Fairlight Strael Build Notes

I´m building up a new road bike with a Fairlight Strael steel frame. Here is my thought process for choosing the parts.

My first contact with the Fairlight Strael was through road.cc, around 2017 when Stu Kerton reviewed the bike and gave it an excellent rating:

Taking everything into account, the Strael is pretty hard to knock, especially for the non-racer. If you want a bike you can train on, bimble about on, credit card tour on, or just get out there and wring the neck of for a full-on blast around the lanes while enjoying each and every mile, the Fairlight ticks all of the boxes.

A truly stunning four-season machine with an infectious grin factor and amazing handling.

I was not particularly interested in a steel bike; actually, I was far away from it. It was more out of curiosity that I wanted to know why someone would consider an old school steel bike as being top of the range, even compared to modern carbon bikes.

The ride quality seemed to be impressive. Fast, direct, yet comfortable to be used as an endurance bike. The next thing to check was the geometry, and that’s where the story started lifting off for me. Fairlight is a small bike brand based in London, founded by Dom Thomas and Jon Reid. All their bikes are designed around what they call Proportional Geometry, which means you can have each frame size in a Regular and a Tall option. That’s something I don’t see with other brands, even the big ones. The fact that Dom Thomas, the bike designer, is taking so much care about rider needs cannot be over-emphasized in my view 🙌.[1]

See the shorter top tube and the shorter head tube of the Tall geometry compared to the Regular geometry of two 56 frames. Image is taken from Fairlight Proportional Geometry.

Fairlights Tall frame option is for people with long legs and a short torso, while the Regular is for people with short legs and a long torso (or regular legs and regular torso 😊). I would say Regula reflects the typical road bike geometry. I fall into the Tall category, which means I have difficulties riding a standard road race bike. Only marathon geometries, with shorter top tubes and taller head tubes, work for me. And even then, I have to tune the bike with a 90 mm stem instead of 100 mm and use drop bars with a reach around 70 to 75 mm. Everything else means I have less joy riding, not to mention marathons like the Rhoen Marathon, which is something I enjoy doing on a road bike.

Now, imagine how lucky I was to see that a Tall Fairlight frame would do that: shorten the top tube and extend the head tube while keeping excellent frame handling. As I wrote before: that was when I was getting hooked into Fairlight, though there are some other bikes I find interesting for that very reason.

Fairlight Cycles – Proportional Geometry on Vimeo.

Once the first contact was made, I started paying attention to what else was going on with Fairlight. The next thing I noticed was James Hayden riding a Strael during the Transcontinental race – and winning it! James won the race two times, on a Strael, in 2017 and 2018. His reasoning for the bike was: For a self-supported 3500 km race to be ridden within around nine days, sitting 400km a day on a bike means you need a comfortable and capable bike to be competitive.[2][3]

It was proof enough that the Strael steel frame had more to it than cycling folklore.

The frame #

It took me four years from there to the point of ordering a Strael 3.0 frame in late August 2021 to build up my personal bike. In particular, it’s a Strael because of

  • The fit: There is a Tall frame geometry that fits me. Have a look at the Fairlight Fit Calculator.

  • The details: When you read through Dom’s design notes you’ll get a sense of how he is taking care about everything. It’s speaking to me, and I will enjoy riding a frame someone was so humble and courageous about. The way the frame is designed reminds me of the 10 principles of good design, by Dieter Rams.

  • The durability: I think a steel frame can take everyday use better than a carbon frame.

  • The ride: Unfortunately, I couldn’t do a test ride before ordering the frame. I’m relying on how riders describe it. Therefore I’m talking here about my expectations. The Strael is now in its third model iteration, and it seemingly got even better with each iteration: It’s comfortable, it climbs, it gets to speed, the handling is balanced. Stu Kerton’s characterization resonates with me. He describes what I like about a road bike – comfort without being mushy, predictability without being twitchy, plus pedaling performance.

    The comfort levels are absolutely spot on and well balanced too. When you are seated, regardless of pace, the rear end really takes the bumps and vibrations out of the road; the racer becomes a cruiser.

    Everything you need to know is coming through the frame and fork from the tires, and it’s this level of interaction that allows you to ride the Fairlight as though it’s a much more performance-orientated bike than it is.

    Slightest inputs from shifting your bodyweight or tweaking the steering, have such an instantaneous and positive feeling on how the bike behaves. It’s just so precise, especially considering that the geometry is aimed more at the relaxed, endurance end of the spectrum.

    All this adds up to a feeling of the Strael being an extension of you as a rider. Downhill technical sections are just such a blast – the Fairlight flows from bend to bend in such a controlled manner.

    It’s hard to get over just how much in tune with everything the Strael is. Regardless of the road conditions or the state of the surface, this thing is nailed on, composed and gives massive confidence to you as a rider.

    Honestly, all that is too good to be true. But how many bikes do you know that receive a 10 out of 10 rating on road.cc? To be more complete, there are other reviews of the different design iterations of the Strael, like Fairlight Cycles Strael 2.0 in 2020, again by Stu Kerton. Jack Luke did a Fairlight Strael 3.0 review on bikeradar, with a rating of 5 out of 5. Another one is from David Arthur below.

    Fairlight Strael 3.0 Review by David Arthur
  • The sophistication: Tubes are made by Reynolds in Birmingham, England. Frames are hand-built in Taiwan. Each tube is formed with intentionally chosen steel. The top tube is custom 0.7/0.4/0.7 butted Reynolds 853, 20 x 30 mm oval. The down tube is custom 0.75/0.45/0.75 butted Reynolds 853, 30 x 40 mm bi-oval. The seat tube is 28.6 mm in diameter, whereas the top section is externally butted to 29.8 mm to give the correct inner dimension for the seat post and
    to provide extra surface area for the top tube and seat stay welds. The tube is butted 0.9/0.6/1.2. The chainstays are Reynolds 725 22.2 mm custom formed with 0.8/0.6 mm butting. Those chainstays have a very complex form to accomplish excellent power transfer while still providing comfort. The seat-stays are Reynolds 725 14 mm non-taper with 0.6 mm wall thickness. The head tube is 4130 chromoly CNC machined from a solid billet into a tube. The dropouts are CNC machined single pieces and can be replaced. From what I can say by looking at the pictures, the welding is excellent. It’s no question that this frame is highly sophisticated, and the ride quality seems to justify the thoughts and effort.

  • The standards: The frame has standard thru axles with 12x100 mm front and 12x142mm rear, as well as an english – what else? – threaded 68 mm bottom bracket [4] [5], a 27.2 mm seatpost, and maximum 160mm disc rotors front and rear (flatmount). It’s compatible with all double road chainsets, 46T max single. 28.6 band on front derailleur. Headset SHIS ZS44/28.6 | EC44/40 [6].

  • The versatility: Whether it’s the CNC machined replaceable dropout design, the cable mounting guides, the bottle mounts for three bottles, internal light cable routing for dynamo lights (drive and non-drive side), internal Di2 routing, or 36 mm tire clearance, mudguard eyelets: it makes the bike very adjustable to all sorts of play.

  • The look and finish: You can see each tube and how it’s designed to function. Everything is at display. There is no bling bling just for the sake of it. The frame has a timeless look. I like the putty frame color and – new to the Strael 3.0 – the Anraed fork in frame color. The Fairlight logo is beautiful too. New to the Strael 3.0 is the solar pattern on the top tube, which should remind you to look up and make sure you take it all in. To quote the design notes:

    The Solar Pattern on your top tube serves a humble but poetic purpose: They remind you that no day is the same, that every day is worth getting out and rebalancing yourself with your surroundings. When you’re head down and pushing hard, they remind you to look up and make sure you take it all in.
    For us, this is a key characteristic of the Strael 3.0 and all Fairlight Cycles: they give you the smooth glides along country lanes, the happiness to be outside and breathe in the morning air. The daily rides, all year long, finding and keeping your own rhythm, harmony with yourself and nature.

There is one thing left: the weight of a steel frame. The frame of the current Strael 3.0 weighs around 2200 g, including bolts, rear axle, and dropout inserts, but without the fork. Say a modern first-class carbon frame will weigh under 1000 g, including the rear axle, then the Strael frame is at least 1000 g heavier than a carbon frame. It’s not something to take easily, but all the advantages from above outweigh the weight in my view. To put things into relation, watch the GCN Tec Video How Much Difference Does 1 kg Make On An Epic Climb?.

My decision: Strael 3.0 Tall 56 frameset in color putty, including Hope Headset and Hope Seat Post Clamp in black.

The Strael 3.0 frameset in color putty.
The image is taken from the Fairlight Strael 3.0 Lookbook.
Parts that come with the frame.
The image is taken from the Fairlight Strael 3.0 Design Notes.
As you might notice, you should decide upfront what kind of groupset you want to put on your bike, and Fairlight would provide the correct 3D-printed cable guides. Because these are special parts from Fairlight which you cannot get somewhere else, and because I was not sure initially what groupset to use, and to be more flexible for future frame usage, I asked Sebastian from Fairlights customer service if I could order all the cable guides in addition. Sebastian ensured I get all the cable guides with my frameset at no extra cost, excluding the parts that typically would also come with the frame for a chosen group setup, but which I would get at any bike shop when I was clear with my final decision (e.g. Shimano Di2 grommets). I'm absolutely fine with that approach. I want to add that it was never an issue to reach Sebastian via mail, and he always was very kind and supportive.
Parts that come with the fork.
The image is taken from the Fairlight Strael 3.0 Design Notes.

The groupset #

My initial plan was to have a mechanical groupset on the bike because I dislike battery charging just to shift gears. Also, the environmental impact of batteries is something I prefer to avoid. From the very long term perspective, there might be a reliability drawback of electronic shifting: Would a 15-year-old electronic groupset still perform as well as a 15-year-old mechanical groupset? At least the battery (or batteries) need to be replaced. The derailleurs of electronic groupsets are much more complex than mechanical ones, so there is a greater chance of something breaking.

With Shimano presenting their new Dura-Ace and Ultegra groupsets in 2021, the current first tier and second tier groupsets of Shimano and SRAM are shifting electronically, and nothing else. It seems there is no path into the future for mechanical shifting anymore.

Electronic shifting has become faster, more accurate, and more comfortable than mechanical shifting. The rider experience is improved if everything works well – and sure, things work well most of the time. All that leads me to start thinking about electronic groupsets.

Electronic shifting #

  • SRAM’s eTap AXS shifting is wireless. The bike will only need brake hoses and no wires for shifting. It’s quick to set up, and the gearing range is interesting, with smaller chainrings front and a small 10 teeth sprocket on the cassette, which creates a broader gearing range. The smaller chainrings will lead to riding more often on the big chainring, which leads to less changing gears on the front. SRAM has been a huge innovator in the bike industry, and when they bring something new, it’s always interesting to look at it. I like almost everything about their groupsets, except you have to take care of the charging status of four(!) batteries. Each derailleur has its own battery, which should last for 400 km of riding. A battery can be charged within 60 minutes. Charging requires the battery to be removed from the bike and put into a charging cradle. Keep in mind each derailleur has its own battery, and because they are both the same, they can be swapped for each other, but the two of them require charging. In addition, each brake lever has a CR2032 battery to send the wireless shifting signals to the derailleurs. The shifter batteries should last for two years. Four batteries with each one a different charging status scares me off. On the other hand, replacing a battery is super quick, and because they are small and of low weight, carrying a replacement part on longer rides is doable. Another point I do not like too much about SRAM, is that their hydraulic brakes use the more aggressive DOT fluid and not mineral oil, like Shimano. Theoretically, because DOT is hygroscopic, it should be replaced once a year, and because the fluid is aggressive on bike surfaces, you have to be careful when doing that. I admit, I never replaced the DOT fluid on my bike in the past, and my SRAM brakes are working fine.
  • Shimano´s Di2 (Digital Integrated Intelligence) shifting approach is still mostly wired. A central battery will be placed inside the seat post, which protects the battery and hides it away. Both derailleurs are wired to the battery. A fully charged system would allow for around 1000 km of riding. Even if it’s less or more than 1000 km, the Di2 battery will allow riding at least double as far as the eTap AXS batteries before charging is required. The rear derailleur needs to get wired to a power supply to charge the battery, which means the entire bike needs to be near a power supply. There is the option to wire the brake levers with the central battery, which I prefer because then there’s only one battery in the entire system, which will provide a clear charging status. This option is claimed to prolong battery life by 50% and speed up the shifting. The other option is to use the brake levers with batteries for a wireless connection from the levers to the derailleurs, which adds two more batteries, shortens the life of the central battery, and makes shifting slower. Shifting of SRAM is good, but the shifting of Shimano is better, no matter if wireless or wired. While each system is a joy to use, and I have a lot of respect for the hard work and achievements of the engineers in either company, Shimano is the fastest and most accurate on the road.
  • Campagnolo has never been an option for me because I dislike their brake lever ergonomics.

My decision: For choosing an electronic shifting system, I lean towards Shimano for the following reasons: Di2 can be set up to have a single central battery for the entire system, which makes it easy to have clear charging status. The battery has at least double the capacity of the SRAM batteries, and Shimano shifts faster and more accurately.

Weight #

Now that Di2 is set let’s compare the weights. To know the field, the SRAM groupsets are included. My sources of data are:

For the weight of Shimano’s brake hoses and their electronic wiring, I found some data on Cyclingweekly. Those weights are separately added to the figures.

The crankset weights are without Powermeter. The weights of the SRAM cranks are from r2-bike. Please note the AXS Red crankset is more than 100 grams lighter than the Dura-Ace cranks. I don’t know what part attributes to the smaller chainrings of AXS gearing, and what to the carbon crank arms. Anyway, that weight saving is impressive.

Weight comparison of first and second tier electronic groupsets from Shimano and SRAM

Weights are provided in gram.

GroupsetTotalShiftersCalipersRotorsFront derailleurCranksetRear derailleurCassetteChainBattery
Di2 Dura-Ace2383.5350230 + 60 hose21696685 (34-50)215223 (11-30)24252 + 14.5 wiring
eTap AXS Red2470466316 inc hose236165 inc battery577 (33-46)247 inc battery211 (10-33)2520
Di2 Ultegra2632.5391282 + 60 hose218110700 (34-50)262291 (11-30)25252 + 14.5 wiring
eTap AXS Force2834476346 inc hose236199 inc battery727 (33-46)325 inc battery266 (10-33)2590

The weight of the Shimano groupsets is competitive, making a decision for either one of Ultegra or Dura-Ace a good move. The weight-saving of Dura-Ace compared to Ultegra is 249g at an additional cost of 1660 €, judged by the pricing for the single components (not entire groupsets) of bike24 in January 2022. Let’s have a look at the details:

Shimano groupset comparison in terms of weight and cost

Weights are provided in gram. Parts that are contained in both groupsets, like wiring and battery, are omitted.

ComponentDura-Ace weightUltegra weightWeight saving of Dura-AceAdded cost of Dura-AceDura-Ace costUltegra cost
Shifters350391-41280 €940 €660 €
Calipers290342-52180 €320 €140 €
Rotors216218-235 €120 €85 €
Front derailleur96110-14230 €430 €200 €
Crankset685700-15290 €540 €250 €
Rear derailleur215262-47410 €760 €350 €
Cassette 11-30223291-68225 €340 €115 €
Chain242252-1010 €50 €40 €
Total23172566-2491660 €3500 €1840 €

A thought experiment: By mixing both groupsets, a weight saving of 161 g at an additional cost of 685 € is possible when using Dura-Ace shifters, calipers, and the cassette – while taking everything else from Ultegra. The Dura-Ace shifters and calipers alone would save 93 g at the additional cost of 460 €. The weight-savings of the Dura-Ace derailleurs and chain is only 71 g at the cost of another 650 €. Even further, the Dura-Ace front derailleur will save 14 g at the additional cost of 230 €, while it’s also possible to save 10 g by using the Dura-Ace chain at the additional cost of 10 € 😊.

Function-wise all derailleurs operate at the same speed and can shift 11-34 on the cassette. For the rings, the fast gears can have up to 54 tooths (55 Dura-Ace ) with a maximum step down of 16 tooths to the small ring. Mixing shifters and derailleurs across the two groupsets is possible according to Shimano’s E-Tube Compatibility Chart.

My decision: For the recreational cyclist, justifying the additional cost of 1660 € to save 249 grams of weight is difficult – to say the least. But, you know, one gram adds to the other and partially the weightsaving would compensate the weight of the steel frame. For the beauty of the Dura-Ace finish, to know I’ve mounted the close to perfection top-gear on my very personal bike, and because I’m going to enjoy it whenever I look at it for years to come, I’m opting for Dura-Ace. I cannot find another rationale for this decision.

That leads to the following parts to order:

  • Dura-Ace Front Brake Set: Di2 Hydraulic Disc Brake Dual Control Lever 2x12-speed left side (ST-R9270-L) + Caliper front (BR-R9270) + Brake Hose front 1000 mm (SM-BH90)
  • Dura-Ace Rear Brake Set: Di2 Hydraulic Disc Brake Dual Control Lever 2x12-speed right side (ST-R9270-R) + Caliper rear (BR-R9270) + Brake Hose rear 1700 mm (SM-BH90)
  • 2 Deore XTR Brake Rotors 160 mm, Centerlock (RT-MT900)
  • Shimano SM-MA-R160D Flat-Mount Adapter rear to install the 160 mm rotor. Without the adapter the Strael can take 150 mm rear brake rotors only.
  • 1 Type C Screw for Flat-Mount Caliper for 15 mm frame to mount the SM-MA-R160D Adapter. The Strael comes with two suitable Type A Screws which could probably also do the job. I will use one Type A and one Type C screw.
  • Dura-Ace Di2 Rear Derailleur 12-speed (RD-R9250)
  • Dura-Ace Di2 Front Derailleur 2x12-speed (FD-R9250)
  • Front Derailleur Clamp Band, size SM for 28.6 mm diameter (SM-AD91)
  • Di2 Battery (BT-DN300),
  • Di2 Charging Cable (ES-EC300)
  • Deore XTR Chain 116 links (CN-M9100)
  • 2 Spare Chainlinks (SM-CN910)

Wiring #

The Road Di2 Series General Guide was very beneficial for my understanding of the Di2 wiring options.

This example of a wired gear shifting setup is taken from the Road Di2 Series General Guide and I plan to follow that example (excluding the satellite shifters).
This example of complete internal wiring serves as my blueprint. As opposed to what's shown in the above diagram, I will put the EW-JC304 junction near the bottom bracket and wire the handlebars without any kind of junction. The diagram is taken from the Road Di2 Series General Guide.

For the wire length calculation, I’m referring to the geometry of the Strael 3.0 frame 56T. The seat tube is 557 mm, the chainstays are 418 mm, the down tube is approximately 600 mm. My handlebars are 420 mm wide and have 73 mm reach. I’m calculating wire length as follows:

  • Battery to EW-JC304 junction: 557 mm seat tube + 150 mm for outside frame ≈ 700 mm.
  • EW-JC304 to rear derailleur: 418 mm + 200 mm outside frame ≈ 700 mm
  • EW-JC304 to front derailleur:300 mm
  • EW-JC304 to right shifter: 500 mm routing through down tube + 500 mm outside frame + 300 mm inside handlebar ≈ 1400 mm.
  • Shifter to shifter:700 mm.

Subsequently, the concept leads to the following parts to order:

  • A Di2 junction to wire everything together (EW-JC304)
  • 3 700 mm Di2 wires (EW-SD300-I). One to connect the battery with the EW-JC304 junction. Another ne to connect the EW-JC304 junction with the rear derailleur, and the third to connect the two shifters through the handlebars.
  • A 1400 mm Di2 wire (EW-SD300-I) to connect the EW-JC304 junction with the right shifter.
  • A 300 mm Di2 wire (ES-SD300-I) to connect the EW-JC304 junction with the front derailleur.
  • 3 Di2 Grommets (EW-GM300-S)
  • The Di2 Plug Tool for EW-SD300-I wires (TL-EW300) will come with the rear derailleur.
  • 1 m of Shrink Tube 6.4 mm → 3.2 mm to route the rear brake hose together with the Di2 wire from the down tube to the handlebars.

The cassette #

When using a compact 34-50 crank, a jump on the cassette from 22 to 19 is bothering me. On my old SRAM 11-speed setup, I’m riding an 11-30 cassette for that reason (and not 11-32) because the jump is only 2 tooths from 21 to 19. Once on a 19, there is another two-tooths jump to 17, then 15, which is kind of okay but would be better if there were 1-tooth jumps. Everything from 15 to 11 is one tooth. The modern 12-speed Shimano cassettes do not have that 22-19 jump anymore, no matter if 11-30 or 11-34. The same has to be said about the 12-speed SRAM cassettes. That means, even with an 11-34 cassette, the modern Shimano groupsets would give me tight gear steps where I want them, and the 34-34 combo in conjunction with a compact crank would allow decent climbing.

Every now and then, I hear or read that 12-speed is unnecessary and 11-speed is as good. I cannot follow that line of thought. At least from my point of view, 12-speed brings an improvement in a particular area that’s important to me.

Gear steps of different cassettes
Color-coding for tooth-jumps:
1 tooth 2 tooths 3 tooths 4 tooths 5 tooths

My current cassette is SRAM 11-30 11-speed.

Manufacturer and rangeSteps
Shimano 11-30 (12 speed)111213141516171921242730
Shimano 11-34 (12 speed)111213141517192124273034
SRAM 10-33 (12 speed)101112131415171921242833
SRAM 11-30 (11 speed)1112131415171921242730X

My decision: Compared to my current 11-speed compact setup, the 12-speed 11-34 cassette would give me the exact same gearing – plus an additional climbing gear. That’s not bad. Or I can ride the 11-30, which has the same lowest gear as what I’m riding today, plus tight gear steps 21-19-17-16-15. The tight gears in that sweet spot are essential enough for me to choose the 11-30 Ultegra 12-speed Cassette (CS-R8100-12). It’s made of steel, which is more durable than the partial titanium Dura-Ace cassette, and because it costs much less, it’s not too difficult to also swap it for an 11-34 if necessary.

The crankset #

Routing Di2 wires through the Strael frame requires a 24mm crankset axle and no larger. 24 mm is the axle diameter used by Shimano. For that reason, it is no problem to mount a standard Dura-Ace or Ultegra crankset onto the frame – except having the option to mount sub-compact chainrings with 32-48 tooths or even 30-46 would be nice. The smaller chainrings would allow me to run smaller cassettes with tighter gear steps and even less weight for the cassette. Under specific circumstances, when paired with a larger cassette, the lower chainrings will also allow for extreme climbing. The limit in top speed that comes with smaller chainrings is not a concern for me because it’s anyway not often that I’m riding a 50-11 gear ratio, but it’s much more often I have to select gears down the range.

The 24 mm diameter for the axle constraints the number of alternate crankset options. The Rotor cranksets will typically come into play here. With the new groups, Shimano altered the chain line from 43.5 to 44.5 mm, and I think for that reason, currently, the Rotors are officially only compatible with Shimano 11-speed groupsets. According to BETTERSHIFTING it should be possible to use current Rotor cranksets with the new Shimano 12-speed drivetrain. A question I filed as a support ticket to the Rotor people about the compatibility of Rotor cranks with the 12-speed Shimano drivetrains remained unanswered. The other day I found Rides of Japan successfully using an Easton EC90 SL crank within the Dura-Ace 9200. Overall, it looks like the new Dura-Ace crankset can still be replaced by 3rd party cranks with a 43.5 mm chain line.

You might have heard of the possible issue with high-end Shimano Hollowtech cranks unbonding over time (but mostly in sub-tropical areas). I find Shimano Crankset Failures: An Engineering Analysis by Hambini very insightful. Also, please refer to Why do Shimano cranks keep failing? Analysis by Peak Torque. I certainly can follow the line of thoughts, but I never met anyone in person who faced this issue. I know people in my bike club cranking out 15000 km a year for multiple years in a row on the same Ultegra crank without any issues. I understand Shimano makes the cranks this way to stiffen the chainrings, but their design decisions comes at a price.

Rotor cranksets don’t have bonded materials as Shimano cranksets. Instead, they have CNC machined parts, and to save weight Rotor drills holes into their cranks, for which they coined the name Trinity Drilling. The Rotor cranksets allow an utterly modular setup of the cranks, axle, spider, and different chainrings. They look better, in my opinion, weigh less, and are manufactured to impressive low tolerances, as explained by Peak Torque.

Please note that I only found the total weights of the Shimano cranksets for the below-given weight comparison without differentiating into their parts. The Rotor ALDHU carbon cranks are not included in the comparison because the carbon cranks are only available for a 30mm axle. I’m only comparing compact chainring sizes for Rotor and Shimano because they are the smallest to get from Shimano.

Weight comparison of cranksets

Weights are provided in grams. Sources of data:

CrankTotalCrank arms 172.5mmSpiderChainrings 34-50Axle 24mm
ALDHU DirectMount6453500150 /assumed145
ALDHU Spider675.535060 /assumed30.5 + 90 145
Dura-Ace 9200685
VEGAST Direct Mount6943990150 /assumed145
Ultegra 8100700
VEGAST Spider724.539960 /assumed30.5 + 90 145

My decision: At the time of writing, during February 2022, I couldn’t get anything from Rotor stating that the Rotor cranksets/chainrings will work on any of the new Shimano 12-speed road groupsets. Still, from searching the internet, I think it is possible. For that reason, I will go for the Rotor ALDHU 24 mm Crank Arms, 172.5 mm length, a Rotor NoQ Direct Mount 32-48 one-piece chainring combo, a Rotor 24 mm Road Axle, and a Rotor BB1 BSA Threaded Bottom Bracket. A Shimano BSA Threaded Bottom Bracket (BB-R9100) doesn´t allow routing the Di2 wires through the bottom bracket shell because the plastic shell of the BB-R9100 is too large to get everything in – the Rotor BB1 works better with this regards.

The pedals #

My decision: I’m riding Shimano XTR PD-M9100 Pedals on all my bikes. I don’t need to swap shoes across bikes, and the shoes are a little bit better suited for walking around than road shoes.

The wheels #

My shortlist of wheels
ModelWeightRim depthInternal widthSpokes front/rearHubRatchet freewheelHooked rimComment
Roval Alpinist CL1365 g32 mm21 mm24F 24RDT Swiss 350YesYesNot tubeless compatible
Roval CL501515 g50 mm21 mm21F 24RDT Swiss 350YesYes
Mavic Cosmic SLR 451440 g45 mm19 mm24F 24RMavic InfinityYesYesASTM category 2! Mavic Fore rims don´t require rim tape.
Reserve Wheels 40|441450 g40 mm front
44 mm rear
25.5 mm front
25 mm rear
24F 24RDT Swiss 240YesYesI learned these wheels are not for the German market.
Shimano Dura-Ace C361350 g36 mm21 mm24F 24RShimanoYesYesCup and cone bearings
Shimano Dura-Ace C501461 g50 mm21 mm24F 24RShimanoYesYesCup and cone bearings

I would be happy with any of these wheelsets. They all have a ratchet freewheel 🙌, hooked rims 🙌, and external nipples 🙌. In my experience, a ratchet freewheel is sturdier and has quicker engagement. Hooked rims allow using non-tubeless tires. I don’t know how the idea was born that internal nipples are a good thing? Eventually, a wheel requires trueing, and who wants to rip off the rim tape for that reason?

The Rovals cannot be used with tubeless tires. I think that is not really a problem, but it’s interesting because for some time, the move of manufacturers was towards tubeless and not away from it. I think both wheels are sturdy, probably the Alpinist CL even more so. The Alpinist has a nice low weight, bringing it into the same class as the Shimano C36s.

The Mavic is an all-round wheel for even ASTM category 2 (road and offroad with jumps less than 15 cm) at a weight of 1440 g. Their Fore rim technology ensures the wheel can be used without rim tape. Very impressive.

The Reserve Wheels, like the Mavics, are designed for riding on a broad range of surfaces. The appearance without any branding is something I like. For all those reasons, they were initially the number one on my list, but if there’s no support in Germany, I believe it doesn’t make sense to take them into further consideration.

The Shimano wheelsets are highly competitive. I overlooked Shimano wheels in the past, but the new 2021 wheels are exciting. Shimano recommends the C50s to every kind of rider (C50 is the best all-round wheel in Shimano’s history, our recommendation for all riders.) and the C36s for climbers. Unlike the Ultegra wheels, the Dura-Ace wheels have the new ratchet Direct Engagement freewheel. For that reason, the Ultegras are not on my shortlist. The weight of the C36s and the Roval Alpinists is pretty much the same, but the C36s can be ridden tubeless.

My decision: Because I’m already in the Shimano Dura-Ace system, I will go for Dura-Ace C36 Disc Brake Wheels. The C36s, even if meant for climbing, are as well excellent all-round wheels in my view. I do not give much on the aero advantage of deeper wheels compared to the C36 rim because I cannot recognize the difference in practice anyway. What’s noticeable to me in practice is how difficult deep rims are sometimes to be handled in crosswinds and, for that reason, can be a security issue when descending. Another thing to recognize is that lighter wheels are better to accelerate and reduce the overall bike weight. Function-wise, I believe the shallower rim is typically the better choice for the average rider. Also, I say it, choosing a specific rim depth has to do with aesthetics. The wheels should match the appearance of the bike. A carbon superbike with big sculptural tubes looks imbalanced with skinny rims.

On the other hand, the steel tubes of the Strael frame are not as big. The top tube is even skinny. I believe the C36s will make a balanced appearance on the Strael frame – it’s not skinny and not overwhelming. Not to forget the real riding advantages of fast acceleration because the wheels weigh only 1350g, plus crosswind stability.

The tires and tubes #

I’ve been riding tubeless for several years, and during that time, I had only two punctures that sealed by themself. Still, I think tubeless has two drawbacks: It can be challenging to get the tire on and off the rim. Doing that during a ride when it’s raining, and you are tired will not be a joy. Having to deal with sealant and inserting a tube because the sealing didn’t work is as well something you don’t want to experience. When riding tubeless, I still carry two replacement tubes. With a tubed setup, I carry only a single replacement tube because I can achieve a lot with the patching of punctured tubes. A Continental GP 5000, 30 mm wide, weighs 255g. The suitable tube, a Continental Race 28 Wide, weighs 125 g. In total tube and tire come at 380 g. For a tubeless setup: A Continental GP 5000 S TR, 30 mm wide, weighs 320 g + 50 g sealant, which equals a total of 370 g. That makes the two setups weigh nearly the same. But for the tubed setup, I will only carry a single spare tube plus patches, while the tubeless setup requires me to carry two spare tubes. That means tubed saves roughly 100 g![7]

Also, Shimano recommends not using tire leavers with their new rims, which might be impossible when using a tubeless setup.

My decision: This time I will choose tires that require tubes. Continental GP 5000, 30 mm wide, each one weighing 255 g, and Continental Race 28 Wide Inner Tubes with a 60mm valve, each weighing 125 g, are a natural choice in that case, I believe.

The seat post, stem, handlebars, and bar tape #

I start with the handlebars. They should allow for internal Di2 wire and brake hose routing. Also, they should be made of aluminum because I want to mount an Ortlieb Handlebar QR, which is impossible with carbon handlebars/stem! Also, I need short reach, something between 70 mm to 75 mm.

My decision: The Ritchey WCS Streem Handlebars, 42 cm wide, is my choice to take. It has 73 mm reach, and 128 mm drop at a weight of 287 g. It has a beautiful and modern shape, internal routing, and Ritchey has a reputation for doing these things right. Basically, I found no other handlebar suiting me as well as the Streem. Pro Race Comfort Bartape in black and Wolf Tooth Bar End Plugs, alloy black, will complete the handlebar. A Ritchey WCS Carbon Spacer Set 3x5mm 3x10mm matte UD Carbon is necessary to set the correct height.

Because I want to stay with one manufacturer, stem and seat post will also come from Ritchey. I complete the setup with the Ritchey WCS C220 84D Stem, 80 mm length[8], which weighs 121 g, and a Ritchey Flexlogic Carbon Link Seatpost, 15 mm setback, 350 mm length, at a weight of 185 g. The seat post will get a Ritchey Di2 Battery Mount 2022.

The bell #

In the past, I was using a Crane E-Ne Bell, all black aluminum. It’s seriously loud, and you can warn pedestrians from far away. I really have no issues with that bell; maybe the tone is a bit hard. This time I want to go for the bell that originated the high-quality-small-bicycle-bell-thing, the Spurcycle Bell. I think the tone is more pleasant, and the bell is smaller than the E-Ne, which is always a good thing on drop handlebars. Unfortunately, as it’s so often when I find something interesting, the Spurcycle costs double than the E-Ne.

My decision: A Spurcycle Original Bell, black - that thing weighs an incredible 42 g, which is a lot, considering the Dura-Ace front derailleur weights 96 g.

The computer mount #

My decision: Rotor Garmin Mount, black, complemented by a Garmin Edge Tether.

The saddle #

I ride Specialized Phenom Expert on most of my bikes, and that saddle is working fine for me. It would be a natural decision to go for that saddle on this very bike. For now I will use an Ergon SR Pro Men, which is a leftover from a previous bike.

My decision: Ergon SR Pro Men, small/medium.

The waterbottle cages #

It’s a steel frame therefore metal cages should complement it. Ideally, titanium to save weight. The price of these cages is ridiculous when compared to the price of a crankset, for example.

An overview of titanium bottle cages

Weights are in grams.

ModelWeightPriceComment
King Titanium Cage2860 €See how The King is making them.
Sicuro Titanium Bottle Cage V23065 €The baseplate allows to move the cage up and down by 21 mm. They are also available as a Cerakote Black Edition, which costs 95 €.
Wolftooth Morse Cage Ti3377 €The baseplate is even more sophisticated than the Sicuro plate and allows for 32 mm vertical adjustment. I think the name Morse is derived from the drilling pattern on the baseplate. The Morse Cage actually is a King Cage (made by the King) with a Wolftooth baseplate! Wolftooth also has an interesting mounting system for bottles and other accessories that is named B-RAD. The cage is optional available as a Limited Edition Black, which costs 93 €.

My decision: 2 King Cage Ti, each one weighing 28 g. The prices of the others are too steep, and I do not need the sophisticated baseplate of the Wolftooth to slide the cages up and down. Dom Thomas certainly took care to place the cage mounts on his frame so that two cages with bottles would not create issues with touching each other.

The part list #

  • Strael 3.0 Tall 56 frameset in color putty, including Hope Headset and Hope Seat Post Clamp in black
  • Dura-Ace Front Brake Set: Di2 Hydraulic Disc Brake Dual Control Lever 2x12-speed left side (ST-R9270-L) + Caliper front (BR-R9270) + Brake Hose front 1000 mm (SM-BH90)
  • Dura-Ace Rear Brake Set: Di2 Hydraulic Disc Brake Dual Control Lever 2x12-speed right side (ST-R9270-R) + Caliper rear (BR-R9270) + Brake Hose rear 1700 mm (SM-BH90)
  • 2 Deore XTR Brake Rotors 160 mm, Centerlock (RT-MT900)
  • Shimano SM-MA-R160D Flat-Mount Adapter rear to install the 160 mm rotor. Without the adapter the Strael can take 150 mm rear brake rotors only.
  • 1 Type C Screw for Flat-Mount Caliper for 15 mm frame to mount the SM-MA-R160D Adapter. The Strael comes with two suitable Type A Screws which could probably also do the job. I will use one Type A and one Type C screw.
  • Dura-Ace Di2 Rear Derailleur 12-speed (RD-R9250)
  • Dura-Ace Di2 Front Derailleur 2x12-speed (FD-R9250)
  • Front Derailleur Clamp Band, size SM for 28.6 mm diameter (SM-AD91)
  • Di2 Battery (BT-DN300)
  • Di2 Charging Cable (ES-EC300)
  • Deore XTR Chain 116 links (CN-M9100)
  • 2 Spare Chainlinks (SM-CN910)
  • 1 Di2 junction to wire everything together (EW-JC304)
  • 3 700 mm Di2 wires (EW-SD300-I)
  • 1 1400 mm Di2 wire (EW-SD300-I)
  • 1 300 mm Di2 wire (ES-SD300-I)
  • 3 Di2 Grommets (EW-GM300-S)
  • 1 m Shrink Tube 6.4 mm → 3.2 mm to route the rear brake hose together with the Di2 wire from the down tube to the handlebars
  • 11-30 Ultegra 12-speed Cassette (CS-R8100-12).
  • Rotor ALDHU 24 mm Crank Arms, 172.5 mm length
  • Rotor NoQ Direct Mount 32-48 one-piece chainring combo
  • Rotor 24 mm Road Axle
  • Rotor BB1 BSA Threaded Bottom Bracket
  • Shimano XTR PD-M9100 Pedals
  • Dura-Ace C36 Disc Brake Wheels
  • 2 Continental GP 5000, 30 mm wide
  • 3 Continental Race 28 Wide Inner Tubes with a 60mm valve
  • Ritchey WCS Streem Handlebars, 42 cm wide
  • Pro Race Comfort Bartape in black
  • Wolf Tooth Bar End Plugs, alloy black
  • Ritchey WCS Carbon Spacer Set 3x5mm 3x10mm matte UD Carbon
  • Ritchey WCS C220 84D Stem, 80 mm length
  • Ritchey Flexlogic Carbon Link Seatpost, 15 mm setback, 350 mm length
  • Ritchey Di2 Battery Mount 2022
  • Spurcycle Original Bell, black
  • Rotor Garmin Mount, black
  • Garmin Edge Tether
  • Ergon SR Pro Men, small/medium
  • 2 King Cage Ti

What´s next #

End of February 2022, at the time of publishing this article, parts from my list cannot be ordered. I even don´t have the frame – which will hopefully arrive end of March. I´m not sure when I can start building but I´m happy that I´ve found my setup.

Update 14 April 2022: See how the build itself goes 🔧.


  1. The big manufacturers sometimes claim they are using different carbon layups for differently sized bikes of the same model to create the exact same ride behavior, no matter what frame size. Well, is there a way for you and me to verify that claim? How are the manufacturers going to prove? I think that’s difficult. ↩︎

  2. James Hayden´s Fairlight Strael for the 2017 Transcontinental on road.cc ↩︎

  3. James Hayden´s Fairlight Strael for the 2018 Transcontinental on YouTube and road.cc ↩︎

  4. The complete guide to bottom bracket standards ↩︎

  5. The threaded english bottom bracket standard also goes by other names, but they all mean the same thing. These are: BSA, BSC, BC, ISO, British, and Euro, the name used in BMX bike circles. The term BSA stands for Birmingham Small Arms, a British company that produced bicycles, cars and other durable goods. The term BSC stands for British Standard Cycle, which adopted the same standard. BSC is sometimes shortened to BC. The term ISO refers to the International Standard Organization, which also adopted this same standard to be the ISO standard. Source: Bottom bracket standards and terminology ↩︎

  6. Please refer to the Hope Headset Technical Guide to understand the headset classifications ↩︎

  7. In the context of tires and tubes, I recommend How to change an inner tube. ↩︎

  8. At first I planned to use a Ritchey Toyon Stem, but the form of the WCS 84D stem fits the bike better and it weighs a little less. ↩︎