Sunday, July 26, 2020

e-Thirteen 12-speed cassette

UPDATE with short ride review

Day 1 didn't work because the battery was dead in my Eagle RD.  (Had a nice ride on the road bike, however.)  Yesterday I rode the 3T with new e-Thirteen 12-speed, 9-46 cassette installed.

An aside about tuning (not about the cassette):  A few miles of working out the tuning with Sram's microshift tuning was surprisingly easy.  One question:  isn't this something an electronic derailler can accomplish on its own?  Wouldn't technology permit a new cassette install with auto-tuning?  I am imagining a "tuning mode."  I put bike on stand.  Start tuning mode.  I stand there and rotate pedals.  Derailler auto-shifts through 12 cogs a few times and makes the necessary adjustments. 

Once tuned, the cassette worked quite smoothly.  The shifts feel a touch harsher than a Shimano Ultegra, my ordinary comparator.  But crisp.  The cassette pulls smoothly in 11 of the 12 cogs.  (I never did work out the tuning in the second-to-inside - 39 tooth - cog.  Inside and third both work well, so I think this is a question of fiddling.)

Compared to the PG-1230:
  • PG-1230: 11,13,15,17,19,22,25,28,32,36,42,50
  • e-Thirteen 9-46:  9,10,12,14,16,18,21,24,28,33,39,46
This cassette eats up the small jumps at the very top end (1-tooth difference 9-10.)  That means both this and the PG-1230 are 2-2-2-2-3-3 in the range that is primarily being used for road riding. 

Comparing the Sram 10-50, which is really the like-to-like comparison:
  • XG-1275: 10,12,14,16,18,21,24,28,32,36,42,50
  • e-Thirteen 9-46:  9,10,12,14,16,18,21,24,28,33,39,46
Jumps at 1-2-2-2-2-3-3-4-5-6-7 and 2-2-2-2-3-3-4-4-4-6-8.

The real difference seems to be at the low end, where Sram goes 4-4-6-8 and e-Thirteen goes 4-5-6-7.  I would think that would make moving into lower gears a more natural feel on this cassette, with the range not changing dramatically all at once.

Maybe so.  I did have use for 11 of the 12 cogs, only shifting into 9 teeth once to see how it felt.  How it felt was heavy, because I was on flat ground.  More rides needed!

In short, for the purpose - higher top end, higher bottom end, slightly closer shifts, lighter weight - the e-Thirteen has promise.  I see it is now $195 at Jenson USA (as of 29 July), so that's something.

ORIGINAL POST RESUMES:  Swapping cassettes

The Sram PG-1230 11-50 cassette that came from the factory on the Exploro has not pleased me at all.  It is heavy, gearing is a low 4-1 top end (when matched with the 44-tooth 1x on the bike), and the  bottom end at 50 teeth is lower than I need.  So the PG-1230 will stay for real trail use, until I upgrade this wheelset to a lighter-weight 650b from Hunt and the cassette to a lighter-weight 10-50 or so, but I've been looking for a better option to mount on my Hunt wheelset for general road and dirt.

Sram PG-1230 cassette came stock on the $5900 Force/Eagle e-Tap build.  Hmmm.

(What's wrong with too low at the bottom end?  It is easy to take advantage of this and find yourself climbing at 4 mph a hill you might otherwise stand and climb at 8 mph.  It also creates big jumps, which is annoying if your primary experience is riding 11-25 11 spd cassettes.)

Frustrating thing about Sram's offerings: the Eagle derailler here, which integrates fine with the Force gravel group, is not effective at shifting the Force 10-33 cassette.  Although a 10-36 is apparently out (though not available for purchase as best as I can tell), that also is supposed to be a bad fit with the Eagle RD.  All this means there is *nothing* in the Sram line that bridges the road/mountain gap.  (Shimano has done this better with the GRX group, which shifts 32 tooth and 46-tooth cassettes with equal aplomb.)

Failed experiment

I nonetheless ordered the Sram Force 10-33 cassette, it was wonky with this derailler, I sent it back to Backcountry. To Backcountry's credit they issued the refund.  Backcountry's return policy is ambiguous to say the least.  Used and undamaged gear can come back for store credit.  What about an item, like a cassette, which when used is necessarily damaged?  Backcountry's policy continues, "we will not accept the return of products damaged due to negligence or abuse."  I was not negligent and did not abuse the Force-1270 cassette, so I sent it back, and BC refunded me.

What else?

Back to the drawing board.  There seemed to be two options: 
  • Rotor makes a 12-speed cassette at 10-39 for a mean $385.  I have not yet spent >200 on a cassette - actually, not sure I've gone over $100 before - so this was a really tough pill to swallow.
  • e-Thirteen makes a 12-speed cassette at *9-46 for $299.  Marked down to $199.  With a 11-12 speed conversion kit for Sram.  
I went with e-Thirteen.  The reviews were great, the price was right, and the gearing was pretty good.  After all, 44-9 is a higher top end than 53-11, my prior highest high gear.  My drive-train was already 12-speed, so I didn't need the conversion kit, but the cassette without the kit was $10 more at $209.  (That's a computerized pricing algorithm for you if there ever was one.)

Now to mount on my Hunt 700c wheelset, which I envision serving the "road" function for this all-rounder of a bicycle.  The e-Thirteen technology is a little unsettling at first.  This cassette takes an XD driver.  The cassette is in two pieces.  Piece 1 fits by pressing into place and tightening a 3mm allen bolt to hold it.

You then add the outer section, the remaining 9 sprockets, which tighten to attach using a chain whip.
10-speed chain whip on 12-speed cassette.
That attachment is secured with another allen bolt.

1 nm is a little odd when there is loctite on the bolt.  I am past 1nm just getting the thing to turn!

Bolts came pre-loctite'd, of course.  Given the generally linear forces on a cassette, one shouldn't worry.  But what if one of those allen bolts comes loose in the chain?

Cassette looks good installed and bike looks good with road wheels in place.

With the 9-speed cog I either needed to drop a link or to drive the derailler adjustment screw in a little.  I did the latter.  Shifting is pretty smooth on the stand.  Hope to ride today to get a fuller picture.


sam said...

What an intriguing attachment method. I don't think I'm necessarily a fan of that system, but hard to argue with the cassette otherwise, or the price you paid. I'm curious to hear what you think, particularly of the shifting.

sam said...

Just seeing your update on the pricing. For Jenson's price, I'll join the e13 club.

Max said...

Sweet. We can have an e-Thirteen competition around the Salton Sea.