Blue Triad SL Review
article & images by Nick Salazar
Nov 20, 2011
More and more, the front end is what defines a tri bike. It's like a signature, and no two are quite the same at the top end of the spectrum. Blue has chosen to employ a bayonet-style fork, an integrated aerobar, aero spacers to increase stack, and a standard front brake. Ultimately, I feel like this is an excellent blend of convenience and aerodynamics. Let's take it from the top down.
The Triad SL uses a proprietary, integrated aerobar-stem combination, and it's a thing of beauty. That's fortunate, because you can't put any other bar on the bike. You're stuck with this one. It comes in five stem lengths from 80mm to 120mm to the armcup bolts, and the pads can adjust 25mm forward or 25mm backwards from there. I rode the 100mm "stem" and kept the pads in the middle position, which gave me the 500mm reach to pad center that I wanted.
The magnificent thing about an integrated bar is how few bolts are on the thing. The entire front end system, including all stem and headset hardware, plus extension and arm cup adjustment hardware, consists of a scant ten bolts. Compare that to the Speed Concept, which uses a staggering twenty-three of them. You can adjust each extension's reach and roll with just a single bolt. It's awesome. And the frontal profile stays wonderfully minimal on account of the integration.
My biggest gripe about this bar is that because the extensions don't come out the back of the bar, you have to trim them to length. That's not a terrible problem, but it's just one more thing to be careful about. And if you decide to change your reach significantly, you can't just swap stems, you'd need a whole new bar. So make sure you know your fit well.
Fork + Brake
The fork on the Triad SL is what's generally referred to as a bayonet-style or external-steerer fork. That means its steerer tube doesn't bear the brunt of your weight, and it's distributed over the outside area of the fork that protrudes from the front. The benefits of this type of fork are that you can make a much narrower profile without compromising stiffness. Blue's implementation of this technique is simple, effective, and very easy to wrench. It uses standard 1-inch bearings on top and bottom, and a standard 1-inch headset, which can all be sourced easily should they ever need replacement. The external section of the fork is bolted down with just a single M6 bolt, while some other systems use two or even three bolts out front. The front end is nice and stiff, yet presents a very svelte profile to the wind.
The only area that Blue didn't bother to integrate is the front brake. The fork uses a standard brake boss, and will accept any standard road brake. That's nice in terms of ease of wrenching, but regular road brakes aren't exactly the most aerodynamic bits out there. Ultimately, using a standard brake on a bike this clean is (in my view) like painting a mustache on the Mona Lisa: it's silly and out-of-place.
So I elected to use a very uncommon brake up front: the legendary Hooker Aero SL. The brake was kindly loaned to me by Heath Dotson of HD Coaching. The Hooker is a very low-profile, center-pull brake, and actually works. Once mounted up, the Blue's frontal profile rivals or beats every other bike out there. There's just nothing to it. Unfortunately, the Hooker is out-of-production, very hard to find, and commands a very high price on the secondary market. The only readily-available center-pull brakes are made by Tektro and TRP (and Campagnolo, which looks like a clone of the Tektro), but it would be nice if someone else started making some other options. In any event, with that little detail in place, the Blue is gorgeous to behold.
But how does it ride? Let's talk about the frameset as a whole, including those aspects.
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