Bike Reviews – TriSports University The place to learn about triathlon. Thu, 08 Feb 2018 19:09:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Bike Reviews – TriSports University 32 32 Product Review: Flaer Revo Via Wed, 26 Jul 2017 22:52:33 +0000 Efficiency is the name of the game when it comes to triathlon. When you are racing anywhere from 5 hours for a Half-iron distance race to upwards of 14 hours for full-iron distance race, you know you want to save as much energy as possible. One of the best ways to sap energy on the […]]]>

Efficiency is the name of the game when it comes to triathlon. When you are racing anywhere from 5 hours for a Half-iron distance race to upwards of 14 hours for full-iron distance race, you know you want to save as much energy as possible. One of the best ways to sap energy on the bike leg of a triathlon is to have a dirty, dry drivetrain. One company created a solution to that problem in a very unique way.

Most lubricants on the market are targeted at a certain environment or time frame for their optimal performance, but all of them will eventually wear off. That is the one thing that is true of all lubricants no matter how high tech. Even the special CeramicSpeed UFO chains have a specific performance life span. Flaér went about attacking that problem from a totally different perspective.

About Flaér
UK based Flaér Cycling originally launched their revolutionary product, then called the Scottoiler, on Kickstarter to catch the attention of the cycling world. After a successful Kickstarter campaign, the company rebranded as Flaér Cycling and renamed their product the Revo Via. Since then they have expanded into a variety of bike cleaning products to take care of all your maintenance needs.

What is Revo Via
The Revo Via is a continuous chain lubrication system. It consists of three main parts: the pump, the tubing, and the applicator. The pump holds the fluid and dispenses a small amount of lubricant through the tubing to the applicator which is attached to the rear derailleur. It is programmable so that it dispenses fluid every 30, 90, or 120 seconds which in turn keeps your chain clean and lubricated throughout your ride. As stated before, this helps keep things running smoothly no matter what the weather or how long the ride.

Real World Use
This is all good in theory, but what. What you and I both want to know is how does that actually work in the real world. Thankfully, I’ve been able to have this new gadget in my hands for a few months to run it through its paces.

I won’t go into detail with the installation process because Flaér has done an excellent job with their walk through videos and instructions for installing the Revo Via. Just go watch them. I will say that they note you should set aside about an hour to do the installation and I found that to be spot on. I am not a novice when it comes to bike maintenance, but I’m not an expert either. I found an hour distraction free to be just about right to get everything up and running.

The biggest headache in all of it is deciding where to mount the pump. They tell you the best place is on the down tube or seat tube as low as you can get it. My bike did not allow that with the way its geometry is, so I settled with mounting it to my one and only bottle cage mount. Flaér sells Bottle Cage Extender for mounting the Revo Via below a cage without giving up the use of a bottle cage. I really would have preferred that but again, my frame would not accommodate that. Thankfully Flaer listed many options all detailed in the instructions and I am sure you will find one that works for you.

Every Day Use
Once you get the system set up and primed per the instructions, it is simply a matter of turning it on and off and adjusting the dispensing intervals for the weather. The special fluid the Revo Via uses (conveniently called Via Fluid) is not your normal chain lube. It is a special formula that is easy to clean off. It keeps gunk from building up in your chain and since longevity is not a concern with the continual application of new fluid, it is nice to be able to just spray it off at the end of a ride and call it good.

There is also an auto off feature that keeps you from accidentally letting the system run until it is empty. I must admit, I took full advantage of that feature one time and was glad I did. Instead of running all night, it only ran for two hours and when I got back to my bike the next morning I found only a small puddle of fluid under my rear wheel and not the whole reservoir emptied on the floor.

Another great feature is the “Boost” you can send to your chain. If you notice it is getting on the dry side, or you ride through a large puddle, you can hold the power button to send a 60 second continuous stream of fluid to your chain while you are riding. I never took advantage of this feature, but I can see where some racers could find that useful, especially off-roading or riding in less than ideal conditions.

Final Thoughts and Recommendations
At the end of the day, there is an understanding that a product like this has a select audience. Obviously a crit racer would not find this useful for their road races lasting an hour or less. On the other hand, a triathlete racing a full or half iron distance race can understand that the efficiency gains of a system like the Revo Via could save them precious watts and have their legs more fresh for the run. Those riding in wet or dirty environments such as off-road riders may also reap the efficiency benefits.

The question always come to “how much benefit?” Flaér claims up to 12 watts. I can’t confirm that, but I can say that I did notice my drivetrain was cleaner and quieter over the long haul, almost as if I cleaned and lubed it fresh every day.

“But, Aerodynamics!” some might say. The system is so well integrated that I don’t see that being much of an issue. The biggest aerodynamic penalty would come from the pump, and it is smaller and more sleek than a simply bottle and cage. I don’t see that being an issue, especially with the efficiency gain at the drivetrain.

If you are going long or off-roading, check out the Revo Via. It might just save your legs that little bit over your competitor, and it won’t break the bank either!

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About the Author: Nate is a husband, father, triathlete, and teacher. Nate likes to help others learn from his triathlon mistakes and successes, aiming to encourage athletes new to triathlon. When he’s not hanging out with teenagers, he can be found swimming, biking, and running around central North Carolina, blogging, or on twitter @n8deck.












Ceramic Bearings: Save a Watt, Spend a Lot Thu, 08 Dec 2016 17:55:57 +0000 Written by Nate Deck, Field Test Expert and TriSports Ambassador Team Athlete Triathletes have various obsessions with making marginal gains. These seem to go in phases from weight and power in the off-season to aerodynamics as race day gets closer. But I’ve noticed a trend over the last few years: friction. As aero-everything becomes mainstream, […]]]>

Written by Nate Deck, Field Test Expert and TriSports Ambassador Team Athlete


Triathletes have various obsessions with making marginal gains. These seem to go in phases from weight and power in the off-season to aerodynamics as race day gets closer. But I’ve noticed a trend over the last few years: friction. As aero-everything becomes mainstream, reducing friction has come to the forefront as the way to get a leg up on your competitor.

Take a look at pictures of the equipment the pros were running at Kona this year and you will see a trend. Hubs, bottom brackets, and derailleur pulleys were all replaced with ceramic bearings. Even chains were getting a special coating to reduce drivetrain friction.


This may leave you wondering, should I upgrade? Or maybe you already know you want to upgrade, but don’t know where to begin. First, we need to get an understanding on what realistic gains we can expect from a ceramic upgrade.

But the manufacturer says…
I know. Manufacturers make some amazing claims about their products. So let’s start there. We need to know what makes ceramics bearing so much better than normal (steel) bearings in theory.

As a material, ceramic is better suited for bearings because it is harder than steel, and it can be made more smooth and more round than steel. Obviously a harder bearing is more durable, so it should last longer. Also, being able to produce a more perfectly round ball will help things roll faster with less effort.

You sound like you don’t believe them…
Yes and no. In theory, it all sounds like a magical component that you can swap out and immediately gain the equivalent of 10 watts. However, just because ceramic has the potential to be rounder and smoother does not mean it is by default.


First of all, you need to understand that a bearing is not just about the little balls that help the part turn. A bearing is actually made of two rings (called races) with the ball bearings in between. The ball bearings roll and allow the inner and outer rings to turn. Some manufacturers have made a hybrid ceramic bearing with the balls being ceramic and the races being steel. This saves money, but it fails to take into account the difference in hardness of each material. The hard ceramic bearings can wear down the softer steel races more quickly than if the two were made of the same material.

The other big part of the equation is the lubrication. Steel bearings need that lubrication to keep them running smooth. For ceramics, the lubrication diminishes some of that smoothness that would be gained from a perfectly round bearing, but without it, riding in rain and mud would allow gunk to build up inside and ruin the whole thing.

OK, so has anyone actually proved these things work?
There have been some third party tests done on ceramic bearings. The most well known is the Colorado-based company Friction Facts. The biggest factor in the potential time savings on any ceramic part is its RPM’s. That means the faster a part turns, the more savings a ceramic bearing could potentially give you. That breaks down something like this:

  • Derailleur Pulleys (Approx. 0.5-2.0 watts)
  • Wheel Hubs (Approx. 0.5-1.0 watts)
  • Bottom Brackets (Approx. 0.03-0.5 watts)

For each of these parts there is a given range of potential savings that depends on what you are currently using. For example, the difference in switching your derailleur pulley from a Dura-Ace to a CeramicSpeed is 0.35 watts. Change that to an oversized pulley and you get 0.6 watts. However, if you are currently running a 105 or lower-end pulley the savings could be up to a full watt or more.


That’s not a lot of savings
You’re right. And when you look at dollars per watt, it doesn’t look better. Best case, switching to an oversized CeramicSpeed pulley costs about $250 per watt. By comparison the average on an aero helmet over a regular one is around $10 per watt and aero wheels come in at about $150 per watt.

High performance parts for race day
On the positive side, there is a savings there! If you are trying to squeeze every last bit of savings out of your rig, this is a great new innovation that can help you. Just understand that these are special, high performance parts for one purpose: to get you from point A to point B as fast as possible on race day. These are not designed to be day in and day out parts.


A great example of this is a response that HED wheels have on their FAQ page regarding ceramic hubs.

“Up until 2011, some of our wheels came as standard with ceramic bearings. In theory, these should offer lower rolling resistance than standard stainless bearings. However, with use in punishing conditions we were finding that the ceramic bearings were actually more susceptible to becoming contaminated. Consequently, these bearings were going “rough” far quicker than the stainless variety. When new, our ceramic bearings did offer very low rolling resistance but in use we found that this didn’t remain the case. Our high grade stainless bearings that are now available in our wheels actually offer lower rolling resistance for a longer period of time when compared to the ceramic variation due to their harder wearing nature.”


So what should I do?
First, make sure you’ve gotten every last bit of speed you can out of your current equipment and make sure it is clean and well maintained. Check out the 5 bike repair lessons for triathletes. Like they say, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Next, if you’re ready to go ceramic, here’s a good place to start. Look at Ultra Fast Optimized (UFO) Chains. Friction Facts created this process to specially clean and coat a chain to reduce as much friction as possible. CeramicSpeed bought this part of the business a few years back. Again, this is not an everyday chain, but come race day, it will save you the most watts.

If your budget allows, you can look at derailleur pulleys too. You can even get CeramicSpeed’s Watt Saver Kit which comes in a variety of configurations to upgrade both your chain and derailleur. And finally, the bottom bracket to smooth out your ride.


Final thoughts
Going ceramic is not a cheap investment. If you, your kit and rig are already performing at your max and are still looking to save some watts, then it may be time to make the ceramic investment. Similarly to swimmers shaving their legs for race day, cyclists and triathletes can upgrade to ceramic to help juice as much watt-savings for better performances.

The bottom line is that you need to make sure that if you are going to upgrade, you need to make it count and have realistic expectations. If you do it right, you’ll be satisfied knowing you have the fastest possible rig come race day.

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nate-deckAbout the Author: Nate is a husband, father, triathlete, and teacher. Nate likes to help others learn from his triathlon mistakes and successes, aiming to encourage athletes new to triathlon. When he’s not hanging out with teenagers, he can be found swimming, biking, and running around central North Carolina, blogging, or on twitter @n8deck.











Product Review: NiteRider Lumina 950 Boost Bicycle Light and Sentinel 150 Tail Light Fri, 11 Nov 2016 19:32:27 +0000 Written by Nate Deck, Field Test Expert and TriSports Champion Team Athlete As the days get shorter and along with it your time to train outside, you may be turning to some products to light your way as dusk settles over the roads. Training with lights on your bike is a good idea to maintain […]]]>

Written by Nate Deck, Field Test Expert and TriSports Champion Team Athlete


As the days get shorter and along with it your time to train outside, you may be turning to some products to light your way as dusk settles over the roads. Training with lights on your bike is a good idea to maintain visibility at any time of day, but it becomes even more important in the fall when you may be racing the sun at the end of a workout.

When you start to look at the market for bike lights, you may be overwhelmed by the plethora of choices ranging from camera or radar enabled lights to your basic red flashing tail light. To be of any use, your lights need to bright and durable. This is where NiteRider comes into the picture.

About NiteRider
NiteRider is a family business. Tom Carroll and his wife Veronica started building lights in their dining room as a way for Tom to be able to surf the waves of Southern California after dark. Eventually, their market expanded to producing lights for a range of outdoor sports from road and mountain biking to powersports. They have been leading the way in mobile lighting technology as evidenced by their list of “firsts” they keep on their website. To better understand the level of excellence NiteRider holds to, let’s take a look at their new road cycling models for 2017.

Description and Features


Lumina 950 Boost
The Lumina 950 Boost is the newest addition to NiteRider’s Lumina line of lights. The 950 stands for the number of lumens this light puts out. In other words, it’s BRIGHT! The Lumina 950 comes with six “modes,” five steady modes of varying brightness, and one flash mode. It is USB rechargeable with a standard MicroUSB like most non-Apple phones today and you can expect anywhere from 5 1⁄2 hours of run time in the flash mode to only 40 minutes in the “boost” mode running the full 950 lumens. It also comes with a handlebar mount as should be expected.


Sentinel 150
The Sentinel 150 is the newest tailight NiteRider has released. This light has seven modes, two Daylight Visibility Flash modes, two steady modes, and three laser lane modes. These laser lanes are the newest innovations for NiteRider. The light will actually project a laser line (like a laser pointer) on the ground on both sides of your bike. This creates a virtual bike lane for cars to see when passing you. These lasers can be run simultaneously with the red taillight.

The Sentinel 150 is also USB rechargeable and you can expect anywhere from 5 hours of runtime in the flash mode to somewhere around 3 hours with a flash and laser running at the same time.


Light System Differentiators
So what sets this lighting system apart from the crowd? The most obvious is the laser lane. I don’t know of any other light that can do that. On top of that is the brightness of the lights. No other feature matters (lasers, cameras, radar) if it isn’t bright enough to see. These lights are plenty bright. I would even say they are super bright. I turned them on right out of the package without thinking about the fact they were right in my face and they nearly blinded me! Ok, slight exaggeration… but I was seeing spots for a few minutes…I’d say that it’s bright enough for my cycling purposes.

So how did they stack up in day-to-day operations? I’ve put them through the paces and my overall impression is great!

Daytime Riding
I do most of my riding during the day, so I like to use lights to add that extra eye-catching visibility, so I don’t get hit by a distracted driver. The DVF (Daylight Visibility Flash) on the taillight is wonderful. It is nice and bright and it is clearly visible during the day. The headlight flash is also quite visible. I could see it reflecting off road signs at quite a long distance, so I know it could catch a driver’s eye if they are at least half paying attention.

The laser lanes are a different story. Have you ever been in a classroom or presentation where the speaker tries to use the laser pointer but the room is too bright? It’s the same concept here. I had a hard time seeing them myself and I knew where to look for them. I quickly realized it wasn’t worth the battery power to leave them on during the day. But at night, it’s a whole different story.


Nighttime Riding
At night is when these lights really shine (no pun intended). After all, the company is called NiteRider for a reason. The headlight’s varying levels of brightness was great to have. I usually rode with it on the “high” setting, which is about 800 lumens. The “boost” setting, giving you the full 950 lumens, was nice for those descents down roads with few street lights. A quick double click on the light was equivalent to turning on the brights in a car. It gave me enough visibility that I felt confident to descend in the aero position on my tri bike.

The laser lanes on the Sentinel 150 are awesome at night. Running the laser lanes with the steady or night time flash mode makes you that much more visible to drivers. The taillight and the lines on the ground exponentially increases the chance drivers will see you! The lasers have a flash function too, but I felt like the steady light gave drivers a better idea of how much space they actually needed to give me.

The features and brightness don’t mean a thing if the unit isn’t durable. Thankfully, these are solid! Right out of the package, I could tell they are well-built. They do not feel flimsy in any way. The buttons click well and do not feel mushy at all. Everything is clearly marked and isn’t hard to operate. I’ve only had these units a month, but they have passed the toddler test when my 2 year old got a hold of them and they came out of the experience unscathed.


Wrap up
My opinion of the NiteRider Lumina 950 Boost and Sentinel 150 Tail Light is very high! I have loved using them and they are top notch. Yes, there are some lighting systems out there that have fancy cameras, radars, or can be controlled from your bike computer with ANT+, but the bottom line for every lighting system is that it needs to be bright and durable. These lights fit the bill. They are solid, they are bright, and the addition of the laser lanes is a huge advantage for nighttime riding! At the end of the day, lights are all about visibility and helping you get home safe. These NiteRider lights will help you with that!

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nate-deckAbout the Author: Nate is a husband, father, and teacher. When he’s not hanging out with teenagers, he can be found swimming, biking, and running around central North Carolina or on twitter @n8deck.








Mountain Biking for Dummies: The Frame Fri, 04 Nov 2016 22:45:13 +0000 Written by James Haycraft I’ll start off on a personal level so we can relate nicely right from the get go…I have been cycling, mostly competitively, for 14 of my 32 years of life. Of those 14 years, only the past three or so have involved riding on stuff other than the pristine smoothness of […]]]>

Written by James Haycraft


I’ll start off on a personal level so we can relate nicely right from the get go…I have been cycling, mostly competitively, for 14 of my 32 years of life. Of those 14 years, only the past three or so have involved riding on stuff other than the pristine smoothness of concrete and asphalt. All of that is to say that when I first dipped my toe into mountain biking as an adult after a brief flirtation in college, I felt like a complete noob. All of the knowledge and experience I had built up to that point was essentially out the window.  My road-going concerns like frame choice (aero or traditional), components (9 speed, 10 speed, 11 speed, 105/Ultegra/Dura Ace/Rival/Force/Red), wheels (aerodynamic or lightweight or…gasp!, both?!), cost (obviously a big deal), and many more were now concerns that no longer directly related. I needed to learn, so learn I did. Let me preface this series on mountain biking by saying that I have completely fallen in love with the dirt. I still ride on the roads quite a bit, but getting out on the trails feels most similar to when, as a kid (okay and maybe as a young adult), I headed out in the back yard or some woods to just…well, play. It’s plain fun getting off-road, once you get over the intimidation and newness factor. Trust me.

While many of us are at least basically familiar with the tenets of road biking and the equipment involved in that genre of two-wheeled sport, many of us are equally unfamiliar with the off-road world. So let’s dive in to some basics to get our worldview better situated around mountain bikes.

First & Foremost: The Frame
Let’s start at the most basic, the bicycle frame itself. Like road bikes, you can find mountain bike frames that are made up of different materials. Also like road bikes, these materials play a certain role in determining the ride characteristics and, perhaps more importantly, the cost of the bicycle. The two main frame materials found in modern “off the shelf” mountain bikes are carbon fiber and aluminum alloy. There are other materials, as with road bikes, but the bulk of what you’ll see in your local bike shop will be made of one of those materials.

Aluminum: Aluminum alloy is, generally speaking, a less expensive material with which to build a bicycle frame. It can actually be quite lightweight, so don’t always assume that a carbon fiber bike is lighter than an aluminum bike, and can also be quite stiff. That stiffness, however, is frequently considered relatively “harsh” stiffness. Aluminum does not have a lot of compliance as a material; there isn’t a whole lot of “give” to it. Bicycles with aluminum frames are, generally speaking, going to be less expensive than bicycles with carbon fiber frames.


Carbon: Carbon fiber is becoming more and more prevalent among even (relatively) low-cost mountain bikes. The “lay up” of carbon fiber bicycles plays a huge role in determining how the frame “feels” and how it performs. The “lay up” is basically how the company has deemed it best to place pieces of carbon fiber to change where and how the bike is stiff and/or compliant. At first, carbon seemed an unnecessary luxury to me when I got into mountain biking because I told myself that there are so many bumps and variations in surface that I wouldn’t even be able to tell the difference between frame types. I was completely wrong because the greater density of frame vibrations on the trails (think roots, rocks, drop offs, etc.) actually make a carbon frame “feel” significantly smoother than an aluminum one; even more so than on the road, in my opinion.

A Frame for Every Occasion
Now, let’s head into some more specifics by examining the different types of frames that you can find in the mountain bike world. The main categories that we will use for this discussion are: cross country, trail, all mountain, and downhill. You can find other categories of mountain bikes, but for most of the trail riding population…that terminology is sufficient.

Which bike “type” you choose really depends on your projected use. Some have the luxury of owning several different types and their choice for the day is determined by which trail they are going to ride.

Cross Country: Cross country bikes are typically meant for the fastest riding and/or the least rambunctious trails. They are designed to travel long distances at relatively high speeds and in some ways their geometry is reminiscent of a road bike. They are almost exclusively hard-tail, no rear suspension, or short-travel full suspension, less than 120mm of travel, generally. These bikes typically feature most of the “entry level” bikes, which are frequently hard-tailed, as it is less expensive to produce short-travel, hard-tail bicycles.


Trail: The next category, “trail” bikes, are generally always “fully suspended;” full suspension and dual suspension all mean the same thing. These bikes have a slightly “slacker” geometry (think more laid back than cross country bicycles), which makes them slightly less quick-handling, but also less responsive to non-rider input. This can be a good thing considering the number of rocks, roots, and so on that can surprise you on the trail. Generally trail bikes have 120-140mm of suspension travel and function mostly as your “do everything” bike. They can generally get on most types of trails and kind of be a jack of all trades.

All Mountain: “All mountain” bikes further the specs that trail bikes have, usually having suspension that is up to about 160mm of travel, even slacker geometry, and bigger brakes and other assorted features to accommodate the likely trail options those bikes will see.  All mountain bikes are generally more refined at going downhill and can absorb big hits and drops to the suspension but still head uphill pretty darn good.

Downhill: Downhill bikes are really meant strictly for those that wish to point their bike downhill. They’re not really meant to be pedaled for anything for than a brief spurt and have HUGE suspension and brakes that are more reminiscent of motocross bikes than regular bicycles.

So choosing a type really depends entirely on what you see yourself doing. Most people, it would seem, get a cross country bike first. They discover that they really enjoy riding trails and realize that some of the most “epic” trails have bigger “features” than their skills, confidence, and bike can handle. So they then buy a new category bike with different features, and so forth and so on. Remember, the correct number of bikes to own is N+1, where N equals the number of bikes you currently own.


Exploring Suspension and Brakes
Features and specs to look out for really depend on personal preference and use case scenarios. The most important parts of a mountain bike are the suspension and brakes. You will love those two things for what they do more than you love most other features of your bike. Brand preference will play a large role in your choice, as with road bikes. SRAM vs. Shimano, RockShox (a SRAM company) vs. Fox, and so on. However, the standout performer is getting hydraulic disc brakes, as opposed to…well, as opposed to anything else. V-brakes or cantilever brakes or mechanical disc brakes are all big sacrificers of performance (stopping power and modulation) compared to current (even inexpensive) hydraulic disc brakes.

I might go so far to say as the brake decision is probably one to take as a high priority.  Because buying nice, modern brakes will also mean that you have an accompanying bike that is also well-suited to your tasks.

But Which Wheel Size Will Suit Me?!
The last thing to consider that would be a major over-arching decision when it comes to buying a mountain bike is the wheel size. Anytime you see a 26” bike in the modern world, it is likely going to be a complete entry level hard-tail mountain bike. More often your decision will turn on the 27.5” vs. 29” debate. There are arguments and articles written ad nauseum about this decision, but in general, it comes down to preference. I would relate the wheel size choice more to bike size choice, as the pros and cons of each are so minor and personal that it likely won’t make much difference to you as a new rider, and wouldn’t to me as a somewhat experienced rider either. If you start getting into decisions about all mountain bikes with lots of travel and corresponding long wheelbases, having the 27.5” vs. 29” discussion is worth bringing up for sure, but until you reach that point…I would relate it more to bike size.

Bike Sizing
Speaking of bike size, the lingo is a bit confusing for those of us that are used to road going bicycles. Mountain bikes are either measured in inches (14” + 17.5” + 19”, etc.) or in sizes (S, M, L). There are, generally speaking, fewer sizes available per bike, but that is simply because there isn’t really as much a SET position on a mountain bike as compared to a road bike. While on the trail, we are constantly moving our body around, switching hand positions and grip positions, getting in and out of the saddle, and so on. This movement means our fits on these bikes are “looser,” so to speak. So with sizing it’s more important to feel comfortable with the bike underneath you. For example, at 5’11” I could ride a Medium or a Large on a cross country bike, but I prefer to ride a Medium, as it feels easier to manipulate and adjust underneath me as I ride along. So, standing over something and riding it around a bit is a better way to determine size than by simply looking a size chart.

But ultimately, in this modern day (vs. the old ages of 5-7 years ago) technology has gotten to a point where even “entry level” components and equipment are far, far better than advanced level equipment of those times. So priorities would be: decide on your budget, test ride interesting models if possible (many dealers will have demo days associated with certain bike brands throughout the year), select the type of bike based on intended use, and go shred!

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james-haycraftAbout the Author: James is a recent transplant to the southwest who has spent more money during his time in triathlon than he’d care to admit. An adult onset triathlete, he has had the privilege to race in the professional field before realizing that they are simply too good for him and is now back to the age group ranks, where he has discovered a love for all things off-road and has (temporarily, most likely) forsaken his road-going ways in favor of getting dirty.


Beginner’s Guide to Bike Tubes Mon, 17 Oct 2016 13:44:46 +0000 Written by Nate Deck, TriSports Champion Team Athlete Bike tubes are sometimes one of the most underrated parts of a person’s bike. And yet, it is the tubes that are the most cost effective way a person can improve ride quality and shave a few seconds off of their bike split at the same time. […]]]>

Written by Nate Deck, TriSports Champion Team Athlete

Bike Tube

Bike tubes are sometimes one of the most underrated parts of a person’s bike. And yet, it is the tubes that are the most cost effective way a person can improve ride quality and shave a few seconds off of their bike split at the same time. With that in mind, let’s dive into what a bike tube is and how to decide which one to get.

Tube? I have tires, isn’t that enough?
Maybe. There…Are you confused yet?

Bike Tubes Explained
Obviously, the first thing we need to understand is what a bike tube is anyway. The tube is simply a rubber tube that holds air inside your tire. Remember those inner tubes you would float in down the river as a kid? Yeah, same concept. But different tires require different tubes. Some have them built in, and some don’t need them at all. The variety of tires out there are:


Clincher: The first type of tire, and most common on stock wheels and even racing wheels now a days, is the clincher. This tire is held to the rim of the wheel by a lip along the edge of the tire. These tires need inner tubes to keep them inflated and to put enough pressure on the lip to keep it connected to the wheel.


Tubular: The next type of tire is called a tubular. A tubular tire is actually stitched closed around the inner tube. These are then glued to the rim of the wheel. Usually these are only used on high end racing road bike wheels. Obviously, you can’t just replace the inner tube, so in this case you have to get a whole new tire if you have a flat. These tires are usually labeled on the sidewall, but if you are not sure you can try to remove the tire from the rim and if you don’t see the lip of a clincher then it is a tubular.


Tubeless: Finally, you have tubeless tires, and as the name implies, it doesn’t use an inner tube and instead relies on sealant that can correct small punctures. These are mostly used on cyclocross bikes and some mountain bikes because of the ability to run the tire at a lower pressure. However, these are becoming more popular in road bikes. These are usually labeled on the sidewall, but some clincher tires are “tubeless ready” meaning they can be used as either clinchers or tubeless. To find out if your tire is tubeless or not, take the tire off by unhooking the bead and look inside for a tube or sealant to determine the type.

Ok, I know I need an inner tube. Now what?
If you need a new inner tube that means you probably had a flat, so I’m sorry, but welcome to the club!

Wheel Size: First, you need to check what size wheel you have. You can find that printed on the side of your current tire. Most road and tri bikes are 700c unless they are a smaller frame size and then they will be 650c. If you have a mountain bike, it will be one of three types: 29 (inches), 650b/27.5 (which is becoming a rising star among off-road enthusiasts), or 26. But that’s only the first size you need to know.

Tire Width: The next number you need to find is the width of the tire. This is usually printed right next to the wheel size. It will say something like 700×23 or 29×1.75. This is important because inner tubes are sold to fit a range of tire widths, so you need to make sure your tire is within the range such as 700×18-25. Obviously, if your tire is 700×29 then the inner tube will be too small to keep enough pressure in the tire.

So, that’s it?
Not quite. Now that you know what size you need, you get to make a few decisions based on your personal situation. The first decision to make is if you want butyl tubes or latex tubes.

Butyl Tubes: Most inner tubes are butyl because that form of rubber is more durable and can withstand much more use than other forms of rubber. This is the most economical route because of its durability, as well as its ability to be produced less expensively. Don’t let the various labels on these tires confuse you. Terms like “Race Light” and “SuperSonic,” used by Continental, simply refer to the thickness of the material used to make the tube. Thicker tubes are more durable, while thinner tubes are lighter and help your wheel roll faster but increases the risk of flats.

Latex Tubes: The other option is latex. This is the classic material that has been used for years to make bike tubes, and for good reason. While not as durable as butyl, latex tubes are typically lighter and are the quickest tubes out there because they have a lower roll resistance. If speed is your main concern, go with latex. Latex tubes lose air more quickly, but that won’t affect you during a race, it’s just more important to check your pressure before every ride. But you do that anyway, right? A lot of people like to take the best of both worlds and use butyl tubes for training and then switch to latex for race day. This is not a bad strategy, just make sure you store your tubes in a cool, dry place and don’t wrap them up too tight to prevent tearing.

Valve Types

Valve Length: The last decision you need to make is what valve length is needed. The valve is the place you put air in the tire. Unless you live in Asia or use a bike you bought at Walmart, you probably have been using a Presta valve. Otherwise, you have a valve similar to that of a car tire called a Schrader valve. Presta valves are long and skinny and the tip of the valve stays closed by air pressure from inside the tube.


When you are looking to buy tubes, you will notice that the same tube size offers multiple lengths of valve. This is to allow for deeper rims like those found on aero wheels. The general rule of thumb is to have 12-15mm of valve showing to allow your pump to get a good connection to inflate the tire. That means if you have a standard 30mm wheel, a 42mm valve is what you need. Another option for really deep wheels is to use a valve extender. This will connect to your valve and allow it to reach through the rim. This allows you to buy the cheaper 42mm valve on your tubes and use them with aero wheels.

Great! I know what to get!
Awesome! I’m glad I could help! I hope this helped demystify the whole realm of bike inner tubes and will keep you from throwing money away through trial and error (hopefully less error and more trial).


About the Author: Nate Deck is a husband, father, and teacher. When he’s not hanging out with teenagers, he can be found swimming, biking, and running around central North Carolina, blogging, or on twitter @n8deck.

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Is the Smart Trainer Smarter Than You? 5 Reasons to Upgrade This Trainer Season! Thu, 21 Jan 2016 19:20:44 +0000 Written by Eric Levario, Age-Group Triathlete and Customer Service Specialist Trainer season is here! For some, you set up your trainer in the garage or basement and get your cycling time in over the winter. For others, trainer season means moving to the “pain cave,” where you go to get your workouts in with big […]]]>

Written by Eric Levario, Age-Group Triathlete and Customer Service Specialist


Trainer season is here! For some, you set up your trainer in the garage or basement and get your cycling time in over the winter. For others, trainer season means moving to the “pain cave,” where you go to get your workouts in with big screen televisions, a smart trainer, and surround sound; maybe catching up on the latest Game of Thrones…..or American Ninja Warrior? Top of the line electronics make for a top of the line workout. Is a smart trainer worth the upgrade this season? Here are five reasons to upgrade this trainer season.tacx-neo-smart-indoor-trainer-171. All workouts are recorded in detail

You might ask yourself, what is a smart trainer? A smart trainer is named as such because it connects to an external source. Smart trainers do this by connecting through ANT+ or Bluetooth 4.0 (Smart or Low Energy), such as a tablet, computer, or cycling computer that display workout data in real-time. This means that your two-hour trainer ride (a little over two Game of Thrones episodes) is a recorded workout, to be used to analyze training progress. The smart trainer records and displays data such as speed, distance, cadence, and, for some trainers, even power. Many of these values come from the trainer itself. Add in a heart rate monitor and you have a very nice workout with enough comprehensive data to dial in your training. The values are calculated on the unit itself and will not necessarily need additional sensors; this is where the term “smart trainer” comes from. It’s important to think of this type of trainer as a computer. This helps you distinguish between a “smart trainer” and a “dumb trainer.” A dumb trainer is only named as such because it’s not a computer. All data must be collected through external sensors and the trainer itself does not need power to function. tacx-neo-smart-indoor-trainer-362. Easily control the ERG trainer from mobile devices

You may have heard a bit about ERG trainers from other triathletes and cyclists. It’s important to note that all ERG trainers are smart trainers, but not all smart trainers are ERG trainers. Some trainers have the ability to be controlled through an external application. Some popular choices are the Tacx NEO or the Wahoo KICKR. These trainers connect to smart phones, tablets, or computers and can control the resistance of the trainer electronically through apps.3. Program your workout ahead of time

One of the best benefits of the ERG trainer is the ability to get a quality workout without having to think about it. With an ERG trainer, you can download an application to spoon feed your trainer a detailed workout. This is important because you may lose focus when watching your favorite TV show. Especially on a season finale as this means you will likely start to soft pedal when you should be paying attention to your workout. Your trainer doesn’t care whether Columbo catches the bad guy or if McDreamy’s not going to be on the show any longer. While you may want to focus more on the TV, your trainer is focusing on your workout. Gone are the days when you could slack off. Let your trainer be the coach, so you can focus your efforts on the training session. Kurt Kinetic Road Machine 2.0 Smart Trainer has a complimentary Kinetic inRide app that will keep you on-track with built-in workouts and easy upload of workout data for analysis.


4. Intuitive training effort progresses with you

If you train with a power meter, you likely know what kind of power (measurable by watts) you are capable of holding for a full hour. For some of us not in the know, this is called your Functional Threshold Power (FTP). Workouts on an ERG trainer are based off of your FTP and there are a number of ways to calculate this. Whether you go for an all-out effort of 60-minutes, 2 x 20 minutes, or 2 x 8 minutes, your FTP is essentially the smartest data you can collect. FTP data field illustrates your training progress. As your FTP increases, you can see that you are getting stronger. The caveat of this though, is that your workouts on your ERG trainer will get harder as you progress. You have been warned!


5. Smart trainers are reasonably priced

Think of your smart trainer as a workout machine, rather than a “bicycle trainer.” If you’ve been to the gym and ridden a recumbent or upright bicycle, you know how a bicycle workout machine works. You pedal to get the machine started, and then specify a workout. Workouts vary machine to machine, but most offer some kind of interval or a long and steady workout. Those machines start at over a thousand dollars to purchase. The beauty of your smart trainer is it costs only a fraction of the gym bike, offers all the features plus more, and is conveniently located at home. You also get to use the same bike you ride outdoors in a dialed in position. Consider the Tacx Vortex or the Wahoo KICKR SNAP as some reasonably priced alternatives for your pain cave.


There are a variety of the smart trainers to meet your specific needs and desired functions. Ultimately, a smart trainer is an investment, a tool to improve technique and deliver custom training. Become a stronger cyclist by incorporating a smart trainer into your training. Prepare for your upcoming season with a smart trainer today and reap the rewards for a faster bike tomorrow!

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Quintana Roo PRsix Review Tue, 29 Apr 2014 22:52:13 +0000 The folks over at American Bicycle Group (the owners of QR and Litespeed) really understand what it takes to be a triathlete. Their goal with the PRsix was very simple – make an aero and light super bike that is easy to work on. Did they deliver? Absolutely.]]>

By Seton Claggett

The Quintana Roo PRsix

When Quintana Roo released their PRsix at the 2014 Oceanside 70.3, they received rave reviews from several sites that many of us count on for quality information.  I was shocked, however, that these reviews were done without ever riding the bike or working on the bike. customers deserve better and they also need to have the confidence that the review they are reading has some credibility behind it.


The folks over at American Bicycle Group (the owners of QR and Litespeed) really understand what it takes to be a triathlete.  Their owner, Peter Hurley, a triathlete. Chris Brown, inside sales, a Cat 1 roadie (who does the occasional triathlon).  Mac McEneaney, Director of Sales, a triathlete.  Their goal with the PRsix was very simple – make an aero and light super bike that is easy to work on.  Did they deliver? Absolutely.

Front End and Turning Radius

The front end of the “Super Bike” category is what actually puts a bike into the category by deviating from a standard fork and stem.  These bikes are awesome to look at, but the inherent problem with them is that they are very difficult and time intensive to work on. Why should this matter to you?  If you are not a skilled mechanic and travel to any race without bringing your favorite mechanic along for the trip, you could find yourself in a very precarious situation.  We have had $15k Super Bikes returned because the customer realized that the bike was so complicated that they would never be able to set the bike up when traveling.

QR has made a Super Bike that is extremely easy to travel with – simply remove the four top plate screws to remove your aerobars, remove the seatpost with one bolt, and remove the wheels – that’s it.  In fact, they were able to make their entire fork/stem assembly by adding only 3 additional bolts (optional steering stop bolt, integrated fork bolt, and the lower cradle button head bolt to adjust your stack).  Once your bike is dialed in, you won’t have to worry about these bolts.

Four bolts

One thing you will notice about this bike is that there is a limit on the steering radius.  If you do not install the optional steering stop bolt your fork will hit your frame and cause some cosmetic damage.  During my testing I did not have the stop bolt but was still concerned about tight turns.  The tightest turn I know of in triathlons (or any bike racing for that matter) is the out and back U-turn.  I found I had plenty of turn radius with some left to spare – it is a non-issue.

Cosmetic damage to the fork due to tight turn radius.

Brakes and Brake Setup

After spending a couple of years on the QR Illicito, I was extremely pleased with the brake spec on this bike.  I hear you – why in the world are brakes important on a tri bike?  Well, in reality they aren’t; however, you don’t appreciate great braking until you don’t have it.  Some people might be turned off by the front brake not being hidden behind the fork (like the Illicito) or in the fork like several other bikes on the market.  At the end of the day I will take a simple functional brake over the glitz and glamour of the others.  I have never done a race and thought, “dang, if my front brake was just in a better place I would have won.”

Once I got out on the road with this bike, though, I was having all sorts of rubbing issues on the rear wheel.  Off the bike everything looked fine, with plenty of clearance between the brake pads and the rim; however, what I discovered is that the combination of the Reynolds 72 Aero wheel’s lateral play and the small amount of flex in the frame gave rise to a significant brake rubbing issue.  It is important to note that this is the case with all deep aero wheels that I have tried – Zipp 808’s, Profile Design TwentyFour 78’s, etc.  They all have lateral flex and the issue is compounded when you have tight tolerances on aero bikes. Hats off to Shimano for coming out with a great aero brake and QR for spec’ing the brake.  I was able to resolve the issue in a couple minutes by adjusting the brake delimiter screw (opening up the brake) and moving the spacers of the drive side brake shoe.  It is unlikely your bike will be built up this way from us, or any dealer, but this is the fix.

Tucked under the frame, the improved and easy to work on Shimano rear brake.


Any bike that I can work on with a multi tool makes me smile, and I was grinning ear to ear with this bike.  From seat post adjustments to cockpit setup, all I needed was the basic 2mm-5mm allen wrenches.

The seatpost is the same design as the previous System 6 – the most reliable and adjustable seatpost QR has ever had, but with the addition of two accessory bolt holes that work with the Xlab Delta 300 and the Xlab Carbon Sonic.  In addition to this accessory add-on feature, the PRsix also has cage mount bolts on the top tube (these were not present on the bike that was sent for my review) that can accommodate different accessories like the Xlab Stealth Pocket 200, 300 and 500.

Take a look at your current bicycle – if you happen to be one of the poor souls who purchased a triathlon bike with only one spot for a frame mounted water bottle cage, you should be cursing the manufacturer of your bike.  Clearly, any bike manufacturer that is more concerned about the wind tunnel and NOT making sure that an athlete can stay hydrated (namely during training rides) doesn’t deserve your business.  I do not want to do my training rides with all of my rear/front mounted bottles on my bike.  Thank you to QR for putting dual frame cage mounts on all of their bikes – including this one.


The rear dropout, easy to swap between horizontal and vertical, or replace.

QR is shipping this bike with both horizontal and vertical dropouts – as far as we know this is a first in the tri bike world.  Why does this matter?  Horizontal dropouts are great for optimizing wheel placement within the frame (i.e. how close the rear wheel gets to the frame); however, while training, horizontal dropouts are a bit of a hassle when it comes to flat tires.  Vertical dropouts, on the other hand, are very convenient when fixing flats because it is much easier to remove the wheel from the frame. Which dropouts you ultimately want on your bike is your choice, but one thing is for certain – you will really like the peace of mind knowing that you have a backup set of dropouts should you damage the ones on your bike.

Component Spec

I love Shimano Di2 – period.  It shifts great, it’s clean to install and with its dual shifting option, it is the holy grail for triathletes. I was a little concerned about the Vision TriMax Carbon BB30 because of the compatibility with the rest of the Shimano drive train; however, it works fine.  I am not a big fan of the R671 Aero Shifters on the Profile Design T2+ S-Bend extensions, so I would either rotate these where my hand can easily shift or just swap them out for the Shimano Dura Ace Di2 1-Button shifters.  Thankfully, the final spec on this bike will be coming with the Profile Design T4+ extensions so the R671 shifters are more comfortable.

The cockpit comes with the new Profile Design Aeria with T4+ carbon extensions (as noted above, the bike they sent me had the T2+ extensions).  From a fit and durability perspective, you just can’t get any better than the Profile Design aerobars.

The Di2 battery is neatly kept inside the seatpost (charging is done through the junction box that is mounted on top of the stem). One problem with Di2 is that you need to keep the junction box accessible, so the location of the junction box on the PRsix leaves a little to be desired.  Thankfully QR did accommodate for the strap on the junction box with their integrated stem.

The Di2 junction box tucked behind the cockpit

I like the Reynolds Aero 72 wheels but wish the bike came with a bulletproof set of training wheels (like the Reynolds Stratus Pro Alloy) since I already have an arsenal of race wheels. This would drop the price by about $1800. Knowing how QR rolls out bikes, I am sure we will see different variants come 2015.

Unlike most manufacturers who spec a throw away saddle, QR has put the immensely popular ISM Road Saddle on the PRsix.  Whether this saddle works for you is not something I can answer, but I do applaud QR for putting a real saddle on their bike.


I was pleasantly surprised that this bike was more comfortable than my QR Illicito.  The back of the bike was responsive yet compliant, while the front end easily handled the beatings of some of the roughest roads in Tucson.  Outside of the riding comfort, the bike easily fits the bell-curve of triathletes with its FIST inspired stack and reach geometry.  Pair this up with the cockpit and seatpost spec on this bike and you will be one extremely happy tri geek!

End Game

As an athlete and veteran of the sport, I can say with 100% confidence that this bike is a home run.  It rides incredibly well, is easy to work on, and has all the bells and whistles I need to drop the hammer, and look good, while leaving the competition in the dust.  As the CEO of, I can look a customer square in the eyes and tell them, with confidence, that this is a bike worth putting your money towards because you will be able to easily travel to your races without any crazy mechanical hassles.  This is a simple, fast, no-worry bike and I am really looking forward to getting one of these bikes under my butt for more than a test-ride!

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Retul: The Right “tul” for the Job Tue, 07 Aug 2012 17:51:57 +0000 Retul fit equipment provides the experienced bike fitter with a level of insight into your bike position previously unavailable. See why Retul is the choice bike fit diagnostic "Tul" for master bike fitter Steve Merz of TriSports Tempe.]]>

By Tom Demerly with Technical Assistance from Craig Bellman

Retul is a comprehensive set of tools and methods for optimizing bike fit and position. In the hands of a skilled and experienced fitter it is a highly effective evaluation process.

No other mechanical factor influences your performance on the bike as much as fit. Period.

In a world of debate over the fastest wheels, lightest frame and most aero helmet no expert or layman can argue away the importance of optimizing bike fit and position. Until your fit is optimized you aren’t performing as well as you could be.

Until your fit is optimized you aren’t performing as well as you could be.

Bike fitting entered the U.S. consumer vocabulary in the 1980’s when New England Cycling Academy (N.E.C.A.) introduced a series of tools and methods for measuring a person to find the optimal bicycle frame dimensions for their body dimensions and adjust pedal cleats optimally. It was called the “Fit Kit”. The early system had shortcomings but was a solid start. Over the next 25 years imaging technology, diagnostics and computing power leaped forward. As the benefits of better virtual capabilities and computing power increased so did the opportunities in bike fit and position diagnostics. The current state-of-the-art diagnostic at the consumer level is likely Retul.


What Retul isn’t.

To appreciate the benefits of Retul you have to know what it is, and what it is not. Retul does not fit you. Only a qualified, experienced bike fitter can wield the tools necessary to optimize bike fit and position. People on Internet forums sometimes debate the merits of a “F.I.S.T.” fitting, a Retul fitting, a Serotta fitting, a Fit Kit, a Guru DFU fitting or some other fit methodology. It is the same as debating the merits of different wrenches. In the hands of a skilled mechanic any wrench can produce a favorable outcome, but in the hands of a novice mechanic the results won’t be as good. All fit systems are reliant on the skill of the person doing the fitting. Steve Merz of’s new retail store in Tempe, Arizona just outside Phoenix is the lead Retul bike fitter at TriSports Tempe. Merz is a Retul Certified fitter with nearly a decade of bike fit experience and formal training across several brands. His skill and experience wielding the Retul system make it the diagnostic tool that is a gateway to improved comfort and performance on the bike.’s Steve Merz brings nearly a decade of professional bike fit and position experience to the TriSports Tempe location. His expertise makes optimal use of Retul’s vast capabilities.

What Retul is.

Retul is a three dimensional diagnostic tool that provides a skilled, experienced fitter like TriSport’s Steve Merz with a level of insight more detailed than any other commercially available fit system. Because the three dimensional level of insight into the rider’s position is better, the ability of the skilled fitter to make improvements is significantly increased. Merz is a perfect example. His insights into practical cycling interface with his formal mastery of the Retul system to provide a customer experience unavailable in any other setting. Steve Merz helps TriSports customers use Retul Frame Finder to find the optimal bike without guesswork, and then uses Retul to optimize their position and performance on that new bike or on an existing bike.

Bike positions have traditionally been evaluated with two dimensional depictions, even with video. Retul provides a three dimensional analysis of a rider’s dynamic movement on their bike.

Consider this: Common bike fit complaints seen on triathlon Internet forums are saddle discomfort, knee pain and lower back pain. Fit pundits usually try to find one cause for one problem. Bike fit and position is seldom that simple. Common bike discomfort issues like saddle pain, sore knees and back pain are usually caused by more than one factor. Retul’s three dimensional diagnostic capabilities provide the skilled bike fitter with an unprecedented capability to identify multiple factors that lead to bike discomfort.

Finding Your Best Bike: Retul Frame Finder.

In addition to optimizing existing bike positions Retul also integrates Frame Finder, a database of major bike brands with detailed fit coordinates. Using data gathered by the Retul dynamic 3D analysis and a trained, experienced bike fitter, Frame Finder models the fit interface between the rider and specific bike models and sizes in the Frame Finder database. This resource completely eliminates guesswork from bike shopping. Retul’s Frame Finder is the data-driven way to find the best bike for you. It relies on empiricals, not the subjective guesswork of a test ride. Since Frame Finder starts with an analysis using the Retul Muve dynamic fit bike it gives you the ability to experience changes in bike fit and position in the visceral sense by actually pedalling with the changes on the fit bike, and via the 3 dimensional digital analysis using Retul motion capture. It is the perfect melding of fact and feel in fit. Retul makes test rides obsolete.

The Retul Process.

A key feature of Steve Merz’s use of Retul is the “beginning, middle, end” process of interview, evaluate and position. A Retul fit makes efficient use of client’s time with most fits lasting about 2 hours. This enables busy customers to get the precise fit results they need in a reasonable amount of time and enables Merz to service up to four clients in an 8 hour day.

TriSports’ bike fitter Steve Merz begins the Retul process with a client by interviewing them to identify key goals and experience to optimize the outcome of the fit session.

Merz begins each Retul session with an interview to identify the customer’s goals and experiences on the bike. This interview reveals the key items the customer wants to leave TriSports Tempe with, whether it is a new bike, an improved position to moderate discomfort or assistance with injury moderation. While a bike fitter is not a substitute for a trained physical therapist if a cyclist is injured, improving position is often a key to preventing discomfort from becoming injury.

After the interview Merz actively evaluates the client for functional mobility and screens for significant assymetries including leg length discrepencies and other pre-existing indications that may influence fit and position.

Following the brief interview process Steve Merz conducts a series of physical evaluations to screen for leg length discrepancies, gait anomalies and functional mobility. This active interaction provides the first insights into how the bike will be configured to accommodate the cyclist for optimal comfort and performance.

Once the baseline configuration on the Retul Muve fit bike hase been set up, Steve Merz begins the attachment of the LED emitter harness to the client.

Once the oral and functional evaluations are complete Merz configures the Retul Muve fit bike in a start-point position that may be based on an existing bike, a potential new bike  or a data-generated start point. The advantage of fitting and positioning on a Retul Muve fit bike instead of an actual bicycle include ease of adjustment. Clients can experience stem changes, different saddle positions and even different crank lengths without getting off the bike. Once a baseline position is established on the Retul Muve adjustable fit bike the fitter can attach the LED emitter harness to the client’s anatomical landmarks. This series of LED emitters enables the Retul system to provide three dimensional motion capture analysis and modelling of the rider’s dynamic pedal stroke on the bike.

The LED emitter harness is mounted to the fit client. As the client pedals the Retul sensor unit acquires and tracks the LED emitters creating a detailed three dimensional depiction of the pedal stroke while quantifying all the angular relationships on monitors for the fitter’s diagnosis.

The three dimensional analysis of the rider’s movement on the bike is a key capability to Retul. Early video fit diagnostic systems relied on a two dimensional or “flat” representation of the rider with evaluation of the position usually done on a static image. You could not understand what was happening as the rider actually pedalled the bike. The position was diagnosed as literally a flat snapshot in time. The Retul sensor detects and records not only the angular relationship between the LED emitters, it also records their proximity to the Retul sensor, tracking the movement of the human body through three dimensions in real time during the pedal circle. This level of insight into the client’s movement on the bike extends beyond optimizing a static position. It enables the fitter to observe the fluid movement of the rider in all planes, providing a level of insight into the rider/bike interface previously only available in the most advanced engineering settings.

Retul produces a dynamic depiction of the rider with all the attendant angular relationships displayed on a monitor for the fitter to evaluate. As the client pedals the “stick figure” depicting the relationship between the LED emtters also moves, showing the movement in three dimensions.

With the three dimensional motion analysis running the bike fitter can observe data and graphic depictions of the rider’s landmark points then make improvements based on the observed data. Once adjustments are made the fitter re-evaluates the position to verify the improvements.

A key benefit to the bike fit consumer, and the fitter using Retul, is not only a much higher level of diagnostic capability of the bike position, but must faster processing of the data for evaluation by the fitter. Using Retul, the fitter can perform a depth of analysis previously unavailable in only a fraction of the time of previous fit methodologies. Bike fitting is more in depth, more accurate, more quantifiable and more efficient. It saves the client’s valuable time being fitted and makes the bike fitter more productive, turning out more, and better, fits in less time.

Retul is the bike fitter’s dream “tul” for achieving a level of insight into rider position previously only available to the top professional triathletes and cyclists, many of whom have now used Retul to optimize their positional interface with the bike. When combined with an experienced bike fit professional like Steve Merz of TriSports Tempe the level of capabilities available to the bike buyer and athlete wanting to improve their position and performance is without equal.

Retul is the optimal diagnostic tool for a master bike fitter like TriSports Tempe’s Steve Merz.

Orbea Orca Silver Road Bike with Shimano Ultegra Di2. Tue, 05 Jun 2012 22:45:55 +0000 Orbea trickles their pro team, race winning frame design down to a mid-price bike with few compromises. Dress it in Shimano's new Ultegra Di2 and this is an affordable version of cycling's highest technology. Take a ride here. ]]>

By Tom Demerly for

Orbea's Orca Silver brings pro peloton proven geometry and design to lower price points with different carbon lay-up.


As the largest employee owned collective in the world, the Mondragon Corporation wields tremendous resources in manufacturing and logistics. That is worth knowing in any discussion of Orbea since Orbea is a member of the Mondragon community of employee owned companies.  Because of their vast capabilities in sourcing and logistics via their Mondragon parent Orbea can do some things other smaller companies can’t do quite as well. The Orbea Orca Silver may be a good example.

Orbea arrived at the Orca through testing and development with some of the top cycling teams in the world. You’ve seen Orbea bikes for decades in the Tour de France, Giro de Italia and the Vuelta a Espana. The Orca frame design is proven from use in the professional peloton and from the thousands of Orbea Orcas owned by club cyclists and enthusiasts around the world. It is this “trickle down” design philosophy that makes the Orbea Orca Silver a strong value.

The curvature of the fork blades near the dropout combined with the unusual triangular shape of the seatstays and chainstays provide a good combination of stiffness and ride comfort in either carbon lay-up.

There are predominantly two methods of construction for the Orbea Orca framesets; The “Gold” frameset with high modulus carbon fiber and the “Silver” frameset with unidirectional carbon fiber lay-up. If you spend time riding both versions its difficult to tell the difference in ride quality, especially through even slightly different tires and wheels. It’s easy to pick up some difference on the scale though, since the gold is lighter than the silver. In larger frame sizes a difference in stiffness may be noticeable. What remains is that the Silver version of the Orbea Orca at $2599.99 is exactly $1000 less than the gold version at $3599.99. That is a 33% difference in price. Is there a 33% difference in ride quality? I’ll leave that to you, with the nudge to remember the economic law of diminishing returns when chasing the final 5% of almost anything.

From Front to Back on Orbea’s Orca Silver.

The build we reviewed from Orbea featured Mavic's nice Ksyrium Equipe wheelset turning Vittoria Diamante tires.

Orbea started out the spec on our review bike with two solid brands: Mavic and Vittoria. The bike came out fo the box with Mavic’s popular OEM Ksyrium Equipe. This 1690 gram advertised weight clincher alloy wheelset uses Mavic’s proven Isopulse construction that distributes wheel loads more evenly over all spokes and rims unions. The result is an exceptionally durable wheel with 20 bladed spokes both front and rear and a 24mm deep truncated “V” section rim. Front wheel uses radial lacing while the rear uses the Isopulse pattern for improved lateral stiffness. This wheel is so robust it is a common choice of cyclocross riders.

Cockpit on our Orca was a nice carbon finished, Orbea pantographed stem and alloy, anatomic bend bar.

We rode Orbea’s stock cockpit on our test bike, an Orbea logoed carbon finish stem with 4 bolt front plate and an anatomic bend alloy handlebar. It’s hard to find criticism with such a reliable set-up. A bonus for riders who may want to install a bolt-on aerobar is the wide clamping area on the handlebars.

Controls on our bike are the Shimano Ultegra Di2 ST 6770 dual control lever. All the strengths of Shimano’s revolutionary Di2 apply to this control. Actuation is quick and robotic, feel of the lever is very good. I do maintain the one criticism of current Di2 actuation buttons; they are small and closely placed. New riders may have initial confusion with upshift and downshift buttons. Founder Seton Claggett, a long time Di2 rider, dismisses any concern over the proximity of the controls though, mentioning that you quickly learn the controls and once you do you’ll never want to go back to mechanical.

Shimano's revolutionary Di2 dual control lever places the upshift and downshift controls less than the width of your finger apart. Reaching either shifter requires almost no movement.

A challenge that has faced every frame designer with Shimano’s Di2 groups is where to put the wiring and battery. With updates for the Di2 Wiring harness, junction box and battery on the horizon manufacturers may have done well not to modify molds to specifically suit the current set up. As a result Orbea has left all the hardware on the Orca Silver frameset for routing conventional cables while the cable guides and battery mount for the Di2 wiring harness are attached to the outside of the frame using mostly Shimano supplied solutions to Di2 installation. Orbea does make a fully Di2 integrated frameset in their Gold line with elegant integration of wiring harness and battery.

Orbea retains conventional cable routing hardware on the Orca silver frameset even when using a Di2 system.

A look at the Di2 front and rear derailleur shifting over the compact Ultegra hollow-forged crankset show that the Ultegra Di2 is a little bulkier than Dura-Ace Di2 but uses the more compact wiring that goes over to both groups in the new 11-speed versions for 2013. The finish on the Ultegra compact crank is beautiful, a dark pewter that matches the rear derailleur and looks good on almost any frame. This is a nice drivetrain ideally geared for the mountains to the north of Tucson, Arizona where most of our test rides wind up.

Ultegra Di2 is slightly larger than its Dura-Ace big brother but uses the rumored to be newer wiring harness which is smaller. Finish on this compact crankset is very attractive.

Seatpost on the Orbea Silver frameset is a aero-styled, diamond cross section post with a two bolt adjuster head. I liked the Selle Italia saddle that came with this parts kit because of its flat profile and high sides that grant access to the angular adjustment bolt on the seatpost head. The rearward bolt uses a standard wrench, the forward bolt a knurled wheel. On some saddles with lower sides its a bit fumbly trying to reach this adjuster.

The binder collar and binder bolt on the Orca Silver is another example of trickle down from the higher end Gold frameset. The bolt adjusts from the top with a Torx head wrench. A stylish, almost “art deco” inspired alloy binder collar secures the seatpost with the binder bolt. We’ve never had an Orbea Orca seatpost slip with this design.

In addition to being stylish, the integrated seatpost binder collar on the Orca has always been dependable. The Selle Italia SLR saddle was reliably comfortable with good shorts on the road and granted easy access to saddle angle adjustment.

When you look under the hood on the Orbea Orca Silver with Ultegra Di2 you find good use of Shimano’s hardware to mount the wiring harness at the bottom bracket. While the wiring isn’t built into the frame it is secure and well concealed under the bike. The good news is full accessibility if your wiring harness ever needed servicing.

Bottom bracket is the now familiar BB30 format with FSA cups adapting to our Shimano Ultegra compact crank. The system is maintenance free and provides great bottom bracket stiffness.

The wiring for the Ultegra Di2 is well routed under the bottom bracket and accessible for servicing. You can see the brown colored Shimano BB30 cups adapting the Shimano cranks to this frame configuration.

While “proven” is a cliche in good design it describes the Orca well. The Silver version of the Orbea Orca is a good example of a proven high end frame design trickled down to more popular price points. It is a natural match with Shimano’s Ultegra Di2 for a great road bike with super-bike developed frame and component themes trickled down to lower price points.

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2013 Shimano Dura-Ace 9000 11-Speed. Fri, 01 Jun 2012 00:25:20 +0000 Shimano pulled the wraps off their new 11-speed component group, Dura-Ace 9000, today. We rode the components last week and here is the inside story on the latest version of mechnanical Dura-Ace. Read it now. ]]>

By Tom Demerly for

Shimano breaks new ground in their mechanical groups with new Shimano Dura-Ace 9000 mechanical.

Shimano officially unveiled their new 11-speed Dura-Ace 9000 group to the U.S. market this week. The new mechanical component kit was previously unveiled for the press at the recent Giro d’Italia and featured in UK and European media.

The new kit includes a visually stiking four-spider crankset. The four crank spiders are asymmetrically positioned where most drive forces are applied in the pedal stroke according to Shimano. This design accounts for the asymmetrical appearance of the arm position. The crank is only available in a 110 mm bolt pattern. Chainrings for the 110 mm bolt pattern, previously only seen on lower-geared compact cranks, will go up to 53 teeth with more chainring sizes available later. This means consumers do not have change cranks to make large adjustments in chainring sizes, a coup for Shimano.

The new minimal design places a heavy reliance on the stiffness of the chainrings so Shimano has included updated hollow-forged chainrings. Aftermarket chainring sets will be sold as a matched pair for optimal stiffness and front shifting performance.

The newly designed front derailleur features a distinctive, high pivot arm.

Front shifting on the new Dura-Ace 9000 11-Speed is greatly improved based on our test rides here in Tucson owing to the new chainring, shift lever and front derailleur design. The most striking feature of the new front derailleur is the higher pewter colored pivot arm and widely braced link. This long arm works with the new shift levers to produce a front shift of uncanny accuracy and response with minimal force. It is a marked improvement over the previous 10-speed version.

New mounting hardware for this front derailleur may be required on some bikes to achieve the optimal angle and proximity of the derailleur cage to the chainrings.

As with many new Shimano introductions this group features a new and, for the time being, unique pull ratio for accurate shifting. As a result the front derailleur is reliant on the identical series front shifter.

New shift levers feature improved ergonomics and unique pull ratios to accurately shift the 11-speed cogset and chainrings.

The new rear derailleur features a lighter, more skeletonized appearance and uses reduced size cable clamp bolts, now 4 mm instead of the prior 5mm. Both the upper guide pulley and lower jockey wheel rotate on bearings. The “Centeron” capability, the ability of the top guide pulley to slide slightly from side to side for optimal alignment with the cog with minimal noise, continues on 11-speed Dura-Ace 9000. The new rear derailleur has the shift capacity to handle up to a 28 tooth large cog now.

The new Dura-Ace 11-Speed rear derailleur features smaller, lighter cable fixing hardware and the ability to shift up to a big, easy 28 tooth cog for climbing.

The cogset will be available in five different combinations; 11-23, 11-25, 11-28 (the one we are most excited about), 12-25 and 12-28. You don’t have to buy a new frame to accommodate the extra cog. Rear dropout spacing has swollen by 1 scant millimeter from the previous 130 mm distance to 131 mm. Almost every frame will spread to accept this new 131 mm spacing without problem. The freehub body is 1.85 mm wider however, meaning the 11-speed cog will not mount on an older 10-speed hub.

The 11 cogs occupy a slightly wider space on the new freehub body. Notice the prototype hub.

The new chain is coated with a low friction polytetrafluoroethylene or PTFE coating. This coating, sometimes trade named “Teflon” reduces friction and noise and prevents dirt from sticking to the chain. The chain is finally idiot-proofed by being non-directional, you can’t put it on backwards as with previous designs.

The brakes enjoy a substantial redesign called “SLR EV”. Shimano used the acronym “SLR” on previous brakes to denote Shimano Linear Response, the mechanical magnification of effort that made the brakes easy to acctuate. The mechanism appears more complex but does feel noticeably smooth with little effort at the lever for a lot of braking force. Pivots on the brakes appear to ride lower, accounting for part of the improvement in feel. The barrel adjuster feels great and adjusts easily, a benefit in this generation of evolving rim widths. The brake features a two-tone finish with a nod to Shimano’s love of the “pewter” anodized color used on previous groups.

A complete redesign in calipers provides a lighter touch with more leverage.

Even little details like a nicely redesigned quick release skewer were apparent on our test bike. The profile of the dual control levers felt familiar if  slightly smaller but the movement and force required to shift do feel lighter. Shift accuracy was outstanding, on par with the Campagnolo mechanical 11-speed groups and also lightening fast. The largest improvement in shifting, however, is from small chainring to large under load. We tried to drop a chain or produce a clunky shift; no luck. Front shifting, even in full crossover gears, was laser-guided accurate. Comparisons with the current 10-speed Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 front shifting were common and favorable.

Ergonomics of the new lever are familiar and comfortable with easier shifting and lighter braking.

Shimano faces customer resistance to adopting a new rear hub format with Dura-Ace 11-Speed 9000 so they had to build in enough benefit to justify the change. For early adopters previous 10-speed wheels will have to hang in garage or go to E-bay. Has Shimano built enough benefit into the group to justify an upgrade early on? I’ll suggest “yes” since all tactile interactions with the group, from braking to shifting and even the sound of shifting have been improved. You will feel the difference. While an update to this 11-speed format is a choice for cyclists now it may shift toward a more industry wide trend. Shimano has historically developed components “from the top down” with changes in Dura-Ace soon influencing Ultegra and 105 series components. While Shimano has made no official announcements about any such changes the historical precedent remains.

The Shimano personnel we talked to offered no official insight on bar-end shifters for aerobars, but other industry sources in media and OEM supply to popular bike brands suggested Shimano “has to” offer a new 11-speed bar end shifter for aerobars.

Based on our exposure to the group and the test rides we took the update is worth being excited about. This is a component update that will have implications over the entire next decade. From our test rides its going to be a good decade for Shimano and their new 11-speed mechanical groups.

Shimano's new 11-Speed Dura-Ace 9000 represents the direction of components for the next decade.
QR’s Shift Technology and the Cd 0.1 for 2012. Thu, 31 May 2012 21:45:07 +0000 Quintana Roo invented the triathlon bike. The evolution of their original concept continues with new Shift technology that redirects airflow away from the drivetrain lowering drag. We go front to back on the new Shift enabled CD 0.1 for 2012 here. ]]>

By Tom Demerly for

Quintana Roo's 2012 CD 0.1 Red brings their unique Shift aerodynamic design to their already proven frame geometry wearing SRAM's best component ensemble.


Any discussion of Quintana Roo has to start with the knowledge that they invented the triathlon bike as we know it today. And wetsuit. QR Founder and Triathlon Hall of Fame inductee Dan Empfield could be described as the “Thomas Edison” of triathlon.  His long list of innovations span every aspect of the industry from media to equipment. While Empfield sold Quintana Roo years ago his innovative spirit still inspires QR’s new generations of engineers to keep thinking sideways. In the case of the CD 0.1 using “Shift” technology, the sideways thinking is almost literal.

“…significant drag savings could be gained if the flow of air was even partially redirected away from the crankset and drivetrain.”

Quintana Roo didn't release many photos of early concepts in reducing drag around the bicycle drivetrain. This still image shot of a video shown at Interbike reveals the elusive concept bike. Photo: Tom Demerly.

Shift technology may be the best reason on a long list of reasons to consider the CD 0.1. Shift frame design is the offset orientation of the down tube as it meets the bottom bracket. It was developed by Quintana Roo during wind tunnel tests that revealed the crank, chainrings and front derailleur generated significant “parasite drag” to the boundary layer of air passing over the frame. Early prototypes from QR included large fairings over the crank, a potentially difficult mechanical design. This concept died an early death, with few photos ever being seen. The entirely faired crank concept was far from a bust for QR though as it lead to the realization that significant drag savings could be gained if the flow of air was even partially redirected away from the crankset and drivetrain. It was the beginning of Shift technology.

In 2011 Founder Seton Claggett rode a production QR bike with Shift technology to an Ironman age category win at Ford Ironman Arizona.

Other manufacturers have adopted some version of offset downtube/bottom bracket design. Some suggest the primary benefit is bottom bracket stiffness. Quintana Roo’s Shift design extends beyond simply off-setting the downtube to the orientation of the entire down tube coming out of the head tube. As viewed from the bottom/front the QR Shift downtube angles off to the rider’s right over its entire length. While it isn’ conspicuous as seen from the side, it is obvious viewed from the bottom.

“QR is the only only manufacturer to change the orientation of the down tube to manage airflow.”

Manufacturers will always argue their wind tunnel findings are the most authoritative and pragmatic. Set against this backdrop Quintana Roo is the only manufacturer so far to change the orientation of the entire down tube to manage airflow. If you doubt all manufacturers’ claims that their frame is the best, and you should since they all claim “best”, then you can’t deny that Quintana Roo is the only one with an offset downtube. Logic suggests it has to exert an effect. QR maintains the effect is lower drag. Linking the two isn’t much of a leap of faith.

The entire downtube on Quintana Roo's Shift Technlogy bikes follows an offset line to redirect airflow and reduce frame drag according to QR.

Quintana Roo uses Shift technology on six bike models; five versions of the CD 0.1 and the new Illicito with its unique, single seatstay design. The bike we’re looking at here is the CD 0.1 Red.

Component selection often makes or breaks a buying decision and QR seemed mindful of the careful component shopper when equipping the SRAM Red version of the CD 0.1.

The Vision Vector aerobars and new alloy base bars allow a wide range of adjustment for length, width and height without a lot of exposed hardware. It's a solid, nice looking cockpit.

Starting at the cockpit the 2012 Quintana Roo CD 0.1 Red we tested used a new Vision Vector “R” bend aerobar. This aerobar is elegantly adjustable for extension length. The composite arm rests are adjustable for width and stiff enough to feel solid but have some “give” to soak up rough roads. Vision went through a brief phase when their polymer/composite elbow pads were too flexible. That’s been fixed with this new generation pad.  The pads are adjustable for height by using the little allow airfoil shaped spacers that come in the package with Vision aerobars. There are two heights with corresponding bolt lengths. Our bike also used a new “legal” aspect ratio aero base bare from Vision with a nice powder coat finish.

Controls on the cockpit include SRAM Return to Center shifters, which are greatly improved over original versions, and carbon fiber blade TRP spring loaded brake levers. The brake levers in particular have a nice, wide ergonomic shape and feel great.

Controls include the SRAM Return to Center shifter and the carbon fiber TRP aero brake lever.

Quintana Roo has finally got their aerodynamic brakes right with this latest version of the TRP aero brake. The brakes opens wide enough for even the widest aero wheels like new version HED and Zipp Firecrest wheels and, most importantly, have a sure-stopping feel. Brakes sit behind the fork on the CD 0.1 as an aerodynamic que. As viewed from the front the fork blades bow away from the wheel. This design, used by a few manufacturers, allows air to pass with less turbulence and drag between the fork blade and rotating wheel. The outward bow of the fork blades also adds comfort to front end ride quality.

Our review bike used the Reynolds Stike 65mm deep carbon fiber clincher. Quintana Roo and TRP have made significant improvements in braking with the rear-mounted calipers. The fork bows noticeably outward for improved aerodynamics and shock absorption.

The main triangle on the CD 0.1 uses two water bottle mounts, a nice feature for long distance training rides and races. The Shift downtube has a deep, aerodynamic shape while the top tube is slightly flattened to allow some compliance. The internal cable routing dives into the tube just behind the headset.

Seat tube on the CD 0.1 owes some of its sleek appearance to the repositioning of the rear brake to underneath the bottom bracket. An excellent seatpost binder collar, all alloy and adjustable via two low-torque binder bolts, sits on top of the seat tube. Unlike the unusual Quintana Roo Illicito with its radical, asymmetrical chainstays the back of the CD 0.1 frame is symmetrical and robust.

The main triangle of the new CD 0.1 includes practical details like a pair of bottle mounts and a durable, alloy seatpost binder collar.

A key feature to Quintana Roo’s current bike line are their excellent variable geometry seatposts. This is a bike fitter’s dream. A very wide range of effective seat tube angles can be dialed in including a very open 80 degree effective seat tube angle for a comfortable aero posture. The saddle angle and fore/aft position adjusts easily with minimal bolts and clamps securely.

Out of the box our test bike came with the “reader’s choice ” ISM Adamo saddle. This is the most commonly recommended aftermarket upgrade saddle on triathlon forums and includes a transition rack hook built into the shape of the saddle. This rear hook may interfere with the installation of some rear mount hydration rigs but, with the thoughtful inclusion of two bottle mounts on the frame there really isn’t a need for behind-the-saddle rigs.

Quintana Roo does well to continue with their excellent seatpost design made even better with the ISM Adamo saddle.

The drivetrain on this CD 0.1 uses a SRAM alloy spider crank with carbon fiber arms. The front and rear derailleur is SRAM Red with its proven 1:1 pull ratio and low cable tension to maintain adjustments well over time, a boon for triathletes who may not perform much bike maintenance. The bike came with Powerglide 53/39 chainrings with pick-up rivets. The bolt pattern is 130 mm BCD but a compact 110 mm BCD crank can be easily installed.

A SRAM Red front and rear derailleur changes gears over the SRAM crank with carbon fiber arms and an alloy spider.

The rear derailleur hanger is modular and replaceable and the rear dropouts are adjustable via a set of robust adjuster bolts. The new rear brake configuration is easier to work with and adjust compared to previous versions and accepts the new generation of wider aero wheels wide rims, as with the front brake. We even like the Continental brand tire spec on this version of the CD 0.1.

Quintana Roo’s approach to using their Shift technology across a line of bikes including this version of the CD 0.1 makes the technology available at a variety of prices with different component specs. Given the range of QR bike choices with the new Shift frame design this SRAM equipped version was one of my favorites. At $5199.95 with race wheels this is a strong way to buy into superbike technology from the company that invented the triathlon bike.

At $5199.95 for the complete SRAM Red equipped bike with race wheels the CD 0.1 is a super bike that is a super value.

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Cervelo P5. Wed, 28 Mar 2012 14:07:43 +0000 The most anticipated bike release in a half decade: Cervelo's P5. Get the insider's detailed view of the bike that finally gets integrated aerodynamic components right and raises the bar by lowering drag. Clip in and hang on here. ]]>
Anticipation of the the Cervelo P5 has been high, along with expectations about the bike. Early indications suggest Cervelo has cleared the high bar of consumer expectations with the new P5.

Cervelo dealers from around the United States converged on Tucson, Arizona the weekend of March 3-4 for the annual Cervelo BrainBike symposium. While Cervelo provided insights into their entire 2012 line the main attraction was the new Cervelo P5. Perhaps the only bike introduction with as much anticipation was Cervelo’s release of the previous P4.

As the de facto leader in aerodynamic bikes the industry follows Cervelo’s introductions closely. A media introduction in the remote Canary Islands off the coast of Africa lead to a leaked photo of the P5 that appeared on internet forums around the world, resulting in over 100,000 internet views of posts related to the now famous “Rosencrantz Photo”.

Cervelo's new P5 Six with Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 and Magura RT8 brakes as shown at Cervelo BrainBike.

Based on what we saw and learned at BrainBike the media attention is justified. P5 potentially sets a new standard in aerodynamic bikes built for timed events, not just with aerodynamics but with practical features like better brake performance, fit adjustment and flight case packing ease.

While Specialized, Trek and Quintana Roo have introduced designs with accessory integration and improved aerodynamics Cervelo addressed a major drawback of the aero bike: brakes. Versions of the new Cervelo P5 feature a purpose-built Magura hydraulic brake designed in cooperation with Cervelo for the P5. The new brake provides a level of dependability, control and performance unmatched by even the best conventional road bike brakes. The days of finnicky aero brake set-ups are gone. The Cervelo/Magura brake is a reliable, maintenance free solution.

“The days of finnicky aero brake set-ups are gone. The Cervelo/Magura brake is the bombproof solution.”

The Magura RT6 (left) and RT8 (right) are purpose built hydraulic brakes that weigh less than the lightest mechanical braking systems and deliver adjustment free, dependable braking performance. It's a first for integrated brake aero bikes.

A key philosphy at Cervelo is evolution of new models based on previous ones. The brakes and accessory mounting on P5 are rooted in lessons learned in the earlier P4 and models before that. The BBRight bottom bracket and greater fit/position capability originate from some of Cervelo’s road models.

Since Cervelo’s roots began in aero bike development the P5 is a natural convergence of all their engineering philosophies. This lineage of philosphies, stretching all the way back to their first aerodynamic bikes in 1996, still position Cervelo ahead of competitors. Other brands have gotten closer to Cervelo in recent years  but Cervelo re-opens the technology gap from its competitors with P5.

Unique technologies that converge on the P5 from previous Cervelo models and from new developments.

Some versions of the P5 include a base bar/aero bar integrated cockpit called “Aduro”. The Aduro cockpit features three key design themes: Entirely internal cable routing, very wide range of fit adjustment and designed-in accessory mounting. While other companies have these features on cockpits, most notably Trek, Cervelo’s execution of internal cable routing with the Aduro allows less bends in cables making components and steering work better. Since the higher level models of the P5 use electro-mechanical Di2 shifting and full hydraulic brakes their component performance will always be good. The additional benefit is that even a cable actuated build of a P5 using Shimano’s Ultegra or SRAM Red will feature optimal cable routing using the Aduro cockpit. Cervelo also claims their cockpit is more aerodynamic in all configurations, not just in the lowest adjustments.

The Aduro cockpit provides excellent internal cable routing for brakes and derailleurs, a wide fit range with stable handling. It includes ways to mount hydration and electronics while maintaining aerodynamics.

Cervelo’s Aduro cockpit has a very wide range of fit adjustment. Aerobar height, pad width, extension length and bend and overall reach (previously stem length) are all adjustable with Aduro. This effectively removes the stem from the fit equation. The advantages include stable bike handling in any fit configuration, easier fine tuning of the rider position and complete flexibility of aero extension choice. A seperate extension assembly called the “High-V” with an aerodynamic riser is included with the Aduro cockpit and enables higher positions without compromising cockpit aerodynamics.

The High-V extension set is included with the Aduro cockpit and enables higher positions and accessory mounting.

The Magura RT6 and RT8 brake levers feature an abrasive grip area for secure control with cold, wet hands and an aerodynamic opening on the leading edge to reduce drag.  According to Cervelo initial versions of the Aduro cockpit will ship with “S” bend extensions while later versons will use a shallow ski bend extension.  The cockpit accepts all standard diameter aero extensions so the opportunity to customize with other brand extensions is substantial.

The base bars and entire cockpit adjust for height using a series of 5 millimeter and 10 millimeter aerodynamic spacers in addition to the substantial adjustment afforded by three different bolt-on aero extension designs. Two of the different height extensions are included with the bike, the High-V and a lower position design. A third ultra-low extension set will be sold separately. The interchangeable High-V component, included with the Aduro cockpit, raises pad, extension and accessory mounting height while maintaining component aerodynamics.  There are mounting bolts on the top of the Aduro cockpit spaced for standard bottle cages.

The Magura RT8TT hydraulic brake levers have an aerodynamic opening and abrasive surface for grip with cold, wet hands.

Since there is a lot of open room on top of the stem you can carry a bottle horizontally and still have room to mount a large power meter computer or GPS unit on top of the stem. While most of the excitement is about the frame the Aduro cockpit is exciting on its own. The accessory mounting bolts on the Aduro cockpit enable aerodynamic bottle mounting. The large flat stem surface make carrying a GPS or power meter computer easy.

The P5 is sold four ways:

  • P5 frameset with a Tektro mechanical rear brake, no front brake and P5 “Three” low aspect fork for $4500.
  • A complete bike with Shimano Dura-Ace 7900 mechanical drivetrain turning a Rotor 3D crank with a 3T Aura Pro cockpit (not the new Aduro) with the narrower “Three” fork and Magura RT6 hydraulic brakes for $6000.
  • P5 Frameset with Magura RT8 front and rear hydraulic brakes and the new 3T Aduro cockpit with deeper P5 “Six” fork for $6500.
  • A complete bike with Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 electro-mechanical drivetrain, Rotor 3D cranks, P5 “Six” fork and 3T Aduro cockpit for $10,000.

A key difference between the builds is the fork and brake configuration. There are two forks for P5; The P5 “Three” low aspect fork and the P5 “Six” fork. The P5 “Six” is the deeper bladed fork with integrated Magura RT8 brakes. The “Three” is a UCI legal, narrower blade fork compatible with any brake including Magura RT6, RT8 or any conventional mechanical brake such as SRAM Red, Dura-Ace, etc.

The P5 Three fork with Magura RT6 brake shown at left, The deeper P5 Six fork with Magura RT8 brake on the right.

Moving back on the frameset the first conspicuous feature is the deep aero head tube. The P5 head tube is in compliance with UCI rules for time trials when used with the narrower “Three” fork. We’ll see Cervelo P5’s with this fork in the Tour de France time trials and have seen them in early season professional time trials already.  There are two bolts behind the stem on the top tube for accessory mounting. TorHans has designed an aerodynamic nutrition box for the P5 to mount in this position that actually improves overall bike aerodynamics. The spacing on the two bolts is the same as a standard water bottle cage opening up many possibilites.

David Zabriskie of Garmin-Barracuda rides a new P5 to 7th in the short 4 mile time trial at the 2012 Criterium International in Porto-Vecchio, France on the island of Corsica. Photo: Cervelo.

At the downtube/seattube union above the bottom bracket there are bottle mounting bolts and a mysterious third bolt in the flat section above the crank. This arrangement facilitates standard and aero shaped bottle cages along with a new TorHans storage and hydration device being released soon. The new TorHans unit will use all three bolts.

Mounting points for standard bottles and an upcoming TorHans storage/hydration appliance are built into the downtube.

The shape of the seat tube continues the aerodynamic design themes learned from P3 and P4 with a slight curvature. The seat tube area above the seat stays is much deeper on P5 than previous models and features a truncated airfoil shape with a flat rear surface. This shape is claimed to test better at high yaw angles (crosswinds) and more common race speeds. The horizontal mounting of the seat stays to the seat tube are inspired by the P4. This intricate shaping continues on P5.

Cervelo's variable geometry seatpost continues with an updated design. This version includes a prototype accessory bottle mount reported to be from X-Lab.

The seatpost continues Cervelo’s successful variable geometry design and has the capability to go to an 80-degree range effective seat tube angle. The new seat clamp design is easy to use with one wrench adjustment. We saw a prototype accessory bottle mount on a P5 that was elegant and lightweight, utilizing a round opening at the rear of the seatpost.

We’ve seen two different seatposts on P5, one with more setback capability and another with a steeper orientation for more open angle between femur and torso.  The longer setback version is presumably for compliance with position requirements in professional bike races sanctioned by the UCI such as time trial stages in the Tour de France and isn’t relevant to triathletes.

A UCI compliant seatpost design was shown at Cervelo BrainBike (left) along with the more open seat angle variant on the right.

An interesting change for Cervelo is the proximity of the rear wheel to the seat tube. With wider frame shapes and wheel designs more space can be allowed between the rear tire and the seat tube while still maintaining optimal aerodynamics. The P5 will accept all of the new generation wide aero wheels such as Zipp Firecrest, HED, Zipp Sub 9 disks, etc.  Dropouts are rear-facing and easy to use once you practice the technique.

Seatmast design includes ideas from previous Cervelo designs along with new ideas. The truncated seat tube includes the seatpost binder assembly and improves low speed aerodynamics at all yaw angles.

Brake mounting under the bottom bracket is clean with no exposed cables or hydraulic lines. A compartment built into the seat tube houses the Shimano Di2 battery or can be used as storage on bikes with cable actuated component groups. Some of the aerodynamic design themes developed on the P4 chainstays are apparent in the rear end of the P5. The dropouts feature adjustment screws. The rear derailleur hanger is overbuilt to maintain durability.

The Magura brake housed under the bottom bracket. The Shimano Di2 battery access panel is visible behind the seat tube.

While the Cervelo P5 story centers on the bike itself the personalities that contributed to the bike are also a part of its development and story. A key player in P5 development is engineer Damon Rinard. Rinard is perhaps the only engineer in the cycling industry on par with Cervelo’s original design team of Gerard Vrooman and Phil White. Rinard helped vault Trek forward in the development of their Speed Concept bikes. Rinard spent seven years at Trek’s Advanced Concept Group before leaving to work for Cervelo in the Vroomen/White Design division. Rinard’s move to Cervelo was so significant that LAVA Magazine editor Jay Prasuhn wrote “…engineers are equal stars as riders…” on the forum.

Phil White is an original founder of Cervelo from 1995 and oversees Cervelo brand presentations like BrainBike in addition to engineering roles. White is not only a talented engineer but also an affable presenter and brand ambassador. Gerard Vroomen is a less visible personality with a sharp analytical mind. Vroomen has recently taken on a secretive “special projects” role with Cervelo’s new parent company, Pon Holdings.

Damon Rinard (left) has had an enormous impact on aerodynamic bicycle design. He brings decades of experience to Cervelo. Phil White, the "White" in Vroomen-White Designs is both an impressive engineer and talented presenter of the Cervelo brand philosophy. His talent at tying technology to media has helped consumers understand the Cervelo story.

The new P5 continues Cervelo’s legacy of industry-leading product introductions. With each new introduction the question “How can they top this?” has to be answered. The P5 brings better braking, improved mechanical reliability and aerodynamic innovation to the market. While previous aero bike introductions have been a race to the bottom of the wind tunnel drag chart the P5’s new features are more meaningful to the rank n’ file athlete than another white paper or claimed “best” wind tunnel result. Since debating wind tunnel results has become its own endurance event it may be easier to appreciate reliable mechanical performance and great braking on an aerodynamic bike. Cervelo delivers all of this on the new P5.

Cervelo's P5 achieves new aerodynamic integration along with the best braking and ease of flight case packing in an aero triathlon bike.

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2012 Litespeed Ci2 with Shimano Ultegra Di2. Thu, 22 Mar 2012 00:00:19 +0000 Litespeed's proven aerodynamic carbon fiber frame dons Shimano's newest Ultegra Di2 for a road worthy combination that showcases the next evolution in electro mechanical shifting. Take it for a ride here. ]]>

By Tom Demerly for

Litespeed's Ci2 continues to establish the Tennesee based brand's place among well spec-ed, high end carbon fiber bikes.

Litespeed continues their direction with carbon fiber road frames and well conceived component specifications with the new 2012 Litespeed Ci2. The bike showcases Shimano’s newest Ultegra Di2, a battery powered, electro-mechanical component group with updates in some areas compared to original Dura-Ace Di2.

The Litespeed Ci2 stays with Litespeed’s successful, but unsung Aerologic molded carbon fiber frameset. While this frame is unlikely to win any lightweight awards it provides good ride quality, stiffness and durability. The reliability of the frame is becoming apparent since we haven’t seen a single frame failure on this frame design since its introduction three years ago. The basic frame configuration remains largely unchanged except for a few details and on-going improvements in lay-up. Some of the new models use a process called “Reactive Pressure Molding” to control compression of materials from the inside of the mold, improving impregnation of resin into the carbon lay-up and improving strength even with narrow aerodynamic frame shapes.

Nice external rear brake cable routing works well on the Ci2 buts seems slightly out of place on an aero frameset. Excellent bottle integration is a legacy feature on the Ci2 we're seeing emulated by other brands.

Frame shapes on the Ci2 include a rear wheel cut-out in the seat tube and leaf-spring style seat stays. These themes merge ideas from previous designs on other brands into one bike model. It’s a nice feature set if you can’t decide between a “ride quality” bike like Cervelo’s R3 and an aerodynamic road bike like their “S” series bikes.

The big news on this new bike is Shimano Ultegra Di2. Ultegra Di2 includes a number of updates over previous Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 including cable connectors about half the size of previous Dura-Ace Di2 and a two cable wiring harness instead of the previous four cable system. Shimano claims the new two-wire harness on Ultegra Di2 is “waterproof” with no need for weather-proofing sleeves seen on Dura-Ace Di2.

In researching this article journalists from Velo-News, Triathlete and a reader’s poll on Cyclingnews all characterized new Shimano Ultegra Di2 shift performance as “better” than previous Shimano Dura-Ace Di2. Wait- Ultegra better than Dura-Ace? A student of Shimano’s  product introductions may recognize a pattern here. Ultegra Di2 is a more recent introduction than current Dura-Ace Di2.  Anyone familiar with Shimano’s product evolutions knows that silence is often Shimano’s most conspicuous indicator of impending change. Several media outlets have reported a “leaked” document from Shimano on that describes an “11-speed” version of Shimano Dura-Ace Di2.

The new Shimano Ultegra Di2 shifters are heavier than previous Dura-Ace Di2 but share identical shape and feel.

Starting with the shifters the new Ultegra Di2 controls are configured identically to Dura-Ace Di2. Hood shape and body size are very similar- nearly impossible to tell apart- with the new Ultegra Di2 appearing a trifle wider as viewed from the top when parked alongside Dura-Ace Di2. There is additional trim molding on the top of the Dura-Ace Di2 dual control lever that is missing on new Ultegra Di2. The lever or “button” travel to make the shift is identical and the pressure feels the same.

The new, more compact wiring harness on Ultegra Di2 is combined with very good internal routing of the wiring harness on the frameset.

Battery size defaults to the new 7.4-volt battery size and shape, same for both groups. Battery life is the same, extremely long. Battery mounting is still external though, with the battery mounting under the left chainstay well-protected by the chainrings and left crank arm.

You can see the difference in size between Dura-Ace Di2 (left) and new Ultegra Di2 (right).

The front and rear derailleurs on Ultegra Di2 are larger than Dura-Ace Di2 with the size difference coming from the polymer servo housings that move the derailleurs.

An interesting feature of the component spec on the Litespeed Ci2 is the FSA SLK hollow carbon fiber crank. I attributed a significant amount of front shift quality with Di2 to the excellent hollow-forged Shimano Ultegra and Dura-Ace cranks. This component spec proves me partially wrong since front shifting on the Ci2 is laser-guided accurate. Nearly everyone who has ridden Di2 says the front shifting is better than any previous front shift mechanism. That continues on this bike even without the Shimano cranks. This crankset is more durable than the hollow forged Shimano cranks that can dent when knocked over.

The FSA SLK hollow-carbon fiber crank uses new machined chainrings and turns on a BB30 bottom bracket.

At the back of the bike Litespeed continues their asymmetrical chainstay design with a much larger right, drive side, chain stay. This likely contributes to the solid feel of the bottom bracket.

This asymmetric chainstay design likely contributes to the Ci2's great rear end feel and stiffness. You can also see the Di2 battery mounting in this photo.

Seatpost and seat clamp are secure and fully adjustable. The dual redundant seatpost binder bolts clamp a nice aero-styled seatpost with sizing increments on the back for bike fitting and quick reassembly out of your flight case. The bike is speced with my favorite Fizik Arione K:ium rail saddle, a 30 cm long saddle with a lot of fit latitude.

Furniture on the Litespeed Ci2 features a wide range of adjustment and a proven saddle.

Litespeed made good choices for wheel and tire spec on the Ci2 with Fulcrum Racing 5 wheels that feature their Two-to-One construction. There are 8 spokes on the non-drive side of the rear wheel and 16 spokes on the drive side. Spokes are bladed, aerodynamic stainless steel. Wheels use Fulcrum’s Dynamic Balance feature, similar to balancing a car wheel once a tire is mounted. These wheels turn around a nicely made oversized hub with sealed steel bearings. This is a good basic wheelset ready for thousands of miles of tough use. The Fulcrum Racing 5’s ride on a pair of Vittoria Rubino Slicks in the 23 mm width.

A reliable, everyday wheelset is part of the component spec on the Litespeed Ci2.

The Litespeed Ci2 is $5000, a round number in line with other high end frames using Ultegra Di2 and nice quality wheels. If you’ve been around bikes a long time $5K for an Ultegra road bike my sound a trifle bracing. The thing to keep in mind is the current generation of Ultegra Di2 equipped, advanced carbon fiber frames has almost nothing in common with the original generation of bonded carbon road bikes with first generation mechanical Ultegra. It’s an entirely different bike.

The Litespeed Ci2 is further confirmation of Litespeed’s continued place in high end road bikes. It is an unsung high end performance bike with strong frame features and a great new component outfit. Litespeed did a nice job here with no mistakes in component spec and a frame design in its third year of a proven track record.

The new Ultegra Di2 features upgrades from the original Dura-ACe Di2. Mounted on Litespeed's proven aero-carbon frame this is a nice combination.

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2013 SRAM Red. Thu, 15 Mar 2012 21:27:24 +0000 SRAM introduces their new 2013 Red component group to the media. The new version is lighter and features enhanced front shifting along with some interesting power meter options. See the new 2013 SRAM Red here. ]]>
By Tom Demerly for
SRAM's new Red group includes a redesigned hollow-arm crank and new chainrings.

 Chicago based component manufacturer SRAM has unveiled their new 2013 Red component group to the media with consumer deliveries slated for first half of 2012. The group features refinements of existing technologies such as cable driven shifting with 10 gears in the rear. This isn’t the battery powered shifting some anticipated in the wake of Shimano’s Di2 but 2013 Red suggests a new high water mark for mechanical 10-speed drivetrains with a host of refinements and substantial weight reduction. Redesigned brakes also set the group apart from previous versions.

Improved chainrings for 2013 suggest better front shifting and greater stiffness. Machining and finish on the prototype we photographed were very good. Notice the shift gates machined into the back of the big chainring and the silver pick-up rivets to assist small-to-big ring shifting.

The new SRAM Red crankset is Exogram hollow molded carbon fiber with more substantial arms and spider along with updated, machined chainrings. The crank is a five spider design similar to Campagnolo with one of the chainring mounting bolts concealed behind the crankarm. The combination of this new carbon crank and thick, solid machined “X-Glide” chainrings suggest better stiffness, a shortcoming of previous SRAM Red cranksets. Compact cranks will be available with 110mm bolt circle diameter for lower gearing.

Two major bottom bracket formats are supported with separate models of the new 2013 SRAM Red crank: BB30 and GXP threaded.   The red anodized, ceramic bearing equipped GXP bottom bracket has improved “Gutter Seal” protection for better weather proofing and smoother rotation.

A new version of the 2013 SRAM Red crankset integrates the updated Quarq power meter.

SRAM’s acquisition of Quarq crank based power meters enables a version of 2013 SRAM Red with a Quarq power meter built in. The new Quarq/SRAM Red combination crank is less bulky than previous versions and has a more designed-in appearance. SRAM technical reps showed us a simple process for pairing the Quarq with an ANT+ power measurement computer such as Garmin and a method of calibration using a weight suspended from the crank arm.

The 2013 SRAM Red ErgoDynamics, Double Tap shifter/brake lever uses a redesigned body with smaller circumference for better ergonomics. The hoods are checkered for enhanced grip, a boon for riders wearing heavy gloves such as winter cyclocross racers. The shifter paddles are slightly larger and the brake lever itself is longer. An advantage of previous SRAM Double Tap shifters is their adjustable reach – you could adjust the brake lever and shifter paddle closer to the drop handlebars for smaller hands. This feature continues with more accessible adjustment on the 2013 version. The lever still angles outward from the bars enhancing leverage. The band clamp used to mount the levers to your handlebars is redesigned for easier use on ergo-bend and newer diameter bars.

The 2013 SRAM Red Double Tap shifter has a smaller body, larger shift paddles and longer brake lever with easier reach adjustment.

Mechanical brakes on the new SRAM Red return to a single pivot design for weight savings and lower frontal area to reduce drag.  Hydraulic road brakes for both hub and rim are slated for late 2012/13. The triangular double arms from previous SRAM Red are gone from the new mechanical SRAM Red calipers. Older single pivot designs were difficult to keep centered but 2013 SRAM Red uses independent left and right adjustment for easy brake centering. The brakes also feature AeroLink and ForceMultiplier Links to provide increased pressure of the pads as they approach the rim. This design suits wider rims such as Zipp Firecrest (Zipp is another SRAM brand). These brakes feel great, with easier actuation than previous SRAM Red and great stopping power.

A) New aerodynamic shaped barrel adjuster and quick release lever. B) New single arm design. C) Single central brake pivot. D) Dual spring centering adjusters. E) SwissStop brake cartridges, black for dry conditions/alloy rims.

The brake pads supplied are SwissStop FlashPro in the black compound (dry conditions) designed for alloy rims.  A green SwissStop GHP2 version is available aftermarket for wet weather braking on alloy rims.  Another yellow compound is sold separately for carbon fiber rims and Zipp told us their Platinum Pro brake pad fits the new SRAM Red caliper and provides excellent wet weather stopping performance on carbon rims. The SwissStop pads have deeper groves for improved braking in each of the compounds.

The new 2013 SRAM Red caliper is a significant improvement over previous SRAM Red calipers with lighter weight, improved aerodynamics and better stopping power especially on new, wider rims.

Improved front shifting on 2013 SRAM Red brings this mechanical group on par with the front shifting of Shimano’s mechanical Dura-Ace with its hollow-forged cranks but still not as automated as Di2 series front shifting. The improvements don’t rely on a single upgrade but several improvements in crank, chainring and most significantly the new front derailleur. The 2013 SRAM Red “Yaw” front derailleur cage changes angle to match the angle of the chain as it shifts. This eliminates chain rub in crossover gears. One swipe of the lever delivers precise front shifting with no trim adjustment regardless of what cog you’re using in the back. We rode the bike in both crossover gears. It worked. No chain rub.

The Yaw feature in 2013 SRAM Red changes the angle of the front derailleur cage to match the chain as it shifts across the cogset.

SRAM also changed the front derailleur cage to use steel, aluminum and carbon fiber to maintain the stiffness and leverage of the cage while keeping it lightweight. Index marks laser-etched into the top and inside of the cage facilitate quick set-up in the work stand. Low profile springs make the derailleur less bulky meaning it will mount to a wider range of frame designs without interference. Derailleur limit adjustment screws are located on top of the derailleur.

The integrated Chain Spotter eliminates dropped chains during sketchy downshifts on bad pavement. It is adjustable and can be removed.

Another interesting feature is the anti-chain drop device built into the derailleur. This “chain checker” deflects the chain onto the small chain ring as it drops down from the large ring during downshifts. It’s likely this will only be needed during desperate shifts from large ring to small on bad pavement when pedalling our of the saddle, a worse case but reality in spring classic and cyclocross races. The armature, called a “Chain Spotter” by SRAM is adjustable and can be removed.

The rear derailleur on 2013 SRAM Red continues the SRAM theme of “Exact Actuation” or a 1:1 pull ratio. The derailleur moves the same amount as the shift lever. This enables great compatibility and the direct feel of SRAM components. For riders who don’t like the disconnected feel of electronic shifting Exact Actuation is the answer.

A) The jockey wheel and guide pulley rotate on ceramic bearings. B) Carbon fiber cage plates reduce weight while maintaining stiffness. C) Rotational adjustment screw controls derailleur angle. D) Limit screws are front mounted and clearly labelled "H" and "L". E) Rear armature is molded carbon fiber to save weight.

The derailleur is trimmed in lightweight materials like carbon fiber cage plates and alloy bolts. Even the jockey wheels are skeletonized to shave a few grams. The limit screws are accessible on the front of the derailleur body and labelled “L” and “H” for quick adjustment. They turn with a hex wrench or flat blade screwdriver. The barrel adjuster is massive and spring deployed for easy adjustment.

With lightweight carbon fiber materials and alloy fasteners the 2013 SRAM Red rear derailleur is extremely light. (R) This s a mechanic's derailleur with easy adjustment from a huge barrel adjuster and clearly labelled limit screws for set-up.

As components have become more refined their appearance, especially up close, has become more attractive. The new 2013 SRAM Red XG 1090 cogset may be coolest looking bike component ever. Eight of the ten cogs are machined from solid steel. This means no play between the cogs and absolutely precise spacing along with longer wear. An added benefit is weight savings. Because steel is stiffer and stronger less needs to be used to build the main portion of the cogset reducing overall weight significantly.

A) Black StealthRing elastomers reduce chain noise and vibration. The steel cogset body is machined out with hollow spaces to save weight. B) The largest cog is machined alloy for weight savings, also machined to save weight. C) Engineered asymmetrical tooth profiles aid shift performance. D) Cogset body maintains alignment on wheel. E) Mounting pins on large cog insure precise alignment.

New StealthRing elastomer bumpers have been installed between the cog positions to damp the bounce of the chain as it settles onto one cog from another. This reduces shift noise and maintains power transfer during shifts as well as reducing running noise. The largest cog is aluminum alloy to further reduce weight.

SRAM deserves note for maintaining their design theme of light weight, compatibility and good mechanical feel. This sets them apart from Shimano’s Di2 and Campagnolo’s new EPS electronic groups. If you don’t like the trend of battery driven component groups SRAM becomes a more attractive alternative with the new SRAM Red for the 2013 model year.

2012 BH Ultralight: A 254 Pound Rider on a 1.65 Pound Frame. Fri, 24 Feb 2012 01:25:14 +0000 Can a 254 pound rider really use a 1.65 pound carbon fiber frame? Will it flex? Will it break? We put BH Bicycles' impressive BH Ultralight frameset under's test rider Mike Gibbs to find out. Read about what happened here. ]]>

By Tom Demerly for

The BH Ultralight combines a stiff carbon fiber lay-up with unusually light weight to produce a stand-out road bike.

Spain’s BH Bicycles joins the lead pack in the race to the bottom of the scale with the BH Ultralight, a lightweight carbon fiber frameset built with stiffness enhancing features such as a proprietary bottom bracket and special carbon lay-up. Claimed weight: 1.65 pounds for the frame. We decided to put a 254 pound rider on it for two months to see what would happen.

Consumers love “golden BB” metrics, the single number they can compare to measure “best-ness”. Some consider bike weight that metric, others argue wind tunnel results. Internet forums are built around building lighter bikes. Set against that background the BH Ultralight is a contender.

With a functional build of SRAM Red components, Mavic Ksyriums and PRO Stealth cockpit and GPS, Mike's test bike weighs 15.3 pounds

How light is the BH Ultralight? BH Bicycles claims “Less than 750 grams in a 56 cm frame size”, or 1.65 pounds. Impressive. But is it functional in the real world? We decided to find out by putting a 254 pound rider on a 1.65 pound frame. To frame this, our test rider weighs 156.3 times more than the bike frame he is on. While our test rider weighs over a tenth of a ton, his bike frame weighed about the same as a dense loaf of bread. BH Bicycles also covers the bike with a Limited Warranty: “BH frames sold in the USA and Canada are covered against defects in workmanship and materials for as long as the frame is owned by the original owner.” Although the warranty does not cover normal wear and tear according to BH Bicycles, that is an impressive endrosement.

Mike Gibbs of on his size Extra Large, SRAM Red equipped BH Ultralight.

Mike Gibbs of built up a size Extra Large (56cm seat tube measured center to top, the same as a Cervelo R3 in 61cm size name) BH Ultralight using SRAM Red components, Mavic Ksyrium clincher wheels, a Selle Italia Flite saddle and PRO Stealth Evo cockpit with two X-Lab Gorilla carbon cages and a Garmin Edge GPS unit. Total weight: 15.3 pounds measured. This isn’t a lightweight build, and a lightweight enthusiast could shave pounds off this. It is a “real world” build that is intended to be ridden every day on all roads by a heavy rider.

There are two features that contribute to the BH Ultralight’s weight and ride quality. The first is the BB386EVO bottom bracket. This new bottom bracket configuration was designed largely by component manufacturer Full Speed Ahead (FSA). The system is based on the common BB30 configuration but beefed up substantially for greater stiffness in the bottom bracket and the frame/bottom bracket interface. BB386EVO also allows larger chainstays and influences crank design. In many ways, the light weight and frame feel of the BH Ultralight emanates from the BB386EVO design.  If resistance to lateral deflection under pedal load and lighter weight is the high bar for a bottom bracket BB386EVO appears to clear it.

I spoke with Tim Jackson, Marketing Manager for BH Bicycles in the U.S. about BB386EVO compatibility with other cranks such as SRAM and Shimano. “The only limitation is BB30” said Jackson, “BB30 bottom brackets won’t work”. He mentioned a press fit bearing adapter developed by BH specifically for the BB386EVO configuration. This adapter enables the use  of  “…any standard 24 mm bottom bracket compatible crank” according to Jackson.  There are limitations on crank-based power measurement though, with current SRM and Quark units not fitting. Additionally, FSA will introduce a BB386EVO specific version of the popular FSA SLK crank later this year. That brings direct compatibility with BB386EVO up to two cranks and adapter-served compatibility for many others currently available. I’ll suggest this degree of flexibility effectively takes compatibility concerns off the table.

 Are the benefits of BB386EVO worth using an adapter on some cranks or limiting your crank selection to those directly compatible? I’ll say “yes”. Changing a crank or adding a power meter can only exert so much change on the performance of a bike. BB386EVO likely provides a per-pedal-stroke greater benefit than switching cranks or adding crank-based power measurement. Additionally, pedal and wheel based power meters still work fine, and the FSA BB386EVO crank is a beautifully finished well made crank that is compatible with SRAM, Shimano and Campagnolo 10 speed drivetrains. The idea of more closely integrating crank, bottom bracket and frame to reduce weight and improve performance isn’t a new one, and it is a proven one. Cannondale did it along with a handful of other builders. The concept is proven. The execution on the BH Ultralight is very good.

The BB360EVO bottom bracket and crank add stiffness and save weight but limit component compatibility.

 The other weight saving, stiffness enhancing feature on the BH Ultralight is the carbon fiber lay-up. Consumers have a tough time visualizing the effect of different carbon fiber lay-ups on performance until they ride, or pay for, a bike. Different carbon lay-ups account for much of the difference between a $1500 complete carbon fiber bike and a $15,000 carbon fiber bike. They also account for a massive range of qualities that manifest themselves in everything from crash survivability to road feel and weight. The lay-up on the BH Ultralight, in concert with BB386EVO, does produce a ride tangibly unlike any bike I’ve ridden. It isn’t subtle. Test rider Mike Gibbs said, “I can’t explain the physics” he was so baffled by the incongruent relationship between weight, stiffness and even ride comfort. Perhaps more so than the weight of the bike, the attention-getting stiffness of the bottom bracket sets this frame apart from others.

Starting at the front of the bike BH Bicycles uses an all carbon fiber headtube without any metal headset races. Everything is carbon fiber on the head tube and fork, including the surfaces the bearings rest on. The fork is a proprietary BH Bicycles design with a massive crown  and 1.5″ diameter bottom race that aids response and lateral stiffness. While the straight blades suggest a jackhammer ride, the result (even on a smaller frame in my size) was utterly civilized. On out of the saddle efforts it only got better.

An oversized bottom headset race is combined with all-carbon fiber construction in the fork and head tube.

The use of the large 1.5″ diameter bottom headset race enables the down tube to be larger also, increasing frame stiffness and shock absorption since there is more surface area for vibration to be disbursed over.  The transition from one frame section to another within the molded frame is clean with no seam lines. At the seattube a skeletonized alloy clamp fixes the seatpost with a single bolt. The seatpost clamp is modular and replaceable.

The transition from one frame section to another is smooth with each section maintaining the width of the frame for best stiffness and ride comfort.

The seatpost is made for BH Bicycles by FSA and uses two adjustment bolts for saddle angle . It has 2 cm of setback from the center of the post. Both bolts are accessible from the bottom for ease of angular saddle adjustment, a thoughtful feature. The bolts are long enough to accommodate most carbon rail saddles, good thinking for BH since many Orbea models require additional, longer seat clamp hardware for taller carbon fiber rail saddles. The entire design is sturdy and simple. Well done.

A well designed seatpost and seat clamp make adjustments easy.

The frame uses molded-on cable stops with slots for easy cable replacement. BH was thoughtful enough to ship the bike with two polymer anti-scuff decals at the head tube so your drivetrain cable housings don’t abrade the head tube of the frame. The drivetrain cables route under the square-ish down tube. BH put the cable guides in the right place since shifting and braking are crisp. The cable stops seem bomber since they are part of the frame, another boon to shift performance.

Molded-in carbon fiber cable stops are durable and stiff improving component performance and reducing weight.

The rear end of the BH Ultralight borrows a number of proven themes originally developed on the Cervelo R3 including a tapered seat tube and gossamer seat stays. BH does take full advantage of the BB386EVO bottom bracket by mounting a pair of massive chain stays with a Serotta-esque “S” curve to them. This combination of vertically thick chainstay and adding curvature to improve ride quality is a unique morphing of design themes that accounts for a lot of the uncommon ride quality.

A well designed rear triangle moderates lateral stiffness and ride comfort with some proven design themes and the new benefits of the BB386EVO bottom bracket.

Our Clydesdale test rider, Mike Gibbs of, finished his bike off with a PRO Stealth integrated cockpit that uses a one piece molded carbon fiber stem and drop handlebar. Other trim items on the bike were the proven X-Lab Gorilla bottle cages. Mike kept the integrity of the component kit by using the excellent SRAM Red brake calipers for this build. The end result is his dependable, stiff 15.3 pound complete bike including his Garmin GPS.

Mike spent two months and about 500 miles on the bike. Zero problems. This includes long rides on rough roads. Mike also pointed out that, while the stiffness of the bottom bracket exceeded anything he’s ridden, the ride quality was better than many stiffness-oriented carbon fiber frames such as the Scott Addict R1.

Mike's build includes the sleek PRO Stealth Evo cockpit and SRAM Red brake calipers.

Having a 250-pound plus rider on a 15- pound bike is about the same passenger to vehicle weight ratio as having three full grown African bull elephants ride in a Ford Mustang. That makes the engineering of a 15-pound vehicle supporting a 250-pound rider all the more impressive. In addition the the vehicle to load ratio, the ride quality and component performance on the BH Ultralight is well above some other high road frames and a contender for industry best along with other well made, high end carbon fiber road frames.

To appreciate the engineering of the BH Ultralight consider loading three full grown African elephants into a Ford Mustang. That is the vehicle weight to passenger weight ratio of our test rider on the BH Ultralight. Impressive.

The BH Ultralight frameset is $4299 and is sold in five sizes with T-Shirt size names; XS,S,M,L and Mike’s XL. Mike’s Size XL runs similar in geometry to Cervelo’s 61cm R3. Both the 61cm Cervelo R3 and the Size XL BH Ultralight have a 57cm seat tube measured from center to top.  It’s easy to build a sub-$10,000 ultra-light super bike using this frame. Considering the great ride quality and the strength of the frame based on our tests with Mike the BH Ultralight may be easy on the scales but it’s a heavy hitter for the light weight frame shopper.

The BH Ultralight is a remarkable light weight frame with incredible durability. It's an exotic lightweight you can ride everyday.
Fastest Bike in the World. Wed, 19 Oct 2011 20:21:17 +0000 What is the fastest bike in the world? It’s a moving target, but for a few hours in 2005 it was this bike, David Zabriskie’s Cervelo P3C. We got a look at the (then) world’s fastest bike. Ride along here. ]]>
By Tom Demerly

The Cervelo P3 ridden by first time Tour de France rider David Zabriskie in Stage 1 of the 2005 Tour de France. It is a racing icon as the (then) world's fastest time trial bike.

2 July, 2005; Fromentine, Vendee Region, Northwestern France. Stage 1, Tour de France.

He climbed the start ramp in anonymity. The “new” American.  His first ever stage in his first ever Tour de France.

Top teams sometimes bring on promising new pros to apprentice in the Tour de France. Most don’t fare well. Over the years the team hopes to nurture their talent, build their confidence. It takes time and hard won experience, usually a few failures too. Maybe someday the new American would develop into a real Tour rider. Maybe.

The next 21 minutes would remove his anonymity and change cycling history.

This was David Zabriskie’s first day in his first Tour de France, but not his first day as a great cyclist. Zabriskie is a time trial specialist. Certainly not the measure of an Armstrong or a Basso they thought, but a credible man against the clock on a national level- which generally means little on the international scale of the Tour de France.

Born January 12, 1979 David Zabriskie started the 2005 Tour de France in Fromentine at the age of 26. He was known for a light hearted, jocular personality off the bike. He would joke with teammates and media, forget to shave and flash a wide grin with his big mouth that looked like the intake scoop on a fighter plane. In a time trial something changed about him. Zabriskie became predatory.

The journalists that were crammed into the press center of the 2005 Le Tour that July morning barely followed the progress of the early starters in the Stage 1 time trial. They looked up at the television monitors as the early riders rolled down the start ramp, but quickly returned to writing their dramatic leads about the hero Lance Armstrong and his upcoming conquest in the 2005 Tour. The 19th rider down the ramp, America David Zabriskie, hit the first time check with an intermediate split that shattered the previous 18 efforts. Zabriskie was committing suicide. He would fade rapidly over the subsequent time checks, having made the common error of a new pro in their first Tour. He went out way too fast. The excitement had gotten to him. He would learn. It’s a long race. The journalists went back to their notes.

At the next time check Zabriskie continued his apparent self-immolation against the course and the clock. He had maintained his pace, even accelerated. This time when the journalists glanced up at the television monitors they did not look away. A few journalists consulted databases with the records: Anquetil, Merckx, Hinault, LeMond, Indurain, Roche, Boardman, Armstrong. The men who rode the fastest time trials in the history of the Tour de France, in the history of cycling. The new American’s average speed eclipsed them all. Was it possible?

Zabriskie on his historic Cervelo P3C in the first time trial of the 2005 Tour de France. Photo:
Zabriskie would stop the clock in Noirmoutier En-L’Ile at 20:51.80 for 19 kilometers. He rode 11.8 miles at an average speed of 33.89 M.P.H. The record for the fastest ever Tour de France time trial had been set. Clearly the winds and the course in Stage One had produced something special, and the record would continue to fall throughout the day as the top time trial riders like Ivan Basso, Alexander Vinokourov, World Time Trial Champion Michael Rodgers and Lance Armstrong took to the course. One at a time the riders threw themselves against the bastion of Zabriskie’s time. Vinokourov’s face was a mask of pain at the end of his effort. He fell short. World Time Trial Champion Michael Rodgers nearly came to grief in a corner he over cooked in his attempt to better the time of Zabriskie. He missed Zabriskie’s time by several seconds. One at a time they spent themselves. All fell short. Armstrong came closest to Zabriskie’s time, but missed by a full 2 seconds- an eon at this distance.

David Zabriskie, in his first stage in his first Tour de France, had just raised the bar of how fast a person could ride a bike in the Le Tour. His record remained as the fastest ever time trial ridden in the Tour de France according to many sources.

This photo was likely shot in early 2005. Zabriskie's P3 has its Vision cockpit but is missing the Nokon cables he used in Stage 1 of the 2005 Tour.

While Greg LeMond had previously ridden a time trial in 1989 at 54.55 KPH (33.82 MPH) for 15 miles and Chris Boardman had gone 55.15 KPH (34.19 MPH) over 7.2 kilometers those marks had been excluded by most record keepers since LeMond’s effort into Paris in 1989 was a net elevation loss over the course- it was essentially downhill- and it was fractionally slower.  Boardman’s effort was in the “Prologue” stage, a short aperitif to the main event and not a long distance road time trial. By popular accounts Zabriskie was the new fastest time trialist in the Tour de France. That he did it off his very first pedal stroke in Le Tour made it all the more sensational.

When Jason Losey of Cervelo showed us Zabriskie's record setting P3C as it was set up that day in 2005, I couldn't believe my eyes. It is the best kind of cycling archeology.

12 October, 2011; parking lot, Tucson, Arizona, USA.

Jason Losey of Cervelo showed up at in Tucson, Arizona with his big red, white and black Mercedes Cervelo van. As usual, it was packed with delightful new Cervelos. When Losey rolled back the door on the big Benz he told me, “Listen, I have something special…”

Losey rooted his way to the back of the van and rolled a 2005 Cervelo P3C out the side door. I recognized the bike instantly. It was Zabriskie’s bike: The “Fastest Bike in the World”. Cervelo had kept the record setting bike in its exact condition when it was retired from the CSC team at the end of 2005. It was an artifact, a time capsule. The bike was scratched from frequent packing and the occasional crash that Zabriskie was also known for. But there it was: The fastest bike. Like a sarcophagus containing a volume of history the memories of Zabriskie’s incredible day flooded back to me. I gripped the handlebars. It gave me chills. It was this bike…

There are, of course, no “Fastest Bikes”. People on internet forums debate the minutiae of weight and aerodynamics ad nauseum. It’s the rider, not the bike that wins races. But the fact is more timed races have been won on Cervelos than any other single brand. Cervelo’s aerodynamic lineage is unlike any other company. And now we had a look at the (then) fastest Cervelo.

Zabriskie’s P3C is a “stick in the water” that marks the evolution of what makes a bike fast for a fast rider. We’ve moved past some of what Zabriskie used to better cockpits and more advanced drivetrains with Di2 but few manufacturers have approached the aerodynamic performance of the P3C (now called the P3) without substantial and complex component integration. The Cervelo P3 remains the most copied aerodynamic bike in history and perhaps the second most copied bike ever after the original mountain bike design of Sinyard, Ritchey and Fisher, et al.

Zabriskie's unusual cockpit set-up was the precursor to better control integration of shifters and brake on aerobars. Note the forward facing third brake lever on the aero extension.

From the front Zabriskie’s Cervelo P3C featured an oddly configured cockpit with straight aero extensions and a third brake lever installed backwards on the right aero extension. This brake lever was, in a way, a precursor to Shimano’s idea to duplicate controls on the aero extensions and the base bars. Shimano has done it with shifters on their Di2; Zabriskie did it with his brake to maintain control, especially during the team time trial events.

Zabriskie’s cockpit is- like the rest of the bike- heavy, made entirely of aluminum, and was built as a one piece unit with base bar, stem and extensions. His extensions had a wrap of adhesive skateboard grip tape. Zabriskie wore gloves in time trials and the grip tape improved his grip and leverage. The early versions of the Vision “crab claw” brake levers were extremely narrow. Some recreational users complained they were uncomfortable to squeeze under frequent braking. Vision has since redesigned the leading edge for greater comfort.

The compression-less Nokon metallic cable housings improved component performance, especially with Zabriskie's unusual brake lever configuration.

A notable addition to Zabriskie’s bike is Nokon cables. These aluminum, segmented cable housings are compression-less and have the ability to route cables better around tight corners than polymer housings. They are tricky to work on since each small segment is a separate piece, strung like beads onto a low friction inner cable liner.

Brakes on the Zabriskie record bike are conventional Dura-Ace calipers with Corima carbon fiber specific brake pads and no extra brake cable showing as is common with pro team mechanics. One of the reasons I’ve always favored the Cervelo P3 is conventional brakes that are dependable, easy to adjust and maintain and travel with.

Conventional, easy to service brakes make the P3 a real-world bike with dependable braking performance. Few new "superbikes" with integrated brakes have the same stopping power. Note the super short cable length, Corima brake shoes and clean tubular tire glue job- a calling card of a pro-team assembly job.

Zabriskie used a rear Zipp disk wheel with tubular tires and a deep section front Zipp 808 wheel. It was difficult to tell if the hubs had been refitted with a different bearing or if they ran stock Zipp bearings.

The cranks are FSA aluminum arms turning a carbon-finished 54 tooth solid disk big chain ring with 42 tooth small ring, seldom used by Zabriskie. The massive 177.5 mm crank arms seem in contradiction to Zabriskie’s style which is not as heavy as an Ulrich. Zabriskie turned these long cranks at a spritely cadence, questioning the merit of the current short crank trend.

Size does matter: Zabriskie turned massive 177.5 mm long crank arms. At his 6'0" height these cranks trend long by today's standards. Despite their length he pedalled with a spritely cadence in time trials.

The remainder of Zabriskie’s drivetrain is indicative of the era, a Shimano Dura-Ace front and rear changer serviced by more Nokon housing from the shift levers. The inner cables belie the professional mechanic’s penchant for cutting cables to precise length- little extra cable is left showing.

Zabriskie's drivetrain was a stock Shimano Dura-Ace 10 speed kit using Nokon compression-less housings and driven by a sold-disk 54 tooth large change ring turned by his massive 177.5 mm crank heavy aluminum arms.

Another professional oddity is the cut-off Selle Italia saddle for compliance with UCI rules. The UCI’s “Definition of a Competitive Bicycle” specifies the nose of the bike’s saddle must reside at a specific proximity from the center of the bottom bracket as measured horizontally. The rules mean the saddle has to be farther back than you or I would use on a triathlon bike. As a result, the nose of Zabriskie’s saddle is missing. In photos of Zabriskie at speed on later time trial bikes he sits more like an Empfield-ian, F.I.S.T. positioned triathlete than a bicycle racer, sliding well forward on the saddle with minimal remaining contact between him and the saddle, seemingly perched on its nose. It’s no wonder Zabriskie has his own line of saddle comfort products called “DZ’s Nutz”.

The modified saddle changes perceptions of saddle comfort. Note the cut-off nose to comply with UCI time trial bike requirements.

Additional cues to the bike’s professional countenance are its spotlessly clean drivetrain and meticulous tire gluing job. The name decal on the top tube help mechanics identify each rider on the team’s bike for transportation and help the fans recognize their favorite riders.

Zabriskie in a more recent photo on a Cervelo P4. D: The UCI mandated position of Zabriskie's saddle and resultant seat tube angle. A: The green line represents Zabriskie's actual, effective seat tube angle, a very "Empfield-ian" F.I.S.T. type open saddle angle. B: Zabriskie's humerus bone in his bicep area supports his torso on the cockpit with his skeleton. Notice how relaxed his back and triceps are. C: The cockpit extensions put his shifters in his hands, he does not have to move his hands at all to shift.

Cervelo spent years developing the P3, P3C and the current P3 family from which the P4 was extrapolated and now, rumors of a new “X-P?” aero bike are circulating. The interesting thing about the P3, and Zabriskie’s 2005 P3 exemplifies this, is that the P3 is still an enduring design that is an advanced design. Cervelo got this bike very right on the first try and it still beats many recent “superbike” introductions on mechanical convenience and integrity, ride quality, fit, performance and aerodynamic. Cervelo set the bar very high in 2005 with the P3C like the one Zabriskie rode in Stage 1 of the Tour de France. Few other bikes have cleared that bar even 7 years on.

The latest version of the Cervelo P3 is a refined version of the original P3C with an improved seatpost, carbon lay-up, better dropouts and fork and other subtle refinements. The P3 still leads the superbike category at an every-bike price that is easy to maintain, has good mechanical reliability, great ride quality and aerodynamics that still rival new superbikes.

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Cervelo S5 Mon, 11 Jul 2011 23:26:36 +0000 Cervelo’s new S5 is the latest in the aero road bike category. We ride the S5 to see if there is an advantage to being the last one to the aero road bike party and find some interesting facts.]]>

By Tom Demerly

Cervelo's new S5 aero bike has features that make it uniquely versatile, a nice option for the multisport rider.

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Cervelo’s S5 joins the growing aerodynamic road bike category with the new Scott Foil and Specialized Venge, a category already populated by the Felt AR series bikes, the Litespeed C1, Ridley Noah and others.

Unlike many recent aero entries the new Cervelo S5 is convertible from a road geometry bike to a steep seat angle/triathlon bike for use with aerobars. Of the recent introductions, only the Felt AR series shares this level of versatility.

“The Cervelo S5 is convertible from a road geometry bike to a steep seat angle/triathlon bike for use with aerobars.”

Cervelo waited to introduce their aero road bike until after Scott, Felt, Litespeed and Specialized introduced their interpretations of the category. There is something to be said for being last to the party- you know what everyone else is wearing. This is primarily a marketing advantage for Cervelo with the publicity of the Garmin/Cervelo team in the Tour de France and Thor Hushovd owning the yellow jersey during the opening week of the event. The engineering advantages built into the S5 started years ago at Cervelo and are part of their aerodynamic legacy.

Garmin-Cervelo Team rider Thor Hushovd’s Cervelo S5 at the 2011 Tour de France. Photo: Cervelo.

Many of the aerodynamic cues from the S5 can be attributed to the development of the Cervelo P4 and P3. These developments go back years in Cervelo’s engineering DNA. The shared concepts are obvious: Cable routing, front wheel to down tube proximity, fork crown, seat stay/seat tube union, seatpost binder bolt, rear wheel cut out and even a minor inspiration in the bottom bracket. These aerodynamic details took Cervelo years to develop. While most other companies in the aerodynamic road category are newcomers to aero bike design, it is where Cervelo started. As a result, aero road bikes are a natural extension of Cervelo’s engineering specialty. They’re an aero bike company.

“While most companies are new to aero road bike design, this is where Cervelo started.”

Because of their engineering (not marketing) based product development Cervelo product introductions have historically been significant. When Cervelo introduced the P3 it touched off an entire generation of bikes from other brands that mimicked its appearance (if not engineering). The P3 established what a time trial/triathlon bike should look like for the last decade.

Cervelo’s S5 is the first of the aero road bikes to combine 5 key aerodynamic features for a tangible performance benefit.

Cervelo’s success with an engineering approach to product development extended to their road line with the development of the “R” series ride quality bikes and “S” series aerodynamic road bikes. The “R” and “S” series are two distinctly different bike types with specific engineering features and benefits for specific goals. You either wanted an “R” series bike for its stiffness or an “S” bike for the aerodynamic benefit.

But what if you wanted both? In one bike? That is where S5 becomes significant.

Cervelo’s BBright bottom bracket improves stiffness, aerodynamics by concealing the entire bearing and improves drivetrain performance. Note the asymmetrical offset of the bottom bracket and the difference in width of the chain stays.

Another noteworthy addition to the S5 is the BBright asymmetric bottom bracket. BBright uses a 30 millimeter oversized bottom bracket axle combined with a bottom bracket offset to one side of the bike resulting in greater frame stiffness and better aerodynamics. The bottom bracket on the S5 isn’t centered on the bike; it sits off to one side, making the bottom bracket stiffer and more aerodynamic. The bearings are housed entirely inside the frame making it more aerodynamic: No bearings sticking out. BBright is supported by SRAM, FSA, Rotor, Tune and others with the use of an adapter. In fact, cranks from Zipp, Campagnolo and Shimano also install on a BBright configured frame. Another benefit to BB right for 10 speed drivetrains is improved chain line. The chainrings are centered on the rear cogs better making your crossover gears work better. BBright is a seemingly subtle feature that offers significant benefits.

“BBright is a seemingly subtle feature that offers significant benefits.”

With Cervelo’s BBright the entire over sized bearing is housed inside the frame providing better stiffness and aerodynamics.

The aerodynamics engineered during the development of the P4 meet the frame stiffness features of BBright on the S5.  While other brands have gone to much wider tubes for frame stiffness Cervelo has maintained wind tunnel and competitively proven shapes while integrating increased bottom bracket stiffness. It’s stiffer without being wider. Additionally, the bearings are housed inside the frame resulting in a measureable drag savings, one of five significant aerodynamic refinements unique to the Cervelo S5.

“The S5’s optimized aerodynamics from the P4 meet the frame stiffness features of BBright. It’s stiffer without being wider.”

The 5 Things.

Cervelo includes five performance features on the new S5 that are unique:

  1. Dropped Down Tube/ Fork Crown. The down tube and fork crown are closer to the front wheel, filling in the area between the front wheel and frame. This reduces drag by a measureable amount.
  2. Designed for Bottles. Cervelo pioneered the integration of water bottles on the frame to enhance aerodynamics with their P4. That concept is executed on the S5 with optimized bottle mounting including a specific provision for aero bottles.
  3. Cut Out for Rear Wheel. Proven in the wind tunnel and competitively for years on the P3 and now the P4, the rear wheel cut-out goes to the road category on the S5.
  4. Shielding Seat Stays. The union of the seat stays to the seat tube is horizontal to the boundary layer of air and creates a fairing for the brake reducing drag.
  5. BBright Bottom Bracket. Improves bottom bracket stiffness and aerodynamics.

Cervelo is hanging their hat on the combination of these five things, and it’s a good hat rack. The other bikes in this category may have one or two similar ideas, but none incorporate all five. That is a strong engineering argument for Cervelo.

The 5 Features: Wheel close to down tube/integrated fork for better aerodynamics. Best mounting position for water bottles to improve aerodynamics. Rear wheel cut out for improved aerodynamics. Seat stays provide fairing for better rear brake aerodynamics. BBright bottom bracket for better aerodynamics and mechanical performance.

From an ownership perspective the Cervelo S5 appears to be an elegant and simple bike to own and maintain. The cable routing is clean and easy to service. The seatpost binder assembly is Cervelo’s best interpretation of this design yet- no slipping, good grip, easy to work with and modular.

The seatpost on the Cervelo S5 is a two position post, making this a more versatile bike than Cervelo is mentioning. With the saddle in the forward position a steep enough effective seat tube angle for aerobars can be achieved. That’s big news for many triathletes who may want a bike with a steep-ish head tube angle and a higher head tube.

Cervelo’s clean internal cable routing is used on the S5. The new aero/integrated seatpost binder bolt is low profile, easy to replace if necessary and very easy to adjust. Paint quality is preserved with this design also.

The fit on the S5 is optimized for the most important aerodynamic benefit a rider can have: Good position. The S5 has a higher head tube than other aero road bikes. This is actually more aerodynamic for the majority of riders since the head tube of the frame reaches to the rider, not a stack of round headset spacers. This is also stiffer laterally and absorbs road shock better. Many riders will use the S5 with no spacers at all, the way we see most bikes be ridden by the top pros. The problem for us, the non-professional rider, is we couldn’t ride most other bikes without headset spacers under the stem- it would be too uncomfortable. On the S5 your set-up and mine will look just like the pros on Garmin-Cervelo.

“You are more aerodynamic on an S5 with no headset spacers than on a lower head tube bike with 4 cm of spacers.”

Another aerodynamic feature of the S5 is the higher head tube that reduces the need for round headset spacers.

Another nice detail on the S5 is the option to mount your water bottles in the most aerodynamic place on the bike. This actually makes a measureable difference in bike aerodynamics amounting to more than a few seconds over 40 km. That advantage may be lost on you until you miss the last place in your age category at the local race by only 4 seconds. There are three bottle bolts on the down tube so a bottle can be mounted in the high position when two cages are carried or in the lower position when only one bottle is used in shorter events. The lower bottle mount is more aerodynamic with one bottle cage on the bike. For timed events an Arundel aero bottle can be installed on the seat tube (optimally) or the down tube for the best possible frame/bottle aerodynamics. Carrying the Arundel bottle on the seat tube mimics super-low drag numbers seen during the development of Cervelo’s P4, another lesson learned from that development process.

Bottle mounting can be tuned on the Cervelo S5 to achieve best possible aerodynamics. The seat tube mount (left) with the Arundel bottle and cage is the most is the most aerodynamic configuration according to Cervelo.

Rear brake mounting on the S5 is accomplished the same way Cervelo mounts the rear brake on their P3. The brake is mounted to a simple plate with an aligning pin and the plate/brake assembly mounts to the seat stay union. This area in front of the brake caliper forms the fairing that manages the boundary layer of air surrounding the brake. This is a strong design since it provides great rear brake performance while improving aerodynamics.

The seat stays provide a fairing for the rear brake caliper. Rear brake mounting is similar to Cervelo’s proven P3 rear brake.

A final design theme from the P4 is the aerodynamic chainstays. A tremendous amount of work went into the wind tunnel development of the chainstays on the P4 so being able to use that theme combined with BBright is another technology dividend from the P4 development process. The chainstays mostly provide a smooth transition for low speed, turbulent air moving around the drivetrain.

Chain stays borrow their shape from the development of the Cervelo P4 rear end. These are optimized for lowest drag.

Like all of Cervelo’s aerodynamic designs the S5 is a bike optimized through many small details. How much time does an aero chainstay save you? Realistically- not all that much. However, the cumulative improvement of all the aerodynamic benefits on the Cervelo S5 working together amount to a tangible performance benefit over bikes without this combination of features. It isn’t any one feature that optimizes aerodynamic performance; it is the combination of subtle features that provide a tangible benefit.

“It isn’t any one feature that optimizes performance; it is the combination of subtle features that provide a tangible benefit.”

Like almost all of Cervelo’s designs the S5 is built on the principle that aerodynamics- of rider and of bike- are more important than weight or frame stiffness. Cervelo proved this in their famous “Col de la Tipping Point” presentation:

The premise of aerodynamics over weight was re-proven during the famous uphill time trial on L’Alpe d’ Huez in the 2004 Tour de France. How steep a climb has to be before weight is more important than aerodynamics depends on how much the rider weighs and how fast they are. A lighter, faster rider going uphill reaches the “tipping point” around an 8% grade. For a slower rider it may be closer to a sustained 5% grade. The change in overall time then becomes a function of how much climbing there is over the entire length of a given ride. For a rider climbing Mt. Lemmon in Tucson, Arizona- one of the longest paved climbs in the United States, it’s worth knowing the average gradient is 3.6%  over 51.81 kilometers (32.19 miles) according to “Col de la Tipping Point” proves that for the average rider climbing Mt. Lemmon, body and frame aerodynamics is still more important than weight.

“Col de la Tipping Point” proves that for the average rider climbing Mt. Lemmon body and frame aerodynamics is still more important than weight.”

Old timers and light weight enthusiasts may doubt the findings of “Col de la Tipping Point” but the math can’t be argued away. Even on most climbs aerodynamics is still more important than weight.

The variable geometry seatpost with two different effective seat tube angle ranges provides a useful resource for someone who wants to use the bike for triathlons with aerobars and a steep seat tube angle as well as road riding.

I set up the Cervelo S5 in two different orientations for a test ride: The forward seat angle orientation with bolt-on aerobars and the conventional road position. In both set-ups I ran the stem on the head tube- no spacers under the stem. Road bike handling is predictably good, the tight rear wheel providing a nice measure of quick acceleration during the first few pedal strokes. I liked the rear end on this bike much better than Scott’s Foil which is very stiff in the front and trifle sleepy behind the bottom bracket.

With an aero cockpit bolted on the S5 was a capable tri-position bike.

The triathlon/steeper effective seat tube set-up on the Cervelo S5 winds up at 78.2 degrees using the forward saddle mounting position on the seatpost and a 30 cm long Profile Tri Stryke or Fizik Arione Tri Saddle. This is slacker than I ride on my dedicated triathlon set-up with a P3 by about 3 degrees. For the rider who may not sit at a steep seat tube angle with an open torso to leg relationship the S5 may provide as steep a seat angle as they will ever need for use with aerobars. Handling is responsive in the aero set up, more responsive than the purpose built steep seat angle bikes. For a triathlon with a lot of rolling hills and/or big climbs with technical descents the S5 would be perfect. Combine that with its great road set-up and this is two bike set ups on one good frame set.

Cervelo has had success with this dual-position seatpost design on several bikes dating back to the P3.

The Cervelo S5 is sold in three different carbon lay-ups spread over five models. The difference in carbon fiber lay-up, or how the carbon fiber is placed in the mold, makes each successive frame level stiffer and lighter by approximately 100 grams of frame weight and 10% stiffness. I asked a Cervelo tech rep if a consumer would notice the difference between the three lay-ups during a ride, “Absolutely” was his response.

“The Cervelo S5 is sold in three different carbon lay-ups spread over five models.”

I’m a long torso rider with shorter legs. My favorite triathlon bike is Cervelo’s P3. It’s worth mentioning Cervelo has never given me a bike or compensated me in any way for a review, but I do continue to acknowledge their superb engineering compared to other brands in the areas of aerodynamics, fit and mechanical details. They’ve earned the acknowledgement.

During my ride of the S5 in both orientations I found the head tube as high as I would ever want on a bike in my frame size. I would normally ride a 54cm Cervelo P3 and R3 and have also used a 51cm frame size in some of their earlier road bikes and the aluminum P3 that pre-dated the carbon fiber P3. For riders trending toward a shorter torso and longer legs the S5 becomes an even more attractive option. It is a bike proportioned for the middle 80%. With my long torso and tendency to sit low, long and steep I become a bit of an outlier. I actually looked at the geometry chart on the 51cm S5 to see if I may be better off on that frame size than the 54cm test bike we received. Probably not. In the road orientation on a 54cm S5 I would make good use of the drop handlebars for hard solo efforts- and that is why road bikes have drop handlebars to begin with.

Cervelo new model introductions tend to be game-changers for the industry and the S5 joins that legacy. The five aerodynamic features combined with the unique, real-world “way we ride” fit and position on the S5 to make it a standout in the emerging aero-road category, a category Cervelo is an old hand at. For other bike companies trying to compete against Cervelo’s new S5 dual-position aerodynamic road bike they now have a very high bar to clear. I don’t see any other manufacturer with the same combination of unique features and benefits in an aero road bike. This is another aero category Cervelo owns.

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2011 Kestrel 4000 Wed, 29 Jun 2011 00:27:03 +0000 Kestrel introduced molded aerodynamic frames in the 1980s with the iconic Kestrel 4000. The name plate is back on a completely new design that serves its heritage well.]]>

By Tom Demerly.

Kestrel's new 4000 is a worthy namesake to the original molded carbon fiber aerodynamic bike from the 1980's.

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Remember the Kestrel 4000? It was the first widely marketed, molded, aerodynamic carbon fiber bike. It was the Bicycling Magazine “Bike of the Year” when introduced in the 1980’s, was ridden by Lance Armstrong, Mark Allen, Greg LeMond and won the Race Across AMerica (RAAM) in 1987 under ultra-distance specialist Michael Secrest. The all-carbon fiber, molded (not bonded) aerodynamic frame used parallel 73 degree head tube and seat tube angles designed for Kestrel Bicycles by frame master builder Tom Kellogg. In every way the original Kestrel 4000 sent shock waves through the bike industry that reverberate to this day. What is the current state of the art in triathlon cycling? It is still the molded carbon fiber aerodynamic frame.

Two original Kestrels that inspired not only the latest Kestrel 4000 but an entire generation of molded composite aerodynamic triathlon bikes. Photos: Monofin.

Unfortunately for Kestrel they were missing one thing: The brain of Dan Empfield. Empfield and Ralph Ray were working with frame builders at almost exactly the same time as the Kestrel 4000’s release to build a frame geometry designed “from the aerobars back”. It benefitted triathletes and “biathletes” that were running off the bike. A few seasons after the initial release of the Kestrel 4000 a steep-seat tube angle bike with 650c wheels (de rigueur for triathletes at the time) called the Kestrel KM40 was released using the same construction techniques as the original Kestrel 4000. Kestrel had become the aero brand, one of the very first bike brands triathletes identified with.

Kestrel called upon that heritage with the new Kestrel 4000, a bike similar to the original 4000 in name only. The new Kestrel 4000 is a molded carbon aero bike of an entirely new generation. Of course, the design has completely changed, and the new Kestrel 4000 shed its 650c wheels for 700c’s and retained a steep-ish seat angle bias as a tri-specific design. It has also brought some new lessons from Kestrel’s seat-tubeless design, the Airfoil PRO.

A robust front end with an integrated fork crown and 73 degree head tube angle make the front of the Kestrel 2000 lively and responsive.

Starting at the front Kestrel begins the new 4000 with a robust and capable fork. A fork performs myriad duties: It steers, maintains stability and absorbs road shock. The fork design on the new Kestrel 4000 is a straight bladed affair that partially integrates into the down tube. The result of the robust fork blades and crown on a full carbon fiber steer tube is a responsive front end. Add to that a 73 degree head angle and this bike has a road bike front end pulling a tri bike rear end. If you are descending off the Col de Vence at Ironman France or on the technical descents in the Maritime Alps of the Monaco 70.3 bike course this is what you want. If you are fighting boredom in the third hour of riding a straight line on the Queen K while arm-wrestling the Mumuku Crosswinds on Highway 19 then this steering is a bit of a handful.

Head tube height on this bike is moderately low with only 20 millimeters of change over five sizes that roll on 700c wheels. The miniscule 47cm version turns a pair of 650c’s and is a great problem solver bike for small athletes who can’t find anything other than a custom geometry order form. Founder Seton Claggett rode a new Kestrel 4000 at the recent Lifetime Fitness Leadman Tri Epic 250.

Our primary test pilot for the Kestrel 4000 is Founder Seton Claggett. Claggett is entering the meat of his Ironman “build” phase for a fall Ironman campaign at Ironman Arizona. He is putting in 5-7 hour days on his Kestrel 4000 on brutal training evolutions that combine the largest ascents in the Tucson area. One thing Seton discovered early on about the front end of the Kestrel 4000 is the annoying propensity for the cable routing cover to pop off. The cable routing on this bike is good- it enters the top tube behind the head tube in a manner similar to other brands like Felt, but unlike Felt, the entry to the frame isn’t elegant. It’s a minor but conspicuous nick.

The curvaceous top tube melds into the seat stays producing a very small, tight rear triangle. The low angle of the seatstays intersecting with the seat tube proved great lateral stiffness but also plenty of shock absorption becasue of the low angle of the seat stays.

The down tube and top tube are aero-styled and provide gutsy enough performance for Claggett to report solid stiffness under pedal load at the bottom bracket. A valid criticism Seton voiced was a lack of options for carrying bottles: there is one bottle mount on the down tube. Claggett has gone to a Profile Design aerobar mount for his  Zipp horizontal bottle cage to carry a second bottle on his aerobars. On very long rides he wears a Camelbak hydration pack.

As the stays surround the rear wheel additional composite is molded in for lateral stiffness and damping of road vibration.

The bike becomes truly interesting at the seat tube and rear triangle. This area appears to combine design themes from the curved seat tube genre of the Cervelo P3 and the graceful arch of the seat-tubeless Airfoil Pro. A benefit is a very small rear triangle. The small rear triangle assists drivetrain performance by being stiffer and snaps-up the ride quality in the back. A pair of massive seat stays shores up the seat tube area. The seatpost is clamped with a replaceable, albeit proprietary, alloy collar and may require trimming depending on how low you need your saddle. An adjustable saddle clamp sits on top of the seatpost and most triathletes will have this in the forward orientation since the Kestrel 4000 sits at about 76 degree seat angle- not quite a total tri bike but somewhat moderated perhaps in concert with the 73 degree head angle. Seton uses a 30cm Fizik Arione Tri saddle on his Kestrel 4000, an excellent choice since it provides that useful extra 3cm of saddle length (and effective seat tube angle) over a standard 27 cm saddle.

The seatpost head provides some measure of effective seat tube angle adjustment and adjusts relatively easily. The rear brake requires attention to detail when installing and adjustment but holds its adjustment well and delivers adequate stopping power.

The brakes on the Kestrel 4000 are TRP T-920 Aeros, a center pull brake we’ve seen on other aero bike applications. It works fairly well with careful initial setup. The brake can be fussy about adjustments if you aren’t familiar with it, but becomes easy to work with after practice.

The rear dropouts are a tight squeeze with traditional Shimano quick release skewers. Seton Claggett's test bike wears a stock Shimano Ultegra kit with the splendid new hollow-forged crank set.

At the back of the bike a pair of replaceable alloy dropouts bolt to the frame but restrict quick removal of the rear wheel with an Ultegra derailleur and a full-sized quick release skewer. This necessitated the removal of the skewer end on the drive side to get the rear wheel off. I tried a smaller Zipp quick release skewer and it was better but still not easy to remove from the rear triangle. It simply takes a little extra work to remove and replace the rear wheel on this bike. That could have implications if you flatted during a race.

Considering the influence and legacy of the original Kestrel 4000 from the 1980’s this new version of the Kestrel 4000 is a worthy tribute if not a similarly ground-breaking successor. It does provide a viable other option in Kestrel’s livery of unique and credible designs. Considering a few interesting fit characteristics this remains a relevant bike in the sport.

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The new Kestrel 4000 closes the evolutionary loop for Kestrel incorporating their entire history of industry-changing innovations.
2011 Felt F4 Road Bike Fri, 24 Jun 2011 22:27:17 +0000 Felt’s Ultegra equipped F4 is a legacy model in their road line. For 2011 it has a new frame but maintains the value in early versions. See the leader in this crowded category here. ]]>
The completely redesigned 2011 Felt F4 makes use of the new "F" series frame design and proven Shimano component spec on the best wheel set in this price range.

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The economics of bike design mean a manufacturer does well to design composite bike molds for several model years over a number of models. Felt Racing has been a practitioner of this philosophy since molded carbon fiber became the industry standard. The 2011 Felt F4 benefits from a recent mold change spread over all of Felt’s “F” series road bikes. It is the best version of the popular F4 road bike yet, with an all new frame design and geometry set proven by Felt’s involvement with top professional cycling teams.

The Felt F series road bikes are real road racers; low and long. In their previous versions there were interesting departures from the traditional road geometry of parallel 73 degree seat and head tubes. As the bikes got smaller on earlier versions, the seat tube angles got steeper, with a 52cm F4 from the old molds wearing a 76 degree seat tube angle that was more at home on some brand’s triathlon geometry chart.

“It simply rides like a bike much more expensive than its price.”

The previous version Felt "F" Series bikes were originally used at the highest levels of professional road racing, including the Tour de France. Feedback from these early designs shaped the new, redesigned "F" Series for 2011.

For 2011 the Felt “F” series adopts a true road geometry inspired by their pro team involvement and the influence of their Road Brand Manager, Dave Koesel. The steepest seat tube angle is the 74.5 degree angle on their minuscule 48cm frame size. As the sizes approach the more common area of the geometry chart, size 54cm, 56cm and 58cm the angles become much more like something we’re used to in the peloton of the grand tours and spring classics. The 54cm, 56cm and 58cm Felt “F” series bikes use a 73.5 degree seat tube angle.

When you do a spread sheet survey of the Ultegra equipped road bikes from top brands the wheelset, recent redesign and price of the 2011 Felt F4 make it a standout in this category. Seat tube and head tube angles shown in this comparison are from 54cm framesets.

There are seven bikes in the newly redesigned Felt “F” road series that share this geometry set, beginning with the Tour de France proven F1 and trickling toward the optimal conversion of value and performance at the Felt F4 we’re reviewing here. These seven bikes are differentiated by component set, wheels and most significantly, carbon fiber composition.

Felt's cleverly designed bottom bracket spans the gammut of BB30 and threaded possibilities alloying the customer total flexibility in bottom bracket and crank choice.

The new 2011Felt F4 shares the same frame as the F3 and F2. The F4 also uses a carbon fiber steer tube fork with carbon dropouts for lighter weight and better ride quality. Another mechanical frame detail is the BB30 to 24mm threaded Shimano compatible bottom bracket configuration. This design enables the use of industry standard BB30 bottom brackets along with Shimano cranks as speced on the bike. This thoughtful mechanical detail assures a high degree of forward compatibility with emerging crank technologies. More well conceived details on the F4 include a tapered head tube going from 1.125” on the upper race to a large, stiff 1.5” lower race for great front end performance, ride quality and steering. The replaceable derailleur hanger is particularly robust and assists in precise shifting performance.

Professional race team mechanics will tell you: External cable routing is best. The Felt F4 reflects that professional design ethos.

Cable routing on this bike is traditional external wires meaning cable changes are as easy as they can be. Barrel adjusters are threaded into downtube cable stops for dependable on-the-fly cable tension adjustment.

Felt stayed true to Shimano with pure Shimano component spec all the way to the chain and cogset. That combined with the new frameset provides incredible component performance- perhaps the best performance available from the newest version of the Ultegra component kit. Front shifting from small ring up to large ring has never been better in the industry. The new Shimano Ultegra FC 6700 crank uses the same hollow forge design as the marque Dura-Ace kit. This Hollowtech II crank uses Shimano’s proprietary hollow-forged “Hollowglide” large chainring. This chainring dramatically improves front derailleur performance, especially shifting from the small ring up to the large ring. Another interesting feature is the forward compatibility with Ultegra Di2. The crank spec on the F4 is a full sized, 130 mm bolt pattern 53 tooth large ring turning with a 39 tooth small. This crankset sends power along a genuine Shimano chain to an 11-25 Shimano 10- speed cogset.

The new Shimano Ultegra drivetrain shifts perfectly on the precise Felt frame. This crankset is forward compatible with emerging Shimano components also.

Controls are the new Ultegra ST-6700 dual control lever. This lever has a new pivot location and angular ergonomics to facilitate shorter lever throw, lower actuation pressure and faster shifting. The braking performance from the hoods is especially improved on this new lever. The new finish is dark pewter on the molded composite lever. A wedge adjustment is available to shorten the reach of the brake lever for smaller hands. The shape of the hood has changed slightly from previous Ultegra models.

Improved ergonomics and a redesigned hood along with concealed cables make the new Ultegra integrated brake lever/shifter a joy to use.

Front derailleur uses the new wider link on Ultegra also borrowed from new Dura-Ace. Spring tension has been reduced on the new Ultegra derailleur to makes shifts easier at the shift lever, especially from small ring up to large. This derailleur works with 50 tooth large rings up to 54 tooth large chainring and everything in between. It will cross a 16 tooth difference between large ring and small meaning this derailleur is fully compact crank compatible.

Rear derailleur is the RD-6700-SS with low friction, fluorine coated link pins. The rear derailleur on the Felt F4 can accommodate up to a 28 tooth cog.

Brake pads on the latest Shimano Ultegra brakes provide a claimed "100% improvement" in wet weather stopping power.

The Shimano spec on the F4 extends to the brake calipers with Shimano BR-6700 Super SLR brakes. The brakes have adjustable toe angle and use a new compound brake pad that Shimano claims to have “100% better” braking performance in wet conditions. Changes to the shape of this new caliper make cable routing straighter as it goes into the caliper for better feel, especially on small frames with a low head tube on the front brake.

Strong wheel and tire spec with these excellent, aftermarket quality Mavic Ksyrium wheels rolling on durable straight pull spokes.

With a lot of bikes in this price Category Felt was under pressure to provide not only a nicer frameset but also a tangibly better wheel specification. They easily succeeded with the aftermarket quality, new version Mavic Ksyrium Equipe wheels. This 1690 gram clincher wheelset with alloy rims is 40 grams lighter per wheel than previous versions due to a totally new rim extrusion. The combination of Mavic’s straight pull spokes and optimal positioning of the bearings in the hub shell give great wheel stiffness. Finally, the braking performance on this wheel is quiet and predictable due to the machined finish on the rims. The bike rolls on 23 mm wide Vittoria Rubino Pro tires in a bilious orange color that matches almost nothing else on the bike except the orange rear derailleur cable housing. When you wear these tires out and install black tires the bike looks nicer.

The furniture set on the Felt F4 includes a newly redesigned seatpost with greatly improved adjustment and an excellent alloy bar and stem with four-bolt, front plate bar retention.

Other details on the Felt include a new seatpost that adjusts for saddle angle exclusively from the side. It’s easy to adjust saddle fore/aft and angle. The seatpost head has moderate setback, a thoughtful idea with the new seat tube angles on the F4. The binder collar on the frame is alloy and fully modular so, if you ever break one packing the bike in a flight case it is very easily replaced.

Felt got many other details very right on the F4. The width of the handlebars on the stock 54cm bike was 43cm measured center to center. Finally- wide enough handlebars! The saddle is a basic 27.5 cm long saddle with a flat profile. I could ride this saddle all day- I didn’t perceive a need for an upgrade.

Frame details include clean cable guides under the bottom bracket and robust, responsive straight seat stays that provide a precise interface with the rear wheel.

The first thing I noticed when riding the new Felt F4 is how difficult it would be to guess the price. If you lined this up next to bikes costing up to twice the price differentiating between them would be more a matter of luck than perception. It simply rides like a bike much more expensive than its price. The changes to the front end of the bike, along with the sweeping geometry and mold redesign mean this is not the previous Felt F4. This is a more precise, sportier bike. With its ruler-straight seat stays and robust chainstays this is attentive to the first three pedal strokes of an attack. Given the large lower headset race and hefty bottom bracket you won’t feel much lateral flex. It’s a racer, and it feels like a Tour de France team bike at the cost of the wheels on a pro team grand tour bike.

Peloton-proven performance is built into the fork and head tube. The straight fork legs provide adequate shock absorption and secure, laser-guided handling.

Initially I was puzzled about why Felt wouldn’t rename the new F4 since the entire frame has been redesigned for 2011. Ultimately, the best reason is to continue the legacy of the F4 marque as a value leader. This latest front-to-rear redesign of the F4 adds “performance leader” to the list of attributes as the sweet spot in Felt’s new F series road bikes. No survey of the Ultegra equipped road category is complete without a thorough examination of this superb offering from Felt. I go so far as to give it best in category of the sub-$4000 range.

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Felt's 2011 F4 is an all-new redesign of the proven F4. It is a great convergence of performance and value in a road race bike.
2011 Scott Foil Road Bike Tue, 14 Jun 2011 23:54:39 +0000 Scott’s new Foil road bike enters the fray of angry-stiff pack racers designed for mixing it up after passing under the red kite. See it here. ]]>

2011 Scott Foil

By Tom Demerly.

Scott's new Foil series of road bikes incorporate frame stiffness and aerodynamic design themes in one bike.

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Scott Bicycle’s new Foil series of four road bikes enters the market to combine two previously conflicting design themes: Frame stiffness and aerodynamics. Previous model offerings from Felt and Cervelo separated these two categories: The aerodynamic road bike, such as Felt’s AR and Cervelo’s S series; and the ride quality or stiffness bikes with the Felt F series and the Cervelo R bikes. Scott’s new Foil road bikes attempt to combine stiffness and frame aerodynamics into one package.

On one account they have succeeded, on the other, I can’t tell.

The Scott Foil road bikes include four models, Foil Premium, Team Issue, R1 and our test bike, the Ultegra equipped R2 at $3699.95. The bikes use a new frame shape to provide both a (claimed) aerodynamic and stiffness benefit. This new frame family shares the Scott catalog with their previous Addict road bikes.

The Aerodynamics:

The basis of the aerodynamic claims made by Scott for the Foil design is the recent “truncated” air foil theme we see from Trek and others. This is different from the wing-cross section airfoil from Cervelo. The shape or section of the “wing” is chopped off about half way back with an abrupt flat surface. There is no sharp trailing edge. The argument is; the flow of air surrounding the frame at speed, the boundary layer, detaches with less drag and more smoothly at the trailing edge.

This graphic from Scott's CFD or "Computatonal Fluid Dynamics" process shows the computed behavior of vortices on the trailing edge of the Foil frame, depicted as the red areas. This virtual process was used to develop the unique shape of the Scott Foil.

Scott’s promotional video for the Foil development process shows a lot of CFD development, Computational Fluid Dynamics. CFD is a computer modeling process for testing and developing fluid mechanics in a virtual setting. You can do “virtual wind tunnel testing” with CFD on a computer screen. You don’t have to go to the wind tunnel with a real set of prototypes. Scott used the Mercedes-Benz Formula 1 development wind tunnel for verification of the CFD developed Foil design, a sexy marketing association with F1.

Left: The truncated airfoil shape is visible on the down tube. Right: The top tube is shaped to increase stiffness toward the head tube.

The truncated wing shape of the Scott Foil is also compliant with the UCI’s technical rules for a 3 to 1 ratio of tube depth to tube width. If you look at Cervelo’s aero bikes they achieve UCI compliance with the 3 to 1 ratio by being quite narrow in overall width. The Scott bike is much wider. To be UCI compliant with the 3 to 1 rule they simply had to cut the tail off. This achieves other design agendas as well, mostly frame stiffness.

Left: A relatively small seat tube melds into the massive bottom bracket. Center: The oversized head tube. Right: The oversized bottom bracket, seat stay and down tube union.

Does it work to reduce drag?  There is likley no way to verify this short of an independent wind tunnel test. VeloNews Tech Editors Caley Fretz and Nick Legan conducted a ground breaking, independent wind tunnel test of four road bikes for the April 2011 edition of VeloNews, but the Scott Foil was not one of the four tested. If you subscribe to Former President Ronald Reagan’s dictum of, “Trust… but verify” we’ll have to wait for verification of Scott’s claims about the drag reducing concept used on the Scott Foil. Scott claims the FO1 concept- the developmental name of the Scott Foil aerodynamic concept, “showed the best competitive results of six competitors’ bikes” in a promotional video. They did not name the six competitors’ bikes.

In addition to being a great looking bike, the ride of the Scott Foil is exciting and animated, although not plush.

The Ride.

Stiffness. It is your first impression of the Scott Foil. From front to back the lateral stiffness is superb. The only bike I can compare this level of lateral stiffness to is Cervelo’s previous R3SL. That may be no coincidence since Cervelo and Scott have shared composite vendors.

Large, straight seat stays, a compact rear triangle with integrated seatpost binder bolt and the uniquely shaped seatpost and seat tube all contribute to the stiffness.

Ride quality- how much you feel the bumps, is often related to stiffness and the Scott Foil is not exempt. In exchange for the incredible stiffness you are going to feel some bumps- some, but not all, and it is a reasonable exchange for such great lateral rigidity. The minor road irregularities I rolled over at speed. The heavy hits: hang on. So much of your ride “feel” or sensation of the road comes from your wheel and tire choice the Scott Foil’s edgy ride quality could be tamed with a pair of mushy Michelin 25 mm tires as opposed to the stiff, precise riding 23 mm Continentals that came on our test bike.

The straight seat stays and slightly curved, robust chainstays not only provde ride stiffness but improve drivetrain performance and shifting.

The anomaly of the Scott Foil’s ride is the rear end. With a bike this stiff I expected it to explode forward with an out of the saddle effort. It doesn’t, and that’s odd. I couldn’t get back to the geometry chart fast enough to see what was going on. I just came off a road test of the BH G5 road bike. The rear end on the BH G5 is one of the most superbly designed rear triangle geometries I’ve ever ridden. When you do five hard pedal strokes out of the saddle the BH G5 responds with splendid and attentive acceleration- despite having a rather sedate mid-section and front end. The BH uses a slacker 72.5 degree seat tube angle and short 40.2 cm chainstays. The Scott Foil has a 73.3 degree seat tube angle in front of 40.5 cm chainstays. Do 1.2 degrees of seat angle and only 3 millimeters of chainstay length make a tangible difference in ride quality? By themselves, maybe not. It is the combined effect of slightly longer chain stays, slightly steeper seat tube angle and the seated stiffness of the unusual triangular seatpost on the Scott Foil– along with other frame features including the invisible influence of carbon lay-up that provide angry stiffness in the saddle, but less response out of the seat. It’s an odd contradiction.

The  Frame and Fit.

Geometry across the chart on the Scott Foil tracks with the Scott Addict road bikes. My company bike is a Scott Addict. I like the head tube height, top tube length and overall fit. With the high-ish head tube on the Scott, 140 millimeters on a 54cm frame, I run a low stem and no spacers. The front end stays stiff and precise.

The new design of the frame is striking in appearance. The seatpost binder bolt is integrated into the frame and cable routing is internal, entering the frame early for less exposed cable housing on the outside of the bike. The rear derailleur cable doesn’t emerge until you get to the end of the right chainstay. Headset is tapered from 1&1/8” to 1&1/4” on the lower race. The frame uses press fit bottom bracket cups, like most current frame designs. The seatpost itself is an unusual shape, not round, that makes rotational adjustment impossible and has a minimal set-back, steepening the effective seat tube angle range. The saddle clamp adjusts infinitely with one 5 mm bolt from the right side, an elegant and convenient design.

Left: The aerodynamic theme is well executed with the cable routing. Cables enter the frame close to the handlebars for minimal exposure to the wind. Right: The seatpost head is an elegantly designed and easy to use single bolt design- one of the best I've seen.

A feature that caught my attention in one of the promotional videos for the Scott Foil was a faired-in water bottle holder that attached to the bottle braze-ons. This aerodynamic integration idea has been used on the Cervelo P4 and the Trek Speed Concept 9 Series but is a new idea on road bikes. I hope Scott releases this bottle carrying option for the Foil.

The Kit.

The Foil R2 we tested was a Shimano Ultegra 6700 series bike with the option of a compact 50/34 crank or a full size, 130 mm bolt pattern 53/39 crank. Brake calipers continued the Ultegra spec. Furniture on this bike was a Scott labeled original equipment saddle and a Scott alloy stem and bar, both of which I like. The bike rolls on Mavic Cosmic Elites with 20 bladed spokes front and rear over the Continental 700 X 23c Ultra Race tires.

The Ultegra equipped Scott Foil uses a "pure" Shimano kit with nice Mavic Cosmic wheels and color-keyed cockpit and saddle. The Continental tires are a nice feature also compared to other original equipment tires.

If Scott set out to build an attention getting frame with superb looks, remarkable stiffness and an arguable aerodynamic case the Foil achieves those agendas. I wish they had fortified their rear end geometry to match their racy lay-up, but the case for Scott’s Tour de France proven geometry is well established. That case, combined with the new frame design of the Foil bikes, makes for a tangibly different and compelling introduction from Scott. If you’re looking for a professional level race bike the Scott Foil belongs in your survey.

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Scott's Foil bikes combine the agendas of aerodynamics and frame stiffness into one nice looking package. If you can't find a bike that is stiff enough for your taste, try a Scott Foil.