Archive for the Road Bike Action Category

2021 EDITORS’ CHOICE: ZAP’S CIRCLE OF TRUTH (AKA, JUST HIS OPINION)

01/20/2022 0:02

Just as we’ve been doing for the last decade, in each March issue of RBA we always take time to gather our thoughts and combine a year’s worth of notable moments and products worth remembering. With that said, welcome to our annual review of the good, the bad and the ugly without forgetting the fun, the fast and the inspiring.  For the first installment, Zap will take the first pull before Troy and David chime in with their annual nods.

BEST ROAD BIKE THAT FEW CAN AFFORD:

Trust me, I take no satisfaction in naming one of the best bikes I rode in 2021 as one that had a retail price of $14,500. Regardless of knowing that the definition of “expensive” is relative, not only do I think paying that kind of money for a bicycle is dumb, but, try as I did to make sense of the price, I could never get the math to pencil out. 

“All creature comforts aside, the most noteworthy attribute of all, and the one that’s hardest to affix an actual value to, is the bike’s handling.” 

Be that as it may, over the years hundreds of test bikes have rolled through the halls of RBA’s well-lit, plushly carpeted, palatial towers only to be rolled out and ridden by one test rider or another. And of all those bikes, the latest fruit from a family tree that was touted as “great” by everyone who ever rode it was the Pinarello Dogma F. The shapely Italian bike attracted admiring looks and opinions wherever it rolled.  It is a wow factor bike in every respect – and it’s no wonder  that year after Team Ineos stays on them.

 

BEST ROAD BIKE THAT MORE PEOPLE CAN AFFORD (OR BEST REASON TO NOT AUTOMATICALLY DISTRUST TRI GEEKS):

Going as far back as when Greg LeMond first popularized handlebar extensions in 1989 with the Boone Lennon-designed Scott clip-ons, I’ve never been a fan of handlebar extensions. As such, solely through guilt by association, I’ve always been skeptical of triathletes given their inherent reliance on said “plumbing fixtures.”

So, when the folks at (legacy tri-geek brand) Quintana Roo offered us a SRFive road bike to test, I was less than optimistic about thinking nice things about the bike. I was wrong. The QR ended up being one of my most enjoyable test bikes in 2021. Starting with a reasonable frameset price of $2399, our complete bike priced out at $5535. Best of all is that QR (under the same American Bicycle Group that owns Litespeed and Obed) assembles the bikes in America and offers customers a wealth of build-your-own options and colors. 

WORST DAY FOR PRO BIKE RACERS: September 5, 2021. That was the day that, like us, they likely heard that Patrick Cantlay was awarded $15 million for hitting a little white ball around a golf course at the Fed Ex Cup. And yes, he had someone carry his clubs for him.

BEST CUSTOM BIKE NOT BUILT FOR ME:

It was a test mule originally cobbled together by Italian frame builder Michele Favaloro with a randomly sized aluminum frame built with a leftover Campagnolo Chorus road drivetrain and Campy disc brakes. 

Given Michele’s renown as a custom builder, some thought the gravel bike was built just for me, but it wasn’t. In fact, it couldn’t have been, because RBA has a policy of not testing custom-built bikes with personalized geometry. 

And yet, the Favaloro ended up being my favorite go-to bike for both dirt and road pursuits. Surprisingly, the Campy road parts took many a dirt bike beating and never cried, “Foul.” Although I never found any use for it, Michele’s cabling of the left-side shifter to activate the dropper post was pretty novel. 

If the Favaloro (RBA, May ’21) proved anything, it was that aluminum bikes can still make for a good ride and that good custom builders know how to build good bikes, even if they aren’t custom built for you.

 

THE MOST DISPIRITING BIKE-INDUSTRY EFFORT (OR, WHEN BEING COOL IS THE SAME THING AS BEING DUMB): 

What’s with the seeming quest of so many brands to outdo one another by producing the most expensive (over-priced?) bikes possible? As if paying $14,000 for a mass-produced WorldTour replica from the likes of Specialized and Trek isn’t hard enough to comprehend, how about $28,900 for a Louis-Vuitton single-speed city bike?! 

Made by Maison Tamboite, a little-known, artisanal Paris-based bike maker, “The bicycles are a symbol of French craftsmanship and Parisian chic.” In addition to the nods to Louis-Vuitton’s heritage, which now includes an ownership stake in Pinarello, the bike features “airless tires, shock absorbers, LED lights, and the infamous LV logo to allow you to feel safe and cool.”

 

BEST PAINT THAT MIGHT MAKE CUSTOM PAINTERS NERVOUS:

Simply put, we were blown away when we pulled our Cervelo Aspero 5 test bike (RBA, July ’21) out of the box and found it slathered in one of the most detailed and eye-catching finishes we’ve ever seen on a production bike. 

JUST SO VULNERABLE: As if our daily routes weren’t sketchy enough, there was Deceuninck Quick Step’s Pieter Serry getting rear-ended by a BikeExchange team car just seven miles from the Stage 6 summit finish at the Giro. Wow! 

MOST WELCOMED NEWBIES: It was great seeing Rebecca Rusch include a “para” class for physically challenged cyclists competing in her Rebecca’s Private Idaho gravel race. This is a class of athletes whose representation in the sport we should definitely support and promote. 

WORST USE OF “REVOLUTIONARY” HYPERBOLE: Not since Trek grossly oversold the “revolutionary” benefits of their heavy and hot WaveCel helmet in 2019 has another brand followed along in such hype-filled footsteps. But there was the Hammerhead Karoo computer being touted not just as a revolution in cycling tech but, instead, the revolution in cycling tech. Not even close and not even with Chris Froome acting as a pitchman.

 

BEST PANACEA FOR THE WHITE PLAGUE: 

It’s an annual complaint, but what’s with all the white shoes used by too many WorldTour riders. And so, you can imagine how thrilled I was when Sidi released the Jimi Hendrix-inspired, limited-edition version, their Sixty shoe. Better still was when FDJ/Groupama rider David Gaudu wore them during the Tour de France.

WHEN THE SPIRIT OF REDEMPTION PROVES MISTAKEN:

 Despite having failed nine doping tests over the previous 12 years, the second-tier Vini Zabu team (above) was invited to last year’s Giro d’Italia. Alas, just days before the race, start-team rider Matteo De Bonis tested positive for EPO, forcing the team to pull out from the race. 

THE CRACK HEARD ’ROUND THE WORLD: With 300 meters to go at the Tour of Flanders, Mathieu van der Poel was on his way to a celebratory repeat win when, in the midst of a pedal-to-pedal duel with Kasper Asgreen and with less than 100 meters to go, MVDP’s head simply dropped down as he hit empty and was dropped by his
Danish counterpart.

MOST OVERRATED RACE: Hyped as “one of the world’s biggest races” with some of the “world’s fastest riders,” the Lion’s Den Criterium in Sacramento, California, was, in fact, neither. Yes, the $100,000 purse (split between the men’s and women’s fields) was no doubt a lucrative haul, but it takes more than a rich, one-day race filled with less than world-caliber riders to achieve the real-world relevance it sought to achieve.

 

BEST PLACE TO SIT – MY TWO FAVE SADDLES: 

For the 2021 season there were two saddles that won me over, each distinctive in their own way. The first was the new 156-gram Adaptive saddle from Fizik that uses 3D print technology to create its perforated top surface. While our test model arrived with a lightly colored notice-me top to accentuate its unique construction, Fizik eventually came out with an all-black version. The fit and feel were both unlike, and better than, any other long saddle I rode last year. 

Although I’ve remained a slow convert to short saddles, the iridescent purple, Italian-made, 175-gram Selle San Marco ShortFit Racing Wide proved to be as eye-catching and comfortable as it was stout in length.

 

THE DAY THE EARTH DIDN’T STOP SPINNING:

That would be September 20, 2021, when the Ineos team made the official announcement that they would finally join the modern world by making the switch to disc brakes. As the old saying goes, better late than never.

BEST GRAVEL BIKE: 

Just as I feel funny touting a $15,000 road bike as a “best,” so, too, does calling a consumer-direct bike the “best” given that its no-middleman cost savings played such a role in shaping my decision. Still, while the big American brands spent so much energy battling for bike-shop superiority over the years, Canyon looked into the future and devised a new-world business model to which they are now the undisputed leader.

And when it came to dual-purpose bikes, with its three bottle mounts, stout carbon frame, Shimano GRX drivetrain, room for up to 45mm tires and a suspension seatpost, the $3200 Canyon Grizl CF SL 8 simply delivered more gravel good for the dollar than any other bike.

 

BEST EXAMPLE OF DOING WHAT WE TELL PEOPLE NOT TO DO: TADEJ GETS CROSS-CHAINED

Although not totally cross-chained here as he was, to see Tadej climbing in his big ring was still  impressive. Photo: Bettini

No different than the advice we give to never take your hands off the handlebars, we can often be heard telling people to not get cross-chained (big ring to big cassette). But then there was eventual Tour de France winner Tadej Pogacar doing just that as he pedaled away up a long climb to claim a victory in Stage 6.

 

WORST CALAMITOUS MASS INJURY THAT NEVER OCCURRED:

Slick roads, road furniture and hapless spectators continue to cause more havoc and injury to the pro peloton than disc brakes. Photo: Bettini

With all the pro teams now using disc brakes and all the massive multi-rider crashes that took place in last year’s Tour de France, surely that would help prove the protest originally made by team Movistar rider Fran Ventoso in 2018 that the rotating rotors should’ve been banned from racing due to their obvious role in causing serious injury in crash settings. Of course, none of that ever occurred, as it was just another wildly inflated and wielded canard of old-school opposition to new (and better) technology. 

THE WILD PELOTON SWING (OR, THE KIND OF MARKET VALUE THAT MOST BIKE BRANDS WOULD HATE TO LOSE BUT STILL DREAM OF HAVING): In September I read reports that the indoor cycling brand was planning to go big by building a 200-acre factory at a cost of $400 million with a plan to hire 2000 workers. Great! Unfortunately, less than two months later, the NY Times reported that “shares of Peloton Interactive plunged 35.3 percent, wiping off about $9.2 billion in market value.” Ouch! 

BEST RACE RESULT FOR OLD GUYS: It had to be Stage 6 of the Critérium du Dauphiné when some 41-year-old from Spain (aka Alejandro Valverde) dusted the kids to take a win. And then, oh yeah, the overall win went to 36-year-old Richie Porte. By the way, the wily Spaniard has said that the 2022 season will finally be his last.

 

BEST WAY TO WIN: ARMAUD DEMARE

For Groupama/FDJ rider Arnaud Demare the 2021 season was all pretty much a wash of dismal performances. That is, until the day the Frenchman dueled to the end to win Paris Tour. Beyond the win providing a needed sauve for a forgettable year, what made it especially worthy was that he finished arms-up with his parents and grandparents at the finish. As always, it’s all about family! Photo: Jan De Meuleneir/PN/BettiniPhoto©2021

BEST TEAM EFFORT: SEA OTTER CLASSIC

Originally founded as a mountain bike race in 1991, for every year since the Sea Otter Classic has been the  doing the heavy lifting for American cycling by hosting thousands of racers and industry expo tents through both good weather and bad as well as the occasional pandemic.  Last year,  following their purchase of Dirty Kanza/Unbound 200, Life Time swooped in and brought the decades old and now world-wide event under their corporate umbrella with plans to make it even better (a gravel race?!).  Okay, maybe all it took to break up the band was a big check cut by Life Time, but I’m hoping the crew (including (L to R): Madison Giger, Jeff Frost, Sarah Timleck, Kathy Giger, the O.G. Frank Yohannan, Jeannie Retamoso, Zeph Despard, and our beloved  media caretaker Holly Colson) will hang around. They have worked hard and carried the bike industry well…and for that we should all be grateful. See you this April for another round of fun.

SILLIEST PRODUCT (or best product in search of need)

With a goal of allowing you to “Change in public and keep your privates, private,” the Changing Poncho from Pedal Industries nonetheless seems like the silliest use of $50–$70. Maybe they’ve never heard of using a towel to cover up? Making it seem even sillier, the promo video shows a guy using his poncho while standing outside of a massive Sprinter van. What, he couldn’t just change inside?!

THE CHOICE QUOTES

Mark Cavendish, the rider of the year choice for many, winning another Tour de France stage. Photo: Bettini

MOST WARRANTED USE OF AN EXPLETIVE (AND RIDER OF THE YEAR NOD): When pressed to explain his feelings after winning his first Tour de France stage in years, Mark Cavendish had but one word: “F#@$. Oh, sorry!” 

STUPID IS AS STUPID DOES: “[Pro] riders shouldn’t suffer for the stupidity of people at home!” —Christian Vande Velde, Stage 6 of Paris-Nice.

A MATTER OF PRIORITIES: “It seems like there are a lot of other pressing safety concerns that the UCI could focus on.” —Bob Roll on the UCI’s ban of the super-tuck position. 

THE IRONY OF COVID: “It’s odd. I’ve never seen so many people enjoying such good sales figures still looking so glum!” —Another keen observation by Gerard Vroomen as the bike industry simultaneously enjoyed record sales and product shortfalls amid the pandemic.

BEST GOVERNMENT ENDORSEMENT OF CYCLING: “If you just get to a certain tipping point, and it’s not much—about 2 percent in terms of the rate of people who commute to work by bike—you tend to see steep changes in terms of safety, probably because motorists are more conscious and aware of people on bicycles as a matter of routine, so it’s just building up that culture of cycling.

“I come from an auto-making part of the country, and we’re proud of it, but we can definitely be more of a bicycling country.” —U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg at the annual League of American Bicyclists National Bike Summit.

BEST PROOF THAT THERE ARE WORSE THINGS FOR GRAVEL RACING THAN HAVING FORMER PRO ROAD RACERS SHOW UP: 

 “These are my A races now. This is its own legitimate discipline. We are creating our own discipline, and I’m so proud to be a part of it. This is fun. Now I get to have beers with 4000 of my friends.” —Former road pro Peter Stetina further proving why he is one of the best things to happen to gravel in a while. 

A DAUGHTER’S GOODBYE: “My dad took his final ride home in the Big Sugar gravel bike race last Saturday, October 23 in Bentonville, Arkansas. His name was Tommy O’Neal, and he was amazing. He lived in Georgetown, Texas. He was on vacation with his sister and signed up for the bike ride. My dad died doing what he loved to do and died happy at the young age of 72 years old. I’m so proud of my dad and who he was. Somewhere in the Ozarks his
spirit is soaring. May he soar in the hearts of all who loved him as well.  To know Tommy was to love Tommy.”
—Jennifer O’Neal.

 

 

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2022 PARIS ROUBAIX TEAM SELECTION

01/19/2022 0:02

Press Release

Hold on to your hats because with three months the Paris Roubaix Classic will once again be challenging the best bikes and riders in the world.

PARIS ROUBAIX – THE WOMEN

Paris Roubaix 2021 -118th Edition – Denain – Roubaix 257,7 km – 03/10/2021 – TrouŽe d’Arenberg – Scenery – photo Luca Bettini/BettiniPhoto©2021

 

The organizers of Paris-Roubaix Femmes have selected the teams for the 2nd edition, Saturday, April 16th. In accordance with the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) regulations, the fourteen UCI Women’s WorldTeams automatically entered are:

Canyon / / SRAM Racing (Ger)

EF Education – Tibco – SVB (Usa)

FDJ Nouvelle – Aquitaine Futuroscope (Fra)

Human Powered Health (Usa)

Liv Racing Xstra (Ned)

Movistar Team Women (Esp)

Roland Cogeas Edelweiss Squad (Sui)

Team BikeExchange – Jayco (Aus)

Team DSM (Ned)

Team Jumbo – Visma (Ned)

Team SD Worx (Ned)

Trek – Segafredo (Usa)

UAE Team ADQ (Uae)

Uno-X Pro Cycling Team (Nor)

Furthermore, the three best 2021 UCI Women’s Continental teams will participate by right in Paris-Roubaix Femmes:

Ceratizit – WNT Pro Cycling Team (Ger)

Parkhotel Valkenburg (Ned)

Valcar – Travel & Service (Ita)

The organisers have invited the following teams:

Arkéa Pro Cycling Team (Fra)

Cofidis Women Team (Fra)

Le Col Wahoo (Gbr)

NXTG by Experza (Ned)

Plantur – Pura (Bel)

Stade Rochelais Charente-Maritime (Fra)

St Michel – Auber 93 (Fra)

PARIS ROUBAIX – THE MEN

Paris Roubaix 2021 -118th Edition – Denain – Roubaix 257,7 km – 03/10/2021 – Nils Eekhoff (NED – Team DSM) – photo Luca Bettini/BettiniPhoto©2021

 

The organizers of Paris-Roubaix have selected the teams for the 119th edition, Sunday, April 17th. In accordance with the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) rules, the eighteen UCI WorldTeams are invited:

AG2R Citroën Team (Fra)

Astana – Qazaqstan Team (Kaz)

Bahrain Victorious (Brn)

Bora – Hansgrohe (Ger)

Cofidis (Fra)

Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team (Bel)

EF Education – EasyPost (Usa)

Groupama – FDJ (Fra)

Ineos Grenadiers (Gbr)

Intermarché – Wanty – Gobert Matériaux (Bel)

Israel – Premier Tech (Isr)

Jumbo – Visma (Ned)

Lotto Soudal (Bel)

Movistar Team (Esp)

Team BikeExchange – Jayco (Aus)

Team DSM (Ned)

Trek – Segafredo (Usa)

UAE Team Emirates (Uae)

Furthermore, the three highest ranked UCI ProTeams in 2021 will participate by right in Paris-Roubaix:

Alpecin – Fenix (Bel)

Team Arkéa – Samsic (Fra)

TotalEnergies (Fra)

The organisers have invited the following teams:

B&B Hotels – KTM (Fra)

Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB (Bel)

Sport Vlaanderen – Baloise (Bel)

Uno-X Pro Cycling Team (Nor)

 

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Categories:Road Bike Action

WHAT IS SRAM XPLR?

01/17/2022 0:03

SRAM has been on the leading edge of 1x drivetrains since the introduction of the original Force drivetrain in 2014. Now with the launch of the all-new, gravel-oriented XPLR component line, they continue to push 1x technology forward. 

However, in addition to SRAM’s drivetrain legacy, as the parent company of Zipp, RockShox and Quarq, the Chicago-based brand has now grouped together a range of products from those brands to create a complete XPLR product family as a way to indicate that the products are targeting gravel. 

The new offerings are 1x-specific drivetrains from SRAM across all of their electronic AXS tiers—Red, Force and Rival. Rockshox has launched with two suspension forks, the Rudy Ultimate and the regular Rudy (OEM only). Rockshox also released a Reverb AXS wireless 27.2 dropper post. Last is that Zipp has brought their Moto wheel tech from mountain bikes to the gravel bike with the Zipp 101 XPLR. The XPLR branding has also been added to existing products like Zipp’s G40 tire and Service Course flared handlebars.

THE TECH

XPLR Drivetrain

So, what’s the big addition you might be thinking, didn’t SRAM already launch their gravel-oriented drivetrain called Wide? They did indeed, but Wide is targeting cyclists (whether gravel or road) looking for a 2x drivetrain with simply more range. 

The new XPLR drivetrain expands on that concept but with a definite gravel lean by adding a 10-44-tooth cassette option. This is paired with the 1x-specific rear derailleurs that are only compatible with either the 10-44t or the 10-36t cassette, and that’s it. It’s not compatible with either the 10-50 or 10-52 Eagle cassettes, and likewise, the Eagle derailleur won’t accommodate the 10-44t. Currently, SRAM offers two levels of the new 10-44t cassette, with one being slightly lighter at a $60 difference.

This makes things a little confusing since they are all based on SRAM’s 12-speed AXS wireless standard that spans road to mountain. To add to the complexity is the fact that there are the three tiers—Red, Force and Rival—with the build materials being their biggest difference, which also affects the price. 

Along those same lines there are four crank options. Red and Force are offered in the regular road spindle width, while Force also has a wide option, and Rival is only offered in wide. The Wide option leaves more room for tires and moves the chain line out 2.5mm. This is not new, but it should be noted that Red doesn’t offer a wide option for those looking for the pinnacle product. Chainrings are offered in 36, 38, 40 (like ours), 42, 44 and 46 teeth that use their X-Sync tooth profile to minimize chain drop.

RockShox

The biggest news is that Rockshox has jumped into the gravel suspension arena. Both the standard and Ultimate versions use 30mm stanchions with either a 30 or 40mm travel option. The Ultimate adds a lockout lever, while both have rebound adjustments. Both use flat-mount disc calipers and 12mm thru-axles as well. The biggest factor that will minimize compatibility is the need for a frame that fits a 1.5 inches tapered steer rather than the more common 1.25 inches.

Just like the rest of the AXS components, the new RockShox Reverb dropper uses the same rechargeable battery.

While not to be confused with a suspension seatpost, the long-awaited 27.2mm Reverb wireless AXS dropper post with a 50 or 75mm option has arrived. It should be noted that this version of the post doesn’t come with a remote controller like the larger-diameter mountain bike versions. This is because SRAM figures you will integrate it into the customizable AXS drop-bar controls. 

Zipp 101 XPLR

With the new wheels, Zipp has taken the single-wall rim construction design to the limit. Just as they did with the Moto mountain bike versions, the 101 XPLR rim is designed to pivot and twist. The theory is this sort of compliance further enhances traction and comfort. While a single-walled carbon rim seems light and simple, the 101 is anything but. The wheel is built to twist along the center ridge near the spokes. The design is intended to provide a considerable amount of overall flex for added compliance, but all of this is with a carbon construction, so it’s very responsive in nature.

The new 1x-specific derailleurs are easy to identify with the XPLR markings just above the battery.

The rim profile is super wide with an internal width of 27mm and an external width of 36mm. We didn’t get an official minimum tire size, but at 27mm wide, we’d likely venture no smaller than a 37mm tire. The wheels are tubeless and hookless, meaning tubeless tires only. Zipp has laced them with their ZR1 disc brake hubs that use a Center-Lock rotor. There are 28 spokes front and rear, but the wheels weigh in at 1687 grams.

THE RIDES

RockShox 

Not counting the original RockShox Rudy entry into the world of drop bars that occurred at Paris-Roubaix back in 1992, until now the concept of gravel-specific suspension has seen a mixed bag of entries with a mixed bag of opinions. When it does come to gravel-specific suspension, there have only been a handful of players—Lauf, Fox, Cannondale, SR SunTour—to consider. Now there is one more. 

The first question many ask is simply, “Why?” Knowing that gravel riding rarely shares the “send it” experience found with mountain bikes, for most people, the soft ride supplied by big, puffy tires has provided all the “suspension” needed to ride safe and offset the bumps.

After weeks of testing, the Rudy has been really solid during normal gravel riding with a very progressive feel. The top stroke is supple for bumps and road imperfections, but after only a few millimeters, it gets very supportive with a progressive stroke. Even during some of our more epic singletrack rides we rarely bottomed out. We have the entire XPLR line on the all-new Sage Storm King GP (see page 30), and the suspension-corrected geometry has worked well in almost all scenarios.

One big turn-off on the Rudy Ultimate has been the lockout lever located on the top cap of the right-side fork leg. The lever works as designed, locking and unlocking the fork’s travel when needed (some riders would add “if needed”), but the physical lever is loose—annoyingly loose—and rattles over everything.  

The subtle five degree flare on the Zipp Service Course 70 XPLR handlebars was well received from all our testers.

The rattle has been like that since day one, so it was built into the system and not the result of a crash. On the other hand, the fork is so progressive, we likely won’t use the lockout, and a bit of tape should remedy it temporarily. Also, when locked the blow-off is fairly high, which we like.

Reverb dropper

The staff here at RBA are split on dropper posts, but the wireless nature of the new Reverb gives it a boost since there is no added cable cluttering the cockpit. We have the 75mm version, and since we have the 1x XPLR drivetrain, we actuate both shift buttons simultaneously to control the travel, the same action you would use to shift the front derailleur on a 2x AXS bike. 

The 1x specific X-Sync chainrings have a proprietary narrow/wide profile that minimizes chain drop.

Like all droppers, there is a bit of side-to-side wiggle in the saddle, but we didn’t notice it while riding. What we did notice is that it made for an awesome partner to the Rudy when dropping in on especially technical descents. We also used it at every stop as an alternative to sitting on our top tube. Best yet, there is an independent tilt-adjustment screw so it doesn’t nosedive if things get too rowdy. It’s not light, and if your bike relies on seatpost flex for comfort, you’ll be disappointed because it’s stiff. There is also no setback option so your frame will have to compensate for it like our Storm King GP, or you will need a saddle with a lot of rail adjustment.

Zipp 101 XPLR

As for the wheels, Zipp seems to have a great idea here, and we want them to be good, but honestly, the advantages are hard to validate. On top of that, the build of a 101 XPLR wheel is very complex, and speaking to a few wheel builders and SRAM themselves, they are also fairly difficult to build correctly. In our opinion, the wheels are a bit heavy at over 1650 grams, but they do have a super-wide internal width of 27mm and, of course, are hookless and tubeless.

The Rudy Ultimate with 30mm of travel requires a 1.5-inch head tube and hit our scales at 1276 grams.

The hub engagement is pretty good, but nothing too special with Zipp’s regular pawl system. We would like to state that on our Sage Storm King GP we got enough flex out of the wheel for the 40mm tire to hit the chainstay. So yes, the wheels do flex a lot and, to be honest, it was when we were trying to make them flex. We also noticed that they were a little out of true after a few hard impacts, but corrected themselves with only a few rotations. 

Drivetrain: Last but not least is the drivetrain itself. To start with, it’s SRAM’s AXS, so the setup was simple and the shifts were quick and effortless. The new 10-44t cassette range is an improvement over the 10-36t option and, in our opinion, also better than the 10-50/10-52t Eagle alternative. The 10-36 wasn’t enough range for our gravel exploits since we normally run a 40t or 42t chainring. The Eagle options almost have too much range, and the gear gaps are so big that each shift is a drastic change. This makes them less than ideal on tarmac, flat terrain and gradual climbs.

The 10-44t still has a few big gear jumps, but the range is a perfect match for us and our favored 40t chainring. The smaller and mid-sized cogs have smaller jumps, while the larger ones have bigger gaps for when things get steeper and there is less priority on cadence. The 10-44t cassette consists of 10, 11, 13, 15, 17, 19, 21, 24, 28, 32, 38 and 44t cogs. 

Between the stable geometry, suspension fork and dropper post, we found ourselves pushing the limits even more than usual and kicking up a bit more dust.

THE VERDICT

Despite SRAM making their drivetrain flow chart more convoluted, we really like the new range. The 44t cassette provides more than enough gear for steep climbing with less gear gap where it counts. 

Both the Rudy suspension fork and Reverb 27.2 dropper are novel and work extremely well, but they’re definitely overkill for most recreational gravel riders. 

The Zipp 101 XPLR wheels have solid theory and engineering, but for us, we need more time on them before we can say they are worth adding them to our next build list. They aren’t lightweight, but the wide internal width does help increase tire volume without adding more rubber. 

Overall, the XPLR line is good with a little bit of something for everyone, and the mix-and-match nature of AXS makes it easier to stay on budget. For sure the Red-level parts are a big budget-buster, which makes the Force and Rival options the likely the way to go for most. 

Our biggest disappointment is that there is very little cross-compatibility, and if you already have an Eagle 1x setup, you can’t simply purchase a cassette to try the new range. While at least the shifters are universal, essentially you’ll need almost a full investment of a derailleur, cassette and chain. Also, we hope RockShox sorts out their lockout lever so we can lose the duct tape Band-Aid, which we’re currently using to damp the rattle, and actually be able to use it.

PUNCH LINES

• 1x-specific 

• A dropper post we are
down with

• Not sold on the wheels

PRICE LIST

Red XPLR rear derailleur: $710

Force XPLR rear derailleur: $350

Rival XPLR rear derailleur: $255

10-44t XG-1271 cassette: $210

10-44t XG-1251 cassette: $150

Red 1 crankset: $690

Force 1 crankset: $249

Rival 1 crankset: $130

Rudy Ultimate fork: $799

Reverb 27.2 AXS dropper: $600

101 XPLR wheels: $1800

www.sram.com

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JENS VOIGT’S BEST BREAKAWAY TIPS – “REAL MEN DIE IN THE WIND”

01/16/2022 0:02

By Dan Cavallari

I was cramping so, so bad. It was unbearably hot, and I wasn’t used to the humidity in Wisconsin. Oh yeah, I’d also just got off a plane before jumping on the bike, and…so many excuses.

For much of the first hour I did my best to be tucked in behind someone, anyone, trying to take advantage of a draft. By chance, veteran WorldTour rider Jens Voigt was on the ride, too, and he’d been up front most of the day, chatting away with journalists and fans alike. The sweltering heat seemingly did not register with him at all. As we approached a rise in the road, I found myself tucked up behind the world-famous German, my wheel mere inches from his. The draft was glorious. For a moment I was able to breathe easy.

As though he sensed me pilfering the clean air in his wake, Jens momentarily peeked back at me. His pedal stroke never faltered, nor did his body position. Suddenly he shouted at me, “Drafting is for the weak! Real men die in the wind!” Then he sprinted away with a good laugh. 

INSIDE THE PRO RANKS

History will long remember Mark Cavendish’s dramatic return to the Tour de France in 2021. Owing to some strong pre-Tour efforts, the “Manx Missile” had proved to a skeptical cycling world that he could still win. But, could he still win at the Tour? Of more consequence, would he win enough stages to topple Eddy Merckx’s record of 34 stage wins?! 

And then came the sprint finish of Stage 4 that had cycling fans everywhere anticipating something special. But first, what about Lotto-Soudal rider Brent Van Moer? Who?! Brent Van Moer’s finish that day won’t go down in history. It’s likely that you’re having trouble recalling who exactly Van Moer is  or how he factored into Cavendish’s big day.

BRENT VAN MOER’S COURAGE 

Indeed, Stage 4 was almost Van Moer’s moment, not Cavendish’s. The young Belgian had spent just about the entire day in the breakaway, and he attacked at just the right moment to find himself alone heading into the finishing chute. 

But, he wasn’t really alone; the peloton bore down on him in the final kilometer, yet it seemed Van Moer might find himself counted among the storied few to make a breakaway stick. It was that close. 

BRENT VAN MOER’S DEFEAT

Defeat

Less than 200 meters separated him from the finish line when Cavendish, along with all the best sprinters in the world, engulfed the desperate Lotto rider. As Cavendish pedaled past to taste the sweet glory that Van Moer would now only be able to dream of, many a race watchers knew he’d likely dumped a waterfall of adrenaline and faced the same end so many other futile breakaway artists come to—heartbreak. In the end, Moer would finish 49th on the stage, earning him the Most Combative prize—a small consolation.

Breakaways always seem doomed; we relegate them to the waste bin as soon as they’re formed, writing them off as mere TV time for unknown riders on the smallest teams. Yet another part of our cycling hearts hold dear the “you never know” beauty of the breakaway. We cheer for those brave enough to face the wind and hope it sticks; hope to see one of these brutally hard workers charge the finish line solo, the exhaustion plain and the victory sweet.

BRENT VAN MOER’S HEARTBREAK

It’s all part of the beauty of the breakaway—an often hapless pursuit that lends itself to the occasional miracle. It’s no surprise we should love it; its allegory mirrors so many of our lives, after all. 

It was just 200 short meters that Van Moer’s name almost took on legendary status—a Tour stage win. But, a lot can happen in 200 meters. Just ask Toms Skujins, a regular in the breakaway who has tasted both victory and harrowing defeat in the wind. 

SKILL, LUCK AND THE DAY JOB

The Hincapie Development team was tasked with protecting their teammate, Toms Skujins, who captured the race leader’s jersey in a scintillating effort on the previous stage.

Sometimes Skujins’ breakaway days have paid off, but more often than not, the break gets caught and Skujins finishes the stage in the group. It’s disappointing, sure, but Skujins says it’s not as devastating for riders as it may be for the fans watching.

“It’s not always heartbreaking,” Skujins says, “even if you don’t succeed in doing what you wanted to do. Though, there’s a couple of occasions, of course, when you get your hopes up and it all falls apart.”

“It helps,” Skujins says, “to go in with a plan.” If you have a reason to be there, the breakaway always means something, even if it doesn’t end up going your way. “I think it’s always exciting when you’re up there. I don’t just go into a breakaway for nothing. There’s always an idea behind it, and if you’re in the break, that means the plan is working.”

That in itself is an accomplishment. Getting into a breakaway seems, from a fan perspective, almost a foregone conclusion. But, Skujins knows better than most how difficult it can be to get into the breakaway in the first place. It takes an arsenal of skills, timing, and cycling knowhow to read the right moves and make sure you’re right there with it.

“I get to be there a lot more than others because I am, for one, capable of getting in them,” says Skujins. “I have a skill set that’s wide enough that I can both win from a breakaway or suffer in the breakaway and just get as far as I can. I have the power, let’s say, to go and keep going for a long, long time.”

It’s all part of the day job for Skujins. So, what if the occasional heartbreak is all within the job description?! Sometimes there is glory to be found. Sometimes the miracle actually happens.

THE HAIL MARY

Tom Skujins enjoys the fruits of his breakaway effort at the 2015 Amgen Tour of California.

Over the years the Amgen Tour of California has proven a dramatic venue for Skujins. In three different years and in three different breakaways, two very different outcomes have defined Skujins’ California narrative. In 2015, Skujins began building his name in the pro peloton with a breakaway win while riding for Hincapie Sportswear Development team. “Yeah, I think the one that always sticks out is the first stage win in Cali,” he remembers. “There were two of us from Hincapie in the breakaway, and there were some other really strong riders. It took a really long time for the breakaway to go, but when you make it to the finish, especially if you make it as the only guy from the breakaway, it’s even more sweet. It was on a big stage against some big riders.”

In 2017 Skujins attempted to build on his earlier California success. He went off the front and had a good chance of winning Stage 2, as he did two years earlier on a similar course. But, when he crashed on a high-speed descent and then climbed back on his bike despite bleeding and showing obvious signs of concussion, both fans and commentators were horrified. In one terrifying incident, Skujins became a poster boy for helmet design and concussion protocols.

“I remember pretty much everything until like five seconds before and like 20 minutes after my crash,” he says. “I’m missing about 20 minutes of my life there.” Not exactly a career goal, but one year later Skujins took to the starting line with the crash out of his mind and his focus on another win. He pulled it off, too, winning Stage 3 in jovial fashion. He danced across the line, once again becoming a poster boy, this time for the sheer joy of winning. 

With those skills and successes in his back pocket, Skujins took his breakaway chops to the Tour France in 2018 and was rewarded in an unexpected way—the polka-dot jersey. Two years later he would be there again, this time nabbing a sweet second-place finish on the eighth stage. 

A BREAKAWAY PLAYBOOK

Another breakaway that would be swept up in the closing kilometers.

Skujins says in addition to a special combination of skills, it takes good timing and awareness of the competition to get yourself in a breakaway. The move you follow isn’t always the right one. 

“There’s a lot of times when it takes quite a few tries,” he says. “It’s rarely just the one move you make. It’s a lot about reading other people around you, reading the teams around you, trying to figure out what their plan is, whether or not they are actually trying to get in the break, or whether or not they’re trying to shut it down, or do they want a break to go fast? There are all kinds of different variables that you need to keep in mind when shooting for it. There’s definitely different scenarios that play out.”

“I don’t just go into a breakaway for nothing. There’s always an idea behind it, and if you’re in the break, that means the plan is working.” 

But once the breakaway forms, the assembly of riders from various teams know it’s time to work together to build a gap. Without that gap of over a minute, the life of a breakaway can shorten dramatically. Skujins says once that gap gets established, the riders in the breakaway can start to venture guesses as to how the peloton has, or will, react. 

It’s no willy-nilly affair. Teams always discuss strategy before a stage start, and the breakaway gets factored into that plan. “Depending on the race or the plan of the day, it’s either just getting in a break because you believe the break will go to the line and you want to fight for the stage win or get someone in the break to use them later,” says Skujins. 

“Let’s say last year, for example, when we [Trek-Segafredo at the Tour de France] had maybe lacked a little bit of firepower in climbing. If we got someone up the road that could pass a few climbs in the breakaway, then that person would be in a good position to help Richie [Porte] later on.”

JUST LIKE IN THE RING

Dan Martin of the Cannondale-Garmin squad looked poised to breakaway from the field, but couldn’t quite succeed.

As Mike Tyson once said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” A team’s plan for its breakaway riders has to evolve as the race goes on, since the race situation can change in an instant for a team’s GC rider or team leader. That goes double for the riders in the breakaway; as the day goes on, the situation changes and goals change with it. 

That’s exactly what happened in the 2018 Tour de France during Stage 5. “In my first ever breakaway in the Tour when I got the KOM jersey, that actually was not the plan,” says Skujins. “I went into the stage hoping to go for the stage win because I thought the breakaway might succeed. I knew the course was up and down and twisty. But then, [Sylvain] Chavanel attacked with about 100 kilometers to go and went for the KOM points, which meant that the breakaway stopped working together, and we were just bleeding time against the peloton. So, that race for the stage was over, and I started going for the mountain points.”

 By the end of the day, Skujins did indeed wear the polka-dot jersey — and he held onto it for several days. The experience was a career highlight for Skujins, but in retrospect, what made the entire effort notable wasn’t the jersey at the end of it, but the process of reading the breakaway—and its quickly-changing goals—correctly. 

“The best thing about it probably was that there were two guys from Total Direct Énergie, and they were both going for it, so Chavanel went and then Lilian Calmejane was also trying. After they were cooked. I got to pull one over on both of them!” 

A TEAM WITH NO TEAMMATES
Although team jerseys and intentions differ in the breakaway, both must align, at least temporarily, to keep the peloton at bay. You have to work together—until you don’t. When a breakaway forms, each participant needs to make a decision to either play along or pursue individual goals without help. Whatever happens, a smart breakaway artist can read the situation and react accordingly. 

“Sometimes you can talk with other breakaway guys,” Skujins says, “but a lot of times, there’s just stupid breakaways that have no tactics and people start attacking 100 kilometers out. They don’t want to actually fight for the stage win, or they have their own intentions, so then you can throw your plan out the window, too.”

For some, breakaways are all about camera time and pleasing the sponsors. Others have an eye on the stage win. Still, others just want to get out of the chaos of the peloton. And in some cases, it’s actually based on a team strategy. With all those conflicting agendas, the breakaway can be a chaotic place. Within that chaos, however, alliances often form out of necessity; breakaways need to keep the peloton at bay, after all. Perhaps that’s why so few of them find their way all the way to the finish line. 

LEARNING TO DIE IN THE WIND

Thinking back to that day in Wisconsin when Jensie pedaled away from me, I still recall the wind hitting me hard and my heart rate climbing startlingly fast. Real men die in the wind, huh? Well, perhaps I became a real man then, because I was certainly dying in the wind!

As most of us know, it doesn’t feel good to face that wind alone. But, I see it now, the absolute raw appeal of doing it all alone. As I watched Voigt become smaller and smaller ahead of me that day, it was easy for me to retreat into fantasy with the pain clear on my face, evident as I found the finishing chute after a brutal day pushing against an invisible enemy. The fantasy lets me taste the redemption of my exhaustion. I can hold up only one arm as I cross the finish line. 

A lot can happen in 200 meters; Van Moer almost became a legend. Skujins read his competitors perfectly and ended up in polka dots. I watched Jens Voigt disappear and take his beautiful draft with him. And some, the lucky few, have tasted the true beauty of the breakaway. They have won, and that has made the oft-ill-fated journey worth it for so many who have followed. 

Van Moer is only 23 years old. That’s a lot of breakaways yet to come. I hope that someday he will raise that one exhausted arm and become a legend, alone in the wind.

Photos: Bettini

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2022 LA Tourist Race #1

01/15/2022 12:02

Los Angeles has become a destination point for “underground” racing or as we like to think of it, having fun competitively. No race license, just show up on whatever bike you have and go. Race it, ride it or just be part of the before and after party, it doesn’t matter.

Mike, the brains behind the madness remains the most organized part of our experience. 2022 LA Tourist race 1 number pickup.

Mike, the brains behind the fun says this will be one of the easiest races to date. He also joked that the next two he has planned will only be harder with more remote checkpoints. The race starts at Let’s Ride Cyclery in Burbank, Ca on Hollywood way between the Chandler bike path and Magnolia Blvd. Also about half a block from the famous Porto’s Bakery.

THE FORMAT

We are back to the original scavenger hunt style of the race with four checkpoints. Since you can do the stops in any order with the only real set rule being you must start and finish at the Let’s Ride Cyclery & LA Tourist HQ in Burbank. The race starts at 8 am on Saturday, January 15th, 2022. 

We have ridden most of the roads and trails on our route.

THE ROUTE

Our first stop will be our local gravel stomping grounds near the peak of the Verdugo Mountains (34°13’16″N 118°17’14″W).  Next, we will head to Cherry Canyon for a water fillup and stop two (34°11’29″N 118°12’25” W).

We will then continue to what will be the most remote and difficult climb up to the Tom Sloane Trail in the Angeles National Forest (34°13’56″N 118°7’12″W). It will be just over 4000ft of climbing and about 10 miles to get there.

61.2 miles, 9,200 ft of climbing and a warning from Komoot (Includes a very steep uphill segment. You may need to push your bike.)

The last stop is in Griffith Park on one of our favorite road training loops (34°7’25″N 118°18’33″W). We will have to go off the paved path to find the book but a great spot to finish up the ride with a view of the famous Hollywood sign and Griffith Observatory before making the short hop back to the shop.

 

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A post shared by The L.A.Tourist (@la.tourist.race)

MBA editor Traece has agreed to join the fun too.

TROY’S BIKE CHOICE

It’s no surprise that Troy has chosen a bike with a Lauf Grit fork but he put it on a Lauf Anywhere, so really it’s now a Lauf True Grit. For wheels, he is using a set of Enve 3.4AR hoops. A set of Kenda Booster Pro tires in size 40mm bulge out to 42mm, and should be a good all-around choice. Inside the tires are a set of Vittoria tire inserts. For gears, a SRAM AXS WIDE 2x system. There is a 43/30 crankset matched with a 10-36t cassette.

Get your shop and race swag.
Mike opens a fresh Moots that will get built in the next few days.
Everyone seems stoked to have perfect weather and hopefully an “easy” route.
A new bike for the event.

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LITESPEED WATIA GRAVEL BIKE REVIEW

01/14/2022 0:01

As one of America’s original houses of titanium, Litespeed has always been on the cutting edge of titanium bicycle design and American-based manufacturing. And when it comes to gravel bikes, Litespeed was among the earliest brands to get us a test bike (2015). Despite lacking what’s now become the “proper” tire clearance, the bike marked the beginning of the Tennessee brand’s journey towards a gravel horizon. 

Here it is, six years later, and Litespeed now has a family of dual-purpose bikes, with the Watia being the latest addition. As one of the few gravel bikes available in time for our annual foray to Emporia, Kansas, to compete in the Unbound Gravel (formerly Dirty Kanza), our test bike endured a double dose of different gravel conditions.

THE FRAME 

Litespeed has followed the trends in recent years to remain relevant by providing the latest drivetrains, geometries and parts. Campagnolo’s 13-speed Ekar drivetrain and Spinergy’s aerospace-spoke technology and carbon wheelsets were spec’d on Litespeed’s Watia. Situated in the center of Litespeed’s spectrum of gravel bikes, the Watia blends the performance-tuned refinements of the Ultimate Gravel frame and the adventure-ready geometry of the Cherohala. 

“Up in the sunbaked foothills of Southern California, the Watia climbed the winding ridges with ease, thanks to the massive range of the 13-speed cassette.” 

The Watia is available with either externally or internally routed cables, and our bike was the latter, which enjoys a $260 upcharge. It isn’t a fully integrated design, though, as the cable and two hydraulic hoses are visible from the handlebar, the shift cable and the rear hydraulic line are routed through the frame, while the front hydraulic line is run through the fork. Each tube is purposely shaped to amplify titanium’s attributes. The top tube is ovalized nearest the seat-tube junction to better capture frame vibrations, and the downtube is ovalized at the bottom bracket to add stiffness. The chainstays are asymmetrical with the drive side featuring a CNC-machined plate to increase tire and chainring clearance. It’s an eye-catching design that’s as attractive as it is utilitarian. The seat stays are skinny and bridged to allow for a fender. 

A 103.4mm wheelbase and 71.5-degree head tube angle are paired with a stack height of 60cm and a reach of 38cm for a middle-of-the-road geometry as promised. The Watia adopts the same wheelbase as the Cherohala, then takes a slightly steeper head tube angle than the Ultimate to maintain a responsive ride. It then relies on the elevated front-end geometry of the Cherohala and uses the same stack and reach measurements. 

Litespeed offers a frame customization program that allows riders to choose either a standard logo or an etched version, as well as personalized fork choices, a T47 bottom bracket option, a titanium seatpost upgrade and additional frame mounts. Tire clearance maxes out at 45mm, thanks in part to the asymmetric chainstay design.

THE PARTS

Campagnolo’s double-curve carbon brake levers are equipped with a single paddle behind the right shifter for downshifts and an extended thumb button for upshifts. This keeps the shift logic familiar to Campy’s road groupsets. The extended thumb shifter makes reaching the buttons easier when riding in the drops.

There’s only one derailleur that does it all in the Ekar line, the rear. An aluminum, carbon-reinforced polyamide hybrid construction and stainless steel small bits keep it durable.

Our internally routed Watia features cold-worked 3/2.5 titanium tubes that Litespeed shapes specifically for ride characteristics.

The 13-speed cassette is the mainstay of the Ekar drivetrain. Although it follows after the Rotor, it’s the first 13-speed offering from the “Big Three” drivetrain makers. Campy considers the 10-44 cassette the Gravel Adventure option versus the Endurance (9-36)- or Gravel Race (9-42)-spec’d cassettes, which both feature a 9-tooth gear. Gears included on our build are 10-11-12-13-14-15-17-19-22-26-32-39-44. 

Campy subtly brands the carbon cranks twice with the Ekar logo. The cranks feature replaceable rubber end covers, which are a thoughtful touch to prevent damage from all-too-common crank strikes in technical situations. The 38t chainring is in the middle of Campy’s offering between a 36t and 44t. 

The tire clearance is extended thanks to the wide CNC-machined plate along the drive side chainstay.

Spinergy’s GXX wheelset is designed for gravel. Stats include a 24mm internal rim width, 24 straight-pull PBO fiber spokes, 108 points of engagement and a tubeless-ready carbon rim.

We rolled into Emporia atop a pair of 40mm Zipp Tangente Course G40 tubeless-ready tires fitted with a puncture protection strip that runs from bead to bead rather than just across the contact patch. This increases sidewall durability, which is important to prevent tears from the sharp flint gravel. The central tread is low-profile and fast-rolling, which makes it a solid choice for dry and dusty conditions. Last but not least, we reviewed inflated them to 35 psi in the front and 36 psi in the rear, which we calculated using SRAM’s tire-pressure calculator. 

THE RIDE

Litespeed is now offering Home Delivery as a direct-to-consumer service (see page 22), which we’re told is being adopted by a growing number of American bike manufacturers as their own version of a consumer-direct service. Our test bike was delivered to us by a driver (who is also an experienced mechanic).

“Over our handful of rides in the Flint Hills, the bike plowed through washed-out, rutted farm roads; sharp, unforgiving pitches; and wide-open, wind-lashed fields.” 

With our bike tuned, saddle height set and pedals installed, thanks to the delivery service, little was left to be done setup-wise on our end. Direct-to-consumer bikes rarely come with such a simple assembly process, and Litespeed’s hybrid consumer-direct nature is elevated by the high-end delivery service.

Our testing grounds included long climbs and descents on local fire roads, twisty singletrack, Los Angeles roads and what can be considered the ultimate test for any gravel bike, the Unbound 200 course.

Up in the sunbaked foothills of Southern California, the Watia climbed the winding ridges with ease, thanks to the massive range of the 13-speed cassette. Campy’s one-button, one-function shift logic performs with its signature clunk for each shift. With the ability to shift up to four easier gears with a single push of the lever, the Ekar stands out when climbing. The thumb trigger ensures a single shift into harder gears and can be quick-fired with confidence. We did notice that the shifters may get stuck on the brake lever when we first rode them. This prevents another shift until the lever is returned to its resting position and is a bit annoying. 

With each bump over the roots, rocks, ruts and sand on our local singletrack, we were reminded of the forgiving characteristics of titanium’s fabled ride quality. Litespeed’s purpose-crafted tube shapes help dampen the shock when we took a bad line and enhanced our ride when we chose the right one. In switchback turns the wheels tracked predictably, helping us stay in the saddle with less hike-a-bike when we were riding on some questionable terrain. 

We felt most at home with the Watia on the rolling hills of the Kansas prairie. Over our handful of rides in the Flint
Hills, the bike plowed through washed-out, rutted farm roads; sharp, unforgiving pitches; and wide-open, wind-lashed fields. 

There was, however, one product “learning” that came our way in Kansas by virtue of a flat tire suffered early on in the Unbound race. When we pulled the rear wheel from the frame, we were surprised when first the end cap and then the entire cassette fell off the wheel. It didn’t help that the end cap fell into some tall weeds, which necessitated a time-consuming search-and-rescue effort. Eventually, everything was reassembled with only time lost being the biggest issue. The learning? Be sure to use caution when removing the Spinergy wheel. 

THE VERDICT

With Litespeed’s proven history of titanium know-how, the Watia is a well-balanced gravel bike. We enjoyed our time in the SoCal foothills as much as we did on the Midwest prairie. Given their titanium legacy and top-notch fabrication, it should come as no surprise that the Watia has gained a spot on our list of top gravel bikes of the year.

Litespeeds are listed at a premium price. Frames are available starting at $2115 for the externally routed option, with the most expensive build topping out around $6500. And given titanium’s famed durability, the case could be made that this may be the last gravel bike one purchases.

PUNCH LINES

• Titanium’s undeniable ride quality 

• Capable of taking on the rough stuff

• Premium Campy drivetrain 

STATS

Price: $6485 (frame $2295)

Weight: 19.65 pounds

Sizes: XS, S, M, ML (tested), L, XL

www.litespeed.com

 

THE GEAR

Helmet: Giro Synthe   

Jersey: Ale            

Bib: Ale R-EV1                      

Shoes: Vittoria Tierra         

Socks: Ale            

Glasses: Uvex Sportstyle 231    

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4 REASONS WHY SHORT INTERVALS WORK FOR IMPROVING PERFORMANCE

01/14/2022 0:01

By Chris Carmichael, Founder and Head Coach of CTS

In exercise science and coaching there are long and passionate debates about the structure of interval workouts, the intensities that should be used, the duration of efforts and recoveries, and the total amount of work performed during a training session or a block of training. The question of whether very short intervals (30 second max efforts with 15 second recoveries) are superior to longer five-minute intervals bubbles to the surface regularly. From the sports science side, short intervals work. What’s important for athletes and coaches to understand, however, is that the reasons they work go beyond physiological adaptation. Here’s the bigger picture of why my coaches and I incorporate very short intervals into our athletes’ programs.

Short intervals ranging from 10 to 40 seconds, with 1:1 or 2:1 work:recovery ratios, have been a staple of training programs since the 1990s, and were used less formally before that. In a study published in 1996, Dr. Izumi Tabata described a protocol of 20-second high intensity efforts separated by 10 seconds of recovery. The result was an increase in both maximum aerobic capacity (VO2 max) and anaerobic capacity.

By comparison, the group that performed steady efforts at 70% of VO2 max saw a smaller improvement in maximum aerobic capacity and no improvement in anaerobic capacity. Soon, “Tabata workouts” gained popularity, and the concept broadened out to “High Intensity Interval Training” or HIIT workouts. Over time, the duration and structure of intervals and recovery periods were manipulated as sports scientists and coaches sought to optimize the adaptations for specific sport demands and unique needs of individual athletes.

New Information

Fast forward to 2020 and an interesting article by Alex Hutchinson for Outside Magazine, which describes the results of a 2020 study that showed that 30:15 intervals (3 sets of 13 x 30 second max RPE efforts with 15 seconds recovery between efforts and 3 minutes between sets) yielded greater real-world performance improvements than 5-minute intervals (4 x 5-minutes at max RPE with 2.5 minutes of recovery between efforts). Both groups performed 3 workouts per week for three weeks, and the work times for each group were essentially equal (19.5 minutes for the short interval group and 20 minutes for the long interval group).

Neither group achieved an increase in VO2 max after 3 weeks. It is important to note, however, that this was a group of highly trained cyclists with mean VO2 max values of 73 ml/kg/min, so the total work may not have created enough stimulus to achieve positive adaptations for such a highly trained group. Previous research has also shown that longer intervals (3-5 minutes with 2:1 work:recovery ratios) are more effective than very short intervals for increasing VO2 max.

What did improve, by nearly 5%, was the short interval group’s mean power output during a self-paced 20-minute time trial. There was also an increase, from 5.7 to 7.5 mmol/liter, in the short interval group’s average lactate level during the 20-minute test. The long interval group experienced a small decrease in mean power output (-1.4%), and no increase in average lactate level during the 20-minute test.

Physical and Mental Benefits of Short Intervals

There are both physiological and psychological reasons that very short, very high-intensity intervals improve performance. When my coaches and I work with athletes, we have to recognize that we have to help athletes build greater physical capacity as well as the psychological tools to actually use it. Here’s how short intervals do both:

More time at higher intensity

Research from Bent R. Rønnestad (here’s a video of a good lecture, for those interested) indicates that during maximum perceived exertion efforts, 30 second intervals with 15 seconds rest allow athletes to accumulate more time above 90% of VO2 max than 5 minute intervals. Stephen Seiler, another well known researcher in the field, pointed out that a 13 x 30/15 interval set really ends up resembling one effort with variable power outputs. The recovery periods are so short that VO2 doesn’t have that much time to drop.

Improved lactate tolerance

Lactate is not the enemy of high performance, as it was once believed to be. It is a fuel, and increasing the rate at which you can process it for energy is a key part of training. So is increasing the blood lactate levels you can tolerate while still performing hard work. To do that, you have to perform workouts that produce a lot of lactate.

To pace longer intervals – even at maximum perceived exertion – riders produce lower power outputs. The higher power outputs achieved in repeated short efforts appear to increase lactate tolerance. We see that in the present study. The average blood lactate level increased during the 20-minute time trial, and mean power output increased at 4 mmol/liter for the short interval group.

Threat and Willingness

All intervals are intimidating in different ways. Some athletes experience anxiety around the intensity of shorter intervals. Other get anxious about the duration of longer intervals even though the intensity will be lower. Thankfully, there are often multiple ways to create a similar training stimulus. Sometimes the key is to design the workout that the athlete is most likely to complete well.

A set of thirteen 30-second efforts with 15 seconds recovery is really hard, but short intervals and even shorter recovery times give athletes small markers to hit. Athletes look at it as “I can do anything for 30 seconds” because the end is always within site. For many athletes, the structure is an important component for keeping them engaged and willing to continue to the end of the effort.

Attentional Control

There’s a concept in sports psychology called attentional control. Your attention can range from broad to narrow and external to internal. Broad external attention is useful for noticing cues and details about the environment around you. Broad internal attention can be big picture evaluations of how you feel today or at this point in an event. You use narrow external attention when you focus on hitting a power number on your computer, catching a rider ahead of you, or sprinting to a finish line.

An example of narrow internal attention is the very specific self-talk you use when the going gets tough. It’s the “You can do this” narrative in your head when “this” is something very specific, like digging deep to stay on the wheel during a group ride or negotiating a tricky rock garden on your mountain bike.

Source: CTS Coaching Continuing Education Webinar with Dr. Justin Ross

Hard efforts require you to narrow your attention, either to something external (the clock) or internal (you can do this). From a coaching perspective, short and hard efforts leverage an athlete’s ability to narrow their attention. This often results in more time at intensity and more time at greater intensities. We also use short efforts to train and develop this aspect of attentional control so athletes can use it to optimize performance at critical moments in competition.

Are Shorter Intervals Best?

No. Short intervals serve an important purpose, but they are a component of training that is as valuable as other components. Intervals of 3-5 minutes at high perceived exertion are shown to increase VO2 max, as described well in this article. Intervals of 10-20 minutes at the maximum sustainable pace for that duration have been shown to increase power at lactate threshold.

So why bother with 30/15 or 40/20 interval sets that are so hard? Because you can’t underestimate the importance of focus and engagement in workout effectiveness. Workouts must be interesting to keep people engaged. There’s also benefit to being uncomfortable in training – and training to be uncomfortable – so similar efforts are tolerable during competition. Even if you could achieve identical physiological adaptations with all lower intensity training, it might not yield a winning result. Athletes may not develop the fortitude and willingness to tolerate the discomfort required to maximize real world performance.

References:

Rønnestad BR, Hansen J, Nygaard H, Lundby C. Superior performance improvements in elite cyclists following short-interval vs effort-matched long-interval training. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2020 May;30(5):849-857. doi: 10.1111/sms.13627. Epub 2020 Feb 5. PMID: 31977120.

Tabata I, Nishimura K, Kouzaki M, Hirai Y, Ogita F, Miyachi M, Yamamoto K. Effects of moderate-intensity endurance and high-intensity intermittent training on anaerobic capacity and VO2max. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1996 Oct;28(10):1327-30. doi: 10.1097/00005768-199610000-00018. PMID: 8897392.

The post 4 REASONS WHY SHORT INTERVALS WORK FOR IMPROVING PERFORMANCE appeared first on Road Bike Action.


Categories:Road Bike Action

TUESDAY TECH: ROTOR ALDHU CARBON CRANK

01/12/2022 0:02

Rotor Bike Components just gave us a new chance at a lighter bike with the debut of its ALDHU Carbon cranks. Four years of development have yielded lighter and stiffer cranks compared to their aluminum predecessors, and increased options for modular crankset customization, while providing an upgrade to Rotor’s loyal fans who demanded carbon fiber cranks. Given that the introduction of disc brakes into road cycling has nudged up overall bike weight, the main goal for the new cranks was to scale down some of that weight increase without
sacrificing crank stiffness.

How much lighter and stiffer are they?

Rotor’s first-generation aluminum ALDHU 172.5 mm crank arms with 50/34 direct mount chainrings weigh in excess of 600 g, which is lean enough for extruded, CNC’d cranks. By exploiting the advantages of carbon fiber, the new carbon crank arms shed 100 grams to lower the total weight to 523.5 g for the same crankset combination. At the same time, the cranks’ absolute vertical and horizontal stiffness were increased by 11 percent and 36.1 percent respectively.

Rotor claims 260 grams but on our scale, we got 258 grams.

Featured crankset combinations

Since no two cyclists are exactly alike, when comfort and/or performance determine the quality of a ride or the outcome of a race, the ability to precisely dial in personal preferences becomes crucial. The ALDHU Carbon cranks can be combined with different types of spiders, chainrings, and axles to optimize comfort and performance. To guide the selection process, Rotor has organized possible crankset combinations into four categories: Standard, Superlight, Aero, and Full Aero with 1x and 2x configurations in all except Standard.

Twin Leg Technology

ALDHU Carbon crank arms have been designed in combination with Rotor’s 30 mm axles. The patented interface between crank arms and axle offers a simple assembly but with a firm fit. This design solves a specific problem, which is that power losses are mainly generated by axle torsion under pedaling force. To address this, the robust axle reduces power losses that occur when force is exerted on the left pedal. The balance achieved to minimize these losses is called Twin Leg Technology.

OCP Mount

This technology allows the rider to adjust the orientation of Rotor’s Q RINGS oval chainrings by degrees relative to the crank. OCP Mount is based on the combination of three independent elements: axle, right crank arm and spider with oval chainring (or in the absence of a spider, a direct mount Q RINGS). The patented crank interface for a DM Q RINGS allows for the most precise adjustment of an oval chainring to date.

With these new benefits built into the crank structure, users who place a premium on choice can customize their cranksets owing to ALDHU’s modular structure. Rotor first introduced this concept into its product range in 2017. Since then Rotor has added components to the ALDHU category to further extend its customization configurations.

Available upgrades

ALDHU’s modularity offers cyclists the added advantage to upgrade to the new carbon crank arms if they already use an ALDHU or VEGAST crankset. A 10 mm Allen key, a pair of ALDHU Carbon cranks, and two minutes are all it takes to complete this easy upgrade.

Users can easily add power measurement with the INspider power meter like our test crank, which measures power, cadence, and balance, and employs two proprietary metrics, Torque 360 and Optimum Chainring Angle.

 

Pricing

ALDHU Carbon crank arms are available in 165, 170, 172.5 and 175mm

Arms only $449 (Axle, spider, spacers or chainrings not included)

Full crankset with 2x (round) rings start at $724, if you add INspider (power meter) it is $1249.

For more info head to rotoramerica.com

For the ultimate aero advantage, the Aero Crown replaces the front chainring bolts and only adds 45 grams.

Our Build Breakdown

When adding up our build we ended up with two weights. The above aero build hit the scales with a total weight of 705 grams. Without the Aero Crown and using the regular chainring bolts we have a total weight of 660 grams.








 

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Categories:Road Bike Action

BASSO DIAMANTE SV ROAD BIKE REVIEW

01/12/2022 0:02

It was a good day back in March when Shimano called and offered to provide us with a new 12-speed Dura-Ace component group. All we needed to do was find a frame to hang the parts on. Turns out that wasn’t as easy as we thought it would be. After trying a few different American frame vendors, we came up empty-handed. Owing to the pandemic-fueled shortage of everything, it seemed no one could spare a frame for the build within the timeline needed. Hmmm.

Well, we figured, if we can’t find a frame at home, why not head over to our favorite home away from home to try our luck? And so, we called our friends at Basso, who maintain a small, family run factory in Italy, and asked if they had a frame they could spare for a project bike. 

THE FRAME

What we received is a striking Diamante SV disc that has seen a few improvements since we last tested the rim-brake version (RBA, September 2018). The aero-inspired road bike remains aggressive and race-oriented, but now with integrated hoses and cables or, in our case, two wires. The frameset still utilizes the unique 3B triple-point seat clamp and rubber gusset to secure the seatpost. This unique retention system is to add a level of compliance to an otherwise stiff race platform. 

The aero-optimized and integrated fork/frame design allows the headset to sit below the top tube, allowing for a stiffer front end. Our 53cm test bike has a top-tube length of 54.5cm and a head tube of 13.7cm. The short 98.9 wheelbase and 72.3-degree head tube make this a bike that is quick to respond and lively. There is a 39cm frame reach with a stack of 54cm for a long and compact fit. The carbon frame is hand-laminated and still made in a factory located near Vicenza, Italy.

THE PARTS

Not to shadow the stunning craftsmanship of the Basso, our bike is the parts mule for the all-new Shimano Dura-Ace R9200 drivetrain. The latest release from Shimano is Di2-specific and uses a new wireless hybrid connection system.

Beyond the new drivetrain is also a new Pro Stealth Curved saddle that is narrower and has oversized carbon rails. Pro also swapped the integrated Basso bars/stem combo out for their new one-piece Vibe Evo. For wheels, the deep purple Basso rolled on the new Dura-Ace C50 wheels that now have a modern 21mm internal width. The rims are tubeless-ready and still use a hook bead for those that are not all in on tubeless yet. The wheels were wrapped with 28mm Vittoria Corsa Graphene 2.0 tires.

THE RIDE

The subtle changes that have been made to the Diamante have not changed its ride characteristics. The bike retains race-oriented handling and razor-sharp responsiveness. This bike is like an attack dog that sits leashed just waiting for you to cut the lead. The bike truly performs best under a confident rider that is willing to push the envelope. Rider input gets a lively response. 

The 3B triple-point seat clamp and rubber gusset are unique, but hold the post secure and add a little compliance.

For us, it always takes a few rides to adapt to a bike with this type of hyper-responsive handling, as it is something that many of the big brands have moved away from as they target easier-to-handle bikes to attract the masses.

Not surprisingly, the new Dura-Ace drivetrain is amazing, but the true stand-out was the feel and performance of the brakes. On a bike like the Basso, you can push the limits of every corner as the new Servo-Wave brake actuation provided improved feel and modulation. On previous Shimano road disc brakes, there was almost an on/off feel, but now the brake’s progression is much improved.

As always, the Di2 shifting is spot-on and fast. Shimano claims faster shifting because of the cog spacing with 12 gears, but for us it was hard to validate since it has always been lightning fast and accurate. The new C50 wheels matched to the stiff Diamante frame means that accelerations have no delay, and the wider internal width added a bit of air volume to the Vittoria tires. Despite running inner tubes, the road feel of the Vittoria tires was amazing, although we’ve found it often comes at the cost of a bit of durability. Since they are 28mm on a 21mm internal width, we ran around 70 psi since tubes do reduce the volume slightly compared to tubeless.

For $6450, the updated Diamante SV frameset now includes frame, fork, bars, stem, post and headset spacers.

THE VERDICT

With each new ride we came away admiring the Diamante more and more. The new Shimano Dura-Ace 12-speed is amazing and shifts fantastic, but the brakes are the true standout. The wireless technology that Shimano offers is great but doesn’t seem to add or subtract from the user experience other than no wires are on display up front. The Pro Vibe Evo bar is big and not the perfect match for the internally routed Basso. Because of this, the brake hoses are exposed near the stem, but the stock bar system would keep this completely hidden.

The pro-level geometry and stiffness are not for the less experienced rider, but lots of fun for those that push the limits. Basso’s production originated in Italy for over 40 years ago, so you know you’re getting a bike that is special. Shimano has made some big changes, and best of all the user experience is almost unchanged. Improved brake feel is a perfect match to a performance bike like the Diamante.

PUNCH LINES

• A true race bike

• Italian-made, Italian styling

• Updated integration

STATS

Price: $6450 frameset

Weight: 16.37 pounds

Sizes: 45, 48, 51, 53 (tested), 56, 58, 61cm

www.bassobikes.com

 

The post BASSO DIAMANTE SV ROAD BIKE REVIEW appeared first on Road Bike Action.


Categories:Road Bike Action

CYCLING GROUP RIDES: 6 BEST TIPS TO STOP GETTING DROPPED

01/12/2022 0:01

By Chris Carmichael, Founder and Head Coach of CTS

Getting dropped from cycling group rides is a probability all riders face. Sometimes it’s caused by inadequate fitness, but even fit riders get dropped when they have poor skills and habits. So, for the beginners and those we are welcoming back to group rides, here’s a guide to stop getting dropped.

Improve Fitness

No duh, right? Nonetheless, it has to be said. Fitness fixes most ills, or at least allows you to overcome a lot of mistakes. The ideal combination is great fitness and superior group riding skills, but if you’re fit you can at least stay in the group long enough to work on the skills.

Fitness is drawing riders back out onto the road (paved and gravel). It’s an unintended consequence of making indoor cycling more appealing. Cyclists who stopped going to the group ride or participating in events are riding more. As they get fit, they gain confidence and return to cycling group rides because they have the fitness to have fun. As membership numbers increase for virtual cycling platforms, indoor and outdoor cycling compliment each other more than ever.

Unfortunately, elevated fitness and rusty skills result in getting dropped. So, in addition to building fitness, remember the following strategies and skills.

Don’t Start Like a Bat Out Of Hell

In the real world it’s not wise to go full gas right from the first pedal stroke. In a race you may need to start hard, but that should be after a long warmup. When you pull out of the parking lot for the Sunday group ride, keep your ego in check. Don’t let adrenaline or too much coffee lead you to burn all your matches in the first 30 minutes. Be patient. There will be much better places to expend that energy.

Stop Trying To Be A Hero

In a weird replay of high school gym class, some cyclists returning to the group ride feel the need to prove themselves to the regulars. They take longer pulls, accelerate around people to close gaps that are already closing, and push the pace on climbs. First of all, you don’t have anything to prove. Anyone who makes you feel that way is saying more about themselves than about you. Nonetheless, the best way to make a positive contribution to the group is to still be there in the final miles. That’s when your ability to share the workload will be greatly appreciated.

Stay out of the wind

I don’t think people who regularly ride cycling group rides fully appreciate how much we take drafting skills for granted. It takes practice to get comfortable with sitting inches off someone’s back wheel, but it’s worth it.

If you’re out of practice, make a concerted effort to notice the wind direction and your position in the group. If you’re a beginner, find an experienced rider who is steady and predictable and stay on their wheel. For all riders, remember to get back into a draft quickly after taking a pull. Stop hanging yourself out in the wind!

To learn more about drafting and group ride etiquette, read Group Ride Etiquette and Skills Every Cyclist Needs to Know and Top 3 Advanced Cycling Skills for Group Rides and Races.

Learn to fuel on the go

You can’t wait to eat until the group stops for a rest, a coffee shop, or even a stop light. Many cyclists are uncomfortable retrieving, unwrapping, and consuming food from their pockets while moving, but it’s an important skill.

To make fueling while cycling easier, pre-open the wrappers on bars and chews a little bit. Gels can be a simple solution because they’re easy to open with your teeth and eat one-handed. If you don’t feel confident eating in the middle of the group, wait until you’re at the back – just don’t get dropped!

Don’t Waste Efforts

One final effort might cause you to get dropped, but hundreds of small behaviors set you up for that moment. Riders who are comfortable and confident in the pack stay off the brakes, maintain their momentum through corners, and avoid having to accelerate to close a gap by not letting it open in the first place. Drifting off the back on descents means you have to surge at the bottom to get back on a wheel. These small efforts add up until that one hard acceleration pops you off the back for good.

Group riding skills come back like, well… riding a bike. I think it’s helpful for riders returning to the pack to go in understanding the consequences of being aerobically fit and technically rusty. It’s also important for experienced group riders to welcome these riders back, which means exhibiting patience and humor instead of getting crabby.

 

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