We're being asked a little more these days about whether there's a thru axle option on our hardtails. There currently isn't. It's good old 135mm QR. Below are laid out the reasons why this is the case and we're interested to know what your thoughts are on this; whether you're not bothered, simply would like the option to swap wheels between other bikes with thru axles, or some other reason we haven't thought of yet. So, here's the case for the status quo:
Firstly, from a performance point of view, we don't think there is any point. A hardtail frame is very stiff at the back end and a thru axle will not make any noticeable improvement or different to this. It's not like on a swingarm of a suspension frame where you don't have that intrinsic stiffness, or a fork where it's two long slender legs resisting all the twisting on their own. A Rocket, for example, benefits a great deal from having the Syntace X-12 system we use on that, and none of us here would ride with anything other than a thru axle fork, but that's because the thru axles in those situations bring obvious and marked benefits.
Second reason is weight. One of the things we pride Cotic products on is not carrying unnecessary weight. When we had to add a thicker head tube and gussets to the Soul in 2009 to meet the CEN regulations, we redesigned the dropouts to the current design to offset the weight gain. Our current dropouts with mech hanger weigh just 93 grams. A Hope rear QR skewer weighs 65 grams so you have a system weight of 158 grams. We have been offered a thru axle dropout system from our factory which weighs 187grams and uses a Maxle or E-thru axle. Best case here is the Maxle for weight at 74 grams claimed, although we prefer the e-thru for function which is 97 grms from the XTR version. Even best case it's 261grams, and given our preferred option more likely 284grams. That's a 126 grams weight increase - over 1/4 of a pound! - for no obvious advantage apart from convenience and everyone else is doing it. We find that a bit hard to deal with when we try so hard to keep every gram from our frames, our flagship 853 frames in particular.
We did design a dropout system in steel for when we were looking at possibly doing the Rocket swingarms in steel last year, but even using the X-12 axle which is only 39 grams, the system weight on this was 215 grams, which is still a fair bit heavier at 57 grams more than the regular QR option.
Finally there's cost. To keep these dropouts even remotely sensible weight they're considerably more complex to make than our current dropouts, plus we would have to make more complex mech hangers and also supply an axle with each frame. Rough estimates suggest needing a £50 price increase on frames to include a thru axle, and mech hanger prices in the £20-£25 region, not the current £13 price.
So that's the reasons why for the moment it's staying QR, but we want to know your opinions on this. We sent this out to the mailing list subscribers and got a fantastic response (sign up to the mailing list here), mostly supporting our view that 135 QR works great so no need to change. However, there were a number of good points made arguing for thru axles too, so whilst we're not looking to adopt them on the hardtails any time soon it's certainly given us food for thought.
It's possible we might be getting a little too precious about a few grams here and there, so let us know if you think you'd carry the extra weight for the convenience. It's not like we're adversed to adding weight for performance gains. We all have disc brakes, suspension and and dropper seatpost on our bikes, all of which are heavier than the older technology they replaced, but they bring performance gains which are well worth carrying them around. We can't see that with thru axle hardtails yet, but go ahead, tell us we're wrong!