'Take what you’ve got and make the most of it' could be the motto for Blue Competition Cycles' 2012 line. The small company based in Georgia, US have been growing steadily every year, with a range of high-performance bikes that stack up, feature for feature, with the biggest brands in the industry.
This year they’ve taken their top three models — the AC1 SL, Axino, and Triad SL — and refined them in terms of design, carbon layup and manufacturing. As a result all three have lost weight. Despite the upgrades, prices remain close to those of the 2011 models.
The Axino line is bolstered with an SL model, which is made in the same mold but with upgraded layup and material to shave weight. The AC1 SL features new shapes, which are claimed to be more aero and also to bolster stiffness (a concession with most aero road bikes). And the Triad SL diets through an upgraded layup and materials.
AC1, standard and SL models
We introduced the AC1 two years ago,” Chance Regina, Blue’s marketing manager, told BikeRadar. “It’s a great bike, but there were things to fix. We’ve taken the same platform and really stiffened up the bottom bracket area, we’ve made it more aero and made the front end more responsive.”
Regina said the bike was solid in terms of geometry, but when really pushing it on descents and under hard cornering the front end wasn’t as responsive as he'd have liked. The 2012 AC1 sports a new front end — the extra material behind the head tube is the most obvious change.
One of the most important changes is the new shape for the head tube; its new profile adds stiffness and aero performance
By changing the design of the head tube and adding a larger structure between the top and down tubes, Blue have added more support to this important junction. The new design is said to increase the bike’s steering stiffness, while at the same time bettering its aerodynamic performance.
The head tube is now tapered from 1-1/8in to 1-1/4in, which adds stiffness to the system without as much detriment to aero performance as a 1-1/2in taper. Blue have also bolstered the seat tube area, to better stiffness and aerodynamics; the tube is larger, but maintains the ‘SuperFlow’ profile.
The same new frame design will be offered in both standard AC1 and AC1 SL models, with the latter being the lightest and stiffest, due to material. While the AC1 SL might be the premier model, it's the standard AC1 that's benefited most from the upgrade, shedding 220g (1,080g vs 1,300g, claimed, 54cm) compared to the SL's 110g (1,040g vs 1,150g).
Blue have yet to set prices for 2012, but Regina estimated that the AC1 SL will cost around US$8,000 with SRAM Red, while the AC1 will be under $5,000 with Shimano’s new Ultegra electronic group. The company offer multiple component packages from both Shimano and SRAM, and prices will vary depending on the final component specification.
Axino SL and AL
Aesthetically, the new Axino SL is the same as the original model. However, through layup changes Chris Pic, Blue’s product development manager, has been able to pull 75g out of the frame, bringing the total claimed weight down to 950g. The bike has a BB30 bottom bracket shell, as Pic wasn’t sold on the new PressFit30 option.
Blue use a one-piece dropout, chainstay and BB30 bottom bracket mold, which they dub 'Direct Drive'
Blue will sell the new model built with SRAM Red and Reynolds MV32C carbon clinchers or as a frameset. The complete bike is claimed to weigh just 13.8lb and hovers around the $7,500 pricepoint.
At the other end of the Axino spectrum is the AL, an aluminum version created with ‘Blue’-collar crit racers in mind. The 6000-series alloy tubed bike features a BB30 bottom bracket and tapered head tube (1-1/8in to 1-1/2in), which is matched with an all-carbon fork with tapered carbon steerer.
Blue's blue collar race bike, the Axino AL
The bike has a more aggressive geometry and shorter head tube than the carbon models, since Blue believe the industry’s current carbon craze has left the working class crit racer with few options when it comes to durable, high-performance alloy bikes. The frame and fork will sell for $700 or complete with a 10-speed Shimano Tiagra package for around $1,500.
Triad SL, EX and SP
Like the Axino, the Triad SL keeps the same shape and basic design for 2012, but it too drops considerable weight due to layup refinement and upgraded materials. Claimed weight for the 2012 version is 1,300g, compared to 1,580g for this year's model. Blue’s module — frame, fork, headset, rear brake, one-piece handlebar-stem and seatpost — sells for roughly $4,000.
Blue's stealthy 2012 Triad SL
The Triad EX model retains the carbon type, layup and shapes of the 2011 SL model, and thus its 1,580g weight, but sees a dramatic price reduction to $2,500 for the frame and fork; complete Triad EX bikes will sell for under $5,000 with Shimano’s Ultegra electronic group.
Blue will also trickle down the 2011 Triad SL frame design to the Triad SP model for 2012, though with a less-expensive blend of carbon so that they can continue to offer a complete bike with SRAM Apex for $2,700.