Whether you like to ride your road bike along winding country roads, grind your singlespeed up the sides of veritable earthen skyscrapers, or push and challenge yourself up, down and around the wild mountain paths of your home state (my favorite), you will probably need a chain on your bike. Preferably a very strong, very light, versatile, low-maintenance and reliable one.

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Having a reliable, strong and light chain makes it much easier to seek out adventures without worry.

Chains are something that cyclists tend to only notice when things aren’t working so well. For example: when we break them or forget to lube them before a long ride- then we REALLY pay attention to them. This season, the KS-Kenda women have teamed up with KMC Chain to run what we consider to be the best racing chain on the market. KMC began their journey in 1977 under the guidance of founder Charles Wu. More than 30 years later, their motto is still “If it isn’t good enough for us, it isn’t good enough for you.” And they mean it. KMC builds chains exclusively and is constantly striving to improve their products and designs. We love working with them and we are benefiting daily from their dedication to constant growth and product improvement!

For the 2018 season, the KS-Kenda women are running the X11- SL Titanium Nitride Chain. You probably know it as the beautiful GOLD bling that adorns each and every one of our Pivot steeds, but let us tell you- there’s a lot more to these chains than just a pretty face. They get the job done well, not to mention in style.

 

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Many hours of thoughtful design and research go into making a KMC chain.

Out of the box, the X-11 SL Ti-Ni weighs in at 243 Grams, comes with 116 links, which has proven to be plenty of length for our Shimano XTR 1×11 Drivetrains and the various combinations of front chainrings and cassettes that we each use.

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Win Allen of Win’s Wheels, getting our KMC Chains clean, fast and ready to go for race day.

The plates composing each link are made with a special steel alloy that reduces chain stretch, thereby extending chain life. The outer level of these plates are also specially designed to shift smoother and more quietly with an “X” shaped pattern called “X-Bridge”. As an added bonus, this shape aids the chain in shedding mud for those crazy conditions that tend to be a favorite of Cyclocross enthusiasts (of note: Cross is coming! Make sure your chain is ready).

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Emma Maaranen putting in the miles at the Epic Rides Grand Junction Off-Road this summer

 

In the case of our Titanium Nitride-coated chains, friction is further reduced with this special coating- also cutting down on the amount of maintenance necessary for keeping our chains running as smooth as the first day you put it on. KMC even uses a proprietary treatment of the chain’s pins called Extreme Stretch-Proof Treatment (X-SP) which makes them much less susceptible to the wear and stretch caused by mud and sand entering into the moving parts of the chain over time.

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The best equipment makes the best adventures possible. We love our KMC Chains!

To date, we have run these chains in variable conditions across the US! Between the 4 of us, there are bone-dry deserts, sand, mud and muck, rocks, dusty and gritty long climbs, short punchy, humid climbs; long road miles, cyclocross training, sprint work and park laps that compose our training and racing. Not one of us has broken a chain in any of these settings. Personally, I have been through half as many chains this season as I have in race seasons-past. So the verdict sits: the KMC SL series is light, strong, quiet and seriously hard to kill.

Tech Tips: Care and Maintenance of you KMC

Be sure to check out this LINK to the KMC Website where they have created some wonderful educational and DIY tutorials.

Let’s talk pedals for a moment, shall we?

Pedals are critical for powering your bike and easy to forget about as long as they are working correctly. For the 2018 race season, the KS-Kenda Women have opted to use the HT Components M1 for our XC race pedal. There are many reasons why we are excited to run these pedals. For one, the M1 weighs in at 298 grams per pair while the Shimano XTR pedals weighs in around 305 grams. Another perk we like is that they are available for a very reasonable price tag of $129.00 MSRP. Also, for those who like to customize their bikes they come in 11 different colors! Overall, the M1 is the all-around favorite for us.

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The highlight of this tiny and mighty pedal is its adjustability. HT Components use a proprietary cleat set up, which is very similar to the entry and exit of Shimano pedals. The M1 comes in the box with two different cleat float options, X1 and X1-F. The X1 cleat is a 4-degree set-up while the X1-F is the 8-degree (more float) option. Pedal float allows your foot to move freely in the pedal stroke rather than locking you down tight to the pedal. If you are wanting to learn more about your float preference, try them both out! I personally love the 4 degree and find that it also allows me to very quickly and decisively “get out” of the pedals when I want to which is something that I know many riders, especially if you are new to clipless pedals, fear being unable to do.

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In addition to float, another noteworthy mention is the massive range of tension adjustability on the M1. Out of the box, the pedals are set in the middle of the tension range. I really like this setting and came back to it after playing with both ends of the spectrum. We recommend these to anyone because of their versatility and price point. Working with new riders, I am stoked to know about HT pedals as they are user-friendly beginner-friendly without sacrificing top-level performance.

Quick How-To for those of you wanting to swap out your new HT pedals:

  • 3mm Hex Wrench
  • 4mm Hex Wrench
  • 8mm Hex Wrench
  • Grease

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1. Pick out the cleats you want to try: remember, the X1 has less float (4 degrees) than the X1-F (8 degrees).  If you are new to cycling, start with the X1-F and see how you like it. If you already run clipless, use a sharpie and draw around the outside of your cleats so you have a place to start from. If you have a bike fitter you like to use, book a short appointment to set the cleats with some help. You’ll use the 4mm hex wrench to install the cleats. Remember to make sure they are tight and check them after every ride since loose cleats make it really, really hard to get out of pedals!

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2. Take your shiny, beautiful new pedals out of the box and brush the threads at the very end of the pedal with some grease. This keeps them from getting stuck in your cranks or from stripping your cranks when you take them off for any reason.

3. Using the 8mm hex wrench, thread the pedal into the crank by twisting it in the direction you would pedal. Of note, the pedals are directional so you should be able to see the HT logo sitting upright on each pedal, aka——> ( HT ) Left Crank – Right Crank (HT).  Don’t crank them on too tight but make sure they are snug.

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4. Use the 3mm hex wrench to set your tension. You will need to do this twice per pedal because they are 2 sided. Start at the lowest setting if you’ve never tried clipless pedals before, and be sure to test them out in the grass or leaning up against a wall for a few rounds first. If you have some clipless experience, try the middle setting and see what you think. They are super easy to adjust on the fly or with changing conditions.

5. Have a great ride!

We hope this pedal piece helps inspire you to test your skills working on your own bike, instills you with some confidence to try something new (clipless pedals), and maybe even helped you find that perfect color of pedals to match your totally sweet custom ride. It’s all about enjoying the journey out there. Thanks for taking a few minutes to gear gossip with the KS Kenda women!