Bike Reviews – TriSports University https://university.trisports.com The place to learn about triathlon. Thu, 10 May 2018 23:38:52 +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:

vittoria-rubino-pro-speed-g-clincher-tire-25

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.

vittoria-corsa-speed-g-tubular-tire-25

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.

bicycle_tires_how_to_choose_5

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.

silca-removable-valve-core-extensions-4-sizes-13

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

tacx-vortex-smart-indoor-trainer-12

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!

wahoo-kickr-snap-bike-trainer-15

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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Litespeed M1 and the $2000 Road Bike https://university.trisports.com/2011/01/21/litespeed-m1-and-the-2000-road-bike/ Fri, 21 Jan 2011 19:38:54 +0000 http://university.tri-sports.com/?p=1377 The about-$2000 road bike is a crowded category. We provide an insight into how we buy from this important category and reveal a stand out candidate from this important buy-in point to road cycling here. ]]>

By Tom Demerly. 

Litespeed M1 Carbon Road Bike
Litespeed's new M1 with SRAM Apex represents a strong and unique option in the crowded $2000 road bike category.

 

The Importance of the $2000 Road Bike.

Reviewing road bikes in the “about $2000” category is like trench warfare: It goes on forever, there are a lot of soldiers and it feels like a stalemate. Until you find something different. 

The $2000 road bike category is so important because it tends to be a first bike buy-in for many high end consumers. This is not so much a review of the important $2000 road bike category or any one bike. It is more an attempt to flush out something other than generic. It’s also an insight into how we buy bikes. This data will help you decide and show you how to make meaningful comparisons on your own and will propose one of my favorites in this category. 

A Note on Shopping for Your First Road Bike.

Shopping for your first road bike is more involved than just a spreadsheet analysis and a quick test ride. Fit and positioning are the most important determining factors in a good ownership experience. I also don’t like buying a bike largely by component group. As a product category gets more crowded it becomes more difficult to shake out the true winners. Since the $2000 road bike category is a common “buy in” it is very crowded. It takes something tangibly different to shake out the exceptional. 

“Test rides, in general, are a poor evaluative tool. Fit and positioning are the most important…” 

 Because the bikes in this category are so similar a test ride won’t reveal the differences. Test rides, in general, are a poor evaluative tool. A test ride bike hasn’t been optimally fitted to you, the tire pressure and other variables that influence the ride are rarely held in control and very few new shoppers do test rides with their cycling clothing, pedals and shoes over a long enough duration to produce an accurate impression. 

My best recommendation is to prioritize the purchase: First, buy what fits. No other factor will influence your enjoyment (or lack thereof) than bike fit and position. Second, look at frame construction, design and material quality. A bit of detective work is usually required here. Third, buy the component kit you find easiest to use with the best feature set. Fourth, do you have a dealer who can work on the bike and perform warranty service? Fifth, do you like the way it looks? 

Litespeed M1 Carbon Road Bike
Sport-touring bikes dominate the $2000 price point and are ideal for most non-racing cyclists who ride as a fitness activity.

 

Geometrically this entire category tends to have higher head tubes with the exception of brands like Felt and Specialized who offer two different geometries in two separate bikes at this price range; a low head tube road racer and a higher head tube sport bike. This is a strong reason to consider these brands. You and your bike fitter decide whether you want a high head tube bike or a low head tube bike. 

Road Bike Comparison Chart
Head tube heights in this category range from a high of 165 mm on the Specialized Roubaix to a low 120 mm on the Felt F5. Note the relaxed head angle on the Litespeed M1, which provides more stable handling and front end comfort. This comparison provides substantial insight into how bikes within this category will ride and feel.

 

And the Components… SRAM or Shimano?

Pick your component brand: SRAM or Shimano. While debates swirl about these two warring factions SRAM offers some interesting distinctions. The SRAM shifter allows you to pull the shifter paddle all the way back to the drop bars and still shift. For racers the advantage is clear: You can shift easily from the drops while sprinting out of the saddle. For sport riders this may not be a big deal. The shifter paddle on the SRAM lever only performs one function: Shifting. With Shimano STI the brake lever also shifts the chain up the cogset to an easier gear on the rear, and to the big ring from the small. There is that rare occasion when a shift also turns into braking. That’s annoying, maybe even a little dangerous. 

Litespeed M1 Carbon Road Bike
SRAM Apex Double-Tap levers provide excellent ergonomics including the ability to shift with the lever pulled all the way to the drops and the ability to adjust the reach of the lever to the size of the rider's hands. This is particularly important to riders with small hands.

 

SRAM Apex offers a wider range of gearing with two chain rings. This eliminates any need for a triple. A double chainring equipped bike is lighter, mechanically simpler and tends to shift better. SRAM even offers a functional 11-32 gearing option for SRAM Apex, but on the Litespeed M1 you’ll need to install the mid cage version of the Apex rear derailleur. If you ride the 11-32 with standard 50/34 compact gearing you can almost climb a wall in low gear. The ratio is nearly 1:1. There is almost no high gear sacrifice either since a 50/11 is a very large top gear. 

The SRAM Apex Double Tap shifter/brake lever is also adjustable for reach- you can adjust the levers closer to the handlebars for smaller hands. Shimano offers a difficult to find capability to reduce brake lever reach, but it isn’t built into the lever. SRAM is a better option for people with small hands. 

SRAM Apex didn’t start as a touring group. In the 2008 Giro d’ Italia the difficult 16th stage was a 12.9 kilometer uphill time trial in the Italian Alps at the Plan de Corones, a hard-packed, gravel road with gradients above 23%. The stage was so difficult Andrew Hood of Velo-News quoted Slipstream’s David Millar as saying “This race is just insane! ..just ridiculous!” Race leader Alberto Contador was concerned he could not maintain traction on the gravel if he climbed while standing on the pedals. His mechanic combined SRAM mountain bike components with road components- compatible because of the 1:1 actuation ratio unique to SRAM road and off road components- to fashion the first inspiration for SRAM Apex. This gave Contador a low enough gear ratio to climb while seated. While Contador did not win the stage (Franco Pellizotti did), he maintained his lead and went on to win the race. 

Litespeed M1 Carbon Road Bike
The SRAM Apex drivetrain has SRAM's 1:1 pull ratio for easy actuation and the capability to use extremely low 11-32 cogset on the rear combining the best features of a double chainring, compact chainring and triple chainring with none of the drawbacks.

 

Apex’s capability combines the best of full size 53/39 tooth 130 mm bolt pattern chainrings, 50/34 tooth 110 mm compact chainrings and even triple chainrings. It is a truly versatile drivetrain that provides the broadest gearing range in the industry. 

“Is SRAM Apex better than Shimano 105? That’s a matter of opinion. It is a matter of fact that APEX has greater capabilities.”  

Shimano’s 105 has been substantially updated in recent years to include a full size, compact and triple crank capability, but the gearing range does not match SRAM. And while Shimano invented the dual control brake lever shifter, the configuration of the levers has not changed since they were introduced around 1990 when this writer saw prototypes on Andy Hampsten’s bike at the Jacksonville stage of the Tour of the Americas. That makes Shimano STI over 21 years old in design concept. Proven? Absolutely. Evolved? Not so much. And therein lies the motive to “Make the Leap” (SRAM’s tag line) to something new and innovative. Is SRAM Apex better than Shimano 105? That’s a matter of opinion. It is a matter of fact that APEX has greater capabilities. 

Felt and Litespeed: What We Decided to Buy- and Why.

When we went shopping for road bikes in the about-$2000 category we wanted to buy a complete sales portfolio: The bikes we liked had to stand above the din of nearly-same Ultegra equipped bikes from Trek, Giant and others. We already liked the two Felt Ultegra equipped $2000 road bikes since they offer two distinct geometries near the extremes, a low front end road racer in the F5 and a higher front end sport-touring bike in the Z5, and they contrast nicely with the SRAM bikes since they are Shimano 105 equipped. Felt dominates the “about $2000” Shimano equipped road bike category with the F5 Team, F5 Limited and standard F5 versions of their F5, the Z5 and the female specific ZW5. That is a commanding 5 road bikes within $300 of the key $2000 price point. They are also the only players in this category with carbon fiber dropouts and a bare frame around 900 grams. Additionally, their F5 series has the lowest head tube on a newly designed frameset for Felt, making it the true performance entry in this category. If you want a Shimano equipped $2000 road bike, there isn’t much reason to look beyond Felt. 

Bike Comparison Chart
A summary comparison of the 15 predominant bikes in the $2000 price point. The frames have been reduced to a constant or generic value since they are difficult to empirically distinguish. In the "Bar, Stem, Post" column the term "house" refers to a brand of Handlebar, stem and seatpost distributed by the bicycle brand with their name on it, i.e., the Trek has Bontrager equipment- Trek's own brand.

 

That left one bike to buy for our stable: A SRAM Apex equipped bike at about $2000. We didn’t want to buy two SRAM Apex equipped bikes, in the case of Specialized with their two different head tube heights. We didn’t mind considering two bikes with Felt since it offers more fit options in a more commonly recognized component group (Shimano 105). The Felt bikes come with forks that have carbon fiber steer tubes- a feature customers won’t see when shopping but will appreciate because the bike is lighter and rides better. 

Even though SRAM Apex is a stand out component group consumers’ understanding of it is lagging. In 2011 Shimano 105 bikes will still outsell Apex equipped bikes- so the 105 bike buy was more important. This trend may change in 2012 or 2013, but it is the reality now. SRAM has captured the attention of the high end rider from Lance Armstrong to the local Category 2 racer, but the $2000 entry point customer still defaults to Shimano. Chances are the SRAM Apex customer will be the better researched, more discerning component buyer. 

Litespeed M1 Carbon Road Bike
The high head tube on the Litespeed M1 is combined with easy to service external cable routing. A higher head tube trend on the Litespeed M1 means better comfort with less spacers for most recreational road riders.

 

We made what we thought is a smart play and bought the Litespeed M1 with SRAM Apex and all-aftermarket FSA brand handlebars, stem, seatpost and wheels. Litespeed is a niche brand that doesn’t sell low end recreational bikes (like Specialized) – the enthusiast buyer will recognize that- the same buyer who will flush out the advantages of SRAM Apex over Shimano 105. 

Our one beef with the Litespeed M1 is the cro-moly steer tube which adds weight. We would have preferred a carbon fiber steer tube. The two $2000 Felt bikes (Z5 and F5) and the SRAM Apex Specialized bikes use a carbon fiber steer tube fork, but the higher head tube variety- the Specialized Roubaix Elite SL2 Apex, uses the Specialized “Zertz” inserts, claimed to absorb road shock. I don’t like the Zertz feature- I don’t think it works. This caused us to pass on the two Specialized bikes when we went shopping for a SRAM Apex bike. 

A Few Details on Component Specifications.

The Litespeed M1 comes out of the box with a SRAM 11-26 cogset, enough gearing for all but the highest alpine mountain passes. If you are crossing three mountain passes in a day you’ll swap to the unique 11-32 gearing capability on SRAM Apex. The handlebars are a delightful shallow drop variety perfectly suited for this type of bike. A thoughtful addition on the Litespeed M1 as a randonnee or brevet bike (sport touring) is a small, lightweight bell that belies its non-race lineage. The saddle has a comfort cut out and isn’t bad at all, although many entry point road bike buyers tend to buy an alternative saddle- usually when they should be buying better bike shorts (another story altogether). One complaint on the FSA seatpost is the serrated angle clamp on the seatpost head. You can’t micro-adjust the saddle angle. 

Litespeed M1 Carbon Road Bike
The Litespeed M1 uses a shallow drop handlebar ideally suited for a sport touring bike. Litespeed even included a bell, a common accessory for randonnee style sport touring rides.

 

The deep chainstays and square-oval bottom bracket area add some welcome snap to the bike compared to other SRAM Apex equipped bikes from Specialized, especially the Zertz equipped Roubaix. It’s still not a racer- it isn’t intended to be (it has a bell on it…) but it also isn’t a mattress. The frame features of the Litespeed strike a nice compromise. 

Litespeed M1 Carbon Road Bike
The serrated stops on the FSA seatpost making clamping and tightening easy but restrict angular adjustment of the saddle. It is a bit of an annoyance since the perfect angle sometimes falls between clicks.

 

The Litespeed M1 also uses the SRAM Apex brakes, continuing the SRAM story consistently throughout the bike. The Specialized Tarmac and Roubaix SRAM Apex bikes substituted Tektro brand brakes. This seems odd since the Specialized bikes were both $100 more expensive than the Litespeed M1. 

The Litespeed M1 has everything we needed in a SRAM Apex sport road bike in one package: pure component kit, aftermarket stem/bar/seatpost and wheels, moderate head tube height and an equivalent frame with the squoval bottom bracket. We bought the Litespeed M1 as our SRAM Apex bike. 

Litespeed M1 Carbon Road Bike
A stand out specification of the Litespeed M1 is the use of SRAM's fine Apex brake that shares the same design theme as SRAM Red.

 

“The Litespeed M1 has everything we needed in a SRAM Apex bike: pure component kit, aftermarket stem/bar/seatpost/wheels, moderate head tube height and a squoval bottom bracket.”  

The Litespeed M1 makes some degree of compromise on head tube, but still runs high-ish. The frame has a more horizontal top tube in most sizes than comparable designs the other brands. Traditionalists will like this look. Short leg, long torso riders won’t like this since it limits stand over height and presents a relatively high top tube when climbing out of the saddle- we like Felt’s Z5 for that. The more traditional design on the M1 does shore up handling a little and enhances comfort in my opinion. It is a little more luxurious than the comparably priced bikes with tighter rear triangles. 

Litespeed M1 Carbon Road Bike
The Litespeed M1 uses a cro-moly steer tube fork with carbon fiber fork blades and comes with a comfort relief cut-out saddle.

 

Another interesting feature on the Litespeed M1, especially when contrasted against the other bikes in this category, is the size run is on the odd numbered sizes. In other words, while companies like Felt are making a size name 50cm, 52cm, 54cm, etc. Litespeed has built on the odd number size names with a 53cm. and 55cm. frame size in the two most commonly sold sizes. The Litespeed size names are “T-shirt” sizes, “Small (50cm)”, “Medium (53cm)”, “Medium Large (55cm)” “Large(58cm)” and “Extra Large (61cm)”. There are three big 3 centimeter gaps in the geometry chart between “Small (50cm)” and “Medium (53cm)” and between “Medium Large (55cm)” and “Large (58cm)” and between “Large(58cm)” and “Extra Large (61cm)”. If a customer truly fell between these dimensions they will wind up on one of the Felts with Shimano 105, either the F5 low head tube bike or the Z5 high head tube bike. 

Riding the Litespeed M1 is what you’d expect in the sport-touring category. Handling is stable; there is reasonable stiffness at the bottom bracket partially owing to the squared lower section of the down tube and the deep chain stays. The bike is luxury car stable- it isn’t a racer. Acceleration is gradual and straight. It climbs with tenacity if not with animation. It’s a quiet bike. Peaceful and smooth. That is the type of ride- and rider- I pictured SRAM Apex for. The Litespeed M1 frame suits that theme. Think BMW “7” series ride (but not acceleration) at Ford pricing. 

Litespeed M1 Carbon Road Bike
Curved seat stays and chain stays add comfort and lateral stiffness to the rear end of the Litespeed M1.

 

Buying bikes is often a mix of spread sheet comparison in the empirical and real world ride experience in the subjective. It takes more than a quick test ride to understand the ownership experience. In our research and experience in the crowded $2000 road bike category the Litespeed M1 flushed out of our 15 member short list as unique for the sport rider especially with SRAM Apex. Whether or not this type of unique equates to “best” is decided by the type of riding you are doing. If you are a long distance, comfort oriented rider who wants to climb while seated and wants a wide range of component capabilities- especially with gearing- the Litespeed M1 flushes out as a leader in this category within a category. 

Litespeed M1 Carbon Road Bike
Litespeed's M1 is a nice pick in the $2000 price category because of its pure-SRAM Apex component kit and nice frame design and geometry. The size run is also unique making this a viable option in this crowded category.
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2011 Felt DA Di2 https://university.trisports.com/2011/01/07/2011-felt-da-di2/ https://university.trisports.com/2011/01/07/2011-felt-da-di2/#comments Fri, 07 Jan 2011 23:57:59 +0000 http://university.tri-sports.com/?p=1285 The New 2011 Felt DA takes on the Scott Plasma 3, Trek Speed Concept , Quintana Roo Cd. 0.1 and Cervelo P4 in the new generation of super bikes. See how it stacks up here. ]]>

By Tom Demerly with Sarah Lieneke, Chet Ajsenberg, Jaclyn Applegate and Jack Johnson.

2011 Felt DA Di2
Felt's new 2011 DA is a complete re-design of a legacy bike. The new version emerges as a category leader.

 

Felt: A Heritage of High End Racing.
Felt is a racing company. It is their heritage, their origin. They started with two high end racing frames: one triathlon frame, one road racing frame. Each was handmade and race specific. With the introduction of their new 2011 Felt DA with Shimano Di2 they return to that origin at the top of category.

You may already know that Jim Felt got his start in motorcycle racing by hand building motorcycle frames for top factory racers. Felt’s projects included handmade racing bicycles that found their way, sometimes with different decal sets due to sponsorship requirements, under Scott Tinley, Greg Welch, Paula Newby-Fraser and many others in the sport’s formative years. The first of the Felt triathlon bikes was the venerable Felt B2 followed by the “DA”, an acronym for “Dual Aero”. The DA made use of an aero seat tube and down tube aerodynamic tubing unlike the original B2 which did utilized more round frame tubes.

2011 Felt DA Di2
A 2002 model year Felt DA. The "DA" name plate has been the masthead of Felt's aero bikes since the company began.

The new 2011 Felt DA is a complete redesign. This is Felt’s contribution to a shift we’re seeing throughout the industry. Designs from the previous 4-8 model years are getting old. Recent innovations in component integration and our understanding of low speed aerodynamics and rider positioning are improving. The previous Felt molds were shared by the DA and the “B” series triathlon bikes. The basic frame shape trickled down from the nearly $10,000 price point for the previous DA to models around $2000 for the value oriented “B” series bikes. The new 2011 Felt DA departs from that shape and carbon fiber lay up completely. It is totally new.

The New DA: The only thing they Didn’t Change is the Name.
The reason for a new design is tangible improvement. The newest version of the DA is a completely different, and better bike than previous DA’s. I’ll suggest it leads the newest “superbike” category. The ride quality is entirely different from previous versions. If you owned a previous model DA it will take about four pedal strokes and one hard side-torque at the cockpit to feel the difference on the new DA. It is that different. In shape, component integration and carbon lay-up this is a complete redesign.

“The 2011 Felt DA leads the newest ‘superbike’ category.”

The 2011 Felt DA we received is the complete bike, box stock. It uses a component list from the very highest end of the industry. Here’s a detailed look of the component spec and the frame:

The Bike and the Components: A Critique from Front to Back.
From the front of the bike we start with a Zipp 808 Firecrest tubular wheel. We’ve reviewed the Firecrest concept in video and print. This is an upgrade from previous Zipp wheel profiles and goes along with the updated technology of the Felt DA itself. There is no better wheel specification readily available.

2011 Felt DA Di2
The spec list on the DA is stellar: Zipp's new Firecrest front 808 tubular and the Devox cockpit.

The tire spec is the lightweight and luxurious riding Vittoria Triathlon EVO-CS tubular with Kevlar SiO2 3D compound. This is a high thread count, 320 TPI cotton casing tire with an integrated butyl (not latex) tube. The tire casing uses Vittoria’s Kevlar SiO2 belt to bolster flat resistance. At 322 grams measured weight the SiO2 belt adds a little weight in return for good flat resistance and does not change the perceivably excellent ride quality of the tire. Valve stems are 42 mm that come from Felt wrapped in white Teflon tape with Zipp alloy valve extenders installed. The tire valve cores are removable so the Presta valve could conceivably be moved to an extender with threads making inflation easier. Ride quality on these tires is truly superb with great shock absorption and gum-sole cornering. Because of the butyl inner tube, as opposed to latex, this tire will maintain tire pressure from 5:00 AM when you put your bike in the transition area to 9:30 AM when you get out of the water after an Ironman distance swim and throughout an entire 5-7 hour bike split.

The Cockpit: A Category Leader.
The cockpit on the Felt DA is the Devox 3:1 Bayonet carbon integrated base bar with integrated “f” bend extensions. Compare this cockpit to the Easton Attack integrated cockpit, the Zipp Vuka family, HED black dog and 3T Breeza. I encourage you to take the time to actually do the comparison too. You’ll find the Devox bar is perhaps the best bar in this category on bend, adjustability, ergonomics, stiffness and fit. The Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 controls integrate well with this bar both on the extensions and the base bar.

2011 Felt DA Di2
The Felt "f" bend extensions are highly tunable for fit. Elbow pads feature a substantial range of spatial adjustment.

“The Devox bar is perhaps the best bar in this category.”

The “f” bend extensions are a hybrid of a ski bend and an “S” bend striking a tangible balance between bends and fit-ability. In an aftermarket environment the Devox 3:1 Bayonet more than holds its own against the others. The bar is adjustable for extension and for bend by cutting. If you do cut the front of the extensions be certain the Di2 controller/shifter will fit all the way into the remaining extension. The elbow pads adjust for position, fore/aft and width although width adjustment is minimal. These are racing bars. You can make “rise” adjustment to the elbow pads by using the risers and bolts that come with Vision aerobars. Elbow pads on the cockpit are a clear gel pad that isn’t exceptionally plush. Some ultra distance triathletes will want a softer elbow pad.

So far Felt has nailed the specifications on the front wheel, cockpit and tires. I would not make a single change in any of these since there are really no upgrades from here.

The New Bayonet Front End.
The stem on the Felt DA is the Bayonet III integrated stem with a four bolt, carbon fiber front mounting plate to retain the handlebar system. The Bayonet III stems have adjustable angle for the attachment to the steering system, something missing from the Scott Plasma 3 and other superbikes. Three different length stems are included with the bike and, since the stems adjust up and down for angle, the fit-ability afforded by the stems in combination with the Devox Bayonet cockpit is extensive. A total of 9 different extensions is possible according to Felt using different stems. Additionally, a fixed position, non-adjustable fixed angle stem option will be available after-market.

Previous Bayonet stems were difficult to adjust and, after tightening, did not easily move when loosened to make fine adjustments. The fit and adjustment on the new version is better. It clamps securely and adjusts with reasonable effort. Another improvement.

2011 Felt DA Di2
The new Bayonet III integrated front end is mechanically evolved and aerodynamically very narrow. The melding of fork and head tube is impressive with fork blades designed to work well with any front wheel configuration.

“This new Bayonet is razor sharp, there are vast improvements. This is a Bayonet front end we can not only live with; we can win on and travel with.”

The Felt Bayonet III front end is a continued evolution of the previously troubled Bayonet concept. This new bayonet is razor sharp, there are vast improvements. This is a Bayonet front end we can not only live with; we can win on and travel with. It is mechanically simpler than previous designs since one critical adjustment bolt is no longer hidden and a host of improvements are in place. The primary technical feature of the Bayonet front end is how narrow the entire assembly is and how well integrated into the frame, fork blades and head tube area it is. Another benefit is excellent steering and front end stiffness out of the saddle.

Felt: Narrow is Aero- only 33 Millimeters Wide.
The entire frame in front of the bottom bracket is only 33 millimeters wide at its widest point. A Scott Plasma III is 47 millimeters wide at the head tube’s widest point. In other words, this frame is about as wide as a 32 millimeter touring tire. This bike is extremely narrow, harkening back to the legacy Hooker Elite design themes, the original ultra-low drag bike. The front of the bike is so narrow that proprietary, extremely durable headset bearings had to be configured for the new Bayonet.

2011 Felt DA Di2
Felt's proprietary front brake is designed for good aerodynamics with the Bayonet front end and has excellent stopping power. The front end also accepts a standard road caliper but this brake is so good there is no reason to consider a replacement.

The Fork/Wheel Gap: The New, Claimed “Most Aero”.
The architecture of the fork and fork crown on the Felt Bayonet III is designed to be “separate” from the front wheel’s aerodynamic behavior. In other words, Felt has found- along with an increasing industry consensus, that fork blades either need to be extremely close to a front wheel specifically designed to work with the fork, as with a front disk wheel, or the fork blades need to occupy a proximity far enough from the rotating wheel so that they are aerodynamically independent of the rotating wheel. Felt- along with others like Look, Litespeed and Quintana Roo and Trek – chose the latter doctrine since it affords customers a high degree of flexibility in wheel choice.

A Felt DA specific front brake was designed and made for Felt. It optimizes a number of design requirements unique to this bike. While the bike will take a standard front brake the Felt brake more closely mimics the shape of the fork crown behind it. This brake can easily adjust from older narrow rim wheels to the new wider trend in aerodynamic race wheels. Additionally, the brake has a stiffer feel and less mass since there is no need for to have the extensive vertical adjustment built into most off the shelf, non specific brakes. The feel of the brake is excellent- another of many victories on this bike. Brakes are actuated by the Shimano Di2 combination brake lever shifter on the base bars. Another Di2 shifter control is co-located on the aerobars. You can shift from both positions. Overall, this brake is very good.

The Wiring: Why Not Entirely Internal?
Much has been said about the inability of manufacturers to integrate the Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 wiring harness and battery pack into the frame. Scott suffered an embarrassing cancellation of a Di2 specific model of their Plasma 3 citing inability to source an optimal, allegedly “proprietary” wiring harness from Shimano for their bike. On many Di2 super bikes the wires and battery hang rather obtrusively outside the frame. Seems odd… I’ll suggest the reason may not lie with bike designers, but with an impending release (speculation…) of an alternative means of connecting controls to derailleurs that will integrate more easily. If this were the case, and the frame designers only designed for the current wiring harness, they’d be caught with their pants at their ankles for any new wiring development from Shimano. To their credit, Trek is the only manufacturer that has flown above all this with their excellent cable integration on the new Speed Concept bikes.

The Felt DA has a small segment of the wires outside the frame. It isn’t perfect, but it isn’t a complete disaster either, and it could have forward design implications we aren’t privy to yet. Still, this is one of few places the new DA gives something up.

2011 Felt DA Di2
Assembly and wiring of the Di2 harness through the frame is relatively straightforward with an access panel and battery mount under the bottom bracket. The battery is covered by the weather proof housing and the access panel also uses a small carbon fiber cover.

The Main Triangle: Narrow is Aero.
Moving back the bike we further encounter how narrow the frame members are. The downtube is bladed, airfoil shape. Very, very bladed. It is quite narrow, 28 millimeters wide over most of its length. There is no bottle mount on the down tube but there is a single seat tube bottle mount, the most aerodynamic position for a bottle mount. You’ll need to go to a handlebar mount hydration system for longer rides and Ironman distance. No problem, as the well conceived front mount systems actually improve bicycle/rider aerodynamics. The top tube has a vaguely triangular orientation. The combination seems to exert an influence on ride quality which I’ll cover in the road test paragraphs of this review in a moment.

2011 Felt DA Di2
A look at the seat tube reveals the bottle mount and the curvature of the seat tube. This is a highly evolved version of the new DA. Felt mentioned more than five versions were tested prior to the adaptation of the current frame.

Felt went through a number of iterations of the new DA shape in development. Early versions used by the Garmin team had a curvy down tube. The version that evolved to sales floors is more than five versions removed from the original concept. Felt says each of these steps constitutes an evolution of improvements, and that the finished bike is tangibly better than early prototype versions used by Garmin.

The bottom bracket is BB30 which opens up the capability, via adapters, to use almost any bottom bracket configuration on this frameset. The bottom bracket that comes with the bike uses ceramic bearings from Enduro.

What’s that Bump?
There is a “bulge” in front of the bottom bracket shell that houses the Di2 battery. This fairing is a “weather seal” (that’s for the UCI…) that “protects” the Di2 battery. What it does tangibly do is improve high yaw angle aerodynamics at the crankset according to Felt. Felt claims this shields the rotating chainrings from crosswinds. The cover is easy to use and looks like an ECM or sensor bulge on a fighter plane. The housing attaches with two bolts. The fit on the housing to the frame is quite good if you compare it to first generation Cervelo P4 standards with their attempt at integrating the water bottle. Other configurations of the Felt DA have the capability to mount the battery behind the seatpost for UCI approval. I like the appearance of the housing more than an exposed battery.

2011 Felt DA Di2
The housing over the Di2 battery attaches with two small bolts and is claimed to provide an aerodynamic benefit at high yaw angles.

Speaking of integration we move back to the rear brake, a proprietary design that is mounted inside a recessed section of the bottom bracket/chain stay area. The rear brake does accommodate a wide-aero wheel like Zipp Firecrest. The rear wheel that comes with the Felt DA is a standard (non-Firecrest) 1080 deep section wheel. Felt told us that is because there is no 1080 Firecrest yet. Rear brake performance is extremely good, the best of the integrated, proprietary systems I’ve ridden. It is not soft, mushy or tentative. Set up requires a little attention but is better than most of the other integrated rear brakes in that, once it is adjusted, it has a lot of stopping power.

Another thoughtful move by Felt is the wheels have relatively neutral graphics- they aren’t specifically color coordinated to this bike. They maintain good resale value, an important consideration for dealers and consumers.

Further Back: A Great Seatpost/Clamp and Closely Oriented Rear Wheel.
Moving up the seat tube with its vaguely curved shape, wrapping the leading edge of the rear wheel, we get to a truly adjustable and relatively conventional seatpost. Felt: Thank you! This bike is a breeze to pack in a flight case. The seat clamp design is excellent and works on the first try. No slipping. No problems. Scott and Trek and Cervelo have had problems with slipping posts on superbike designs. Several different geometry seatposts will be available to induce various effective seat tube angles. The binder assembly is flush with the top tube and trouble free.

2011 Felt DA Di2
The seatpost stays put when you torque it to spec. No slipping on our test bike. The seat stays are aerodynamically seperate from the rear wheel for claimed better aerodynamics.

The seat tube of the frame does ride close to the wheel as does the down tube of the frame with the front wheel. This seems to contradict the “open aero” doctrine applied to the proximity of the seat stays and fork blades from the sides of the wheel, but Felt assures us it does not. There is no way for us to verify or debunk this.

The Stock Saddle: It Works!
The saddle spec struck me as weird initially, until I rode it. The Prologo Nago TTR TT saddle is a short nosed, 26 cm long saddle with only 5 cm of saddle in front of the carbon fiber rails. What? We all know that 30 cm long triathlon specific saddles like the Profile Tri Stryke and Fizik Arione Tri are longer, not shorter than a standard 27cm road saddle. I thought this saddle was a mistake. Then I rode it. The Nago TTR has little plastic “ribs” or grippers on top of it. They hold you in place fore/aft. In the real world this saddle is a good triathlon saddle for a couple reasons. Firstly, most triathletes have saddle discomfort at the nose of the saddle. One fix: remove most of the nose. The ISM Adamo and some Cobb Cycling saddles work this way. The problem with the ISM’s is that, although they are short, the two “horns” are very wide and irritate the inside of a rider’s thighs. This Prologo Nago seems to moderate the conflict that previously existed between short and wide saddles by being short and moderately narrow- but still tolerable.

A second benefit of this shorter saddle is climbing out of the saddle. On a steep angle triathlon bike a 30 cm saddle hits you between the thighs when you climb out of the saddle. Annoying. The Nago does not. It climbs out of the saddle superbly. Felt came out of left field with this saddle spec but it really works great. I’d be thrilled to keep this saddle on the bike.

2011 Felt DA Di2
I initially did not understand how the Nago TTR saddle may work but after a couple rides I was surprised to learn it makes a very credible triathlon saddle.

At the back of the bike the seat stays mimic the fork aerodynamic theme by providing “breathing room” between the rear wheel and the seat stays. The chain stays are very deep contributing to an overall excellent rear end with rear-facing horizontal dropouts with internal adjuster screws.

On some new aerodynamic frames there have been concerns about compatibility with wider aero race wheels such as the Zipp Firecrest, newer HED wheels and Zipp Sub-9 disk wheel. We fitted a rear Zipp Sub-9 tubular disk wheel to a 2011 Felt DA and found there was adequate clearance for both the brakes and the chainstays. The rear wheel does flex laterally under very hard, out of the saddle efforts, but it is unlikely there would be regular or significant contact except under extreme circumstances such as a very heavy rider.

The rear derailleur hanger on the 2011 Felt DA is a fixed hanger that is rather robust. It is unlikely to bend easily and impressed us as being durable enough for normal racing use, which includes normal flight-casing and the occasional tip-over in a transition area.

2011 Felt Di2 DA Tri Bike
Left: We tested the rear clearances of the brakes and the chainstays with the wide section, aerodynamic Zipp Sub-9 disk wheel and found adequate clearance. Right: The rear derailleur hanger is fixed to the dropout and is relatively robust providing good durability and strong, repeatable shift performance.

What About the Di2?
Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 is the best triathlon component group becasue of the multiple location controls. Period. You already know this is a Di2 equipped bike. When I asked Felt’s Dave Koesel, Road Brand Manager, if we would see further expansion and acceptance of electro-mechanically actuated drive trains he was emphatic: “Yes, absolutely.” Shimano has already announced the release of a lower cost Di2 ensemble. Is Di2 an advantage? One word: Absolutely.

2011 Felt DA Di2
The Shimano Di2 ensemble provides a tangible performance advantage to triathletes, especially on a course where a lot of shifting is required.

You will have a faster bike split since you can shift from either the base bars of the aerobars and you will never miss a shift. With Di2 you will always have the correct gear for the terrain and conditions. Shifting from the base bars and the aerobars means cornering and climbing is easier. It is simply a fantastic component group. With rumors of further improvement and integration from Shimano to work with existing frames early adopters likely will not be punished as new Di2 components emerge.

How Does it Ride?
The previous versions of the Felt DA were too flexible for me. I rode a Felt B2 with the stiffer lay up as a result. Forget that. This new DA is entirely different not only in appearance and spec but most tangibly in ride quality. I seldom recommend test rides but a few pedal strokes on this new version is all it takes to differentiate the new DA from any previous version.

2011 Felt DA Di2
At speed the bike is stable, the frame stiffness provides excellent cornering and climbing.

The DA is the best riding of the new generation triathlon bikes I’ve been on. It is much stiffer than previous DAs and climbs savagely out of the saddle. The front is unerringly connected to the back: long and stable. Put your elbows on the pads, touch the button to find the perfect gear against the Mumuku headwinds and point the thing toward Hawi. It will track a laser-straight line with little need for steering input. Reaching for a bottle or a snack from the aero position? No problem. It’s on autopilot. Hit a steep climb at the beginning of Tiger’s Back at the Laguna Phuket Triathlon in Thailand? No problem; out of the saddle, touch your Di2 controller to find the right gear and swing the stiff monster back and forth while the Prologo saddle misses the back of your thighs by a country mile. I get to ride a lot of fantastic bikes in my role as Editor of TriSports University. This is the triathlon bike I want. This is so much nicer than any previous Felt DA. Simply put: Felt nailed this one. It’s good to see a super bike that is truly super.

2011 Felt DA Di2
Because the front end is now so "connected" to the rear end the bike descends with authority and control. The front end geometry adds stability and the lateral stiffness provides control.

How Much? $12,499.00
At $12,499.00 this is an expensive bike. When I asked Felt’s Dave Koesel about the price he said it represents the highest end commonly available components across the industry. While it seems a stretch to call a $12,499 bike a good “value” there is justification for the price with the component spec and the frame re-design. The Carroll Shelby cliché comes to mind, “Speed costs money. How fast do you want to go?” The crux here is that the combination of the new DA frame, Zipp wheels, Devox cockpit, Di2 components and some attention to details like good brakes and a nice saddle mean you likely will be faster on this bike compared to something else if it fits you correctly. There are tengible advantages here.

“The new Felt DA is the bar-raiser in the superbike category for 2011.”

The Verdict.
I review “superbikes” every month. Some of the reviews make the cut, some hit the cutting room floor along with the bike. I’ve been reviewing bikes since the late 1980’s. There are a few stand out bikes: The Softrides, the first Quintana Roo Kilo, The Kestrel 4000, The Cervelo P3. Game changers. They owned their categories and raised the bar. The new Felt DA is the bar-raiser in the superbike category for 2011. Nearly every superbike design is characterized by a set of quirky limitations or little oddments or idiosyncrasies. The DA is refreshingly devoid of those “catches”. You can ride it, flight case it, race it and work on it. Felt took a long, circuitous route to get to this newest version of the DA. It is the culmination of many lessons learned in previous designs. Felt learned well from previous versions because the new 2011 Felt DA is truly an exceptional bike that is as close to perfect as any bike over the previous 20 years in triathlon.

2011 Felt DA Di2
Felts new 2011 DA is an ambitious project that delivers as the easiest to use, most practical and one of the best riding of the new generation of triathlon superbikes.
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Litespeed C1R Road Bike https://university.trisports.com/2010/12/21/litespeed-c1r-road-bike/ Wed, 22 Dec 2010 00:04:23 +0000 http://university.tri-sports.com/?p=1224 Litespeed’s C1R is a carbon road bike that takes on $10,000+ super bikes at half that price. Learn about the design that makes the C1R a valid entry in the superbike category here. ]]>

By Tom Demerly. 

Litespeed Archon C1R Road Bike
The 2011 Litespeed Archon C1R is the highest end of the new molded carbon fiber frames from Litespeed.

A Category leader above $5000. 

The new Litespeed Archon C1R is not another “carbon copy” carbon fiber road bike. It is something unique that begs to be heard above the din of high end carbon fiber road frames. The people at Litespeed did strong benchmarking when they designed the new Litespeed Archon C1R: They were thinking about the other bikes in the crowded $5000+ super-bike category. They were thinking about how to differentiate themselves from bikes in that category and provide something tangibly unique from those offerings, and at a better value. They did succeed in producing something tangibly different.

One of the people doing the thinking at Litespeed was designer Brad DeVaney, part of a growing crew of bike design and engineering cadre that is shoring up the brain trust at American Bicycle Group, Litespeed’s parent company. It’s a sign that Litespeed is managing the transition from their titanium roots to the carbon age with differentiation and innovation. The Archon C1R is confirmation that Litespeed has arrived as a carbon fiber bike company. 

It hasn’t always been so for Litespeed. The company faces the challenge of redefining themselves in the post-titanium, carbon fiber era- an age when every professional cyclist is on molded carbon fiber. Litespeed, as you well know, started in titanium and still dabbles in Ti. Their ability to redefine themselves with carbon fiber bikes isn’t impressive in itself- what is impressive is how strong Litespeed’s carbon offerings truly are, especially at the top end C1R. This is a valid super bike on par with the highest end Trek, Cervelo, Specialized, Colnago, Pinarello and other marquee brand carbon pro team bikes. 

Litespeed Archon C1R Road Bike
The unusual shape of the frame provides more than just unique good looks. The complex tube shapes optimize stiffness, ride quality and aerodynamics. The bike looks different from other carbon bikes- and rides differently too.

They all look the same: Is it Really Different?
The Litespeed C1R is the highest end Litespeed carbon road frame with an MSRP of $3199.95 for frameset alone. It comes from the same molds as the less expensive, lower end Archon C1 and C3 complete road bikes. It uses different carbon lay up for lighter weight, better stiffness and more comfortable ride. Can changing carbon material really make that much difference in the same mold? Considering the same-shape, same-mold Archon C3 has an MSRP of $2999.99 as a complete bike and the C1R lives $200 north of that just for the frame one has to ask: “What really is the difference?” 

The Litespeed C1R is T60 Nanotech carbon fiber, a material that Litespeed tells us is only being used in this version “by 5 or 6 manufacturers”. Of those manufacturers, the Litespeed C1R is the lowest price T60 Nanotech bike according to Litespeed. Bascially, T60 Nanotech is better, higher end carbon fiber material. It is lighter, stronger, more impact resistance and reduces road vibration better. It uses carbon nanotubes to strengthen the carbon fiber and improve the lateral rigidity of the layup. This makes the bike less flexible side to side, as under strong accelerations. The way the carbon fiber is applied within the mold also controls your perception of road shock, making the C1R lighter, laterally stiffer and vertically more compliant. The carbon lay-up on the Litespeed C1R is a more precise, labor intensive process than on the other carbon Litespeeds. 

  

Litespeed Archon C1R Road Bike
Our bike product managers testing the new Archon C series frames at Trisports.com.

The $2-3,000 question is; is it $2-3,000 better? 

The problem for consumers is that carbon bikes from the same mold look alike. It is impossible to “see” the difference in carbon fiber, and a parking lot test ride won’t say much about real bottom bracket stiffness and long range ride quality. Can a customer tell the difference between inexpensive carbon and high end carbon? 

“I think the answer is yes. You’ve created a different strength to weight ratio.” Says Litespeed Brand Manager Mac McEneaney. 

McEneaney went on to tell us, “The average consumer can feel it. A 60-pound overweight rider probably would not be able to. It is a performance advantage for the person who wants a no compromise bike. It competes favorably against the other $5000+ complete superbikes not only on carbon content and lay-up, but most importantly, on design- and that is shared in each of the Litespeed carbon road bikes. They are great bikes, they are great values- different from what else is out there.” 

Litespeed Archon C1R Road Bike
TriSports.com Founder Seton Claggett (right) gets ready for an extended test ride on a new Archon C.

Q: Can you feel the Difference? A: Absolutely.
During rides switching back and forth between a complete Litespeed C1R with SRAM Red and Lightweight Wheels and a complete Litespeed C3 road bike with the same pedals, tire pressure and crank lengths the difference is noticeable. 

 First of all, the C1R is much lighter owing to frame, wheels and component kit. Over three pounds lighter. That itself will make an enormous difference in ride quality. The C1R is significantly stiffer- first pedal stroke stiffer. As for comfort? I have to bow out of that debate since it is impossible to tell if the more comfortable ride on the C1R comes from a few thousand dollars worth of exotic Lightweight brand wheels with nice tires or from the frame or some combination of the two. It is noticeably gentler on rotten pavement, more spritely underfoot during the first four pedal strokes of acceleration and racier when hanging on for dear life in a corner you just over-cooked. 

A Seatmast Bike.
For the 2011 model year the Litespeed C1R retains a molded-in seat mast while the C3 and C1 use conventional adjustable seatposts. The seatmast remains on the C1R to reduce overall frame weight and to improve lateral stiffness and vertical compliance. As an integrated seat mast it is susceptible to all the advantages and shortcomings of the seatmast design: Lighter, somewhat more comfortable, less versatile and in need of cutting to achieve the appropriate saddle height range. This reviewer acknowledges the advantages of seatmast frames, but has not been entirely won over by them, especially for the customer at large. For the discerning buyer, to whom minor details drive buying decisions, the design has merit. Ultimately it may be worth it for Litespeed to retain the seatmast on the high end C1R while choosing the adjustable seatpost for the lower price point bikes aimed at the everyman customer. 

Litespeed Archon C1R Road Bike
The seat mast is one feature that sets the C1R apart from the other Archon C bikes. Speced with a Fizik Arione 30 cm saddle, a favorite of the peloton, you can see the seat mast clamp assembly is lightweight and elegant. It is provided by FSA to Litespeed for use on the Archin C1R.

A Great Frame, an even Better Bike, a Valid Value.
Out test Archon C1R complete bike had a build kit I would have spec’ed myself: SRAM Red, Fizik Arione Saddle, Ritchey cockpit and Lightweight wheels. Lightweight is the German company that made wheels for Jan Ulrich and others during their Tour de France campaigns. Their wheels have always been exotic, expensive, light as the name implies and difficult to source. A pair of luxurious Continental tubulars finished the pro level spec. 

Litespeed Archon C1R Road Bike
Our test bike was clad in a pure SRAM Red ensemble including the newest version of the Double Tap shifter, the improved brake calipers and their SRAM Red crank.

For overall ride quality The Litespeed Archon C1R with this build kit is a pro team level bike. It’s a bike you’d see in the Tour de France. That begs the question, why aren’t any pro teams using it? Mac McEneaney of Litespeed/American Bicycle Group told us, “We haven’t spent the money. It’s that simple. A big part of what you pay for when you buy one of the pro-team bikes is the cost of the sponsorship of a pro team. That cost is built into the price. Our bike is less expensive because we don’t have that cost. It’s that simple.” 

“A big part of what you pay for when you buy one of the pro-team bikes is the cost of the sponsorship of a pro team. That cost is built into the price. Our bike is less expensive because we don’t have that cost. It’s that simple.” 

When you evaluate Litespeed and McEneaney’s claims about pricing strategy it is easy to divine about what the cost of a pro team per bike may be. Consider the Cervelo S3, a roughly comparable bike to the Litespeed Archon C1R but without the nanotube layup: The Litespeed is nicer carbon. The Cervelo S3 has a frameset MSRP of $4500 without T60 Nanotube carbon, while the T60 Nanotube enhanced Litespeed Archon C1R is $3199.95 MSRP. It appears as though roughly $1000 of the Cervelo price may be devoted to research and marketing costs associated with their pro team. If the value of a pro team sponsorship is important to you as an end user- and it may be- then the roughly $1000 premium may be money well spent. 

  

Litespeed Archon C1R Road Bike
The hourglass shaped head tube uses an oversized 1&1/2 inch lower race and 1&1/8" upper race.

  

The Technical Details: What Makes it Different.
The Litespeed Archon C1R is a bike of details. Beginning at the head tube, the bike uses a 1&1/2” oversized diameter lower bearing race for the headset and a 1&1/8” upper race. The oversized lower race distributes bearing load and improves front end stiffness by making the bottom of the head tube/fork crown interface wider and improves ride quality by making disbursing road shock over a wider area at the lower headset/fork race. 

Litespeed Archon C1R Road Bike
The massive head tube provides great shock absorption due to the surface area and good front end stiffness that makes steering very controlled.

Perhaps even more significant is an innovative design hidden in the front end that improves ride, steering and fit. The head tube height of each of the sizes is relatively conventional. The height of the fork crown- the upper portion of the fork where the fork blades come out- is much greater than traditional designs, raising the front end of the bike and reducing the need for round head tube spacers. This is a good design as it achieves the multiple agendas of a higher, more comfortable head tube, better front end stiffness, better overall aerodynamics according to Litespeed and an admittedly cleaner, racier look than a stack of cheap headset spacers. This reviewer can verify that the feel of the front end on the Litespeed Archon C1R is among the best- if not the best- of the front ends in the industry. The head tube is notably hour glass shaped to enhance front end aerodynamics. 

Litespeed Archon C1R Road Bike
The outward bow or curvature of the fork provides good shock absorption and improves front end aerodynamics.

The fork is also unique with a bowed design that allows air to move more easily between the front wheel and the internal surface of the fork blades according to Litespeed. The outward bow of the fork blades also enhances ride quality by absorbing shock. 

Moving back on the frame the shape of the down tube is extremely complex, actually changing slightly every millimeter of its length. The frame uses the aerodynamically faired bottle mounts that improve frame aerodynamics with a bottle mounted in the cage on the down tube. 

Litespeed Archon C1R Road Bike
The airfoil shaped down tube segue ways into a massive bottom bracket for increased stiffness and comfort.

The bottom bracket is a new ultra-large diameter BB30 format for complete bearing integration into the frame, improving bottom bracket stiffness. 

Cable routing is external, a practical consideration for real-world race bikes were routing the cables on the outside makes maintenance faster and easier, making it more likely that the consumer will actually do maintenance since they can get to the cables. Changing a rear derailleur cable is simple and fast with this design: no access panels or fishing cables through the down tube and bottom bracket. 

Litespeed Archon C1R Road Bike
Easy to maintain external cable routing makes tuning and cable replacement a quick process.

The seat tube of the frame uses a cut-out to improve claimed wheel aerodynamics and is airfoil shaped as it transitions to the seat mast above the top tube. 

The chain stays are asymmetrical to enhance drivetrain stiffness. The right, drive side chainstay is extremely deep while the left is a more traditional depth. Seat stays also change shape almost constantly over their length moderate the conflicting agendas of aerodynamics and ride quality/stiffness. The rear dropouts are a simple affair that lack adjustment making tire selection above 25 mm a hit or miss proposition. 

Litespeed Archon C1R Road Bike
The airfoil shaped seat tube (left), unique seatstay shaping and the asymetrical chainstays that increase drivetrain stiffness.

Litespeed set out to build a category-leading road platform with the Archon C series bikes in each of their widely spaced price categories with the unique frame shape. Each version resides at the top of its price range due to the nice layup and changes in carbon fiber construction. The result is a category of bikes at different price points with unique design, features and benefits. The C1R lives at the top of that range. 

The super road bike category is a crowded one with many valid entries. The C1R joins that fray but does so above the anonymous din of carbon copies. There are unique and valid aspects to the Litespeed Archon C1R that spate it from the high end carbon clones and that is refreshing and exciting. No survey of the $5000 + carbon road bikes is complete without a close examination of the Litespeed Archon C1R

  

Litespeed Archon C1R Road Bike
From all angles the new Litespeed Archon C1R has interesting looking contours that provide tangible benefits to the performance rider.
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2011 Quintana Roo Seduza https://university.trisports.com/2010/12/02/2011-quintana-roo-seduza/ Thu, 02 Dec 2010 19:52:08 +0000 http://university.tri-sports.com/?p=1143 The $2000+/- price category is ground zero for triathlon bike buyers and manufacturers. See why the new 2011 Quintana Roo Seduza nukes all comers in the critical value price category here.]]>
2011 Quintana Roo Seduza Triathlon Bike
The new 2011 Quintana Roo Seduza is a leader in the crowded and competitive $2K price range tri bike category.

A Category Killer in a Critical Category.

Aerodynamic carbon fiber frame, Shimano Ultegra, Vision aerobars, $2100.

Those are the specs that Quintana Roo brings to the table at the critical $2000+/- price range for 2011 with the new Seduza triathlon bike. It’s a compelling case on the surface. As we dig deeper it gets better.

The Competing Bikes.

The competition within a few hundred dollars of the Quintana Roo Seduza is joined by Felt’s B16, Cervelo’s P2 Ultegra, Fuji’s Aloha 1.0, Trek’s Speed Concept 2, Cannondale’s Slice 5 and perhaps a few smaller brands. This is the white-hot price point for triathlon bikes since the basics of everything that appears in a high performance bike starts at this price: True triathlon geometry; carbon fiber, aerodynamic frame; decent quality component spec and a nicer aero cockpit. Each of the above offerings (except Trek, with their aluminum-framed Speed Concept 2) shares these attributes. The trick is finding the one bike in this esteemed crowd with the nicest component spec and the best geometry for you.

The New Quintana Roo: Inventors of the Triathlon Bike.

You already know Quintana Roo invented the triathlon bike. You may know they innovated- maybe invented – the carbon fiber, aerodynamic triathlon bike (the Redstone). While Quintana Roo has had their share of innovations and growing pains one thing they have always done is evolve. This penchant for evolution is what makes the new Quintana Roo Seduza rise to the top of any comparison among its peers.

The new iteration of the Seduza strikes a series of strong compromises between nagging decisions when specing and shopping for a bike. What are more important, components or frame? What is more realistic, a position you will actually ride in or low-slung styling? This interpretation of what is important on a bike is what guides your buying decision.

 

2011 Quintana Roo Seduza Triathlon Bike
A new higher head tube on the 2011 Seduza make this bike easier to fit and more comfortable to ride. It may also make the bike faster since most riders will be able to remain in the aero position longer.

A Higher Head Tube may actually be Faster.

The engineers at Quintana Roo acknowledged that most aero bike buyers have to add a stack of spacers under their stem to raise the bars to a functional height relative to the saddle. The stack of spacers is likely less aerodynamic and certainly less attractive than a slightly better head tube design that provides this higher position out of the box. The Seduza has this head tube orientation. The cockpit rides higher without a stack of spacers providing a more realistic front end position from fit studio to bike course.

2011 Quintana Roo Seduza Triathlon Bike
Cockpit on the 2011 Seduza uses ski bend aerobars and spring loaded brake levers with genuine Shimano Dura-Ace shifters. The stiffer elbow pads are an improvement.

A Strong Component Spec- The Cockpit.

Out of the box the Quintana Roo Seduza comes with a Vision aerobar with a generic round tubed, flat base bar. The bike we tested had Vision’s new, stiffer elbow pads. This is a ski bend aerobar which I find more comfortable than straighter “S” bend style extensions. Shifters are genuine Shimano brand Dura-Ace 10 speed bar end shifters. The bike stops from a pair of rudimentary but serviceable spring loaded brake levers that are light weight and feel nice in your hand.

2011 Quintana Roo Seduza Triathlon Bike
Genuine Shimano Dura-Ace bar end shifters and basic but workman-like brake levers with return springs for good actuation and return.

Fork spec on the Seduza is the classic aerodynamic, bladed carbon fiber fork that started the aero fork evolution. The fork has good aerodynamics according to Quintana Roo and was an industry leading fork design when introduced. The “Carbonaero” as it was named when it was introduced, has a cro-moly steer tube and provides excellent steering and ride quality. This was an industry leader when it was introduced and remains a strong offering. If there is one criticsim it is that the fork is a trifle heavy. If you want lighter, you will have to spend more.

2011 Quintana Roo Seduza Triathlon Bike
Key frame features include the Carbonaero aerodynamic carbon fiber fork, excellent, guided internal cable routing on an aero styled frame and easy to adjust drop out screws.

What you are Paying for: A solid Frame design and Excellent Geometry redesigned for 2011.

The main frame on the 2011 Quintana Roo Seduza has a nose-cone treatment to the new, higher head tube. The down tube and top tube have similar aero styling. The seat tube is also aero styled and includes a small wheel cut-out. Perhaps the most convenient feature of the frame is the pair of water bottle mounts making this a practical bike for longer rides without having to hang hydration accessories on the back of the saddle. Cable routing is internal and guided nicely. The cable housing runs the entire length through the frame so maintenance is very easy as is flight casing the bike. The seat stays have been re-designed from previous versions eliminating the mono-stay and using a seat stay/brake bridge configuration that feels like it provides a better, less compliant rear end- especially out of the saddle. There is a pleasant surprise at the back of the frame with well designed drop out adjustment screws that allow for easy, tool-free adjustment.

 

2011 Quintana Roo Seduza Triathlon Bike
The main frame uses two conventional bottle braze ons, a strong, practical detail on an aero bike. The new rear triangle provides better ride quality. A conventional bottom bracket is easy to maintain- if it ever needed maintenance, which is unlikely.

Not all carbon fiber is created equal and the Quintana Roo Seduza is a good if basic carbon lay-up. The ride quality of the frame is very good, I will suggest better than the other carbon bikes in this price category and, I suspect, a trifle heavier too. We did not have the opportunity to weigh a bare frame since our road test bike came complete prior to the release of the 2011 retail bikes. I’ll take a little additional weight (and stiffness) for a little better ride quality.

2011 Quintana Roo Seduza Triathlon Bike
The alloy binder collar and dependable, simple seatpost binder bolts are worth a close look. This configuration is durable and dependable. Be sure you use a torque wrench and equal torque on both sides of the collar.

A few great details on the Seduza frameset include their excellent modular seatpost binder collar. This is something several $10,000 super bikes don’t have figured out. The clamp is alloy and the two bolts are robust. You do need to be sure the torque is equal on both bolts and the gap between the left and right side of the clamp is equal. If you don’t own a torque wrench yet make it a purchase with any new bike.

2011 Quintana Roo Seduza Triathlon Bike
One of the strongest fit features on the Seduza is the excellent variable geometry seapost head with infinite adjustment. It is easy to work on and reliable. The saddle specification is adequate if unremarkable.

Key Feature: Industry Leading Variable Geometry Seatpost with Steep Capability.

The seatpost head and clamp on the Seduza provide a wide range of effective seat angles. Most riders will have the clamp in the forward 50% of the adjustment range rendering the fit on this bike relatively neutral: Most people will be able to get a position on this bike with a 90, 100 or 110 millimeter stem if they buy the right frame size. When you work with this seatpost head it has a habit of “binding” and may require disassembly to adjust but it clamps securely without slipping at moderate torque. I’ll take the former for the later. Again- I’ve seen some bikes doing laps around $10K that have worse seat adjustment hardware.

The Saddle: Adequate.

The saddle on the Seduza has nice, rounded sides but a little more rocker or “curve” to its profile than I prefer in a triathlon saddle. It’s a nice saddle for fit, acclimated riders when adjusted with the forward 2/3rds parallel to the ground. I’d ride it but I’d rather have a Cobb Cycling saddle or a Fizik Arione Tri. People new to triathlon bikes may want either the Cobb Cycling saddle or the plush Profile Design Tri Stryke saddle with its long, cushy nose and comfort cut-out.

2011 Quintana Roo Seduza Triathlon Bike
The new Shimano Ultegra rear derailleur has a wider gear capacity than previous models and great looks. A compact crank provides wider gear ratios and solid front shifting, especially from small ring to large.

Dependable Drivetrain with Reliable Shifting.

Drivetrain on the Quintana Roo Seduza uses a Shimano Ultegra RD-6700-SS short cage, 10 speed rear derailleur. This is Shimano’s newest version of the venerable Ultegra rear changer. The new version will accommodate up to a 28 tooth large cog and wrap enough chain to tolerate a 16 tooth difference between your big ring and small ring up front. The four link pins in the Ultegra rear derailleur are low-friction fluorine coated for typically smooth Shimano operation.

Front derailleur is Shimano’s new(er) FD-5700 which has a nicer inner and outer cage for noticeably faster, more authoritative front shifts than previous versions of Shimano 105, largely due to better overall stiffness in the derailleur. The derailleur can shift across a maximum 16 tooth difference from small to large (according to Shimano) enabling you to theoretically shift from a 39 tooth small chainring all the way up to a massive 55 tooth big chainring.

2011 Quintana Roo Seduza Triathlon Bike
With shift pins and machined chainring your front shifting will be good between the 34 tooth small and 50 tooth large rings.

You pedal the Seduza through an FSA Gossamer alloy crank with machined chainrings in the 110 mm compact bolt circle. With this tight 50/34 chainring orientation front shifting is extremely precise since the chainrings are machined and pinned for smooth upshifts and are smaller n diameter than a 53/39. Some athletes dither about whether the 50 tooth chainring is large enough. Given the 11 tooth cog in the back I’ll argue 50/11 is a perfectly adequate top gear. One pedal revolution of the 50/11 top gear will move the bike 32.1 feet whereas one revolution of a 53/11 will move the bike 34.0 feet. This means on the largest gear you will have a slightly higher cadence at very, very high speeds above 32 M.P.H., a regime most of us spend very little time in. the benefit is much nicer climbing gears, lower drivetrain weight and better shift quality from small ring to large.

2011 Quintana Roo Seduza Triathlon Bike
The Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) brakes are basic but effective. They feature an alloy barrel adjuster (not plastic) and use commonly available brake pads.

The Details: Well Speced.

The trim on the bike; brakes, chain and cogset compliment the rest of the kit. The brakes are Original Equipment Manufacturer (O.E.M.) and somewhat generic but include a nice aluminum (not plastic) barrel adjuster and commonly configured pads. When these pads wear out you simply replace the entire pad/shoe unit as opposed to Shimano calipers where you slide the pad out of the shoe. When you replace this pad you will need to re-adjust the toe of the pad relative to the rim. Chain and cogset are Shimano brand and provide good shift quality and wear based on my experience with these two part numbers on other bikes. They aren’t Ultegra, but they work dependably over repeated shifts under load.

2011 Quintana Roo Seduza Triathlon Bike
Wheel spec is strong: Shimano integrated wheels with new, wider flange hubs and Continental tires. This is your everyday training wheel and tire set.

Wheels on the Seduza are Shimano’s RS-20 wheelset with red anodized spoke nipples and Continental Ultra Race 700 X 23c tires. This is a strong wheel and tire spec. The RS-20 wheels use a 16 spoke radial front and 20 spoke cross-two rear. The hubs have been redesigned to include wider flanges making this workman-like wheelset even more durable. This is a very good wheel and tire spec for everyday training.
One of the things I am consistently impressed by when testing the newer generation of about-$2000 carbon tri bikes is how nice they ride. There is more in common between these bikes and a $10,000 super bike than there is different. That said there are differences between these bikes. The Seduza is the more stout of the pedigree, slightly stiffer at the bottom bracket and in the cockpit than a Felt B16. As such it feels more responsive and spritely. Thanks to the new head tube this bike absolutely has Ironman distance comfort even on rough, sun-bleached desert pavement.
There simply isn’t anything I’d change on the new 2011 Quintana Roo Seduza. As you sort through the candidates in this price category from other manufacturers your research will keep bumping the Seduza toward the top of your list. There is something satisfying about seeing Quintana Roo, an original technology innovator in our sport, continue to remain a contender against the mainstream brands like Trek and Specialized and, in the case of the Seduza, offer a genuinely “best in class” bike the big companies can’t touch.

2011 Quintana Roo Seduza Triathlon Bike
With excellent frame geomemtry including the variable seat angle seatpost head and higher head tube, excellent component spec and great ride quality the new 2011 Quintana Roo Seduza is at the top of the $2000-ish tri bike category.
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2011 Quintana Roo Kilo https://university.trisports.com/2010/11/11/2011-quintana-roo-kilo/ Thu, 11 Nov 2010 23:19:41 +0000 http://university.tri-sports.com/?p=1006 It is the most important bike in triathlon history. The Quintana Roo Kilo is the original triathlon bike. For 2011 it has been improved and updated. See why this piece of triathlon history is now a category leader- again. ]]>

By Tom Demerly

2011 Quintana Roo Kilo Triathlon Bike
The very first widely available triathlon bike, the Quintana Roo Kilo has been updated with new frame geometry for 2011. This is simply a great beginner's triathlon bike.

The Quintana Roo Kilo is the first ever production triathlon specific bike. For the 2011 model year the venerable, dependable Kilo is back with the same excellent, relaxed triathlon geometry built for comfort in the aerobar position. The new version has a few valid updates that make it better than any previous version for entry level triathletes.

No discussion of the Kilo is complete with a brief retrospective. Dan Empfield and Ralph Ray developed the steep seat tube angle bike- the triathlon bike, specifically for use with aerobars in the second half of the 1980’s. Empfield characterized the bike as “Designed from the handlebars back…”
The first production steep seat tube angle triathlon specific bike, the Quintana Roo Superform, was a handmade cro-moly frame with a wild paint scheme that was different on every bike. The bike used a very steep seat tube angle somewhere around 80 degrees. The bikes were hand built by Tom Teasdale in Iowa. Empfield and Ray discovered that a steeper seat tube angle opened the angle between the rider’s torso and femur bone in the aero posture. The result was a more relaxed, open posture when riding with aerobars.

“The result was a more relaxed, open posture when riding with aerobars.”

 

2011 Quintana Roo Kilo Triathlon Bike
The original Quintana Roo Superform used a steep seat angle and relaxed head angle specifically designed to make aerobars more comfortable and stable. Photo: Courtesy Slowtwitch via web search.

Innovator Boone Lennon of Scott Sports wrote the “sacred passage” that was the early Scott DH aerodynamic handlebar, but Empfield and Ray created the “Rosetta Stone” that made aerobars work with bicycles and athletes. Without Empfield’s original steep seat angle Quintana Roo Superform the aerobar would have not been as effective. Until the development of the Quintana Roo Superform athletes were slamming saddles forward on traditional road bikes and throwing off the handling by putting too much weight on the front wheel.
In the 1987 Ironman New Zealand Ray Browning used one of Empfield’s early Quintana Roo Superforms with considerable success. He had a 17 minute lead after the bike- much of it attributed to Empfield’s innovative Quintana Roo bike. A more detailed version of the account can be found here, authored by Dan Empfield himself: http://www.slowtwitch.com/mainheadings/features/superform.html

2011 Quintana Roo Kilo Triathlon Bike
The problem: An early photo of top pro Mike Pigg using aerobars on a traditional road bike- before Empfield invented the Superform and Kilo. Notice how Mike Pigg is slid forward onto the front half of his saddle, putting too much weight on the handlebars.

While the results with Quintana Roo bikes were stunning the reason why they worked may not have been fully understood until June of 2000 when Ian Garside and Dominic Doran published a university study popularly called “The Garside Study”. The Garside Study was a biomechanical test that put subjects on road bikes for a given duration while mounted on indoor trainers. Immediately following a time trial on road bikes they would transition, triathlon style, to a treadmill run. Garside and Doran recorded their times along with other metrics. The results strongly supported the theory that athletes were able to run faster after riding a steep seat tube angle bike like the Quintana Roo Superform and Kilo than after riding a road bike.

“The results strongly supported the theory that athletes were able to run faster after riding a steep seat tube angle bike.”

The early Quintana Roo Superform evolved into a more advanced bike called the Quintana Roo Kilo, named for its 2.2 pound, 1 kilogram frame weight. The bikes were elegant and advanced, with superb ride quality and the innovative Empfield geometry. Some early versions sported a vibrant green color scheme. In the first years of its development this reviewer raced on the Superform and the Kilo in several versions. The bikes were dependable and fast, comfortable and effective at facilitating the bike to run transition. The rest of the bike industry lagged behind until the release of the molded carbon fiber Kestrel KM40.

2011 Quintana Roo Kilo Triathlon Bike
Dan Empfield (left) inventor of the triathlon bike, chats with Litespeed/QR execs at Interbike. Right: A rare Quintana Roo Private Reserve, the very high end predecessor to the current Kilo.

Quintana Roo changed hands and Empfield went on to develop and promote other technologies including triathlon media. He is now the owner and publisher of Slowtwitch.com and a member of the Triathlon Hall of Fame.

As Quintana Roo’s owners after Empfield, Hyde Athletic (Saucony Shoes), found it difficult to maintain QR, the American Bicycle Group, or “ABG,” bought Quintana Roo and combined distribution with Litespeed Bicycles in Ooltewah, Tennessee. Over the next few years, they infused much of the original innovative spirit from Empfield’s era back into Quintana Roo. That brings us to the current 2011 Quintana Roo Kilo, perhaps the only bike in triathlon that can claim a genuine historical legacy in our sport.

Historical relevance aside, the 2011 Quintana Roo Kilo is the same game-changer as the 1989 Kilo. The only difference is how it changes the game. The 2011 Quintana Roo Kilo leads the entry price point triathlon category with good frame design, solid entry level component spec and a re-designed frame with more comfortable, real-world geometry.

“A key upgrade to the 2011 Kilo is the taller head tube for better fit and position- for the way triathletes really ride.”

2011 Quintana Roo Kilo Triathlon Bike
A key improvement: For 2011 Quintana Roo has increased the height of the head tubes to make riders more comfortable and reduce the need for headset spacers. This real-world consideration may actually make the bike faster provided riders can stay in the aero position longer due to the greater comfort afforded by the new geometry.

Beginning with the front of the bike Quintana Roo made a key upgrade to the 2011 Kilo. One of the things almost every triathlete- especially newer triathletes- do is raise their cockpits using a stack of headset spacers. A better solution would be to build in additional head tube height on the frame to improve front end stiffness, handling and overall comfort. It may even be more aerodynamic to add the height with the frame head tube than using an unattractive stack of head tube spacers. For 2011 every Quintana Roo Kilo frame size has a taller head tube. On the key frame size Medium the head tube has grown a whopping 4 centimeters from 9 centimeters to 13 centimeters- about the same number of spacers most riders would want on the older version. The Medium Large frame size goes from an 11.5 centimeter head tube up to an improved 16 centimeter head tube. The Large goes from 14.5 centimeters to 18 centimeters and the Extra Large grows from a 17.5 centimeter head tube to a new 20 centimeter head tube.

The benefits of the new front end are increased rider comfort, better positioning, easier fitting and better steering. There was no price increase with this improvement.

2011 Quintana Roo Kilo Triathlon Bike
From the left: The "Carbonaero" inspired carbon fiber, aerodynamic fork lowers drag and improves ride quality. Center: Two sets of bottle mounts on the frame are a practical consideration. Right: A well designed seatpost binder assembly can be repaired if it is ever accidentally damaged- a key concern when travelling with a bike.

The Quintana Roo Kilo uses the original version of the aerodynamic, bladed carbon fiber fork that Empfield developed years ago- then called the “Carbonaero”. This is attached via a standard 1&1/8” head tube assembly to a conventional round head tube that is welded to an oval, horizontally oriented top tube and an airfoil shaped down tube. The entire main frame is AN6 heat treated aluminum tubing. The seat tube retains an aerodynamic shape but has a utilitarian round tube at the bottom bracket to facilitate an easy to use bolt-on derailleur clamp. Early QR Kilos used a brazed on front derailleur mount that was excellent but lacked the serviceability of the newer clamp styles. Seat stays on the frame are also airfoil shaped and the all-important chainstays use a Serotta-esque bend to add stiffness. The derailleur hanger is replaceable and the rear drop out screws are well designed and adjustable. Details on the frame include a dependable, replaceable seatpost binder nut assembly and easy to maintain external cable routing. In short, there are no mistakes on this bike. The frame even includes a pair of bolt-on water bottle mounts, something missing from a few $10K+ superbikes.

2011 Quintana Roo Kilo Triathlon Bike
Left: The airfoil shaped down tube and seat stays. Center: The clamp-on front derailleur mount is a practical, durable consideration. Right: The Serotta-esque chainstays angle inward for increased lateral stiffness and vertical compliance.

Component spec on the 2011 Quintana Roo Kilo is value oriented but dependable. The aerobars do not adjust for length but the elbow pads can be oriented a few centimeters fore and aft for tuning your position. The new version of the Profile aerobars has a pleasing and anatomically efficient ski bend for a neutral wrist angle and the bike uses excellent controls including original Shimano brand Dura-Ace bar end shifters and decent brake levers with a firm return spring. The stem is a nice CNC machined four bolt affair with a conventional front-plate clamp that makes flight casing this bike a breeze.

2011 Quintana Roo Kilo Triathlon Bike
A nice detail for 2011 is the genuine Shimano Dura-Ace shifters. The cockpit is basic but solid with comfortable "ski" bend style aerobars and brake levers that use a return spring for responsive feel.

Wheel spec is utilitarian with a mystery-meat OEM (original equipment manufacturer) wheelset that wears the Quintana Roo brand, has a machined aluminum brake-track and is shod in an excellent pair of genuine Continental tires. This tire spec blows away other entry price point tri bikes. Since a pair of nice tires accounts for about 6% of the overall bike price this is significant.

2011 Quintana Roo Kilo Triathlon Bike
Quintana Roo did not cut corners on component spec: The Continental tires are long wearing and have great ride characteristics. The nylon casing also holds tire pressure well. The drivetrain features details like a Shimano brand chain and cogset.

The drivetrain is shifted by the Shimano Dura-Ace shifters and uses an FSA Omega compact crank with 50/34 chainrings and a 110 millimeter bolt pattern. The cranks send power to the genuine Shimano cogset using a Shimano brand chain. Your smallest cog is an 11 tooth balancing out the high end gearing on the compact crank.

2011 Quintana Roo Kilo Triathlon Bike
A new model Shimano Ultegra rear derailleur change gears behind an FSA alloy crank that uses pick-up rivet equipped chainrings for good shifting. The 50/34 tooth compact crank configuration further improves front shifting and is a feature many atheletes will appreciate.

Brakes are an alloy OEM caliper with black finish and barrel adjusters that work just fine. The saddle is a utilitarian if uninspired original equipment saddle that works but will likely turn into a John Cobb customer with one of the excellent Cobb cycling saddles- a worthy upgrade.

2011 Quintana Roo Kilo Triathlon Bike
The Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) brakes are basic but effective. They feature an alloy barrel adjuster (not plastic) and use commonly available brake pads.

The complete bike sells for $1450, a very strong value that leads the (barely) sub-$1500 price category from rivals like Fuji and Felt.
A second version of the Kilo is the Chicquilo, a female-market specific bike with pink graphics and a smaller size run. The ratios of top tube to seat tube and the stack and reach on this bike are the same as the non-gender specific Kilo so the primary difference is available sizes and color scheme.

How does it ride? Well, if a person who owned a $10,000 molded carbon fiber aero triathlon bike with a full SRAM Red or Shimano Dura-Ace and Zipp wheels rode the stock Kilo they would feel a difference. The key question is, is that difference worth $8,550? The answer lies with how hard it is for you to earn the extra $8,550. Of course there is a difference- but there are more similarities than differences since the Quintana Roo Kilo delivers the key technologies that make a triathlon bike work.

2011 Quintana Roo Kilo Triathlon Bike
The Chicqilo is a female specific version of the Kilo with a different size run and color palette.

I found ride quality on the newest version of the Kilo to be surprisingly good for an aluminum frame. The taller head tube makes the front end feel more solid and sure footed, steering feels better too. You don’t feel the bumps too much on this bike largely owing to the depth of the rims and the nice tires. Front shifting has been improved by going to the smaller 110 millimeter bolt circle compact crank. This is a bike worthy of an Ironman distance race. Since the key component to bicycle performance is bike fit and position you’ll likely be better off on a basic, dependable triathlon bike like the Quintana Roo Kilo than something more expensive that doesn’t fit as well and isn’t specifically suited for triathlons.

The Quintana Roo Kilo is an original and the latest version continues that legacy admirably. For the new triathlete or the triathlete upgrading from a road bike to a tri bike the Kilo is a category leader that has to be on your very short list.

The new 2011 Kilos will be available in late fall/winter 2010 as Quintana Roo rolls out their entire 2011 line. We’ve already ridden the bikes at a Quintana Roo demo here at TriSports.com (when we wrote and photographed this review) and will have them ready to ship and deliver during the next few weeks.

2011 Quintana Roo Kilo Triathlon Bike
The 2011 Quintana Roo Kilo is a worthy successor to the QR Kilo lineage and features new design updates for better comfort and performance. The value-packed component spec and excellent frame geometry make this a strong choice for any first time triathlete or athlete upgrading from a road bike.
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Scott Plasma 3 https://university.trisports.com/2010/10/13/scott-plasma-3/ https://university.trisports.com/2010/10/13/scott-plasma-3/#comments Wed, 13 Oct 2010 17:37:20 +0000 http://university.tri-sports.com/?p=807 Few bikes have been anticipated with the excitement surrounding the new 2011 Scott Plasma 3. Does this newly-vaunted superbike live up to the hype? We go real world with the Plasma 3 here. ]]>

By Tom Demerly, Sarah Lieneke and Jaclyn Applegate.

2011 Scott Plasma 3 Time Trial Bike
Scott's Plasma 3 is a "superbike" with real world mechanical features combining cutting edge design themes with mechanical dependability and simplicity.

You could count it as a fifth generation triathlon bike. At the leading (but not bleeding) edge of a slew of superbike introductions Scott may have threaded the needle with the optimal compromise between superbike technology and everyman reality.

The New Scott Plasma 3 incorporates the key design themes we’ve seen in the top manufacturers’ flagship aerobikes. The difference is the Scott Plasma 3 retains an elegant mechanical simplicity that will provide a Honda type ownership experience with Ferrari-like performance.

It’s new-mold time for many high end brands in the cycling industry. Trek, Felt, Cervelo (with their now-legacy P4), Quintana Roo and others have introduced tooling in the past one to four years to reshape our concept of the most advanced triathlon frames. Scott’s new Plasma 3 enters that fray, and may do so at a sweet spot in aero bike evolution when Scott has learned enough from previous designs to know what to build in, what to improve on and what to leave off. The new Scott Plasma 3 is the sweet spot between advanced design and functional reality.

2011 Scott Plasma 3 Time Trial Bike
The Plasma 3 joins a newer generation of molded carbon bikes that feature extensive component integration. The difference with the Plasma 3 is the mechanical simplicity and elegance of the integration. The bike is easy to flight case and service without special training and has fully functional conventional brakes. Even the paint livery is striking and racy without being gaudy.

When we built our first production Scott Plasma 3’s one thing became apparent: This is an elegant design that is easy to work on. That is a major coup in the superbike world of finicky, one-off rear brake designs, fussy first generation front end integration, tricky cable routing and well conceived but marginally executed built-in accessory ideas. You can actually ride and travel with the Scott Plasma 3. Your bike shop won’t need special training, pages of service bulletins and in-store, online tech clinics to work on it.

The first clean design feature on the Scott Plasma 3 is the front end integration. They simply designed a conventional stem into the top tube. No science fiction. It just works. I can think of one manufacturer that came early to the integrated front end party that is probably ready to stab themselves with a Bayonet when they see how simple this is.

2011 Scott Plasma 3 Time Trial Bike
A thick- wall 1" diameter carbon fiber steer tube uses a threaded pin to retain the fork and maintain the headset adjustment.

The steer tube clamp bolts are concealed in the back of the stem. You turn the stem to the side and tighten the bolts to the appropriate torque setting. When the cockpit is returned to the normal steering range, they disappear between the back of the stem and the front of the frame. Simple. Brilliant. The head set and fork are secured by tightening a bolt through the top cap that threads into the metal pin cottered into the thick-wall, narrow diameter and robust carbon steer tube. It will be a while before anything this simple and reliable is innovated. Imagine: A superbike front end you can probably work on yourself. In fairness to other designs this configuration does lack height and angular adjustment. Four stem configurations will be available to tune the front end fit and additional adjustment can be achieved through different elbow pad and aerobar set ups.

2011 Scott Plasma 3 Time Trial Bike
The stem clamp is elegant simplicity: Standard stem clamp bolts hidden in the back of the stem that apply clamping force on the steer tube.

The clamshell stem clamps to the aero base bars with four bolts, two under, two over the stem itself. Scott will offer a range of four stem lengths and rises.

2011 Scott Plasma 3 Time Trial Bike
The cockpit is clamped by four bolts, two on top, two underneath the clamshell stem design.

Our first bike shipment included the complete SRAM Red version of the Scott Plasma 3 and framesets. We built the first bikes box-stock for an evaluation.

The new version of the SRAM’s Return to Center bar end shifter is installed in the carbon fiber Profile “S” bend aero extensions. I’ll wager this is a refined version of the original Return to Center shifter since it had easier actuation than earlier versions. After each up or down shift the shifter pops back to the straight forward orientation, the way a dual control lever does on a road bike shifter. The shifters are petite, light and accurate. Upshifts (to a harder gear) are easier than downshifts (to easy gears).

The Profile Design Aerobars use better, more secure elbow pads than we’ve ever seen from a Profile. They clamp securely, don’t flex under heavy efforts and generally feel better than previous Profile Design aerobar elbow pads.

2011 Scott Plasma 3 Time Trial Bike Shifters
I'll suggest SRAM may have made a change to their Return to Center shifter as this version shifted easier than early versions.

The wheelset on the complete bike version of the Scott Plasma 3 is the Zipp 80 mm deep front 808 wheel and the 108 mm deep 1080 in the rear. That is a deep set of wheels. This reviewer would have been more excited about a 404 style 60 mm front specification out of the box. The wheels are tubular (sew-up/glue-on) with a beautiful pair of Continental Competition 22 mm wide tubulars stretched on ready for gluing. A special touch is the black anodized Zipp hub bodies I haven’t seen on any other Zipp wheels.

2011 Scott Plasma 3 Time Trial Bike
Two nice details include a unique black anodized hub shell from Zipp and a lack of annoying binder tabs on the fork dropouts.

The cockpit corners, brakes and climbs from a new Profile Design carbon fiber aerodynamic base bar. Labeled “PROSVET”, the base bar features nice internal cable routing for brake cables but is a trifle flexy at the grip section under very hard efforts. This tendency to feel a little flex at the ends of base bars is also indicative of how stiff the stem and front end of the bike are.

2011 Scott Plasma 3 Time Trial Bike
The Profile Design base bars are sleek looking and comfortable to grip but a trifle flexy under very hard efforts.

Brake levers are a nice Profile Design aero lever than is mostly carbon fiber and feels like it lacks a return spring- at least on feel. My normal test for a return spring is to clamp the caliper against the rim with my hand and see if the lever springs back to the open position. These levers did not. Profile does suggest all their levers are return spring equipped. The levers still felt responsive owing (at least partially) to good cable routing through the frame and excellent rear brake design- more on that in a moment.

Cable routing on the mechanical drivetrain version of the Scott Plasma 3, officially called the “Plasma Premium” on Scott’s website and catalog, is internal and well conceived but does ride outside the frame in boundary layer of air moving over the bike at speed. The Plasma Premium can be retrofitted with Shimano Di2 but the Di2 wiring will not be integrated into the frame as it will on the upcoming verson of the Scott Plasma 3 that is originally kitted out with and designed around Shimano Dura-Ace Di2.

2011 Scott Plasma 3 Time Trial Bike
Beautiful front end integration: Scott will offer four stem geometries. Cable routing is good but not as clean as some designs that route directly into the top tube in the lee of the cockpit.

As we leave the front end we notice there are no annoying safety tabs on the fork drop outs- the front quick release really is quick.

Sliding back the frame we meet the horizontal top tube and the airfoil shaped down tube with elegantly faired bottle mounts. A massive bottom bracket is cocooned in carbon that joins the seat tube where another bottle mount lives and the seat tube fairs the rear wheel closely. The front derailleur hanger is riveted and bonded to the frame and thus, difficult to replace if disaster strikes. A simple bolt-on aluminum cover routes the front derailleur cable upward from behind the crank.

2011 Scott Plasma 3 Time Trial Bike
The rear wheel fits precisely against the seat tube and is adjustable using horizontal dropout screws in the rear-facing dropouts. Two conventional bottle mounts provide real-world hydration options.

The seatpost binder bolt is flush with the top tube and does not require an engineering degree to understand. As with every fastener on a new generation racing bike, use a torque wrench with a universal joint here. Expect some rough paint in the area around the seatpost entry hole.

The seatpost is adjustable for height in a semi-conventional manner but likely will have to be cut since the range of adjustment is limited to about 3-5 cm or the amount of seat post that is housed inside the frame. There is no minimum insertion line on the seatpost so use good judgment when shortening the post. It is better to make small cuts as you lower the post than to cut too much post off and not leave enough inside the frame. The binder bolt is an excellent and simple design but this is a low torque fastener so there is not much clamping force. For heavier riders the post may creep down, even with friction paste. A good strategy is to have the post cut to a precise enough length that the bottom of the seatpost rests on the stop inside the frame. If you cut too much, post sections cut off can be slid back inside the frame to act as a shim.

The seatpost head has an 8 cm rail for fore/aft adjustment that changes the virtual seat tube angle from moderate to effectively 80 degrees with the 29 cm long Fizik Arione Tri 2 carbon rail saddle. Saddle angle adjustment is done with one bolt from the side of the clamp, can be done on the road easily when dismounted and is infinite.

2011 Scott Plasma 3 Time Trial Bike
The seatpost binder assembly is simple and easy to adjust. The post will have to be cut to a limited range of saddle height adjustment. The saddle clamp has a wide range of fore/aft adjustment for the perfect effective seat angle.

The complete Scott Plasma 3 SRAM Red bike features the SRAM Red crank with solid alloy Time Trial chainrings using a 53 tooth big ring and a 39 tooth small. Upshifts from small ring to big were fine even with the mini-shifters.

2011 Scott Plasma 3 Time Trial Bike
The bottom bracket is a simple and easy to maintain configuration. Note the press fit bottom bracket shell, alloy front derailleur access panel and front derailleur mount. Also, the "well" for the Dura-Ace rear brake is seen in the robust chain stays.

The rear brake on the Scott Plasma 3 is a reasonable compromise between drag shaving aerodynamics and anxiety producing mechanical frustration. The Scott configuration very closely mimics the successful design of the rear brake used on the Felt DA and B series triathlon bikes, and does well to do so since it is a solid mechanical design. The rear brake on the Scott Plasma 3 is simply a conventional Shimano Dura-Ace brake caliper that is light, strong and dependable mounted on top of the chain stays so the stiffness of the stays improve braking response. If you are leery of soft-feeling proprietary rear brake designs you’ll love the rear braking on the Scott. Grab the lever- the rear wheel stops. No special parts. Your mechanic won’t need a PowerPoint presentation and tech clinic on how to set it up. When you finally get to Kona you can adjust the rear brake after easily reassembling the bike out of your flight case. This brake design also leaves the underside of the bottom bracket deliciously bare.

2011 Scott Plasma 3 Time Trial Bike
The Scott rear brake configuration strikes a compromise between braking power, ease of adjustment and aerodynamics. Rear braking performance is excellent.

The chainstays change shape on their way to the rear dropouts in an odd series of angulations that are said to strike a compromise between stiffness and aerodynamics. I can vouch for the stiffness but I’d be guessing at the aerodynamics. For an insight into the aerodynamic design and testing process it’s worth a look at this You Tube video on the development of the Scott Plasma 3:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aJqLU5Eec64

2011 Scott Plasma 3 Time Trial Bike
A beautiful rear chassis: The unusual chainstays are angular and stiff but I'm not sure how they'd do in a wind tunnel test. The SRAM Red solid-block machined cogset delivers precise shifting and light weight without the use of fragile alloys.

The finish on the Scott Plasma 3 is a stealth-matt charcoal with integrated graphics that are sinister and subdued. It will match or at least not clash with your tri club’s race kit. I like the angular graphics that compliment the frame shape too.

On the road the bike is stiff and stable with this component spec. It punches hard with an out-of-the-saddle lunge and listens to your steering input. You may feel some bumps with these very deep section wheels, but on race day you are pedaling so hard you won’t care. My only handling beef is the stiffness of the front end tortures the base bars into partial submission. Settled into the aero position the bike is steady and easy to manage even when surprised by the gusty Tucson desert winds blowing across Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. I truly loved riding this bike and it is my favorite of the superbikes I’ve ridden due to its gutsy ride quality and everyman mechanical simplicity.

2011 Scott Plasma 3 Time Trial Bike
Next to the fighter aircraft flying sorties out of Davis-Monthan AFB in the background the Scott Plasma 3 looked right at home with its angular lines and tactical-stealth subdued colorway.

Fit on the bike trends toward the larger interpretation of the size names. This is a “T-shirt” sized bike in small, medium and large. The mediums we received and tested ran high and short with a 56 cm total center to top seat post, an effective 54 cm (center to center) top tube and a high-ish 14 cm head tube that does include the stem clamp. Four stem sizes are to be offered. If you are shorter than 5’6” you probably won’t be riding this bike. For my 5’9” height and torso to leg length ratio I would be on the Small frame size. Each of the sizes offers ample fit latitude owing to the variable geometry seat tube angle and the adjustable reach Profile Design aerobars.

The complete version of the Scott Plasma 3 with SRAM Red and Zipp 808 front and 1080 rear wheels is $9,999.99. It is also sold as a frameset for $3999.95.

2011 Scott Plasma 3 Time Trial Bike
Our assemblers build a shipment of Scott Plasma 3's. Our service technicians felt the assembly was easier than other superbikes with few tricky, proprietary technologies.

I love the seductive lines of the new generation superbikes but am reluctant to consider owning and racing most of them due to finicky mechanical issues like special brakes and difficult to service front ends. The Scott Plasma 3 avoids those issues with good basic mechanical design combined with excellent aerodynamic integration. This is the Superbike for the Clark Kent customer that may make your bike split faster than a speeding bullet.

2011 Scott Plasma 3 Time Trial Bike
Elite level triathlete and Halfmax Triathlon Age Group National Champion Sarah Lieneke Puts the Plasma 3 through its paces in the desert proving ground south of TriSports.com here in Tucson.
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A Logical Progression https://university.trisports.com/2010/07/13/a-logical-progression/ Tue, 13 Jul 2010 23:12:02 +0000 http://university.tri-sports.com/?p=211 Quintana Roo invented the triathlon bike as we know it. The next logical step is to innovate the design into the most advanced tri bike available. One way to do that may be to side step the issue. See how QR did that here.]]>

By Tom Demerly

Quintana Roo has done one thing successfully since they began: Innovate. That isn’t to say it’s always been smooth sailing for the brand that invented the triathlon bike. It hasn’t. But with their latest offerings Quintana Roo has found calm waters and true innovation. The QR Dura Ace CD 0.1 is the flagship of the fleet sailing smoothly at the cutting edge of triathlon technology. And like all true beauties, its appeal is more than just what meets the eye.

QR and its founder, Dan Empfield, are credited with the invention of the triathlon wetsuit, the advanced seat tube angle triathlon bike, the first aerodynamic triathlon bike and a host of more subtle technologies that have been widely adopted across triathlon brands. I’ve owned and raced each of the technology benchmarks from Quintana Roo: The Superform, the RedStone. Each was a valid step forward in triathlon bike technology that influences tri bikes to this day across every brand. When Empfield sold Quintana Roo in 1995 pundits feared it may have been a “brain drain” that could end the legacy of innovation. For a while they were right.

Founder Dan Empfield stayed with Quintana Roo in a seemingly emeritus role under Saucony ownership for four years. The year after Empfield left Saucony spun off the QR brand to new owners Merlin/Litespeed/JHK Investment. Quintana Roo found a home on more solid bike footing. It took the Tennessee-based Litespeed consortium some time to understand the definition of QR and where the brand fit in. They also needed another maven, another champion of innovation. The New Quintana Roo found that in engineer Brad DeVaney.

DeVaney is just one of the people at Quintana Roo responsible for some literally “sideways thinking” that differentiates the Quintana Roo CD 0.1 from other aerodynamic triathlon frames.

The CD 0.1 is named for its low drag coefficient as reported by Quintana Roo from their own wind tunnel design of the complete bike. The Quintana Roo CD 0.1 uses the company’s so-named “Shift” configuration that offsets the down tube of the frame 18mm toward the drive side of the bike. This is said to act as a fairing for the drivetrain and redirect the boundary layer to the non-drive side to reduce drag. In addition to making the frame more aerodynamic the asymmetrical configuration is also claimed to enhance stability at high speeds.

Bottom line: Does it work? Most honest answer: Tough to tell without an independent wind tunnel comparison of brands. In the words of former President Reagan, “Trust, but verify.”

Key words: Trust and Independent. No such independent wind tunnel test exists yet, so for the time being we are all subject to the data provided by various manufacturers about their claimed wind tunnel superiority, and everyone claims “best aerodynamics” while simultaneously de-bunking the competitions’ testing and development protocol. Every brand does it, so this rhetoric essentially cancels each other out in a mathematical sense. Here is Quintana Roo’s wind tunnel argument for the CD 0.1:

http://www.quintanarootri.com/documents/cd01-wind-tunnel-analysis.pdf

As for trust, one would have to wonder why a company would go to such great lengths to have molds made for such an unconventional design without some empirical justification. If it were just a gimmick for market differentiation, wouldn’t there be a simpler gimmick?

Quintana Roo may very well own “lowest drag coefficient” with the CD 0.1, but aerodynamics are a difficult metric to quantify across the entire performance envelope of the bike and across the marketing agendas of brands. Since it is as tough for us to argue on behalf of (or against) Quintana Roo’s wind tunnel development as it is for any brand, I’ll pull this factor out of our review equation. I’m not qualified or equipped to assess the frame aerodynamics relative to other designs. As a consumer, you either believe in the technology and testing or you don’t.

I will offer this one notion though: Based on race results in the rank n’ file world of non-sponsored athletes it certainly does appear to be a race worthy design alongside the other “most aero” bikes.

Solid Basic Design.

Here is what we do know: while aerodynamics are important they have become a bit of a “golden BB” metric in bicycle marketing- the one thing people try to hang a buying decision on. That is short sighted. An optimal bike needs to have strong attributes across the entire performance envelope, from flat out on level ground at 28 M.P.H. in the aero posture during calm conditions to grinding up a steep climb at 8 M.P.H. Aerodynamics are not the only metric that dictate optimal performance. It is a complex amalgam of features and benefits that make a bike great. I’ll argue fit and position are at the top of the list. Even if you take the aerodynamic argument off the table for the Quintana Roo CD 0.1 this bike is still a technology leader.

“Even if you take the aerodynamic argument off the table for the Quintana Roo CD 0.1 this bike is still a technology leader.”

The ability to put the rider in the optimal place relative to the bottom bracket is the single most important metric on a triathlon specific bike. The seatpost design on the Quintana Roo CD 0.1 is the best in the triathlon industry. That is critically important in making a triathlon bike fast. It has the widest range of effective seat angle adjustment and is easiest to work on and adjust. It also does some “thinking” for ham-fisted bike fitters by automatically correcting for saddle height as the effective seat tube angle is adjusted. The benefit to you is the bike is highly fit-able.

The one area every cyclist has a complaint is saddle comfort. Whether you use a 30 cm long Profile TriStryke or a 24 cm long ISM Adamo “noseless” saddle the Quintana Roo CD 0.1 can be adapted to your ideal saddle fore/aft position and angle, and it does so with relative ease. You will be impressed with how important a micro-adjustable seat angle is to saddle comfort and, ultimately, performance. It doesn’t matter how low your bike’s drag coefficient is if you can’t stay solidly planted in the aero position. The head on the Quintana Roo seatpost allows the small adjustments that make the difference between tolerability and numbness and a wider range of adjustment done more easily than any other tri bike.

“The seatpost design on the Quintana Roo CD 0.1 is the best in the triathlon industry.”

Additionally, the variable geometry seatpost enables the rider to get a more functional, open angle between the femur and the torso for a more relaxed position while staying aero. The variable geometry seatpost makes it easier for the rider to find a long distance aero position. Your fitter can position the saddle for a very open angle between femur and torso while maintaining an aerodynamic posture. This even makes eating and drinking on the bike easier.

I’m not as concerned with whose wind tunnel data is most believable as I am with how long I can stay in the aero position and whether I can use my bottles from the aero posture. Over an Ironman distance bike leg this amounts to minutes off your bike leg. At the sprint distance it could be the handful of seconds that gets you that first ever age category placing.

The Quintana Roo CD 0.1 has such a wide fit band that there is a better chance you’ll find a truly comfortable, functional aero posture on this bike than almost any other. Most of this is due to the unique variable geometry seatpost. It is a key feature on the CD 0.1, perhaps more so than the (claimed) aerodynamic benefits.

Speaking of the saddle area the seatpost clamp on the Quintana Roo CD 0.1 is dependable and robust as well as presenting a smooth profile to the wind. The entire collar is alloy, adding to its durability. It is also modular, if it ever were damaged a new one is easily installed. This is a key feature if you travel a lot or on a bike that is frequently flight cased. The saddle height is secured with 6nm of torque using a 4mm allen wrench.

The CD 0.1 uses inventive design cues from front to back to manage air flow. The fork is bowed outward and away from the wheel 2.6 cm on each side at its widest separation. This is claimed to reduce drag as air passes between wheel and fork at speed. Viewed from the front you’ll see the fork blades are much farther away from the wheel than a conventional fork configuration and bow outward.

Front brake arrangement on the CD 0.1 is behind the fork, faired from the boundary layer by the aerodynamic fork crown. The fork crown manages air flow away from the parasite drag that would be created by the brake if it didn’t ride in the lee of the fork. This is a design concept we’ve seen on other aerobikes.

There is a nose cone style bump on the front of the head tube and this transitions into the head tube where the cables enter the top tube. Cable routing is fully guided internal and impeccably easy to set up, as good as Felt’s industry leading cable routing. The entry holes aren’t labeled so routing the cables the first time will take a trial to see what goes where. A valid, real-world feature are two bottle mounts on the frame. True- carrying two large bottles and especially the empty cages could influence aerodynamics on race day but when you need to do a five hour training ride this is a functional convenience. The shape of the top tube on the CD 0.1 is probably one of the most unsung features on the bike. It is roughly wide and flat, and I’ll discuss the significance of that in a few paragraphs when we clip in and go for a ride on CD 0.1.

The bottom bracket and seat tube areas on the CD 0.1 are curvaceous and complex, a beautiful set of contours to look at and elegantly subtle. This amalgam of alluring shapes melds together to manage airflow onto the rear wheel. Even the bottom bracket is encased inside the frame, with no exposed bearings. The front derailleur mount bolts on and the rear brake is located under the bottom bracket.

Early versions of the rear brake on the CD 0.1 were difficult to adjust for some mechanics unaccustomed to high end aero bikes. It is fair to note that nearly every high end aerodynamic bike uses some type of proprietary brake design, and if a conventional brake is considered straightforward, none of the proprietary designs are conventional- or straightforward- in the strictest sense. A recent improvement in the CD 0.1 design is a new “dog bone” that is slightly longer than previous versions. Technician Jack Johnson of TriSports.com characterized the new retrofit as “A big improvement”. All the CD 0.1’s we’re building are receiving the new, longer brake components. We’re getting absolutely adequate rear brake performance even for descending off the second largest paved climb in the U.S. here in Tucson- Mt. Lemmon.

Another of many unique frame features on the CD 0.1 is the chainstays. Chainstays have a lot to say about how a bike rides, shifts and accelerates. The chainstays on the CD 0.1 are a massive 63 mm deep as they leave the bottom bracket. They stay deep all the way to the rear wheel dropout. There is a replaceable derailleur hanger as you would expect and the rear dropouts are vertical and rear-facing as with most aerobikes. There are a nice set of dropout adjustment screws inside the rear wheel dropout, a successful design we’ve seen on other aerobikes.

The Quintana Roo CD 0.1 is sold in several configurations including a frameset only in black, the white bike with a Dura-Ace ensemble and a racy lime green machine with an Ultegra kit. We tested the white Dura-Ace equipped bike, my pick of the litter. I love this component kit for a number of reasons. Mostly, this is how I’ve spec’ed my own personal bike on several different framesets: Aerodynamic FSA carbon fiber crankset, Dura-Ace drivetrain and carbon fiber VisionTech cockpit. The cockpit includes FSA/VisionTech aerodynamic brake levers which I like and have used across several framesets on courses all over the world including Thailand and St. Croix.

The carbon fiber FSA VisionTech TriMax crankset is unerringly stiff and surefooted with excellent upshift from small ring to big. Up front the stem is a VisionTech two bolt design. I still argue this is the best stem/cockpit combination in the triathlon industry, although I prefer the upward bend as opposed to the straight.

The wheelset on the Quintana Roo CD 0.1 is neither bad nor good- they are just wheels. A-Class original equipment wheels, 20 straight gauge radial spokes in front rotating on sealed bearing hubs and 24 cross two spokes on the rear wheel. It is an unremarkable but sturdy wheelset for your everyday rides. It is shod in a fantastic pair of sturdy, firm Continental Ultra Race tires, 700 X 23c. These wheels are intended for everyday training. This bike is worthy of very nice race wheels.

One of the best component decisions on the Quintana Roo CD 0.1 is what they left off- There is no saddle included with the bike. Every retailer is saying thank you to Quintana Roo for this. The saddle is left off for the same reason the pedals are: Everyone has their own opinion about what saddle is best. Putting an inexpensive original equipment saddle on the bike is probably just a step on the way to you retrofitting the saddle of your liking to the bike. Better to just start with the saddle that is right for you. Having no saddle spec on the bike saves the retailer from having to swap a saddle and spares you the anguish of having to try to come to grips with an original saddle. It’s simply a better idea just to leave it off and let the customer decide.

Now, the best part: How it rides. I want one thing out of a tri bike- speed. The road to speed is paved with comfort. If you aren’t comfortable, you can’t stay aero and you can’t go fast. The QR is an exceptionally comfortable bike that devours road shock in its massive carbon shapes. On rotten roads you simply plough through. You can stay aero and fast. The handling is not good on this bike, it’s absolutely great. Remember that wide top tube? That makes the center of the bike stiff enough so the back listens to the front. Turn it, descend it, brake it hard, climb it out of the saddle in a big gear- it’s a race car. I loved it. Great handling, precise steering, insulated ride. Yes, I think my bike split will be faster on this. I think I can go harder, longer on this. This is truly one of the very best riding tri bikes I’ve ever been on- and I’ve been on a lot of tri bikes racing all over the world since the tri bike was invented. It is a worthy development in Quintana Roo’s legacy of innovation.

Drawbacks? It’s heavy-ish. Aerobikes usually are. It isn’t a climb specific bike. Once you get it rolling and even before I didn’t perceive it as sluggish because it is so… solid and stable. If you punch it, it goes. When you get it up to speed, it stays, on the rough pavement, it doesn’t kick back. Race wheels will reduce the weight significantly but out of the box I had no issue with any aspect of the bike’s real world performance. I’d gladly race it and consider it an advantage.

The Quintana Roo CD 0.1 has won several design awards including a tough to win Eurobike Gold award from the traditionally hard to please European market. They don’t give out awards for gimmicks, only solid designs across the spectrum of bike performance. While the wind tunnel rhetoric and “Shift” design theme are central to the buzz about the Quintana Roo CD 0.1 they are only the surface of a strong collection of valid and well executed design themes. This is a truly excellent frame from the inventor of the triathlon bike with many valid performance enhancing features. It’s good to see the inventor of the original triathlon bike back at the very top of the category. I owned one of the first Quintana Roo Superforms back in 1988 so there is a bit of history in returning to this brand and I do so gladly acknowledging that the CD 0.1 is truly well designed – I genuinely love this bike. It is triathlon history, technology and valid performance.

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