12-speed gear system on the way from KCNC

Count those sprockets; there are twelve of 'em for road from 11-tooth to either 25 or 30

by nick_rearden   December 17, 2011  

KCNC-road-!2-speed-for-2012

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Taiwanese component specialists KCNC have released their 2012 catalogue and it contains a complete 12-speed derailleur system consisting of combined brake and gear levers, front and rear mechanisms and a couple of cassette combinations. To really put the cat among the pigeons, there's an 11-speed mountain bike setup as well.

Kudos to British cycling trade magazine BikeBiz; it was them that spotted the new components in a KCNC 2012 catalogue released for download without fanfare yesterday. Admittedly, only the 11-speed mountain and 12-speed road cassettes are actual photos with the shifters and gear mechs shown as the Computer Aided Design renders that engineers use to visualise parts before they are actually cut from solid materials on a Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machine.


KCNC 12-speed titanium cassette for next year: either 11-25 or 11-30

But there they are; if this was a company we had never heard of, there would be a little more scepticism but KCNC is a company with a track record and established worldwide distribution, in the UK though Clee Cycles. They are already well regarded for making anything for a posh bicycle that requires machining out of aluminium and titanium alloys, with cassettes, cranksets, jockey wheels, stems and seat posts often seen in the counter cabinets of bike shops-of-a-certain-enthusiastic-type the world over.

Except for gear mechanisms and shifters, that is. There was, according to the excellent Disrali Gears, a website devoted to the history and development of derailleur gears from the 1930s, a minor flurry of CNC specialists such as White Industries making gear mechanisms in the 1990s when the mountain bike boom was at its peak. But, to be frank, they were blown out of the water by the utterly dominant Shimano with the sheer precision and value of their XT and XTR systems and they just kept on coming.

Meanwhile, the road market up until now wouldn't have been worth the effort. Shimano was still dominant but so embroiled in a tussle with SRAM and Campagnolo over the relatively rapidly developing technology on dropped-bar bikes that a small specialist wouldn't have got a look-in. Is there now a possibility that with both a bigger road market and the move towards extremely complex electronically-shifting systems that a window is opening for smaller-volume CNC specialists to cater for the gear shifting needs of the folks who are already buying their fancy headsets and seatposts?

There are two 12-speed cassettes listed:

  • 11-25t 11-12-13-14-15-16-17-18-19-21-23-25
  • 11-30t 11-12-13-14-15-16-17-19-21-23-26-30

All twelve sprockets are individually machined from titanium, according to the KCNC catalogue, and mounted on an aluminium carrier that is 'Shimano freehub compatible' meaning that they will fit on any wheels on the market or as near as dammit. What is not specified is whether that's for a 130mm or 135mm hub. There is no chain mentioned in the catalogue so when KCNC eventually recommend a chain it could be an existing narrow model or they may be working in partnership with a chain maker for an even narrower one than seen hitherto. This latter scenario seems most likely as designing their own shift levers opens the opportunity for a new narrower sprocket spacing away from the existing and near-universal Shimano HyperGlide (HG) standard.

19 user comments

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Have we got any kind of guide prices? I'd forego Di2 for more range on a 12 speed

Gkam84's picture

posted by Gkam84 [8934 posts]
17th December 2011 - 21:29

6 Likes

Having 16T, 18T and 20T cogs at the back sounds good... like REALLY good.

blog rowerowy - my blog about bicycles (written in Polish, but feel free to visit me! Smile )

mikroos's picture

posted by mikroos [187 posts]
17th December 2011 - 22:21

4 Likes

Oops, I've just checked back and noticed there's no 20T. But 16T and 18T is still good enough!

blog rowerowy - my blog about bicycles (written in Polish, but feel free to visit me! Smile )

mikroos's picture

posted by mikroos [187 posts]
17th December 2011 - 23:43

4 Likes

OK why on earth do you need 12. Seriously... Loose weight, man up, if you must, go compact, but 12!! I'll stick with 9 but that's cause when I run out of fingers I'm stuffed and I really don't want to keep glancing down to see where I am on the sprocket!!

giff77's picture

posted by giff77 [1059 posts]
18th December 2011 - 18:42

6 Likes

It's not about being or not being strong enough. Extra cogs gives you either wider range of gears or smaller gaps between each gear. Both are extremely beneficial no matter how fit you are as they help you ride with optimal cadence.

blog rowerowy - my blog about bicycles (written in Polish, but feel free to visit me! Smile )

mikroos's picture

posted by mikroos [187 posts]
18th December 2011 - 18:59

4 Likes

That's beyond Fugly...

Is it worth it, just for that Spinal Tap moment?

"My gears go up to 12"
"Why not make 10 better?"
"Yeah, but - twelve..."

andylul's picture

posted by andylul [412 posts]
19th December 2011 - 9:44

4 Likes

Compared to a 9 speed set-up, you'd spend 25% more time changing gears. When we are getting as high as twelve cogs in a block there must be someone looking at CVT technology?

See this excellent explanation by Honda:

http://world.honda.com/automobile-technology/CVT/

Has it ever been considered as feasible for bikes?

arrieredupeleton

posted by arrieredupeleton [563 posts]
19th December 2011 - 10:38

6 Likes

That's a very good question, and not something that has occurred to me previously. How long until the cassette becomes a one-piece cone and the chain (dunno how it would gain traction) simply moves up and down it to maintain a given input effort?

Somehow though, a bike without gear shifters just wouldn't be the same. (ducks to avoid the single-speed guys throwing rocks)

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3316 posts]
19th December 2011 - 10:56

3 Likes

@ mikeross - there maybe an element of fitness involved but climbing is more to tecnique than anything else! I know guys who are uberfit and they cannot climb hills to save their lives!!

Granted the 1T increments may provide slicker changes but that's the only benifit I can see!!

giff77's picture

posted by giff77 [1059 posts]
20th December 2011 - 16:52

5 Likes

notfastenough wrote:
How long until the cassette becomes a one-piece cone and the chain (dunno how it would gain traction) simply moves up and down it to maintain a given input effort?

There are already a few variants on this, some working better than others. The system you described is what is cumbersomely known as a "cone continuously variable transmission." These have a belt on either one or 2 cones, and have been infrequently used on some cars for about 100 years.

More recently - and interestingly - is the Nuvinci hub gear. From all accounts it weighs a ton though. http://youtu.be/kVPjhmTThPo

mr-andrew's picture

posted by mr-andrew [298 posts]
20th December 2011 - 19:08

4 Likes

I run an 18 sproc. as part of my 9sp. set-up. When buying a cassette I buy a 14-23 block then split it an add a 13 and remove the 25 - shimano should allow customized sprocket combinations!!

Those diagrams look 'electric' IMO too btw.

posted by yenrod [100 posts]
21st December 2011 - 9:49

3 Likes

I actually find on my 10 speed that I end up changing 2 gears very often. I'd probably be jumping up or down 3 on this.
Naa. dont need or want it.
Would like electronic mind I cant really justify £1500 for the gearset.

posted by pmr [172 posts]
21st December 2011 - 10:44

2 Likes

Hm, I totally agree with those posters above who say that 9 was probably enough, 10 certainly plenty. 11 is showing off, 12 is just being a ponse. I ride a 10 speed, I have never found myself without the ratio I want, and I think I have only used the ends of the cassette on Mt Ventoux (one end to go up, the other to go down!)
But I do like KCNC stuff, beautifully crafted and niche, I have one of their lightweight (10sp) cassettes already. And I am happy to see another player in the market, as long as they stay fairly compatible with other systems (as it sounds like they will with the freehub issue).
I'm torn.

posted by kace19 [22 posts]
21st December 2011 - 10:47

5 Likes

Hi there, Boy this takes me back awhile! The equivelant phase in m/cycle racing had Honda with their 125 racer using a similarly stupid number of gears. It reached the stage where the machine had a power band of just 150 rpm! Yes, one hundred & fifty revs per minute!! Power started at twenty odd thousand the stopped almost immediately. Around the TT course it was asinine! Supplesse is the answer, just like Victoria Pendelton. I'm worried that my 6 speed block with triple chainrings will confuse me totally. TTFN MM

mersey mouth

posted by mersey mouth [7 posts]
21st December 2011 - 12:37

5 Likes

yenrod wrote:
Those diagrams look 'electric' IMO too btw.

hmm, interesting point. we don't have any real info on this system. we assumed it was mechanical but that's not necessarily the case, i guess. however the drawing of the 11spd MTB shifter does have what appears to be a barrel adjuster...

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7433 posts]
21st December 2011 - 12:47

4 Likes

dave_atkinson wrote:
yenrod wrote:
Those diagrams look 'electric' IMO too btw.

hmm, interesting point. we don't have any real info on this system. we assumed it was mechanical but that's not necessarily the case, i guess. however the drawing of the 11spd MTB shifter does have what appears to be a barrel adjuster...

Talking of AC/DC - I actually thought SRAM would of done electric for the Road next yr?

posted by yenrod [100 posts]
21st December 2011 - 14:36

1 Like

Vapour-ware? Just a couple of 3-D CAD renderings

Make mine an Italian with Campagnolo on the side

posted by monty dog [366 posts]
21st December 2011 - 22:47

1 Like

monty dog wrote:
Vapour-ware? Just a couple of 3-D CAD renderings

As it says in the story, mont, if it was a lot of companies you'd go, "Pff!" they're dreaming. But KCNC are a bit more hard-headed. Truth is, there really isn't any reason why this isn't do-able. Electronics *would* be harder which is why I don't think these are electronic whatever the renders look like. I think they're just gambling that the time is right for enough people to be prepared to pay top-dollar for something that may not even work as slickly as Dura-Ace but is nevertheless different. There's no doubt that a chunky anodized CNC-machined gear mech is going to look *very* different and it won't be for everyone. But how cool that there's a new choice? Well, maybe.

posted by nick_rearden [859 posts]
22nd December 2011 - 0:02

1 Like

ppf Hmmmm,looks like electronic units to me. Would be great if that is the case! And twelve speed! jumping onto campagnolo toes!!! I am impressed with KCNC components so won't be surprised.

peasantpigfarmer

posted by peasantpigfarmer [46 posts]
23rd December 2011 - 21:28

2 Likes