A new year and a new season means new a new bike! You’ve been drooling over those professional bike pictures for month. Now the time has come to purchase your first frame, or upgrade! I have had a couple clients recently ask where I begin when buying a bike. These days there are so many options muddled up by online retailers, directly buying from manufacturers, or the tried and true local bike shop. On top of that there are frame sizes, components, wheels, cockpits, full integration, superbikes! Ah! I am going to break this whole bike buying process down into easy steps. At the end I will post a checklist you can print out to fill in prior to shopping. Let’s dive in!
First thing is first, check with your significant other that a new bike is approved ;). Seriously, we need to first establish a budget for this purchase. How much can you afford to buy with the CASH you have available at that moment. You don’t need to actually pay cash for the bike purchase, because we all like those credit card points, but bikes are expensive and American’s already have enough credit card debt. Also, a good rule of thumb is to only buy what you can replace without too much difficulty. For example, I could buy a $2k frame and if I happen to crash or need to repair it I could afford a new one within a very reasonable period of time. This can become a grey area and I am not a financial advisor, just giving a general rule of thumb. Alright, so what is the entry point for this sport? If you need to buy a complete bike to begin with you are looking at around $1500-2500 USD. That range is for used as well as new. My research shows that new bikes are starting out around $1800 and going up to $2800 for entry level, with the average cost of a complete new bike around $2400. Every company has a different idea of what entry level is though. Cervelo and Trek had the highest starting points and Cannondale and Giant having the less expensive starting points.
What comes with these different price ranges? A lot of the difference in prices has to do with stock wheels and components. The frame materials and layups will stay the same through the different levels. The highest model might have some more integration at the headset and slightly different carbon layup for reduced weight. Some of these things are important but for the most part, aerodynamics is king. Integration of the headset and cockpit is nice but isn’t a killer in buying decisions.
What do you need with that bike purchase?
There are a couple of routes you can take. You can always buy a new frame, and then go searching for used wheels and components on online marketplaces. You can also purchase a complete bike but the lower end models usually come with “training” wheels. Most of the companies today require you to go up to the third tier for aerodynamic wheels, which is important for triathlon. My recommendation for this is to buy the lower bike model and go searching the online marketplaces for used wheels (Slowtwitch Classifieds, Facebook Marketplace, Ebay). If you go this route just make sure you check compatibility of hub with your desired gearing? For example, 11 speed wheelset for 11 speed shifters. Additionally, if you purchased used wheels make sure you take them to your local bike shop before your first ride. There are times where the hub needs to be tightened or spokes are loose or worst case there is a crack in the wheel.
The final part of buying a bike is the groupset. There are currently three major players in the market; Shimano, Campagnolo, and SRAM. All three companies offer electronic and mechanical groupsets. Mechanical groupsets are cable tension based groupsets. These groupsets tend to be more durable, less expensive, but require more maintenance. The maintenance aspect requires some basic bike knowledge or a trip to the Local Bike Shop (LBS). Electronic groupsets are more precise, lighter weight, require less maintenance (except for the occasional charge), not as durable, and more expensive then the mechanical counterpart. I use the word durable in the above descriptions but what does that mean? The best example is if you get in a minor crash, it is easier to repair the mechanical groupset to fully a fully functional part. If something goes wrong with the electronic groupset it is a lot more challenging/impossible to repair during a ride or even after a ride.
What is the difference between all of the groupsets? Which one is right for you? If you have the money to purchase an electronic groupset, get it. They are the way of the future, more precise shifting, and lighter weight. These groupsets are easy to maintain and never require adjustments (unless you crash). Campagnolo is always going to be the most expensive groupset. You pay for that Italian quality control when purchasing their groupset. Shimano is the most common groupset manufacturer which means reduced replacement parts and wider variety of products to choose from. SRAM is a great company and one I have been using for the past 4 years. Campagnlo’s and Shimano’s electronic groupsets are still wired so that means you need to feed small wires through your frame. This isn’t too challenging but just something to be aware. SRAM’s ETAP product is completely wireless. All components connect through Bluetooth signals which makes setup extremely easy! The only downside is that ETAP is quite pricey (at the time of writing this).
There is a quick budgeting tool in the file below. Use this to determine what you can afford BEFORE going out and spending your money. This part was the basics behind purchasing a bike and the required components. The next section will be how important bike fit is to your performance and frame selection.
I can assure you that every person reading this has seen crazy graphs and heard talk about yaw angles, coefficient of drag, turbulent and laminar flow. What does it all mean though and how much should you pay attention to the numbers? The answer isn't completely cut and dry, contrary to popular belief. The reason I say that is because it all comes down to your current situation which includes fitness, finances, and goals. Let’s assume you don't know anything about aerodynamics. In this series of articles I will help breakdown the all-important aerodynamics of triathlon. I want you to be able to show up to the next race bragging about your knowledge and explaining the reasons behind your gear choice. Today we will start with the basics of aerodynamics.
The best place to start is describing in a general sense what is happening around you. So, a few things you need to know:
What a drag...
Drag, always trying to slow you down. There is a reason why the saying "What a drag?" exists. Drag is the sum of two forces; pressure differences and friction. Yes, friction between the surface and the air. Pressure difference is the main force acting opposite of motion, aka in your face. The amount of this force can be manipulated mainly be reducing frontal area. The second force is the friction between the surface and the air. Ways to reduce this include skin suits and shaving the body. To better understand this let's look at the equation for drag force.
In a basic sense, what goes into calculating drag? Well, lets break the equation down into some more familiar aspects.
The faster you go the harder it gets.
Getting back the velocity^2 term in the drag equation... Look at the graph above and think about what you see. The yellow line represents rolling resistance (something we will talk about later in the year) and the blue line represents aerodynamic drag. One can see that the faster you go on the bike the more drag force you experience. How can you avoid this...? You can't. It is just one crappy part of aerodynamics that we all need to live with...
There are three types of flow that we encounter in our aerodynamic lives.
Laminar flow means that the fluid is moving with ease and there is no resistance. This flow is what we want to encounter in an ideal world but is impossible for us to actually obtain. Why? Because our bodies provide area to disturb flow and create turbulent areas. Turbulent flow is messy and creates a lot of resistance and moments.
We can reduce the effects of turbulent flow through careful equipment choice. Engineers design equipment and clothing to reduce the turbulent flow and try to keep everything laminar and happy.
That is where I am going to leave it for Part 1. Leave comments if you have any questions.
Stay tuned for Part 2 where we will talk about data collection, industry standards, and look at some pretty graphs.
Growth is extremely important to me and that is why I am extremely excited to announce a partnership with Culprit Bikes for 2016.
"Chaos in the world brings uneasiness, but it also allows the opportunity for creativity and growth." Joshua Colp, founder and CEO of Culprit Bicycles knows this quote all too well. Shaking up the bike industry has been his job. Joshua fell in love with the bike industry when he moved out to Taiwan as a missionary. While he was there he started working closely with manufacturing plants and building strong relationships with leaders in the industry. He built a solid base of experience through working with a wide variety of brands, including Token. Josh then got married and his wife pushed him to follow his dreams and to make his designs a reality. Culprit Bikes was born.
Culprit's big thing is being a little different. Look at his bikes and designs, disc brakes??? Culprit bikes created the second ever road disc bike and was the first company, even out of the big boys, to release an aerodynamic disc bike. The Culprit Croz Blade brought some big changes to the bike industry. Now you can turn on a UCI race and see at least a couple bikes with disc brakes. Another big innovation, right on the horizon of production is the Culprit Legend. This thing has been all over the big triathlon blogs and websites. Slowtwitch, TRS Triathlon, Tririg have all written a piece about the Legend. The Legend is one of the big things that got me interested in Culprit. I remember reading some posts on Slowtwitch about the Legend so I decided to send Josh an email to learn more. We sent a lot of emails back and forth talking about the Legend and Culprit bikes in general. The Legend is still waiting on some funding to be able to create the necessary molds. Joshua is an extremely passionate and determined designer and owner. I can see he really cares about creating top of the line product while still affordable and with custom options!
Another thing that makes Culprit stand out from its competitors is the awesome frame designer tool.
If you wanna be pro, you gotta look pro. What better way to look professional and stand out than having a custom painted frame. Yes, a custom painted frame and even better is that it is included in with the frame pricing. You buy a bike from Culprit and you get a custom painted frame, Culprit cycling kit, Culprit mini-tool, and a solid warranty to back it all up.
I am beyond excited to be working with Joshua and his rising brand of Culprit Bicycles. I will be riding the Croz Blade as well as the Bullet for next season. I'd say keep an eye out for me but I won't be hard to miss.
Check out these reviews:
Solestar is German based company that deals in specialized cycling orthopedic insoles. The company was established in 2010 with the main focus of increasing comfort and performance optimization of professional cyclists. Solestar worked early on with Gerald Ciolek, Christian Knees, and Andre Greipel to develop their product line. Solestar now partners with an impressive list of pro cyclists, triathletes, and mountain bike athletes.
The basic design of the insole is a soft grippy fabric material laid on top of a carbon plate. Overall, the product is not super stiff. It doesn't need to be though because it is not going to be experiencing the same moments and torque that your cycling shoe will experience. The areas that have carbon are intended to keep the insole lightweight and keep your foot stable in a biomechanically efficient position. The carbon fiber in the arch area does have some flex to it. I tried pushing down on the center of the arch with my hand and it would deform without much difficulty. I compared this to my other custom orthopedic insole, which has a hard plastic arch, and my custom insoles were almost impossible to deform. I take this as decreasing the chance to develop hot spots in the arch. My custom insoles created some hot spots on my arch during the first couple of months. I noticed nothing similar when using the Solestar insole.
Going back to the top layer of the insole; it is a grippy but soft fabric. There is around 5mm thickness of cushion material over the entire top of the insole. There is an increased cushion pocket where the metatarsal joints lay (basically the end of the foot arch). I would definitely say that the cushion is sufficient for long rides. I have completed a lot of 2-4 hour rides while evaluating the insole and never had any problems regarding cushioning.
For those that care about weight...
When it comes to insoles, weight isn't that big of a deal because they are thin and made of fabric or lightweight materials. I still weighed the three insoles (Solestar, Original Lake Insole, Custom insole) to document all aspects. Obviously, the regular Lake insole was the lightest because it is just thin cushion material and odor resistance fabric. The custom insole and the Solestar insole came out at about the same weight for my shoe size (11.5 US or 45 EU). The weights came out to 4.85 oz for both insoles or 137.5 grams. This is pretty much insignificant in regards to weight savings on a bike.
I looked to this product as a solution to some foot pain. I was pretty skeptical at first because I was not one to go towards insoles. I was using the custom insoles to try and solve a painful spot at the first metatarsal joint (big toe joint) but it never fixed it. After about 30-40 minutes of cycling I would have to remove pressure on that foot to relieve some pain. My coach said that he had previously talked with a company in Germany called Solestar. He got me in contact with them and they sent me a pair to test out. It took a couple weeks to get the insoles from Germany to America but that is expected with international shipping. The customer service was phenominal and definitely an easy company to work with.
The first 30 minutes of riding with the insoles provided an odd but good sensation. I felt like I could dance around on the pedals and that my legs were lighter and stronger. After about 30 minutes my body reached an equilibrium point and it felt like nothing was that different. One major improvement that I have noticed on all of my rides is the fact that the nagging foot pain is almost completely gone. It at least does not bother me like it did with just the custom insoles.
One last thing to note is that I started to get a creaking noise in my right shoe. I took the insole out and saw some evidence of rubbing on the raised arch section. I contacted Solestar to discuss solutions to this and they recommended taking the insole out and cleaning the shoe and insole. I did this and it seems to have removed the creaking noise.
This product is great and for the small investment it does provide a noticeable increase in comfort. You can check out some more of their products at their website www.solestar.de.
I am not sponsored by Solestar and did not receive any payment for this review.