Review by AJ Barlas // Product Photos by AJ Barlas, Action Photos by Joel Harwood
e*thirteen have been producing great trail riding products for a good number of years now with a variety of ranges structured around how riders intend to use the products, or how much they’re willing to spend. The Plus range of TRS gear was designed to be a little lighter and with it, carried a slightly higher price tag than their TRS kit. Then there’s the TRSr (race) group aimed at the enduro market and those looking for solid, reliable, light kit that includes some more exotic materials with a slightly higher price tag.
The TRSr group is the upper echelon of e*thirteen’s trail security group and for 2016 they’ve thrown more carbon into the range. Rather than jumping on the carbon bandwagon early, e*thirteen spent a number of years refining their products to be sure they were reliable and functioned exactly how they feel a product should when being abused on the trail, whether for an EWS racer looking for glory, or local hacks like us smashing about on our home trails. We’ve been doing just that this winter, putting a variety of parts from the TRS line to the test in some harsh conditions which included consecutive weeks of teeming rain, but followed up with some glorious, hero dirt days for good measure.
TRSr Carbon Wheelset Features
- Available in 27.5" and 29”
- TRSr Carbon “torsion tube” shell bonded to machined aluminum flanged hubs
- 6-degree 60-point engagement freehub
- 15/20mm f, 135/142mm r
- 110mm or 148mm boost compatible
- Carbon rim with hookless profile
- 27mm internal width
- Includes tubeless rim tape
- 1690g (650b wheelset)
- MSRP: $1,698 USD
TRS+ Cassette Features
- Innovative 3-piece design
- Large 9–44t range (11sp - tested)
- 9–42t range (10sp)
- XD freehub required
- Aluminum large ring cluster (top 3) for weight savings
- 320g (11sp - tested) 300g (10sp)
- MSRP: 11sp $309 USD, 10sp $279 USD
TRSr Carbon Crank Features
- Compression-molded carbon fiber
- 73mm, 1-degree P3 Connect alloy spindle
- Compatible as dual ring or single (single tested)
- Adaptive Preload System (APS) for easy and solid adjustment
- 170 and 175mm lengths
- 441g without chainring
- 507g with 32t direct mount chainring
- MSRP: $499 USD
LG1r Chainguide Features
- Compression-molded carbon fiber backplate
- IFD direct mount bashguard with separate 28–30t, 32–34t and 36–38t sizes (included)
- Adjustable upper guide with co-molded soft rubber
- Removable Gen. 2 stealth idler lower guide
- 164g (34t)
- ISCG05 only
- MSRP: $199 USD
When the TRS group kit arrived we were really interested to see the quality of the new carbon components. We weren’t disappointed. Each part pulled from the packaging impressed us with its staggering finish and material quality.
The parts that really caught our attention were most notably the new TRSr Carbon wheelset and the intriguing TRS+ 3-piece cassette. The wheelset features a custom rim profile, but not one that results in an overly-large surface area or any strange, proprietary elements — they even come built with good ol’ j-bend spokes for reliability and convenience. The included rim strips are trouble-free and mate very well to the 27mm internal diameter of the rim. The hubs are beautifully machined and look the ducks nuts with their carbon torsion tube inners and machined aluminum flanges, which mix polished alloy with anodized black resulting in a very high-end appearance. The 6-degree, 60-point engagement rear hub sounds like a top-notch product and isn’t just loud for the sake of it, though the bike is transformed into a swarm of bees with the TRSr hub.
The 3-piece cassette is very intriguing, given the unique design and the large, 9–44t range. e*thirteen provided us with our requested 34t chainring as well as their 32t Guidering M, noting that the smaller 9t cog will give riders a stronger high-end. Despite this, and for other reasons we’ll discuss, we opted to run the 34t based on the much easier low-end. The gearing jump goes from 44t, to 38t, then 32t, compared to the SRAM cassette it replaced, which goes from 42t, to 36t, then 32t. Given that both of the upper gears were already easier and we spend a solid amount of our time in the middle of the cassette with the 34t up front, we felt fine starting with this.
The TRSr carbon cranks features large, chunky arms, but are deceptively light, coming it at 507g with a 32t direct mount ring. This compared to the other offerings on the market is very competitive, coming in roughly 40g lighter than another key manufacturer's carbon crank. Still, initial concern over the bulky character of the crank, especially by the axle where you're are prone to connect, is warranted. The e*thirteen bottom bracket that we mounted the cranks to (sold separately) was very smooth with a high-quality finish. We had no issues mounting the direct mount narrow/wide ring, which e*thirteen dubs the Guidering M, to the cranks with the supplied tool and it all went together effortlessly.
Then there was the LG1r chainguide. We opted for this guide rather than the TRSr so that we could see how the new Generation 2 idler faired. We also preferred to have the option to run that lower portion of the guide for when the going got really rough. The soft rubber coating on the guide's upper is one of the most notable updates to the LG1 chain retention system. The evolution of this guide over the years has seen it grow quieter, lighter, and more easily adjustable in this latest iteration.
On The Trail
Any full, new drivetrain (including wheelset) is going to feel amazing on the trail and it’s one way to make an otherwise-beat-up bike feel like a new one again. However, by coincidence, this tester had just made upgrades to their own personal wheelset and drivetrain, including new cables and housing, which we feel makes for a good comparison to this new group from e*thirteen. Changing over to the e*thirteen group we again updated the chain, though opted to run the already-new cable and housing. Mounting the gear to the bike was straightforward, though there was some learning to do with new takes on failry common parts.
These pieces included the obvious with the 3-piece cassette, and a little less obvious was the e*thirteen’s Plasma tubeless valves, which we also rode. The cassette went on easily, but we recommend following the provided directions for proper setup. We found mounting the large, 3-sprocket portion of the cassette to be straight-forward, utilizing the lockring and the tool, but attaching the main piece of the cassette after this was a little more tricky. Properly lining up the small pin and slit in the two pieces is crucial before ham-fisting on the chainwhip to get it to lock into place.
e*thirteen's Plasma tubeless valves are designed a little differently in an effort to allow higher airflow when using high-volume pumps or CO2 cartridges. The design sees the upper, visible portion of the valve thread around the inner, as oppose to the usual lockring simply anchoring the valve stem. The design also is said to result in a better seal with the rim and in our experience this holds true, with the valve seeing no sealant leaking around it, which we find pretty common with our other wheels and valves when completing a fresh install.
Taking off to the trails, the shifting was clean and precise while the drivetrain seemed quiet. This compared to our brand new drivetrain that e*thirteen products just replaced. Throughout testing, the cassette has proven to be quite consistent and shifting has remained on par with the competition. We have had a couple of occasions that have seen the chain bounce off the chosen gear, often down the cassette. After checking the derailleur alignment and cable tension, all was fine, leading us to wonder if it may not offer quite the same retention as other cassettes. It’s been a rare occurrence, but has caught us by surprise when it does happen. Our derailleur is old and has seen some miles however, so we’re inclined to blame it on that for this review.
In the last six rides we have noticed slight crackling noises coming from the cassette, regardless of lube on the chain or adjustment of the cable tension or derailleur. We’re not the only ones to have noticed this but we will leave this to our more in-depth review of the cassette, which will be live in the coming weeks. What we will say is that like many things, the cassette is not absolutely perfect, though we are very impressed with it and are happy to keep mashing on it.
We opted to stick with a 34t front ring because of the easier low-end that the cassette affords, coupled with the fact that we rarely see the very bottom of our gear range on the trails in this part of the world, especially in the winter. Getting to that 9t wasn’t going to be aided massively by dropping to a 32t up front. Generally, in the Sea to Sky region we don’t hit even an 11t with a good range front ring unless on a road or on one of the very few, wide open trails, and this is when we hit it during this test. In our experience, there were no discernible differences other than the longer high end making for more room to push than a regular cassette with the same chainring. Chain length will need to be adjusted to accompany this smaller high-end.
Additional to the above, we would rarely have seen the upper range of our cassette were we to go with a 32t front ring and we wanted to test the wear of the alloy sprockets. Overall, we want to run gearing that results in good use of the entire cassette and opting for the 34t was the best choice for our purposes. We’re happy to report that wear of the upper alloy portion has been fine after a couple of months riding in some of the filthiest, wettest conditions a bike can endure.
When getting on the gas, the lightweight, carbon construction of the TRSr wheels was quickly noticed, with the bike accelerating up to speed with little effort. Moving the bike around was also easy thanks to the more lively feel of the carbon hoops and their weight, or lack thereof. Despite these being carbon we have found the ride very pleasurable unlike some others that we have ridden. The flex qualities of the TRSr carbon wheels is not as rigid as others and in wet conditions, or those where the trail is riddled with roots and baby head rocks, we were better able to hold a line as opposed to the wheels deflecting off such features. This resulted in more confidence when charging into questionable sections of trail and an overall more enjoyable ride.
The more forgiving flex didn’t result in a loss of the other benefits, namely zest on the trail, which is especially noticeable out of corners or deep compressions. The wheels did a great job of giving us that added boost out of hard and fast berms while damping down some of the trail feedback when the going got rough. The TRSr hubs roll smooth and fast, despite there being some drag in the freehub. We did experience some ghost-pedaling with our feet off the cranks, but when we brought the issue up to e*thirteen they were already aware of the problem and let us know they've redesigned the seal which, they say, alleviates this. Engagement of the rear hub is among the quickest this tester has ever ridden, making it great for little “sissy cranks” when climbing technical features, allowing us to get the power back to the wheel very quickly.
Since wide rims are all the rage these days, we’re happy to see the TRSr wheels incorporate what can be deemed a more sensible number. In our experience, anything over 30mm is too wide for common tires available today and result in too square a tire profile. This square profile hinders aggressive cornering, something that isn’t worth the other claimed benefits. After testing nearly every available 2.3-2.4" tire out there, e*thirteen has picked a slightly narrower rim width of 27mm, which we feel is a really happy medium.
Our rims have spent the duration of the test wrapped in a set of cut Michelin Wild Mud Advanced treads, and at a width of 2.2-inches they’re similar in width to a 2.3-inch Butcher or 2.3-inch Minion. Tire profile was great, without making it too bulbous in the sidewall, which results in deflection off trail features (something the ultra wides commonly deal with). We’d be lying to say we weren’t concerned that the 2.2" width would flatten the profile out too much, bringing the side knobs up too high, but it hasn’t been an issue and we’re very happy with the combination.
There have been no issues with burping, despite running pressures as low as 18psi on horrible, wet days (though the speeds are also slower in these conditions), and we’ve seen zero flats throughout the test, despite the rear tire being on its last days as we type. The tires were also easy to seat with a regular floor pump and a little elbow grease. All in, we’re very impressed with the TRSr carbon wheelset and aside from some spokes needing attention in our rear wheel, which we pushed out of true about mid-way through testing, they feel great on the trail and put a smile on our face in a number of situations where other carbon rims did the opposite.
The cranks have done their job in silence. We haven’t noticed them, removing any concerns that we had regarding the size of the crank arm and the potential for beating up on our inner ankles. The bottom bracket has remained deathly-silent despite the horrendous conditions we’ve subjected it to and the very simplistic APS (Adaptive Preload System) adjuster has remained finger tight, right where we left it when we started riding the cranks. Thanks to this system, removal is problem-free too, with minimal tools required. The cranks are stiff, light and get the job done without making it known.
Speaking of removal, the new LG1r chainguide (and any others in the range for 2016) now feature tool-free access to your chain, making it super easy to remove the cranks if only running the upper portion of the guide. The clip is firm but with a little effort it opens and you’re not spending time adjusting bolts—it also removes the chance of the wrench reefers ruining the plastic in the upper guide. If running the lower idler, the use of a T25 tool is necessary to move it away from the chainring, which is easy to do and get back in place.
We already mentioned how quiet the guide is thanks to the updated upper which includes a molded rubber piece, and this remained true throughout the entire test period. The updated lower idler is also very quiet. We were initially a little skeptical of the durability of the new jockey wheel, but it is firmer than those of the old days. Though we didn’t run this for a long period of the test, we don’t see there being an issue with premature wear. The lower idler does create a little drag on your pedal stroke, which is largely why we prefer to leave it off until lift access days or shuttles, but the guide works very well without the idler when using a narrow/wide ring.
Things That Could Be Improved
Overall the new TRS group has been a treat to ride, with everything working very well to this day, despite predominantly punishing conditions for the duration of the test. What follows below are really nothing more than nit-picking, because this group kit is ready to rock.
The use of a proprietary direct mount ring on all e*thirteen cranksets is somewhat of a bummer, making it impossible to try a different narrow/wide profile out or things like oval rings while using these cranks. Despite this, the interface is clean, the lack of chainring bolts is a plus, and the Guidering M is a decent chainring with the direct mount version for their cranks being pretty good-looking also.
Although the LG1r guide is flawless on the trail and includes a number of great improvements, we would love to see the overall bulk of the guide brought down, especially when setup like a TRSr. There are a number of guides on the market that are lighter, contain smaller parts and work just as well, though we are yet to see one with a bash that meets these elements. It also appears that the use of an oval ring will not work with the current design of the upper guide.
We’ve found the cassette to rust quite easily throughout our test. With the tough winter conditions during the test period, we’ve had to go above and beyond to take care of our bike. The drivetrain was dried and re-lubed after every ride in an effort to stave off premature wear or things like rust. Despite our best efforts, we have been unable to stop the latter, with it showing up in the dips between the teeth on our test cassette. There doesn’t appear to be any form of coating to the steel teeth, which the competition tend to add. The crackling that the cassette makes would be nice to see amended as well.
We don’t feel that there are any improvements needed on the TRSr rims. Personally, we feel that the flex is near perfect, striking a great balance between being stiff, without being so much so that they hinder tracking of lines on trail. While we did experience some drag and ghost pedaling with the hubs, e*thirteen has supposedly amended the issue with a new, backwards-compatible seal. That said, despite the issue just mentioned the hubs were still fast rolling and kept the elements out extremely well. Couple that with the extremely fast engagement, we think e*thirteen has done a great job with the TRSr hubs.
Long Term Durability
After a couple of months rallying this group in some gross conditions, we’re happy to report that aside from a twist on a couple of spoke nipples to true up the rear wheel and drying off the drivetrain to hold back the rust on the cassette, it has needed zero attention. The rust on the cassette is really the only problem that could result in a bit more of an issue, with potential for premature wear from those that don’t look after their bike regularly. Everything else is solid and presents little in the way of concerns for long term durability.
What’s The Bottom Line?
In case it's not obvious, we’re big fans of the new TRS group kit from e*thirteen. The qualms that we’ve mentioned above are really nothing more than small gripes and every part in the line has performed exceptionally well with little in the way of problems to report. In our experience, if a bike or parts can make it through a PNW winter without any major issues or excessive wear, they’re worthy of a recommendation to pretty much anyone, and that’s the case here. The wheels have reignited our previously-fleeting confidence in carbon wheels (our custom wheelset is alloy). They use good ol’ j-bend spokes and the hubs performed outstandingly.
The cassette is a great first foray into this part of the drivetrain world and with a couple of minor tweaks can easily become one of the most popular out there. If you can overcome the proprietary direct mount chainring, and perhaps have access to replacement parts when you need them, then the cranks are a great piece of equipment. The chainguide is a constant reminder that e*thirteen are always looking for ways to improve and simplify maintenance on theirs and other products. Their seemingly-simple, but improved Plasma tubeless valves point to this.
If looking for replacement wheels, wide-range cassette options, some different, reliable cranks or a proven chainguide, the TRS group from e*thirteen is one that should be on your list. It’s well thought out, performs exceedingly well on the trail and will do so for a long time with little need for maintenance.
For more on the TRS gear, be sure to check out e*thirteen // The Hive’s brand new website: bythehive.com
About The Reviewer
AJ Barlas started riding as most do, bashing about dirt mounds and popping off street curbs. Not much has changed, really. These days the dirt mounds have become mountains and the street curbs, while still getting sessioned, are more often features on the trail. He began as a shop monkey racing downhill since day zero, only to go 'backwards' and start riding and racing BMX later on. He then came full circle once moving to Whistler. AJ loves riding everything from 8 hour mountain pass epics (bonking) to lap after lap in the park and 20 minute pumptrack sessions at sunset. Driven by his passion for biking and exposing people to the great equipment we ride, AJ started and maintains the Straightshot MTB blog. So long as wheels are involved, and preferably dirt (the drier and dustier the better), life is good.