Cutting-Edge Vintage: Trek TTT w/SRAM eTap
TriRig has never been short on passion projects. From Project Liberty, to the Lighten Up series, and of course, Omni itself, we have no shortage of ideas for special rigs. Today I'm showing off my latest build, an original Trek Team Time Trial bike, from its first extremely-limited model year run in 2000 (yep, seventeen years ago). But I've outfitted it with a custom SRAM RED eTap 1x drivetrain, and the slickest parts TriRig has to offer. It's a pretty old frame outfitted with the very latest high-end drivetrain. Predictably, I also set it up with dual Omega X brakes and Alpha X cockpit, custom painted in white (sorry, not a production option).
The result is a very svelte, narrow rig. Other than its external headset and slackish geometry, there aren't too many areas where this ride is at a fundamental aero disadvantage to the myriad traditional double-diamond bicycles of the last decade and a half. It's a slick frame. That's not to say there haven't been many important improvements over that time period. There have been many - incremental aero improvements from tube shaping, better integration with wheels/tires, massive improvements in composite technology resulting in stiffer and/or lighter frames, improvements in cable routing and usability, etc. But all-in-all, this dog can still hunt, assuming you can hit your position on the relatively short geometry. And for the record, this build weighs in at 16.5 pounds, as pictured, complete with everything.
Personally, I have a bit of a soft spot for this bike. Like many American cyclists/triathletes, I was caught up in the Lance Armstrong phenomenon of the early 00's. And this bicycle was, for me, the ultimate representation of TT tech at the time. The UCI had recently cracked down on radical frame design, requiring double-diamonds, so bikes like the Pinarello Parigina wouldn't be seen again until triathlon developed its own radical frame market, which we are just seeing now. I watched, like millions of others, as US Postal and American tri hero Tim Deboom rode the frame to glory. And despite the fallen reputation of Armstrong and US Postal, I still love the bike. Despite its notoriously-fickle cable routing, noodly rear stays, and headache-inducing saddle hardware, the bike will always remind me of my love for the sport of triathlon.
The frame was Trek's first real foray into aero design (Y-Foil notwithstanding). In US Postal's first year, 1999, the bike wasn't ready yet, and riders made do with rebadged frames from other manufacturers (Armstrong himself famously rode a titanium Litespeed bike with a Trek logo slapped on it). In 2000, the new rig was ready, and simply named the Team Time Trial, an homage to the team's stated goal to win the group timed effort, which they went on to do multiple times during the '99-'05 Tours. The specimen here is from the earliest run of these bikes made. According to former Trek employees I've spoken to, there are only a handful of these bikes in existence, perhaps fewer than 100 from this model year. This was before the company realized that most customers would need more than 2-3cm of saddle height adjustment, and swapped the gloriously-aero seatmast for a less aero (but more adjustable) truncated mast into which you'd plug a round seatpost.
SRAM RED eTap 1x Build
Technically, SRAM's new RED eTap groupset isn't intended for 1x use. But that doesn't mean it's ill-suited for it. On the contrary, it works really well. And in fact, with a little work, it addresses my biggest complaint about eTap, which is that in its TT form, it still required a lot of wiring up front. My idea for eTap 1x was to use the BlipBox as a bar-end shifter, reducing the component count to just two: Rear Derailleur and BlipBox. That's it. No wires, no Blips or Clics, just the box and the derailleur. And it works brilliantly. With a small modification to a bar-end shifter plug, I was able to mount the box to the end of the extension. It's slightly less ergonomic than SRAM's lovely R2C shifters, but it works fine. In back, the standard eTap RD will clear pretty large cassettes. The official spec is that it will eat 28 teeth, but since this is a 1x setup, you don't have to worry about the tooth differential of multiple chainrings, so you can generally clear more teeth than the stated capacity. I had no problem getting it to clear an 11-32 cassette right out of the box. By adding a Wolftooth Road Link adapter, it will clear 11-36, though the performance drops slightly. The good news is that SRAM has just started selling a mid-cage version of this derailleur, which might allow the use of the 11-36t cassette without the need for an adapter.
Sadly, the Trek was built before the latest generation of wider rims/tires were developed, so it's not suited for anything bigger than 23c tires, and even those are a very tight squeeze. As in, they have to be deflated before the rear wheel will go in or out. As mentioned above, the saddle clamping hardware is a bit of a joke. The bike was designed with a large seatmast that goes right up to the saddle, leaving about 2-3mm of height adjustment at no more. At the time, the bike was simply produced with a couple different length masts. (And for the first year, in only one frame size!) It wasn't until the 2002 model year that Trek switched to a truncated seat mast with a traditional seatpost stuck in it, for greater saddle height adjustment. But I specifically wanted the original version, which is certainly more aero and aesthetically pleasing, despite its inconveniences. And I'm fortunate that my saddle height matches what this frame intends, so I can roll with it.
All buttoned-up, this ride still looks the part, even this far removed from its original release. The only big aesthetic clue that it's a yesteryear design is its external headset. Other than that, it's pretty slick, minimal, and adorned with modern parts, can still be an effective weapon against the clock.