With the component / bike / parts shortage Covid-19 created, people turned their heads to somewhere else, the Chinese manufacturers. Unfortunately for both sides, the Chinese manufacturers did not use the opportunity, and we faced high prices, low volumes and long delivery dates.
The main problem with Chinese manufacturers is, creating a brand identity, and also sales channels issues. I even can’t find their websites, if any at all, and they seem to run their business entirely on AliExpress. I don’t trust AliExpress for buying anything more than 100$ – there are lots of sellers, and even the most highest rated ones disappear time to time. Parcel prices rose to incredible amounts for my country, so that sometimes buying a SRAM component directly from USA seems to be cheaper than 3x cheaper Chinese part. I quit buying any bike related product from AliExpress 3 years ago.
One very interesting and promising Chinese brand for me is L-Twoo. They make some great products for really reasonable prices. After quite a long search, I accessed their shopping site, unfortunately that only ships to Americas.
This is very disappointing for me. In Europe and most parts of Asia, access to big brands like SRAM or Shimano is easy, but they’ re incredibly expensive compared to USA, Canada, even Mexico. SRAM in country is horrible. Their distributor here is a small bike shop – I know this shop for probably 30 years, and sometimes had to shop there when internet shopping wasn’t a thing. Never had any good experience there, neither people I knew had. So I think there is a huge market for Chinese parts here, and maybe some brands in China should come up together to run shops across Asia or Europe.
What is interesting about L-Twoo ?
Lately, when trying to source parts for my new road bike project, I came across L-Twoo. I knew Sensah before, and liked their design, but had my own reservations about their groupsets, because their shifters work like SRAM, which I never liked. Another problem is, some models failed.
L-twoo attracted my interest because not their shifters work like Shimano, but also they make MTB parts, too.
I also remember an interesting story about them, I don’t remember the source, but tells that they’ re ex-SRAM engineers: SRAM created a R&D branch in China, then dismissed the labs and equipment, and ex-SRAM employees founded L-Twoo. I don’t know if that’s true, as their site is pretty horrible.
L-Twoo has some interesting products, too:
L-Twoo AE Electronic Shifter
This product seemed to disappear, not even in L-Twoo site but still exists in downloadable catalogs.
This is a Archer D1x replica. There are various differences, I wouldn’t call it a knock-off. Why? Because it’s an idea that I even thought and experimented with. Before Archer, I saw a middle-aged guy in Kickstarter that made such a shifter.
L-Twoo AE is different to Archer D1x in some ways: it does not have a replaceable battery unlike D1x, which uses off the shelf 10440 type batteries. They’ re both wireless, runs with any derailleur, software adjustable via a smartphone. L-Twoo’ s cable pull mechanism looks a bit different and I guess more convenient, but also more exposed, too. However, they look like each other, work like each other and probably made like each other, internally.
Broad line of products
L-Twoo does not fall short compared to SRAM or Shimano, regarding range and variety. This is very impressive in itself. We’re talking about a company probably less than a decade old with almost no sales channels. These people seem to have lots of skills and ingenuity, and are obviously quite resourceful and hard-working.
Unlike Sensah that matches the cassette and cranksets from other Chinese manufacturers, L-Twoo makes complete groupsets, including cranksets and cassettes. The product line starts with very basic components for bikes you’ll find in supermarkets, and goes all the way up to fancy looking 13 speeds.
Still, there are some missing bits unlike SRAM or Shimano, which supply everything from shifters to cables. Their product line does not include cables, disc brakes, or ANY brake. Yes; they do not make rim or disc brakes for road, and there is no hydraulic -or mechanical – disc brakes for any flat bar bike. With that said, don’t expect to have hydraulic brake option for road bikes, yet. Yet I know they’ll be releasing at least hydraulic brifters for road.
Ltwoo makes MTB, Road and also Gravel groupsets, as well as lower end products for dead-cheap bikes.
Groupset naming of Ltwoo products are extremely hard to understand. MTB line starts with “A”, followed by a number or “X”, like A7 or AX. X, being ten, in Roman numbers. Road groupsets have the same; “R” for road, and again, a letter. However, those numbers are not even remotely related with how much speed they have.
Gravel groupset starts with “GR” instead of “G”, and followed by a number. Top of the line model is GR9, I wonder what will come next, as it’s gonna be weird 😀
An interesting option here is the “F” groupset, which is for “flat bar bikes”, according to L’twoo. This is quite weird, because there is no “F” specific parts, but we see “R” (road) derailleurs and “A” shifters. As some of you may know, until 10 speed, Shimano road and MTB line pull rates are the same. That means, you can use your 9 speed MTB derailleur with 9 speed Sora Road brifters. But at 10 speed, there is no compatibility.
That is where thing get interesting, because for 10 speed “F” groupset, we still see a MTB type shifter, but with “R” designation instead of “A”. Like, Tiagra flat bar shifters. Manufacturers make these types of shifters for “fitness” bikes. Fitness bikes generally looks like a road bike, and comes with road bike components but they have flat bars instead of dropbars.
Have a Shimano groupset? or SRAM? Don’t worry; Ltwoo keep you all covered!
Ltwoo shiters and derailleurs look like SRAM parts, but on the other hand, some are SRAM, some are Shimano compatible. Yes; you can run these parts with compatible Shimano or SRAM models.
Ltwoo MTB Groupsets and parts
Ltwoo MTB groupsets starts with “A”, A13 being the top of the line. Basically, A1, A2, A3, and A5 models are 6 to 9 speed, and have either SRAM or Shimano compatible items.
A7, A5, A3 and A2 is either SRAM or Shimano compatible, while others are Ltwoo specific.
As you may already know, up to 9 speed, they’ re already compatible, unless stated otherwise. For example, you can run a 8 speed SRAM shifter with 8 speed rear derailleur from Shimano, or vice versa. So effectively, only 9 speeds differ up to A5.
A13, A12, A11, A7 and AX are 10 to 13 speed compatible, 13 speed is for 1x drivetrains – one important thing to note is 13 speed system only works as a complete set from Ltwoo, rear derailleur and the shifer. Like the others in this lineup, except A7. Complex, right? It is.
For A13, shifter model is SL-AT13. Interestingly, shifter body is aluminium and only weighs 142gr. RD-AT13 rear derailleur accepts 11-52T cassettes. Body is aluminium and cage is carbon fiber.
It’s better to divide up the entire line, by how many speeds they have:
We have A12,A13 and AX here.
A12 is 1×12 speed only, and looks to be more advanced and expensive: the rear derailleurs are aluminium body and carbon fiber cage – they look to have 2 shifters and 2 rear derailleurs under A12 model name. They both go up to 11-52t cassettes. One rear derailleur, RD-AT12-G, has “G” designation, 5 grams heavier than the one without “G”, and on paper, they look the same except the color. “G” is yellow, or maybe “Gold”?
AX is 1×12, 2×12 or 3×12. Looks like 1×12, 2×12 and 3×12 A12 groupsets have the same rear derailleur, but named as RD-A12-X,RD-A24-X, RD-A36-X – first one having 11-52T, second having 11-46T and third 11-42T cassette compatibility. All these rear derailleurs weigh 310 grams and have aluminium body and steel cage, also look identical. This made me thinks they are all same but L’twoo makes 3 different cage lengths for them. But if that’s the case, the weights may be different, at least a few grams.
For the shifters, they look all the same with different colors, and no optical display. Again, they are funnily named as SL-A36-3-X, being 3×12 right shifter (3s) and SL-A36-12-X being the left, hence 12s. For 24 speed (2×10) replace 36 with 24. They’ re the identical!
A11 is 1×11 only, looks very much like the A12, same weight, same cassette compatibility, and same looks. Same as A13, which is only 1×13.
Then there is AX, that is either 1×11,2×11 or 3×11, having the same look of rear and front derailleurs, shifters, and same weird component naming.
That also concludes the A13, A12, A11 and AX lineups.
After that, things get a bit simpler: A7 is 10 speed, A5 is 9, A3 8, and then there is A2, which is 7.
But still, it’s not just easy it is then you think, because these groups can either be SRAM or Shimano compatible. Previously, all 13,12 and 11 speeds have LTwoo specific pull ratios. Now, we have either SRAM, Shimano or both. Confused ?
Ok. First, A7 is only 10 speed, and it can be 1×10, 2×10 or 3×10. Again, looks like we have a common derailleur, with two cage sizes, which can go up to 11-46T in 1x, and 11-36t at 2×10 or 3×10 configuration. Obviously, we have also 2 different front derailleurs for 2 or 3 speed, so does the shifter situation is the same.
A5 is the 1×9, 2 or 3×9 compatible groupset, which has both Shimano and SRAM specific versions. This looks bizarre, because 9 speed is generally compatible amongst SRAM and Shimano. 9 speed Shimano MTB has a pull ratio of 1.7:1, commonly marketed as 2:1. There is also a 1:1 version of SRAM, which is not Shimano compatible, but also a rarer breed. Now, things are getting even more weird, because we see 3 types: Shimano, Shimano 2:1 and SRAM. Well, looks like LTwoo is mistaking Shimano for SRAM. Shimano have only 1 standard for MTB 9 speed. It’s SRAM that has two different pull ratios.
LTwoo, road groupsets
Personally, I’m not very interested in MTB groupsets. I have quite a lot of MTB components that will probably outlast me, and they’re cheap compared to road groupsets. At worst, I can source a lot of good components second hand, but for road, brifters are very expensive to get.
So I’m very interested in Ltwoo’s road groupset line. Other contenders are MicroShift, which is doing great for quite some time, and Sensah, got some attention lately, but I’m not inclined to them due to SRAM-like shifting – only one lever.
Luckily, Ltwoo’s groupset naming is consistent and clean, unlike their MTB line.
Top of the line is RX, 2×12, has two versions, one having carbon fiber levers. Carbon fiber shifters are pretty impressive as they only weigh 440 grams for the pair, which puts them into Ultegra level. Braze on front derailleur is 70 gr, again, very impressive because this is the same as Dura Ace! However, their rear derailleur is quite heavy ay 266 grams, which is even 30 gr heavier than mechanical 105.
Is it a problem? Definitely no; as the price is unmatched. For the price of one medium level shifter, you can get a 2×12 groupset from Ltwoo.2×12 has its own pull rates specific to Ltwoo, so not SRAM or Shimano compatible.
But 2×11 or 2×10 is what I’m interested most, for a few reasons: first, for me, 2×11 is the sweet spot for mechanical road groupsets now. Second, you can still get some nice parts for cheap from Shimano at 11s level, like older 105 mechanical, or even more older Ultegra. Third, 2×11 good for anything, 2×12 is overkill for a road bike. I’d probably pass 2×10 for road, and if I want something very cheap and reliable, would go for 2×9 instead, because Shimano 9 speed for MTB and road components almost always interchangeable.
Luckily, anything other than 2×12 is Shimano compatible. In fact, Ltwoo doesn’t even have to make a groupset, because shifters themselves is a great value, and derailleurs are not super expensive anyway. Also, road shifters are like “consumables” for some roadies. Unfortunately, especially the ones starting biking with a road bike, it’s not uncommon to fall quite a lot and thus break the levers.
R9, weight-wise, its lighter than mechanical 105, and 2×11 – for many, this groupset is the one to get. I think this is the best of Ltwoo – rear derailleur is lighter than RX, and 11*32T cassettes are welcome.
R7 is 2×10, R5 is 2×9 and R3 is 2×8. Even the cheapest, 2×7 R2 is amazing regarding weight, nothing comparable to Tourney, or even Sora.
LTwoo, gravel groupsets
This is a deal breaker for me, their gravel groupsets are 1x only: 1×11 (GR9) and 1×10 (GR7).
That doesn’t mean you can grab the road groupset and put it to your bike, as the earlier gravel bikes have.
Cassettes and crankset
Their cassette line is quite broad, but there is no info on weight.
Same goes for cranksets.In fact, their catalog only have MTB (or city, hybrid, touring) cranksets.
What’s in store for Ltwoo ?
I’ve been seeing Ltwoo at AliExpress quite a lot of time, and also noted they got very good reviews. There are also people I know, which had some minor problems, but generally find the products excellent for the price.
However, getting them, for me, is hard. I don’t shop at AliExpress anymore. And I don’t think it’s a great business model to lean on AliExpress that much.
Their website and product catalog is pretty awful.
There is no shop in my country sells Ltwoo products, or I could find any online store located in Europe. Unfortunately, I cannot buy their products, which is very annoying, because I was really very curious about their road shifters, especially…