Friday, 17 October 2014

The New Tacx Workstand

I was well overdue for a new workstand having had the previous one for 8 seasons. The Tacx Spider Team is a widely used stand throughout team mechanics, some by sponsor deals and some by choice like me. Tacx's new stand was designed with the help of pro team mechanics, so my expectations were high. My old Spider Team T3050 was a good reliable workstand, I only had to once replace the front fork mount due to it breaking when the stand blew over in a really strong gust of wind. Other than that, the one bad point I would have to pick on about the old stand was the horizontal base in which the bike sat on, this is changed with the new T3350 version, plus a extra benefit thrown in.

A workstand is a vital workshop tool for doing bike repairs properly and hassle free, it makes also washing a bike much easier. In Europe the fork mount type stand is just about used by every mechanic, but I notice in the US, mechanics will use more often a clamp mount type like Tacx's Spider Professional model. In my opinion, I prefer the fork mount type as the bike is much more stable to work on and no worrying about crushing carbon tubes or scratching paint. This said, a clamp mount style is good when you have a variety of bikes to work on, as a shop does for example. The other benefit is being able to leave both wheels in, this is handy when say bleeding or working on front disc brakes like on mountain bikes, and is why this type of stand is common with mtb mechanics. But if I was to set up my workshop, I would take the top part of my new Spider Team and just mount it on a pole that is then welded to a steel plate, similar to the Park Tools PRS-23. I would set this up in a wash area and also in the workshop. Then I would have a stand like Park's PRS-3 OS-2 to work on mountainbikes to make working on the front disc easier.

The new T3350 is a light stand, I weighed mine in at 4.18kg. The light weight is always an issue with stability, but this stand has a wide foot stance, and with the back and forth adjustability of the top tube you can really fine tune the stability. Tacx state the new design is also to help shed dirt build up thanks to the triangular construction, but also the material finish feels different which I think will aid in the dirt just washing off easier instead of sticking to the surface, time will tell though as it is light silver in color. As with Tacx all the parts on this stand are also replaceable, so if anything breaks it's good to know you can replace just the faulty part. I will note that the stand is no longer height adjustable as it is fixed, I would have therefore liked the main tube maybe a tad longer to give just a touch more height.

The fork mount holders seem fairly solid, but the levers are slim and feel as though they may break if you adjust them too tightly. You want tension just at the half way point similar to a quick release. I do like the bottom bracket craddle, it is much longer than on the previous stand which is a benefit to flat shaped brackets found on TT bikes. It is also now two separate arms that overhang out the rear with a good hollow depth to allow for bikes with Di2 or SRM sensors The separated cradle also means if you put on a bike with a shorter wheelbase the rear wheel can slot between the two arms rather than hit the stand like it used to on the old one.

The best idea on this stand that makes it different to other stands of the same type, is the tilt function of the top tube. Most stands are a fixed top tube at a slight upward angle that levels the bike as if it were on the ground. Or the top tube is fixed in a horizontal position like the previous Spider Team. While most stands just lock into place this stand's top tube can not only be adjusted backwards and forwards but also tilted backwards or forwards. This is great when you have to work on shifters or a rear derailleur for example, because you can put the area you need to work on at the right height. This I guess makes up for the stand not being height adjustable but I still would have liked a tad more height from that main tripod tube, and I'm not a tall person.
push the blue button to rotate.

The tilt adjustment is thanks to a lever, similar to what you find on a thru-axel, that you can loosen and tighten to set the angle you need the top tube to be in. Then you push the release button to flick the lever out of the way. This is a great feature for this type of stand, but... The biggest downside I see on this stand, and there is no way I would have designed it like this, is that although it is 360 degrees rotatable, it comes with a negative point. There is a small blue button that locks the top tube into place via a spring loaded pin, to rotate it, you must push the blue button, great you say, until it just locks into place again. I don't know about other race mechanics but I'm constantly rotating my stand as I work on the bike, especially when washing the bike. When the Top tube is locked into place it also is positioned in a place that leaves you standing over one of the tripod legs rather than in between two in order to stand parallel to the bike. I think I will be rigging that pin so it doesn't pop out and lock it in place as I believe it could do without it, then it will be fully rotatable quickly and easily.

Overall the stand is a great improvement on the old version. Other than the rotating issue I would have liked to see the arms that attach from the legs to the main tube, to be made out of something harder than just plastic. There is a small amount of flex in this area if the top tube is moved side to side, say like when cutting a steerer tube. But given my nit picking, if you are in the market for a new stand than this one is a great option to consider. It is much more affordable than similar workstands that may have similar small issues to some degree or another. The stand also comes with converters for different axle types to accommodate thru-axles on mountainbikes. A tool tray is also provided that just clips, but I'm not sure if tools would get in the way when turning the crank. I don't really use the tool tray other than to put bolts or small tools on as I usually work from a table or workbench. The stand also compacts easily and small enough to stand in a corner or small space if needed, it also stands on it's own. It will be a bonus if it is small enough to pack into my Park Tool carry bag.
assorted adaptors for different
axle types.

Friday, 10 October 2014

A World Champs Bike

It just goes to prove you do not need the latest and greatest equipment to win a race, even a world championship. While the Ridley Helium is a quality and modest frameset, it does not feature some of the Belgian brands more advanced technology that you might find on say the Noah FAST. Sven Erik Bystrom road this very bike to an deserving victory in the recent U23 road race World Championships. Here you will not find any electronic gearing or even an power crank or the lightest of components, just a normal bike put in the best working condition I can make it and ridden with the desire to win.

I was not at the Worlds this year in Spain, but it is my job to make sure the rider is sent with a bike in what I believe should be nothing less than perfect working condition. All the mechanic has to do there is keep it clean. Sven Erik did two races with us just prior to leaving for the Worlds, he had no problems with the bike. But with me it is not just a wash and there you go kind of deal, everything is checked. I make sure the chain, cassette and chainrings are all in good order and replaced if needed. The gears are checked and if the shifting feels tight or sluggish cables are replaced. But the shifting was light and smooth, so all good. Still though, all the inner wires are checked at fastening points and in the lever body, also all housing is checked for damage. The frame is also checked for damage and bolts are all torque checked. Wheels are checked and he receives two sets with new tyres fitted. The bike had everything replaced back in June, and since then he used the bike only at Tour de L'Avenir, so not much needed to be done. He has the exact same Ridley as a training bike which he took as a spare for the Worlds, that just needed a new chain. I also sent him with a small bag of spare parts as he was flying with both bikes. You can never fully trust a soft bag with luggage handlers these days. So items like shifters, derailleur, cables and seatpost as well as a number of other small parts are also sent. Normally I have a hand luggage bag full of parts to send, enough to build two bikes, but he did not need all that nor did he have the room.

Sven Erik's Helium is a size medium that runs a Campagnolo Chorus groupset, yes thats right Chorus, no Super Record here. The build components are from sponsor 4ZA including seatpost, seat, stem, bar, bar tape and bidon cages. Wheels are supplied by Mavic and we use the Cosmic 40T with Vredestein rubber. The bike as it stands comes in at a weight of 7.24kg, not a weightweenie figure but still decent given the components.

The crank is 175 in length and uses the standard 53x39 set up. The Bottom Bracket configuration is a PF30 68x46, not my favorite system but you work with what you have. The pedals are Look's Keo Max2, a reasonable pedal for the price but not quite built to last as they state.

I sent with him to the Worlds in the bag of spare parts a 27 cassette, but he obviously decided to stay with the 11-25. Again all standard Chorus equipment here. I do add an extra strip of tape on the chainstay, because in my opinion the factory applied one is too small, sometimes starts coming off and is not placed correctly. The extra tape just stops the chainstay from looking so beat up after taking wheels in and out so many times.

On the front end of business he uses a 4ZA alloy 130 stem, slammed of course, and a 4ZA alloy bar. There is no brand logo on this bar because it is not exactly an off the shelf item. Many riders these days still prefer a classic shape bar, Sven Erik is no different. Since 4ZA do not have one in their stock line up, this one is supplied for the team to use.
I normally have red finish tape on all my bikes, but here black is used from when the tape was last changed at Tour de L'Avenir. I forgot to change it to red.
On the cables I use an adjuster for the front derailleur, just to get the cable tension right for those micro shifts.
Brake pads on the Chorus callipers are Campagnolo carbon specific, the red even matches the bike, NICE!

The saddle he uses is 4ZA's Cirrus Light model in 130 width, they also do 145 width version. The seatpost is a Cirrus Pro carbon item with a 27.2 diameter. The post comes with a plastic clamp bracket to prevent any possible slippage and is also handy as a height indicator when the post might sometimes be removed. He has a seat height of 760 measured from the top of the bracket to top of saddle, and a reach of 602 saddle tip to center of bar.

The number holder you may ask, is made by a crazy German guy named Victor, friendly guy not really crazy. he makes them all by hand with a brazed on nut and a 4mm hex bolt. I have never broken one.

The Helium frame has slipped down the ladder in the line up to allow the Helium SL to be the top dog in Ridley's stiffness to weight category. It now uses a slight lesser layup of 30T and 24T HM unidirectional carbon opposed to the SL's 60,40,30T set up. But we found the Helium to be a bit more robust (and for not much more weight) than the SL which we used the previous season, basically we broke less frames this season as a result of crashes, which in the end saves the team money.
The bidon cages are 4ZA Stratos items, just a hard thermo plastic material that do the job. But I strongly suggest you use a Tacx size bottle (that's the bottle they are made for) and do not do the fastening bolts too tight, just my tip.
Also here, all the bikes use a simple but effective chain catcher just for when the rider changes that front mech too quickly, which young riders these days have a habbit of doing. If they learn't to race with the old down tube shifters it might be a different story.

What can you say about Mavic wheels, you either love them or hate them I think. The team uses the Cosmic 40T which has a wide rim so a 25mm tub would be recommended. We used mostly 23 this season, and let me just say we had a few damage issues for some reason. The wheels roll nice, are stiff and have external nipples for easy truing. The freehub body however takes a little maintaining to stop drag, that is known for the Mavic freehub. This is due to the good sealing of the freehub body. Simply just give it a clean out every so often and relube with some light lube to keep it running free.
The tyres are Vredestein Fortezza Senso, previously called Fortezza Pro. These are the All Weather model and the riders say are very good in the wet. We rarely have flats with these tyres compared to some other teams, but I try to change them when they start to wear down too much. I actually prefered the old model because in the center it had little dimples, this Senso version is slick in the center and is more prone to small cuts, but it's still a good wearing tub. Another thing, 120psi is enough.
I also tape the valves. Normally I do one wrap around the valve before gluing the tyre on, but the rims hole is too small for that, so the more ugly method is used of over the rim. A decent amount is also needed because of a bulky sleeve that is used in the manufacturing process on the rim. Sven Erik is tuned in to every little noise on his bike and noisy valve stems is one thing he hates. The rims have a small rubber sleeve inside but it often does not stay in place.
In my opinion, these wheels would look so much better with a silver spoke instead of the black which eventually get all scratched up and look terrible, but that's just me, I'm old school.

So that is the bike that rode to a rainbow jersey, nothing too special, just a working class mans bike really.

Happy Riding.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

New Helmet

Everything seems to be going back to retro these days, first clothing and now bikes. But while I think the new aero helmets are not considered retro, they for sure look like something from the 80's. I still remember going out to my local Sunday race, cap on with my very euro 3 strap leather helmet squeezed a little together in my middle jersey pocket, yes the days before the helmet law. But when I first started, on the track, I wore a plain old thing that resembled an egg shell. Then I had a Brancale, a little lighter with a number of small vent holes. I continued to wear a hardshell helmet on the track because there was a fair bit more protection than the leather one. Once I saw a rider crash on an old track with wooden posts around the tracks perimeter. Let me just say the result of a leather helmet and the sharp corner of a wooden post did not go down so well for the rider, the post however seemed fine. I insisted to wear my hardshell lid.
I remember early in my high school years, to ride to school you had to wear a helmet, there would be a teacher standing at the front gates to check if kids had them on as they approached, as most just put them on in the last few hundred meters. I had a orange Rosebank Stackhat, a very popular helmet at the time. It was around this time that helmet laws came in and Australian standards for helmets was introduced. But the Stackhat was not a racers helmet, it was big and ugly. While there is some helmet regulations in other countries, Australia and new Zealand are the only two with a helmet law nation wide for all ages and circumstances. But it is now after all these years it is under question, although the government refuse to budge on it, convinced they save lives. I think this is untrue, look at all the cyclists killed hit by cars, all while wearing a helmet. It is true a helmet can prevent serious injury, and this is why we wear them. But it is really infrastructure and the responsibility or attitude of the driver (and sometimes the rider) that saves a riders life. After the helmet law was introduced, we actually saw a decrease in social cycling and is the reason today share bike programs are a big fail in Australia and can be partly the reason why people do not ride just short distances. I live in a country with the best cycling infrastructure anywhere in the world, although I always wear it on the road bike or mountain bike, I never wear it to go to the shops, and never feel unsafe, why? infrastructure and driver attitudes.
on the track with my eggshell helmet which resembled a WWII soldiers helmet.

fast forward about 30 years and this is the result.

racing the mtb with my Giro Air Attack on.

Since the Rosebank Stackhat, helmets have come a very long way. But no, I will not be going back to the 80's by wearing one of the new areo helmets you see today. I think they look ridiculous,  the color scheme of the one Greenedge use looks the worst.  Back then the Giro Prolight with it's removeable mesh cover was a far improvement from the Stackhat. Then when I got a Giro Air Attack from a friend,  well it was just the bees knees and all the good riders had one. It was a good resemblance to the new Air Attack, but back then we were not concerned about the aerodynamics,  not like now days. Back then to save energy, you sat out of the wind, took the wheel of the larger rider and so on. I think it was called an Air Attack because it was a hard shell helmet that actually had vents big enough to let air in, although not quite like the leather 3 strap but would more likely save your head. Not so many thought much about it to do with being aero, except maybe Greg Lemond, who then started a whole new ball game with regards to aerodynamics.

Lately I have being trying out the new lid from Mavic, the Cosmic Ultimate. I had previously worn the Plasma SLR, but the Cosmic is that on a diet. It has a weight of 210g and although probably not the most lightest on the market it is still light enough to almost forget your wearing it. It has a good number of large vents, comes in 4 different sizes and 3 different colors. The black was not my choice, I'd prefer white, but you take what your given and be thankful. The helmet straps are simple with the common click buckle and the pieces that sits under your ears are small and slim. The retention system on the back is simple and easy to use with the helmet on, but more importantly comfortable. On my last helmet the retention system really started to hurt on the back of my head after a while because it was big and bulky. So this is important when choosing a helmet, because much of the right fit is in this retention system. When I look for a new helmet the things I look for are, 1) a low profile and slim look, 2) a simple strap design and retention system and 3) the fit. The last helmet I had fit this good was the original Met Stradivarius. I took a size M in the Cosmic, I could have gone a small but the medium allows a tad extra room to put a cap underneath, but still allows a good fit. The helmet has a good amount of padding inside also, which adds to the nice fit. This is a two piece design that is removable and washable. One other factor to look for is the sunglasses test, be sure it holds the sunnies in the vent holes, not an important requirement but looks pro when you need to take your sunnies off. The Cosmic holds them nicely in the lower outer vents.

The padding is removable in two
parts, the A piece in the center is
separate to the one piece outer.

the low profile of the helmet is always a nice look
large vents are sure to keep the head cool and a very slim
retention system remains comfy.
my head was definitely cool on this foggy Belgian morning.
Happy riding