited to it's OEM 30T granny ring.  I've swapped the 30T for a 26T on numerous bikes and that gives a 26x27 = 26 gear-inch low gear.  They still shift well.

The road-triple that I posted is the common, OEM low-gear.

After all that, IMHO, you don't need a triple for light-touring and general use. However, you do need a mid- or long-cage rear derailluer. That'll allow you to swing a 36T low gear; a short-cage RD limits you to a 28T low gear.

That's not accurate.  You need a MTB rear derailleur for a 36T (or 34T or 32T for that matter) large cog.  A long cage road derailleur has the same big cog limitation as the short cage versions.

Sorry. I missed putting MTB in there and reading how that was stated. The Cross-Check the OP linked has a Deore RD swinging a 32T and can go up to 36T, which is the important part of his needs. The Apex groupset is the exception to the above, as it's a road groupset whose mid-cage will swing a 36T.

Hopefully, that'll clarify a bit better.
« Last Edit: November 28, 2011, 11:29:37 am by ducnut »

Offline ducnut

Re: SRAM Apex?
« Reply #14 on: November 28, 2011, 12:13:16 pm »
I think your loaded weight and fitness level are two keys to gear requirements, the third being maximum grades.  A 25" low gear would limit me to about 8% at my unloaded weight and fitness level.  To avoid knee problems, carry a load, and climb steeper grades, I need a low of 20" or lower.  Can you get that with a compact double?

If you're running a compact double (50/34 or 48/34 crankset) and an Apex RD, you're limited to the 25.7" that I previously posted. However, one could slip in a 2X10 MTB crank (36/22, 38/24, 39/26, or 42/28) and get even lower range (22 'ring and 36T low gear =16.6"). But, you'd be limited on the high-end, with the smaller 'rings. I've been looking at swapping in a 42/28 X9 MTB crankset, as an experiment. That would give a 95.1" high-gear and 21.1" low-gear, which is all I'd ever need, loaded or not. I hardly use the smallest 3 cogs with a compact crankset and this would allow those to be utilized as well as getting a bit lower gear. My LBS has all of SRAM's, Shimano's, and Campy's groupsets on the shelf and they're always up for gaining knowledge, so experimenting is no problem.

Well, everybody has a different fitness level. It's really hard to judge what's reasonable for another, especially given that another's psyche is different from one's own. Riding that I perceive to be "nothing too difficult" is probably tough to another. I don't know. I guess one just has to get out there and see what bicycle combination works for them.