Bike Reviews – TriSports University https://university.trisports.com The place to learn about triathlon. Thu, 04 Oct 2018 22:53:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 https://university.trisports.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/cropped-tsu-button-32x32.png Bike Reviews – TriSports University https://university.trisports.com 32 32 Product Review: Flaer Revo Via https://university.trisports.com/2017/07/26/product-review-flaer-revo-via/ Wed, 26 Jul 2017 22:52:33 +0000 http://www.university.trisports.com/?p=8528 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.

Installation
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!

Buy This Product Now on TriSports.com
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.

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Ceramic Bearings: Save a Watt, Spend a Lot https://university.trisports.com/2016/12/08/ceramic-bearings-save-a-watt-spend-a-lot/ Thu, 08 Dec 2016 17:55:57 +0000 http://www.university.trisports.com/?p=7816 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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

photo-credit-jespergronnemarkphotography

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.

Buy This Product Now on TriSports.com

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.

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Product Review: NiteRider Lumina 950 Boost Bicycle Light and Sentinel 150 Tail Light https://university.trisports.com/2016/11/11/product-review-niterider-lumina-950-boost-sentinel-150/ Fri, 11 Nov 2016 19:32:27 +0000 http://www.university.trisports.com/?p=7764 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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

Review
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.

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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.

Quality
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.

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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!

Buy This Product Now on TriSports.com

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.

 

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Mountain Biking for Dummies: The Frame https://university.trisports.com/2016/11/04/mountain-biking-for-dummies-the-frame/ Fri, 04 Nov 2016 22:45:13 +0000 http://www.university.trisports.com/?p=7709 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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

Buy This Product Now on TriSports.com

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.

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Beginner’s Guide to Bike Tubes https://university.trisports.com/2016/10/17/beginners-guide-to-bike-tubes/ Mon, 17 Oct 2016 13:44:46 +0000 http://university.tri-sports.com/?p=7022 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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

nate-deck

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! https://university.trisports.com/2016/01/21/is-the-smart-trainer-smarter-than-you-5-reasons-to-upgrade-this-trainer-season/ Thu, 21 Jan 2016 19:20:44 +0000 http://university.tri-sports.com/?p=6690 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

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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.

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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!

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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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