Welcome to the VeloNews Tech podcast, where we discuss complex tech topics and distill them down into terms we can all understand.
Don’t be such a Dan! A Dan?! That’s right, our tech podcast host Dan Cavallari is a bit timid about riding in foul weather. Not to worry because today he is talking with Rob Pickels, physiologist in advanced development at Pearl Izumi.
They discuss how breathability works (and why that is a misnomer), how waterproof your cycling kit really needs to be, and why zippers actually don’t work that well if you need to cool off. Pickels has plenty of insight on how different fabrics work in different conditions and advice to help you layer more effectively this winter.
In 2016, Quarq’s Shockwiz suspension tuning system dangled the future in front of us. The tiny device attaches to your suspension components and monitors each one’s movements while you’re riding. It then recommends how to adjust your suspension via a smartphone app.
This year, Fox moved that paradigm into real-time with its Live Valve. The system features sensors on the frame and both wheels that analyze the terrain you’re riding at a rate of 1,000 times per second. A central “brain” then makes changes to your suspension accordingly, in just three milliseconds. Your suspension adjusts almost instantaneously to ensure you’re always correctly tuned to the changing conditions.
It means you can simply hop on your bike and start pedaling without worrying whether you’ve set up your suspension properly. The system does the work for you, and all you have to do is enjoy the ride.
The exodus of many cyclists from pavement to dirt has created an entirely new gravel bike category that opens up riding potential for a new audience. And more importantly, manufacturers recognize a key component of this burgeoning segment that makes it attractive to new riders: affordability.
In 2018 the bike industry released a number of affordable gravel bicycles, and we couldn’t be happier.
Consider Trek’s Checkpoint SL6, which features a full carbon frame, Ultegra mechanical drivetrain, disc brakes, and Trek’s proprietary IsoSpeed decoupler in the rear. It’s designed specifically for gravel riding, though you can load it up with bikepacking gear, too. That versatility and high-end packaging costs $4,000. Not exactly cheap, but it doesn’t even approach the stratospheric price tags of high-end race bikes. Take a step down to the Checkpoint SL5 and you’re getting a carbon gravel bike for $2,900.
Not impressed? Check out Cannondale’s Topstone, which capitalizes on another current trend: the resurgence of aluminum. The Topstone ranges in price from $1,050 to the top-of-the-line Apex 1 build at $2,100. Salsa offers the Journeyman, which ranges in price from $900 up to $1,100. It’s an all-road bike with everything you need to get into bikepacking or just tackle the local gravel.
This is no accident. Manufacturers recognize that new riders often trend away from the racecourse in favor of more personal adventures. And the prices are right: Gravel riders know they’ll be putting their bikes through the wringer, and damage is likely to happen. A less expensive, less fragile bike is a wise choice.
Versatility matters, too. The proverbial quiver-killer still doesn’t exist, but gravel bikes tend to be multi-use tools. So, for a lower monetary investment, riders get a bike that can do a lot of things well, rather than a bike that does one thing exceptionally. That’s exactly what most riders need.
In its second season, Team Aqua Blue Sportmade headlines when it committed to using 3T’s innovative Strada road bicycle, which features a 1X (single-chainring) drivetrain. It marked the first time a professional squad rode a 1X design.
The team started the season with a win at the Herald Sun Tour. Soon after, though, persistent mechanical difficulties frustrated mechanics and flummoxed riders. The team complained that the bicycles frequently dropped chains; one mechanical reportedly cost rider Mark Christian a chance to win stage 6 of the 2018 Tour de Suisse. According to an interview with founder Rick Delaney in the Irish Examiner, Aqua Blue Sport even had to borrow parts from other teams to keep the bikes running.
After the combination of equipment and sponsor issues, coupled with few race invites, Delaney decided to end his squad after 2018. In the final months of the season, he faced a dilemma: break the sponsorship with 3T and potentially face lawsuits for breach of contract, or dissolve the team prior to the season’s end. Delaney chose the latter, ending the fiasco just before the Tour of Britain.
There are those hardy cyclists who love to ride outdoors during the cold, harsh winter months. And then there are the rest of us.
Thanks to the virtual riding community Zwift, riding indoors is no longer a tedious, mind-numbing chore. In fact, it’s quite fun.
You’ve likely heard or read about Zwift’s innovative video-game-like setup. You pedal along a virtual tarmac, over challenging and fun terrain alongside other riders from across the globe. The virtual world encourages you to ride longer — and often with more intensity — than you would normally do on a trainer. No stop lights, no cars, no flat tires. Just the fun part.
The cornerstone of your Zwift setup is a smart trainer — a trainer that can feed your training data to an iOS or Android smartphone, PC or Mac, tablet, or even Apple TV.
Smart trainers offer the best combination of top-notch tech and hassle-free setup. Zwift even has a certification process called Zwift Certified that helps you choose the best smart trainers on the market. They’re all listed in the Zwift shop. CycleOps’s H2 smart trainer, for example, comes with just about everything you need to get rolling straight away on Zwift. It’s easy to set up and accommodates both quick release and thru-axles. It also features integrated cadence, speed, and power data, so there’s no need to invest in additional peripherals and sensors, aside from a heart rate monitor.
Whichever trainer you choose, be sure it is Bluetooth-enabled as well at ANT+ FE-C capable. This means you’ll be able to connect to Zwift quickly and securely and take full advantage of its host of features, on just about any device. Keep in mind you’ll need an ANT+ dongle to connect to a PC or Mac (though some computers are Bluetooth-capable, so you will still have this option to connect). Most iOS and Apple TV users won’t have to worry about the ANT+ dongle, because you can connect via Bluetooth.
And that’s all you need to get going. You’ve got everything you need with just a smart trainer.
Zwift’s virtual environment allows you to tailor your indoor riding experience. Want to race? You can do that. Want to stick to a training plan? Yep, that’s an option. Just want to go out for a ride? No problem. Zwift is all about you.
After you set up your physical space with your trainer, computer, and ANT+ dongle (if you’re not connecting to your device via Bluetooth), create a Zwift profile. Log in to Zwift.com, the desktop app, or the Zwift Companion mobile app. Upload a profile photo, set your height, weight, and birthday, and other relevant information.
When you start the desktop or mobile app, you will be prompted to pair your sensors. Just tap the “pair” button underneath the appropriate device. Start by pairing your smart trainer; use ANT+ FE-C or Bluetooth.
From there, pair your power meter, heart rate monitor, and cadence sensor. The more sensors you pair, the more data you’ll end up with during and after your ride. This will give you a true sense of the effort you put in, and it will help guide you through any structured workouts you choose.
Now you can customize your Zwift avatar. Go to the app menu to change your kit, bike, and even your skin tone and hair. As you ride more and more in the Zwift world and accumulate points (indicated by XP), you’ll unlock even more options to make your avatar stylish on screen.
Now that you’ve got yourself squared away, it’s time to join the party. Choose what kind of ride you want to have: a structured workout, a group ride, or just an unstructured spin. Then hit “ride” and start pedaling.
There are several Zwift courses, including New York City, London, Richmond, Innsbruck, and of course, Watopia. The monthly Zwift calendar decides which course you ride, so check the updates to get information on courses. All riders across the globe pedal along on the same course, and you can plot out your ride schedule so you’re always on your favorite courses.
You’ll notice your smart trainer’s resistance will change based on various factors within the Zwift environment, including grade changes and even drafting behind other riders. It’s all part of the Zwift experience, and you can enhance that realism with accessories like Wahoo’s Kickr Climb (which only works with select Wahoo trainers). The Neo 2 Smart trainer from Tacx can even simulate the feel of cobbles, dirt roads, and smooth blacktop.
As you ride, you’ll also notice a nearly overwhelming amount of neat features on screen, but fear not: They’re all easy to use, or ignore if you simply want to enjoy the ride. The most important bit of information lives at the top of the screen, where you’ll get the basics including your speed, elapsed miles, elapsed time, and elevation gain.
On the right side of the screen, you’ll find a list of other Zwift riders near you. There’s lots of information here to give you a sense of who you’re riding with (or against!). It’s also where you’ll notice chat notifications. You can chat with other Zwifters to encourage them or coordinate for that next sprint. You may be alone in the basement, but you’re not alone on the ride.
To further encourage socializing with your fellow Zwifters, you can give and receive Ride On! Notifications. These take the form of a thumb’s up that gets stuffed into your jersey pocket. You can give a Ride On by hovering over a Zwifter’s name, then clicking on the Ride On icon when it appears.
When you’re not busy socializing, you may want to gear up for a sprint, or a KOM. Both are sprinkled throughout each Zwift course, and they’re clearly indicated both on the course profile (a green dot indicates a sprint and a red checkered flag dot indicates an upcoming KOM segment) and on the course itself. If you beat everyone else’s time, you’ll be awarded a special jersey instantly: green for the top sprinter, and polka dot for the top climber. Or you can just try to beat your previous time, which Zwift tracks over the course of weeks.
These timed segments are great opportunities to use PowerUps. See that feather? Or the truck? Or the aero helmet? These round icons are clickable when you need them, and they give you advantages accordingly: The feather reduces your weight by 15 pounds for 15 seconds, which is useful on climbs; the van increases the drafting effect when you’re drafting another rider; and the aero helmet gives you an aero boost for 30 seconds. You can click on the icons to use them, or simply hit your spacebar.
Downloading the Zwift Companion app opens up even more features. You can follow other riders and search for friends who also use Zwift. This allows you to ride with friends, see who’s riding right now, add a riding goal, and check out upcoming events. You can also control Zwift remotely: make U-turns, chat with other riders, or check out the map view.
The companion app also includes the powerful Meetup tool. This allows you to set a time and place to meet up with your buddies on Zwift — up to 50 of them. You can even specify the distance and route of the ride.
The Enriched Activity Feed on the companion app gives you tons of data, including a graph that tracks your power data, cadence, and heart rate throughout your activity. Track your Ride On! activity, see where you hit PRs, and check your race results.
A Training Plan view also lets you see your entire training plan. Scroll to see your completed workouts, as well as what’s coming up. It’s a handy way to keep track of your progress and plan for what’s coming up in the next week or month.
Of course, it’s just as easy to simply forget all that and enjoy the scenery, go head to head with other riders, and watch the miles tick away faster than they ever did before when you were just staring at your washing machine in the dark basement. Be sure to check out all the different camera angles by pressing your number keys, 1 through 9, to see the action from just about anywhere.
And don’t stay lonely in the basement. Join a group ride! Just sign up in the mobile app or in the game on your computer ahead of time. You can ride while you wait for the event to start, and Zwift will let you know when it’s time to join the group. You’ll be transported to a staging area, then the group goes off together. The group leaders will give you the skinny on what you should do and when (i.e., keep the pace here, take it down to 2.0 w/kg, go hard here!).
When you’re all done, just exit the ride screen to view a summary of your indoor session. Then, click “save” and “exit;” if you’ve connected your Strava profile, your ride will automatically upload and appear in your Strava account. That goes for any other compatible training programs you’ve linked to your Zwift account.
Now that you’ve got the basics, consider checking out some of Zwift’s marquee events, like the Tour of Watopia — a stage race that lets you unlock the Tour of Watopia avatar kit after completion — and the groundbreaking Zwift Academy. Sign up for these rides to qualify as a finalist, and score yourself a trip to a professional team training camp for your chance to sign a one-year pro contract. Spend a bit of time structuring a training plan to get you ready for your spring campaign, or get in on the action now by taking part in a Zwift race. There are endless possibilities for indoor fun and challenges, any time it suits your schedule.
Last, but definitely not least: Wipe the sweat off your top tube. You want your bike clean and ready for tomorrow’s Zwift session.
Welcome to the VeloNews Tech podcast, where we discuss complex tech topics and distill them down into terms we can all understand.
Carbon fiber bike frames are light years ahead of their predecessors in the early days of the technology. How do bike companies milk so much performance out of such lightweight frames in 2019?
To learn about the technology, we speak with Jeff Soucek, director of research and development at Felt Bicycles. He explains mysterious terms like modulus, resins, additives, and layups. All of this results in better bicycles for all types of riding or racing.
I have an older road tandem with a 3×9 drivetrain that has sat idle for a long time. I would like to update the drivetrain to a 2×11 setup. The square taper arms will allow me to replace the BB to a shorter spindle to move the crank arm more inbound when the inner ring is removed to get the correct chain line. My question is regarding the spacing of the chainrings as they mount to the spider, or in other words the width of the tab that the rings mount to. Is there an issue with installing 11-speed rings on an older crankset? What is an acceptable distance that the chainrings should be spaced apart? — Bart
I don’t know the brand of your cranks, but I would bet you are not going to have an issue.
As you may know, we machine cranks ourselves. I used to worry about tab thickness with increases in the number of rear cogs, as we started during the era of 9-speed cassettes and are now dealing with 11- and 12-speed cassettes. I measured the tab thickness of lots of cranks and was surprised to find that they don’t tend to vary between 9-speed, 10-speed, and 11-speed cranks. We settled on making the tabs on our cranks 3.55mm thick, and I know from personal experience that if your tabs are anywhere in the 3.55-3.65mm thickness range, you won’t have a problem with using it as a 2×11. ― Lennard
More on tire width and pressure
I read the article about gravel tire width and pressure with great interest until I noticed the 140-pound weight of your test rider. [Ed. note: this was in the VeloNews print magazine; here is an earlier article from the magazine on pressure alone.] I’m 100 pounds heavier than that and wonder what you think would happen to your results with someone my size? — Lee
The tire widths that work best on gravel roads would go up with your greater weight. And the optimal air pressures with those tires that worked best would also go up. Without doing that specific testing, I cannot quantify it any further. ― Lennard
I just read the question from the guy with IT band issues. I had a severe issue with this decades ago and what fixed it, permanently, was 1 minute of a stretch called the “pretzel” every night. Seriously, in a week the condition was resolved. You lie on your back, cross your legs with knees bent, and pull your knee with both hands toward your sternum, same on both sides. Might want to suggest this to everyone. Free and it worked for me. — Jonathan
I suffered from debilitating ITBS for years and did innumerable sessions of stretching, painful A.R.T. [Active Release Therapy], massage, and enough rest to drive me crazy. But when a friend put me onto the research of Dr. Reed Ferber, director of the Running Injury Clinic in Calgary, Alberta, I quickly solved the issue using a very simple protocol. With relatively minimal maintenance, I have been ITB pain-free for the past half-decade.
The bottom line is hip stability. Cyclists and runners generally have terrible hip stability because of the biomechanics, and primary movements, of both sports. Now I do a series of side-to-side squats/lunges in a plyometric style of movement, and when starting out it’s brutal because of weak glutes. But it works. Some of Dr. Ferber’s research and protocol is published in this article. — Jamie
I was having a lot of trouble with really tight IT bands, and I found this stretch on YouTube. For me, this literally worked after 30 seconds or so, and after doing the stretch a few times a week for a couple of months I haven’t had another problem.
I also tried bands and rollers, but I don’t need to do them anymore when I use this stretch. — Rob
Years ago I started to have knee pain and, after some false starts, I finally narrowed it down to IT Band tension. The first two stretches in this video are the ones I use. They can be done anywhere — I’ve stopped in the middle of a ride and leaned against a telephone pole instead of the wall used in the video. In my case, knee pain relief is almost instant after a few rounds of stretching each side. — Doug
In 2016 Bell launched a helmet revolution with its Zephyr model; the lid featured a bifurcated construction and a MIPS system that was integrated into the fit harness.
In 2018 Giro took helmet tech two steps further. Its Aether model features a MIPS system integrated between two EPS shells, which move independently of each other. The Aether’s MIPS Spherical system is a comprehensive revamping that accomplishes the same goals as Bell’s Zephyr and Z2, only with a completely new design. The Aether absorbs rotational forces to protect the brain during the first milliseconds of a crash.
The new design smooths out the MIPS component and creates an airy design on par with its predecessor, the Synthe. Finally, the Roc Loc Air fit system snugs up comfortably without interference from any other components within the helmet.