**Special Product Feature by Caffery Garff of R&A Cycles**
TIME is an enterprise focused almost entirely on the most elite levels of performance in the cycling business, which is quite a task for any company, much less one of Europe’s relatively high volume manufacturers. Their 2012 frameset range starts with the $3800 RX Instinct and takes several steps before topping out at the RXRS Ulteam Di2 VIP Module+ for $6500. They also produce professional-grade components and accessories from their premium cycling gloves to their $450 ICLIC Titan Carbon pedals. Few firms can support that breadth of product at such a high level of quality and performance without also selling a “mainstream” range. And yet, that’s only the beginning of TIME.
For this frame test, we chose the 2012 RXRS Ulteam, as a representative of TIME’s top end platform. The frame comes to life TIME’s Vaulx-Milieu, France, factory via a process called Resin Transfer Molding, or RTM. What exactly is RTM? The intricacies of the process are so guarded that many of TIME’s own employees and representatives are not allowed to see behind the curtain. That is extreme secrecy in an industry of extreme secrecy.
We can share some details, though: TIME does weave their own carbon, and claims to be Europe’s only manufacturer that does so successfully. Their in-house methods allow them to lace Vectran – a more pliable, Kevlar-like fiber, called VibRaser in TIME-speak – into certain sections of the carbon that dampens vibration without compromising the stiffness or strength of the material. This, they say, is the key to the excellent ride quality that their frames achieve.
There is no shortage of decals hiding all over the RXRS to advertise its various technologies.
Looking at the RXRS, you’ll find sharp, razor-like graphics all over, but you’ll notice the carbon tubes and intersections are also angular and creased virtually everywhere on the frame. The very unique shapes are the result of testing to optimize both ride quality and durability. As a bonus, TIME says the frame’s aerodynamic performance is competitive with many of today’s frames that were developed with aerodynamic properties as a primary focus. The deeply swept seatpost is the only obvious clue to this often overlooked advantage of the design.
The integrated seatpost’s wind-swept shape alludes to the frame’s aerodynamic development.
The RXRS takes form when the proprietary carbon tubes are hand-wrapped over hardened wax molds. Different molds are then connected, the tubes are joined, and the wax is melted away, leaving behind a complete and hollow carbon structure. The aggressive shapes are complimented by angular graphics, and while perhaps a bit extreme for some, it’s one of the most distinct and cohesive cosmetic packages available, especially when built up with TIME’s proprietary bar and stem, which we’ll get to in a moment.
You’ll find angular shapes all over the RXRS Ulteam.
The precision with which TIME produces their frames is reflected in the fact that their manufacturing processes yield a failure rate “at or very near” zero percent. To boot, the company offers a transferable lifetime warranty on every frame that leaves their factory. I personally can attest, as the warranty specialist for one of the largest TIME dealerships in the world, that I’ve never seen a defective TIME frame, handlebar, or stem from any of our customers, in-store or abroad. For the volume of their products that we sell, that is truly remarkable.
So, what does this all mean when the RXRS Ulteam finally hits the road? How does all the tech talk stack up to real world expectations? Really, really well.
The first thing I noticed about the RXRS is an almost suspicious smoothness to its ride. I was inclined to hop off and double-check the tires’ pressure, but no, they were fine. All the marketing behind VibRaser is validated in the form of an incredibly compliant ride over coarse or uneven pavement. Larger impacts, however, will quickly remind you that this is, in fact, a bike engineered for a direct connection to the tarmac. In other words, the ride is like silk, but this is still a stout frame that will punch you back if you get sloppy with your lines.
Time’s ’VibRaser’ technology blesses the RXRS with an uncommonly smooth ride.
Once settled on board, the geometry struck me as pleasantly neutral for a dedicated race bike. This is an aggressive frame, but it doesn’t force you to feel that at all times. Combined with that great ride quality, the RXRS is more than comfortable enough for 5+ hour days in the saddle.
It climbs with the best climbers out there, yet high speed stability inspires tremendous confidence – no doubt a result of the 71.5-degree head tube angle. This is a notably slacker angle than most competitors like-sized frames (typically ranging anywhere from 72 to 73.5 degrees), moving the front wheel further out in front of the rider, extending the wheel base relative to the main triangle and contributing to greater stability as speed increases. The bike resolutely held my chosen line in corners no matter how hard I pushed through them.
The RXRS’s head tube demonstrates some of the complex shapes the engineers decided upon for the best possible ride, handling, and stiffness.
One may think that such a relaxed HT angle would translate into sluggish handling, but the opposite is true. At low-to-medium speeds, turn-in is eager. In fact, it’s absolutely immediate. A handful of times, when weaving through NYC park roads or in traffic, the bike changed directions a touch faster than I had planned. The feeling is not jittery or unstable at all, but those seeking a bike that can cruise on autopilot will want to look elsewhere. This one is alive.
The relatively small bottom bracket shell of the RXRS, and the solidity it provides, is proof that carbon bottom bracket shells need not be massively overbuilt to be super stiff.
Bottom bracket stiffness – even using an adapted GXP crankset instead utilizing the frame’s BB30 (which would have been even better) – was exceptionally high, eclipsed only by the unparalleled strength of the bike’s front end. You’ll notice we used TIME’s own Monolink stem and ErgoForce handlebar for this test instead of our standard test cockpit, because TIME sells 85% of its RXRS frames as “modules”, complete with these pieces. Turns out, this is a very good thing. TIME’s bar/stem combo may be the most unflappable I’ve ever ridden, rivaling even our beloved ZIPP set-up. I often found myself out of the saddle and rocking the bike, hard, just to revel in the granite-like solidity, trying and failing to get any flex out of the thing (coincidentally, during our time with the RXRS, a customer actually called to complain that the TIME handlebar was too stiff – that was a first). The icing on the cake is the bar’s great ergonomics, which accommodate a wide variety of hands, and the fact that it and the stem integrate cosmetically into the frameset perfectly. A compact version of the ErgoForce bar, called ErgoDrive, is also available for those seeking a shallower drop.
TIME’s MonoLink stem and ErgoForce bar provided perhaps the torsionally stiffest combination this author has ever experienced.
At US$5585.00 for the 2012 TIME RXRS Ulteam Module+, its value is excellent, seeing that a 25 gram carbon bottle cage and a phenomenal cockpit are included (a $962 value), not to mention the lifetime warranty. Some competitors are selling frames in the same performance league but at prices up to $2000 greater and without these parts, so the RXRS Module+ stands out as a particularly appealing package for riders and racers looking for a new frameset in this price range.
TIME’s carbon bottle cage is extremely light and makes it particularly easy to insert bottles.
The 2012 TIME RXRS Ulteam is a striking, efficient, and especially balanced frame that encouraged me to ride through even the worst days of this NYC winter. This bike will feel like the right choice on nearly any road in the world, and at nearly any distance, as long as the rider is willing to respect its nature as machine crafted for race-level performance and responsiveness. If they are, then a divine ride awaits.
The 2012 TIME RXRS Ulteam, ready and waiting along the Hudson River in New York City.
ABOUT R&A’s FRAME TESTING
Some folks might raise an eyebrow at the idea of a bike shop writing reviews on its own bikes. Of course, we would love to sell you a bike, but we also want to sell you the right one. At R&A, we have an enormous number of models from which to choose – in fact, with 26 brands represented, it’s the largest selection in the world. We decided to start reviewing our own bikes and other products with the hope of pointing readers in the right direction and helping them make more informed decisions, because we love the bikes we sell, and we want everyone to love the bikes they buy – even if it’s not from us.
To ensure consistency and fairness, each frame R&A tests is built and run with the exact same parts kit and setup, top to bottom, from the bar tape to the tire pressure, unless otherwise noted. Full specs of the R&A test build are provided below. Cockpit dimensions are replicated as closely as possible from bike to bike. Some manufacturers offer fully integrated frame systems, in which case we use the frames’ included parts where possible. All test riding is done in and around the New York City metropolitan area.
Generally, our bike reviews will not discuss weight figures. Frame weights are published on our website and others, however, different measuring standards make these numbers an area of ambiguity. Further, the framesets we test here are more than likely to be custom built when purchased, so frame and bike weight will vary from build to build. We can promise that all of the frames we test are very light!
R&A approached SRAM and affiliate ZIPP to provide parts for frame testing. Their exceptionally high quality, performance, and durability means we can focus entirely on the frames and their ride characteristics without worrying about the performance ceiling or reliability of any components. Visit www.sram.com and www.zipp.com to learn more about why we chose to work with them.
Caffery Garff works full time for R&A Cycles and lives in Brooklyn, New York. He runs R&A’s testing and writes the reviews with input from colleagues and from customers around the world. He rides and races both on- and off-road as much as he can, but not nearly enough. He stands 5’9”, weighs 160lbs, and can often be found snacking on mid-ride empanadas in Harlem.
R&A Cycles is based in Brooklyn, New York, and ships products around the globe every day. Please visit www.RACYCLES.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for general inquiries.
R&A’s TEST BUILD:
Handlebar: ZIPP Service Course
Stem: ZIPP Service Course
Bar Tape: ZIPP Service Course
Saddle: Fizik Arione Versus Kium.
Shifters: SRAM Red
Brakeset: SRAM Red
Crankset: SRAM Red GXP, 172.5mm, 53/39t
Front Derailleur: SRAM Red
Rear Derailleur: SRAM Red
Chain: SRAM PC-1091R
Cassette: SRAM PG-1070, 11-26
Bottom Bracket: SRAM Standard GXP
Seatpost: ZIPP Service Course
Wheelset: ZIPP 101
Tires: ZIPP Tangente Open Tubulars, 700x23c
Tubes: Continental Race Tubes, 48mm valves.
Approximate total cost: US $4,500