Friday, February 14, 2014

Triathlon Research: Bike intervals to improve your run? {} Do compression socks work?

Couple of interesting articles I came across, and while no research article is perfect and can tell the whole story, these provide some interesting information:

European Journal of Sport 2013 Nov 9. (published online ahead of print)
High-intensity cycle interval training improves cycling and running performance in triathletes.
Etxebarria NAnson JMPyne DBFerguson RA.

Subjects:  14 moderately trained triathletes

Pre- and Post-Test: 
{1}  16 X 20sec bike sprints
{2}  1 hour bike time trial followed by a 5k run

Training Variable:
Subjects split into two groups; one group did 3 weeks of twice weekly SHORT intervals (9-11 X 10s, 20s, and 40s efforts) on the bike and the other had also 3 weeks of twice weekly LONG intervals (6-8 X 5min efforts) on the bike.

Results:
Both groups showed improvements in mean (average) power during the last 8 of the 16, 20sec cycle sprints.  they also had lower heart rate, perceived exertion, and blood lactate during the 1-hour bike time trial.  Only the LONG interval group showed substantial improvement in the 5k run following the bike.

Take-away:  Triathletes should add some long interval efforts to their training to help on the bike......and the run

*****
European Journal of Applied Physiology 2013 Dec 13. [Epub ahead of print]
Compression stockings do not improve muscular performance during a half-ironman triathlon race.
Del Coso JAreces FSalinero JJGonzález-Millán CAbián-Vicén JSoriano LRuiz DGallo CLara BCalleja-Gonzalez J.

Subjects:
36 experienced triathletes

Training Variable:  Subjects split into two groups -- one that wore compression socks, and the other didn't for a half-iron distance event.

Pre- and Post-Test:  
{1} Numerous blood markers -- myoglobin and creatine kinase among others
{2} Jump height
{3}  Leg muscular power -- thru a counter-movement jump
{4}  Perceived exertion

Results:
There was not a significant difference between the groups for the blood markers, jump height, muscular power, or perceived exertion.

Take-Away:
Compression socks may not provide any benefit in maintaining muscle function in half-iron distance races

I have a pair of compression socks that I've worn for some long workouts, and while I didn't notice anything huge, I wondered if my feet were a little more comfortable in my shoes after a long run with them.

Anyone care to share their personal experience here?

Monday, February 3, 2014

Dealing with plantar fasciitis

I haven't been injured much.  Probably the physical therapist in me keeps me in check a bit more than average and I've also always had pretty fair body awareness.

The past four or five months, though, I've been dealing with a very stubborn plantar fasciitis.  Normally a very consistent runner and cyclist -- I had been working out nearly every day doing one or the other or both for almost two decades.

But the last 18 months have been much less consistent for me.  New additions to the family and a growing small business have interfered, making workouts difficult.  And I think that my lack of consistency has led to this injury.

When you run every day, and have been for many weeks, months, or years, tendons and connective tissue are more resilient.  On again off again schedules lead the soft tissues to go through more of a roller coaster -- those same tendons are not getting the input and so they're thinner and exhibit less tensile strength.  Because of the weaker tissue, each workout creates a greater than average amount of tissue tears.  There is also the inevitable weight gain as you work out less, which means more force on the tissues as well.

It's ironic -- I've spent a career treating injured people and here I am somewhat foundering in the face of a recalcitrant injury.

I'm improving each day and each week, and it seems that the healing has gone in stages.

Stage 1:  I can still run, and have no soreness afterwards.  It's at night that I notice it and I wasn't paying enough attention to it so it worsened to the point that it did begin to hurt after runs (actually felt like someone had taken a hammer to the bottom of my foot after a run).  I  also now had soreness after a bike ride for the first time.  Night time was the worst as I hobbled to the bathroom every time I stood up on it.  At the end of this stage is when I began a hiatus from running to give my foot a chance at healing without continually causing inflammation.

Stage 2:  Aggressively stretching of the gastrocnemius muscle.  This is PT 101 for plantar fascia issues, and it does help.

If my foot was sore during the day if I did one long (45 seconds) calf stretch on the stairs, I would be pain free -- for a while.  I also invested in a Straussburg Sock, which is a comfortable night splint that holds your toes up to keep a consistent stretch on the plantar fascia.
This approach helped for a while.  It helped me get the symptoms under control -- no more pain on on the bike -- and while it got me close to running, I wasn't able to keep symptoms under control so the running hiatus persisted.

Stage 3:  Hip mobility.  I was getting more diligent with my stretching overall.  For most of my athletic career I was a dedicated stretcher, but as my life got busier, and there were more demands on my time, stretching was bumped down the priority list.  This injury motivated me to get back to my previous good habits.  I noticed one day stretching, that if I stretched my hip adductors and hip flexors (which are common areas hit with some of the Warrior poses in yoga) I could eliminate my foot pain entirely

Stage 4:  Neurological effect.  Another day stretching revealed something that would also completely rid me of acute symptoms.

Bring the leg up (as pictured but not quite as far) and then
across the body, keeping toes pulled up.
If I did a neural tension stretch on my leg, my heal pain would disappear.  A neural tension stretch is exactly what it sounds like -- the leg is put in a position that doesn't stretch the muscles and tendons as much as it puts the nerve in a fully lengthened or tensioned position.  When you do this stretch correctly you'll get some annoying, sharp, sometimes burning or buzzing sensations down your leg and into your foot.  These are typical nerve sensations, and you have to be careful not to over-do it, but it can be really effective.  Again I was amazed at how quick and effective this was at relieving acute symptoms.  Moreover I could feel the foot improving long tern with this -- I wasn't just temporarily relieving acute pains.  I began to run a little in this phase.  Never two days in a row -- actually only twice a week -- and only about 15-20 minutes at a time, but at least I was starting.

Stage 5:  Aggressive soft tissue massage.  How aggressive?  I use a golf ball and, sitting on a carpeted floor, use both hands to press my foot into the ball and roll the foot around to hit different sore spots.
When I find a really sore spot I stay on it and oscillate back and forth on it.  I generally try to cause as much pain as I can tolerate.  After about a minute or two of this torture, then I  bend the foot and toes up with ,y hands and hold a stretch for about 30 seconds.  Then repeat a couple times.  I might do this 2 or 3 times a day and especially before or after runs.  I still have pain but this work has really helped me manage symptoms after runs.  If I stay consistent with my golf ball I can run an hour or more and have little to no tightness or pain at night.

So this is where I'm at right now.  I think I'm on the way to full recovery, but I have to stay on top of things.  I've carried forward all the treatments from previous stages.  So while I don't do quite as many neural tension stretched or hip mobilizations, I still work them in every week.

That's it for now -- I've been sitting at this laptop long enough.  I'm off to stretch and golfball my foot....

Thursday, January 16, 2014

What training should I do over the winter?

One of the more frequent questions I get is what an athlete should do in the off season over the winter?

Doesn't matter the sport -- runners, cyclists, triathletes -- it can be confusing when to start ("should I be doing trainer intervals on Thanksgiving?) , how much training to do ("my friend is putting in 18 hours in early January"), and what type (should a cyclist be only on-the-bike, a runner only run?) you should focus on.

The first question you need to answer is, are you doing your sport for a living?  If you're a pro or an aspiring pro then I think it is pretty obvious, you'll likely be best served by starting earlier, getting in some decent hours in the dead of winter, and spending around half your time specifically working in your sport.  Which isn't to say that pros can't have some fun. On the contrary, this time of year I tell my athletes to go skiing if they want, go on vacation and learn to surf, jump on a snow bike and do some fun fat tire races, hit the weight room, go to the pool -- doing something different can be incredibly helpful.  Mixed in correctly, cross training can work on weaknesses, refresh the body and mind, and build some off season foundation strength on which to start the new season.  But there's no doubt that an athlete who depends on the paycheck from their races ought to get serious sooner rather than later.

If you're like most of us, and your mortgage doesn't depend on how you place at your races this coming year, then there's a lot of leeway.

So some additional questions you can ask yourself:

How familiar are you with your intended race(s)?

  • If you've competed at the distance in the past then you might be able to get away with easing into the season.  If you've done multiple iron-distance races in the last few years and you plan to take it easy this season and stick to 70.3s in July and August, then starting to get serious in March (or even April) is do-able.


What was your motivation like toward the end of your season this past year?

  • If you had a tough time getting out for workouts in August and September because you'd been going hard for months and just didn't feel like it, then take that as a cue that you may have started too early.  Many endurance athletes get motivated early and hit the ground running (literally) early in the season and are burned out by August.  Having low motivation in the middle of summer is a severe hamper to the late season and fall races.


Do you have some weaknesses to work on?

  • A great way to get a head start is to spend some of the dormant winter months working on weaknesses.  Are you a triathlete who needs to cut some time off your swim?  Then spend January in the pool working on your form.  A road racer who had some knee issues this past season?  Go see a specialist and work on your mechanics on and off the bike.


How early are your key races?

  • If you've got a big iron distance triathlon or ultra-run in early May or even April, you're going to want to get moving early in the year.....perhaps even in November/December if the race distance is new to you.
One common situation I walk athletes through is dealing with a big early race and a big race in the late summer.  This is especially challenging for long distance triathletes and runners, because of the overall impact those races have on the body.  Bike-specific races are much easier to recover from, so cyclists can generally race much more often.

For a triathlete, though, having to peak in mid-April or early May and then again in August may be a tall order, and few people can start in January, build up to May, recover briefly and then immediately begin building again all the way to August.  It's just too much.  A simple solution is to take a longer break after the early race.   Take an extra week or two and ease back into the training.

For instance, if your races are May 1st and August 1st, get thru the May race and take a good week or so off.  You could then begin to do easy workouts just to get the legs moving, but try to keep your efforts easy for another week or two.  The tricky part is working enough to keep your system primed, but not enough to be adding any fatigue.  This mild "vacation" after the first race should leave you chomping at the bit to get back to work (and if it doesn't then you might need a bit more time off) to prep for race #2.

In general, I find it's best to err on the side of caution.  Starting too early or going hard too soon can lead to injury and burnout.  Have fun over your off season and experiment with  different sports -- keep it fun. You can enjoy a new sport, and ensure that you're still enjoying yourself during the dog days of summer as well.


Monday, October 28, 2013

Lenz Sport "Fatmoth": freak of the week....

...well, not really a freak.  But not something you see often.

And if you're at all familiar with this bike's author, Mike Curiak, you'll know that every aspect was agonized over and refined (much to the chagrin of it's builder, Devin Lenz) until the bike was ready to do everything it was built for.


So, what, pray was it built for?  Specifically, as a bike-packing rig that would be able to access any trail from hardpack doubletrack to the softest loam beside the rivers and creeks of our western states.


First more on the bike:  you'll notice the wheels and tires look....substantial.  they are in fact based on the 29+ movement that Surly started with their Krampus.  For those unfamiliar, those are 29er rims (and everything is set up tubeless in this case) and the tires are 3.0 inches wide -- about a full half inch wider than the biggest downhill-specific tire out there.  The extra air volume allows for lower pressures, which in turn makes it easy to ride on soft sand where a standard mountain bike would squirm and wash out.

The frame is based off Lenz's Mammoth platform......5.0-5.5 inches of travel, a burlier top half of the frame (based on the Behemoth and Lunchbox iterations) and a more XC lower half (based on the Leviathan).


Set up with an 11-speed setup from SRAM.


So why would you want a bike that will access these soft trail when tons of prime singletrack exists right out the front door?  Well, the answer lies in what's strapped to the handlebars......look close.  


Yep, that's a boat.

You can just make out the carbon fiber paddle handle peeking out the side.

The idea is that you can ride a section of trail, put in on the river, float for a while until you hit the next section of trail and ride some more.  Sound contrived?  Not really.  This type of bike-packing allows you to ride and connect sections of trail and plan an A-to-B-to-C trip that lets you cover previously out of reach sections of trail.


So this is an interesting piece.  These bars pre-date this bike, but they're no less unique.  In the plastic squeeze bottle is alcohol -- as in rubbing alcohol.  Yes, the alcohol is being fed into the end of the handlebars.  


About three of these bottles is enough to light his custom stove for three days for meals and hot drinks.  The bars are titanium and have a special port welded into the side to safely hold and dispense the fuel as needed.



Believe it or not, that's the stove.  I don't think I'm allowed to give the schematics for that one, but it is probably the simplest camp stoves I have ever seen.


So there you have it.  A bike (and not even the first or second in this particular stable) that will likely see more saddle time than my bikes see in a month.




Sunday, October 20, 2013

Building a Seven Axiom SL...and making it fully custom

"The right tool for the job...choosing every part to make the bike fully custom"

I make no secret about the fact that the part of my job that I enjoy the most is building a fully custom bike for a  client from the ground up.  There's something special about choosing each individual part for a specific reason -- making every part go to work and solve some problem for that particular client.  In addition to that, designing a frame where every tube, every joint, and every feature is decided upon based on the client's wants and needs.

It can be hard to see what I mean when talking abstractly about "some client" and "some bike".  So to elucidate better, I'm going to go through a recently built bike and tell you about the bike in detail and what each part "does" for the rider it was built for.

So here is the bike -- a custom-sized Seven Axiom SL with custom raked Seven 5E fork.




A bit about the frame itself:  A fully custom Seven Axiom SL frameset should tick a number of boxes -- 
  • The frame geometry should allow the rider to have their contact points (saddle, pedals and handlebars) in their most comfortable and efficient position.  This is the bare minimum that a custom builder should be doing for their client -- otherwise a stock, off-the-shelf bike would be providing the same benefit, although I'm constantly surprised of the number of new "custom" bikes I see in my studio for bike fitting services, that have suspiciously stock-looking geometry (and an uncomfortable cyclist on them to boot)
    • Needless to say every tube length and angle on a Seven bike that I am involved with designing is agonized over to make sure it will allow my client their best fit now, AND ten years from now (after all, most of us are slowly changing in our fit parameters)
  • Tube selection and butting/layup schedule should be matched to the rider:  Metal bikes (titanium and steel) can be butted -- or have material removed from each tube to make that tube be more flexible or stiff in a given direction.  Starting with the proper tube selection (i.e. a larger rider is going to need tubes with either a greater diameter and/or thicker walls) is key and then the fabricators need to intelligently butt and miter those tubes so they match the rider's size and desired bike characteristics.  Carbon bikes are made differently -- tubes and joints are created by laying uni-directional carbon fabric (think cloth where all the fibers run the same direction) down in particular sequence and pattern.  In a very basic explanation, if a tube has fibers running every direction but one, the tube will be more likely to flex in that direction.
  • Customized fork rake: this is the often over-looked secret weapon for a custom bike.  When done right (and this means meshing perfectly with the frame geometry) the right fork will make the balance and handling of the bike absolutely sublime.  It will respond predictably but effortlessly to its rider making them feel confident and stable at any speed and on any terrain.  Get the fork wrong and you end up with a poorly balanced, ill-fitting bike that doesn't corner well and often has a speed-wobble.
  • Accessories:  These are characteristics or add-ins we can put on a bike to make it do everything the client wants it to do.
    • Does the client do long rides and not like to wear a hydration pack?  Then three or more water bottle mounts may be necessary.  
    • Are they a bigger rider that lives in very mountainous area?  Disc brakes may make descending safer and more confidence-inspiring (yep, even on a road bike)
    • Do they want to travel all over the world with their bike?  Then S&S couplers, that allow the bike to break into two pieces and fit in an airline-approved suitcase, may be the ticket
    • This client thought she might do some light touring at some point in the future, so we put rack mounts on the frame -- they don't add much weight, nor do they get in the way so why not?
Simple little upper rack mounts above the brakes

On to the wheels......they're Stan's No Tubes Alpha 340 series, tubeless ready wheels with Hutchinson Intensive tubeless tires.

Why we used them:  The area this client rides in  -- western Colorado -- has a lot of thorns (the most troublesome are "goatheads" that spring from roadside weeds) and while it's not uncommon for riders to go  through long periods of flat-free existence, equally common are horrendous rides with 3 or 4 flat tires in the span of 10 miles.  The Stan's No Tubes tubeless wheelsets are great for their flat resistance -- my No Tubes mountain setups have been flat free for many months -- but I've not found the road wheels to be the most stout, so I think their most effective use is under riders that don't tip the scale over about 160 pounds.  My client was a good three to four dozen pounds under this threshold, though, so I knew they would work well.

Handlebars:  In this case we went with FSA Wing Pro Compact.  



Why we used it:  This is a great little handlebar for little hands.  Also, it has a decent flattened section on the tops which, when oriented right, provide a lot of hand positions.  I recommend this bar often when smaller riders want some shape to their bar, but don't want to spend an extra $300 on a set of ENVEs or 3Ts (my two favorite high dollar bars -- because they're strong and comfortable and really take full advantage of carbon as a material.  Many carbon bars end up having little weight savings or ride-quality improvement over a well made aluminum bar because of the way they're laid up).

Grouppo:  Shimano Ultegra (10 speed)

Why we used it:  11 speed wasn't yet available when this bike went into production, and given the option we probably would have gone with it, but it wasn't, so there.  This client test rode some Shimano and SRAM equipped bikes I loaned her and preferred the feel of the two lever shifting system on the Shimano.  Even though the SRAM is lighter, she just didn't fall in love with the Double-Tap system of the SRAM -- just personal preference; nothing more.

We went with 170mm cranks -- she is a smaller rider and according to her bike fit, among the readily available crank lengths, this length proved to be most efficient.  Is this the most efficient length for her?  Potentially....I know, not a resounding endorsement, but until crankarm selection becomes common from ~150 mm to ~210 mm (without spending a fortune) we have to make do with what we have.  Not everyone is ready to pay $800+ for custom crank arms.

The gearing included a compact front chainring and an 11-28 cassette in back.  This was nearly identical to the gearing she had on her old bike.  But an interesting thing happened.  Once we built the bike and she rode it for a few weeks, she found that the compact crankset no longer felt right.  She felt like she wanted more gear nearly all the time.  She wasn't particularly well-balanced on her old bike, which was a main reason for her going custom (and this tends to be very common especially among my clients that are under 5'4" -- it can be exceptionally difficult to find a bike that provides the proper fit coordinates as well as balances the client's weight appropriately over the bike) and once we did build a bespoke frameset for her, and then outiftted it with parts that would nail her fit coordinates AND compliment her riding style, she simply rode stronger and more efficiently.  This was not the first time this has happened, and one unfortunate side-effect was the need for a new crankset.  Certainly not a cheap part, so I got her the standard crankset at a severe discount.  She decided to keep the compact crankset on hand in case she had a really long tour or race rather than have me sell it for her and deduct further from her cost on the new one.  

This is probably the hardest customization to predict -- when an improvement in bike fit will create a need to "gear up".  Also, it can be a tough sell -- imagine telling a client "No I think you're going to want to change the gearing you've had for years because the new custom bike will immediately make you more powerful and efficient" -- sounds a bit too much like a sales line.  If the new bike is going to be built for a different task -- like touring -- then it's relatively easy to recommend a gearing change, but predicting the degree of benefit someone gets from a custom build is a bit like reading tea leaves, because it can't be easily or effectively tested without being on the custom frame already.

Seatpost:  Seven custom titanium setback post



Why we used it:  A titanium post can work wonders on the comfort and ride feel of any bike, no matter what material the bike is made of.  BUT, in my experience, you'll get a lot more out of it, if you have a decent length of seatpost sticking out of the frame.  About 6 inches (~15.25 cm) of seatpost from the saddle rail clamp down to the top of the seat tube is a reasonable starting point.  Less than that and you likely won't get the nice compliance the titanium provides.  

When this bike was first designed, it became clear that given her optimal saddle height we would have at least this amount so we went ahead with the Ti post.

If we hadn't had enough post length could we have modified the geometry of the frame to for more post?  Well, we did modify the geometry to account for the setback nature of the post, but modifying a frame design for more seatpost length will affect the standover, the top tube slope (which in turn changes how the head tube is welded or molded into the bike), and will affect how water bottles fit inside the frame.  Not insurmountable problems, but ones that could be greater than just not having a titanium post.

A few notes:  

-- in the pictures, you may notice that we have 3cm of (titanium) spacers under the stem and a couple mm of spacers on top.  I usually start a client a bit higher in their position and then we slowly lower them into position over the course of their follow up fit appointments.  I've found it's a much smoother process when we start high and work our way down with bar position.  Will we always need those spacers?  Perhaps not, but if we don't we can always cut more steerer off later and remove some spacers -- can't add them back if we cut too much the first time.  It's typical for me, and should be "best practice" at every bike shop, to start with as long a steerer as allowed at first.

-- the clamp on the Seven seatpost is great.  It has two bolts on the head: loosen one and you can control saddle fore/aft, loosen the other and you can control tilt.  The adjustments are independent of one another, which makes fine tuning saddle fit a breeze.

So that's the long and short of it.  Many hundreds of tiny decisions, all having to be made with rider fit and efficiency kept in mind all the while

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Disappearing Bikes: what happened to all the bike sizes?

"Duh" would be an appropriate response to me saying that most of the bike industry is given over to carbon.  Clearly that's the case, and we've benefited by getting lighter and occasionally more comfortable frames and components.


Did ya ever wonder what, if anything, we lost or gave up?
Bikes that's fit well


Bike manufacturers, like any other business, always want to save money and increase their profit margin.  Carbon molds, from which the bikes are made, are expensive, so making fewer molds saves money.  Fewer molds means fewer sizes  
Stock (as in non-custom) manufacturers say they can fit 85%-90% of the population, and while it’s technically true that they make bikes that fit people from 5’1” to 6’”4”, and it’s technically true that 85%-90% of the population is within this height range, what it doesn’t say is that there are more people falling between sizes because there just aren’t that many of them.  
Not too long ago many (but certainly not all) manufacturers made bikes from 48cm to 62cm in 1-2 cm  increments (so 7 - 14 sizes).  Sound like overkill?  A great side benefit of this was that if someone was sold a bike that was the wrong size, which of course did happen, it wouldn’t be off by much.  Now, with so few sizes, when your local shop gets it wrong, which still happens a lot, it’s a much bigger problem.  
In fact I see many clients, that are generally very average in their height, arm reach, flexibility, etc and there still isn’t a good stock option for them…..none of the sizes are a good match.  “Custom bike for them!” you say?  True, but there used to be a time when custom bikes were necessary for the very tall, the very short, or someone with a unique physical attribute that required custom adjustment (of course there is always the sage individual who understood all the benefits of a bespoke bike and just wanted one).  Now, however, custom bikes are being made more and more often for riders who just happen to be in-between sizes.
The trend of fewer sizes carries into the forks that are made as well.  Carbon forks come from carbon molds, so making fewer fork molds saves money too.  Making only one or two fork rakes to fit all the sizes of a bike model often makes for some sketchy handling.  Frame and fork need to work hand in hand with one another and if a less than ideal fork size is used just because it’s convenient, it can lead to some very poor handling. If your bike doesn't feel stable when you descend, or you're unable to ride no-handed you might be experiencing some of this.
The largest factors involved in how a bike handles in order of importance are:
  1. the fit of the bike - fit determines weight distribution and how your body weight “drapes” over the bike
  2. proper front axle placement - if your fork rake is off or not ideal then your bike will feel either twitchy/sketchy (i.e. it deviates off a straight line too easily) or too ponderous (it’s difficult to get into and out of a turning radius)
  3. bottom bracket drop - think of this controlling how high your center of mass is while you sit on the bike.  Smaller bikes will generally have lower bottom brackets (therefore more drop).
  4. proper rear axle placement - chainstay length is the main determinant here, and generally, bigger bikes should have longer chainstays so that the high saddle position of taller riders doesn’t cantilever their weight way out behind their rear axle.
So here are some numbers from some of the larger manufacturers.  This is by no means a comprehensive list, but rather, I tried to survey the most popular bike models among these brands.
Trek - Men’s: up to 7 sizes and 2 different forks, 3 bottom bracket drops; Women’s: 6 sizes, 1 fork, 1 chainstay length, (effectively) 1 bottom bracket drop Overall grade: 7.5/10
Trek does make some women’s WSD bikes with more sizes, but when you look at the geometry like Domane and Madone WSD models, their geometry doesn’t vary from the men’s bikes in any meaningful way -- so…..they’re not really made for women.
Note: When I mention “effectively 1 chainstay” it just means that technically there is a second size but it is so small a difference that renders it basically irrelevant.
Cannondale - Men’s: 6-8 sizes, 1-2  forks, (effectively) 1 chainstay length, 3 bottom brackets drops (but barely) ; Women’s: 5 sizes, 2 forks, 1 chainstay, 1 bottom bracket drop  Overall Grade: 6.5/10
Specialized - Men’s: 5-6 sizes, 1-2 forks, 2-3 chainstay lengths, 3 bottom brackets; Women’s: 5 sizes, 2 forks, 2-3 chainstay (effectively) 1 bottom bracket drop Overall Grade: 6.5/10
Giant - Men’s: 6 sizes, no information on forks, 1 chainstay; Women’s: 3-4 sizes, no info on forks, 1 chainstay Overall Grade: 4/10
Felt - Men’s: 6 sizes, 3 forks, 4 chainstay lengths, (effectively) 1 bottom bracket drop; Women’s: 4 sizes, 1 fork, 2 chainstay lengths, 1-2 bottom bracket drops Overall Grade: 7/10
Note:  I figured someone would ask “well, what about Wilier?” since that’s the main stock brand I carry.  If you consider me putting this in here to be spam, then feel free to skip past it, I won’t mind.  Otherwise, here you go:
Wilier - Men’s: 6 sizes, 3 forks, 5-6 chainstay lengths, 3-4 bottom bracket drops; Women’s: 3 sizes, 2 forks, 1 chainstay, 1 bottom bracket drop Overall Grade: 8.5/10


I broke things up into Men’s and Women’s flavors here for illustrative purposes.  The idea of a women’s specific bike, as in “are women’s specific bikes even necessary?”  is another blog post unto itself.  As you can guess, I don’t think they are necessary, so my bias led me to not weight the poor geometry available among the brands too heavily against them.
I’m not a complete curmudgeon.  I do think that there are huge benefits to today’s bikes…..if you’re the right size.  The advancement in components alone are worth the price of admission.  I think there’s work to be done, though…..

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Made-to-order bikes

Not every made-to-order bike is a custom bike but every custom bike is made to order.

Sometimes I have a client that wants that wants to build a bike but the off the shelf varieties don't cut the mustard, and they have a budget in mind as well.  Because it's not going to be a custom bike (defined as a frame entirely designed in every aspect of geometry, materials, and aesthetic for a single individual) the client knows there will be some compromises -- usually in fit but also potentially in ride quality, handling, etc.

In this case, what was required was a light-duty mountain bike (mostly jeep roads and some light single-track) that would travel around the country on an RV.  She wanted a rack on the back so that she could get some groceries if needed; flip-flop pedals (one side clip; one side flats) so she could ride around without her bike shoes, a wired computer (she'd had bad luck with wireless models), and tubeless wheels (she really disliked getting flat tires).

None of this bike came assembled -- each piece was ordered individually and each piece was purposely chosen  to satisfy either cost, fit, or function.

It's simple, and not flashy, but it works well together.  More importantly it ticks all the boxes.  Thanks for reading....