For my final installment in the 2018 Project XC Race Bike build review, I cover the complete drivetrain and brake setup. Consisting of a SRAM X0 Eagle group with Kogel Ceramic Bearing pulley upgrade, Crank Brothers Eggbeater 3 pedals, and Formula’s Cura 2 brakes. Here’s how it all came together and performed at the 50-mile True Grit Epic in St. George, UT…

SRAM XO Eagle Review

XC race bike build with SRAM XO1 Eagle DUB

At this point, we’ve reviewed all four SRAM Eagle groups, and they’ve been nearly flawless. The SRAM XO Eagle group was remains working in perfect order, which means it’s going on another bike now that this project is over. For this build, we used the newer DUB cranksets, which are lighter, but honestly, they work exactly the same as the non-DUB originals. With weights so close to the XX level group, it’s hard to justify or recommend spending the extra money for a few grams. Especially since the performance is nearly identical. But that gold does look good…

SRAM’s 500% gear range was perfect for this type of race. It goes low enough for the steep technical climbs and long sections when you’re tired, but let’s you get a high enough gear for the fast straight aways, too. Fine tuning can be done with the chainring size. For me, a 32t chainring provided just right gearing for the entire race (and pretty much all the other riding I do). Considering so many bikes now come with SRAM Eagle, chances are you’re already running it. If not, it’s worth a test ride for sure. If so, our complete group-by-group comparison will help you pick which parts are worth upgrading…and that post has links to the actual weights and tech details for each group, too.

Kogel Ceramic Bearing Pulley Review

kogel ceramic bearing pulley wheel upgrade for sram eagle rear derailleurs review

If there was one extravagance on this build, it was the Kogel Ceramic Bearing pulley wheels. But sometimes, it’s the little things that make the difference between just another bike build and something special. Are they necessary? No.

Helpful? Maybe. Everything did spin perfectly smooth and shifted flawlessly throughout the race and ever since. The tighter tolerances may offer crisper shifting than SRAM’s already very snappy performance.

Worth the $129.99 price? Depends. Do incremental gains make you happy? Do you like the blinged out look of oversized anodized parts that also have a performance advantage? Then sure, go for it. Because sometimes, it’s that mental edge that helps you win, too.

Crank Brothers Eggbeater 3 Pedal Review

Crank Brothers Eggbeater 3 pedals review and actual weights

I’ve run Crank Brothers for years, and their pedals just keep getting better. The latest Eggbeater 3’s have solidly upgraded bearing internals, better sealing and have been running perfectly since I got them.

They’re also light, easy to clip into and out of, and reasonably priced compared to the competition. And this latest generation is extremely easy to rebuild when they do eventually develop a little play. One of the biggest advantages is that no matter what the trail conditions, they’re going to clear easily. With a threat of rain that could turn the desert sand and grit into watt-sapping peanut butter, these were one less thing to worry about.

Here’s how they could get better: Stronger springs combined with tighter engagement by way of slightly reshaped cleats. The one downside to the Eggbeater’s four-sided entry is that a strong enough forward-lateral force can “roll” your cleat out of the pedal. I’d like to see a “pro” spring option that makes them grab the cleat just a little harder to provide more security on hard landings or when I’m really putting some body english on the bike in technical sections.

Formula Cura 2 Brakes Review

formula cura 2-piston mountain bike brakes review and actual weights

Prior to the Cura model, Formula’s brakes used a completely different master cylinder design that was 90º from this model. That required a less than ideal lever pivot position, which required a heavily bent lever shape that would pull too close to the bar at the ends.

The Cura solved all of that by moving a more horizontal cylinder, which both looks and performs better. They also bumped up the power and control, making a 2-piston brake caliper that could hang on the downhills. They’re relatively light weight at about 250g per wheel, and they have a separate SRAM Matchmaker mount adapters allow independent angle adjustment of the shifter from the brake lever.

Once on the bike and on the trail, I did experience intermittent squealing, but usually only after they’d sat for a while or I was nearing the lock-up point on the front. Mostly, they were quiet, and to be fair, solving a squealing disc brake is akin to black magic…all brands suffer from it on certain bikes. The only setup issue I had was that immediately after bleeding the rear from cutting the hose length, it felt a little soft. I bled and re-bled it three times trying to get it to feel as good as the front (which I did not have to cut or bleed). Eventually, I got it to “good enough”, but still soft. Thankfully, after a very short time on the trail it firmed up and felt normal. The power, however, was beyond normal. These offer monstrous braking power with easy modulation, which is why I picked these for my editors choice list this year

Check out the original posts on these drivetrain parts and the brakes for actual weights and technical specs.

11 COMMENTS

  1. If you were to add up the retail cost of all these separate components, how much would that be? Can you come up with a price? This is a ridiculous exercise, when a rider can buy a complete bike much, much cheaper, by paying one markup from the manufacturer (who paid OEM prices to assemble the bike) instead of paying all the mark-ups for individual components, all made in China or Taiwan. There is no money saved by doing to labor yourself. So, the retail for this? Your project bike is not complete until you let us know!

  2. Fantastic; “With weights so close to the XX level group, it’s hard to justify or recommend spending the extra money for a few grams.” The next paragraph “ceramc bearing pulleys”

    • weight vs. mechanical efficiency/function. I didn’t see where the ceramic bearing pulleys were selected to save weight. Seemed to be a pretty neutral review of the upgrade without endless raving on perceived benefit. Maybe the cost saved on the XO allowed the splurge on the pulleys rather than just having a stock XX group.

  3. I love this series. Many of us start with a decent frame and cheap components and then slowly upgrade the bike bit by bit budget permitting. I have a similar build and look forward to each installlment. Sure, you could just buy the whole bike at once and the economies of scale that the big companies have would save you money, but that’s a lot of money all at once. Half the fun is buying a new component each month or so and upgrading slowly. Through this process I now have two bikes. One aluminum Eagle GX build and one full carbon Eagle XX build. I’m looking for those last last incremental upgrades such as those Kogel ceramic bearing pulleys. Thanks.

  4. Thanks Bernard, glad you’re enjoying the series. And your use of it is exactly the point…building up a bike part by part is definitely not the most cost effective way to do it. These “Project Bikes” are a way for us to not only test specific parts, but also test how they all work together as a whole.

    And sometimes, we’re just curious what we can get away with, like with the Pivot LES hardtail and Lauf Fork for a race that definitely recommended bringing a full suspension bike! Using that as a platform would help reveal any weak spots in the rest of the build, but thankfully everything held up really well!

    Thanks for reading, now we start on the 2019 XC bike…

  5. How is the Curas’ pad clearance? I’ve had some Formula Oros and they had tenacious bite but the pad spacing was so small it’s almost impossible to get them not to rub.

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