Bike Art

Found this on the interwebs, SRAM gave a bunch of artists a box of parts and told them to make some awesome stuff to auction off for World Bicycle Relief. It’s pretty cool:

I’m buying one an parting it out on eBay.
There’s more too


D-U-M That spells stupid

It’s been a while since I’ve had at technical rant on this blog about bicycles. Most of the wind has been taken out my negative drag sail-like wheels due to the fact that we’re now sponsored by said dimpled company, plus they have gotten a little more scientific it seems. The rest of the wind has been taken out by all the techno bable going on at the 9-5. But fear not since most of my job involves Excel spreadsheets and simple arithmetic I’m ready for some real Engineering bull shit.

So, on to another pet peeve I’ve had concerning the bike industry. Particularly the lack of communication between the MTB world and Road world.
No I’m not talking about the most stupid recent fad:

Ok so there are a few things terrible fad-dy things about this bike, first stupidly large headtube (they’re called spacers dumb-ass, learn to use them), but I’m talking about road bike disc brakes. Get it through your thick little heads: BRAKING POWER IS LIMITED BY TIRE TRACTION. You’ll be locking up this bad boy so much on wet descents, you might as well just be doing this sick fixie skid down the mountain. Given the fred-tastic nature of this bike’s headtube and disc brakes, the only wet or dry road it’ll ever see is the garage floor.
What I’d really like to tackle is the road industries terrible misunderstanding on how or why suspension works (which the MTB guys have totally figured out, probably borrowing knowledge from motocross). This lack of understanding has produced a few terrible bikes, like this:

I’ll admit this is well done and an interesting new idea to tackle a familiar problem: how to transfer the load of rider and pedals to the wheel. The bike’s mission is to absorb bumps and smooth out the ride, the problem is one of those pesky laws of thermodynamics, that energy cannot be destroyed (or is that Rebecca Black‘s music, I can’t remember). Anyway the problem is really encapsulated in this video:
They wizened up and used some pretty generic looking FEA system to show how springy their bike is.
The problem with these guys and the rest of the bike industry is they’re treating the bike frame as a static system with the axles being fixed. This is exactly the problem, when was the last time you were riding along and looked down at the axles of your wheels and saw them just rolling along perfectly smooth…NEVER. This is because of the nature of the roads we ride on; which we cannot change, are usually a shitty mess of potholes and broken pavement (if you live outside the midwest…you’ll just have to trust us that there are shitty roads out there).
Back to the second law of thermo, when you ride this bike over the shitty roads it does a great job of absorbing the energy, but it does a terrible job of DISSIPATING that energy. A singular bump that you ride over will get absorbed by the bike and just get transmitted right through the saddle, although in a slightly slower fashion than a stiffer bike. And that’s the problem bikes need to be modeled as dynamic systems that can move rather than fixed system. For instance let’s pretend you ride up a curb, which is represented below by the stepped black line and your saddle (the important part in the circle bike’s case) is the red.

Mountain bikers long ago figured if you just put a spring on a bike, you’re going to be bouncing all over the place unless you have something to dissipate the energy into another form that isn’t kinetic energy. Usually suspension dampers convert this kinetic energy into heat, but you could turn it into sound, charge a battery for your bicycle speakers, maybe pump some water to a higher location. Regardless of where it goes, if it isn’t dissipated from kinetic energy within the structure of the bike, it’s going into your butt (oh yeah!)

When a nice damping device is applied you get a lot less overshoot and a system something like this:

The problem with road bikes is that they’re usually pretty minimalist systems that don’t lend themselves weight or stiffness wise to a full blown suspension system. What you really need to make a realistic road bike that can not only be fast and light but also absorb bumps is some type of damping within a system. In fact it would be great if there was some kind of magic material that just naturally had something of a high Viscous Damping Ratio, but was still lightweight and stiff.

You’ll notice composite is only at 0.002 at worst vs. 0.001, this may not seem like much but it means that carbon dampens any movements twice as much as steel (and all other metals). There are a lot of very complicated types of damping that can happen in materials, but I don’t really understand them so I’m just going to go ahead and ignore the complicated stuff. Plus I think we’ve reached the point of diminishing returns in terms of this blog’s length vs. fidelity of crap I’m talking about.
So it turns out the cycling industry has already fixed the problem of damping out frame deflection without really even knowing it, that ‘smooth’ feeling you get from carbon fiber is really due to the damping properties of composites. It also explains why steel bikes are typically so much more noodle-y than modern race bikes. In order to absorb the bumps, they have to be weak enough to move around a lot. However, with the shaping capabilities of carbon, you can configure the bike to have strength where you need it (gigantic steerer tubes and BB) and weakness where you also need it (seat stays).
You could almost realistically build a very comfy and stiff bike without seat stays and just a really stiff downtube….
Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the worlds absolute, without a doubt, perfect bicycle:

The downtube should really be more like a torque tube but I think at this point in my blog post I’m so off point I’m just going to say that’s it.
I gotta say though this is one of the great things about the bike industry, they’ve been around, largely unchanged for the past 100 years. Yet people are still trying innovative and unique ideas, although sometimes not well thought out, to tackle problems that have already been solved. It gives bikes character and the initiative is defiantly lacking in a lot of other design industry that have a lot of heritage…maybe like another 100 year old industry where you build propulsion devices, you know for things that fly, possibly airplanes. While most the idea’s are goofy one-of designs that never really do what they were created to do, every once in a while some new guy will come along without any preconceived notions and be all like “why don’t we try doing it this way” and the industry will be changed for ever…too bad we all just like playing with shiny things.
*If I’m wrong on any of this stuff just let me know. I’m not pretending to be correct, or to have correct grammar, or spelling, or sentence structure, or logical arguments.

Kitted out like a Boss

In the process of the past few weeks we’ve received nearly all our equipment for the upcoming season from Panther pb Competitive Cyclist. So it’s time for another in depth analysis of our equipment.

Alright so the in-depth analysis will not poses the same depth as last years article, mainly because there is no major classic on the horizon. You see, since being out west I’ve turned into a regular Lance Armstrong GC rider after winning the prestigious Colossal Cave Stage Race. After a grueling 2 days of racing on Go-Kart tracks and windswept roads of Tucson, I feel transformed. Fueled by my diet of only carrots and celery, I’ve dropped my weight and body fat to about 1% and feel ready to tackle more stage races:

Anyway I’m getting off topic. Back to the not so in-depth analysis, which is not entirely true. There is one aspect of my new Canyon bike that I’ve contemplated for some time…What is this hole for? (a question I commonly ask)

Here’s the bike in it’s glorious entirety. Notice if you will that you’ve probably never seen a Canyon bike before in America unless it was under Panther rider. There is good reason for this, Canyon’s aren’t sold in America. You can’t get one, don’t even try. Just gaze at it’s awesomeness in incredible envy:

Alright you might be able to get one through Competitive Cyclist, but only if you’re really cool.
Weighing in at a blistering 15.08 lbs, which is probably 23.5 kg based on my calculations for all you Euro’s out there, this bike is nice, I mean really nice. I’m not going to lie it’s probably by far the best bike the world in it’s short 10,000 year history has ever created It’s supple on the order of feeling like you always have a rear flat tire thanks to the hair thin seat stays, and super stiff up front thanks to the ridiculously large downtube, and 1.5 – 1.25 in steerer tube. Yes the increased diameter of the steerer tube makes the front end incredibly stiff, it also makes it impossible to find a stem with a 1.25 diameter. Don’t worry the correct size stem is on it’s way direct from Germany, in the meantime I was able to fab my own stem out of a Specialized stem with some of the tastiest shims ever made.

With all these design changed made to the bike I was pretty curious why they didn’t go with the BB30 in the BB department.

My own theory is that Omega Pharma Lotto (one of the only other teams cool enough to ride Canyon’s) rides Crapangolo, who doesn’t yet make a BB30. Don’t worry they will, resistance is futile. Don’t worry any stiffness lost on this inferior BB deisng is more than made up by the bling-ing Zipp bottle cages, who’s bling-ness is shown by my own gang sign:

Another feature you may or may not have noticed on our bike is a brand of wheels that I have smashed several times on this blog(with the notable exception of the 2009 season for some odd reason). However, again for some unexplainable reason, Zipp has totally redeemed itself to me. We’ve been supplied with the new 404 Firecrest rim shape for this season. But for reals, Zipp did something that the whole bike industry should have done long ago: use some computational fluid dynamics to figure out what’s the best rim shape (OMG NO WAAAY). The results are pretty legit, and wheels have performed pretty well in the cross winds so far…I mean I DID win the Colossal Cave Stage Race on the Zipps.

But it still has dimples.
We also received our kits finally which look, I’m going to warn you, pretty sexy.

Yeah I’m pretty dorky, but lets be honest, the only way it could be sexier is if it involved some sort of bear rug:

Unfortunately the whole bear rug wouldn’t interface too well with a bike saddle I don’t think.


The cycling industry likes to pride itself in being cutting edge when it comes to Aerodynamics. This is just flat out false, but for many companies this sense of elite technology is what moves their goods. What I dislike most about the application of Aerodynamics in the bike industry, aside from producing some really dumb bikes,

is that it seems like research for bike aerodynamics is done completely backwards. For instance; in most industries that deal with aerodynamics (or any other technical designing), trade studies are first completed, followed by the creation of an initial design based on already proven knowledge. Computer models then run simulations on the design producing data to help optimize the initial design. Then finally, after several design iterations based on computer and analytical analysis, the wind tunnel is used as a proof of concept since very complex fluid phenomenon cannot be modeled in the computer.
The cycling industry seems to work in reverse. Go on any website and look for some claims of aerodynamic advantage that are backed by any research or legitimate science and you will be looking for a long time. More likely you’ll find something like this, from a Purdue Cycling Club alumni I might add, that makes the design process sound like it STARTS in the wind tunnel and is more like the process of sticking random shit in a wind tunnel (check out 0:50).
Speaking of Purdue Alumni taking over the bike industry, check this out:
Greg is such a Boss. Anyway the point I’m getting as is that when bike companies allocate their R&D funds (which I imagine is way smaller than their marketing budget), it seems like they just blow it all renting a wind tunnel for a day.
What would be more efficient (and thus cheaper to everybody), would be to do a little research. It’s no secret, except to bicycle manufacturers, that low speed fluid dynamics has been figured out for the past half century. There is a wealth of information and papers published on the subject. So instead spending all their time and money of re-discovering some great aerodynamic phenomenon for reducing drag that was actually used before WWII, they could instead learn about when they complete their trade studies. That would allow them to figure out better designs to test in the first place, and possibly cutting their wind tunnel time (which is VERY expensive).
Here’s a great example of a Aero tidbit of info that cyclist have just seemed to discover: the Kamm effect. It’s basically a very simple bit of optimizing the already very aerodynamic teardrop shape. Developed in the 30’s, the basic idea is to chop off the end of the teardrop at 50% of the maximum thickness. This will produce a relatively small increase in the drag, but reduce a large amount of the surface area (and thus material which = WEIGHT). It was originally applied to cars

This design concept lead to some pretty iconic cars including the original Ford GT and this classic ’62 Ferrari.

Finally, in the past year, the Kammback has made it’s way into the cycling industry in the form of helmets from not only Giro, but also Louis Garneau:

This is a good concept for helmets in particular. Most likely the design concept came from the idea that most TT guys will ride head down, and having a huge teardrop shape sticking up in the air is bad for drag.
The design is also making it into bike design with Scott, who apparently uses full aircraft wind tunnels for their tests. They’ve incorporated the idea into their new F01 bike for 2011

More importantly they’ve hit the nail on the head for why this type of design is important:
“achieve aerodynamic performance with a light and stiff profile”
By reducing the long tear drop tail of most aero frames you gain a few key benefits. Not only does this reduce a lot of weight, but it also makes the tubing closer to circular, which is much more structurally sound. Finally this chopping of the tail will reduce poor performance that a lot of aero bikes have in cross winds.
As with most other disciplines of designs, the name of the game is optimization. By giving up a little aero performance, the bike (or helmet) can have great gains in other design areas.
Anyway this is all just the opinions of someone who has never actually worked in the bike industry…so Zipp, I know I’ve insulted you in the past, but if you give me a job I’ll take it all back.

(Hillsboro) Roubaix Tech

April means one thing in the world of professional cycling, classics. Specifically this weekend is the Queen of the Classics: Paris-Roubaix, pretty much a big mess of mud, old brick roads, really expensive bikes and really skinny dudes.

Nothing do the major cycling news sources love more than to cover the tech of a big race. Since we’re all tech geeks at heart, we’ll all read article after article about how FMB and Hutchinson tires are re-labeled Bontrager and all the true classics riders ride nothing but 32 spoke wheels. We’ll pretend for a moment this weekend that the classic 32 spoke low-profile rims are really faster than carbon rims and get all nostalgic.
Saxo Bank has realized the importance of the pre-race bike tech coverage, and now employs European male models to lube Fabian’s chain.I mean check out that leather jacket and mullet! Style on top of Style
However apparently unknown to velonews and the like, Roubaix is not just a city in France this weekend. It is also the name given to countless small races across America that either have at least one half mile section of brick, dirt road, or shitty pavement.
In our case this weekend will play host to the Roubaix in Hillsboro Illinois. Since Cycling news and Velonews both refuse to do a tech article on the Team Panther Roubaix bikes, I’ll do a little one here…minus any male models.
The Ridley Domocles, a bike born in Belgium, named in Greek, and made in Taiwan, is perfectly suited to the cobbles of any Roubaix.
The bars are wrapped with extra filthy bar tape, the added dirt helps with shock absortion.

It can be long waiting for the team car on the narrow streets of any Roubaix, so Uberti has opted to bring a spare tube and sewing kit.That way when a puncture occurs, he can easily un-sew the tire, replace the tube, re-sew the tire, re-apply base tape, and re glue the rim…instead of waiting for the car.

No chain guide here, as Chris Uberti never shifts.

As you can see Uberti has spared no expense with the choice of Vittoria Rally tubular tires ($15). The green color helps the tires glide over cobbles, as scientifically proven by Vittoria.

These rims may be labeled Easton, but upon some closer inspection they are determined to be Ambrosios, the only bike company that actually goes out with sledge hammers to break up perfectly smooth roads to ensure people still buy their rims.

This is where all the power goes…the pedals. Uberti chose to go with Mountain Bike Pedals, because he plans on getting off his bike and walking a lot.

Don’t worry there will be a follow up tech article detailing how beat up my bike got from the one mile section of brick in downtown Hillsboro.